The Ultimate Car Camping Gear Guide: Tips, Tents, and Sleeping in Your Car

Car camping is more than just a trend; it’s a thrilling and convenient way to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. As the popularity of this outdoor activity continues to soar, it’s essential to be well-prepared with the right gear and knowledge to make your car camping experience unforgettable. Whether you’re a seasoned car camper or embarking on your first adventure, this comprehensive guide has you covered. From must-have gear to invaluable tips, we’ll ensure you have all the tools you need for a successful and enjoyable trip.

One of the biggest advantages is the freedom it offers. Unlike traditional camping, where you’re limited to designated camping spots, car camping allows you to explore many picturesque locations, from remote wilderness areas to stunning national parks. The possibilities are endless, whether you sleep inside your car, set up a tent, or even opt for a rooftop tent.

To get started on your journey, it’s important to assemble the right gear. We’ll delve into the essentials to make your trip comfortable, safe, and hassle-free. From sturdy tents and cosy sleeping bags to portable stoves and lighting solutions, we’ll guide you through the top gear recommendations to enhance your experience.

With the right knowledge and gear, you’ll be able to embark on incredible journeys, create lasting memories, and connect with nature like never before. Get ready to hit the road and explore the world of car camping with our ultimate guide as your trusty companion. Let’s dive in and discover the thrilling world together!

car camping gear

What is Car Camping?

Some car campers prefer to sleep in their car, others set up a tent camping site outside their car, and some prefer the ‘wild camp’ style, seeking remote areas for a closer-to-nature experience. Then there’s ‘stealth camping‘, which involves parking in a spot where camping isn’t usually allowed (though always check local regulations before trying this method). Car camping can turn any estate car or vehicle into a camper, providing a comfortable and accessible place to sleep.

Essential Gear for Car Camping

When camping, particularly alone, the right gear is essential to make your camping experience more enjoyable. Here’s a list of essentials you’ll need:

Car: The best car for sleeping depends on your personal needs. An estate car or larger SUV is great as they typically have enough space in your car to lay down the back seats and put in a mattress. You can convert your car into a camper easily.

Mattress: The mattress you use can make or break your sleeping experience. Consider using an air or foam mattress designed for a car for maximum comfort inside your car. A sleeping pad can also be a good option if space in your car is limited.

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Sleeping Bag: Whether you sleep in your car or in a tent, a good sleeping bag is a must-have for a cosy camping experience. Opt for a sleeping bag that suits the weather conditions you’re likely to encounter.

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Tent: If you sleep outside the car, you’ll need a tent. A rooftop tent or a tent attached to the side of your vehicle (a car awning) can elevate your camping experience.

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Camping Gear: Other camping essentials include camping chairs, a fire pit (if allowed), a portable camping stove, a cooler to keep your food in your car fresh, and camping lights.

Car Camping Tips for Beginners

If you’re planning your first trip, here are some tips for beginners to ensure your adventure goes smoothly:

Plan Ahead: Research camping spots where camping is allowed. Many national parks and public land allow free camping. You can also use camping apps to locate the best campsites. Always check the visitor centre or ranger station for up-to-date information about the campsite.

Pack Wisely: Space is a premium. Only bring everything you need and be efficient in packing to maximize space in your car.

Stay Comfortable: If you plan to sleep inside your car, make sure you can recline the front seats or lay down the back seats. An inflatable car mattress can make sleeping inside your vehicle much more comfortable.

Prepare for the Weather: Keep your car warm or cool as needed, and make sure to have covers for each car window for privacy and to regulate temperature.

Safety: Keep things like a first-aid kit and flashlight. Don’t store food in your car where animals can access it.

The Art of Stealth Car Camping

Stealth camping is where you park your vehicle to sleep in urban areas or where camping isn’t typically permitted. Be aware that you should always ensure you’re not breaking laws when stealth camping.

Visibility: The key to stealth camping is to go unnoticed. Avoid drawing attention to your vehicle and cover your windows to block the inside view.

Location: Rest stops, 24-hour store parking lots, and remote areas can be suitable places for stealth camping. Again, always ensure camping is allowed.

Noise: Keep noise to a minimum to avoid unwanted attention.

Making the Most of Your Car Camping Adventure

As a versatile and unique camping experience, it’s a great way to connect with nature, enjoy road trips, and have a fun, affordable vacation. If you want to go, you can turn any trip into a memorable adventure with the right gear, vehicle, and attitude.

Remember, it isn’t just about where you sleep but the journey. From the beauty of a campfire by your car awning to the convenience of having everything you need packed into your vehicle, car camping can be an exciting way to explore the great outdoors.


What is car camping?

Car camping is using your car as a transportation, shelter, and storage method during a camping trip. It allows you to pack more gear and be more comfortable than traditional backpacking or tent camping.

What are some car camping tips?

Bring a comfortable mattress or air mattress, use an awning for shade and weather protection, bring the right gear for cooking and storing food, and plan ahead for where you can sleep and park your car overnight.

Can you sleep in your car while car camping?

Yes, many car campers choose to sleep in their car for convenience and comfort. However, it is important to check the rules and regulations of the area you are camping in to ensure that sleeping in your car is allowed.

What should I bring on a car camping trip?

Essential items include a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress or sleeping pad, cooking supplies and utensils, food and water, lighting sources, and appropriate clothing and footwear. Don’t forget any personal medications or toiletries you may need.

How do you turn a car into a camper?

Several ways to turn your car into a camper include building a plywood platform with storage underneath, using inflatable car camping mattresses, or purchasing a camper conversion kit. Do some research to find the method that best fits your needs and budget.

What is the best car for car camping?

The best car for car camping depends on your individual needs and preferences. SUVs, wagons, and larger sedans offer more space and storage options, but any vehicle can be used for car camping with a little creativity and planning.

How do I find a good campsite for car camping?

Research online to find public land or national park areas that allow car camping. Check campground websites for available sites and reservations. Be aware of any rules and restrictions for the area you plan to camp in.

What is the best way to organise things while car camping?

Use plastic storage bins and bags to keep gear organized and separate. Label items and keep them in specific locations for easy access. Consider building shelves or a platform in your car to maximize storage and organization.

Can you go car camping alone?

Yes, solo car camping can be a wonderful adventure. Be sure to let someone know your plans and location, and practice safe camping habits such as locking car doors at night and being aware of your surroundings.

Where can I find car camping tips for beginners?

Search for car camping guidebooks or out-camping forums for beginner tips and advice. Many camping gear retailers also offer helpful resources on their websites for first-time car campers.

Final Thoughts…

Whether you’re sleeping inside your car, in a roof tent on top of your car, or in a tent pitched at a campsite near your car, being well-prepared can make your camping trips more comfortable and enjoyable. With this ultimate guide to car camping, you are ready to start with car camping, equipped with tips and tricks to make your camping easier and your car camping experience more enjoyable. Happy camping!