The Art of Car Camping

According to the calendar, spring is less than a week away. This means the season of car camping is quickly approaching—or, if you don’t mind overnight temperatures in the teens, it is already here.


There are many benefits to car camping. First, there is little setup required. There are no tent poles to assemble, stakes to pound into the dirt, or flies to line up over the tent doors. Most cars are waterproof, so all of your gear and clothing should stay dry inside. Better yet, you don’t have to stuff your vehicle, soaking wet, into a little bag after a rainy night like you would your tent. Car camping is the lazy version of overnighting in the wilderness or parking lot of your favorite crag; however, achieving the ideal sleeping configuration does require a bit of gear shuffling.

For those of you lucky enough to have a van, you probably have a mattress or bomber crash pad sleeping arrangement. I am envious and offer you no advice, as I have never had the luxury of camping in such spacious accommodations.

If you have a truck, I have little advice for you either, except that I recommend you invest in one of these courtesy of Casual Turtle Campers:


However, if you’re spending the night in a small to medium-sized vehicle, I can help: 

  1. Throw all of your gear except for sleeping bags and crash pads in the front seats. Make sure you put your snacks and toothbrush on top of the pile, so you don’t have to yardsale your gear in the parking lot at 9 p.m. when you need to satisfy your Ranch Wheat Thins craving or locate your Colgate.
  2. Stash any extra supplies that won’t fit up front, especially things you might want later in the evening or when you wake up in the morning, in the backseat floorboard.
  3. Fold down the back seats. If you have a hatchback, count yourself lucky for the car equivalent of cathedral ceilings. If you have a trunk, still fold down the back seats and get psyched that the storage space by the rear window is now conveniently a nightstand.
  4. Unfold your comfiest crash pad (if you have one) so it fills as much of the backseat and trunk/hatchback region of the car as possible. Unroll your sleeping bag, toss down your pillow if you brought one, and enjoy.

Additional tip for bouldering trips: Extra crash pads can be placed above or below the vehicle depending on the likelihood of precipitation and their getting stolen while you snooze.

Originally published March 16, 2015, on 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. camitidsworth says:

    Whoa, I have almost this exact same setup…like even your sleeping bag looks similar to mine🤯. I agree though, car camping is definitely an art and can be super fun when you figure it out!


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