Not everyone may have access to a van with a large interior where you can easily place a sleeping bag and enjoy your evening. However, it is still possible to camp in your car. By putting in place a few measures, your night out in the car might be just as comfortable as your bed back home.
The first thing you need to ensure when planning to camp in your car is that your chosen location is permitted. Luckily most forest service roads in the US allow car camping. However, make sure you observe basic common sense such as parking the car in a spot that doesn’t inhibit other vehicles.
Ensure that the location is flat and if there are other car campers nearby, give them their space and park your car in a less conspicuous location.
As for the tools you need, a folding chair, camping stove, and camping table are easy to pack camping gear that can help you enjoy your evening and prepare some delicious meals.
While it is advisable to seek out flat surfaces when camping in your car, this may not always be possible especially when you find that you have drifted in a rural area. Find a spot where you can comfortably pack your car and sleep inside with the head at an angle that is higher than your feet.
Here are ten things to keep in mind when out camping in your car.
Charge your electronic devices
When car camping, you will still need the services of your phone, camera, or tablet. While it is easy to charge them during the day when the car engine is on, the challenge comes at night.
One of the ways you can ensure that your devices have enough power is to carry a power bank. You can spend the day charging your devices while topping up on the power bank for later use.
Getting a comfortable sleeping pad and sleeping bag
One of the great advantages of car camping is that you do not have to worry about carrying the sleeping pad and sleeping bag on your back. This means you can get them with a bit more weight and plush which translates to more comfort.
Get a sleeping bag that is the right size for your car’s interior and as well as the position you choose to sleep in. While a small and compact camping pillow is a great choice, you can also bring your full-sized pillow.
Bring a cooler
You may want to store your eggs, meat, fish, or milk for consumption while you are on the road. These need to remain fresh as they could go bad in the heat of the day. A cooler is, therefore, a good choice. Ensure that you add ice blocks before putting in the food to maintain frost inside the cooler.
While your car’s interior lights will do, these use up battery power which is not the best thing to do when the car is turned off. Before going to bed you might want to cuddle up with your tag along with a puppy or read a book. A lantern that you hang on the handles will provide you with ample lighting when car camping at night.
What’s more, you may need to step out to relieve yourself in a bush somewhere close by and you will need a lantern to light the way.
Privacy and curtains
When you are fast asleep, the last thing you want is someone coming to snoop through your car window. Chords to help you put curtains in your car windows will block out these snoopers as well as prevent the morning sun from shining indirectly on your face.
For the front windscreen, you can place the curtains behind the front seats so that nobody looks in through the front.
You need fresh air circulating through the car’s interior when you are fast asleep. Closing all the windows tightly shut will reduce the amount of oxygen getting in and will also cause the windows to fog up.
To ensure sufficient air circulation, open your car windows just enough so that no animal can get in.
If you are worried about bugs and mosquitos, apply insect repellent before going to bed. Another option is to place a net behind the windows and curtains.
Just because you are out camping doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily leave your gadgets behind. Since you can carry a solar charger you can top up your smartphone’s battery during the day.
Feel free to download your favorite shows before embarking on your car camping trip. After a long day of cruising, you can watch a movie right before you retire to sleep.
Stay fresh and clean
Things can get difficult when you want to remain clean on a camping trip. Water may not always be easy to come by and you can pretty much forget about the idea of a shower. However, ensure that you are clean by packing a good toiletry kit that has all the essentials such as a cleaning kit, wipes, and shampoo.
Pack whatever you might need
By now it’s clear that carrying more stuff is the hallmark of car camping, something that backpackers or hikers are not able to enjoy.
Don’t be shy to pack as much as you want. After all, you are not carrying all that weight on your own. If you are a first-timer, then this will come in handy. Many newbies find that they forgot an essential piece of gear when they went out car camping only to close the trip early.
The great thing about car camping is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money buying all the essential gear that you will need. You can start with what you already have at home such as that toothpaste or that small-sized mattress that can fit in your car.
If you have to buy something such as a tent, then find a cheap one that will serve your purpose. Don’t let the idea of camping trick you into thinking that you need specially designed gear. Spending might be a bit of a stretch on your budget and may cause you to change your mind about heading out camping.
Carry insect repellent
Crawling bugs and mosquitoes can ruin your camping experience. Remember that you are there to have fun and not sleepless nights. Mosquito repellent will keep all those annoying bugs and critters away leaving you to make the most of your car camping trip.
Be prepared for harsh weather
Sometimes when you are out on a camping trip, the weather might change for the worse. Whether it’s rain or snow, always pack a few warm-weather clothes and a waterproof jacket just in case.
Also, keep an eye on the weather forecasts of the area you will be camping in to help you know what types of clothes to pack.
You don’t have to stick to the script
There are camping rules that need to be adhered to. However, if you don’t want to cook a meal, you can order a pizza if you are camping near a town.
And if you want to keep yourself entertained, you can always bring along that iPad or tablet.
Tips for packing for your car camping trip
The idea of carrying as much as you want can tempt many people to take things over the top. Granted, you can carry loads of gear and gadgets that you will otherwise not be able to when hiking or backpacking but the trick when packing is to find the right balance between what you will need and what can be considered excessive.
Bringing more items means that you have to account for all of them when you are at the camping site. This might cause you to stress about what is where and what you lost. Remember camping is about kicking back and relaxing.
Let’s consider some essentials that you will need when car camping.
All camping in general limits your access to water. With car camping at least, you can carry your own. Water will be used for cooking, washing your dishes after a meal as well as for staying clean.
When you want to leave your current campsite for the next, you need to adhere to the “leave no trace” rule. That means leaving the campsite as natural and as clean as you found it. Plastic bags will help you carry all the trash that accumulated during your stay. You can then dump this trash at the nearest dumpster.
First aid kit
It can be a long way to the nearest hospital when you are out car camping and an injury occurred. A first aid kit will help you treat any wounds and injuries before help arrives.
One of the ways you can keep everything well packed is bought using stackable storage bins. A messy and disorganized car will result in a less enjoyable trip. By keeping everything well stored, you can account for every single item and it also helps to save on space.
Plenty of blankets
Nothing is worse than carrying a few blankets only to have the weather change on you for the worse. What you thought would be a warm day could end up being a very cold night. By carrying more, you can add blankets when it gets cold and shed some when it’s a warm night.
It’s hard to imagine a camping trip without a fire. Even when camping in your car, you will want to start a fire at some point. First, check the local regulations as well as the time of year before you light a fire. Summer months often mean dry surrounding vegetation which can light up easily and start a forest fire.
After ensuring that conditions are safe, a fire starter will help you light a fire quickly and efficiently.
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Car camping is one of the best and possibly safest ways to go on a camping trip. However, it presents its own set of challenges. Lacking a few essentials can cause you to close your trip early. Luckily for many car campers, the fact that they don’t have to carry any gear on their backs means they can stock up on essential items.
You can explore further places when camping with your car and you can make the nights as comfortable as the bed you have at home by carrying a mattress, larger sleeping pad, and a thicker sleeping bag.
Just remember to remain safe and to leave your camping site as clean as you found it so as not to disrupt the local wildlife and plants.