Car Camping Tips: 7 Simple Hacks for Better Campouts

Car Camping Tips: 7 Simple Hacks for Better Campouts

(Words and Photos: Abigale Nelson)

We all daydream about packing up our car camping essentials and hitting the road with no destination in mind, right? There’s a wanderlust inherent in hitting the road, knowing you can pull over and make home wherever you find the perfect camp spot. As you plan your next four-wheeled foray into the wild, keep these seven simple car camping hacks on hand. They’ll make your travels on the road more enjoyable and your time at camp more comfortable.

Tip #1: Turn Your Nalgene Water Bottle into a Sleeping Bag “Heater”

Have some leftover boiling water from your car-camping meal? Create a sleeping bag “heater” by pouring hot water into your Nalgene bottle. Once sealed tight, wrap in sock or cloth and toss it into the bottom of your sleeping bag to help produce some extra warmth during those cold car camping nights!

Tip #2: Create Privacy and Trap in Heat With Insulated Car Window Covers

Use a tape measure to measure the windows you’d like to cover with a reflective insulation sheet (sheets can be found at a hardware store). Once you’ve purchased your reflective sheet and measured your windows appropriately, go ahead and cut out each window. Once insulation has been cut you may be asking, “How is this going to attach to my window?” The answer: suction cups! You can pick up a handful of suction cups at your local drug store. Make sure to remove the metal part on the suction cups to avoid scratching your window. Cut small round holes in your insulated sheets (doesn’t matter where or how many, just enough to hold up your insulation!). Once holes have been cut, poke your suction cups through. Now, you have some privacy along with some extra warmth at night!

Abigale Nelson - Window insulation

Tip #3: Keep the Moisture Out of Your Car with Leftover Silica Packets

Next time you purchase your CMT gear, make sure to save the silica packets! These packets come in most packaged goods, including hard goods and food, and they’ll help absorb any moisture produced while camping inside your car. All you need is a single sock, and a handful of silica packets. Fill your sock with silica packets, tie your sock shut, and toss it in the car to help keep your car dry and free of condensation! Don’t want to wait for enough packets to accumulate from day to day purchases? You can buy them online for pretty cheap.

silica sock

Tip #4: Give Items Multiple Uses (Like Creating a Dirtbag Pillow)

Pillows don’t take up much room, but it’s important to utilize multi-use items when camping in your car. I suggest putting your dirty clothes (if they don’t smell too terrible) into your sleeping bag stuff sack to make a pillow. That way, you have a place to store your “dirty” laundry and have a pillow. Look for other multi-use items while you’re camping. You’ll be surprised how many things can serve dual purposes.

Tip #5: Even Out Your Bed with Leveling Blocks

When car camping, you never know what type of terrain you’re going to be parking on. Mitigate this unpredictability with a tried and true car camping hack: leveling blocks. Purchase these at your local hardware store or on Amazon. Leveling blocks help make uneven terrain even and make sleeping much more enjoyable.

Abigale Nelson - Leveling Blocks

Tip #6: Freeze Water in Recycled Bottles for Ice Packs

Once you finish your almond milk or coconut water, make sure to keep the container! Prior to camping, wash out the container and fill up with water. Once filled and tightly sealed, place in your freezer to freeze. Make sure to leave a little bit of space in the bottle since the water will expand in the freezer. Once the water is frozen, place the bottle inside your CMT cooler to act as an additional ice pack. If you're camping multiple days and over time your “ice pack” becomes melted, you’re in luck because you now have some drinking water!

Tip # 7: Create a Functional and Comfortable Bed Structure

Whether you are a crafty human or you know someone who is, it’s extremely helpful to create an adjustable bed structure! Brek Leines created a bed structure that slides from a twin sized bed, to a full bed to accommodate when I join him on the road. By having the structure lifted off the ground, you free up additional storage space below your bed for all those car camping necessities.

Abigale Nelson - Car Camp Bed

Is your favorite car camping hack not included? Leave a comment to let us know!


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  • Keith

    Can I please get plans for that van bed?

  • Keith

    Can I please get plans for that van bed?

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