How to car camp like a champ: tips for an epic adventure
August 10, 2023
If you ask your parents or grandparents how they would describe camping, you may hear stories of roughing it out in nature with no cell service, thick woods, a tent and sleeping on the ground.
These days we’re embracing and defining our own camping experiences. Maybe it’s backpacking off-the-grid, packing out when you pack in…or maybe it’s glamping in a yurt with a mattress, electricity and the convenience of plumbing.
Car camping seems to fit in the happy middle. As a popular form of camping in the U.S., it’s an accessible way for you to enjoy the outdoors. In this article we’ll share some tips for car camping all year long and how you can help stay safe sleeping under the stars.
Tips for car camping all year round
For those that love the outdoors and want to enjoy nature year-round, it can be frustrating when season changes threaten to take the fun out of your next adventure. Pitching your tent in the winter or in the Arizona heat sounds, at best, less than ideal.
How can you make both scenarios possible? Use your car. Car camping allows you to experience nature in all seasons and experience those overnights in the outdoors in relative comfort. How? Here are three car camping tips for year-round adventures.
1. Choose the right vehicle for year-round camping
As you consider your camping adventures throughout the seasons, make sure you consider the most important piece—your car. Your vehicle will be transportation and should be thoughtfully outfitted. The size and features of your car are of the utmost importance. Spaciousness, storage options and fuel efficiency are great starting points to keep in mind.
Like going off the beaten path? Look for vehicles that have adequate ground clearance (that dream sports car is probably out) and are able to handle different terrains.
2. Pack the essential gear and equipment for weather conditions
The gear you pack for car camping may be just as important as the car you drive, which is why it’s always good to have a refresher.
Have a cooler on standby for food
Shed light on your situation with headlamps or solar lantern
Invest in a quality sleeping pad
Get gourmet with a camp stove
Have plenty of water for drinking, cleaning and washing
Lastly, our biggest gear tip is to have yourcar emergency kit on hand. Top of mind items would be a spare tire, jumper cables and tool kit. Because you’re relying on your car for car camping, you’ll want to make sure that in the event of a dead battery or flat tire, you’re covered.
3. Stay warm or cold at different temps
Fall, winter, spring or summer, the seasons bring their own set of perks and pitfalls to car camping. To stay warm (or cool) throughout the seasons, use ventilation techniques like cracking car windows or installing a vent in your tent. Adding insulation or window coverings can help regulate temperature inside your sleeping quarters. Pack appropriate bedding, clothing and gear based on the season.
For example, if you’re car camping in winter, bringing a warmer sleeping bag, hand warmers, heater or some moisture-wicking clothing can help make your camping experience more enjoyable.
As a last thought, if you are ever unsure of how to make the most out of your car camping experience, ask folks who’ve gone before for any tips or visit a local outdoor gear store.
How to car camp safely
Car camping isn’t for everyone, but whether you're a veteran at camping or it's your first time—safety should always be top of mind. And whether you’re camping solo or with others, taking these safety precautions and more are necessary for a good time.
First, find a camping spot that is safe and legal. Whether you’re boondocking on public lands or car camping at a local campground, make sure those places are legal for you to stay at. A helpful tip for staying safe is to let family or close friends know where you’ll be car camping.
Another helpful way to stay safe while camping is to secure your belongings and valuables from strangers and wildlife. Trust us, the last thing you want to happen is waking up to the sound of a bear trying to ransack your food.
Along with securing your things, it’s important to take wildlife precautions and practice fire safety. Keep a fire extinguisher and water nearby your camping site, just in case a fire gets out of control. Observe fire regulations in the area you’re car camping at—some areas may have strict rules due to fire risk or wildlife concerns.
Speaking of wildlife, don’t count it out. Always stay safe by respecting wildlife. Remember, you’re a guest in their space. If you encounter wildlife, never feed or approach an animal. Educate yourself on local wildlife and learn about what you may encounter while car camping.
As you educate yourself on where you’re heading, always be aware of local rules and regulations that apply to camping and wildlife. For example, in Arizona, dispersed camping (camping outside of developed recreation facilities) is allowed for no more than 14 days, within a period of 28 days. Meaning, dispersed camping is allowed for up to two weeks but can’t be repeated again for 28 days in the same area.
Car camping starting now
With an adventurous mindset, tips and safety measures in place, car camping can be an easy way to get outdoors. And we wouldn’t be HiRoad if we didn’t mention that because your car is your own personal caravan, keep it protected with a car insurance policy from HiRoad and let your car-venture start today.The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with HiRoad®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. HiRoad is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. HiRoad makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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