Originally Posted by Fellowship
Fair enough for sure!
Let me pick your brains about driving with tent and supplies ready to visit a state park, lake, or national forest camp site. In other words not back pack, ultralight but lug the bigger stuff sort of camping.
I do not have an RV of any sort so basically spill what you got in the way of tent camping. Stuff you would bring with you and for what purpose. What do you find to be critical and also things not to forget.
Passing it back to you Nick!
Well as with all things (except liberal social policy) there are trade offs.
When we were in the position you are now in, we did a ton of car/tent camping. My wife likes wide open spaces and monstrous tents. I don't like to have to hunch over in a tent so we found a gigantic Coleman tent that was 18x10. It was a dome tent rather than a cabin tent. I would have preferred two smaller tents since they are easier to set up and less heavy, but the wife wanted the smaller children in the tent "safe" with us. My ideal configuration would be two 10x10 tents.
Cabin tents with aluminum poles are the best for easy set up. Try to avoid many of the cheaper cabin tents because they will give you cheap plastic joints and when you hit a strong enough wind they snap. I've seen it happen on the beaches of San Felipe to multiple tents of friends. Because of this I prefer dome tents as they have fiberglass poles and flex but they are harder to get in a tall configuration. I looked until I got what I wanted, it was a dome tent with about 6'2" of center height. All tents are rated by seasons and all claim they are water proof but there are basically amounts of water downpour they can withstand and this is part of their rating. (how many centimeters of downpour they can withstand before leaking) For most camping you do not need a four season tent. Three season tents are fine unless you really want to camp in snow.
The best air mattress I have used by far is the Coleman double-tall queen mattress. I've slept on one for almost two weeks straight and it was good sleep. The wife and I would zip the sleeping bags together for a giant queen size sleeping bag, put it on the air mattress and then you can enjoy keeping each other warm in the evenings if you know what I mean. They sell liners you can add or remove to add another 20 degrees to the rating of any sleeping bag. Our sleeping bags are just standard Coleman rated to 40 degrees and we use the liners if we suspect it will go lower. The coldest I've camped at is 28 degrees.
For ice chests, get the five day rated ones, use only block ice and keep it in the shade. They will make it five days if you do this.
For cooking you've got two main choices, white gas or propane. Each come with trade offs. White gas stoves are cheaper to fuel, can be be refilled easily. Most can also use unleaded gas if the need arose. They also work better at higher elevations and in lower temps.
Propane in the green bottles gets pressure to release by converting from a liquid to a gas. You alter any of the variables that affect this (altitude or temp) and it gets harder to use. Propane burns cleaner however and thus you can have a stove that can work as both a grill and stove.
I personally own just an old Coleman white gas stove that I bought and cleaned. I doubt it has used two gallons of fuel even in a decade. We used it twice a day and often three times a day when staying two weeks in Yellowstone. I had to refill the small tank in it exactly once. The fuel doesn't go bad. Two of our lanterns are white gas with mantles and the others are LED with solar panels on the top.
For me I'm just not a fan of propane because I don't like the green bottles. Now other people get around this by having elaborate propane tree set ups and carrying around a 20lb bottle. For me I like white gas and use it for everything but you can't grill on it. For that we just use the grill available in the campground. Most have it as part of the firepit. If not you can buy or use anything that is metal wire with openings and sits over a fire. So when we are enjoying the wood fire in the evenings, we just start it a little early and we throw the meat on it as well.
If you hit the right parks, it is absolutely possible to do all your cooking in the fire pit or over a fire. I do have friends that do this and it is actually a lot of fun but in California there are many prohibitions about what wood you can gather and where you can burn it.
Hope that's a good start. Ask questions to clarify anything.