Hele Box Car Camping Sleeping Platform

7 Car Camping Essentials

Car camping, vanlife, overlanding - no matter what you call it - there’s a way to make sleeping in your vehicle more enjoyable.

New to the scene or a well-seasoned granola gal/guy, this list of 7 car camping essentials will provide you with an awesome launching point or helpful refresher.

1 - Elevated Sleeping Platform

Storage space is worth its weight in gold when you are sleeping in your vehicle and a comfortable night’s sleep is a must. 

We believe that an elevated sleeping platform in your vehicle is the best way to optimize the relationship between the two. Here’s why:

  • Allows you to stow gear underneath your sleeping area, increasing the storage capacity of your vehicle 
  • Should provide a full 6ft of sleeping length so you don’t have to contort yourself when it’s time for shut-eye 
  • Provides instant access to your bed so you don’t waste precious time setting up or breaking down a sleeping apparatus.   
  • Extra layer of safety for a quick get away & protection from wildlife (bear vs. man?) 

There’s a ton of videos out there for building DIY sleeping platforms with wood and power tools. DIY systems can be customized (which is pretty cool) - the trade off is their weight (heavy) and space they take up in your garage/apt if you manage to remove them from your vehicle in the off-season. 

If you are looking for a lightweight, compact, and easy to remove car camping system - check out the Hele Box! It’s height adjustable so you can dial in the perfect ratio of storage space/headroom and fits in most SUVs/Trucks. 


2 - Quality Sleeping Bag 

This one is pretty obvious, but can often be overlooked. While loading up your car with blankets provides a pretty awesome aesthetic, nothing beats the packability and warmth of a quality sleeping bag. 

You don’t need to break the bank on this one - as long as you aren’t car camping in the winter months, you can get away with a decently priced bag. I’ve been using the Siesta Hooded from REI for the past 2 years and it’s done a great job at keeping me cozy through some unexpected frigid nights. They usually go on sale during the major public holidays (;

3 - Cooler 

Nothing beats a delicious meal at an epic campsite, and being able to pack food in a cooler is a superiority of car camping that’s often envied by backpackers. 

The goal is to find a cooler that can keep ice solid for at least a few days so you don’t have to constantly worry about your food going bad. 

I’ve been using this Lifetime cooler and it usually keeps a bag of ice for 3-5 days depending on the temperatures of the destination. I found it on facebook marketplace 3 years ago for $50 and it’s been a trusted companion on countless car camping trips ever since.

Every day or two remember to open the plug on the bottom of your cooler to release the melted water so your food doesn’t end up soggy - also helps reduce the weight of your cooler when lifting it in and out of your vehicle.

4 - Camping Table 

This is your central hub for cooking, eating, playing cards, sharing epic memories and creating new ones when car camping! 

Make sure the table you go with is easily collapsible & compact so it takes up minimal space in your vehicle. 

The Hele Box sleeping platform we mentioned earlier doubles as a camping table that you can stand independently or hang off your tailgate. It makes for one less thing you need to buy, pack, and bring on your trip! 


5 - Gear Box

This is the place for “everything else” you’ll need on your car camping trip. Your box of gear should be loaded up with anything you’ll need that’s not a big item, but requires quick access. 

I recommend a box or case that’s compartmentalized so you can divide your items for easy identification & access. Think about your compartments as categories: cooking/eating, 1st aid/repellents, relaxing/lounging, clothing/jackets, etc.. 

WARNING: another shameless plug for the Hele Box incoming below.

The Hele Box carrying case doubles as compartmentalized storage so you can load it up with gear once your sleeping platform is in place. It fits underneath the platform perfectly and can be easily accessed. 


6 - Recovery Gear 

The last thing you want to be when car camping, vanlifing, or overlanding is stuck. Packing appropriate recovery gear can get you out of a pinch and give you a sense of security when taking the road less-traveled. 

Here’s a few things you should have with you: 

  • Tow Rope
  • Tire patch kit 
  • Portable air compressor to pump up tires 
  • Tool box or kit 
  • Duct Tape 

I recommend having a separate recovery box/case to keep all your “please get me outta here” items in one place. 

7 - Epic Campsite! 

The best part about car camping is exploring the awesome campsites and destinations. Finding these spots aren’t as hard as you might think, but will require you to put in some work. 

Apps are a great place to start. They often have difficulty ratings for all the trails and forest roads + provide helpful information about dispersed camping areas. Here’s 2 of my all time favorites: 

Bonus - WATER.

This one is obvious, but extremely important for reasons you already know. 

I recommend you pack your water for drinking and showering/washing separately to ensure you don't over-use one or the other.

I've been using this water tote for years and it's been awesome for washing dishes, showering, and beyond! 


That’s it!

Use this checklist to make sure you’re ready for an awesome car camping adventure, and make sure to reach out if you have any questions! 

Our goal at Hele Outdoors is to remove the barriers of outdoor exploration and adventures - learn more about our story or products

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Just used mine for the first time and it was awesome! Big upgrade from my sleeping pad and blankets – I was able to fit more gear and actually have 2 different water totes. Ty (:


I grew up camping and many of the spots we would go involved four wheeling. I’m just realizing now I never brought a tow rope. Also never had a hele box. Thing is sick. Absolute game changer!!!

Kees anderson

Very sick!


Forgot dogs! ;)


Great list! Thanks Murray , gonna download trails off road today.

brick shanley

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