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27 Borderline Genius Ideas For Anyone Who Camps With Their Car

Where are *you* gonna go?

Posted on
Zoë Burnett / BuzzFeed

Car camping! Like camping, but easier.

“Car camping" just means there are roads that let you drive your car directly up to your campsite — instead of, say, parking further away and hiking to it. Some car campers sleep in their cars, some prefer to set up tents. Some sites even have communal bathrooms with showers campers can use. Because your car's with you, it can be really easy to go to several different campsites over the course of a week or two — or try a longer, intense camping road trip.

Where should I go?

Backpacker and Blue Ridge Outdoors both have lists of great places to camp that let you drive to your site instead of hike; and Free Campsites is a map of the whole US that lets you find free campsites near you. And before you head out, remember to read the CDC's safety and health tips, and the US Forest Service's safety tips.

Want to give it a try? These tips make it easier to ~get on the road~:

1. Hang battery- or solar-powered string lights to light up your cozy car-sleeping evenings.

No campfire, no problem: As long as the weather's nice and you have something to eat, this is all the light you need.
forrestmankins / instagram.com / forrestmankins.com

No campfire, no problem: As long as the weather's nice and you have something to eat, this is all the light you need.

2. Store strike-anywhere matches in a mason jar topped with sandpaper.

Read more about how to put this together at Craftaholics Anonymous.
craftaholicsanonymous.net

Read more about how to put this together at Craftaholics Anonymous.

3. Build a simple platform for your air mattress to stash storage underneath if you car camp frequently.

See more pictures of this traveling Australian surfer's van on Instagram; find a tutorial for building one at home using wood here, one using PVC pipe here, and one for a compact car here.
avanventure / instagram.com

See more pictures of this traveling Australian surfer's van on Instagram; find a tutorial for building one at home using wood here, one using PVC pipe here, and one for a compact car here.

4. Turn a sheet into a privacy curtain by slipping binder clips into the gap between your car's plastic and upholstery.

Make it ~cuter~ with that pretty tapestry from your college dorm. Get the full tutorial on Instructables.

5. Plop a bar of soap into old pantyhose, tie it to a water jug, and everyone can have clean hands.

Read more about how this setup works at Art Wife Needs a Life.
artwifeneedsalife.blogspot.de

Read more about how this setup works at Art Wife Needs a Life.

6. Cover your drinks with dollar-store cupcake liners for bug-free sips in the sunshine.

You could try it with plastic wrap, but these are easier when you want a refill. Get the how-to on Mom4Real.
mom4real.com

You could try it with plastic wrap, but these are easier when you want a refill. Get the how-to on Mom4Real.

7. Secure a tarp with bungee cords for a "porch" that will keep out the rain without having to close your car doors (so you can still ~smell the rain~).

You'd have to eventually turn on the car to keep it from getting too warm or cold if you closed the car up. Read more on Minivan Camper.
minivancamper.tumblr.com

You'd have to eventually turn on the car to keep it from getting too warm or cold if you closed the car up. Read more on Minivan Camper.

8. Then boost up the tarp with two poles or sticks to make a covered porch for sitting, eating, and shade.

Learn all about how to make this setup work on Sway Go Gear.
swaygogear.com

Learn all about how to make this setup work on Sway Go Gear.

9. Keep the windows open but the bugs out: cut custom magnetic window screens to attach to the outside of your car.

Basically fail-proof, as long as you use plenty of strong magnets. Get the how-to from National Park Paws, and find a more involved make-ahead version that attaches the magnets *to* the screen at Campfire Chic.
nationalparkpaws.com

Basically fail-proof, as long as you use plenty of strong magnets. Get the how-to from National Park Paws, and find a more involved make-ahead version that attaches the magnets *to* the screen at Campfire Chic.

10. Barricade against bugs in the back by hanging mosquito netting over your open trunk.

Read more about budget Subaru camping here.
forum.expeditionportal.com

Read more about budget Subaru camping here.

11. Hang a shoe organizer for essentials like walkie-talkies, bug sprays, and late-night flash lights.

If you're in a car and not a pop-up camper, hang it over the front passenger seat. Read more on The Pop-Up Princess.
thepopupprincess.com

If you're in a car and not a pop-up camper, hang it over the front passenger seat. Read more on The Pop-Up Princess.

12. Cut a slot in the bottom of a Glad container to avoid a squashed Kleenex box.

It'll buy you time to bring the box inside if there's a surprise rainstorm. From Pagemaps.
pagemaps.com

It'll buy you time to bring the box inside if there's a surprise rainstorm. From Pagemaps.

13. Or, hook your Kleenex box onto L-brackets for a windproof paper-goods station.

Check out Creekline House for the tutorial and more useful camping tips.
creeklinehouse.com

Check out Creekline House for the tutorial and more useful camping tips.

14. Balance a foldable camping table on your bumper to create a kitchen in a small campsite.

It just needs to have legs the same height as your car's bumper. Get more tips and learn how to pack a functional car camping pantry and kitchen on Fresh Off the Grid.
freshoffthegrid.com

It just needs to have legs the same height as your car's bumper. Get more tips and learn how to pack a functional car camping pantry and kitchen on Fresh Off the Grid.

15. Hang a closet sweater organizer on your open trunk or under a canopy for easy access to the things you need most often.

Get more camping tips and ideas on SunnySimpleLife.
sunnysimplelife.com

Get more camping tips and ideas on SunnySimpleLife.

16. Prevent loud tablecloth flapping: hammer in some grommets and anchor with bungee cords.

Get the full tutorial on Martha Stewart.
Photograph by Earl Carter. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living.

Get the full tutorial on Martha Stewart.

17. Get hipster with your coffee, and boil water for pour-over or Chemex on a small propane stove.

Good coffee in the morning = a good day, guaranteed. And reusable camp stoves are cheap, like this one, $11.09.
fordyates / instagram.com

Good coffee in the morning = a good day, guaranteed. And reusable camp stoves are cheap, like this one, $11.09.

18. Prep pancake batter in advance, and store it in disposable icing bags.

When you're at camp, cut a hole in the tip and squeeze into the skillet. Get the full tutorial from A Mum 'n' the Oven.
amumntheoven.blogspot.com

When you're at camp, cut a hole in the tip and squeeze into the skillet. Get the full tutorial from A Mum 'n' the Oven.

19. Re-label the tops of cheap medicine containers to make a $5 packable spice rack.

Read the full tutorial on Miss Tweedle.

20. Beat nosy bears with bear-proof canisters.

Here, don't use a hack — be safe. Bear bags have been used for years, but they don't always work. Some national parks (like Yosemite) provide bear lockers, so you don't have to worry about bringing something, so do your research before you go. Otherwise, if you're in a bear-area (bear-ea?), bring protection. Read more about bear protection — including info on where the National Park Service provides lockers, and where they require canisters — on REI's blog.
rei.com

Here, don't use a hack — be safe. Bear bags have been used for years, but they don't always work. Some national parks (like Yosemite) provide bear lockers, so you don't have to worry about bringing something, so do your research before you go.

Otherwise, if you're in a bear-area (bear-ea?), bring protection. Read more about bear protection — including info on where the National Park Service provides lockers, and where they require canisters — on REI's blog.

21. If you're sleeping in a tent and not your car, clear drawers = an easy-access car pantry.

This is a great use of trunk space, especially if you're traveling with a family or group. (Skip this if you're in bear country.) From Mountain Campingz.
mountaincampingz.com

This is a great use of trunk space, especially if you're traveling with a family or group. (Skip this if you're in bear country.) From Mountain Campingz.

22. Know what kind of campfire works best for what you want to do, if you plan to build one.

Get everything you need to know about building these fires on Get Out With the Kids.
getoutwiththekids.co.uk

Get everything you need to know about building these fires on Get Out With the Kids.

Love the idea of a Swedish Torch, but not the chainsaw part? Tie six pre-cut logs together with wire, and voilà.

It's the perfect long-burning campfire that you can also cook on, if you have a cast-iron pot or pan. Get the how-to on Fresh Off The Grid.
freshoffthegrid.com

It's the perfect long-burning campfire that you can also cook on, if you have a cast-iron pot or pan. Get the how-to on Fresh Off The Grid.

23. Ice melts fast on hot days — help your cooler beat the heat with this quick-to-make cover.

Easy on, easy off, and you can use the cooler you already have. Get the tutorial on Diana Rambles.
dianarambles.com

Easy on, easy off, and you can use the cooler you already have. Get the tutorial on Diana Rambles.

24. Instead of buying expensive camping equipment, find everyday things that can serve ~dual purposes~.

Get more camping tips on Fix.com.
fix.com

Get more camping tips on Fix.com.

That water + headlamp trick really works, btw.

Get more camping hacks from the folks at REI on their blog, Co-Op Journal.
blog.rei.com

Get more camping hacks from the folks at REI on their blog, Co-Op Journal.

25. If you'd rather wear your headlamp on your head (or avoid headlamps, period) anchor solar-powered garden lanterns in upside-down terra cotta pots.

Wind-proof wonders that you can put anywhere, as long as they get enough light in the day to charge their batteries. (And of course stake 'em in the ground when you need 'em there.) Read more on Starling Travel.
starling-travel.com

Wind-proof wonders that you can put anywhere, as long as they get enough light in the day to charge their batteries. (And of course stake 'em in the ground when you need 'em there.) Read more on Starling Travel.

26. Pack a grab-and-go poo kit if your campsite doesn't have bathroom facilities nearby.

My personal rule is to only go to campsites with bathrooms, but if you're roughing it, make sure you ~actually~ leave no trace. Learn everything about camp hygiene on Trail to Summit.
trailtosummit.com

My personal rule is to only go to campsites with bathrooms, but if you're roughing it, make sure you ~actually~ leave no trace. Learn everything about camp hygiene on Trail to Summit.

27. Feeling lazy?* Rent a van that's already outfitted with a bed and kitchen for just $60/night.

Vagabond Vans in Oregon offers 3-day, 5-day, and 2-week rentals. *And willing to start your trip in Portland?
vagabondvans / Instagram: @vagabondvans

Vagabond Vans in Oregon offers 3-day, 5-day, and 2-week rentals.

*And willing to start your trip in Portland?