10 car camping essentials

By Justin Walker August 17, 2016
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Get geared for your next vehicle-based adventure.

1. Sea To Summit X-Series

(price varies) www.seatosummit.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

The Aussie-based adventure equipment company has scored numerous global awards with this compact, collapsible cooking system. It includes everything from mugs and bowls through to large pots (up to 4L). The X-Series is constructed from food-grade silicon and lightweight, tough 6063 hard-anodised aluminium (for the bases of pots, pans, etc.). Each utensil in this system is designed to nest in with others when collapsed down for storage. I use a combo of two X-Set 2s (two plates/bowls and two cups), all collapsed down and stored inside an X-Pot 4L large pot. When compacted down, it is only 50mm tall. The ribbed silicon handles make handling of the pot easy and the whole thing is built tough. The best thing, though, is that it can double as your cookware for any overnight hikes or paddles from your main campsite.

2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Voyager

$209.95 www.spelean.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

Lightweight, compact when stored and bloody comfortable; the NeoAir Voyager is the luxo version of the NeoAir range and offers plenty of warmth, courtesy of Therm-a-Rest’s WaveCore technology. This tech is based on a single layer of horizontal baffles inside the mat that replace the need for down or synthetic fibres to add insulation. And yeah, it sounds like a mad scientist’s project, but it does work: I have used one of these mats for a few years now in all weather conditions and it has offered a comfortable and warm sleep every time. Aiding that sleep is the Voyager’s 64mm inflated height – there’s plenty of cush in this compact mat. Another standout feature of the Voyager is its tough construction. The 75D polyester fabric is very robust and – most importantly – airtight; there have been a few nights’ camping when I have found rocks and sharp sticks under the mat, but it has never suffered a failure. And again, as with other gear, it is not too heavy to use for an overnight hiking adventure away from base camp.

3. Hema HN7; Hema Explorer App

$625; $30 www.hemamaps.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

Hema Maps is the word in vehicle-based GPS units. The HN7 is jam-packed with all the mapping you will need to plan that camping trip: more than 110 Hema 4WD and touring maps are preloaded, along with the Hema Explorer 150k map and a 1:1 million road map. The HN7 covers the whole country with this mix of maps that also includes state maps, regional 4WD maps, national park maps and also complete access to the OziExplorer mapping software. Add in street mapping and you’re sweet to go. Hema’s Explorer mapping app, for use on GPS-enabled smartphones and tablets, is also worth a look, with the added benefit of it being handheld so you can also use it on hikes. The Explorer App allows offline access to Australia-wide 1:250k topo maps, Hema’s touring maps and more than 40,000 points of interest – including a ton of campsites and 4WD tracks. The app also allows real-time tracking via GPS. Online, you can check the weather radar forecast, upload your trip data and loads more.

4. The North Face Base Camp duffel (large)

$240 www.thenorthface.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

The ubiquitous adventurer’s carryall, The North Face’s Base Camp duffel comes in a range of sizes (from the 33L XS to the 150L XXL) and is well proved over decades of being dragged across the globe. The Base Camp’s tough outer laminate material offers some water- and dust-resistance, and is robust enough to deal with being dragged across a ute tray or thrown up on a roof rack. The Base Camp’s shoulder straps are surprisingly comfortable when you carry it that way and the padded side handles are great for carrying or using as part of a tie-down system, in combination with the daisy chain set-up on the bag. The large D-shaped opening (with YKK zips) makes for easy packing (as do the four compression straps) and it will last years; I have used a Base Camp on everything from outback trips to mule-assisted multiday hikes and, although scuffed and battered, it still just simply works.

5. The North Face Kaiju 6

$650 www.thenorthface.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

For a family or a couple who want a shelter that is not too big when packed but still offers ample storage space when erected, this light (9kg – impressive for a six-person shelter) and tough tent is a no-brainer. Made from PU-coated polyester, with a heavy-duty floor, the Kaiju 6 has oodles of interior space, plus a huge vestibule for storing dirty shoes, wet clothes and backpacks, etc. The three-pole design (with an extra pole for the vestibule) ensures it can withstand rugged weather conditions very well, and the height means most adults will be able to stand up inside. And speaking of inside, you will also find some handy features, such as pockets and internal hanger loops. There’s plenty of mesh for ventilation and to help minimise condensation. An ideal shelter for anyone, and especially appealing for those with a compact 4X4.

6. LED Lenser XEO

$470 www.zenimports.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

This is my favourite piece of outdoor/camping equipment at the moment. The XEO is the ultimate versatile lighting source. It can be used as a head-torch around camp, a light source for your bicycle, or as a handheld light. It uses LED Lenser’s Optisense Technology that adjusts light output according to ambient light via an inbuilt sensor. That in itself is pretty cool, but what is also impressive is the fact you can adjust the dual LED lenses individually in terms of focus: set one up as a pencil beam and the other as a spread – ideal for when you’re bike riding at night and want to see the trail in front of you but also keep an eye out to the sides for wildlife/obstacles, etc. The light is easily operated via its top-mounted control pad (nice large buttons). For handheld use, the light itself can be mounted to the battery and then away you go. The battery is quite big but easily mounts to the headband (or can be connected via an extended cable and then thrown in a backpack) or your bike’s handlebars. Brilliant! (And yeah, excuse the pun.)

7. Sea To Summit Comfort Plus

$200-240 www.seatosummit.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

This sleeping mat series from Sea To Summit proves you can never have too much technology devoted to sleeping when you’re camping. The Comfort Plus series of mats feature air-sprung cells (small air pockets formed into a dot-weld matrix) that, the theory goes, are designed to take the sleeper’s weight individually. This is supposed to aid in the mat conforming more to your body shape and evenly distributing your weight across the entire mat, rather than pushing the supporting air away from where you need it – under you. Adhering to its Comfort Plus moniker, the mat also features material dubbed Exkin Platinum by STS that is designed to reflect body heat back to the sleeper. The mat is easily inflated to its 50mm height or you can buy an optional pump. One option I would definitely recommend is the Air Chair, which houses a folded-up, inflated mat inside it and makes a nice, comfy camp chair.

8. Wenonah Prospector 15 Tuf-weave; Kevlar Flex-core; Kevlar Ultra-lite

$2800; $3075; $3200 www.paddleportagecanoes.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

Nothing beats bundling yourself and the family into a canoe and setting off down a river during the summer. For me, being near a waterway is a must for any summer campsite – as is taking a canoe to make the most of it. The Wenonah Prospector 15 (Kevlar Flex-core) is the ultimate family canoe – both in terms of how it paddles, but also in regards to how much it weighs. At 17kg you never feel like leaving this thing behind; it is light enough for a single person to easily load on the top of the 4X4 and it makes portaging around obstacles on-river easy. The canoe’s symmetrical hull means you can paddle it solo or with someone else, and it also has a decent rocker, allowing it to be easily maneuvered, yet it tracks quite well in flat water as well. The webbing seats inside are supportive and can take, ahem, heavier paddlers, and there’s oodles of storage for camping gear or a couple of young’uns. It’s a definite investment in fun for any adventurous family. (A larger Prospector 16 is also available.)

9. Klean Kanteen Wide

$55 www.zenimports.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

When is a water bottle more than a water bottle? When you have one of these near-indestructible jobbies from Klean Kanteen. The Kanteen Wide range (available in three capacities: 800mL, 1.1L, 1.9L) is super-tough, owing to its stainless steel construction, making it ideal for everything from being stored in the back of the 4X4 permanently, to being thrown in the canoe for a day out on the water. The extra wide (50mm) opening allows for quick filling (of both water and ice) and also easy cleaning. The mouth’s thread is also designed to work with standard water filters – always handy when you don’t quite trust a dodgy water source in the outdoors. The interior of the Klean Kanteen (including the inside of the cap itself) is electro-polished which means it will not retain any old flavours from previous fillings, which is great news not only for taste reasons, but also for hygienic reasons. The bottles are dishwasher-friendly, BPA-free and come with a lifetime guarantee.

10. Yakima FourTimer

$749 www.yakima.com.au

Australian Geographic Adventure car camping gear

Taking a few bikes with you on your next adventure is a great way to add some activities for the whole family and explore around your campsite. The only trouble with lugging bikes around is that they take up a lot of space and are awkward to load… unless you go with a dedicated bike-carry system, such as this FourTimer from Yakima. The FourTimer (for 50mm tow hitches only) is a brilliant solution for carrying four bikes and it suits all bikes regardless of frame design, wheel size or suspension set-up. The low tray height makes loading bikes easy, and the FourTimer also folds down (with bikes loaded) for access to the rear of your vehicle, and then folds up when not in use. It can also convert from a four-bike to two-bike carrier. For us, that’s the FourTimer’s greatest appeal for tourers: the versatility of the load capacity.