Car Camping: 8 Tips to turn your Car into an Overnight Camper

Van life is quickly becoming a staple of North American culture. With endless stretches of highway with countless adventures around every turn, it’s no wonder this new generation is leaning towards car camping as a means to escape.

Whether that escape is full-time van camper living to escape increasingly high rents, or if you’re just crashing in your truck bed camper for a night for a  last-minute long weekend adventure, it doesn’t have to break the bank to live the dream.

That dream can be expensive. With mobile homes and high-end camper vans starting in the 50,000 dollar range it seems like a dream, but it doesn’t have to be that expensive.

Truthfully this car camping movement isn’t a new phenomenon and you definitely don’t need any sort of specialized camper to achieve it. You may not have a completely tricked out car camper like you see on those instagram pages, but if you look at your vehicle as simply a path to adventure you’re going to enjoy every minute of it.

Don’t touch the ground

Nights can get surprisingly cold no matter where you go, especially if you are passing through deserts or mountain passes. Having a separation between your toasty warm sleeping bag and your car/truck bed will do wonders for you.

For those with a little extra budget, building a custom raised platform would be ideal, but if you’re truly stuck on a budget there are some great cheap solutions.

Consider the best car air mattress to sleep well, camping pads, or even a yoga mat. This small purchase will make the world of difference in having a warm sleep, because sometime a good sleeping bag won’t be enough.

Open a Window

Airflow is super important when you’re looking for a quality sleep. Condensation can build fairly quickly creating a humid and damp environment. This condensation actually makes car camping a lot colder than you would imagine. While it might let in a little bit of cold weather, your sleeping bag (paired with a raised platform or sleeping pad) can easily handle that.

Cover the Windows with Curtains

They don’t have to be pretty, but a little bit of solitude can separate you from being the ‘one who lives in his car’ to being the one who’s living the adventure. Not to mention you may not always be parked in areas that allow overnight car sleeping, so this is a way to build a discreet sleeper van. Consider the best truck bed tent if you want a better experience overall.

Having the peace of mind with curtains also stops those nosy neighbors from peering in. No one wants to be awoken from a knock on the window.

Keep your Gear dry

Car camping is a great experience, until that experience becomes sitting in wet clothes for the next 8 hour stretch of driving. Keeping your gear dry makes all the difference in your ability to keep sane on the road, and certainly helps with the odor. Wet things in a closed space don’t always work to well together. If you have a truck bed liner, that will help from pooling water rusting your vehicle.

Try hanging them outside (or anywhere there’s air circulation) and let them dry out.

Park where you are Allowed

Most people may not realize car camping isn’t allowed on most public streets. While it varies from city to city you’ll want to find this out 

beforehand as it beats being slapped with a hefty ticket.

Walmart is known for allowing overnight parking to car campers and truckers and there’s other department stores who followed their lead. Public lands and truck stops usually allow overnight-ers too. However this is a well known fact and having large trucks come in and out all night can get pretty noisy.

Make Room for Storage

Life is easier when you can put your things away. Not only does it keep things organized, it de-clutters your mind. If you’ve never lived in a small space before you’ll quickly learn the importance of a tidy place.

Car storage bins are a perfect addition to car camping as it can reduce and limit the overall smell of well used gear.

Don’t forget the TP!

The biggest hurdle about living in your car is the bathroom situation. A few days without showering here and there is doable, but most don’t get used to the lack of bathroom. Sometimes you’ll find there’s no bathroom in your area and you’ll inevitably have to go somewhere less desirable. The good thing is you’ll survive.. If you bring Toilet paper.

Set up a functional car Kitchen

Although you might be living on the road, you don’t need to eat like it. Cans of beans and lentil soup can be a quick and dirty solution, but some creature comforts go a long way for having a positive car camping experience.

Propane stoves and burners are incredibly affordable and compact. Pair that with some compactable camping dishes and you’ll be cooking Michelin star meals from the back of your car in no time.

Grab a plastic storage bun and you can easily wash all your dishes on the road too.

Have a Car Camping Adventure!

Car camping is an incredible experience that gives you a sense of freedom no other travel or camping can quite match. Go anywhere at anytime. While it can be emotionally intense at times, it’s an experience everyone should experience at some point in their life.