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Car Camping Clothes: Ultimate Packing Guide

clothes to bring car camping

A lot of planning goes into camping and an important thing to keep in mind is what to wear camping. You’ll also have to consider the weather and climate you’ll be camping in, and what activities you will be doing while camping!
 

I this post, I share the most important things to keep in mind when packing clothes for car camping, a list of car camping clothing essentials, photos of my favorite car camping outfits, and packing checklists by season! 

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Car Camping Clothes: Ultimate Packing Guide

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Table of Contents

This post is specifically for car camping clothes, not backpacking. 


Car camping is when you drive to a campsite, instead of backpacking where you hike all your gear into the wilderness to camp. Packing clothes for car camping is awesome because unlike backpacking, it’s okay to pack some extras!

packing clothes for car camping women

How Much Clothes To Pack For Caming

The thing about car camping is it’s okay if you pack some extra pieces! I wouldn’t worry about overpacking too much because you don’t have to wear everything!

 

Plus, every camping trip is different – some are rainy, hot, or require a lot of different outfits for different activities. I’d rather take up some space in the car with an extra sweatshirt than freeze all weekend! 

To determine how much clothing I should pack for a car camping trip, I consider:

 

  1. The weather
  2. How many days/nights I’m going 
  3. Activities (hiking, MTB, kayaking, etc.) 
 

Like I said above, every camping trip is unique so it’s hard to tell you exactly what to bring because your camping trip could be totally different than mine! As long as you pack the car camping clothing essentials, you’ll be fine. 

women building a campfire in front of a tent

Essential Car Camping Clothes

No matter the season or where you are camping, here are a couple of pieces that I consider to be essential

MOISTURE-WICKING BASE LAYERS - T-SHIRT OR LONG SLEEVE

We’ve already talked about the importance of moisture-wicking base layers but if you skipped that section, here’s a brief synapsis: If you think you’ll be sweating on your camping trip, leave the cotton at home and pack moisture-wicking shirts (like your workout tops!). 

 

Made out of high-tech polyester fabric, moisture-wicking shirts absorb sweat and keep your skin dry. A moisture-wicking shirt is essential for camping in all seasons! It keeps you cool if you’re camping in a hot climate, keeps you dry, and helps regulate your body temperature if you are camping in a cold climate. 

Moisture-wicking base layer tops for women.

Moisture-wicking base layer tops for men.

 

Lightweight Middle Layer - Sweater or Hoodie

best outdoor gifts for women
REI Co-op Trailsmith Fleece Pullover
packing clothes for car camping
Cotopaxi Teca Full-Zip Fleece Hoodie

Middle layers are all about adding warmth! No matter the weather, you’ll likely want to bring a middle layer. Again, I suggest avoiding cotton and going for something synthetic or wool so it is breathable and moisture-wicking. 

 

For colder-weather camping trips, I’ll bring a thick hoodie with fleece lining (or two if I know it’s going to be extra cold!). On warm-weather camping trips, I like to bring a thinner, breathable sweater like this quarter-zip from REI

 

Remember! Since you are car camping, you have room to bring extra clothes! Don’t be afraid to bring an extra layer if you’re worried about getting cold. If you don’t wear it, you can just put it away when you get home!

Jacket

camping tips for women
best clothes for car camping
REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie
Patagonia Down Sweater

If you’ve checked the weather and know it’s going to be cold, you’ll want to pack a jacket for extra warmth! I usually bring a down jacket because it’s lightweight and extremely warm. 

 

If there is rain on the forecast, don’t forget a waterproof and breathable outer layer!

Sleeping Clothes

No matter the climate or whether, you’ll want to pack some separate clothes for sleeping while car camping. I usually go for an old t-shirt or some base layers, and I always put on a clean pair of dry merino wool socks! 

granola girl and granola boy sandals

Merino Wool Socks

Merino wool socks are a total game-changer – I don’t camp or hike without them! Merino wool socks are comfortable, durable, odor-resistant, and moisture-wicking and help regulate body temperature. Magic! 

 

I’ve learned the hard way that good socks are just as important as good shoes. My favorite merino wool socks are from Darn Tough, a family-owned and operated company based in Vermont!

Sturdy Boots With Good Grip

best outdoor gifts for campers
Blundstone Classic 550 Chelsea Boots
Best Hiking Gifts for her 2022
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots

Once you get settled at camp, you’ll likely want to explore the area! I always bring a good pair of boots camping (whether it’s my hiking boots or Blundstones) because I want something I can comfortably explore in.

 

Plus, wearing boots is a great way to stay warm when the temperatures drop after the sun sets! 

what clothes to bring camping

Hat

No matter the weather, you’ll want to add a hat to your car camping clothing list! If you’re camping next to a lake during the summer, you’ll want a breathable sun hat with a wide brim, like this one!

 

If you’re winter camping in the woods, you’ll want a cozy beanie to keep you warm. And when you wake up after a night of tossing and turning in a sleeping bag, you’ll likely want a baseball cap to hide your messy hair. 

clothes to bring car camping

What To Consider When Packing Clothes For Car Camping

While exactly how much you pack depends on the weather, climate, and activities you will be doing, the following tips are something I always take into consideration when packing clothes for car camping! 

1 - Pack separate outfits for sleeping

There’s nothing better than taking off your dirty and sweaty camping clothes and slipping into dry clean clothes and socks! When I pack clothes for car camping, I pack clothes for the day’s activities and a separate set of clothes that are only for sleeping

 

I wear the same set of pajamas for multiple nights – I take them off before I leave my tent in the morning so I can ensure they are clean and dry for the rest of my trip. 

 

What you pack for pajamas will depend on the climate, temperature at night, and your sleeping bag. Since I sleep hot and camp in a warm climate, I usually bring a pair of flannel sweatpants and wear a base layer long sleeve.

camping gear for women

2 - Keep the weather and climate in mind

No matter the weather, packing clothes that are appropriate to the climate can keep you safer and happier when you’re spending time outside. Will you need extra sun protection and something to swim in? How about rain pants?

 

To answer those questions, always look at the weather before your trip to determine what you need to be prepared for. 

best clothes to wear camping

3 - Layers Are Key

The weather and the activities you will do while camping will make your body temperature fluctuate! One minute it could be hot and sunny, and the next a breeze could roll in, dropping the temperature 15 degrees! You could start your day by exerting a lot of energy on a sunny hike and experience a rainstorm later that afternoon! 


One way to adapt to weather changes throughout the day to regulate your body temperature is to dress in layers.

 

There are three level of layers to wear when camping:

 

  • The base layer wicks away sweat and keeps your skin dry. Synthetic fabric, like polyesters, and wool are great at wicking and drying. Make sure your base layers fit comfortably snug, not tight. 
  • The outer layer serves to shield your underneath layers from snow, sleet, rain and wind. It’s an important job so I’d recommend going with a waterproof! It’s important to note that the perspiration wicked by your base layer needs a place to escape so you’ll want a breathable shel! Anything that’s designated as “waterproof/breathable” should be good. 

 

Don’t forget extra socks, a beanie, gloves and boots to keep everywhere else warm!

clothes to bring camping

4 - Wear a practical arrival outfit

After you drive to your campsite, you’ll be setting up camp and gathering firewood. For those reasons, you’ll want to wear something comfortable that you don’t mind getting dirty!
 

I personally love wearing a comfortable pair of workout leggings with a t-shirt and flannel. I like to keep a layer handy because I usually get cold the second I arrive at camp haha

5 - Don’t bring your favorites

When camping, your clothes could get dirty, ripped, or burnt with a hole from a campfire spark. Therefore, you want to leave your favorite shirt at home and avoid wearing your nicest down jacket when sitting around the campfire. 

what clothes to bring camping

6 - Pack for special activities

When packing clothes for car camping, it’s important to consider all the activities you are going to do during your trip!

 

Swimming, hiking, and mountain biking are just a few activities that you might need to pack extra outfits for. For example, if I plan on going hiking twice during my camping trip, I’ll pack two outfits for hiking. 

Once you get settled at camp, you’ll likely want to explore the area! I always bring a good pair of boots camping (whether it’s my hiking boots or Blundstones) because I want something I can comfortably explore in.

Plus, wearing boots is a great way to stay warm when the temperatures drop after the sun sets! 

No matter the weather, you’ll want to add a hat to your car camping clothing list! If you’re camping next to a lake during the summer, you’ll want a breathable sun hat with a wide brim, like this one!

If you’re winter camping in the woods, you’ll want a cozy beanie to keep you warm. And when you wake up after a night of tossing and turning in a sleeping bag, you’ll likely want a baseball cap to hide your messy hair. 

Superstition Backpacking

Car Camping Clothing Checklist By Season

Here are some car camping clothing packing checklist examples by season!

 

(More detailed seasonal lists coming soon!)

clothes for fall tent camping

Fall camping clothes

Fall weather can fluctuate quickly so it’s important to check the weather and be smart when packing! When planning your fall camping clothing, be sure to pack a variety of layers so you can adjust to the weather. 

Fall camping clothing checklist 

Phoenix Mountains Preserve Snow

Winter camping clothes

What clothing you decide to bring car camping in the winter is extremely important! Personally, I live in Arizona so I will likely never camp in the cold. If you plan on camping this winter, read up on some expert winter camping advice here

 

Winter camping clothing checklist 

spring camping clothes

Spring camping clothes

Spring is a tricky time of year to go camping because the weather can change so quickly! Depending on where you’re headed, there’s also a chance of snow! Therefore, makes rue to add a waterproof jacket, gloves, hats, and a couple of other things to your spring camping packing list. 

 

Spring camping clothing checklist 

Jacey running on the beach of Lake Powell

Summer camping clothes

Camping during the summer can mean warm days and chilly nights! When packing clothes for summer camping trips, remember to pack separate outfits for warm daytimes and cooler nights. 

 

Summer camping clothing checklist 

clothing storage for camping

Storage For Camping Clothes

When it comes to actually packing and storing my camping clothes, I organize everything in packing cubes and pack them all in a waterproof duffel bag

 

I love using packing cubes for all my travel! Since I pack outfits for specific activities, I group the outfits together, and it helps me keep everything organized. I can fit a surprising amount of clothing in my REI Co-op Pack-Away Cubes and love that they can be used for all of your camping gear. 

 

If I’m going on a 3/day, 2/night camping trip, I will use my Alpaca 60 Duffel from Gregory Packs. If I’m going for longer or have extra gear to bring, I’ll use the 90-Liter version

 

If you’re just getting started camping, you don’t need a bunch of new gear – an old backpack, tote bag, or whatever you have handy will work!

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what clothes to bring car camping

Final Thoughts On Packing Clothes For Car Camping

I hope this article gives you a good starting point for some things to keep in your mind when packing clothes for car camping! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below! 

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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