10 Seriously Useful Car Camping Tips for Beginners-Panergy
1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is key. A lot of campgrounds require reservations, sometimes 6 months or 1 year in advance. If you arrive at a campground that requires a reservation and don’t have one, that’s a bummer.
So the first step is to figure out where you want to camp and determine if reservations are required. If there are first-come, first-served campsites available, plan to arrive early to maximize your chances of getting one.
The next thing to research is the rules and regulations for the campground and the surrounding land.
What are the food storage regulations?
Are there any fire restrictions?
Depending on where you are and the wildlife in the area, there might be specific food storage regulations that you need to follow.
Fire restrictions typically change throughout the year depending on the fire danger. It’s always a good idea to check on this beforehand.
Lastly, I also like to plan out the meals that I’m going to make while I’m camping. This can be especially helpful on long trips or on camping trips with bigger groups.
I like to write out what I’m planning to eat for each meal of the day so I can make sure I actually pack enough food and have all the ingredients I need to cook.
The more planning ahead you can do, the easier things will be when you actually arrive at camp.
2. Know The Surrounding Area
You’ll need to drive to the area that you want to camp, so when you're planning your route, take note of where the closest gas station, grocery store, and emergency center will be to where you’re camping.
If you suddenly need any of those things, it’s nice to know which direction to drive to get there.
3. Share Your Literary
Tell someone where you're going and when you're expected to be back.
Contact them when you return, and if they don't hear from you, tell them to contact the local ranger station.
This is a really simple habit to get into.
4. Be Prepared To Navigate
We’ve become very dependent on our cell phones for navigation.
Type in where you want to go, and boom, you’re on your way!
But what if you don’t have cell service? What if you lose your phone?
I do prefer to use my cell phone for navigation because it’s simple and quick, but it’s always a good idea to have a backup method of navigation too.
Download any digital maps and driving directions on your cell phone. I use the Gaia GPS app for road trips, and I download maps for the area I’m going at home before the trip. That way if I lose service, I can still use the maps.
It’s also a good idea to have a map and compass as a backup method of navigation.
I live in Utah and spend most of my time camping in different places around the state. A good road atlas for your state is also a great thing to have in the car.
5. Stay Organized
Commit to staying organized and it will make everything so much easier!
A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to save money and travel by living out of my car for the Summer.
I quickly realized that staying organized was super important.
As my mom used to say when I was a kid, ‘everything has a home’ - and so it does.
Try to organize your food and gear into bins, that way you always know where to find things.
>> Further Reading: A deep dive into my car camping organization.
6. Plan For The Unexpected
This tip is all about thinking through the possible things that could go wrong - like a flat tire - and trying to be proactive in preparing for them before the trip.
This includes things like:
making sure your vehicle is ready to go with a spare tire
making sure your med kit is up to date and packed
packing jumper cables in case you leave a light on in the car all night
packing extra food and extra water
packing a backup water filter in case you need more drinking water
While it’s certainly not fun to think of the things that could go wrong, it’s a good thing to do because you’ll ultimately be able to handle those ‘oh-crap’ moments a lot better if you encounter them.
>> Further Reading: 6 Things Every Car Camper (and road tripper) Should Own
7. Be Mindful Of Other Campers Around You
When you're out camping, especially at a campground, you'll likely be near other campers.
Just be mindful of your noise level, and make sure kids and pets are not making too much noise or running around through other people's campsites.
I was camping in New York a few years ago, and the kids of nearby campers kept screaming and riding their bikes right through our campsite - it wasn’t exactly the peaceful escape into nature I was hoping for.
Usually, campgrounds have quiet hours, so make sure you know any campground regulations and be mindful of others around you.
8. Pack Those Luxury Items
Bring a few of the ‘luxury items’ that will help you feel more at ease!
What I mean by ‘luxury items’ is just those couple things that aren't necessarily essential, but they would really make things more comfortable or fun for you - I say bring them along!
This could be things like a comfy pillow, a good coffee setup, or some games.
I really like a good cup of coffee in the morning when I’m camping, so I bring along a few extra things so that I can make a pour-over coffee instead of using instant packets. That’s one of my luxury items.
One of the nice things about camping is that it’s an opportunity to simplify and appreciate the little things in life. So while I think it’s great to bring along those extra items to make things more comfortable and fun, try not to bring everything you own.
9. Pack Out Your Trash
I know that this is a pretty obvious thing to do, but it's surprising how many times I've come up to a campsite with trash scattered all over.
I have seen used wipes, pads, tampons, diapers, bottle caps, cans… and sadly, the list goes on.
Don’t forget to pack trash bags, and make sure that your trash is secured so that it doesn’t blow away with a gust of wind.
Lastly, check any trash storage regulations in the are that you’re camping. You don’t want any animals getting into your trash and scattering it all over.
10. Try To Disconnect
The last camping tip I have is a really important one - try to disconnect from social media, your to-do list, and the stress of daily life.
I’m always so amazed by how relaxed I become when I go camping. It's really easy to disconnect when you don't have cell service!
A break from social media is very important for mental health, and it's something that I think we all need a little more often.
Be fully present with the people you’re camping with. Notice more of the things around you. Wonder about nature and how things work. Look up at the night sky.
These moments are what keep me coming back to camping over and over.