10 Tips for Car Camping

Summer is the perfect time to sleep under the stars. And with the Great American Campout this weekend, why not pack up the car and find a room with a view?

Not every camping trip has to be a Wild-esque adventure. Car camping is a great way to ease into the outdoors. It’s fun, easy, and accessible to everyone.

Here are ten tips to make your campsite a true home away from home:

Bring a first-aid kit—A first-aid kit is an essential piece of gear, especially if your camping trips involve hiking, mountain biking, or other recreational activities. However, even collecting wood for the evening fire has its share of risks. Purchase a prepackaged kit, and consider taking a first-aid class or at least picking up a first-aid guide so that you know what to do in an emergency.

Reserve your campsite—Last-minute campers will almost always find a site somewhere, but those who want a particular “somewhere” should plan ahead. Many state and national parks take online reservations, and other campgrounds can be called in advance.

Prepare for the weather—It goes without saying that rain gear is essential. Campers also need warm clothing, especially in the spring and fall. When consulting the weather forecast for a trip, be sure to note the nighttime lows. Other essentials include a pack of playing cards and a book. If you’re going to be stuck in a tent, better have something to do!

Consider your tent site—The best place to pitch your tent is on level ground. Avoid tree roots and rocks. Also try to imagine where water might flow if it rains. And to avoid mosquitoes infiltrating your temporary abode, try to keep some distance from tall bushes and grass.

Consider your camping colleagues—A camping trip can be a great bonding experience. But realize that everyone approaches the art of camping from a different perspective. Discuss the trip ahead of time and set expectations so that you don’t come away with a car full of enemies.

Be a good neighbor—The Golden Rule, “Treat your neighbor as you yourself would like to be treated,” applies to camping as much as it does to life in general. Watch your noise at camp. Don’t leave garbage about. Don’t let the kids run through other campsites.

Follow the rules—Campground rules are established to maintain a sense of order in a public place used by many different people. Not only do the rules help campground staff go about their business, they act as a fence between campers. In general, things like following the posted quiet hours and taking care of your trash help to maintain amicable relations between strangers.

Respect the wilderness—When camping in wilderness areas, follow a strict carry-in-carry out policy. Don’t cut down any trees or brush to use as firewood or kindling. Stay on marked trails to not damage the undergrowth.

Consider outdoor activities—Part of the allure of camping is waking up close to your favorite outdoor activities. Select a campground that’s within close proximity to your favorite hiking trail, lake, or outdoor recreational spot.

Bring the kitchen sink—The beauty of car camping is that you have your, well, car. Which in turn allows you to pack luxuriously. Don’t hesitate to bring a cooler full of steak and shrimp to cook on your heavy cast iron pan. Same goes for games, a strand of lights, or even an air mattress and pillows.

Respect everyone’s marshmallows—A certain etiquette applies when it comes to roasting marshmallows over a campfire. For practical purposes, having enough sticks on hand is as important as remembering Hersey bars. It’s important to respect boundaries. That is, don’t cross sticks and accidentally push someone else’s marshmallow into the ashes! It’s also wise to pay attention. Marshmallows on the ground can be a bummer, but it’s only fun and games until someone gets a poker in the eye.

These tips are from Best Tent Camping: Michigan by Matt Forster. Check out the Best Tent Camping series to find great car camping sites in your state!


Tanya Twerdowsky
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