If you’re like us, you’ve been waiting all summer for fall camping season. With evenings taking on a distinct chill and leaves beginning to turn a kaleidoscope of colors, it’s the perfect time of year to get outside and sleep under the stars. While backpacking gets the most attention in this category, car camping is a more accessible, equally authentic—and far more comfortable—way to connect with Mother Nature. When your base camp has four wheels and plenty of trunk space, the options for enhancing the experience become endless (shout out canoe camping for similar reasons, while we’re at it).
Assuming you’ve got a gear closet full of camp gear essentials, this article highlights some worthwhile ways to upgrade your camping experience this fall and beyond. From a roomier tent, better tableware, and a comfier campfire chair—and the right whiskey to sip while sitting in it—with these gear upgrades you’ll be tempted to skip work Monday for an extra day outdoors.
10 Essential Fall Car Camping Upgrades
The best part of camping, besides BS-ing around the campfire late into the night, is cooking a memorable meal with friends. If a burn ban is in effect, a classic Coleman camp stove will work wonders. But when the option to cook over an open flame is on the table, you better not pass it up. This intuitive campfire grill from Breeo makes cooking everything from fresh caught trout to steaks, kebabs, corn, and veggies directly over the fire, easy—for once adjusting the height to fine tune each ingredient is actually possible. Plus, the sturdy stainless steel system is designed to hold a cast iron skillet. In other words, put campfire cooked pancakes on the menu, too.
First things second: whiskey is a camping essential. Stillhouse Black Bourbon Whiskey, however, is made from USA-sourced estate-grown corn and rested in coffee beans, then distilled in a traditional copper still before being charcoal filtered and bottled in an aesthetically pleasing and practical (read: shatterproof) stainless steel can; that makes it a camping upgrade. Take it straight up from the spout and pass the can around the campfire or combine it with honey and lemon juice to create a Gold Rush, a fitting campsite cocktail if there ever was one.
If you're not backpacking, then don't bother cramming yourself into a tiny, ultralight tent. Car camping means you can bring a bigger shelter. We're talking a lot bigger, as in sufficient sleeping space for six and big enough to stand up in, not to mention a vestibule that you can hang out under as if it were a front porch. The North Face's Wawona 6 has all of these features, plus a double-wall design for protection against the elements, plenty of interior pockets for gear organization, and lots of ventilation. Invite the entire crew or pack a double sleeping bag and treat it like a portable pop-up chalet.
If your definition of car camping means sleeping inside your car, rather than in a tent nearby, then Luno's vehicle-specific air mattress is one of the best upgrades you can get. Each mattress is made to take your car's trunk space from seats down to slumber ready by maximizing the available sleeping space over the backseat floor. The durable, 300-denier inflatable mattress comes with an electric air pump for fast inflation, and you can adjust each side to whatever firmness each camper prefers (or blow up one side and go it solo). Nothing's stopping you from setting it up in a tent, either.
To create an alternative to the overwhelming amount of plastic and paper that's characteristic of camping tableware, Hydro Flask drew on the same tech built into its crowd-favorite water bottles. Made of professional-grade stainless steel with double-wall insulation, these reusable plates and bowls not only look great but will prevent your hard-earned meal from cooling down too quickly. The bowls in this two-person bundle come with lids too, so you can store leftovers in them overnight (if there are any).
Even vehicle-based outdoor excursions should aim to be as unplugged as possible, so skip the battery-powered lantern in favor of this tastefully analog option from Japanese outfitter Snow Peak. The GigaPower Lantern conveniently relies on the same isobutane canisters used to fuel many cookstoves, and you can adjust its output to create just the right amount of ambiance once the sun drops behind the horizon. For an even brighter option, check out Snow Peak's GigaPower BF Lantern.
If you really want to crank up the fall spirit, consider Stillhouse Apple Crisp Whiskey. It's made with the same USA-grown corn as the Original Whiskey and comes in the same stainless steel can, but is blended with an apple liqueur that adds notes of apples, cinnamon, oats, brown sugar, ginger, and nutmeg. Hit it with a splash of ginger beer and some lime to make an Irish Mule with an autumn spin, then lean back in your camp chair and search for the Milky Way before it takes its winter break.
Most camp chairs aim for packability over comfort, but this one achieves both. The Kaslo Folding Rocking Chair accordions itself into a stuff sack like other packable seats, and a rust-resistant stainless steel rocking frame and padded seat keep it a cut above other options. Pair it with an insulated outdoor blanket, a rip-roaring fire, and a whiskey cocktail in the built-in cupholder and you've got yourself a place to hang all night till it's time to head to the tent.
Even REI knows camping doesn't have to be about dealing with discomfort, and we can only assume that over eight decades of accumulated gear know-how led its designers to create this cozy camp shoe. The Dreamer Slip-On has the same insulation as some of our favorite puffy jackets for extra extremity warmth, but it also includes recycled and bio-based materials throughout. Combine it with a pair of down pants for top-tier campsite comfort.
Compared to the rest of this roster of car camping upgrades, RUX's 70-liter storage bin might appear a tad too practical, but rest assured this isn't your ordinary closet container. Constructed with waterproof and durable 840D TPU-coated nylon, the RUX can protect and store. But it also comes with backpack straps which make hauling around the rest of the items on this list easy when your tent site is a short hike from the car. It also collapses nearly flat thanks to flexible corner stays so you can stash it away once you're all set up.