Top 10 Car Camping Hacks For Beginners


Spring is in the air.

It’s time to defrost your camping gear. Saturday, March 20th marks the first official day of spring and wildflowers and songbirds are waiting to fill the air once again. Warmer weather brings out the outdoor lover in all of us. Experts and beginners alike are packing up their cars and hoping to hit the open road when it’s safe. Are you ready? Here are our top 10 car camping hacks to make your next car camping trip seamless. Even if it’s your first time car camping, your friends will be convinced you’re a seasoned expert.

1. Sleep Setup is Everything

The most important part of car camping is your sleeping arrangement. Without it, your adventure can turn into sleepless nights and all day back pain. The Luno Air Mattress is the ultimate car camping sleep setup. Our sleep system fits people up to 6’ 2” so taller campers don’t have to stress about fitting comfortably. Every Luno Air Mattress comes with two joined sides. If space is a hot commodity, simply deflate one side; if not, inflate both for extra elbow room. Either way, each side is adjustable for your preferred firmness. It’s durable, comfortable and compactable.

2. Premeditated Packing

You can never over-organize before going on a camping trip. Cargo bins make everything easier. Organize your kitchen supplies, toiletries and cleaning supplies in their own bins before you walk out the door. If you want to take it one step further, mark every bin or bag with labels so you can focus on enjoying yourself instead of spending time trying to fish out your supplies at the bottom of each bin. Pro tips: Use clear bins so you can see what’s inside. If you don’t have space in the front of your car to store at night, bring cords to hitch the containers on your roof, or just keep them outside. Depending on where you’re camping, make sure you know the proper requirements for food storage so you have no unexpected animal visitors.

3. Pack it Down

When you’re car camping, less is more. Plan to bring items that are not only efficient in their use, but in their storage. Here are some of our favorite campground classics that pack down:

4. Getting Comfortable in Your Vehicle

As the seasons change and the weather gets warmer, keeping your vehicle at a comfortable temperature can be a difficult task. You want the cool, refreshing breeze without the bugs. Instead of trying to pin up an old sheet across your windows, try our Screens for Car Windows. The screens easily slide over your back windows, allowing for a crisp breeze without any of the mosquito bites. Our Window Screens also block UV rays and minimize direct sunlight so you can wake up in the morning without the sun pouring through your windows. For those looking to keep their vehicle warm, check out our 10 tricks for staying warm while car camping.

5. Pre-Making Meals

When you’re cooking at a campsite kitchen, you don’t have the liberty of extra space. Don’t stress trying to pack individual spices or dry ingredients. Once you’ve planned your meals for the trip, pre-mix and pre-portion your ingredients for a seamless process. You can bring your set of kitchen basics like salt, pepper, hot sauce and oil, but don’t plan on bringing every kitchen measuring cup or separate ingredient container you have. Making pancakes? Bring a pre-mixed package with all of your dry ingredients. Making tacos? Put your taco seasoning in a reusable container pre-portioned. Check out some of our favorite one-pot recipes for easy cooking.

6. Bring a Foldable Table for a Make-Shift Kitchen

Don’t try to cook everything on your hitch or the ground. Depending on your car, you might not have enough headspace or surface area to get everything done comfortably. Think about bringing a foldable table to set up in the campsite or to extend the trunk of your car to create your own cooking workspace. It will make all the difference with keeping your station clean. Don’t forget the foldable chairs so you have a place to enjoy your morning coffee or cozy dinner.

7. Portable Stoves Are Your New Best Friend

As much as cooking your dinner over an open fire is a camping dream, chances are that many places will have fire bans as the weather gets warmer. Using a portable stove like a Jetboil can help you use your space wisely. You can get portable stoves specifically for boiling water in under 100 seconds. If you have more space to use, you can also consider a two burner cooking stove. Just make sure you have the right propane and a lighter.

8. Light Up Your Site

Solar and battery powered lights are the perfect way to get around the campsite and set the vibe. Check out solar powered garden lights or lanterns for an efficient way to move around the site safely. Get the lights set up first thing in the morning, or when you arrive, and let them charge until the sun goes down. You can set your own pathway and make sure you can move around even without headlamps. Most hardware stores and supercenters will carry solar powered garden and yard lights. Flameless candles or battery powered twinkle lights can also accessorize your car setup and bring some whimsical energy to your sleep space.

9. Always Carry Cash

Whether you’re planning on going to a developed campground or not, cash is always a good thing to have on a camping trip. It seems uncommon to carry cash in the world we live in today, but most of our state and federal campground systems are still old school. You don’t want to pull up to a remote campground and not be able to pay for a reservation. Chances are, there’s probably not an ATM around the block.

10. Stay Connected and Know Where You’re Going

Even if you don’t have your exact spot for the night picked out, make sure your phone or map is ready to mark it down when you’ve got a good idea. Chances are, you’ll lose cell service once you start getting where you’re going to. Using BLM Lands or National Forest Lands for your car camping adventure is a great way to find a free, secluded place. On Google Maps, you can download a pinned location or coordinates to use even when you’re disconnected. Meeting up with friends? Make sure to share your location with them as well as the approximate coordinates either using Find My Friends or Google Maps.

We know that travel is still up in the air due to social distance guidelines and safety precautions, but we hope we get to see you on the road soon. Want to learn more about sleeping in your car? Check out our Journal for more tips, tricks and packing lists.