For car camping, the lure of being able to load up all your home comforts is hard to resist, but do you ever stop and wonder how much is too much? Of course, you want to bring your roomiest tent, plushest sleeping pad and comfiest camping chair, but do you need a camping table, too? After all, you’ve probably noticed that most developed campgrounds have at least one picnic table per campsite, so what’s the point in bringing your own?
While it’s true that you’ll usually have a picnic table provided if you’re in a developed campground, we think bringing your own camping table is a great idea, even if you're not heading into the backcountry. Not all campgrounds provide picnic tables and even if they do, they may not have enough and other groups could be using them when you want to eat. If you’re camping with a group, a single picnic table may not provide enough seating for everyone (they’re typically only good for 6 - 8 people) so you might need a backup.
There are other advantages of a camping table over a picnic table to consider, too. Hard wooden benches aren’t the comfiest for sitting on for long periods, but with a camping table, you can gather round on your camping chairs when it’s time to take a load off.
Additionally, your folding camping table is movable, which means you can set it up in the shade or under a waterproof shelter like a tarp, while picnic tables are heavy and practically impossible to move (your camp host may not be too keen on your moving their tables, either).
Finally, having the extra surface area available can be really useful for lots of reasons, while leaving your dining table free for socializing and eating. Here are some common uses for a camping table:
- Camp kitchen setup, food prep and serving meals
- Playing games
- Fixing camping gear
How to choose a camping table
The best camping tables come in all shapes, sizes and materials, so it can be hard to know where to start, but the following features are helpful to consider when making your purchase:
If you’re going to be moving the table around by yourself, make sure it’s light enough that you can safely lift it. You can offset a heavier camping table by making sure you get one with convenient carrying handles or a carrying bag like the Zempire Kitpack. If you’re going to be walking a little distance with it, you might look for one that you can carry on your back.
Your camping table should fold away so that it can easily slide under, on top of, or in between the camping bins in your car, but packability also means hinges that fold and release easily without too much wrestling.
Though a lighter table might be easier to load and unload, you want to make sure you don’t sacrifice too much stability, particularly if you’re going to be eating or preparing food on your table, or camping in the wind.
If you’re going to be sitting at your camping table, either to eat or play cards, make sure it is adjustable, like the Decathlon Folding Camping Table, so that you can make it compatible with the height of your camping chairs. If you only intend to work at it, it needs to be tall enough that you don’t have to stoop over when you’re standing, or you could hurt your back.
The size of camping table you choose really depends on what you plan to do on it. If you plan to eat at yours, make sure it accommodates the number of chairs you’ll need. If you’re not sure, look into getting an extendable camping table that can adjust according to your needs.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.