Essential Camping Gear to Keep in Your Vehicle

May 01, 2019 by Rick Stella, @RickStella

Camping season starts with digging deep into storage and dusting off your tent and sleeping bag. But there’s more to successfully roughing it than just piling that trusty gear into your vehicle.

It’s the gear you don’t always think about that’s vital for weekends away. Items as small as bug spray and sunscreen, reliable fire starters and a first-aid kit.

Each camping trip is different, but the following essentials are worthy additions to anyone’s adventure kit. We recommend every camp enthusiast keep these items in their vehicle.


Properly organizing your camping gear is one of the most important and helpful steps to take. Plastic storage containers with interlocking lids work well for doing this, as they’re both durable and easy on the wallet. Having most of your equipment in a sealed container also frees up valuable rear cargo space.

Akro-Mils Storage KeepBox (Photo: Akro-Mils)

Our recommendation: Akro-Mils Storage KeepBox ($18)
Why we picked it: Features an interlocking lid and a durable plastic construction perfect for storing a variety of camping gear.


Headlamps serve many purposes, including replacing a flashlight. They’re mandatory for setting up camp in the dark, when nature calls in the middle of the night or when you’re hunting for items left in a truck bed or on the floor of your vehicle.

Though most headlamps can get the job done, those with higher lumen outputs are incredibly more effective. A brighter light illuminates more of your surroundings and helps boost contrast.

Ledlenser MH10

Ledlenser MH10 (Photo: Ledlenser)

Our recommendation: Ledlenser MH10 ($80)
Why we picked it: Offers 600 lumens of brightness, weighs just 5.5 ounces and features three light settings including a red rear safety light.


Though seasoned campers typically piece together a custom first aid kit around their personal preferences or needs, newcomers might not know what to include. Buying a prepackaged first aid kit assures you’re getting essentials such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, alcohol pads, disposable gloves, first aid tape and gauze.

Swiss Safe First Aid Kit

Swiss Safe First Aid Kit (Photo: Swiss Safe)

Our recommendation: Swiss Safe First Aid Kit ($28)
Why we picked it: Packed with 120 pieces of first aid gear including alcohol prep pads, antiseptic wipes, a variety of bandages and gauze pads, among many other items suited to care for almost any camping mishap.


Although hopefully you’re less wed to your phone and electronics while camping, having a reliable source of on-demand power can’t be understated. Portable power stations can charge smartphones, laptops and even portable coffee makers.

Goal Zero Yeti 150

Goal Zero Yeti 150 (Photo: Goal Zero)

Our recommendation: Goal Zero Yeti 150 ($150)
Why we picked it: Weighs just 12 pounds and features two USB ports, an AC outlet and a 12-volt outlet designed to power or charge a variety of smart devices or laptops.


Being able to quickly start a fire is vital while roughing it, and portable fire starters are the best method for doing so. They’re highly effective at creating a flame without matches, newspaper or kindling, and most work in inclement weather. Their compact, durable construction also makes them easy to toss into a camp tote or glovebox.

Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter

Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter (Photo: Swiss Safe)

Our recommendation: Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter ($13)
Why we picked it: Small enough to fit in your pocket and capable of more than 16,000 strikes at 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The built-in compass, whistle and paracord are welcome extras.


  • Tool kit: This isn’t a traditional tool kit but rather is tailored specifically to camping. It would include duct tape, a hunting knife or hatchet, spare rope and a rubber mallet for hammering in tent stakes.
  • Portable jump starter: There’s nothing worse than being caught with a dead battery while camping. A portable jump starter will cost more than standard jumper cables, but you can’t assume another car will be nearby to jump-start your battery.
  • Cooking utensils: Unless you want to eat dehydrated camp food all weekend, it’s smart to bring your own cooking gear. This includes pots and pans as well as cups, plates and cutlery. If you use disposables, be sure to deposit in the trash or haul them back home.
  • Bug spray and sunscreen: Two of the most bothersome parts of camping are sunburns and bug bites. Each is easily avoided by stocking your glovebox or camp tote with travel or full-size bottles of sunscreen and bug spray.

Editor’s note: compiles information about vehicles, gear and gadgets, often through testing and interviews with experts. Our recommendations are made independent of the advertising being sold by our business development team. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. 

Rick Stella April 16, 2019
As winter fades, performing routine maintenance goes a long way to assure a vehicle is running smoothly all summer long. Here’s what to look out for before hitting the road.

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