The Best Gifts for Car Campers According to Me, an Avid Car Camper
When in doubt, always go headlamp.
I've been car camping since I was a small child. I don't know why my mom let a small child take the car into the wilderness, but that's neither here nor there. I've camped all around this beautiful country, from the swamps of Florida to the Hualapai Mountains of Arizona. And I've learned that if there's one big takeaway, it's to make sure you have the proper gear (which you can read about here). That gear could be adequate clothing for dropping temps, a good headlamp for late night walks, or just a $10 chair from Walgreens so you have a comfortable place to sit at night that isn't in dirt.
And campers are particular people when it comes to gear, but I'm here to help out. If you're shopping for a new (or seasoned) camper this season, I've pulled together a bunch of stuff they'll be sure to love. These are things that I've either been gifted before or would love to receive as a gift (hint hint). Here are, in my humble opinion, the best gifts to get the car camper in your life.
Why it's a great gift: This is a top-of-the-line camping chair. It's extremely durable yet light; features a headrest & the ability to lean back almost completely horizontally; and naturally has a no-spill cup holder for keeping that fireside drink at the ready.
What it's a great gift: A hatchet is imperative for camping. It's useful for chopping up logs and branches for better fires, throwing at trees when you want to play a fun game, and can even make you feel a little safer if you're in a bear-heavy area. Plus, the blunt end can be used as a hammer for your tent spikes.
Why it's a great gift: This Firelight 3-piece, 750ml flask from High Camp is such a great gift. It's able to hold a fifth of your favorite spirit (or full bottle of wine) and breaks down into a flask with two small tumblers for sharing. A Firelight is the Bentley of flasks. For something a little more rugged, Stanley's 8oz Easy Fill is also an excellent option.
Why it's a great gift: The YETI Rambler is the best camp cup I've ever used—and it was a gift! It keeps my whiskey cold at night and my coffee hot in the morning. Plus, if you quickly rinse it with water after finishing your drink, you'll never notice the residual taste of whatever was in their previously.
Why it's a great gift: No one who camps would ever be upset that they got a headlamp as a gift. Not only are they useful for camping, but you can keep one at home for emergencies and bring extras to lend out to forgetful friends. This one from Princeton is an excellent choice and comes in nicely under $20.
Why it's a great gift: This is something that most people wouldn't think to buy for themselves, but they'll always end up bringing with them. They're small, portable, and light up brighter than you'd think at night (which is important when you've finished your flask and need to find the entrance to your tent).
Why it's a great gift: A good knife kind of falls into headlamp territory. No camper is going to be mad at having extras. That said, the more unique the knife, the more memorable. I own a few Opinels (one I use exclusively for cheese boards, actually). They're all top quality and get better with age.
Why it's a great gift: Portable chargers only have so many charges in them (and you usually find that out the hard way). This Anker PowerCore will charge multiple devices, makes a great stocking stuffer, and will outlast most other brands at this price point.
Why it's a great gift: Everyone should own a multitool (I'm partial to Leatherman). You never know when a screw or bolt might come loose or you'll need a set of pliers. Plus, this specific multi-tool comes with a very handsome leather sheath.
Price: Varies by brand
Why it's a great gift: There are innumerable Bluetooth speakers on the market today. And you know what? Most of them are damn good at playing music and lasting 6+ hours. I've owned many over the years, but my favorites right now are Lansing's Mini LifeJacket ($90) and JBL's Charge 4 ($140). They're rugged, produce crisp sound, last a long time, and won't get ruined by a little dirt or some rain—which is a big plus when you're spending most of your time outside.
Why it's a great gift: This is epitome of a fun gift for your friend who likes to tailgate, camp, or hike. I received one as a gift and have brought it with me camping twice. It won't replace your campsite cooler, but it's excellent for short hikes and/or gathering firewood. Side note: it can also hold two bottles of wine if you're not a beer drinker.
Why it's a great gift: Because every time you break these out for hot dogs or sausages, you'll get a compliment on how cool they look. And then you'll immediately remember who gave them to you and think of that person. And that's just the sweetest thing.
Why it's a great gift: If you're with more than three people, preparing food for dinner can take some prep—and using the campsite's picnic table never struck me as the most hygienic or clean option. With this portable bamboo table, you can prep food, wipe it down quickly, and either put it away in a minute or use it for extra storage space. And, sure, I guess it doesn't hurt that it looks so damn good.
Price: Varies by brand
Why it's a great gift: This is always at the top of my car camping checklist. It's also the first thing I set up after pitching my tent. There are a ton of brands out there, but I'm a huge fan of ENO (I've owned my ENO for almost 6 years with no rips or tears) and Yellow Leaf (super comfortable and are great for couples/longer car trips).
Why it's a great gift: I love this MSR pan. It's incredibly light, nonstick, and heats up quickly (an important quality when you get back to camp after a long hike and need some nourishment). Plus, storage and cleanup are a breeze.
Why it's a great gift: I love coolers. And I've used a lot of them (and continue to). But I really, really love my Coleman. It's nostalgic, it'll look better the more beat up it gets, and you can't beat the price. Load it up with 85 cans, throw it in the back of the car, and slap some stickers on it. This is a cooler built for the mileage.
Why it's a great gift: For those who like to camp, throw BBQs, reside by a park, or have a large yard, listen up: Kan Jam is a must. It's easily one of the most fun and popular outdoor activities that requires space and the ability to throw a frisbee. It's great for all ages, breaks down flat for storage, and will provide hours of entertainment...and yelling.
Why it's a great gift: These small propane stoves are perfect for making hot toddies at night, coffee in the morning, and warming up leftovers without using the campfire. It packs down to about the size of a large water bottle, so space isn't an issue. And if you happen to be camping somewhere wet where you can't get a fire going right away, this is a lifesaver for warming up foods/liquids.
Why it's a great gift: This is definitely for the more tech-loving camper who likes to show off their neat gadgets. This little lamp bursts with 600 lumens (that's bright); can be recharged via USB port, solar charger, or hand crank; AND will simultaneously charge your smartphones and other USB-enabled devices. It's literally the little lamp that does it all.