Car Camping: Everything You Need to Know

Car camping is a popular and affordable way to enjoy the great outdoors. With a little preparation, you can have an enjoyable and comfortable camping experience without breaking the bank. We’re here to provide you with everything you need to know about creating the perfect car camping venture.

Tip #1: Choose the right car

Make sure your car is big enough to accommodate you and your gear comfortably. SUVs, station wagons, and hatchbacks are great options.

We have a Jeep Grand Cherokee which allows us to stretch out fully while laying down and a roof rack so we can place items up top to get them out of the way.

Nikki & Jon in front of their white Jeep Grand Cherokee

Tip #2: Make Your Car Comfortable

If you’re uncomfortable, sleeping will be tough. So take a little extra time to make it cozy and relaxing.

We have loved car camping so much more since getting our Luno Life Car Air Mattress. It inflates in just a few minutes, is incredibly comfortable and is made of durable material so you don’t have to worry about having gear on top of it while traveling. Seriously, it’s a game changer.

Check the Weather

Always check the weather to see how many blankets you may need and if a sleeping bag will be necessary. Waking up because you’re freezing really ruins the experience. (Trust us, we’ve done it.) We encourage bringing more than you think are necessary just in case.

On the other hand, if the weather is going to be hot at night, having the windows down to let in a breeze is a great idea. However, that means bugs are going to come into the car. We recommend having either a bug zapper in the car or screens to place over your windows.

Home Away From Home

Even though we’ve been traveling for three years, I have trouble falling asleep if I don’t feel cozy. This means we travel with Christmas lights to string up in the bedroom, as well as a projector so we can watch shows/movies anywhere we want!

Because we do that at home, we incorporate it into our car camping. We string up the Christmas lights along the ceiling and have an iPad holder that we can suspend from our sunroof to watch whatever we’ve downloaded. It feels like a date night every time we get to car camp which I love.

Tip #3: Bring a Great Cooler

I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to eat just protein bars while camping. I want real food just like we normally eat at home. If you’re a foodie, like me, you need a great cooler.

Plus, bringing your own food saves you money! You don’t have to constantly look for restaurants near you and it’s typically much healthier.

We know before we start traveling which 1-2 restaurants we want to try while in an area. For every other meal, we bring food we love in our cooler.

Nikki & Jon peeking out of car sunroof in front of the "Welcome to Utah" billboard.

Tip #4: Know Where You’re Going to Sleep

We primarily use the free version of an app called The Dyrt to help us find where to park overnight. As a couple who prefers to save money wherever possible, we always look for Dispersed Campgrounds (free places to stay with no amenities).
You should always know the laws of the state and park that you’re visiting.
Many parks have designated campground sites that you need to pay for but some prohibit overnight stays. Likewise, some states, like Arizona, allow you to park basically anywhere overnight, but it would be illegal to do so in Colorado if you weren’t at an approved site.

Some other helpful apps or websites we use are

Tip #5: Get a Planet Fitness Black Card

This is our personal preference and not a necessity by any means. Because we prefer to stay at BLM Dispersed Campgrounds, we need a place to shower. (We also workout about 3x per week and like that we can do it while traveling.)

A Planet Fitness Black Card costs $25/mo and allows both my husband and I to use the gym at any location as long as we go together. $25/mo is much cheaper than paying to camp and usually the restrooms and showers are cleaner than you’ll find at campgrounds anyway.

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Pinterest Pin about Car Camping featuring Nikki and Jon in their Jeep Grand Cherokee