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July 4, 2010 12:00 AM

Put the car in camping: Let your vehicle do the work during summer camping trips


Clockwise from top left: Adventure I Truck Tent, Margaritaville Tailgating Grill, a Car Top Camper rooftop tent, a Truck-Bedz airbed.

To most of us, "car camping" means driving to a destination rather than hiking in. It also means we get to listen to the stereo and, best of all, we get to bring more stuff. But are you really making the most out of having your vehicle within arm's reach?

These products are designed to maximize the use you can get out of your vehicle when out in the wild.


Clockwise from top: CampRight SUV Tent, a Koolatron 12V cooler, Kelty Carport Deluxe Shulter.

Get off the ground
Heading south to rough it in desert terrain? You don't want to wake up to a scorpion in your boot or a snake under your pillow. Expecting rain? Mud? You certainly don't want to sleep in it. Here are a few tents that set up right on top of your vehicle, adding a great level of comfort and the peace of mind that comes with being out of the danger zone.

Car Top Camper's rooftop tents store away on top of the car while you're driving and set up quickly. They expand to an 8-foot-long sleeping space with an insulated aluminum floor, built-in foam mattress and adjustable ladder. Add-on extensions like a screen room, changing room and awning transform your car into a veritable camp mansion. Available at cartopcamper.com, $945-$1,095

Truck owners can turn their truck beds into cozy sleeping quarters with the Adventure I Truck Tent, a waterproof, wind-resistant and spacious setup. The elimination of a tent floor means the truck bed's surface space can be used to its full capacity. The 5.5-foot interior height allows for sleeping cots or bunks, or a platform across the bed can create a bunk for a child. Available at enelcompany.com, $249

If you don't mind the ground but want to expand your tent space, try the CampRight SUV Tent. It's a tunnel-shaped structure that seals to the back of your SUV with a secure sleeve, giving you direct access from the tent into the vehicle for storage or more sleeping space. It also comes with a built-in screen room for outdoor lounging without the bugs. Available at rightlinegear.com, $299

Sleep well
If comfort is your key concern, pick up a Truck-Bedz airbed, a heavy-duty mattress specially cut to fit around the truck's wheel wells. It comes in a vinyl economy model ($70) or a non-toxic cloth version ($170-$200). Available at truckbedz.com

Cook cooler
When it's time to get cooking, use your vehicle to your advantage. The Margaritaville Tailgating Grill is a full-size propane aluminum-body grill that attaches onto the hitch of a truck or SUV. Its swing arm holds it in place during the drive and rotates out for use once you arrive. Attached side tables and condiment trays make it a self-contained kitchen. Available at margaritavillecargo.com, $400

Koolatron's 12V coolers plug into your car's cigarette lighter, letting you leave the ice at home. That means more room for food and no runs for more ice on long trips. You can choose from soft-sided cooler bags or hard-sided versions in a range of sizes. koolatrononline.stores.yahoo.net, $80-$180

Gimme shelter
Rain is a part of Pacific Northwest camping. Instead of letting it keep you at home, be prepared with a Kelty Carport Deluxe Shelter. Its canopy attaches to the roof rack of a truck or SUV, and retractable side panels roll down when you need extra protection from wind and rain. Available at rei.com, $330