Ask Baz

Car Camping – is it the end of the road for quality outdoor gear?

Car camping, that often derisive phrase, conjures up all sorts of nightmarish images: bulky low-quality gear, humming gas generators and midnight raccoon raids to name a few.  Oh but there is so much more to the world of car camping and we are here to tell you that quality, purpose-built gear is not absent from this world.  Our friends in the overland community will be the first to attest to this.  Vehicle-based exploration through some of the harshest environments on earth demands a meticulous examination of the merits of every piece of gear carried, an attention to detail akin to that of the most dedicated ultralight backpacker.

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Not crossing the Gobi Desert anytime soon in your expedition ready Land Cruiser? Your weekend trip to the mountains can still benefit from a car camping gear upgrade.  The age-old question:  Will I have to make do with low-quality gear to go car camping? The answer is a definitive NO.  Sea to Summit is here to save you from Bad Car-Camping Gear Syndrome (BCGS).

The easy solution would be to simply use your ultralight, high-end backpacking gear for your car camping endeavors, right? Wrong. No need to sacrifice comfort for weight savings when car camping.  Nowhere is this comfort for weight conundrum more visible than the sleep system. Of course, if your ultralight backpacking sleep system is by Sea to Summit, you won’t be sacrificing comfort at all. But you will sacrifice a plethora of optional ways in which you can arrange your sleep system to maximize both your comfort and the extra space that car camping affords.

Start with our new Basecamp Sleeping Bag range. Generously cut, a Basecamp is the very opposite of generic, rectangular low-end sleeping bags: it is made of very high-quality materials with high-lofting Ultra-Dry Down™ or Thermolite® insulation and has technical features such as a three-dimensional draft tube to prevent heat loss through the zippers.

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It also features three zippers: one on each side and one in the technically-shaped foot box. This allows you flexibility in terms of ventilation: open either side or both sides together as far as you need to be comfortable. Or, use the side zippers to join two Basecamps together for twice the coziness.

You can even unzip all three zippers and use the top of the Basecamp as a quilt when the weather is warm. The quilt can be fastened to your sleeping mat using loops and supplied straps; and the same system will attach the entire sleeping bag to a mat (plus a pillow, too!). You can even vary which of the three loops are used for this attachment so you can sit up in the bag (for those late mornings in bed while your partner is out taking the children for a hike and – hopefully – making you breakfast).

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As for sleeping mats, we have you covered. Our Comfort Plus Series will provide you with all the support and comfort of a high-quality home mattress – not the wobbly sagginess of the ‘cushy’ camping mats you thought you were going to have to live with.  And not the bulk either. Packed into its stuff sack, the insulated version measures 5” in diameter by 10” long (and the non-insulated version a mere 4” x 6.5”). The Air-Sprung-Cell design mimics the individual springs of a high-quality pocket–sprung home mattress and requires far less air to inflate than conventional sleeping pads.

As of Spring 2017, there is also a self-inflating Comfort Plus mattress option. Not only unbelievably comfortable but also easy to roll up (something which car camping mattresses traditionally are not known for).

Round off this truly luxurious sleep system with our new Deluxe Aeros Pillow (available in both Ultralight and Premium versions) – approximately 15” x 11” x 5” when inflated, yet with the packed volume of a paperback book (which, for younger readers, was what we had before Kindles).

This pillow, mat, bag combination offers far more room, comfort, and flexibility than a backpacking specific sleep system and a level of quality and attention to detail far beyond traditional car camping gear. Why skimp on comfort when you don’t have to?

Don’t just take our word for it, however. You can read a review of this comfort-oriented system from our colleagues at Overland Journal here.

The sleep system is just the beginning. We offer a variety of other useful gear that will elevate your car camping experience above the days of leaky air mattresses and Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.

Next time you hear that misunderstood phrase (car camping) uttered under someone’s breath we hope your mind wanders away from the crowded campgrounds to the real world of car camping:  An idyllic camp tucked away down a little-known dirt road at the edge of your favorite wilderness area – Backcountry exploration by day and good food and drink by the campfire at night, followed by a great night’s sleep.  A spring run to the desert, no fly needed on the tent as the kids witness their first meteor shower long past bedtime. Pure experiences supported by top quality gear. Though we won’t hold it against you if you still want to bring those marshmallows along!

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