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5 Steps to Easily Start Car Camping This Summer

Summer is the perfect time to go car camping, an incredible way to explore new destinations and connect with nature.

Trying something new can be scary, but arming yourself with knowledge and the proper equipment can ensure a smooth trip.

Are you still trying to figure out where to start? We’ve got you covered. Today, we’re sharing five steps you can take to explore car camping this summer.

Let’s get going!

The view of mountains from the back of a car while two people are camping in it
Car camping offers amazing views

Why You Should Start Car Camping

Car camping is an excellent way to experience the great outdoors and spend time with loved ones. State and national parks or remote public lands can become your temporary home away from home. If you have a capable off-road vehicle, it can provide access to backcountry locations.

Contrary to what you might have heard, sleeping in your car isn’t required. It simply means you park in or next to your campsite. Do some individuals turn their automobiles into a sleeping space? Absolutely. However, pitching a tent or sleeping under the stars is also an option. You’re free to embrace whichever method works best for you.

The basic idea is to load up your vehicle with all your gear and supplies. You can then head out to spend time in the wilderness. With easy access to your car, it’s possible to bring heavier items that provide more luxury.

It’s an excellent alternative for anyone tired of dealing with traditional campgrounds. Reservation fees and the demand for sites have increased dramatically in recent years. These changes can negatively impact your experience.

You’ll likely enjoy more space and privacy during your adventures by choosing this unique style. In addition, many of the best spots are free. Who doesn’t like the sound of that? Get back to spending time outdoors without all the chaos.

#1 Choose a Location to Start Your Car Camping Adventure 

One of the most important decisions you’ll make is where to camp. When you first start car camping, stick to established state and national parks sites. These can provide more amenities like power, water, and access to showers and restroom facilities.

After you’ve got several trips under your belt, try getting more adventurous. Try public lands managed by the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Some of the most incredible spots are near popular state and national parks and tourist destinations.

When choosing your site, consider the items that you consider priorities. If you value privacy, there are better options than a crowded campground. If you like fishing, hiking, or rock climbing, choose a spot that makes it easy to enjoy those activities.

The goal for the location is to make it easy for you to relax, have fun, and be comfortable. If you’re unable to do these three things, consider other options. 

You can’t just camp anywhere. Find out: How To Camp Out of Your Car, Legally

#2 Plan Fun Activities for Your Car Camping Trip

Your work isn’t over when you’ve found the perfect spot. Now start planning the activities you’ll want to do during your trip. However, how detailed you make it is up to you. It can be hour-by-hour or simply a list of things to keep everyone entertained.

By figuring out your fun ahead of time, you’re able to come prepared. If you want to fish, you’ll have time to pack your gear, find the best spots, and get any required licenses. Additionally, if you like hiking, you’ll have time to research trails that fit your abilities.

Bring the whole gang into the plan by creating a list of things that everyone loves doing. This ensures they all have a chance to do something they enjoy.

#3 Start Planning Delicious Meals

Just because you’re spending time outdoors doesn’t mean your taste buds have to suffer. It’s possible to whip up mouthwatering meals with a solid strategy and the right equipment. However, it’s going to take some preparation.

When selecting meals, remember that you’ll have limited access to supplies. In addition, you’ll likely need to use a cooler instead of a freezer or refrigerator. To avoid food poisoning, have a way to keep meats and other sensitive foods at the proper temperatures.

Your meals can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like. Whether you prefer to use a stove, an open flame, or a Blackstone grill is entirely up to you. Just ensure you have plenty of fuel regardless of your choice.

To stay organized, use a cooking bin. Something as simple as a plastic tote will do the job. You can ensure you always have items like cutting boards, knives, utensils, and other essentials during your trips.

You’ll want a morning cup of coffee if you’re anything like us. If you have access to power, bring a small coffee maker. However, without power, you’ll need to use a fire or other heat source to get your caffeine fix.

cinnamon rolls cooking in a skillet on a gas stove likely used while someone is car camping
Think about bringing pre-made foods that can be easily cooked or reheated, like these cinnamon rolls.

#4 Pack the Right Car Camping Gear

The size of your vehicle will significantly determine how much gear you bring. It’s essential to consider items and only bring what you’ll use. There are a few essentials that you’ll use for almost every trip, though.

The essentials are typically a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, chair, first aid kit, and a water receptacle. But, having proper lighting, a knife, a lighter, and a cooler is also essential. Your adventure will likely suffer without these basic pieces of equipment.

Once you’ve packed the essentials, it’s time to start adding some luxuries. These are the “nice-to-have” items that enhance the experience. Things like portable speakers, hammocks, and yard games fit this category. While it’s possible to have an incredible experience without them, they’re the icing on the cake.

During each trip, make a list of items that you either forgot or that you wished you had available. These lists help form a packing or shopping list. After a few outings, you’ll know what you need to bring and what you should leave at home.

#5 Decide What to Wear for Car Camping

Always keep a close eye on the weather forecast when deciding what to wear. Mother Nature will play a significant role in determining what you wear and bring with you. Unfortunately, she can be rude at times and display little concern for any plans you might have.

When deciding what to wear, you’ll want to consider the events on your schedule. It’s not uncommon for clothes to get wet during these trips. As a result, it’s a good idea to bring clothes that can dry quickly. You may need to hang them from a tree branch or lay them in the sun to avoid any issues.

Think through all of the events that’ll take place in a day. You’ll want clothes for sleeping, routine camping, and outdoor activities. Remember to save room for your bathing suit if you’ll be near water. It’s also an excellent time to check and make sure you have plenty of toiletries and personal items, including medications. If you’ll need to make a trip to the store, it’s typically better to do this beforehand.

Now Is a Great Time to Start Car Camping

Summer is an excellent opportunity to do something new and exciting. If you want to go car camping, don’t let fear get in the way. You can slowly inch your way into it by following the steps we’ve shared. You may even find that you prefer this method over other options. What are you waiting for? Start planning your first trip!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

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