Gotta Get Away? 5 Ways Car Camping Has You Covered

5 Ways For Car Camping
A car with seats that fold flat mean you can get a good night's sleep. Photo: REI

Camping is one of those outdoor activities that everyone wants to do but don’t get around to planning.

Topping the list of excuses is lack of equipment, knowledge and time. Truth be told, camping is one of those exciting adventures that truly take little planning. All you need is a few essentials and the great outdoors.

Every time that someone mentions that they don’t have the proper setup to start camping, ask them one simple question. “Do you have a car?” If the answer is yes, then it’s time to fill them in on a little secret…It’s 100% possible to camp in your car! If you’re looking for ways to make car camping happen, here are some simple suggestions to get started.

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5 Ways to Camp in your Car

1. Keep It Simple

If you’re going to camp in your car, the majority of what you need when camping is covered. Your structure is your car, so all you’ll need to worry about is making certain that you pack the essential items that you need (keep reading, we have suggestions). Don’t overthink it. After all, the majority of your time will be spent exploring outdoors, not inside the car.

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2. Plan Ahead For Your Bathroom Breaks

If you’re using your car to camp at a campground, then more than likely you’ll have a bathroom somewhere to use in the campground. If you aren’t,  you’ll need to plan ahead to make certain that you have a backup to use. While “being one with nature” will work at times, purchasing a portable toilet is probably a good option to be on the safe side.

3. Think Small

When it comes to car camping, don’t overpack! Your car isn’t the biggest space, so you need to plan ahead and pack items that don’t take up a ton of room. Keep it simple. For example, one plate, one fork, one glass, and one knife should be more than enough to take care of your needs for eating. As for outfits, plan according to the weather. Pack a couple of outfits and always pack a jacket just in case.

5 Ways To Camp In Your Car

Photo Credit: Becky Fixel

4. Find a Place With A View

When you camp in your car, you can literally camp almost anywhere (within reason). Don’t settle for a plain ol’ parking space when you can have options galore! Make it count and find a stellar place to park (put on your emergency brake) and get settled in for the night. And make sure you’re the only one with the view: Use bungee cords and sheets or towels to block out potential peeping eyes. Viewing the night sky through the moonroof is priceless!

5. Beat the Heat

If there isn’t a breeze outside, your car can heat up quickly inside. Cracking your windows is a good way to let in some fresh air. Another option would be a battery operated fan, or one that plugs into you phone. It’s a super simple solution to keeping you cool during your time car camping.

5 Ways For Car Camping

A car with seats that fold flat mean you can get a good night’s sleep. Photo: REI

What items should you pack for car camping?

Now that you’ve discovered ways to make car camping happen, what should you pack for your car camping adventure?

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Think of packing for your camping trip as “compact” packing and only pack items that take up minimal space. Some suggested items would be:

  • Inflatable pillow
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Travel bathroom bag
  • Travel size deodorant/essentials, etc.
  • Small cooler for your items that need to stay cold
  • A sleeping bag
  • Flashlight
  • Prepackaged snacks that don’t need to be warmed up
  • One change of clothes

Again, think like a minimalist. Keep your suitcase (or backpack) light; something that fits in the driver’s seat is ideal; this gives you the rest of the car to stretch out. A good rule of thumb is to think about what you can fit into a carry on bag when flying, and then see if you can use that same space to fit everything you’ll need for car camping in your car.

What type of cars works best for car camping?

Any car can work for car camping, but there are a few that may be better and more comfortable than others.

Small SUVs work great because they allow just a little bit more leg room and tend to have seats that will fold down allowing more room on the floor in the back to sleep. Ideally, the front passenger’s seat should fold forward, too.

Vans (if you consider them to fall into the car category) totally rock because they offer great spaces to be able to fully stretch out and relax without ever really feeling cramped.

Sedans with a front passenger seat that fully reclines; this gives you lots of space in the back for your gear.

Another option is a rooftop compact tents that will sit and fit nicely on the top of your vehicle. That way, if you literally can’t find a way to get comfortable in your car, you can climb up on the roof to camp!

How to add privacy to your car for car camping

Camping alone doesn’t mean that you have to feel unsafe. You can add bungee cord curtains that you can have on all your car windows so that you can open and close them for privacy. Plus, don’t forget that your car door locks work great for keeping others out!

One great piece of advice is to always keep your phone and other devices charged in case of an emergency. Remember to bring batteries and a charger as well.

Also, when sleeping at night, keep your car keys somewhere close to you just in case you have to wake up and leave your camping spot in a hurry. You don’t want to waste time searching for your keys when you can have them handy right from the start.

 When Nature Calls…

The truth about car camping is that you HAVE to find a place to go to the bathroom. It doesn’t have to be anything glamorous, and when you’re camping…it won’t be. And don’t just think public restrooms. There are 3 main things that you need to have to be able to use the restroom with camping:

  • Portable Toilet
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

If you can pack these three things for your car camping trip, you will be all set when it comes to your bathroom needs!

Car camping is truly an adventure that everyone should try at least once in their life. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s freeing to be able to drive your car out to nature and enjoy it. Car camping requires minimal work, little setup and offers many of the same rewards as RV or tent camping. While car camping may not be for everyone, it’s a great way for anyone to dip their toes into the camping world!

Camping Is One Of Those Outdoor Activities That Everyone Wants To Do But Seems To Have A Laundry List Of Reasons Why They Just Can'T Make It Happen.