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The clever way to pack your car for camping trips


The amount of camping gear available these days is simply staggering. From carpets to air conditioning units, you can buy just about anything to make tent living easier and more comfortable.

As camping enthusiasts, we all love stocking up on new accessories. The problem is fitting it all into the car. Every family camper has to become an expert in car boot Tetris!

The reality is that most boots simply aren’t big enough to cope with the amount of kit you might want to take on a fortnight’s holiday for a family of four. Chairs and tables – and of course tents –  tend to be the worst culprits, Before you know it, you find yourself cramming kit in around the kids in the back seat (not recommended), then investing in a roof box and eventually buying a trailer. Not only do they require you to spend more money, but they can be inconvenient for driving and difficult to store on site.

It can all get a bit out of hand. Unless, that is, you are clever about it. We’ve looked out a selection of compact camping kit that will allow you all to pack everything you need for a long trip for a family of two adults and two kids, without using a roofbox or trailer – and without compromising on comfort.

Believe it or not, this little lot will all fit in the boot of a family car...  the key is to find gear that folds down as small as possible.


1. FAMILY TENT The Robens Lookout 500 (£1,375) is a large, inflatable five-person tent in polycotton. Normally a tent of this size and style would be huge, but this packs down to a manageable 87cm by 43cm.

2. SLEEPING BAGS These four single bags – the Vango Nitestar Alpha 250, Outwell Celebration, Quechua Forclaz 10 and Robens Crevasse – are all more than suitable for summer camping and all pack down small, making them perfect for squeezing into corners of the boot.

3. SLEEPING MATS Self-inflating mats pack down smaller than airbeds and can be warmer and more comfortable and for the adults we’ve gone for a Robens Recharge (7cm thick) and the Outwell Dreamboat (12cm), which is almost as comfy as your bed at home! To make packing even easier, we picked out two Therm-a-rest sleeping mats, which roll up into a package smaller than a bottle of squash. These are designed for backpackers who are more concerned about size than comfort, but kids would have no problem using them for a couple of weeks.    

4. CHAIRS The Outwell Derwent and Vango Samson chairs are really comfy for adults but their folding design means they easily slot into the back of the car. The Pathfinder and Observer chairs from Robens fold up into tiny packages and are just the right size for youngsters.

5. KITCHEN TABLE The Heyfield Low table from Outwell is perfect for putting your camping stove on and folds completely flat so can slot into the boot with ease.

6. DINING TABLE Robens Trekker XL folds long and slim, so will fit lengthways behind the seats in most car boots. It’s easily big enough for a family of four to eat at.

7. PILLOWS In an ideal world, we’d always take real pillows on camping trips, but the reality is they take up a huge amount of space. The alternative is to bring nice compact pillows like these from Outwell (Conqueror and Constellation) and a couple of inflatable pillows we picked up cheap at Lidl and Tesco for the kids.

8. LIGHTING The Outwell Caph striplight rolls up into a tiny pack but provides enough light from its LEDs to illuminate your tent’s living area. The Opal, also from Outwell, is a small but powerful lantern, that also has a built-in wireless speaker. Two-in-one… now that’s space-saving!

9 THE KITCHEN SINK! The Collaps Washing Base from Outwell is fast becoming a campsite essential. It packs flat and takes up very little car space. Cheaper alternative versions are now widely available. 

10 WATER CONTAINER The Water Carrier is another brilliant Collaps idea – these are so good for compact camping and take up far less space than traditional water containers.

11 LAUNDRY BASKET This might sound unnecessary when space is at a premium, but keeping the tent tidy on longer trips is vital. The Outwell Caya folds completely flat so can sit at the base of the boot, barely taking up any space.

12 STOVE For most campers, a single-burner stove like the classic Campingaz Camp Bistro is perfect and it is easily stowed in the boot. It runs off a gas cartridge so there’s no need to take a bulky cylinder.

13 GRILL The Outwell Crest grill complements your stove, doubles up as a small barbecue, and packs easily.

14 COOL BOX Traditional coolboxes are large and bulky and take up loads of boot space. To save space, go for an inflatable version instead, such as the Outwell Pelican L or Quechua’s Ice Fresh.

15 KITCHEN BOX A good, solid kitchen box can store all your cooking and eating equipment without taking up too much car space.

16 POTS AND PANS Collapsible kitchen gear is now available in pots, pans, kettles, colanders and more, and many camping manufacturers produce their own versions. It’s absolutely brilliant for saving space.

17 WINDBREAK A windbreak can expand your outdoor living space and doesn’t take up too much room in the boot.


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02/07/2019 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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