The Highway Handbook: Is Car Camping Safe?


You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. That’s the gist of our new educational series, The Highway Handbook. One of our main goals at Luno is to make the outdoors more accessible, and we mainly do that by designing comfortable air mattresses and nifty accessories that help you turn your everyday vehicle into an extraordinary adventure mobile. But gear alone doesn’t remove barriers to the great outdoors, and sometimes, the simple act of sharing knowledge makes all the difference. In The Highway Handbook, our team of car camping experts will answer questions that regularly bombard our DMs. Whether you’re a car camping veteran or new to the game, we hope this series helps you get outside, explore, and enjoy time in nature with friends and family.

In today’s edition of The Highway Handbook, we’re tackling an extremely important topic: safety. To be completely honest, safety is one of many reasons why we prefer car camping over tent camping. After all, compared to a flimsy tent, a locked car is a veritable fortress.

That said, we totally understand that folks who are new to car camping–or new to camping in general–have concerns regarding car camping safety, and those concerns are valid. In this article, we’ll outline hazards that all campers face, ranging from crime to critters. Plus, we’ll allay any concerns you have regarding these easily avoidable dangers, and in many cases, explain why car camping is a safer and smarter mode of adventure.

Long story short? If you’re wondering if it’s safe to sleep in your car, you’re in the right place

5 Common Camping Hazards (And How To Avoid Them)

1. Critters

When most people get nervous about camping, critters are public enemy number one. Everything from mosquitos and gnats to spiders, snakes, and scorpions can ruin a campout, not to mention apex predators like bears and wolves.

Unsurprisingly, campers who sleep in their cars (AKA “car campers”) have several advantages over tent campers when it comes to coping with critters. Most obviously, tents are paper-thin. If you’re camping in grizzly country, a nylon rainfly might as well be a wonton wrapper. Your vehicle, on the other hand, has locking metal doors, which provide a welcome, protective barrier between you and any predators.

Creepy-crawlies like snakes and scorpions are also much less likely to bother you in your vehicle than in a tent. Why? Well, your car is raised off the ground, while the entrance to a tent is ground-level.

As for mosquitos and gnats? Bug spray and citronella candles are your friend, no doubt. But the best way car campers can confront buzzing insects is our game-changing Car Window Screens. These stretchy screens slip over your doors, enabling you to enjoy all of the breeze with none of the bugs.

2. Camp Crime

You don’t need to be a criminal mastermind to realize unzipping a tent is easier than breaking into a vehicle. Consequently, we feel much safer both sleeping and stashing gear in a locked car.

Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll sidestep camp crime by car camping. But we look at it like this: Locking your car door is like locking your front door or garage at home. A break-in is still possible, sure, but you’re dramatically reducing your risk.

Additionally, locking your car doesn’t just hinder opportunistic theft–it provides campers with unparalleled peace of mind. Indeed, many car campers sleep more soundly in a car compared to a tent–and not just because they’re crashing on an ultra-comfy Luno Air Mattress. A locked car and a primed alarm are extra levels of security that you simply don’t get in a tent.

Pro Tip: Camping in your car? Hide gear from view–and gain extra privacy–with the help of our easy-to-use Car Privacy Curtain.

3. Injuries and Emergencies

All campers should be ready to deal with injuries and emergencies. That’s why we always suggest carrying a first aid kit and a satellite communication device.

However, if you sustain an injury while backpacking–say, a broken ankle–you’ll be forced to either hobble out on your own or wait for a rescue, which can take precious time.

When you’re car camping, you have your own emergency transport on deck. In fact, you’re sleeping in your emergency transport every night! In the wake of an emergency or injury, you can quickly hit the road and execute your own exit.

4. Back Pain And Sleepless Nights

This hazard may sound a little more light-hearted, but anyone who has experienced camping-induced back pain and sleepless nights will tell you it’s anything but.

Tent campers in particular are in danger of tossing and turning or contracting devastating back pain. No surprises there. Sleeping on lumpy, uneven ground on a paltry backpacking pad, with rocks and roots jabbing at your vertebrae with a vengeance, is a recipe for aches, pains, and insomnia.

Car campers, on the other hand, can rely on our award-winning Luno Air Mattresses. They’re comfortable and supportive. Plus, they’re built to fit flawlessly in the back of hatchbacks, SUVs, and even trucks. For a good night’s sleep while camping–and a morning free of aches and pains–there’s simply no better way to camp.

5. Spending A Fortune On Camping Gear

One of the biggest dangers campers face? Bankruptcy.

We’re just kidding here, but tent campers, especially backpackers who cherish lightweight gear, can spend exorbitant amounts of money on the latest and greatest camping equipment.

However, when you’re car camping, you likely already have most of what you need at home. No sleeping bags? Grab some sheets and a blanket! No camp cutlery? Snag some from the silverware drawer and hit the road!

And if you do decide to invest in car camping gear, you don’t need to go with the lightest, priciest options on the market. You’re not carrying gear in your backpack, after all–you’re just chucking it in the trunk! No need for a $800 sleeping bag that weighs a pound–get a heavier one that’s just as warm for a quarter of the price!

5 More Tips To Stay Safe While Camping

1. Research Campgrounds

Many hazards can be avoided simply by researching your destination of choice ahead of time. We love using car camping apps like iOverlandr because each campsite has a section for user-generated feedback. Campground reviews from fellow campers can clue you into potential issues like recent break-ins, trash-burglaring bears, or visits from law enforcement.

Research isn’t relegated to pre-trip planning, either. If possible, we try to arrive at a campsite while it’s still light out in order to assess the area in real-time. If there’s something that doesn’t feel right, you can always hit the road and camp elsewhere. To be honest, that ability to adjust plans on the fly is one of many things we love about car camping. You can always camp in a rest stop, Walmart parking lot, or even a residential neighborhood if you can’t find a safe or suitable spot.

Pro Tip: Visit your cell service provider’s website to see if they have a coverage map. While this isn’t a foolproof method, the map will tell you whether or not you can expect cell service on your trip. That said, as we mentioned above, we always like to camp with a satellite communication device, just in case.

2. Bring A Camping Buddy Or Caravan

Camping solo can be a ton of fun, but it’s undeniably safer to hit the road in a caravan or with a camping companion. Solo travelers can seem like a relatively easy target for thieves, especially compared to bigger groups or even solo campers with furry friends. After all, a barking dog can scare off everything from bears to bike thieves.

Not only does camping with a friend or partner lower your risk on the road, but in the event of an injury or emergency, you have someone to watch your back, bandage you up, or drive you to safety.

Pro Tip: If you are camping solo, consider sticking to busier campgrounds rather than dispersed campsites in remote wilderness areas.

3. Bring Self-Protection

Many campers will view this safety tip as overkill, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing some form of self-protection to deploy during an emergency. That might look like pepper spray, a taser, or even just an air horn to alert nearby campers. The vast majority of campers who carry protection will never use it, but simply having it on hand can provide peace of mind

4. Preventative Vehicle Maintenance

Whether you’re backpacking or tent camping, car camping or overlanding, it’s mission-critical that your rig is in working order. Mechanical failures on remote roads in bad weather–that’s just a recipe for disaster!

Especially before longer road trips, we suggest giving your rig a once over or bringing it into the shop to ensure everything is in ship shape. Preventative maintenance ahead of your trip is way easier than reactionary maintenance deep in the wilderness, trust us on that one!

5. Camp In Your Car

We’ve said it once (ok, maybe a few times), and we’ll say it again–we prefer camping in our cars over the alternative.

By locking car doors and using Luno Car Window Screens and Car Privacy Curtains, we’re able to convert run-of-the-mill vehicles into comfy, cozy, and secure cabins on wheels.

Plus, an added benefit of camping in your car is that you have room for extra food and water, safety gear, first aid kits, warm clothes, plush sleeping bags, you name it. When you’re backpacking, you may have to leave certain gear behind. On the other hand, when you’re car camping, you have room for all of the emergency essentials–and then some

Safety First

Camping–or any adventure, for that matter–isn’t without danger. That said, as we’ve outlined above, most camping hazards can be dealt with by using forethought and a little common sense. Plus, camping in the back of a locked car, one ideally equipped with an ultra-comfy air mattress, can be a smart and safe play, too. 😉😴

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll see you on the road.

–The Luno Crew

PS. Looking for more car camping tips regarding safety, gear storage, and everything in between? Check out our ultimate guide to car camping here.