Car camping

How to Turn Your Car or Truck Into a Camping Monster

Camping season is fast-approaching, and with it comes the scramble for the right gear, always too close to the actual trip.  Many people wind up thinking only about certain types of gear; they neglect their sleeping bags for the tent, for example.  When you’re getting into your packing list and approaching your trip date, make sure you don’t forget your vehicle!

Car camping has become increasingly popular over the years, and even if you aren’t staying in your car, it’s a good idea to have a few things handy for anything that pops up.  Whether you’re firing up the RV or outfitting a city car, here’s how to turn your vehicle into a well-oiled camping machine:

Clean it Out

The most obvious move and sometimes the hardest, the best way to prepare your car for camping is to clean out the inside.  Any extra junk you have lying around in your car is not only going to take up space, but it will make things easier to lose (and trust me, you will lose things).  

Cleaning out everything makes the experience of driving much nicer, and for most camping trips, there is a fair amount of driving involved.  But even if you aren’t, you’ll probably accumulate some trash or spread out from your tight packing from when you had all the time and energy for it.  It’s best to be able to easily remove this stuff rather than having to get rid of tons of stuff; best to clean it out now while you’re not thrashed from sleeping on the ground for a week.

Get a Trash Bag

When camping, you need to pack out all of your trash yourself.  It can be tempting to just let trash accumulate in the car, as it prevents needing to worry about picking it up, but letting your car get dirty like that just ruins the pleasantness of being in the interior.

Luckily, there are a ton of vehicle-specific trash cans out there that can fix this problem.  Most of these trash cans are small and hang off of one of the seatbacks; they take up as little space as possible, and help keep everything nice and clean; well, as clean as can be when camping.

Prepare for Doomsday

No one is ever sad that they overprepared; it’s much better to have and not need than to need and not have.  So make sure you have some contingency plans with regards to your vehicle.  Plenty of things can go wrong out on the road, and you’ll want to be ready and able to deal with any problem that arises.

Some very common car items like jumper cables are really helpful, as well as extra fluids (whatever your car tends to run low on, though coolant is always a good option).  A jerry can, filled up before arriving at the campsite, can save you in a pinch.  And even if you have an extra key, consider a slim jim in case you wind up locking your keys inside; I’ve done this, and the options available to you are not pleasant.

Check the Weather

This is more general for camping, but the weather can affect what you purchase for your vehicle as well.  For example, if you’re taking the pickup camping in the Pacific Northwest would probably want to take a look at some new truck bed covers, lest they wind up with camping supply soup in their bed.  If it’s snowing where you’re going, tire chains are an absolute must.  And for hot weather, consider a seat cover or a fan to help keep you comfortable.  

Weather has the potential to squash any camping trip, so you should be checking the weather anyway, but don’t forget to factor your vehicle into the equation.  You’ll likely be spending a lot of time there, so it pays to invest in your comfort while inside.


Camping is a wonderful activity to do with friends and family, and with camping season approaching fast, you’re going to want to make sure that your car is prepared to take you where you want to go.  The worst thing that can happen to a prospective camper is failing to prepare adequately, and winding up stranded in the wilderness without something essential. When packing, a person’s vehicle may become an afterthought, less important than the camping gear itself; but this is a mistake.  If you want to feel comfortable driving around as you look for your campground or on your way back home, then taking some time to really think about it can help turn your camping trip into a slew of fond memories.

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