The Car Camping Guide

The Car Camping Guide

You may have heard of the wonderous world of Car Camping. 

Maybe, just maybe, you have done it yourself a few times. 

In fact, many of us go on our camping trips with our cars packed to the brim with our camping gear as the wheels turn towards our next destination. 

Lets face it, every camping trip doesn't have to be hiking and camping the Kokoda Trail or Mount Kilimanjaro with only the essentials and a pack on our back.

It's best to leave that to the highly motivated folk. 

Sometimes going camping simply means going to relax at a picturesque campground. 

Thus, one of the best ways to ensure that your trip is to bring your beloved vehicle with you, full of gadgets and camping gear that you normally wouldn't be able to bring with only the packs on your back. 

For this reason, I want to talk about car camping, what are some of the benefits, what may be some disadvantages associated with it, and why I think it's a fantastic way to open up locations and explore, creating new experiences and memories. 

What Exactly Is Car Camping?

The thing is, the term car camping carries with it a few different definitions.

For one, car camping can refer to those individuals that are living a nomadic lifestyle traveling and living their lives out the back of their car, either setting up camp in certain locations or simply just sleeping in the back of their car on a sleeping pad or mattress (or both). 

The other most common use of the term is to refer to simply taking your car camping with you for a camping trip, to a site such as a campground or a national park, potentially sleeping in the car or setting up tents. 

Therefore, you have a lot of freedom with camping when it comes to bringing a car camping, as it enables you to essentially craft the camping experience that you like. 

So now that we've got the basics covered, let's dive into the finer points of car camping.

a car with a car tent attached

Preparing Your Car

As I mentioned before, not all of us are hardened adventurers who can scale treacherous mountains and explore vast forests with just a pack on our backs. 

However, one thing most of us can do to make any outdoor adventure much smoother is effective preparation and bringing the right things. 

On that note, it goes without saying that effective preparation and planning means having the car and yourself ready for any situation.

This means that you must be able to respond to any incident, but also that you have to create a comfortable environment in which you can either spend days sleeping in or where you can drive from destination to destination with little stress. 

Although it is true at times that you can try to travel with the minimum necessary (especially for weekend trips), it is also true that for long trips you will need a lot of luggage.

It is possible that you are traveling with more people, or even that you need to fill the trunk with items such as a bed or an air mattress.

The Car Camping Trip Destination

The first car camping trip you go on after a break will be vastly improved by doing some research and picking a destination that is friendly for car camping and for your intentions on your car camping trip.

One of the best car camping tips is to find somewhere that offers overnight parking so you don't have to worry about moving your car or having to worry about where you'll park overnight.

Many national parks and campgrounds offer allocated parking included with a reservation for your campsite. This makes it ideal for tent camping as you can include all your car camping essentials and have them close to your campsite at all times.

Depending on the season, most campgrounds for your camping trip will tend to change. While a camping destination such as Yosemite has something to do all year, there are those such as Smokey Mountains National Park that thrive in certain seasons.

While designated campsites are fantastic as they provide amenities like a camp stove and picnic tables, if you're sleeping in your car you may prefer taking the dispersed camping route.

This method of car camping is perfect for the campers who love adventure, seclusion, selecting their own camp sites,

What to Pack 

Now, as you're probably getting sick to death of me saying to car camp well you need to pack the right camping gear with all your food and water bottles.

However, (last time I swear) there's nothing better than being well prepared for a camping trip. 

One of my favorite car camping tips for all this is to have a luggage rack in which you can carry everything you would carry in suitcases. You can purchase roof racks of different sizes and capacities.

This way, you will have the entire rear section of the car (or van) available for the rest of the equipment, and who doesn't like more room for activities?

However, that's enough for the hot tips. Let's go through the exciting part, what you should bring.

people car camping around a fire

Car Camping Essentials

For camping gear, there's a ton of stuff that you can bring. However, here are some of the items I believe you can't miss if you're taking the beloved car out into nature. These are car camping essentials.

Sleeping Bags

This one is essential, as the versatility of a quality sleeping bag for camping when used in combination with a sleeping pad or an air mattress is perfect for a good night's rest, whether you're sleeping in your car or in your tent.

A sleeping bag will ensure that you're protected from the cold, especially if you choose to camp close to the winter months in the national parks, for example.

Carry Jumper Cables

You never really know when your car's battery could go flat or you experience other mechanical difficulties that can render your car immobile.

Jumper Cables will ensure that you can jump-start your dead battery and get yourself out of a sticky situation if you find yourself in one, or find some help.

Full Tank

Make sure to fill up your car's tank before you go out on your car camping trip, as a full tank is one of those car camping essentials you can't go without.

While a lot of camp sites and national parks/national forests are close to a gas station, car campers are well served being prepared and bringing a spare fuel can to make sure you don't get caught out with no access to gas stations.

Picnic Table

It's always handy to have a table to put all your stuff on and keep it off the ground.

With one of these, you can put things on it like your solar panel, cast iron pan, and trash bags.

It's also obviously the perfect candidate for putting camping chairs around it and having a great conversation and creating memories with your car camp crew.

Bonus Car Camping Tips

Other than car camping essentials, here are some hot tips to remember while you are taking your car camping.

van next to a river camping

Keep The Right Gear Charged

I mean we've all experienced it before.

You're caught out with no battery while you're on the forest service roads or dirt roads and you can't figure out where you're meant to go.

As a result, things can get pretty crazy fast on your car camping trip.

Bring some solar panels with you and make sure you can get somewhere such as a visitor center, ranger station, or a place with cell service.

That way you'll always be fully charged and ready for anything.

Sleeping in your Car

What's better than sleeping in your car in a national forest in a super comfy setting.

Find yourself some overnight parking, whether it be a parking lot with a permit, public lands, or somewhere off the beaten track to make sure you get good sleep (even if you're a light sleeper)

Sleeping in your car is much better if you take some comfortable sleeping bags, and mattresses and keep all your essentials at a spot where you have easy access.

Visit Local Grocery Stores

Before you head out, check yourself into a supermarket or a local grocery store and get yourself some food rather than buying it from places near the campsite.

This allows you to save money, come prepared, and also means you won't be caught out without food.

Just make sure you have somewhere to store food and you'll be right as rain!