What You Need To Know About Car Camping
There is a little thing called “Van Life” that everyone seems to be raving about right now. There are countless Pinterest-worthy shots of beautiful people traveling the world in their decked-out vans. I am totally guilty of following this trend and longing for that life of adventure. In reality, living out of a vehicle is not a glam as it seems (like most things), but it’s still something I want to do at some point in my life. I’ve gotten a taste of what that might be like by switching from tent camping on the weekends, to car camping.
Let alone being a fun experience, car camping is a comfy, convenient, and cheap way to travel. You don’t have to hassle with setting up a tent, you car can stay more organized, and you can get a good nights sleep with real pillows and 4 inches of memory foam without paying for a hotel or airbnb. This is an awesome alternative if you love to travel cheap. You throw your supplies in the car and go! Sometimes, you won’t even need a reservation! :)
WHERE TO GO
When Kyle and I car camp, we are usually on a climbing trip. We sleep in the car, go out climbing, and do it all over again the next day. This is a great way for us to stay organized, minimize our time at camp, and maximize our time on the wall. If you are planning to car camp on a road trip, here are a couple places you can park:
On a designated campground
Campgrounds can be awesome, but are usually crowded and cost money. If you plan in advance, this can be a good option. I would definitely make sure it is a campground with designated parking for cars/RV’s.
Dispersed Camping and BLM Land
This is a little bit more “off the grid,” but it’s free! These spots can be totally beautiful and away from all civilization, but there are no bathrooms or showers available. Dispersed Camping areas exist in National Forests 1 mile away from designated campsites and at least 100 feet from a stream. The best way to find these is to talk to your nearest forest service office. BLM land is exists mostly in the wilderness of the western United States. Here’s an awesome article that talks about finding places to camp: BLM Camping and Recreation
Other Free Campsites
Check out freecampsites.net!
Walmart Parking Lot
Be sure to stay safe and keep your doors locked, but this is totally free and legal.
This won’t be free, but it’s definitely cheap! There are plenty of cool camping sites that you can pull you car up to, or if you really need a shower and a bed for the night, they have those too:) DEFINITELY read the reviews before booking one of these. I still love Hip Camp, but I have had some great experiences and some not-so-great ones.
WHAT TO BRING
Car camping requires a car that is big enough to lay down in the back (with the back seats down). Kyle has a Toyota 4Runner and built a raised platform with sturdy PVC pipe, glue, two-by-fours, thin wooden boards with carpet, and a custom cut 4-inch memory foam mattress. We put a sheet over the mattress, and put our sleeping bags with pillow and blankets on top. This actually makes for a great nights sleep. I am going to film a video on the building of this in the coming weeks so stay tuned on my page for more details. Here are some other necessities:
These are essential for staying organized with cooking/cleaning supplies, utensils, and dry foods. The best kind are long and short, so they fit under the bed we built.
Camping Chair and Table
Always check the weather to make sure you have the right sleeping bags. Colder temps require specific sleeping gear.
Leave. No. Trace.
Mosquito Nets or window screens
No matter the temperature, you will definitely want to sleep in your car with the windows cracked, or you will wake up very uncomfortable. If you don’t want to be fully exposed to the outside, you can get nets to put over you windows or a screen for your sunroof.
Lots of extra water
We have a large jug that we refill our water bottles with. It is always important to stay hydrated while camping, because you never know when you will have access to a water source.
I hope I can inspire you all to get out there and travel, regardless of your budget. Kyle and I go car camping almost every weekend and only really spend money on food and gas. It takes some effort to get everything set up, but once you do the possibilities are endless. We get to see more and more of this gorgeous country, and you should to! Happy (car) camping :)