Loading your car with camping gear

Going camping, but don’t want to tow a trailer? Fitting your camping gear in your car is only half the challenge – staying under the car’s maximum load rating is the other challenge that a lot of people do not consider. When you do the math, a dual cab ute starts to make a lot of sense as a family camping vehicle.

Car camping

Car camping at Boreen Point

Surprisingly, it is relatively easy to overload a vehicle. Not only can overloading your vehicle do expensive damage to car components, in a critical situation it can also create major safety risks – do you really want to put your family at risk on your camping holiday?

I will use my Holden Commodore VX wagon as an example. According to the vehicle’s handbook, it has a load limit of 480 kg. Squeeze in two large adults and three big teenage kids in the back and you are probably already up around the 400 kg mark. That does not leave a lot of room for camping gear. If your kids happen to be big football types, you might be nudging 500 kg just in passengers alone. Mind you, if they were that big, you probably aren’t going to be going camping in a Commodore – try a mini bus instead!

My consideration of vehicle load limits started because I wanted to buy a Black Wolf Turbo 300 Plus tent. At a packed length of 145 cm, it probably was not going to squeeze across the boot, which meant I would need to load it diagonally across the cargo space to fit it in. However, that does not lead to packing efficiency.

I therefore decided it would be best on roof racks, but at 30 kg was a significant weight to be putting aloft. If I also put a couple of swags up there, I would be nudging 50 kg. The Commodore’s roof load limit is 80 kg – including the weight of the roof rack itself.

That got me thinking about the overall capacity of the Commodore and how much we were trying to squeeze in when camping.

Here is a rough guesstimate of what we take camping based on my camping list.


  • 2 x adults 160 kg
  • 2 x young children 40 kg (my kids are small, if you have a couple of beefy teenagers this will be a lot heavier!)

Camping gear

  • 4 x personal bags 40 kg*
  • tent 19 kg
  • 2 x swags 20 kg
  • 2 x self-inflating mattress and sleeping bags 10 kg*
  • table and bench 20 kg
  • 4 x chairs 13 kg
  • stove 5 kg
  • gas cylinder 4 kg
  • tool box 4 kg
  • peg bag 12 kg (I think I should carry a few less spare pegs!)
  • poles 30 kg (yes, I weighed the poles and they really are that heavy!)
  • ropes 6 kg
  • water (12 L) 12 kg

Car accessories

  • luggage barrier 10 kg*
  • floor mats and seat covers 3 kg*
  • 2 x children’s car seats 10 kg*
  • roof racks and basket 15 kg

Total 433 kg

* estimated weight

Other items I have not yet weighed/estimated are:

  • kitchen box (pots/plates/cutlery etc)
  • clean up box
  • lighting box
  • tarps
  • esky
  • food box.

As you can see, the weight adds up very quickly. By the time I finish weighing everything, the weight will be around the maximum load limit of 480 kg. If my kids were bigger, we would easily exceed the vehicle load limit.

We are in the market for a new car so that we can do some beach camping, and I do not want to tow a trailer. With a 1 tonne plus load capacity, a Toyota Hilux dual cab ute is starting to look very attractive and make a lot of sense as a touring vehicle.

2 thoughts on “Loading your car with camping gear

  1. Pingback: Best 4×4 for beach camping — Toyota Prado or Hilux? @ Rant, Rex

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