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17 Clever Car Camping Hacks: Prep, Pack and Survive

Are you leaving right after work on a last-minute hunting or fishing trip? If there is barely enough time for a weekend trip, why waste time navigating an RV through town? For many outdoorsmen, car camping is a great option. It lets them spend more time in the field or on the water and less time setting up camp. These car camping hacks will make your stay safe, fun and comfortable.

car camping

More Prep and Less Worry

Have you ever left on a last-minute solo camping trip and spent the first 30 minutes of the drive wondering what you forgot? A simple checklist will ensure you have everything you need and make your drive worry-free. Here are a few things to include on that list:

1. You will want a good ice chest that can keep ice all weekend. Block ice or gallon jugs last longer than ice cubes.
2. An inflatable Luci lantern collapses for easy packing but will easily light up camp. It is a chargeable solar lantern that can also charge your cell phone. 
3. A cheap battery-operated fan along with a few cracked windows can keep you cool enough to sleep at night. An open sunroof can also help draw outside air. A window screen for your SUV can keep the bugs out.
4. Wet wipes can help you keep clean when water is scarce. A solar shower is great for warm weather camping or to clean up after a field dressing game.
5. If you are solo camping in an area without restroom facilities, a portable toilet will get you by. They do not take up much space and are much better than the alternative.
6. If you can’t get through a weekend in the woods without some coffee, bring a camp stove or Sterno stove or plan to make a campfire. A Sterno stove is lightweight and provides more than enough heat for dinner or coffee.
7. To keep your car or SUV dark enough to sleep and add a bit of privacy, you will want window shades. You can buy them or make them much like you would for an RV. Many use Reflectix and Velcro to make custom shades for their vehicles. 

Sterno stove Academy

Be a Pack Rat

Be strategic in the things you buy for your trip. Make sure items will pack easily and not take up a lot of room. Space is extremely valuable when car camping. A system of totes is not only easy to load and unload but can keep you organized if done right. Here are some packing ideas:

8. A tote with kitchen items, another for dry food and one for bedding is a great idea. They are also easy to store when you get back home. Many find they car camp more often when they are not packing from scratch every trip.
9. A thin water jug can be left on a picnic table during your stay and packs easily in your vehicle. The waterspout works well when you need a glass of water or filling a coffee pot.
10. Foldable/collapsible totes and bags work well for bulky items like clothes and quilts. They provide easier access and take up less space than traditional luggage. For some items, trash bags will do, and don’t forget to take trash bags to keep your camp clean.
11. A Mambe extreme blanket takes up less room than traditional sleeping blankets. Sleeping bags can be cumbersome to use in a car and even rolled-up ones take up a lot of space.

Survive the Trip

car camping night

Being prepared for emergencies is often the difference between a minor inconvenience and a survival situation. Simple things, like letting friends and family know where you are staying and when you’re coming back, should be done on any outing. Here are a few other survival tips to consider when car camping:

12. Many outdoorsmen never leave home without a pocket knife. In an emergency, it can be priceless. Even opening some of today’s packaging takes a sharp knife. A good folding saw is also a great item to pack in case you need to make a fire.
13. A good first-aid kit is a must. They don’t take much space and can help you keep a small cut from getting infected or treat major wounds until you can get help.
14. Portable power stations and camping solar panels will keep your cell phone and other devices charged up. Cell phones are crucial for making emergency calls, providing GPS services and keeping you up to date on the weather, but you have to keep them charged up.
15. A survival lighter or fire source will let you start a fire when other heat sources are not available. In an emergency, a fire can be seen for miles and will help rescue teams find you. 
16. There are many survival skills that require a folding shovel. The military has used them for decades because they are easy to pack and have 101 uses. It will also help you put out a fire or trench around a tent to keep the water out.
17. If you are camping in bear country, a bear canister will keep your food safe. Be sure not to keep the canister in your car, or you may come back to broken windows if a bear happens to come by. 

Car Camping Made Easy

There is no need to break the bank on a lodge, cabin or RV park for a weekend hunting or fishing trip. You can pack up Thursday evening, work Friday and be in the woods or on the water Friday afternoon. When you are car camping at the trailhead of your favorite spot, you can spend more time doing what you love and less time driving back and forth. These 17 tips should have you ready to hit the road for your next car camping experience.

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