If you haven’t taken your first camping trip of the year, what are you waiting for? Perhaps some fresh new gear for inspiration? There is, after all, always something new and cool you could add to your kit. In this series, we look at gear, grub and activities to keep you comfortable and entertained while you commune with nature, whether you eschew crowds and hike in to your sites, love to hit the beaches on the coast or lean into the convenience of car camping.

Today: Car camping

Comfy beds, bikes, intricate kitchen setups — when you car camp you really can bring it all. You’re still enjoying nature, you’re just doing it a little more comfortably. These eight finds might make your trip into nature even more relaxing — and it’s not like you’ll notice a few more things in the roof box.

What to pack

No matter how civilized you have made your camp, the bugs just don’t seem to care. Particularly at mealtime, it’s nice to have a bug screen. The Nemo Bugout Screen Room Tarp ($200–$250 at nemo
equipment.com) is a clever and versatile version that can be strung from any two trees and used as a tarp when the mesh sides aren’t needed.

Car camping usually means Fido gets to come along. Make sure his bed is as comfy as yours with the new Ruffwear Restcycle Bed ($100 at ruff
wear.com) out of Vancouver, B.C. Filled with repurposed closed-cell foam, with a waterproof base and machine-washable cover, it’s a go-anywhere bed he can collapse into after a day chasing squirrels.

Just because you’re playing music, have a full kitchen and get cell service doesn’t mean you’re not in nature. And therefore an axe might just come in handy. Make it a good looking one, such as the new, limited-edition Filson Sportsman Axe ($95 at Filson, Sodo, and filson.com), made in the U.S. from U.S. steel in a rust-resistant matte-black finish with a stacked leather handle.

The best camping chairs for summer 2019

What to eat

Impress the gang with your campsite culinary skills with a monster stovetop such as the Camp Chef Mountaineer Two-Burner Aluminum Stove ($240 at campchef.com). It boils water in a flash and attaches to a full-size propane tank so everyone will know you’re serious about your food.

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Keep cocktail hour intact with the fun Stanley Adventure 
Series Happy Hour Cocktail 
Set ($35 at stanley-pmi.com), which was redesigned with a slimmer shape for 2019. It includes a nesting juicer, jigger cap, two rocks cups and a shaker, all in stainless steel.

Wow everyone with campfire lasagne, cornbread or deep-dish s’mores. Haul along the Lodge Fish Pan ($100 at shop.lodgemfg.com), a pre-seasoned cast-iron workhorse with deep sides, and you can bake, deep fry and sauté in one versatile pan. It’s still heavy duty, but Lodge trimmed 2 pounds from the weight for this year by slimming down the sidewalls.

What to do

It may be tempting to sit around your deluxe, decked-out campsite all day. But since you drove all the way out to nature, you should explore a little.

Hit the trails in the new Danner Trail 2650 lightweight hiker ($150 at danner.com), available for men and women with a breathable upper and super-grippy Vibram sole. Named for the length in miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, they’ll provide support when out and about and look great when you’re kicking it back at camp.

Have a competitive streak? Instead of throwing rocks at cans, set up the simple-but-fun Outside Inside Freestyle Barrel Toss ($40 at REI), which includes two target barrels, six pegs and a disc. Make it as simple or hard as you want, and then pack it all up into a carrying tote when you’re done.

Hike-in camping: What to pack when every ounce counts