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Tips for Camping in Your Car

People have been camping in RVs and vans for decades, but have you ever thought about camping in your car? This is an awesome way to enjoy the great outdoors without a van or RV. Here are four great tips for camping in your car.


Take twice as much water as you think you and your car will need. If you’re heading to the Desert Southwest, remember that summer temperatures regularly exceed the century mark. Both you and your car will need considerably more water than usual. Also, once you get away from urban areas, gas stations and rest stops can be scarce. A couple of 5-gallon containers of water in your trunk could literally save your life!

Take additional water in several canvas-covered jugs tucked in door pockets or between seats. That way you’re ready for spontaneous hikes. If you’re taking your dog, be sure to pack a fold-up travel bowl.


Two words: take plenty! There’s something about wide open spaces that makes people ravenous. Take plenty of dry snacks like trail mix, dried fruit, crackers, popped popcorn, fruit-filled cookies, etc. And it’s amazing how good pre-made peanut butter sandwiches taste when it’s late, there are no nearby diners or fast-food joints, and you’re too tired to cook.

If you plan to cook over a campfire, make sure you have several stashes of matches in ziplocked bags packed in different places just in case one of them gets wet. Use plastic bags to protect your butane lighters, too. If you’re taking a small charcoal grill, be sure you have sufficient charcoal. And don’t forget to bring a coffee pot, cooking pots and pans, and utensils. Camping staples like rice and pastas are always good, as are foods in self-opening cans.


camping in your carIf you plan to sleep in a tent, set it up at home before leaving to make sure there are no tears, mildew, etc. Check to see that seams are intact and zippers work. Make sure all poles, stakes, and cords are there. If your tent has a floor, great! Your sleeping bag will work fine. Otherwise consider taking a light-weight fold-up cot on which to place your sleeping bag so you won’t get wet and cold from damp nighttime ground.

If you’re going to be gone for a couple of weeks or even a few days, consider staying in campgrounds at least occasionally. You can take a shower and replenish your water supply there. Virtually all WalMarts allow overnight parking lot camping and some stay open all night or unlock the doors as early as 6 a.m. so you can have access to an all-important bathroom. Truck stops are fine if you don’t mind the noise. Rest stops are good for bathrooms and water replenishment, but sleeping at one overnight may not be your best option. Some states have restrictions on how long you can park, and you might wake up to find you’ve earned a ticket or two.

Cars are notoriously uncomfortable to sleep in, but if you’re game to try it, think about installing curtains. Before you laugh uproariously, consider that pieces of cardboard cut in the shapes of your windshield and windows, or small kitchen curtains hung on bungees in front of them, preserve your sleeping privacy and make you much less vulnerable to passers-by. And of course, lock your doors.

First-Aid Kit

No car should be without a first-aid kit and having one is especially important when camping in your car. Check your kit before leaving home to make sure you have sufficient bandages, salves, painkillers, sunscreen, lip balm, and bug repellent. If you’re taking your dog, don’t forget that (s)he needs sunscreen and bug repellent, too. With a little bit of preparation and these handy tips, camping in your car can be a great experience.