Road-tripping across the U.S. is something everyone should try once. You’ll pass over high mountain ranges and drive through deep valleys while following in the footsteps of adventurers like Harriet Chalmers Adams, Lewis and Clark, and John Muir.
However, unlike the adventurers of yesteryear, you can use your car to get from point to point. This isn’t a compromise, either. Using the right vehicle can broaden your horizons, keep you safe, and help you get out of sticky situations should the weather suddenly turn.
Car camping can be freeing, too. You don’t have to spend all evening pitching the tent and can keep a few amenities on board. Camping in your car is a particularly good option if some members of your party are afraid of large wildlife or have mobility disabilities that limit their ability to hike up a trail to a campsite.
Camping in your car doesn’t have to be any more complicated than rolling down the seats and pulling on a sleeping bag. However, if you want to really enjoy your time in the great outdoors, you should seriously consider a few strategic renovations. If you have a truck, consider installing some innovative bed camping setups, like:
Rooftop Tents: Tents pack away seamlessly and elevate you off the ground for the night. You can still store things under the tent rig, too, making this the perfect choice if you want to bring amenities and accessories.
Truck Bed Tents: Tents that fit in your bed are perfect if you’re traveling light and want to save money. They’ll usually fit over the top of your truck bed and are ideal if you want to pack up quickly — just remember to bring a mattress or sleeping pad!
Awnings: If you want to spread out a little, opt for an awning. Awnings stretch out from the bed of your truck and give everyone room to relax. They’re the perfect choice for big families that need a little extra space when car camping.
These rigs can be easily accessorized, too. Hitch grills fit onto the back of a car or truck and can cook up a feast for the whole family. Alternatively, you can pack away a portable fire stove and bring a cooktop with you. This approach will keep everyone fed and make replicating campfire classics like smores and grilled hotdogs much easier.
If you just want to keep things simple, consider investing in a campervan. Big car brands like VW and Mercedes have been honing in on the perfect campervan for decades and their cars come with all the accessories you could possibly need.
Alternatively, if you have some mechanical skills, you can consider modifying a van yourself. Accessorizing your van means you can go glamping wherever the road takes you.
Just be sure to avoid making structural changes to the chassis of the van as this may undermine the vehicle’s stability and safety on the road. When modifying your campervan, be sure to account for features like:
External power source
Fridge/cooler for food and drinks
Solar shower rig
Additional storage for tiny toiletries and emergency packs
If you want to camp anywhere, at any time consider installing some off-road extras, too. Shovels, traction mats, and winches can prove pivotal in your moment of need and ensure that you’re able to drive through almost any conditions when camping.
Car camping can become expensive quickly if you want to buy a top-end campervan and all the accessories that go with it. However, you needn’t drop a small fortune to go car camping. Instead, minimize your costs by making strategic changes to your current vehicle.
Before you hit the road, you need to make sure your car is in good working order. Paying to fix a broken part is always more expensive than preventive tune-ups. You can get started with road trip vehicle maintenance yourself by checking the six essential fluids:
Power steering fluid
Remember to check the tread on your tires and pack a repair kit should you pick up a puncture. Paying a mechanic to come and pop on your spare tire can be costly and easily preventable with some planning.
Keeping your costs low can help you discover some hidden gems, too. Staying at cheap campgrounds can be a little hit-or-miss, but focusing on nature rather than tourist destinations is sure to keep costs down. Embracing the freedom of car camping will get you well away from the crowds and ensure you aren’t paying the markup charged at high-profile national parks.
Car camping is meant to be a convenient way to get out and enjoy all that nature has to offer. However, whenever you bring a vehicle into a natural park, you have to be hyper-aware of your impact and should take steps to minimize the harm you cause.
Taking time to travel sustainably also ensures that you have a nature-focused road trip. Minimize your carbon footprint and protect the environment by packing light and planning the most fuel-efficient route possible.
Take advantage of apps like Google Maps, which now include features for green travel that can minimize your impact and help you save gas at the same time.
Remember to follow leave-no-trace principles at all times, too. When car camping, you have no excuse not to pack up your rubbish and should never drive off with rocks, logs, or other mementos.
When looking for a place to park, opt for hard ground where you’re less likely to get bogged down following rainfall. This minimizes the harm your tires cause and ensures that you leave the space in the same condition as you found it.
Car camping is a fantastic approach to seeing the great outdoors while keeping some of the amenities of modern life close at hand. You don’t have to worry about pitching a tent or getting washed out in heavy rain, either.
Just be sure to choose a concept that suits your budget and meets your family’s needs.