8 Car Camping Tips You Should Know


Camping provides an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors, connect with nature, increase physical fitness, and bond with your family. However, sleeping in a tent in the middle of nowhere could make you feel scared, unsafe, exposed, or worried about encounters with animals and bugs, especially for beginners.

Car camping involves sleeping in your car, van, or trailer instead of a tent. For some campers, it could entail loading up camping gear in a truck, driving to the campsite, and setting up a tent next to their vehicles. If you are considering going car camping, here are eight tips and hacks for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable trip.

1. Pick the right car for camping

The first step to a comfortable car camping is choosing the right vehicle. Vehicles are not created equal, and some have features that are more perfect for camping than others. Below are essential features for any vehicle when car camping:

  • Plenty of space: The vehicle should be able to hold all your camping gear and unexpected visitors.
  • All-wheel drive: All-wheel drive gives the much-needed traction to get through terrains. This is especially important when you intend to do any off-roading.
  • Roof rack: Roof racks help you add extra storage to your camping van. It also comes in handy when setting up a rooftop tent and a cooking system when car camping.
  • Quality tires
  • Car cover

2. Pack necessary car camping essential

Make a list and pack all car camping essentials before beginning your trip. Car camping essentials vary according to the destination, expected climate and temperatures, and the individual. Here are some vital essentials you should stock up on when going car camping:

  • Water storage to ensure you have plenty of water for drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning.
  • Stove
  • Lighting to help you navigate the campsite during the night
  • Sleeping pad or mattress
  • Organizer
  • Cooler

Be sure to determine the length of your trip before you start stocking up on car camping essentials. This will enable you to determine what and how much gear you should pack. Remember also to fill up the tank.

3. Choose a suitable car camping site

Choosing the right camping ground can be daunting with the various camping site options available for car campers. For this reason, you should research the different sites before deciding. The following are some factors to consider when choosing an ideal car campsite:

The location

Where do you want to camp? What type of environment would you prefer? Do you want a campsite in the middle of nowhere, or near mountains, forests, the beach or the lake? Be sure to conduct in-depth research to establish the car camping site is in a location that suits your needs.

Your vehicle

While some camping grounds can be accessible with any vehicle type, some cannot be accessed by larger vehicles like RVs, campers, and vans. Others can only be accessed by all-wheel drive, while some sites are not accessible in winter due to snow. For this reason, before settling for a specific campground, ensure you can easily access it with your vehicle.


What amenities does the campground offer? Some sites only provide an area to pack and build your tent, while others also offer water, electricity, fire pits, showers, and Wifi, to mention a few. Choose a camping site with appropriate amenities depending on the experience you want to achieve. For instance, a luxury car campsite may not be ideal if you want to rough it.


Some car camping sites are free, while you have to pay for others, depending on the location and amenities provided. Determine how much you are willing to spend before picking a specific campsite.

4. Get the necessary permits

Whether you opt for a free or paid campsite, ensure you have all the required permits or passes to avoid legal implications or penalties. If you intend to set up a fire, determine whether you need to secure a fire permit from the local land management agencies. Even though some campsites have fire pits, it does not necessarily mean fires are allowed.

5. Store all food in the car

Keep all food, opened or unopened, inside the car. You could even carry a cooler to keep perishable foods such as milk, eggs, cheese, and meat fresh and reduce the stink factor. By storing food in the car, you lower the chances of attracting hungry critters that could set up shop in your campsite.

6. Pack warm clothing

The last thing you want during car camping is to shiver through the night. For this reason, pack warm clothing even if you anticipate warmer high temperatures. The temperatures could drop suddenly, especially when camping in the mountains or at high elevations, so it is best to be prepared. Pack layers, thick sweatpants and sweatshirts, hats, and heavy socks. You could also opt for wool clothing instead of cotton materials.

7. Do not overlook safety

Pack emergency supplies, such as a first aid kit and a trail map, before going for your trip. Ensure you are also aware of your surroundings when camping. You should also pick a camping ground that requires campers to register and monitor unregistered guests.

Be sure to store your valuables out of sight and lock your car’s doors and windows, whether in an established or primitive camping site. You do not want bears to pull open your vehicle handles.

Consider investing in a GPS and satellite communicator to enable off-the-grid contact. It is also wise to let someone not on the trip know of your plans. This will ensure you get the necessary help in case of an emergency.

8. Bring some form of entertainment or activity

Give yourself something to do when relaxing by bringing some activity or entertainment when car camping. This could include books, decks of cards, sports, red solo cups, mountain bikes, and board games, to mention a few. However, leave technology like your phone and kindle behind. This will help you enjoy a complete outdoor experience.


Going for a car camping adventure does not have to be complicated and daunting. Pick the right camping car, stock up on camping necessities, choose an ideal campground, secure permits, and bring some entertainment for a safe and comfortable car camping.

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