How to Go Car Camping – The Basics

Car Camping

Car camping is a lot of fun, particularly after some planning and preparation. Here we examine basic considerations for a smooth car camping trip.

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

Chris & Mac
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Car camping is great.  It enables us to bring creature comforts we could not bring if we were backpacking due to size and weight limitations.  We can simply pull up and unload our vehicle.  That said, there are a few tricks that can make car camping all the more enjoyable.

    • Have a Car Camping List on Your Computer

We learned early on that reinventing the wheel with a new packing list is a waste of time and often results in forgotten items.  As such, we have a running list for car camping on our computer to which we add items as the occasion warrants.  We simply print the list, scratch the items we don’t need for a particular trip, then check off the remaining items as we pack them.  If you would like a starting point, see our article “Car Camping Starter List”.

    • Know the Amenities of the Campground and Your Site

To properly prepare, you should know whether your site has water and electric or whether you will be “dry camping” (no water or electric).  You should also determine whether the campground has flush toilets and showers or pit toilets and no showers, as well as whether potable water is available in the campground.  Also make sure to determine if the campground has food storage requirements due to rodents or bears.  Additionally, determine if the campground allows campfires and, if so, whether it sells wood.  All of this will dictate what to bring with you.  Simply envision how you will operate in the campsite/campground and determine what you need.  For example, if you have electric you might want a coffee pot and electric lights to hang from your tent or canopy.  If the site does not have electric, you might want to bring a camp stove and a stove percolator, as well as headlamps or a lantern for lighting.  You get the point, just think things through and add any needed items to your running list.

    • Use Bins!

Plastic bins not only make organizing your gear easy, they make packing your vehicle much easier.  Another benefit is you can keep the bins in your site and store items in them that you don’t want sitting out or in case of rain.

    • If You Car Camp Regularly

If you car camp regularly, it makes trip preparation much easier to have dedicated gear.  Aside from your actual camping equipment, old pots and pans, coffee maker or percolator, etc. can be part of the gear you store in your bins, together with things like extension cords, knives, forks, spoons, cooking utensils, etc.  It also makes sense to have as much of what you need when you camp permanently stored with your standard camping gear such as sleeping bags, tent, etc.  This saves a ton of time in camping preparation and clean-up.  We even keep pepper, salts, garlic powder, and other spices we use when we camp in the bins to speed the packing process.

Preparation for and execution of a car camp is a breeze if you know about the campground and site, use your standing list, and organize your gear for easy execution.  Now get out there and have fun!

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

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