Car Camping Anyone? Sure, Why Not?

Car camping, stealth camping, vancamping …no matter the name, car camping is supposed to be cheap, easy and, more than anything else, pretty spontaneous. Turning your car (it works for a small van too) into a week-end camper is quite easy, so scroll down for the details.

Why try car camping?

Even if some may not like the idea of squeezing in the car for the weekend ahead, here are the main reasons for which you should try car camping:

  • It gives you freedom

When you’re deciding to go car camping, it’s only you and your car out there so get the best out of it and go wherever your mind (or gas) is taking you.

  • It’s affordable

Most of the time, a sleeping bag or a duvet is going to be enough for your car camping. Even if you’re not going to be very comfy, you should be able to take it for a night or two. You should get the things that add a bit more comfort so that you may improve the whole experience.

  • It’s multi-functional

You can go car camping with the same car that takes you to work every single day. You should see your car as you fun-mobile that is easy and affordable to transform at the end of Fridays.

  • It’s a great adventure

Car camping takes you in new places and helps you see how little we all need for a bit of happiness.

  • You may stealth camp

A car is more difficult to spot on so you can park it pretty much anywhere for camping. As much as we love the world, we all feel the need to get away from it all any now and then.

Make it all comfortable

When doing it right, sleeping in your car can actually be a lot more comfortable than in a camping tent. Not only you’re protected against the rain and wind, but you’re also soundproofed (not everyone goes for the crickets and hauling animals in the middle of the night, right?).

Here are some tips to try for increasing your comfort:

  • The removable backseats

You want to use a car that comes with removable backseats and less flat floor. Cars with large hatchbacks make a good choice, as opposed to the cars with basic boot.

Car that comes with removable backseats

You should empty out the back (fold the seats flat) for several options for sleeping. You can try rolling a mattress on a floor or build a basic bed base.

One may go with the storage box option for under mattresses as it’s versatile, giving you plenty of space for your essentials. Use sturdy and tough boxes that are see-through. You still want to be able to find something you need later on.

  • No need for sleeping bags

A duvet is going to be enough when car camping, not to mention the freedom of movement that it gives you.  You may want to try a sleeping bag hybrid that offers multipurpose option, but it may not be warm enough when car camping in the winter.

  • Get a good mattress instead

The floor isn’t going to be the most comfortable surface, so get a decent mattress for evening the floor. You should fold it up during the day, turning it into a chair. It’s important to air it out once the night is over. Don’t get cheap and pay for a thick mattress. You want it to be self-inflating and single, as a double mattress is going to raise the problem of storage and versatility.

Set up your “camp” as fast as you can, after a day of driving. You don’t want the night finding you blowing up the mattress or preparing the floor for sleeping.

  • Get some travel pillows

You should also throw some comfortable memory-foam travel pillows for a better sleep at night. If you have a favorite pillow that you simply cannot do without, don’t hesitate to take it with you. Driving well rested in the day is a lot more important.

Take care of ventilation, heating and…pests

car ventilation and heating

We all like nature until some bug gets inside our ear so make sure you prepare your car for the “unwanted” guests.

  • Seal your car, but not entirely. Improvise a mesh screen against insects

Simply sealing in your car sounds appealing and safe, but you’re going to find a lot of condensation once the night is over. Don’t forget to open the sunroof of your car, if you have one. Use some mesh fabric and several magnets for making a fly/mosquito screen-it’s going to keep insects from getting inside of your car.

  • Use the windows

When your car doesn’t have a sunroof, you should at least open the window a bit. Get creative and make a pillowslip of netting, using the slit on the long side. Cover your window, slipping it over. You’re still going to be able to close the door and open the window for some fresh air.

  • Get a typical mosquito net

If the weather is nice and you camped in a secure place, you may install a standard mosquito net over the open hatchback of your car.

Tip: When you camp on a cold weather, make sure you stay under your duvet and that you add enough layers. Staying warm is easier than getting warm.

What are the light options?

When you go car camping, the lighting options are various and you should choose according to your needs.

  • The LED lights

You should get LED light as you may recharge it from your USB adaptor in the 12V socket.

As for the designs, you can go with fairy lights when a magical vibe is what you’re trying to create for your car camping experience. You should also try light ropes that fold into its bag, turning into a lantern. This type of light is actually pretty bright and comes with magnets and clips so that you can fix it where you need. It’s highly versatile.

A foldable LED lamp may come in handy as well, especially if it comes with various brightness settings.

  • Create some shade

If you don’t like waking up at dawn, you should consider about creating some sort of shade (it helps with your privacy too). Use some folding silver sunshades on the front and back windscreens. You can always make yourself blackout blinds and curtains for the side windows. You only need a bit of fabric and some suction pads. Use magnets if your car doors come with metal surrounds.

Tip! No matter how many things you have, we’re pretty sure that you’re going to find the space for some earplugs and eyemasks- they sure keep noise and light away from you J

What to do about cleaning and…going to the loo?

This discussion is useless when you’re on a campsite (be aware though that some campsites don’t allow car camping)- the problem with toilets and showers is solved in this case.

  • No toilet around?

Going to the toilet in the wild is no easy job and you need to dig a 15-cm deep (and even more) hole, using a trowel. You also need to be pretty close to the water. You also need to cover everything with some earth, putting the toilet roll/wipes into a rubbish bag. Checking your options for camping toilets is a good idea as well.

  • Use a toilet kit

Toilet kit

You can take a toilet kit that includes waterproof and hanging toilet roll cover that comes with built-in lights. If you’re going to be away for more than one day, you should try a composting toilet and the all-natural and biodegradable wipes. Get a portable water carrier and refill it every time you have the chance.

  • Use the established facilities

When your car camping turns into a longer trip, it’s better to use the facilities in leisure centers or pubs.

You can find portable showers (and even homemade choices), but you need to use them in warm conditions. It’s not worth to catch a cold from a freezing cold shower when a warmer and better option is, literally, just around the corner.

Tip: Keep in mind to pack some easy on/off footwear as they’re great for showering. You don’t want to take the muddy boots inside the shower.

Is organizing car camping space doable?

One of the great things about car camping is that being well-organised inside the car is going to be enough when camping for a couple of days. You can use shoe organizers, hang toilet bags and try all sorts of ways for keeping your kit within reach at all time.

Car Back Seat Organizer

The downside about the seatback organizers is that they typically hang over the front seats. Don’t hesitate to look for the best storage options out there.

Don’t lose faith if you’re not going to get it from the first time. Finding the best ways to store your things without sacrificing all space is going to take some trial and error. Always changing things is good as it teaches us about many things, from getting creative to finding best solutions when under pressure. However, you want to use the right size storage box that fit between the seats just right. Some may even come with stick-on hooks for the ceiling.

Why not take it outside?

When you’re car camping on a private place for a couple of days, you should make the best out of the whole camping experience.

  • Use the tarp

You may create a rain shelter with a simple tarp. This single tarp may also be used for creating some sunshade, a camp kitchen or an outside dining room. You may easily fix it from the boot or the side doors, using the close trees for suspending it. The tarp is really versatile so learn about how to use it when camping.

  • Try the awning too

The awning is another choice, but keep in mind that once folded it does take up much room. If you’re planning for a longer trip, go online and choose small and lightweight awnings.

  • Get a good tent

As for tents, the standalone type with a sun canopy is quite popular. They’re versatile and budget-friendly. Your budget, needs and the weather forecast have a lot to say when it comes to the model of tent.

A good tent for camping

Tip! Play it safe and don’t scrimp when buying your tent. Get the best you can afford and check to see if its fly goes all the way to the ground on all sides. Staying dry and warm when camping is one skill that you should develop as a camper.

Are you going to cook when car camping?

Unless you really have to, chances are you’re not going to cook inside your car. If you’re camping on a lovely day, you should cook outside for sure.

  • Use the tarp

For the rainy days, the protection of the tarp is going to make cooking a bit easier. Truth be told, who wants to cook in the rain when a good restaurant/pub is just around the corner? Even if it’s cheaper, don’t go with the camping food as it really bad for your health. Cooking healthy and easy is no problem even when car camping.

  • Get a stove and a cooking kit

No true camper doesn’t already have a stove and a cooking kit. Take a look at your storage space and think about what you’re planning to cook. A kettle of water isn’t difficult to boil and a pan soup is great to use for dinner. You should look for the cooking tools that are dependable, versatile and easy to store as well.

stove and a cooking kit for camping

The double-burner stove is going to ease up the cooking when car camping. Your coffee brews as you’re cooking an omelette. Make sure you get a good one that takes the use for a long time.

  • Pack wisely

Even if you have the space for storage, don’t fall into temptation of packing a lot of provisions- you’re not going to be able to find it anyway! It’s wiser to get the things you need for the moment. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pack the essentials: some herbs and spices, some tins and few other basic things for cooking.

  • Make it easy for yourself

It’s better to cook whenever you really need it or whenever you feel like it. It’s not cheating if you’re going to a restaurant for a nice stake.

Don’t forget to always have a bag for rubbish handy. Recycling when camping is mandatory, even if it means to carry some cans and bottles around until you run into a recycling point.

  • Keeping food cool

When you’re car camping, you may want to take with you some milk or butter. You should go with a 12 V compressor fridge. Even though it’s small, it’s a great choice for keeping your basics cool, fitting just right in  most car models. We know that it’s not the cheapest option out there, but it’s going to maintain the right temperature, no matter how hot it gets outside.

12 V compressor fridge for camping

Some like to go with the cool boxes, but you’re going to have to change the icepacks all the time. In addition, they also take a lot of space so choose wisely.

If you’re at a campsite, you may also borrow or hire a fridge.

As for milk, you can always switch to UHT milk or small cartons. Use olive oil instead of butter and …start learning how to live without a fridge.

Where can you car camp anyway?

Not all campsites actually allow car/van camping. This happens a lot more to cars/vans that come with a company name on the side.

  • Stay subtle

If you’re planning to use a tent or an awning, there’s no point to inform anyone that you’re going to sleep in your car/van. Many are going to assume that you sleep in the tent. You should move elsewhere if it’s too risky so that you don’t get into any trouble.

  • The apps and websites

The apps and websites are great when you’re going for some wild camping. The social media isn’t going to be very helpful when it comes to tracking down information, though. Make sure you install the right apps and that you check the useful websites.

Tip! Don’t hesitate to ask around! Many people out there share their experiences on social media so it’s easy to find about the best places to eat at.

What else do you need when car camping?

Some things are fundamental to get for a comfortable and safe car camping experience, whereas others aren’t mandatory, but it’s still nice to have them around.

  • A lawn chair

Even if it’s not the easiest thing to pack, getting and using a lawn chair when camping is going to worth all the crumbled space in the car. Comfortable, relaxed and pretty easy to move around, the lawn chair may improve the whole car camping experience.

  • Odds&ends

Truth be told, you may never use some of the items down below. However, they can sure light up your day when nothing works as planned:

  • A wash basin for washing the dishes after meals
  • A tablecloth for giving a nicer feel to your picnic table
  • Ear plugs that keep noises away at night. Not everyone likes the sound of crickets
  • Rope for a clothesline for hanging dish rags, towels or some wet clothes that you need to air dry. You can also use it for airing out your sleeping bag in the morning
  • Newspaper for lighting a campfire. You may need a lot more than that for a campfire, especially on a rainy day. Make sure you get all the info about it.
  • A headlamp is going to be handy when it gets dark


Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!