Living full-time in an RV, van, or bus may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I know plenty of camping-lovers out there would still love to enjoy the great outdoors in the comfort of their vehicle…just minus the commitment!
Whether you’re on an epic road trip around the country or want to get an early start to a usually crowded hiking trail, your nights should be comfortable!
We’ve created a list of tips that will make car camping a lot cozier, even if you’re sleeping in a driveway.
Make the Investment Into Quality Sleeping Materials
Depending on the time of year that you decide to car camp, you are going to want to invest in a quality “bed”. Luckily, you don’t have to carry anything on your back or worry about the weight of your sleeping materials. You can really splurge and bring as many comfortable blankets, pillows, and cushions as you want for your car camping trip! We’d recommend bringing a sleeping bag that is suitable for the weather conditions you’ll experience. For example, bring a 0-20 degree sleeping bag when it’s really cold. But, in the summer, you may want a much lighter sleeping bag so you don’t sweat!
It’s also a good idea to invest in a sleeping pad. Regardless of the weather, it will provide you with extra comfort. Our favorite sleeping pad is the Klymit Statik v2. Personally, we also LOVE pillows and always load up on them when we’re camping in our car. More pillows=more comfort!
Pack a Headlamp or Flashlight
Having a headlamp or flashlight hanging in your car will make a huge difference. Generally speaking, you aren’t going to fall asleep as soon as you’re all set up. Headlamps or flashlights are useful if you want to catch a quick read or need to use the great outdoors to relieve yourself in the middle of the night.
Learn Where It’s Appropriate to Park While Car Camping
Before you go ahead and park your car wherever you feel is perfect, make sure you thoroughly check the location. For example, does it require permits? Are there street signs? Is it a residential area? If you’re not sure where to look, we got you covered! We love using Hipcamp to find inexpensive areas to camp at. On top of that, the app offers tons of great properties with really cool features, including camp outings with alpacas or goats!
(If you want $10 off your first booking, use our code AIMLESS-TRAVELS)
If you’re camping in the United States, there’s also plenty of free spots to park on the west coast for up to 2 weeks provided by the Bureau of Land Management.
#Homeiswhereyouparkit – Setting Up!
Once you find an approved spot that allows overnight parking and camping, you’ll want to park your car in a flat, shaded spot. Of course, this may not always be possible in more remote areas. If you have to park on a hill, position your car so that your head is above your feet. We usually sleep with our heads to the front of the car which gives us more elbow room since the wheel wells are toward our feet.
There are also of essentials that you can think about bringing if you’re considering to car camp longer. Check out our Camping Essentials Checklist and Camping for Beginners to find out some more hacks on what to bring with you while car camping!
Bring Chargers for Electronics (Even if you May Not Need Them)
We love to put our electronics down when we’re camping and just enjoy the great outdoors. But, sometimes you need your phone, ESPECIALLY if something goes wrong! Make sure you bring some portable chargers. We’d recommend Anker PowerCore Portable Charger that can be purchased from Amazon!
Don’t Leave ANY Food Outside While Car Camping
Doesn’t matter where you are camping – you are always going to have to worry about bugs or animals getting into your food. If you’d prefer a bear not coming around to knock on your car door, we’d recommend keeping your food in either a cooler inside or in a plastic bag tied to a high tree branch. Whatever you choose, don’t give an animal a chance to come around and grab your food.
Bring a Few Cleaning Supplies
Depending on where you are, showers and toilets may not be easily accessible to you. That’s just the territory that comes with camping, especially when you’re in a car. We’d recommend bringing some Purell Sanitizing Wipes and toilet paper to stay squeaky clean throughout your car camping experience.
BREATHE – Open Up Some Windows!
ALWAYS turn your car off when you are sleeping and open some windows for ventilation! Even if it’s a little chilly out, it’s good to get some airflow into and out of your car so it doesn’t get too stuffy. Open your sunroof or window just wide enough so that an animal or person can’t get in. To prevent bugs from getting in, get some cheap mesh and cut it 2-3 inches wider than the opening as a DIY bug net. If you’re in a more humid environment (we’re from Jersey, so we get it), this little project will also help keep out an excess of moisture from building up in your car.
Hey! I’m Shelby, the main writer at Aimless Travels. Having grown up in NJ, I knew I wanted more than a 9-5p right out of college. At the time, I had no idea what career path I wanted to take. In 2018, we bought Charlotte the skoolie and have been traveling around North America ever since. To this point, I’ve been most passionate about all things fish, swimming around in large bodies of water, hot springs, doing crazy new things, taking pictures of dope things, and sharing content that I hope is influential to my readers.