Tips for Car Camping in the Wilderness: Adventure Off the Beaten Path

For those who like to watch civilization fade away in the rearview mirror, a car camping trip is the ultimate getaway. If you’re looking to drive off the beaten path this summer, we have a few tips to help you make the most of your car adventure into the wilderness.

Pack with a plan. When you’re camping out of your car (rather than backpacking and carrying your cargo) it’s tempting to bring every creature comfort you can squeeze in. But, when it’s cold and dark and dinner time, you’ll be glad to find that spatula right where you left it. Use plastic storage bins to categorize the various essentials in your car so they’re easy to find in the dark. This method will also keep the bug spray from rubbing off on your macaroni and those dirty socks away from absolutely everything!

Bring along power adapters. One of the greatest benefits of camping with your car is access to a power source. While you might want to unplug and avoid technology while camping, it’s nice to know that you can charge your smartphone or navigation device in case of emergency. Car power adapters can also be used to blow up air mattresses or recharge items like camping lanterns or a digital camera. Keep in mind that all of these activities will drain energy from your car’s battery. Try to only use your vehicle as a power source while the engine is running to help prevent being stranded with a dead battery.

Tread carefully and quietly. When you venture off the paved road on the way to your campsite, or wherever adventure might be, driving conditions can become unpredictable. As a preventative measure, using four-wheel drive (if you have it) can’t hurt. And while the picturesque wilderness is what brought you out there, don’t let the sights distract you from driving safely. Be alert and on the lookout for stumps, rocks, branches, wildlife, and any terrain that might be slippery or leave you stuck in the mud. Keeping your music low, or avoiding music all together, will help you stay focused and not disturb wildlife or fellow campers.

Don’t store food in the car overnight! Hang it up in a tree. While your vehicle might seem like a safe and secure place to stash the food, it’s not. Bears and other hungry wildlife have been known to break windows and attempt to enter a snack-filled vehicle by whatever means necessary. Plus, you don’t want to risk having the inside of your ride smelling like jerky forever. Read more about how and where to hang your food here.

Don’t forget a first aid kit for you and your vehicle. Hopefully, you wouldn’t go on a camping trip without a personal first aid kit. Similarly, you shouldn’t drive off into the woods without a few basic items to help you recover from a minor auto issue. Always bring along jumper cables, a gas can, and a spare tire kit. Before you leave civilization, fill up the gas can and then stop by the local ranger or conservation office for a real, old-school, paper map. Should you get stranded, or should your high-tech GPS fail, that paper map could lead you to help. If you’re truly in a remote location, ask the ranger which areas they patrol and how often – then you’ll know where to go and wait for help if you find yourself rock-bottom out of options.

Is car camping one of your summer traditions? What is your next camping destination? Let us know in the comments below!

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