Gear | May 2024

20 Essentials for Summer Car, Van, And Truck Camping

Summer is one of our favorite seasons to camp (it’s at least in the top four). Why? Well, who doesn’t love t-shirt and sandals weather? And besides, compared to the cooler months, summer camping is simple. You’re probably not battling blizzards, digging your rig out of snow banks, navigating icy roads, or dealing with life-threatening frost. However, summer camping isn’t without its hurdles. Namely, sweltering heat that can make a grown man cry and perspire in unison, until tributaries of tears and sweat unite upon the cheek in one raging river of salt and sadness. Oh, yeah–and crowds that can make even your favorite campgrounds feel claustrophobic.

But fear not, dear camper! In this helpful guide, we’ll help you brave the heat, ditch the crowds, and make the most of the warm weather. Whether you’re camping in a car, truck, or van, we’ve got you dialed with our favorite summer camping gear. Plus, you’ll find a few tips to help you make the most of your time spent in the great outdoors this summer. So read up, gear up, and get ready to camp.

1. The Perfect Camp Mattress

The secret to camping comfortably is a reliable, supportive, and comfy mattress. After all, nothing ruins an adventure like a restless, sleepless night. With the right mattress, you’re able to sleep well and recharge your batteries for the next day’s adventures.

For the most part, we recommend vehicle-based camping over tent camping, especially in the summer. There are more reasons why than we can fit in the trunk of a Toyota 4Runner, much less this article, but here are a few noteworthy ones:

  • Safety: Camping in your vehicle is the safest way to camp. You’re in a raised, enclosed platform, away from creepy-crawlies. Plus, if you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about bears or burglars, being able to lock your door is a major bonus.
  • Comfort: Roots and rocks are every tent camper’s kryptonite, as they can poke right through flimsy backpacking pads and cause immense discomfort. When you’re camping in your vehicle, you have a flat platform to sleep on built into your backseat.
  • Increasing Your Camping Options: When you’re tent camping, you’re limited to existing campgrounds and dispersed camping. When you’re camping in your vehicle, you can also camp in Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots and rest areas. You can even get away with stealth camping in quiet neighborhoods. These overnight pitstops can be a trip-saver when road-tripping during busy summer weekends and holidays.

Four Mattresses To Help You Step Up Your Camp Game This Summer

🚙 For the SUV And Hatchback Driver: The AIR Camping Mattress
We’re always happy to recommend our award-winning, flagship AIR Camping Mattress, which is as tough as it is comfortable. Designed specifically for camping in hatchbacks and SUVs, it’s available in a handful of sizes to fit seamlessly with a range of vehicles.

🚐 For The Vanlifer Who’s Expecting Company: AIR Van Front Cab Mattress
If you’re van camping, check out our AIR Van Front Cab Mattress. This durable mattress converts the front seats of your van into a small yet comfortable bed. We like to think of it as an inflatable guest room for Sprinters, ProMasters, and more, and it’s perfect for pets, kids, and adults under 5’7”.

🛻 For The Truck Camper Who Needs A Mattress As Rugged As Their Rig: The AIR Truck Bed Mattress
Turn your truck bed into a literal bed with our AIR Truck Bed Mattress. Durable enough to handle grit and grime and comfortable to boot, this mattress is ideal for sleeping under the stars in an open bed, or beneath a camper shell for more protection from precip.

⛺ / 🚙 For Indiscriminate Adventurers Who Camp In Both Tents And Vehicles: The New AIR+FOAM PRO Mattress
Our most versatile mattress yet, the rectangular AIR+FOAM Pro Mattress is compatible with both tents as well as SUVs, hatchbacks, and trucks. It’s our comfiest mattress yet, too, thanks to an alchemical combo of our supportive inflation tech and plush, cushy foam.

2. Summer Camp Bedding

Now that you’ve dialed in the mattress, the next step is camp bedding that’s well-suited for summer. We always suggest layering sheets and blankets or sleeping bags and quilts so that it’s easy to adapt to the temperatures at hand. You don’t want to overheat and sweat through the night, but you also don’t want to be underprepared for cooler temperatures when the sun drops.

  • Fitted Sheet: Our soft-to-the-touch, easy-to-clean fitted sheets are purpose-built for our AIR Camping Mattresses, AIR Truck Bed Mattresses, and AIR Van Front Cab Mattresses, which you’ll notice all have unique curves to accommodate different vehicle makes and models. Each fitted sheet features corresponding cutouts so it won’t pop free on bumpy backroads.
  • Quilts: A quilt, like this one from Sea to Summit, can be a smart move if you're sharing your mattress with a significant other. These are essentially down duvets wrapped in a protective face fabric, similar to a sleeping bag. They’re less constricting than sleeping bags, though, making it easier to invite in the breeze when you’re overheating.
  • Blankets & Sheets From Home: If you’re operating on a budget, there’s no need to over-extend yourself on down blankets or quilts. Grab whatever sleeping bags you already have. You can even use sheets, blankets, and a comforter from home.
  • Packable Camp Pillow: Our Packable Camp Pillow is a little bit smaller and a lot more packable than your standard pillow, making it a smart pick for campers of all creeds. Not only that, but it also comes with an easy-to-wash, double-sided pillowcase that’s ready for four-season use. One of the pillowcase sides is constructed from a cozy polyester–perfect for chillier nights. The other is stitched from a cool, breathable jersey knit that’s a dream on warmer summer evenings.

3. A Capable Cooler

A cooler is key for summer–and not just to keep your beverages of choice crisp and cold. When you’re car camping, you’re able to carry a ton of kitchen gear and grub, so you can whip up elaborate and healthy meals on the road. A solid cooler will help you do just that. Here are three routes worth considering:

  • Electric Options: If you’re going electric, peep Dometic’s CFX3 series. One caveat? You’ll need an auxiliary battery to power it, as you won’t want to leach power from your main vehicle battery. However, if you do have a van with solar or a massive battery (more on the latter below), this is an excellent choice.
  • High-End Rotomolded Options: You can’t go wrong with a high-end rotomolded cooler from Yeti. They’re beefy, proven, and built to last.
  • A Solid Budget Pick: If you want a solid cooler without breaking the bank, check out RTIC.

4. A Reliable Battery (and Maybe Solar Panels), Sized To Your Needs

Whether or not you have a cooler to power, an auxiliary battery or portable power bank will help you keep your devices charged. We’re all for unplugging in nature, but at the very least, keeping your cell phone juiced up is a smart play for emergencies. Goal Zero makes excellent options ranging from pocket-sized power banks to massive power stations used in off-grid photo shoots.

Our advice? Do a rough calculation of how much juice you tend to use on any given trip, then go from there. Check out Goal Zero’s solar panels if you’ll be on the road for extended adventures and want to top up on the go.

5. Bring Extra Water And A Water Filtration System

One of the main snafus campers run into during warmer months? Dehydration. To sidestep such moments of unbearable thirst, come prepared with the following:

  • Bring more water than you think you’ll need. These five-gallon jugs are a great place to start.
  • Freeze Nalgenes before you leave the house, then chuck ‘em in your cooler. These XXL ice blocks will help keep your perishables chilled for longer, and you’ll also be sure to have cold water days into your trip.
  • If you’re going to be far from potable water for weeks on end–or if you just always like to have a backup plan–bring a water filtration system like these ones from MSR.

6. Car Camping Fan

Airflow is imperative if you want to stay cool on warm summer nights. Put that auxiliary battery to work and fire up our compact yet powerful Car Camping Fan. This five-inch, three-speed fan sports a suction cup attachment that sticks to dashboards and windows, while an articulating ball mount enables you to aim the fan wherever you want–including directly at your face.

7. Car Window Screens

Car Window Screens are a must-have in the summer. These stretchy mesh screens fit snugly over your rear car doors, so you can roll down your windows and let in all of the breeze but none of the bugs.

An added bonus of our Car Window Screens? They provide car campers with extra privacy. On that note, check out our Car Privacy Curtain–it sits just behind the front seats and blocks your sleeping area from both UV rays and unwelcome looky-lous.

8. Smartphone

Chances are you’re already bringing your phone for snapping pics, mapping routes, and emergency situations. But having a smartphone on hand is helpful for a ton of different tasks, provided you load it up with the right apps ahead of time. Check out our article on 14 must-have apps for car camping–we cover everything from campsite-finding apps and mapping apps to sleep-enhancing apps and star-gazing apps.

9. Bikes, Boards, Fly Rods–And Whatever Else You Need To Have A Blast!

Last but certainly not least: bring your freakin’ toys! Fly rods and surfboards, mountain bikes and climbing gear–bring whatever makes you happy! One of the main reasons why we love car camping so much is that it gives us the ability to bring all of our gear–and still have room for more.

One Last Piece Of Advice? Get After It!

We have no doubt that the above gear will help you crush your car, van, and truck camping goals this summer. However, if we can leave you with one final piece of advice, it’s simply this: send it.

If you’ve been dreaming of a trip, make it happen. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Summer’s fleeting, after all, and it’ll be fall before we know it. As Ferris Bueller once waxed, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Thanks for reading, and as always, we’ll see you on the road.

-The Luno Crew

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