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15 Unique Car Camping Hacks For The Perfect Adventure

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This article will give you my 15 best car camping hacks for your next adventure. You don’t want to miss out on these awesome tips and ideas!

Car camping isn’t as simple as grabbing your sleeping bag and shouting ‘Allons-y!’ – there are many things to think about and plenty of things you won’t even realize before you set off.

So, without further ado, let’s get on with these SUV camping hacks and tricks.

1. Plan ahead

While you can just drive across the U.S. or Europe, you will have a much better time if you plan ahead and know where things are on your route.

Think about how much you will want to drive every day and how long it takes to get from place to place and plan accordingly. Also, take a map, just in case you can’t get reception on your phone, or it runs out of power.

2. Organise your things

It can be tempting, as you’re on vacation, to leave tidying and organizing your car, think ‘I’ll do it later’, or ‘It’ll be fine if I leave it’. But it only takes a couple of hours and it means you won’t be living in a smelly, dirty place. Plus, you’ll know where everything is so that no matter what happens, you’ll be prepared.

3. Water, water everywhere

It’s so important to keep hydrated on your trip, so bring lots of water with you. Try this water container off Amazon that holds over 4 gallons and is perfect for camping trips. More than anything you need water, so whenever you hit a gas station, public bathroom, or another public facility, take it as an opportunity to fill up.

For more essential items, check out my 65 Car Camping Essentials For Your Packing List.

4. Hot or cold – pack accordingly!

Depending on where and when in the year you are car camping, you may need to pack lots of warm clothes and thick bedding, or you may need your swimwear and thin breathable bedding.

Be smart, especially if you’re road-tripping somewhere where the weather changes regularly, like jolly old England! So really think about what kind of bedding you’ll need – you’re hot or chilly self will thank you later!

If you’re wondering how to stay warm in a car overnight, this guide will give you plenty of tips.

5. Lights

As your car is going to be your home for the next month or two (or five or six), you’re going to be stepping in and out of your vehicle, opening and closing each door, so turn the lights to ‘permanently off’ in your car, or they will be constantly turning on and off as you enter and exit the vehicle You’ll be doing this a lot, so this will save a lot of electricity and be less annoying for you.

6. Park cleverly

You might be thinking that wherever you rock up to park, you’ll have to pay for the privilege, but actually, there are plenty of free parking spaces all across the U.S., U.K., and beyond! In the U.S., you can park for free at Walmart for goodness sake!

More information as to the places you can legally sleep in your car can be found in our handy guide.

7. Get permission to make a fire

If you want to light a fire to warm yourself up or cook a meal, you might be absolutely fine, or it might not be allowed. There are different legalities on whether you can make a fire depending on what state or country you’re in or where you’re parked.

You might need to seek permission to make a fire outdoors, so do some research and see what the rules are. But you should be fine with a camping stove, so go ahead and fire that up.

There we go, we’ve done the first seven of our 15-car camping hacks for your next road trip! Now onto the next one!

8. Take a few luxuries!

Camping is a great time to appreciate the simple things in life – the breeze of the morning, the sights and sounds at each of your destinations, and the many strangers you meet on the road. But you’re on vacation, so pack that coffee kit you have, or that book you’ve always wanted to read, but never

Having said that, it’s good not to go crazy! You won’t have a huge amount of space, so it’s a good time to be selective and work out what luxuries really make your life that bit better, and what you can keep at home (and no, I’m not talking about your partner!)

9. Seclude yourself!

Car camping is a brilliant way to unhook yourself from wider society, all its stresses, and everything that’s going on. Have a break from social media, newspapers, and TV (you have limited electricity anyway!) and just be present in the places you find yourself and with the people you are with.

Look at the sights around you, the night sky above you, and really focus on the people you’re with when you’re talking to them (it’s so easy for our minds to wander!)

10. Pick up your trash

Simple, really, but wherever you are parking to eat and sleep, make sure you pick up your rubbish and put it in a specific rubbish bag you bring with you specifically for this, or a trash can that you find there.

Check the food and trash regulations of the city or state you’re traveling in, and if you’re in a place where you have access to garbage bins, then empty your car of its trash too, which will stop your car from smelling horrible (and you smelling horrible as a result!)

There we go, we’ve done ten of our 15 car camping hacks for your next road trip! Now the final five!

11. You don’t have to spend every minute together!

This is a hack specifically for those who are camping together – you don’t need to spend every minute together, and actually you might find it better if you don’t!

With little space, you will start to feel like you’re on top of one another, or you might have different ideas of what you want to do with the time you have. So split up and go your separate ways for the day. Then come back together in the evening, sharing your day’s experiences ready for the next day that you can spend together!

12. Be selective

Car camping is about taking your time and enjoying every moment, so instead of parking your car, unpacking, and setting up your tent as quickly as you can, see it as part of the experience.

Plus you’ll make better decisions in terms of where you park, how much you unpack and where you set up your tent, all decisions that will annoy you later if you do them in a rush. And speaking of unpacking…

13. Don’t fully unpack!

As you’ll be here today, gone tomorrow, don’t unpack everything at once. It might sound obvious, but only unpack the things you’ll definitely need, or you’ll be spending a bigger chunk of your time unpacking more than you need to and have to re-pack more than you need to as well!

14. Store your food well

Also, in terms of unpacking, make sure you keep your food in closed, airtight containers. You may well be parking in a wilder area on your trip, which has things called wildlife, so you don’t want to leave a pack of cookies open that will entice insects into your car through your cracked window. Keep that cool box closed, and that food container shut!

Need food storage? Try these food storage containers.

15. Enjoy it…

Again, seems obvious, but so often when going on a trip, we’re so focused on ‘getting there’ that we don’t enjoy the experience, and especially with car camping, the day-to-day experience is the point.

It’s not about getting to the next destination, enjoy every day, and feel free to take detours if the mood strikes you. This is supposed to be fun and a holiday, so leave your crazy, meticulous, pressuring side at home… and I’m not talking about your partner!

If you looking for more guidance for your car camping trip, then check out The Ultimate Guide to Car Camping, an extensive resource you will not want to miss.

Image of Iain The Founder Of The Road Trip Expert

Iain Salter

Founder & Editor of The Road Trip Expert

Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He first developed a passion for backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries.