10 Things I Learned From My First Car Camping Weekend

10 Things I Learned From My First Car Camping Weekend

Here are 10 things I learned from my first full weekend car camping. But first let me give you some context. We camped about an hour away from my home so traveling a long distance wasn't a concern. I took equipment for others camping with me that I likely wouldn't have taken for just myself such as tents and a canopy which you'll see didn't end so well. I was camping with family and we had two spots at a state park campground.

Due to lots of rain, getting a fire going the first evening (and second) was a little tough but my niece and nephew made it happen!

fire and tent

I got the best night's sleep I ever had camping. However, apparently during my deep slumber, we were dumped on by inches and inches of rain which sent some of us running for home and some of us dealing with dumping water out of a canopy that caved in under all the weight of the water.

raining during camping looking out of car

canopy caved in from water rain

We also dealt with getting water out of a tent and trying to dry out wood for the next night. It rained off and on all day Saturday which was frustrating but it happens. At one point in the afternoon, as I attempted to get some chill time in the hammock, the sprinkling began again and sent me into my cozy car to get a lovely afternoon nap.

The weather cleared up on Sunday enough that my niece who originally left Saturday morning with her toddler (don't blame her one bit) returned and so we stayed one more night. Sunday, we visited the Pymatuning Deer Park with everyone. What a fun place to visit with kids!

pymatuning deer park

pymatuning deer park

pymatuning deer park turtle eating cracker

pymatuning deer park goat at gate

Most headed for home afterward but my niece and I remained with her two young boys. The weather cooperated and turned out to be beautiful Monday so no struggles there.

lake at Pymatuning

Here's what I learned my first full weekend camping in my car, a 2014 Subaru Outback.

inside car while camping1. Buy window screens. These were a life saver. I can't imagine having to keep my windows up (nor is it suggested as you need some ventilation) and you don't want to be dealing with bugs all night. You can buy these on Amazon for very little money.

2. Make or buy window covers. I bought a roll of Reflectix from Home Depot for around $25 for the back windows. I didn't have them cut to size yet so I cut approximate sizes to just stick over the windows for the weekend and it worked fine. However, since then I cut them to fit and they're much nicer and fit much more snug and stay in! 🙂 I hung curtains with a tension rod behind the front seats to close off the front so I didn't have to cover all of those windows individually. Plus, this made it much more cozy. 

reflectix cut out for window3. You'll want a fan for sure. It was lovely bringing the night air in by hanging a rechargeable fan near the cracked window. Like I said, best sleep I ever got camping! This is the one I have.
4. Organization is key! Seriously. The inside of a car is small and you have lots of things that you need to keep track of so have a place for everything.
5. Make sure you know where your keys are at all times in case you need to quickly jump into the drivers seat for any reason. You'll also need them to unlock the doors in the morning before you attempt to open the door. Otherwise you may possibly set your car alarm off waking your camping neighbors. Which I don't think they appreciate. Don't ask me how I learned this pretty quickly. ;)
6. Comfortable bedding is key! I already had a 1.5" foam mattress topper but bought another 3" topper from Walmart and to be honest, still felt I needed a bit more cushion so I added an inflatable mat underneath and that was perfect! I suggest whatever you buy, make sure some of the foam is pretty dense and doesn't just smush right to the ground once you lay on it.
7. If you try a portable female urinal device for that middle of the night pee break, test it out first and know how to use it. Again, don’t ask how I found this out.
8. Pack minimally - you're in a tight space and you'll need room to not only sleep but store your stuff when you go to bed.
9. Purchase a power bank to charge your devices. I have an Ecoflow Delta 2 and it charged my phone and my nephew's phone all weekend. I also used it to boil water in a portable kettle each morning and had over half of the battery power left when I got home on Monday. You don't need something this robust but I do suggest having some sort of power bank.
10. Finally, if you plan on car camping for longer extended periods, I recommend yoga or something to help with flexibility as it does get interesting as you crawl around the back of your car trying to make your bed, put up your privacy panels and honestly, just getting out. My hatchback didn't open from the inside so I had to get out the side door in the back which can take some flexibility on my end.

So there you have it, the 10 things I learned during my first full weekend camping out of my car. I do have to say my niece also slept in her car and said it was the best sleep she's ever gotten camping as well. Get out there and give it a try! Reach out if you have any questions at all. we'd love to help!


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