Car Camping: Make Your Car Trip Unforgettable (Checklist + Guide)

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Camping is excellent to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the fresh, clean air and the scenery. If you are not a seasoned camper, you might want to start with car camping. Living in the car is not for everybody, but if you’re going to have a head start on the trail, the easiest way is through camping in your car.

No matter what you drive, an SUV or a car, if it can get you to your next place of adventure, then your vehicle can give a night of comfort, a morning of efficiency and a wonderful weekend of camping. If you don’t know how to turn your car into a tent-free accommodation, then you better read these simple hacks to make your car camping a smashing hit.

Where to Camp: Car Camping Map

When you are car camping, the first thing that you need to sort out is where to park. Using the internet, you can find plenty of places where you can legally park and camp undisturbed. There are many places where you can park for free or with a fee and set up your temporary accommodation for the night. Some roads are open for overnight parking and camping, just make sure you have the permit and pass necessary.

If you’re going to car camping, we highly recommend you to check the next interactive map first:

Here you can find more than 218 000 miles of the best hiking trails and find the best places for your next car camping.

Pack Freely: Car Camping Checklist

car camping checklist

Because this is car camping, you have to pack everything you may need in your car (without forgetting that you have to sleep in it too). Check out the car camping checklist to make sure that you’ve got everything covered while camping. It is better to over-prepare rather than forgetting a critical piece of gear that will make your life miserable.

Sleeping Supplies

  1. Sleeping bag;
  2. Tent;
  3. Tarp or tent footprint;
  4. Hammock (not essential);
  5. Shade canopy (not essential);
  6. Camping mattress;
  7. Pillows;
  8. Warm blankets.

Cooking Supplies

  1. Cooler (chilly bin);
  2. Stove;
  3. Camp cooking set (cookware/dinnerware);
  4. Cook station (not essential);
  5. Chopping knife;
  6. Water (min. 3 liters per person/day);
  7. Ziplock bags;
  8. Camp kitchen accessories (foil, wash bin, propane, teapot, food containers, lighters).

Outdoor Home Supplies

  1. Folding chair (not essential);
  2. Folding table (not essential);

Lighting Supplies

  1. Lantern (solar lantern as an option);
  2. Headlamp;
  3. Tent lighting or string lights (not essential);
  4. Portable flashlight;
  5. Core batteries;
  6. Charger.

Outdoor Gear Supplies

  1. Cell phone;
  2. GPS tracker (not essential);
  3. Multitool (swiss knife as an option);
  4. Waterproof clothing (jacket and pants);
  5. Warm clothing;
  6. Paracord bracelets;
  7. First-aid kit;
  8. Repellents;
  9. Water blatter (bottle as an option);
  10. Hiking boots;
  11. Backpack;
  12. Compass (not essential);
  13. Quick-dry clothing.

Toiletries for camping

  1. Deodorant;
  2. Sunglasses;
  3. Sunscreen (SPF 50);
  4. Toilet paper;
  5. Lip balm;
  6. Soap, toothpaste, and brush.

Car Camping: 9 Advice Before You Go

1. Prepare Your Campsite

You can be at home wherever you are as long as you make it cozy. A little bit of preparation on from what you read on how to car camp will not strain your back and it will give you a comfortable spot to sleep. Once you have secured a perfect parking spot, set up your campsite. Set up camp at a flat and shaded place. You can pull out your essentials from the car like stove, folding table and chairs to have for a comfortable stay.

2. Maximize the Sleeping Space

Many of us don’t know how to sleep in a car properly. To maximize the space inside your vehicle to stretch out properly. One tip is to push the front seats to its maximum and fill the space behind them to have enough room from head to feet. You can fill in the holes with your backpacks and other essentials that you brought with you. Covering the makeshift platform with a foam pad for foundation add a sleeping pad and pillow will give you the comforts of a bed away from home. It makes sleeping in a car cozy.

3. Sleep with Your Head Towards the Car Front

After you have created your makeshift bed, the next question is, how can you get the most out of your small space. If you don’t know how to sleep in your car, you better read this. By sleeping with your head towards the front of your can have more elbow room. The back of the car usually has a wheelbase that took up much of the precious space.

4. Keep the Mosquitoes Away

You don’t want to be kept awake the whole with relentless buzzing in your ears. Then you better prepare. If you are car camping near a forest in the hot summer, chances are mosquitoes are waiting for you. Bring a bug net for your windows, if you have one. If you don’t have them and you are on a budget, you can buy mosquito netting, which you can buy in swaths. Cut them to fit your windows and doors and fit them with a magnet. You can also buy premade bug nets for your windows online or from your favorite camping gear store.

5. Bring Movable Storages

Storage bind will help to organize your things. They are also easy to move your gear away from your trunk to free up some space in your car. You can put them in your front seat and the space between the collapsed back seats and the front. Plus, you can use them as a tabletop when you’re eating.

6. Have Proper Lighting

Do not use your car’s interior lights as your night light, or else you will have a battery failure. After setting up a comfortable bed, it does not mean that you will start counting sheep right away. Have LED lights or hanging lanterns to illuminate the car’s interior. You can do some reading, organizing your weekend adventure, or simply snuggling while listening to your favorite tunes. Another reason why you need to have a lantern? So that you have a light to bring with you when nature calls during an unholy hour.

7. Invest in a Comfy Sleeping Essentials

One of the perks of camping in your car is you will not be carrying your sleeping essentials on your back. You can bring the most comfortable mats, blankets, and pillows. A plush air mattress can be an option, and you can bring a compact pillow or your regular pillow with you. The choice is yours. On another note, it can be chilly at night, don’t forget to bring an insulated blanket or thermal sleeping bag, just in case.

8. Keep Your Gadgets Charged

If you can’t live without your gadgets, charging them can be a challenge while camping in a car. Even if you can plug them on your car, it can drain your car battery. You know what will happen if the battery is depleted. Using a solar panel or a portable power device is your best bet to keep your mobile phones, tablets, and other battery-powered items running for the duration of your trip.

9. Bring a Downloaded Movie or Your Favorite Show

As an additional perk to unwind after a long day of exploring or driving, watch a movie or catch up on your favorite show. Wi-Fi entertainment might not be available in your location; make sure to download the content before going on a trip to camping in a car an enjoyable experience. Or else you will listen to the cicadas as nature’s brand of entertainment. There are a lot of other car camping tips that we can add to make your adventure enjoyable. We hope that with these tips, you will be inspired to try camping in your car and turn it into a hobby.