As of recently, camping in the back of a car has become a popular alternative to the traditional approach of tent camping. Why? Well, there’s no fumbling with a tent, which can be a hassle depending on how patient and resilient a person is.

There’s also a reduced risk of being surprised by strong winds or turned weather. Since campers are also encased in a large metal chassis, there is a better sense of safety against bugs or nosy, hungry animals.

It’s an attractive substitute on many levels. So, what if a curious camper is on a budget? To help get the ball rolling, I’ve comprised an Amazon Prime list of gear to get started under $200.

When camping, there are three major components that will make or break a great experience: Food, rest, and lighting.

Let There Be Light

Amazon Prime Shopping List: Car Camping Under $200
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While camping usually doesn’t and should never involve an emergency, using emergency lamps for camping are designed to last long and conserve energy. Plus, AA batteries are a lot cheaper, last longer, and are a lot less dangerous than propane. They don’t put out heat like a campfire or a propane lamp, but it’s a safer and more durable surrogate.

Rest Assured (Comfortably and Affordably)

Amazon Prime Shopping List: Car Camping Under $200
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In the back of a car, a sleeping bag is a convenient, space saving way to keep warm and comfortable. Pillows and a plethora of blankets are a popular way to depict car camping on Pinterest or Instagram, but speaking from experience, it’s a lot less comfortable than it looks and it takes up a ton of space.

Also, sleeping bags don’t usually slip off after tossing and turning, and can’t be hogged by another camper.

However, a sleeping bag on its own isn’t usually enough to keep your back, neck, and hips sore, depending on how firm the backs of the seats are when they’re folding down.

So, I found an optional, light weight, and self inflatable camping pad for $39.99 to add comfort and convenience. Like the sleeping bag, it folds up neatly to take up as little space as possible. As a bonus, the product description also states the camping pad can be used as a pool floaty. Therefore, more space is saved since there’s no longer a need to bring the tubes or rubber duck floaty.

Amazon Prime Shopping List: Car Camping Under $200
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Gourmet Dining in the Woods

Amazon Prime Shopping List: Car Camping Under $200
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Since the use of fire pits or camp fires depend on the season and how dry it is, it’s a safe bet to have one of these in the camping arsenal. Double burner stoves are handy since cooking multiple things at once is possible and thus quicker, and the removable grill piece makes roasting marshmallows a breeze (just cover the metal surrounding the burner in foil to prevent staining!). Wind protection helps keep the flame burning and alive, and help keep the heat from the burner even.

Now that there’s a stove in the shopping cart, it comes down to what to cook with. Gold Armour offers a cheap and handy cooking and cleaning set through Amazon for $25.99.

Amazon Prime Shopping List: Car Camping Under $200
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This is a kit designed to fit in a backpack, so the pieces are small, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. The kit also saves space since it folds away neatly, and saves time considering how easy it is to clean.

The inclusion of a single serve burner in this kit is major a plus for people who prefer camping solo – it would save $42.88. Or, depending on what’s for dinner, a third pot or pan can be used in addition to warm up more food at once. However, using a single burner by itself would limit what can be cooked and how quickly. The lack of protection from the wind would make it difficult to prepare meals as well.

Propane for either the single or the double burner stove is a lot cheaper if bought from a store in person. When purchasing online, the cost is higher when shipping a flammable, pressurized liquid is being transported. For example, a pack of two cans from most sporting goods stores are typically around $12.99. When bought online from Amazon, a single can is $16.

When this entire list is added up (excluding the propane since it’s strongly advised to buy it from a store), the online total is $161.84.

Without the sleeping pad, the total changes to $121.85. When a two pack of propane at their typical price is added, along with the sleeping pad, it’s $169.83. What’s left over ($30.17) can be used toward more propane, food, or gas. Either way, it’s a great way to test the waters for a new kind of adventure.

Before you proceed to checkout...
When dealing with propane in any form, it’s a matter of safety that it is not in the vehicle with you while you’re sleeping. It’s not common, but leaks are possible, and the fumes can be dangerous depending on the length of exposure and previous or present health issues – better safe than sorry.


  • Operate any propane stove in your car. Open flame in a flammable car is not advised, and heightens the risk of danger. Especially since the area people typically sleep on is above the gas tank.
  • Sleep in the car with the engine running, under any circumstances.
  • Close yourself off from fresh air. Always sleep with at least one window cracked.
  • Leave any kind of open flame unattended, for any period of time. It only takes a second to start a fire, and only a few more for it to get out of control.
  • Leave food in your car. Food in your car can attract animals that don’t care much for obstacles, and will not hesitate to tear apart a car to get to food. Even gum can attract animals.
  • Same goes for trash. While it’s common sense to not leave trash, keeping the site clean is unfortunately not a common practice. Trash can also attract animals, which is a lot more dangerous for animals than people, due to the severe consequences imposed on animals when they get too close to people.
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