Car Camping Accessories
Since we’ve been allowed out and about again, I’ve had quite a bit of interest in my car camping setup. It seems more people than ever like the idea of having more four-wheeled adventures but can’t quite commit to a proper camper van!
The good news is the solution might be closer than you think. With a little imagination, there’s no reason you can’t accessorise your bog-standard family SUV, MPV, estate or even large hatchback to use as a day van for everyday adventures. Or, with a few more conveniences, as a bona fide micro camper for overnight trips.
And while the sky’s the limit with these things, a few accessories might be all you need to start you thinking of your existing vehicle as less of a car and more of a van.
Here are my top five purchases for budding car campers.
You’re going to need a reliable way of storing water. I haven’t completely cracked this yet, despite trying a few options!
I love my Sigg water bottles when I’m on the hill but you’d need quite a few of them to carry enough water for extended periods in the car. There’s also the issue of them rolling around in the boot once you’ve run out of cup holders.
Larger capacity plastic containers are cheap but bulky and often contain BPA and other nasties. I’ve tried more flexible solutions, which collapse neatly when not in use but I can never get rid of that foul plasticky taste – yuck!
I’m currently using an Ortlieb water bag. These come in 4 litre or 10 litre capacities with a build-quality becoming of a German company best known for making bicycle panniers. I have the 4 litre version, which takes up next to no space when empty and you can use the straps to hang it up for water on tap. You can even buy an adapter to convert it into a portable shower!
The only negative I’ve found again comes with the taste. I’m flushing it out with Milton, which has worked for me before with other hydration systems. And while the taste is not as bad as some, it’s definitely noticeable and enough to spoil your brew. I may get used to it but it’s not as nice as drinking from a Sigg.
The quest for the perfect water container continues…
Modern cars tend to come with at least one 12V socket and perhaps even a USB port or two. These are fine powering appliances while on the move, but if you are parked up for a couple of nights at a campsite with the engine off, you may find you’ve drained all of the car’s juice watching videos on Youtube.
In a proper camper van, you’ll likely have a secondary leisure battery. But the same setup in your micro camper would mean researching things like split charge relays and poking around with wires – gulp. We need a less ‘plumbed-in’ solution.
I’ve always liked solar power and the Hubi Go is perfect for powering small devices and providing lighting when the engine’s off. It comes with a small solar panel and a slimline battery unit complete with a variety of ports. There are two USB sockets, ideal for charging mobile phones, tablets, cameras and head torches. The 12V socket could power a portable DVD player, laptop or even a small compressor cool box.
The unit comes with two lamps which are super bright and last for hours. You could even add some fairy lights for a more authentic camper van experience! Must look into fairy lights!
The Hubi Go comes in 2K or 10K capacities. If you scroll to the bottom of the page in the link, you’ll find a handy table showing how those numbers translate. In the real world, both models have plenty of reserve for when the sun isn’t out to play. And the 10K unit is expandable too, should you need some serious power.
With no fiddly vehicle modifications required, this portable solar power system should keep you going, however off-grid you end up.
It’s always worth slinging a couple of camping chairs in the boot to save perching on the rear bumper. On a warm summer’s evening after a long day’s hike, nothing beats kicking back in something more comfortable.
The problem with many camping chairs is how much space they take up. But if you are prepared to invest a little more of your hard-earned, you can get something a lot more streamlined that still offers a decent amount of comfort.
The Pathfinder Lite and Observer chairs from Robens are my current favourites. Small, light, easy to erect and comfortable – they are more than up to the job and I use them more than I thought.
Chuck one in the boot. Even carry one in your rucksack. And you’ll always have something to sit on when you need to take five.
This is the one that I get asked about more often than not. How do you do your business when out and about?
The best option is not to get caught short in the first place. Plan your trips around tactical café stops and take advantage of the facilities while supporting the local economy. I love this book by Alastair Sawday, which lists nice alternatives to your bog-standard service stations.
If you still need some backup for those occasions when you just can’t hold it, then you’ll want to carry a khazi of some kind. Chemical toilets are bulky and I don’t like the idea of using more chemicals than we need to. And it does seem overly fussy for something you’ll probably only need to rely on occasionally in your car camping setup.
I came across this alternative and think it’s fab. The bog-in-a-bag does what it says on the tin. It’s a stool (ahem…), with a flap that lifts up to reveal a hole. You hook on what is essentially a thick bin liner with an incontinence pad stuck to the bottom et voila, there’s your toilet…
Admittedly it’s best saved for emergencies but is reassuringly simple, should you find yourself hopping around in need of a toilet.
The only negative is that the official bags are a little expensive. I’ll need to experiment with making my own when this pack runs out.
This simple solution is the cheapest and probably the most used accessory in my micro camper. It’s collapsible, clips on to various spots around the car, and is perfect for the inevitable accumulation of crisp packets, tea bags and sweet wrappers from spending more time in the car.
Sure, you could just use a carrier bag. But these flap around in the wind and mess up the boot. A small bin costs less than a tenner, looks smart and means you’ll always have somewhere to put your rubbish.