Car Camping

Car Camping

2021 is going to be a heck of a year in the American wilderness. With so many stir crazy folks out there (who can blame them), hunting grounds, fishing spots, and campsites are sure to be packed.

But not to worry. With a little ingenuity and know-how, there’s plenty you can do to strike out on your own and make this the best year ever in the bush.

The Tent on Four Wheels

The ultimate solution to booked-out camp and trailer sites is to avoid them altogether. Find yourself a nice little spot (where you won’t be trespassing) and set up camp in your car. You could do a lot worse! You’ll save money from park fees in the comfort and convenience of the vehicle you drove in with.

Sound daunting? Trust us, car camping is easy once you learn how to do it properly. Granted, some vehicles make it easier, and some harder, but most enclosed vehicles have the capacity to house you while you sleep.

Clean It Up

The first step is cleaning out the items in your car that you will not need for camping, then making sure you have enough fuel to get where you are going and back. After that, you will just need to prepare for your trip.

Pack It Up

What do you need to pack? Most of the same things you’d bring along for tent camping will do:

  • Cooking utensils
  • Food
  • Camp stove
  • Blankets & pillows
  • Mosquito net
  • Water
  • Bathroom supplies (these will vary if you are camping at a site versus out in the wild)
  • Chair
  • Garbage bag

Setting Up Your Site

Find a good spot—ideally something with shade, water, trees, and whatever else you want at your disposal. Since you’re not hemmed in by a formal camp site, you may find yourself with more options than you’re used to. For example, if you do not like a spot, you can just get up and move. There’s a flexibility to it that you just don’t get in a traditional camping set up.

Once you arrive at your spot, park and unload. Clear out as much of your car as you can—you’ll be sleeping in it, after all. Put out your chair, cooking gear, fire starter, etc.

When it comes to your food, it should be kept in the vehicle with your cooking utensils as to not attract unwanted visitors to your campsite.

Turning Your Car into a Tent

Most tents these days give you some sort of ventilation, and weather permitting, you’ll want the same in your car. Crack the windows, but not too wide. You wouldn’t want any curious wildlife getting a paw or a nose in. Lock the doors—this is a security advantage over tents. Then put up a mosquito net over the opened windows.

There are lots of tips for sleeping comfortably in your car. The most important one might be positioning. Start by laying the back seats down. When you get in to sleep, lay cross-wise, with your head on the driver’s side and your feet on the passenger’s side (or vice versa). Depending on your vehicle, this could give you a little more leg room.

When you are finished, make sure you remove the netting off your car, pack up everything, and take your trash along with you. Before you drive off, take one more look around to make sure you did not leave anything behind.

Have Fun!

Another tip about car camping is you can bring whatever you want, since you will be in your own vehicle. Your favorite book, or a game your family likes to play like cards—anything that keeps you busy during your down time and helps you relax. 


  • leerino

    Safety first never camp in remote area without people around. Have a trauma first aid kit with you at all times. And a means of communiating you may want to rent a satellit phone.

  • Michael Clouser

    Really good article
    Well presented, easy to understand.
    Rented a Dodge Van with under floor seat storage in Vegas and put 2000 miles on it doing State And National Park s. Great time would highly recommend it.

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