This article is presented in partnership with the team at Huckberry, which provides clothing, gear, and stories to inspire your next great adventure.
You’ve probably got that hardcore friend who dismisses car camping out of hand—”Bro, you can’t appreciate nature until day 13 on the AT when gangrene sets in on your wounded foot and the raccoons start to circle.” But sometimes it’s nice to get all the good stuff without doing any actual work—the proverbial “free lunch.” Car camping offers the fresh air, the starry nights, and the freedom to brush your teeth without needing to, like, walk.
I happened to camp on California’s Lost Coast last weekend, and realized that while I already owned the “essentials” for car camping, the adventure was way more rad when I had the best versions of these things. For example, I replaced my big plastic tub from Target with a Wolf Pack, and it made a huge difference in the vibes when I could confidently stow my gear in a box specifically designed to protect it.
In that vein, we recently started working with overlanding experts Front Runner Outfitters, and the company products are some of the best we’ve come across—they’ll help you squeeze all the juice from your next car adventure. Read on for a few favorites from the Front Runner lineup along with other outstanding products I’ve found myself relying upon more and more.
A Bullet-Proof Box
As I mentioned above, a great box for your gear makes a world of difference. The Wolf Pack is a heavy duty packing crate that’s designed for trunks and truck beds. It’s stackable and compatible with all the other storage solutions that Front Runner offers. It’s got handles and is built to withstand the weather, so you have one less thing to worry about if things get wet. Ideally that brings your worries to zero, which is exactly the right number for a trip like this.
A Chef’s Knife That Can Go Anywhere
A knife is a no-brainer and the Hell’s Canyon is my absolute favorite for car camping. It’s basically a durable, badass chef’s knife (designed with the help of Chris Cosentino, the winner of Top Chef season four) that’s perfect for shucking that crate of oysters you brought along, slicing up an amazing Snake River filet, or just skewering hotdogs and eating them directly from the pan which, if I’m being honest, was my play on this trip.
A Sturdy Fold-Up Table
Assistant editor Will Vietze once brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner on a car camping trip. I didn’t bring a Turkey with me, but you’re going to need a table if you want to get on Will’s level. Front Runner has the perfect candidate, a stainless steel beauty with plenty of room for all the pies. Sure, plenty of sites have perfectly serviceable picnic tables, but a foldable table like this is absolutely essential if you’re somewhere remote.
Cast Iron Cookware
A cast iron pan is a camping classic, but unlike your forefathers who thought nothing of packing four glass bottles of whiskey and a five pound bag of tobacco in their rucksacks, you might be concerned about the weight. Not with a car! So go ahead and pack a dutch oven, which does all the things that a frying pan will do. I used mine to bake a batch of biscuits while watching the fog roll in through the big trees of Humboldt County. That’s right, biscuits.
A Utility Axe
As with the cast iron pan, an axe is another classic piece of gear that you probably don’t want to carry on a traditional hike. When you can slide the Agdor splitting axe into your backseat though, you’ll be surprised by how many uses you’ll find, from hammering in tent pegs to splitting all the things that need splitting. Unrelated to the actual utility of the axe, I gotta tell you that wielding this beauty to split kindling made me feel good in a deep, primal way that I didn’t even realize I’d been missing.
Straps to Secure It All
Straps might not be the sexiest item on this list but you’re going to reach for them again and again when it comes to car camping. Toss out those old, frayed bungee cords and upgrade your game with these cords that include a ratchet and carabiner clips. It felt incredibly satisfying to secure my gear with these things and I felt totally confident that everything was going to stay put. These might seem like a minor detail but they’re entirely worth the cost.