What is Car Camping?

This post may contain affiliate links.
An awesome car camping experience with the tent on the roof of the SUV and it's glowing in the blue light of dusk with mountains and a dark sky fading in the background.

There is nothing like it when it comes to camping—getting out of the house and into the thick of nature. Not only does it feel good, but it’s healthy for you when you get to unplug from the busy world. There is nothing better than sitting around the campfire enjoying the open sky and fresh air. But when it comes to camping, there are different levels of doing it based on your experience and equipment. There is no wrong way to camp as long as you have a dry and warm place to sleep at night. That’s what makes car camping so attractive.

What is Car Camping? 

Car camping can have two meanings; sleeping in your car or near your car. The more formal and extreme camping version is backcountry camping, where you pack everything in a pack and hike out to your campsite. 

On a sunny day a group of friends is setting up their car camping site. They packed the trunk with the essentials, have pitched a tent, pulled out a bbq, and the guys are carrying out a cooler with the food while two girls carry the bags.

Camping Near Your Car

Camping near your car usually entails packing everything you want and need in your car and going to an established campground to camp. There is typically a level pad at the site for your tent, picnic table, firepit, and possibly a bear locker, depending on where you are. This is considered car camping because everything you need is in your car and easy to access.

Camping in Your Car

Camping in your car refers to sleeping in your car. If you don’t have the equipment like a tent but want to enjoy the benefits of camping, this is also an option.

Hopefully, you have comfortable seats that can lay back all the way, or you have a lot of trunk space where the seats fold down. 

A car camping view - a forest grove was the campsite for the night and the bed and supplies were conveniently set up in the trunk of an SUV.

What Do You Need for Car Camping?

When it comes to being prepared for car camping, there are a few essentials that are a must. 

Sleeping Arrangements

The first being sleeping arrangements. Whether you are sleeping in your car, tent, or hammock, it’s essential to make sure you have a place to keep you dry and warm. 

Food & Water

The next thing that’s a must is food and water for the duration of camping. Food and water are needed to survive, so make sure to have meals and snacks prepared along with lots of water. Most campgrounds have water stations, which is helpful. 

Cooking and Eating Supplies

You also want to make sure to bring cooking and eating utensils whether you wish to use the fire pit for cooking or a propane stove that’s up to you.

Although cooking over a fire sounds fun but is harder than it looks and takes longer. Also, bring plates, forks, cups, bowls, spoons, etc. 

A group of 4 friends laughs around a campfire at their car camping site while breakfast cooks and they sip on coffee.

Travel Sized Toiletries and Hygiene Supplies

Lastly, make sure to bring your toiletries and hygiene supplies if planning to be out for an extended period. Just because your camping doesn’t mean you can’t brush your teeth and put on deodorant. 

Some campgrounds even have showers available. If you’re out for just a night or two, it might not be a big deal, but anything longer than that, it’s nice to rinse off.

How to Find the Best Car Camping Spots

There are lots of ways to find the best camping spots. One way is just to search on a search engine. But there are also some useful websites and apps that you can utilize with reviews and advice.

Car Camping Tips

Here are a few tips when car camping to make your experience enjoyable:

  • Use window covers for privacy – If sleeping in your car, covers are lovely to block out light and any on-lookers.
  • Create an outdoor space with a car camping awning – Having an awning is nice because it creates a shaded place to eat and hang out. It also is helpful if it rains and you still want to be outside.
  • Use your roof rack for extra storage – Space can be limited in your car, especially if you’re a family, so use your roof for extra storage. But make sure you either have roof storage or tie it down very tight.
  • Use a 12v cooler to keep food fresh – A cooler with ice works well, but ice can melt pretty quickly. Get a 12v cooler that plugs into your car to help make ice and food last longer.
  • Get a USB Heated blanket for cold nights – For those sleeping in your car, you can get a USB heated blanket to keep you extra warm. This is especially good if you don’t have a sleeping bag rated for cold weather.
  • Organize clothes in packing cubes – In a car, there is only so much space, so making everything as small and easy to Tetris into the car is a good idea.
  • Organize everything else in clear bins – It’s easy to make your car look like a tornado swept through it when car camping. Putting everything in clear containers helps you find what you’re looking for quickly and keeping it organized.
  • Learn how to find showers on the road – Showers while camping is what keeps you from feeling like a dirty mothball. So, picking spots that have showers or using your gym membership to take a shower will keep you sane.


Car camping is so popular because of how easy it is, and you don’t always have to buy new equipment. Whatever it takes to get out into nature away from routine life, make sure to take advantage of that.

Car camping helps bridge the gap between backcountry camping and still having everything you want and need. So, go pack up the car and explore the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Article
Portable Solar Panel deployed in front of RV while boondocking

Portable Solar Panels are a Practical Way to Get Results

Next Article

Everything You Need To Know About Pueblo Reservoir Camping