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Summary
  • Car camping allows you to enjoy the outdoors in style. It’s a safe way to enjoy nature, and it can be more convenient than regular camping.
  • Before going on a car camping trip, make sure it’s legal to park in the space you plan on staying at.
  • Some essentials to bring on a car camping trip include sleeping pads, tents, and water storage.
  • If you plan on sleeping in your vehicle, remember to crack a window open. The opening should be enough to let fresh air in, but not too wide to let animals or people break in.

The sound of the rustling leaves, birds chirping, and fresh water running down the stream–there’s nothing like spending a weekend recharging in the great outdoors.

While it’s common for people to have camping on their bucket list, the idea of going on a hike while carrying a heavy backpack can be overwhelming for some.

For campers who’d like to save time and energy, car camping is the better option.

Why Go Car Camping?

There are several reasons why you should engage in an outdoor activity like car camping. Here are some of them.

It’s the Easy Route

One of the most enjoyable benefits of car camping is that your vehicle does the heavy lifting for you. There’s no need to pack a loaded backpack, carry your camping gear, and hike for miles. You can carry anything you want as long as it fits in your trunk or truck bed.

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Car camping gives you a lot of mobility. There’s no need to fit everything into a single bag, and you don’t have to limit yourself to only the essentials.

What makes it even more convenient is that you don’t have to unload and set up all your gear. Simply take out what you need, when you need it.

You Can Camp in Style

Car camping offers the luxury of space. Aside from your usual camping checklist, you can also bring other items that can make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable.

Feel free to spruce up your camp with air mattresses, tables and chairs, coolers, and other accessories.

It’s One of the Safest Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Your vehicle offers better protection than a flimsy tent. It can keep you and your valuables safe at night.

Your vehicle also serves as an escape pod when sudden changes in weather conditions make it hard to enjoy the great outdoors. Simply drive to the nearest hotel or stay cozy inside your car until it’s safe to go outside.

Your Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

Drivers (and campers) should always be prepared. If you’re planning on going camping anytime soon, here’s a list of things you shouldn’t forget.

male preparing for car camping
Drivers (and campers) should always be prepared.

Sleeping Pad

Sitting upright in your car seat can be quite uncomfortable, especially when you’re the type who needs eight hours of rest every night.

So before anything else, be sure to pack a high-quality sleeping pad. Consider getting a  self-inflating pad or a mattress topper.

Tent

Nothing says camping more than pitching a tent and being one with nature.

There are plenty of rooftop tents and pop-up shelters on the market that can be attached to your SUV, truck, or Jeep. These vary in shape and size, so choose one that can accommodate the number of campers who will be staying with you.

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Water Storage

Make sure to bring enough water with you on your trip. Since you’re bringing your vehicle with you, it’s a good idea to bring an extra storage container if you’re planning to move from one site to another.

If your campsite is near a local water source, it’s also a good idea to bring a portable water filter.

Clothes

Make sure to bring clothes that are appropriate for the weather. Cold seasons will require you to bring a few extra layers while warm seasons won’t require you to bring as much.

You might also need to bring waterproof clothing for the rainy season as well as the appropriate footwear.

Toiletries

Not all campsites will have functional shower areas, so you have to be crafty when it comes to keeping yourself clean during your trip.

Toiletries such as baby wipes, deodorant, and dry shampoo are some things you might want to pack, as well as a camp shower if you have the space for it.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit is a must for any outdoor activity. Aside from the usual prescription meds, bandages, and antiseptic solutions, it’s also a good idea to bring some bug repellent and sunscreen.

Lighting

Headlamps, lanterns, and solar string lights are some additional lighting equipment you might want to store in your trunk before your camping trip.

These will go a long way, and they’ll also help conserve your mobile phone’s battery because you won’t need to use its flashlight.

Portable Stove

Preparing and eating freshly cooked meals in camp can make your experience more enjoyable. Bring a portable stove along with the necessary cookware to make the most out of the experience.

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Cooler

Aside from preserving food and keeping your drinks ice cold, your cooler can also be used as an extra table or camp chair.

Tools

Setting up your tent might require a few tools, including a mallet or hatchet. You might also need to bring a mattress repair kit and other tent pole repair tools.

Camping Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

Even after setting up all your camping gear, there might come a time when you’d simply prefer sleeping in your car for the night. Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind to safely and comfortably sleep in your vehicle while camping.

Do Your Research

Before anything else, ensure that you’re in a space where parking is legal. It’s also a good idea to secure the necessary permits to avoid any trouble with the authorities.

Charge Up

In most cases, you won’t have any access to sockets when you’re camping, so it’s essential to keep your electronics charged in case of emergencies.

If you plan on going off the grid, it’s a good idea to bring a portable power station to keep your gadgets and accessories operational.

Crack a Window Open

Open a window wide enough to let some fresh air in, but don’t leave it open too wide that a person or animal can break into your vehicle. If you’re worried about getting mosquito bites, you can close the space with some mesh. Opening a window also prevents moisture from building up inside the cabin.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at CarParts.com

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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