10 Tips For A Successful Car - Camping Road Trip
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10 Tips for A Successful Car  -  Camping Road Trip

1. Do a dry run

Before you set out on your big trip, test your gear on a short, local camping trip and find out what’s missing or isn’t working.

2. Just bin it

One advantage of car camping is the ability to bring a lot with you. But, when you’re on a 4-week trek, the space in your car gets a little more precious. We bought some good-sized bins that fit neatly in the rear of our Forester and filled them with related equipment (cooking supplies in one bin, tent and bedding in another, etc.). That way, we always knew where everything was and removed the bins only as needed. Bonus: when the trip’s over, you can just stack those bins in your garage or storage unit and they’ll be all ready for next time.

3. Divvy up your luggage

Stow the clothes and supplies you need for a night of camping in a small bag, which you can keep with you in the tent. But remember that bears are attracted to the smell of some toiletries, like shampoo or flavored lip balm. If you’re in bear country, those need to stay in a bear-proof locker or canister.

4. Sleep on air

We’ve talked about the glories of inflatable bedding before, and I highly recommend it. When you’re getting up at dawn with 200 miles to drive, you need a good night’s rest. Our air mattress is compact, sturdy, and comes with its own pleasingly efficient inflating device. We even brought it on our kayaking trip to the San Juan Islands, where it barely fit in the tent provided. (Our fellow kayakers teased us, but we had the last laugh when we crawled into our bow-shaped but comfy bed at night.)

Just make sure the inflator is fully charged when you’re ready to set up camp. If it’s battery powered, stock up on spare batteries before you leave home. If it’s a plug-in, remember to juice it up whenever you find a plug (the campground bathroom, a Laundromat, or those nights you decide to stay in a motel).

Now it's camping season in the UK. So I sit at my driving lessons london office to write this post.

5. Fire up the camp stove

When you’re on the road for weeks at a time, eating all your meals in restaurants gets expensive (plus, campgrounds are often miles from the nearest town). With a camp stove, a few cans of propane, and a well-stocked cooler, you can have fresh, hot coffee and fragrant bacon in the morning or rustle up fajitas or pasta at night, all without leaving the comfort of your campfire. Being able to heat up water for washing your dishes is also really nice.

Note: if you’re in bear country, be sure to put all food, unwashed dishes, and anything else that smells like food in a food-storage locker before retiring for the night. If you aren’t sure if lockers are available where you’ll be camping, consider buying or renting some bear-resistant canisters. (Don’t store food in your car — bears in some popular camping areas recognize the shape of a cooler — and definitely not in your tent.)

6. Invest in a roomy tent

The fun of camping will start to fade quickly if your tent’s too cramped. Look for one where you can stand upright (or at least mostly upright), with room for your camping bags as well as your mattress. (Going to your car every time you need something gets old fast.) You might also consider a tent with a vestibule around the door — it offers welcome protection from the sun and rain and a handy place to store muddy shoes.

7. Stake out your spot early

Many campgrounds (particularly in national parks) are first-come, first-served. If you show up an hour before sunset, you risk finding the campground full or getting stuck with a terrible campsite. If you have your heart set on a particular spot, get there ASAP, especially if the campground is known to be popular.

8. No showers? No problem.

Not all of our campgrounds had showers, but we were still able to stay reasonably clean by setting up a wash station in front of our tent. The aforementioned vestibule and a few carefully placed towels offered privacy, while a large bowl filled with water (heated on the camp stove) and a small bottle of shower gel helped us tackle the grime.

9. Don’t forget firewood and ice

Many campgrounds have stores or offices where you can buy these necessities, but not all of them do, so keep your eye out for grocery stores or markets along the way. You’ll need ice to keep the food in your cooler fresh. And while a campfire isn’t essential, sitting by a crackling fire is one of the absolute best things about camping. A campsite with no firewood is just sad.

10. Go deluxe once in a while

Camping is great. Sleeping under the stars is wonderful. Roughing it is fun. But after 4 or 5 days, it can start to get on your nerves. Now and again, splurge on a motel room and enjoy a long, hot shower, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi. Go to a roadhouse and take in a hearty dinner and some local color. Have drinks at a fantastic mountain lodge. After a little indulgence, you’ll be refreshed and ready to pitch your tent again.

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