Camping,  Outdoors

Camping in the Car: How to make the most out of your trip

As the weather gets colder, camping becomes a lot more limited. However, the changing leaves, empty sites, and desire to break away from the awful news and political battles of 2020 make camping seam a lot more appealing in the colder months. How to make this happen? Camping in the car!

Ok, so this is a tip for those with a bigger vehicle. We have a Subaru Impreza hatchback that fits me and my husband just fine, even with him being over six feet tall. I have a sad old Pontiac Grand Am. It’s paid off and I work from home, so I never drive lol. We don’t sleep in that.

These past few weeks, we had to get out a little bit. We had to be far, far away from cell phone service.

But, if you’ve been paying any attention to the forests in Colorado, there are a lot of fires. We were able to find a spot with decent air quality but there is obviously a ban on campfires. With it getting chillier, this can be quite the bummer.

RELATED: Camping without a campfire

But that’s where the car comes in.

Having that extra layer of protection keeps you a million times warmer on these chilly nights. Also, set up and clean up are a total breeze! My tent is over ten years old and needs to be retired this winter. Not only is it a bit broken, but the weathering fabric makes it that much more difficult to set up since the poles poke through.

So, this inspired us to finish up the season in the car and boy did we come on to something. We got to enjoy the amazing colors of fall (at least 2020 has something going for in, right?) while staying extra cozy and warm while still respecting the fire bans.    

RELATED: Why you should camp in the fall

However, I have not always been the best at camping in the car, even in a slightly bigger vehicle. These last couple times, we totally perfected the art. Get ready for an amazing romantic evening out in the wilderness! Here is what you will need.


The main use of your vehicle is for sleep so you’re going to want to make it extra cozy. I highly highly highly recommend bringing some kind of sleeping pad or mat. I’m partial to the Big Agnes products but you’ll definitely want cushion.

My handyman friend made a little shelf with wood to create a flatter surface in the back and more storage for organization in the bottom. Personally, I have just stuffed extra gear and pills in between the top of the folded down seats to keep it more level. There are also little back seat extender things for pets that would work on amazon.

The main point though is to make it comfortable. I’ve slept without a pad and woke up extremely sore. This made all the difference.

Also, consider adding something to shade the windows in the morning and crack the window before you go to bed. You’ll thank me later.


In addition to making a comfortable bed while camping in the car, you are going to want to bring all the pillows. Honestly, why not? Camping in the car means your things are more likely to stay dry and clean. Plus, extra padding! Think of it as making a small fort.

I even like to bring my favorite stuffed animals to cuddle up with. I know, I’m an adult. But hey, it’s fun to bring yourself back to your inner child. That’s how I like to think of camping anyways.

If you feel like splurging, my new Rumpl blanket that my husband just got me is unbelievably warm and super stylish. It’s pricey but it keeps you unbelievably warm and packs into a tiny bag.

However, you really don’t need anything too spendy to stay warm especially since you are in a car. Just pack in those blankets and you’ll be good to go.


Remember, think of this like a fort. What would be neat in a fort? String lights of course! Plus, you don’t want to kill your battery while camping in the car. Keep these lights fun and safe and opt for a cool solar-powered light like this one.  Not only does it create great ambiance, but it also helps for those awesome glamping chic pics that to remember this cozy night.

Also, you’ll want a functional light. I honestly love this bad boy because it has a warm light setting, charges USB, can charge your phone, and is magnetic! It was great to just snap on the car whenever I needed it. It’s also quite affordable and packs quite the punch for a small lantern.

Bringing ambient lights are especially important if you can’t have a fire for whatever reason. I like to think of it as camping while at a music festival. Obviously, most festival camping bans fires on their grounds. Ambient lights really keep the night special no matter what kind of camping you do.

RELATED: GAMPING: The Ultimate Guide to glamping up your camping trip

I’ve even added little portable disco balls to create a fun little dancefloor before we end the night. Obviously, out of respect to other campers, I tend to only bring out these bad boys when we are in dispersed sites to not disrupt anyone around.

I will say, make a point to walk away from your lights a few times a night. Star gazing is part of what makes camping great and shouldn’t be missed when camping in the car.  


I understand. You want to keep the mess in a car minimal. One big thing is to make sure you take off your shoes in the car.

However, this can easily become a nuisance. I solved this by adding a sand-proof outdoor rug right in front of my car like this one. These are generally used for RV camping and has been an amazing addition to my collection. It is cute, adds space where I can walk barefooted, and for these purposes, gives me a great spot to take off those shoes without getting my feet extremely dirty.

I personally don’t love walking barefooted on the ground in the dark. There could be glass, feces, or bugs underneath. It’s also usually an unpleasant temperature or texture. Having a rug right by the back of my vehicle saves me from this issue while adding that glamping chic touch that I love.


Like with any kind of camping, it is important to be prepared for any kind of weather. I’ve been in it all: extreme wind, rain, snow, and even a Fourth of July hail storm.

Therefore, you should always bring extra tarps, even while camping in the car.

My friend used tarps and surrounding trees to build walls that would extend the back of his car. It created this kind of cave. Let me tell you, in a desert wind storm in Southern Utah, this was the spot to be in.

Plus, you can add a little heater like this guy to warm up that cave.

You also may want to bring a small pop up shade like this if it gets sunny. This could also help create that extended cave or room like structure if you don’t have trees around you or you’re not as skilled with tarps and rope. You’ll want to make sure it’s sturdy and staked in appropriately. Just make sure that you don’t keep this up if it’s too windy. These bad boys are known to wreak havoc in car damage at windy music festivals.

 There you have it!

Here are a few of my main tips that are specific to camping in the car. As a big glamper with a little budget, I love finding new ways to really boost the camping experience. If you have cool ideas for camping in the car that you have tried, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and have fun out there.

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