Car camping might be a pursuit of leisure, but in order to relax in the backcountry, you should first plan meticulously. Adequate camping preparation doesn’t just make for a more organized trip—it can be the difference between being safe or in danger, comfortable or not. Here are 10 car camping tips to keep in mind before you hit the road:
Amp Up Your Water Supply
Many car camping destinations—particularly in the mountains or in the arid Southwest—don’t have reliable water sources, which forces campers to supply whatever liquids they’ll be using. Problem is, people often plan their water supply on how much they expect to drink, and overlook that water will also be required for cooking, cleaning and possibly bathing or first-aid.
My personal rule is to take twice as much water as I think I’ll need. Since a water shortage can have dire consequences, this is an area where I don’t skimp. You’ll have the luxury of not having to haul it in by foot, so there’s no reason to hold back on the amount of water you pack.
Check Your First-Aid Kit
Packing a first-aid kit should be second nature to every camper, whether it’s in the trunk of a car or a backpack. However, what might be less intuitive is checking the kit’s contents prior to lighting out for the woods. Bandages, salves and painkillers used on a previous outing might not have been replaced upon returning to civilization.
Also, depending on where you’ll be camping, you might want to pack extra sunscreen, lip balm and bug repellent to accommodate a region’s specific conditions.
Keep Away From the Fuel
Outdoorsmen have been known to make some reckless decisions when agitated by the elements or general wilderness frustrations. But, you should never use your gasoline or any other fuel intended for your vehicle to help start a campfire. The risk is not worth the reward and if your car camping trip has come to the point where starting the fire with gasoline is being considered, it’s probably best to just pack up and drive home.
Pack Tons of Food
As a rule, campers of all ages are happier if they’re well fed, and in some cases, good cooking can actually be the highlight of a trip. Camping food staples like pasta, rice and cereal are cheap and can be bought in bulk, and you should plan for strong appetites.
Also, pack plenty of “dry” snacks and a few dinners that don’t need to be cooked (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for example), in case you find yourself having to feed hungry mouths during a downpour. Candy bars or trail mix are great for energy replenishment between meals, but store them in a cool, shaded spot so they don’t melt and ruin other food.