What is Car Camping

There are some misconceptions about what is car camping? While it gives off images of pulling up to a campsite and rolling out your sleeping gear in the back. These images are not the full picture.

Camping in your car is more about loading up all your gear and heading out on an extended road trip.

When it’s time to pull over on your route, you merely drive up to your chosen campsite. Once there, you can get out all your car camping gear and set up camp as you would normally.

Car Camping Essentials

The great thing with car camping is you can access areas not possible on foot, and you don’t need to worry about what camping gear you can and can’t take.

You can also find many areas to camp if you are sleeping in your car for the night, such as forest service roads.

Here, you can learn more about automobile camping; and how it may be the gateway to your first wilderness experience.

Where to Park When Car Camping?

If your trip is taking you across the United States, you’ll find you probably need to pull over somewhere and park up for the night.

If you were backpacking, then there’s little chance you could do this, yet when car camping, you have all manner of places you can park overnight to get some sleep.

One of the most famous places to hunker up, for overnight parking is Walmart parking lots. Some welcome overnight campers, while others are not too keen.

It is worth checking, yet there are other options and national chains, who don’t mind you using their parking lot overnight.

On the road, you have regular truck stops where you can pull over. Some are friendlier than others are, but you do have 24-hour dining and bathroom facilities.

When you are close to your desired location, you can make use of the free camping areas such as the Forest Service roads, Public lands, BLM (Bureau of land Management) areas.

Many offer you up to 14 days, and costs are zero, but just be careful to check with the local Forest Service or BLM Ranger Station.

You may find a campsite inside a National Park, yet many of these become overcrowded, and it is often why car campers elect the dispersed camping solution.

How to Sleep in Your Car

Once you look at the above places, you can stay at night; these will have a bearing on whether you can pitch your tent, or you will sleep in your car.

You quickly find that if you get it wrong, sleeping in vehicles can be uncomfortable. If you are spreading out in the back of your vehicle, you ought to invest in a good air mattress; these keep you away from the cold, as well as the hard metal flooring you will lay on.

It doesn’t hurt to place sleeping pads under these to prevent rips and add more insulation. If you are pulling over where you can sleep outside (without tent), then you can make use of a well-insulated sleeping pad and a high rated sleeping bag.

In your car, one of the best car camping tips is to sleep with your head toward the front, as there is more room to move. It does, however, make it a bit harder to climb inside your sleeping bags.

If you have busy surroundings, you do need a method of blocking off your windows for privacy, and you will have to crack open a window for ventilation, or you will fog up, and things will be damp. (Read How to Camp for Free)

Car Camping Tent Types

Car Camping Tents

When shopping for a tent, you can find hundreds on offer when you go to regular camping. Car camping comes with some very unique tent types.

You have options to use tents like standard ground-level tent camping, yet you also have ones that are made specifically to help you camp in your car.

You have Pickup camping tents that cover the back of your Pickup, or you can have rooftop tents, which sit above your vehicle. It is also possible to find SUV tents that offer an extension to your vehicle in the form of a canopy rather than all-around protection.

Cooking While Car Camping

One thing often an oversite is the car camp kitchen. Unless you are in an established camping area, you may lack space to set up your stove or sit and eat.

Fold up picnic tables can offer a place to eat, and they provide the perfect place to set up your stove.

One thing that makes common sense aside from watching where you park is to keep your cooking away from your vehicle. Another thing you may not realize is the storing of your food. With your car in use, you have extra capacity to carry more foods you may desire rather than lightweight freeze-dried packs.

You will need a good supply of water, especially if you are parking off-site from a campground, and you have to consider how you will be storing your foodstuffs. (Read How to Make Coffee While Camping)

You now have the chance to take along a cooler to keep your foods fresh and safe. Even if you are away from your vehicle hiking, you have to be sure that no pests can gain access. You may need freeze packs or ice, or you can use one of the battery-powered models that run off your vehicle.


Once you car camp, you may find it is the best of both worlds. You can take all the family and not worry about hiking at your campsite.

The great thing is, it makes camping more accessible to try and can be a great way of introducing the family to the joys of the great outdoors.

Once you have your camping gear essentials list written up, it’s time to load up your car and head off.

Before you know it, you’ll be pulling off the highway, and all of a sudden, you’re car camping in the great outdoors.

What is Car Camping