Car Camping Made Easy on a Budget
What is car camping?
Car camping is an easy way to enjoy the outdoors using your vehicle to get to a campsite and not have to walk or hike anywhere. You just pull up to a site and park your car right next to it. It's as easy as that. This way of camping lets you have access to your car at any time and allows you to go for a drive at will.
Having over 20 years of experience with car camping, I have come to the realization that car camping is not only one of the easiest ways to camp, but it is also a lot of fun and it gets people who would not usually go camping, to go enjoy the great outdoors.
In those 20+ years, I have learned to streamline what is needed and what to take and have also encountered some ingenious ideas that I may not use, but some people might find useful. Hopefully, this will help the new car camper as well as the experienced. Good camping to you!
Probably the silliest suggestion, yet very important item any camper could find useful as well as offering great comfort is wet wipes. The wet wipes are a powerful tool for the camping, they have many uses and are required for any camper. Any brand will do, but there are some biodegradable ones out there and should be considered. They can also be burned in the fire after use. They have a list of great uses from cleaning up spills, washing dishes, washing hands, cleaning face, a quick shower, but the number one use for wet wipes is when using the bathroom. Whether out behind a tree(this is when you want biodegradable) or hitting the outhouse, wet wipes take the place of toilet paper and leave you feeling fresh!
Another great tool for any camping is the plastic baggy. All sizes of baggies are useful for the camper. Keep your wet wipes from drying out, store toilet paper to keep from getting wet, keep seasonings for cooking dry, keep toiletries together, store camera to keep dry and anything else you can think of that you need safe and dry. And the clear baggies make everything easy to find. These should be reused and keep your items safe in between camping trips too. Another item that kind of goes with this is something to store your baggies and camping gear in one place, that is a large plastic bin.
The large plastic bin with locking lid is key to keeping all your gear safe during a trip and when stored in a closet awaiting your next trip. A good solid bin will work well, it has to stand up to heavy use and you want it to last from season to season. I use multiple bins for all my gear as well as keeping food safe. Remember these are not bear proof, so if used for food storage, lock it in your car at night, NOT in the tent with you.
Keeping these bins stocked for each season is key to making camping easy. At the start of each camping year, I open up my bins to see what I will need to restock.
And I make sure I have enough salt, pepper and any other seasonings ready to go in baggies.
Having good dishes and eating utensils is important to comfort also. Avoid using any plastic ware that cannot be reused, keeping the landfills as empty as possible is always a good thing. Don't use anything that can break easily and can be stored in your bin offseason. There are also some good tough plastic ones to choose from, but I prefer the painted metal.
Another item that I see many campers forget is a portable dish cleaning station. A bin, a scrubber, a sponge and dish soap. I have used metal and plastic bins, both work fine. Off season the scrubber, sponge and dish soap get stored in baggies, of course.
This is another really important addition to any camping trip, the rain tarp. It can be hung from trees to make a "tent city" and keep the rain off you or placed on the ground underneath tents to keep the ground water from seeping in with you at night. Rope or straps to hang the tarps are needed and should not be forgotten. The tarps can keep the wind at bay and offer some shade if needed too. A Hub reader suggested ropes for hanging the tarps. You should have enough rope for the tarps as well as plenty extra for strapping luggage, gear or any other needs that arise. Paracord is an inexpensive, lightweight, yet very strong type of rope that would work nicely.
If you ever find yourself being forced to sleep inside your vehicle, do not keep your engine running. Car fumes are deadly!
Here is a quick rundown of some other important car camping tips:
- A 3 or 4 season tent, these keep you warmer on cooler nights(and NEVER buy one too big, this will be tougher to keep warm!)
- Make sure you get a 0-degree rated sleeping bag or better, just in case.
- An air mattress or a comfortable sleeping cot
- Flashlights and extra batteries(you can never have enough batteries, preferably rechargeable that are charged and ready to go)
- Cooking stove, fuel, and lighters
- Do not skimp on a good quality cooler
- Camping chairs
- A tent heater
- Universal car charger for all your electronics
Car camping can be fun and offers some extra comfort all around. If the weather turns really nasty, sleeping in the car is an option. If you forget your music, you can use the car radio. The cigarette lighter plug offers electricity. And if you have bored kids and a DVD player, the car can offer relief!
This is not a complete this, but hopefully, gives you some ideas and makes your car camping experience a little easier.
Always remember to leave the site clean and NEVER leave a fire unattended! When leaving a campsite, make sure the fire is completely out.
I just got back from my first camping trip of the year and a friend brought his wood smoker on the trip. It was incredible having smoked meat for the weekend, everyone loved it. We had chicken and pork to smoke and it was delicious.
Everyone really enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun learning about the smoking process. I think the smoker is going to be a permanent addition to my camping trips!
You should never skimp on the quality or amount of food you bring, this is car camping at its best.