So you want to go car camping but are a little nervous about how it will all go down. Here is everything you need to know about what to bring, where to go, and how to set up for a successful night on the road!
What should I do to my car?
Clean your car and remove anything you won’t be using on your trip. Starting with a clean slate will maximize the amount of space you have to lay and play. Real estate tends to get pretty tight when your backseat is operating as your bedroom. Bonus points if you do a deep clean of your car and fish out the forgotten water bottles that have rolled under your seats throughout the year.
What should I bring?
Bring the obvious food, water, clothes, and equipment that you would bring on any camping trip (minus the tent, of course). In addition to the Luno Life Air Mattress and other obvious car camping gear, you’re going to want to pack a First Aid Kit as well as jumper cables in case of an emergency. It also never hurts to bring a rain jacket just in case Mother Nature tries to pull a fast one on you.
Always bring food and water beyond your basic provisions. It is widely recommended that travelers take a backup supply of 3-days worth of food when they set out for their destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorse accounting for one gallon of water per person per day, with at least a 3-day emergency supply for every person or pet in tow.
Where should I park?
There are plenty of places where you can legally car camp. Look for a parking spot that will be well-shaded when the sun rises in the east to ensure you aren’t blinded by morning rays at the crack of dawn. You're also going to want to find level ground to park on to ensure things, including yourself, stay put throughout the night. Gravity is no joke when you’re stuck at the same incline all night. You will wake up with your feet by your ears if you aren’t careful (speaking from experience).
How do I stay warm during the night?
There are plenty of tricks to help you stay nice and toasty when car camping. Layering is key when bundling up for the night. Steer clear of cotton fabrics when piling it on; synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene are ideal for maintaining comfortable body temperature. Prioritize a base layer that wicks away moisture while retaining body heat. Dampness is the enemy of warmth—avoid condensation at all costs.
What if I overheat while sleeping in my car?
Crack your windows and sunroof for air circulation to prevent moisture from building up throughout the night. Open two windows opposite each other to get a nice cross breeze going for easy ventilation. This circulation of fresh air will also help prevent any dampness that can ruin your chances of staying warm.
What am I forgetting?
Turn off all lights and check that no electronics are plugged into your car. Unaccounted drains of electricity will toast your car battery and leave you looking for a jump in the morning. Additionally, it is a good idea to disable your car’s automatic indoor lights since you will probably be opening the car and trunk doors often.
Make sure you have access to a light source and possible defense mechanism nearby for safety purposes. Keep a headlamp or flashlight close to your bed in case you need to spring into action at a moment’s notice. It is also advised that you keep a noisemaker within arm’s reach if you’re camping in an area where wildlife is prevalent.
What should I do before I leave?
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… LEAVE NO TRACE. Pick up any trash or food scraps that may have escaped during your stay. Make sure that there is no detectable sign of your visit. Ideally, you want to leave the site better than when you first arrived.
Don’t forget to thank your hosts if you are staying at a local establishment or in a Walmart parking lot. It may be nice to give patronage to Walmart if you stayed in their space for free. Being a polite guest helps establish credibility for the car camping community to benefit yourself and other travelers in the future. A little gratitude can go a long way!
Any other hot tips?
You don’t have to go far to have fun! The wonders of the outdoors can be enjoyed in your own backyard. The beauty of car camping is that the whole shebang takes place on wheels. This makes it super easy to vamoose at a moment’s notice if you decide that you’ve had enough adventure for the weekend.
A practice run in your driveway may offer peace of mind if you’re feeling apprehensive about a night on the road. It’s also a great way to double-check that you’ve got everything you’ll need for sleeping in your car. Post up in your garage and stage a little dress rehearsal before opening night.
Sometimes you’ve just got to go for it! Even the most seasoned travelers will forget the hand sanitizer (or worse, the toilet paper) from time to time. Have faith in your ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome. Adventure is out there so hit the road and get after it!