What is car camping?
If you are the type of person who needs to be surrounded by every home comfort, then I don’t think this blog post is for you. Unless you’d like to try it just once?
But if money is the only thing holding you back from getting away more often and you'd like to experience the delight of fresh air more often - hiking, biking, mountain climbing, or fishing - then this is for you. Especially if you can poop in the outdoors without cringing or wash with a wet wipe or the body of water you’ve happened to pull right up to.
That’s the beauty of camping in your car - you’re going to be able to park in the best spot, in front of the river, lake, or mountain without another soul for miles around.
Car camping could mean different things to different people. This blog is about camping IN your car, not in a tent next to your car.
I've narrowed it down to these 10 hacks - Keeping it simple but comfortable:
1. Stylishly Organized
Bins are the bomb! Try to keep things organized otherwise the back of your car ends up looking like a dumpster and you don’t want that. Even if you're a guy on your own, keep it tidy. Knowing where to find items you need without the frustration of having to hunt for them is satisfying.
Sleeping bag, sleeping pad/mattress, extra blankets or duvet, pillow.
Food including hiking snacks (Better yet, keep perishables in a cooler if you have space)
Clothes (don’t pack your food with your clothes - especially if you’re camping in bear country - surely I don’t have to spell out why?)
Cooking tools, utensils, a plate, a cup, a cast iron pot (for use on a stove and a campfire), a kettle, a compressible water jug (space-saver), a small cutting board, bottle and can opener, drying towels, bin bags (Leave No Trace!!!)
The point is to divide and conquer and find what you need when you need it.
2. Simple Food
If you’re not into cooking, keep things simple by packing instant foods like:
- Freeze-dried food, oatmeal, cereals, instant noodles, and soups
- Salt & Pepper
- Coffee/tea/sugar/honey (whatever blows your hair back)
- Pre-mixed pancake mix & syrup (yes please)
- Canned Foods
- Energy bars
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Snacks & space for a few beers or a glass of wine. Everything in moderation.
If you’re going on a longer trip, buy milk, fresh fruit, and vegetables when you need them.
Take along a small propane stove to cook your meals and boil water for coffee.
If you’re a cooking whizz, then you could invest in a cast iron Dutch oven - you can literally cook anything over the fire.
3. Sensational Sleep
Create a cocoon of comfort in the back of your vehicle and don’t skimp in this area - pack a comfortable mattress. Having a vehicle with back seats that fold down flat is a winner space-wise.
Being on vacation and not having a comfortable space to sleep is not a vacation. You need sleep, and it should be given priority.
Requirements will change with the seasons, autumn or winter getaways will necessitate warmer sleeping bags and extra blankets or a duvet to keep you toasty.
Fill up a hot water bottle and pop it in the bottom of your sleeping bag 10 minutes before you go to bed and you’ll slip into a wonderworld of contentment.
KEYS TO A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP:
- Pack a sleeping mask to block out light (if you need it).
- Keep windows slightly open to let in a little air.
- Don’t go to sleep hungry.
- Pee before you go to bed.
- Sleep with your head above your feet if you’ve had to park on an incline.
4. Stellar Overnight Stays
Spur of the moment works for me, but so does planning. This is entirely up to your personality type and what you can handle.
Flexibility is helpful but some kind of planning promotes peace of mind. It's good to also have an idea of where you'll be so that you can let others know. Stay safe.
There are many ways to find great places to park or overnight between destinations, including BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. You can camp for up to two weeks on public land, just make sure of the rules beforehand including fire permits.
These sites will be helpful in finding places to camp:
- and blm.gov
If all else fails, you could overnight in a Walmart parking lot or a shopping mall (if you're on a longer road trip) – always find out beforehand if this is allowed. Different places have different policies. If the only option nearby is a small grocery store, have in mind to always pay it forward for people who may come after you. Treat your “hosts” respectfully by being courteous – ask for permission, and don’t overstay your welcome.
5. Secluded Privacy (from bugs too)
Maybe you like the OTT approach?
How do you go about this? Well, many have gone before to enable you to choose the best option for YOU - a quick search on YouTube will help you find an option that suits.
You can use anything from shock cord or magnets to hang curtains and mesh to thin sheeting cut to window size which will block out light and people for the night.
Keep a couple of windows open throughout the night, even in winter. Open a window on either side of your car for cross ventilation and place mesh into the windows to keep bugs from coming at you for their evening entertainment. Don't skip this hack - never opening a window will cause damp to settle in your car.
In case of rain, you could place a tarp over your car devising a canopy on the one side so that rain doesn’t get into your open windows. A lot can be done with a couple of trees or tent poles and some bungee cord.
6. Source of Light
Using your vehicle’s inside light will drain the battery. A headlamp works well and no you don’t have to wear it, you could easily hook it onto the grab handles above the car doors. Any battery operated light will work, just remember to pack extra batteries.
7. Smart Device Recharge
You can always start up your car to charge your device in an emergency but if you plan on going for the weekend, try to be device-free - switch off your phone and enjoy every moment. My favorite times away have been device-free, I’ve connected more with myself and those around me.
If you’re on a longer trip, invest in a dashboard solar panel to charge your phone and laptop.
Always be prepared with the ten essentials for Survival - you can read all about that here. Equip yourself with a first aid kit and be ready for the unexpected. A lot of people live in denial that 'things will never happen to us'. Facing the fact that emergencies and accidents could happen, solidly prepares you for if they do happen.
If you have no idea what to pack regarding first aid, start with this pack: Surviveware Small First Aid Kit and customize with medication you use.
9. Surviveware Toilet Kit Advice
If you plan on being in the backcountry, you may most likely be without toilet and shower facilities. Don’t let that stop you from trying it out. We have ways and means of making you comfortable.A toilet bag would be a good addition and keep the following in it:
- Hand sanitizer (coz germs)
- A small shovel (dig a hole 6 inches deep and wide to do your business, 200 feet away from any water source, campsite or trail)
- Surviveware Wet Wipes (Soft, hypoallergenic, scent-free, biodegradable, extra-large wipes. They help with monkey butt and keep you feeling super fresh!)
- Toilet paper (optional … coz wipes)
10. Staying Clean
Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t mind living in an unwashed state for a few days, but seriously, you don’t have to do that. For re-entry into society, clean up ... I beg you.
Wipes, people, wipes! Wet wipes that can actually do the job well. One Surviveware Wet Wipe is large enough to wash an average-sized body. If you’re really muddy, you may need two. The great thing about these wipes is that they don’t leave any residue on your body and you feel like you’ve had a shower after you’ve used one. Try them out here.
Even though they are biodegradable, we still advocate packing out and leaving no trace. Only bury it if you absolutely must - and if you absolutely must, then you can be assured that within a year, they’ll be completely decomposed.
If you’ve never tried car camping, why not give it a go? The fact that it's a really cheap vacation means you’ll be able to do it more often. Enjoy the hush and lull that nature brings, it’ll give you the get-up and go you need for the week. Keep planning ahead so that you have something to look forward to in your diary.
Have you tried it and do you have any hacks for me to pass on?
Feel the peace. It's time.