Guide to Camping in Your Car

A Guide to Camping in Your Car

Whether you’re a first-time camper or an experienced professional, auto camping is a great way to take on outdoor adventures. Car camping is easier to get into than field camping and more error-prone. It’s fun and easy to get started and it’s a great activity for the whole family. Let’s take a look at the details of auto camping and a guide to camping in your car.

Auto camping is great because it’s the perfect way for people of all ages and abilities to get outdoors. It’s also a good stepping stone before camping or other multi-day wilderness adventures.

When bad weather is around the corner, or when you want to bring some extra gear for an activity, auto camping is a great option. No matter what your reason for pursuing auto camping, some helpful tips and tricks will help ensure you have a fun and memorable trip. Below are ideas on how to prepare for car camping, what to do when you arrive at your campsite, and activities you can do.

A Guide to Camping in Your Car: How to Prepare

A Guide to Camping in Your Car: How to Prepare

Being super organized is the key to success in auto camping. A list is your friend — not the mental list, but the one you write down on paper with a real pen. You may forget important things like sleeping bags or drinking water more easily than you think. Below is a very basic list you can start with. It can be useful to prepare your list in a notebook or on your phone.

Camping List Ideas


  • Tent 
  • A sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Camping pillow
  • Blanket


  • Rain gear
  • Swimming wear
  • Hiking shoes or boots
  • Sandals 
  • Long underwear
  • The warm layer
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Jacket or Sweatshirt


  • The stove
  • Fuel 
  • Lighter 
  • Firewood 
  • Water and snacks
  • Coolers and Food
  • Plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery


  • Game 
  • Book 
  • A hammock
  • Instruments
  • Fishing Pole
  • Camera


  • First aid kit
  • Prevent bask in
  • Maps and Compasses
  • Safety knife
  • Car GPS


  • Headlamp
  • Extra battery
  • Camping generator
  • Flashlight


  • Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Personal wipes
  • Any medication (Tylenol, Advil, etc.) 
  • Skin care essentials

For experienced campers, one of the challenges of auto camping is getting away from the backpacker mentality. When you’re backpacking, you (obviously) carry everything you need on your back, so it’s important to save space and weight.

But when you’re camping in a car, you really don’t need a rough life. It’s ok to pack a few things, but it’s important to know that your ultralight backpack isn’t the only option for camping. Be an extravagant person and bring an extra pillow, why not? Your car does all the work for you.

A Guide to Camping in Your Car: Arriving at your Campsite

A Guide to Camping in Your Car: Arriving at your Campsite

Many first-time campers prefer to stay at a campsite with facilities like a state park. These places have amenities such as drinking water, picnic tables, and bathrooms that can make the planning process of auto camping easier and more forgiving. When arriving at these campsites, you’ll often see other campers walking along the trails and spending time with their families.

Once you have more experience, you can go camping along Forest Service roads, where you’ll need to bring your own drinking water, bathroom supplies, and whatever else you need. Unsupported auto camping often provides a more isolated wilderness experience than a campsite, where camps are often packed like sardines in a can. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. You can choose the one that suits you best according to your goals and circumstances.

Setting Up Camp

When you’re camping by car, setting up camp is probably the first thing you do when you get to your destination. Give everyone on your team a job so it gets done faster and everyone feels helpful.

The first thing to do: Turn off the ceiling lights in your car. It’s a good idea to turn off the overhead lights so the batteries don’t run out, since you’ll need to open the doors and trunk to get the gear out. Also, make sure you find a safe place to put your keys. It can be easy to misplace your keys while you’re setting up your tent and unpacking your equipment. You can keep your keys in the car or in your pockets while you set up camp.

Another consideration is to make sure you have a full tank of gas before you embark on a long dirt road. You don’t want to be found miles away with no gas in your tank.

The joy of auto camping is that it provides a safe way for you to familiarize yourself with your equipment and develop a system that you can rely on if you can’t get your tent up. After you’ve done a few auto camping trips, you’ll be well versed in the routine of camping.

Car Camping Activities

One of the best parts of auto camping is deciding what you’re going to do while you’re away. Maybe you’re setting up camp and planning to go on a long day hike? And when you get back to camp at night, maybe you’ll take out your instruments and play music around the campfire? There are many possibilities of what you can do during a camping trip. The important thing is to do something you enjoy and create happy memories from your trip.

Cards and board games is another fun and relaxing option. You can play board games with your family or friends while you sit at the camping table. Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity, and Uno are some game ideas you can try. If there’s a lake or other body of water nearby, you can see a sunrise canoe and spend an afternoon swimming or just sit on the dock and have a camping coffee and enjoy the view. Fishing at a nearby lake and taking photos while you’re hiking and exploring the campsite are some more activities you can do.


The point is that auto camping makes it easy to escape from the trappings of our daily lives and enjoy the activities of our choice in the peace of nature. No matter how you choose to spend your time, it must be special because you will enjoy it in an unusual atmosphere.

Anyone can go car camping. It’s a relaxing, convenient, and a family-friendly way to enjoy the outdoors. With a little planning, education, and entertainment, you are sure to enjoy an unforgettable outdoor experience. Especially if you’re following a guide to camping in your car!

Edited by Jack Leduc

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.