Not everybody is cut out for life on the road, but spending the odd night here and there sleeping in your car is a different matter. Even using your car as ‘home base’ during a short camping trip (two or three days) is something that can be managed by just about everyone. In fact, follow the tips in this article, and you will enjoy many a comfortable, cozy night in your personal automobile. In fact, you might find the experience so enjoyable that you will give up on your bed altogether once you return home, and spend your nights sleeping in the driveway! Read on to find out more.

Where do you park?

The first and most obvious question to be asked and answered when camping in your car is: where am I going to park? Your own safety is paramount when sleeping in your vehicle, and you don’t want to run afoul of the law either. Fortunately, there are apps out there like Hipcamp, which enable you to determine where you can stay legally overnight – with or without paying. In addition, keep in mind that U.S Forest Service roads are at all times able to be used for overnight camping and parking. Be sure when availing yourself of the latter option not to block others trying to get through, and to possess whatever permits or passes are required to camp at the location of choice.

Apart from legal considerations, when choosing a spot to hunker down in your vehicle for the night, you want somewhere that possesses flat, even terrain, and that is shaded from the hot midday sun. Try to avoid open spaces as that way you might stand out a bit too much – you want to blend in and avoid drawing too much attention to yourself when you camp in your car.

Work the angles

Despite being preferable, flat, even terrain is not always available – especially if you are sleeping in remote, uninhabited areas or Forest Service roads. If you are forced to park your car at an angle, be sure to position yourself in the car so that your head is above the level of your toes. Also, try to sleep with your hair towards the front end of the vehicle as this will give you a bit more elbow room.

Be prepared

Bring everything you need to make your camping trip as comfortable and convenient as possible – just like you would do on a normal camping trip. These include blankets, stoves, flashlights, food and drink, a means of starting a campfire (not in your car!), toiletries, and so on.

Charge up

It can be a bit of a challenge to keep your electronics fully charged when you are experiencing life on the road. Though most devices can be plugged in whilst the car is running, overnight it is a bit of a different matter. You may have to bring along a portable power device or even a solar panel (placed strategically on the dashboard) to keep your camera, phone etc full of juice for the journey ahead.

Remember to eat

You can work up a real appetite whilst out camping, and car camping is not the exception. Remember to bring all the necessary cooking equipment and utensils, and make room in your car to store all of your food. You may also want to consider bringing along a cooler to prevent spoilage to perishable items (be sure to pre-chill the cooler with ice before putting any food in).

Make your bed!

A good benefit of car camping is that you aren’t forced to lug your bedding around on your back all day. So you can afford to spoil yourself a bit when it comes to bedding. Pack cushy mats, pillows, sleeping bag, plenty of blankets – even an air mattress is an option. Cars get just as cold as their exterior during the night, so be sure to bring plenty of bedding with you on your car camping holiday.

Create your own drive-in cinema

Relax after a long day’s driving or trekking by enjoying a movie on your device. Make sure you download the file you want to watch beforehand though – remote areas may not be too well serviced by Wi-Fi internet.

Light it up

Creating a comfortable, cozy space in your car for the evening ahead isn’t just about sleeping. Bring a torch, and hang some headlamps or lanterns from your car handles so you can illuminate your living environment and enjoy some reading or other activities. Another good reason to keep a headlamp or two hands is that it will help light up the way when nature calls during the night, or you want to get out of your car to enjoy the sunset or rise.

Stay clean

If you sleep in your car you won’t be able to take advantage of modern amenities like showers and sinks. Keep your hygiene up to scratch by packing in advance plenty of toiletries, including products that require little to no water – such as hand sanitizer and no-rinse shampoo.

Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate

Don’t fog up the windows and cause condensation in your car by keeping the windows shut all night long. You need to properly ventilate your vehicle if you are spending the evenings there. Open a window or sunroof just enough so that a human being or wild animal can’t get through. Place some mesh over the opening to keep out bugs. And you’re done! No moisture to worry about. In addition, you can place some of those little moisture-absorbing packets amongst your gear. Also, try to dry your wet clothes as much as you can before you go to sleep for that night. And keep a squeegee or other cloth handy in your vehicle so you can wipe any excess condensation off the windows of your car in the morning.


Block out unwanted eyes – and the morning sun – from your vehicle by using bungees or cordage to make your own curtains and hang them from the windows and behind your front seats. Bring some earplugs to block out unwanted noise.

Billy Miller
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