Time to Try Car Camping!

Posted by Whole Earth | 06.17.2021

Fixing dinner with colorful tasty veggies on a family car camping trip



Time to Try Car Camping!


Ready to go camping with the family but not quite sure what you need and how to go about it?  Whole Earth can help! A good way to ease into camping is to begin with car camping. Despite the sound of it, car camping doesn't mean sleeping in a car. Consider the car as a pack animal that gets you to the campsite with all your gear and supplies. And after you set up camp, the car’s a bit like a storage closet with wheels. You can stow items you won’t need every day or items you’d like to keep locked up when they’re not in use.


First up, here are a few questions to ask yourself. They’ll help you focus your expectations and determine what you may need to pack. Do you want to go camping to get away from it all? To return to nature? To hike? To explore? To have fun with your family or friends? To be quiet and listen to the birds or the sound of a rocky river? Some of the above or something else altogether? Having the answers to these and other questions will help you better plan your camping adventure.


Exploring the falls at McKinney Falls State Park in TexasIf you want to get away from it all, then choosing a state park or campground that's not one the most popular may be the way to go. Fewer people may mean more birdsong and other natural sounds to create a peaceful retreat and help you relax. If you're planning to hike, check out the hikes close to your destination or choose your destination based on the hikes you'd like to take. The same is true if you want to explore a whole variety of possibilities in a particular area. Families and groups of friends may want to look for outdoor activities and a few other points of interest near by.


So you've chosen your destination. What are the essentials for the trip? Shelter, sleeping arrangements, food and water, light, and dealing with bugs and possible predators.


A stuffed animal friend shares a sleeping bag What’s the right size tent for your trip? A two, three or four person? More? How many people are you planning to shelter? Are you a couple? A whole family? A group of friends?  Once you've settled on a tent, practice putting it up before you leave. It will make setting up camp easier. Sleeping bags can keep you warm and comfortable at night. Some bags are made for warmer weather than others. Consider a liner too. They can add extra warmth and help to keep your sleeping bag clean and bugs out. Inflatable sleeping pads are another must-have that can make all the difference for a restful night's sleep.  And bringing a bedtime friend from home can help kids sleep better when camping.


What food should you bring and how much cooking should you plan for? First, decide how many meals and snacks you'll need. Will you be eating some meals out? Will you be cooking in camp or using prepackaged just-add-boiling-water camp food? However you choose to prepare meals, make a detailed meal plan for your trip. Remember that appetites can increase dramatically from hiking and other outdoor activities. If you're planning to cook, a test run for your main meal recipes may be a good idea. Sometimes, recipes look easier and tastier than they truly are. Start a recipe file for your best camp recipes. Don't forget a cooler for the items that need to be refrigerated plus ice for drinks if the weather is warm.


What about water and how to store it?  Generally speaking, each person should have a gallon of water per day. Will you have access to water at your campsite? If not, you'll have to bring water for drinking, cooking, dish washing and personal hygiene. You can bring water from home in Water Cubes. These have the benefit of being reusable and have a built in handles and taps.  


A BioLite TraveLight 135 illuminating a tent at nightWhat sort of light sources will you need? Flashlights, lantern, headlamps? Flashlights or headlamps will be useful for finding your way in the dark to restrooms, campground events and to the campsite. Headlamps can also be helpful for reading or other activities. Lanterns can help illuminate the campsite for cooking or your evening gathering. Smaller lanterns that can be hung from the ceiling of the tent are also a possibility. If your lights run on batteries, be sure to bring some extras. Power banks can also keep your electronic devices charged and ready for use.


What are potential hazards and how to deal them? Generally speaking, these break down into two categories - weather and critters, including bugs. In Texas, flash floods are a real possibility. If you're camping near a stream or river, you'll want to keep an eye on the weather and follow any warnings you might receive from rangers or other folks in the know.


If you're camping in an area with large predators like bears, learn about their habits, follow all instructions for keeping food from attracting them to your campsite, and always keep your distance. And even if bears are not in the area, possums and raccoons would love to share your food, so keep it safe! Bugs are challenging as well. If you're in tick or mosquito territory, be generous in your use of insect repellant. They can carry diseases you'll want to avoid. And do remember to take a first aid kit for those unforeseen scrapes or other emergencies.


Kids hanging out at a campsite in camping hammocks.Having a tentative itinerary for your camping trip can also be helpful. By providing a mix of activities should the weather be uncooperative or your crew is just too tired for one more hike, you can help keep group enthusiasm afloat. Be sure to build in some rest time. Everyone will be in better spirits for the remainder of the day. Take a camping hammock or two with you for some relaxing breaks. And don't forget some games or books for the kids.



These are just a few ideas for your car camping trip. We have one more suggestion. Start a camping journal where you document your adventures. Date, place, special moments (add photos!) and most important of all, lessons learned. If you have questions about gear for car camping, visit our stores where our knowledgeable staff will be glad to help you get ready for car camping and beyond!


Here's a Car Camping Checklist to help you plan your next adventure!


Car Camping Checklist



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