How We Got Back Into Family Car Camping

[info_message style=”info”]This post will be updated as we do more trips and upgrade our gear as we go along![/info_message]

We haven’t done any car camping in several years, I had gone down the path of hammock camping and rustic camping with the boys for the last few years. This summer, we wanted to do more family car camping.

Excuse To Buy More Camping Gear

To my surprise, I had SIX bins full of camping gear, but really only two were suitable for car camping. The first step was to go over all my gear and find out what would we use. Once the initial triage was complete, I broke down the gear into three main containers.

  • Kitchen Bin – This was anything & everything related to the picnic table, fire pit and luxuries like head lamp and radios, games, foil, etc…
  • Bulk Bin – This bin was reserved for larger light items such as sleeping bags, air mattress, propane heater, etc..
  • Tent & Tarp Bag – Our current family tent and silnylon tarps to string across the picnic tables. Tarps include the hennessey hex tarp and MEC guide tarp.

This would provide the basic shelter and tool required to do a weekend camping trip. Luxury items were additional bags, we ended up packing the following:

For coolers and drinking water, we made some changes from our initial outing, but settled on this setup

  • Coleman 12v Powerchill cooler – Using a few frozen bottles and the truck battery, our contents kept cold and most importantly dry.
  • Coleman wheeled cooler – we reserved this portable cooler for our drinks and ice packs that we would place inside the 12v cooler during the overnight to keep things cool. This worked out very well, we might add dry ice to this setup.
  • Rubbermaid 5 Gallon drinking water cooler – Filling up 5 gallons of house water before we leave may not seem to be a smart move, but you never know the water situation when you get to camp. Having safe drinking around is a big plus.


Getting the Right Family Tent

This is a point of great debate. Should you spend a lot of money on a family tent. Honestly, I think you need to. Our current tent which is being retired this year is the Chinook Twin Peaks Guide 6 tent which at the time I paid over 300$ for. However that was ten years ago and just now that parts are failing where we want to consider a new tent.

The big tent features we look for are the following for a family car camping tent:

  • High ceiling – No surprise that having 6 or 7 foot high walls are a big selling point by not having to crawl out of the tent on your hands and knees in the morning.
  • Screen Tent Vestibule – Out Chinook twin peaks screen room / vestibule can accommodate all our camping chairs and even our large black lab AND small aluminium side table. This saves you space from buying a screen tent and on those rain days, you can all stay in your tent.
  • Double Wall Fly – While many cabin tents have a very small rain fly, we prefer tents with a full rain fly. If you are trying to make a weekend in between rain storms, having that second wall will keep your tent & gear dry much better than seeing your walls get progressively wet as the rain continues to pour down.

After nine years, our Chinook twin peaks is finally showing signs of wear we are looking at alternatives. We think that the Eureka Echo Tour 600 (Canada only) might fit the bill. Another candidate is Kodiak Canvas Cabin Tents.


Recent Purchases That Made The Difference

Everytime we did an outing, we kept a wish list of items we think would make our camping experience better. Here is a running list of items we got and highly recommend for car camping.


Coleman Double Wash Basin

After an outing at Baxter State Park in Maine, I wanted something that we could do our dishes since the rustic area meant we had to be minimalists. Single wash basins were nice but when I stumbled on the Coleman PVC double wash basin, I knew this would be a good purchase. At 14$, it did not disappoint. 3 litres of water on each side can handle dishes up to 4 people and fold nicely into the bin. It sure beats having a large salad bowl in your bin taking up valuable room.

What’s great about this bin is that you can wash & rince at the same time. While not very good when dumping into a drain, it’s still a valuable piece of your kitchen bin.


GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset

A nice compact cookset is a good thing to have IMO. You have what you need in a single footprint and not wasting any space. The downside is that non of the cookware kits are cheap; you will need to invest a bit of money in a good set, no matter the brand.

The GSI Bugaboo Camper cookset has been out for a few years but has been a great addition to the kitchen bin. Containing 2 & 3 litre pots, covers, 4 nested cups, mugs and plates – this is a great kit. The only thing missing are cutelery. While the plates are small, the only thing I would get is a set of glasses, the odd shaped mugs works ok, but don’t fit in the holders the camp charis offer.


Coleman 12v Powerchill Cooler

There was a point of time in the 90’s and early 2000’s that Coleman quality was kinda poor. However the last few years it has been a renewed focus on products that just work. This 12v cooler is no excpetion. We wanted something that would eliminate melted bags of ice and take advantage of 12v power or plugged in power at a serviced campsite. We found this Coleman 12v powerchill cooler at an overstock store and it came with the wall plug adapter. You need to manage this cooler with ice packs to keep it cool. We tried the frozen milk gallon and didn’t keep things as cool as I would have like. Using frozen litre bottles and ice packs worked a lot better. The benefit of using this type of cooler is that any leftovers can stay cool on the drive back home so that you don’t waste any food.


Still more camping to come in 2017!