Pelican Flyer •
February 4, 2021
Not ready to invest in a tent? There are still ways to enjoy camping! Whether you want to explore America state-by-state or visit the coastlines, here’s how to master SUV camping and make an enjoyable, memorable trip.
A good foundation for SUV camping requires a decent air mattress or camp pad. Without it, you will find yourself waking up cold and uncomfortable after a hard night’s sleep. Ideally, find something that fits between your back seats and is thick enough to keep you warm and cozy. After you find a decent self-inflating pad or air mattress, make sure to stay warm with a temperature-rated sleeping bag, as your car can get as cold as a tent. Also, keep in mind that you should sleep with your head toward the front of the vehicle, keeping your feet between narrow wheel well spaces.
With a rolling cooler, create your mobile kitchen, keeping perishables inside while storing non-perishables in a grocery bag or breathable plastic box. Keep plates and utensils tucked away in one of your car’s side mesh compartments along with any cooking devices like a stove. Remember that critters can be anywhere and you should still keep your food secure inside the car. Keep it in the front passenger seat as you sleep at night.
When parked on the side of the road, you‘ll need to create your bathroom. Without a campground bathhouse nearby, you must consider what you will need for proper hygiene. For starters, keep a box of toiletries, complete with items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and no-rinse shampoo. No matter where you are, be sure to follow the seven Leave No Trace Principles and carry everything out or bury human waste. If you’re car camping for a while, bring along a portable shower that can be warmed by the sun and a pop-up stall if you need discretion.
Unlike a campsite where you can stare into the fire all night, SUV camping requires more planning when it comes to entertainment. Bring along a few activities to keep you entertained at night, such as an iPad, smart device or a book or journal. As a good rule of thumb, expect Wi-Fi to be spotty at best, and download a movie or book of choice ahead of time. The beauty of SUV camping is that you can recharge electronic devices as you drive around the next day.
Instead of turning on the interior lights or headlights and draining your SUV’s batteries, bring some lighting. A bright, hands-free headlamp will not only help you make your way to your makeshift bathroom (i.e., the nearby woods), but will let you read in the SUV until you nod off to sleep. You could also hang a few solar-powered lanterns inside to create more ambiance with a diffused glow.
Tents offer a removable rainfly that allows you to make the space more breathable, whereas SUVs and cars can trap moisture from your breath, making the interior stuffy. Instead of waking up to foggy windows, crack open your sunroof and windows and keep out bugs with a mesh material. Just make sure to secure any delicate or expensive devices in a protective case, as you might find a little moisture creeping in – especially in a sudden rainfall or with the morning dew. Since you want to keep your interior as dry as possible, remember to keep those wet bathing suits or towels from your shower outside, hanging over a side mirror.
One of the best benefits of camping is that it can reset your circadian rhythm. However, if you find yourself beat from yesterday’s activities and prefer an hour or two more of sleep, you’ll need to block out your car’s windows with some shades. Shades not only allow you to sleep in, but also offer privacy for changing in a less secluded area. Even if you don’t mind waking up with the sun, shades also work for places where you might not be able to block out lampposts or other nearby lights. Luckily, there are many ways you can create privacy and shade. One way is to simply hang sheets from the car doors. Another is to make DIY curtains and blinds.
Cars offer the perfect camping storage situation. With all the nooks and crannies, you can truly organize and store away all the camp gear you need for a weekend getaway or month-long trip. Whatever type of car you own, a little creativity can make your next camping trip smooth and without a hitch.
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