Tips & Guides | November 2019

Gear Storage Tips and Tricks for Car Camping

It happens to the best of us. You got a little carried away during the last REI sale and now have more gear than your car can handle. Rest assured, these car camping tips and tricks will help you to never again have to decide which one of your three sleeping bags to bring on the road.  

Take the junk out of the trunk 

Storage real estate can get pretty tight when your trunk doubles as a bedroom. External cargo carriers are a lifesaver when it comes to storage and transportation. They attach to the roof or hitch of your car so you can bring all of the gear that your heart desires. Cargo carriers are especially nice to hold all of those items you wouldn’t want to share your inflating camping air mattress with during the night. They’re the perfect solution for storing dirty shoes or bulky equipment that you wouldn’t want to keep in your sleeping bag. Another excellent organization option is the Luno Setaback Organizer

There are many durable products designed specifically for external gear storage while car camping. THULE is a big player in the cargo carrier game as its products are created specifically for transporting gear while traveling. Many THULE carriers come with secure locking systems so you can keep your possessions to yourself when on the road. THULE also makes roof baskets for bulkier equipment and hitch carriers that attach to the rear of the car if fear of heights rules out rooftop gear storage. 

Cargo bins for the win

Cargo bins are the holy grail of car camping gear storage. They are incredibly useful to contain those smaller items that get lost in the shuffle when they’re free-floating around your trunk. Cargo bins also make packing and unpacking for car camping trips much easier since all the equipment you need is contained in a single bin for you to quickly grab and go. Clear bins are crucial for ease of travel! See-through containers free you from the need to rummage through each bin to find those batteries you bought at that gas station during your last trip.

 Rubbermaid has been making containers for home organization for decades, but they recently stepped it up for outdoor use with the Rubbermaid Action Packer. The ActionPacker comes in 8, 24, 35, and 48-gallon sizes and features a lockable lid that securely attaches to bins. The YETI LoadOut GoBox is as rugged as rugged cargo boxes come. The LoadOut GoBox can withstand sub-zero temperatures, extreme summer heat, and the wear and tear that comes with traversing the wild. It offers the organizational capabilities crucial to a successful car camping trip as well as the durability to withstand the wild journey that said trip entails.  

Pull out all the stops 

Plastic drawers are an affordable storage solution if you’re looking to organize gear without the commitment of a full-fledged rooftop cargo carrier. Clear Sterilite drawers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to hold the many, many items that are a part of every trip. Larger drawers can be used to store shoes and cooking utensils while smaller drawers are perfect for toiletries, tools, and batteries. Similarly to cargo bins, clear is the way to go for streamlined grabbing and going.

How high can you go? 

Car storage doesn’t have to be limited to the trunk or roof! Car walls present an excellent opportunity to store smaller travel items in an easily accessible spot. Headlamps, keychains, pretty much anything with a webbing loop, can all be hung up to the heavens thanks to sturdy adhesive utility hooks 

Can you take it to the top?

You can take it even higher with a cargo hammock that hangs from the inside ceiling of a car. Ceiling hammocks offer the storage volume of external cargo carriers but are accessible from the inside of your car. They are great to store lighter items, such as bedding and pillows, that otherwise take up a lot of space. The straps can also double as a towel rack or clothes hanger. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ceiling storage!  

Pack it in before you head out

Everything is a storage container if you try hard enough. A Russian doll packing tactic allows you to take more items with you without taking up additional space. Carry smaller items within gear that you already have packed to achieve peak efficiency. The empty trash can you bring can carry all the batteries and lanterns for the trip. Socks can be kept inside of hiking shoes and cooking utensils can be stored inside pots and pans. If it fits it sits! 

Get jiggy with it

Items don’t have to be made for gear storage to store gear! A hanging pocket shoe organizer can double as a kitchen cabinet to hold spices, utensils, and paper towels. Window planters with suction cups create shelf space out of thin air while shower caddies can double as a hanging dish rack or produce holder. Storage options are only as limited as your imagination.  

Quick tips for travel champs

    • Like items like being together! It will be much easier to find the spatula if it’s in a kitchen pot rather than amongst your climbing gear.
    • Long live the label! Save yourself the blood, sweat, and tears of rummaging through every bag and bin in your car when searching for the bug spray by clearly labeling the contents of containers. If you’re really dedicated to your craft, you may even keep an inventory list or journal of where items are stored.
    • Everything has a home in a well-organized trip. Return all of your gear to its designated spot within your car to save yourself the headache of hunting in the future.

That’s all, folks! We hope you take these tips and all the REI equipment of your dreams to make more memories on the road! 


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