How Do You Camp In A Car

Everyone should try car camping at least once. Car camping is inexpensive and gives you the freedom to reach wherever and whenever you wish to. 

The best part of car camping is that you do not have to worry about hotel bills or set up a tent somewhere. Because you live, sleep, and travel in your car. 

To camp in a car, you will need to organize your things meticulously, choose a safe camping place, make arrangements for comfortable sleep, secure yourself and your car, and do some basic troubleshooting in case of a car breakdown.

We have a lot to unpack here. So let’s start. 

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1. Organizing The Things Well

The first to having a successful car camping trip is organization and setting up things perfectly so that you have proper sleeping space and organized stuff. You do not want to deal with the whole mess of clutter while camping. It will decrease the overall level of enjoyment and joy that you are experiencing. 

You can choose to set up things according to your convenience as:

  • Some people go all-out with their car camping setup with sleeping platforms and drawers or cabinets built to arrange things.
  • Some even create a place for their stove.

Although these are nice and convenient, you do not need to rush anything. You can plan on building something like this in the future in your car. 

However, you can skip them if you want to. These are good to have but are not necessary.

Here are a few tips to organize your things without some elaborate setup:

  • Make sure you have enough space to put your sleeping pad in your sleeping bag.
  • Put all of your loose items in storage containers. That way, you do not have to look for things all over the car while winding. 
  • Place the items of similar categories together, for example, all Kitchen items and cookware in one box and other camping stuff in a different one. 

If more people are traveling with you or you want more space, you can take those storage boxes and put them in the front seat. 

Organizing The Things Well
Organizing The Things Well

2. Choosing A Car Camping Place

There are a few options to choose from when picking a spot to car camp. Such as:

  • Parking lots
  • Residential streets
  • Pool outs, rest areas

Let’s discuss them in detail.

2.1 Parking Lots

Parking lots are the first preference for most people. The reasons are simple:

  • They provide a sense of security, as you have several cars around, and it seems less likely that something wrong will happen in a parking lot. 
  • Compared to a residential area, you do not have to be that low-key about hanging out in a parking lot.
  • If you are in the parking lot of any store, you have the convenience of that store. Grocery stores are typically opened till late and open early in the morning. So if you need anything or want to use the bathroom urgently, you have that luxury at your disposal.

2.2 Near Residential Areas

  • While parking the car in a residential area, be careful about not disturbing the residents. Because if you do so, there are chances that people may call the cops in case of any suspicious activities. 
  • People would also not prefer if you park in front of their house. So choose the spot carefully.

2.3 Walmart Or Other Big Box Store

They are not a camping spot. You are not camping but staying in your vehicle overnight.

Many Walmarts allow you to park your car and stay overnight. So, if you want to experience a staycation near your town, you can choose this. 

You can carry your essentials such as food, blankets, and other stuff, park your vehicle late evening and leave in the early morning after experiencing your so-called camping experience. 

However, you will not be able to set tents, chairs, or other stuff here. You will have to manage everything in your vehicle. All the place provides is a spot to park and spend the night. 

2.4 Out In The Wilderness

By far, this is the riskiest place to park your car. However, it is the most fun as well. You will be camping in the truest sense in the wilderness.

However, ensure that you are camping in a relatively safe place. Ideally, it should not be far from a city or a town.

The best place to park is popular camping or a tourist spot.

There are also some dedicated car camping places. You can search for them near you on the internet. 

3. Tips For Choosing The Car Camping Spot

When choosing the perfect and comfortable car camping spot, you should keep the following things in mind. 

  • Stay in a nice neighborhood because you don’t want to feel unsafe while sleeping. 
  • If you choose a parking lot to car camp, then prefer the one with multiple shops
  • Try to choose the spot as far away from the busy roads. So you do not disturb any locals living in that area. It will be safe for you as well. 
  • Be aware of what permits you need for parking your car. Do some online research to find where you can park legally. You will find free and paid locations to set up the home-like experience for the night. 
  • Do not choose to camp at a high altitude. Instead, look for something which provides you with natural cover from winds and other elements.

4. Tips For Sleeping In A Car

Whether on a road trip or on a car camping, spending the night should be comfortable and relaxing.

The tips mentioned will make your car camping so cozy and relaxing that you might feel at home. 

  • Sleep with your head towards the front of your car. It will help you get more space and comfort while sleeping.
  • Be prepared with the essentials and keep them in your car always. 
  • Invest in a comfortable bed. Air mattresses can be very comfortable. 
  • Remember that even cars can get cold as tents, so always pack your insulated blankets to stay warm. 
  • Stay clean. When you are car camping, you may probably not have access to sinks and showers. Keep your hygiene a priority and include items that need less or no water, such as no-rinse shampoos, sanitizers, etc. 
  • Open the window or sunroof a little for ventilation. Otherwise, the vehicle will fog up and collect moisture.
Sleeping In A Car
Sleeping In A Car

5. Security While Camping In A Car

No matter where you end up parking your car or sleeping, you want to be discrete and feel as secure as possible. 

5.1 Cover Windows

The first thing is to ensure that other people can’t look in and see you sleeping. There can be a few different ways that you can do this. Such as:

5.1.1 Tinted Windows

These windows are best to feel secure and enjoy privacy. 

  • They are best because they do not involve any setup. Just park and sleep in the back of your car. 
  • The best part is that you can look through them, but outsiders can not look through the windows. Thus they provide perfect privacy. 

5.1.2 Window Covers

You put them over the windows. They are made of insulated rolled-up sheets. 

5.1.3 Makeshift Cover Using Trash/Bin Bags

Another cheap way to block the windows is using black trash bags. Duct tape them to the inside of your car.

It may look a bit weird, but it will restrict people from peeping inside your car. It will also save you some money. 

5.2 Research About The Surroundings

Once you have decided on your car camping site, you should research that place thoroughly. 

Camping sites have rules and regulations. Campers have to follow them for an overnight car camping trip.

Most places allow overnight stay, but each follows different time limits for car parking. Whereas, some do not allow overnight stays at several spots.

You can’t abruptly park your vehicle anywhere when you are car camping. Otherwise, you will find someone knocking on the window at midnight.

Check the availability of the spot and parking tickets, if any. 

To learn more about staying safe while car camping, read How To Safely Go Car Camping.


The difference between regular and car camping is where you sleep and how to stay safe. 

If you are able to figure out these two things, you will solve the biggest hurdle to car camping. 

Car camping also does not allow you a lot of space. After all, if you camp in a tent, you can fill your car to the brim. However, while car camping you have to manage the space and leave some to sleep. 

Thus, organizing your stuff becomes super important while car camping.

But the freedom and mobility the car provides are immeasurable. 

Happy camping!

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