5 Pro Tips for Comfort Camping
By Erica Zazo
Car camping – or state, county, and municipal park campgrounds that let you pull up and park your campsite – is one of the best and most common ways to enjoy a weekend sleeping under the stars in nature.
This type of camping allows you to go all-out when it comes to decking out your site with creature comforts you can’t bring on a backpacking trip. In fact, if you plan and pack with comfort in mind, it can really turn out to be quite the “glamping” trip.
From bringing an air mattress to packing Christmas lights to illuminate your camp at night, we’ve put together some of the best pro tips for car camping to set up a cozy, comfortable, and impressive campsite in the outdoors.
We’ve already shared some of the 5 best campgrounds near Chicago. Now we’re teaching you some of the car camping comfort basics so you can sleep comfortably and look stylish in the process:
Pro tip 1: Choose the Right Campsite
Picking the right campground based on your needs is key.
There are a number of creature-comforts you might consider and ask yourself how important are they to you and your family/friends while camping:
- Will you have more than one tent on the campsite?
- Do you want access to electricity?
- How close do you want to be to the closest restroom?
- How far away do you want to be from a water source?
- Do you want trees and shrubs around your site for privacy?
The best way to figure out if your campsite has everything you’re looking for is to check out the photos on the campground registration booking platform. For DNR (Department of Natural Resources) websites like Illinois DNR, Michigan DNR, and Wisconsin DNR – you can find images of the campsites after selecting your campground and the dates of your stay.
Sites with electricity are typically designated with an AV plug symbol and/or will be noted “Standard Electric” or “Full Electric.”
You can also look for the restroom and water symbols on the campground map to determine how close you are to the facilities.
Pro tip 2: Set up for a Comfortable Sleep
Camping doesn’t mean you have to sleep on the ground. In fact, comfort car camping can include things like sleeping pads, sleeping cots, and even an air mattress. Here are a few of our favorite sleep set-ups, depending on how deluxe you’re hoping to make your sleeping arrangements:
- Any kind of air mattress
- REI Co-op Levitate Sleeping Platform with Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad on top
We also recommend bringing a tent that has plenty of windows and space for maximal airflow and mobility; For 4 people camping, you’ll want to opt for a 4-6 person tent. For 5 or more, choose a 6-8 person tent.
Pro tip 3: Pack a Portable Stove
There are plenty of options for cooking that don’t require a hefty castiron pot or standing over a hot fire to cook your food.
For a super lightweight option, opt for a Jetboil. The compact, propane-fed stoves are great for boiling water for freeze-dried meals (our favorite brand is Mountain House). We recommend only boiling water in your Jetboil to avoid food build-up in the cooking cup. Jetboils also make great coffee brewing systems. Check out our blog on making coffee at the campsite for more tips on brewing in nature.
For a grill-type setup, consider the Coleman Roadtripper Grill. It folds down to fit in your trunk and is plenty of space to cook for family and friends at your campsite. The Eureka Ignite 2-Burner Camp Stove is another fan favorite. Bring a couple of cans of propane and pots – and you’re good to go.
Pro tip 4: Bring Creature Comforts
Beyond your tent and food set-up, comfort camping also includes things like lighting, seating, and entertainment.
Consider packing a string of Christmas lights and extension cords or opt for a smaller strand of lights that are perfect to light up the campsite at night. Lanterns and headlamps are always other great ideas too.
Camping chairs play a big role in your campfire experience. There are tons of types of chairs, like oversized camp chairs, rocking chairs, swinging chairs, zero-gravity chairs, padded lawn chairs, double camp chairs, and hammocks. Which will you choose?
Most campsites also come with a picnic table. It’s smart to pack a table cloth or even splurged on these REI Co-op Campwell Picnic Bench Covers and Campwell Picnic Table Cover to keep dust and dirt (and splinters) at bay.
When you’re not hanging around the campfire, it’s great to bring some activities and products to keep your campsite fun. We love packing a deck of cards, a cordless Bluetooth speaker, and board games to keep us entertained at the campsite.