Kill the Music
It’s tempting to turn any car camping into a tailgating event—grilling food over a flame with your buddies and blaring The Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72. There’s nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind your original plans—if you were hoping to find some solace and escape in the woods, the luxury of having your vehicle might distance you from your rugged intentions.
And there’s another consideration—sound travels incredibly well through patches of open space like campsites and lakes. While you might be enjoying the slow jams, you could be infringing on someone else’s peace and quiet and ruining the chance of seeing any wildlife.
Bring Multiple Fire Starters
I once read that when traveling abroad, it’s wise to keep some cash in at least three separate spots. The same could be said for fire starters when car camping. Separate your fire starters to ensure that you’ll always have another spare, dry option if one set gets lost or soaked.
I like to bring a few different types—matches in a Ziploc bag in my backpack, a butane or weatherproof lighter with the pots and pans, and more matches in my car's glove compartment. If you’re camping during the rainy season, it’s sensible to bring a little dry kindling in your trunk in case you’re stuck with damp wood.
Plan Wisely for the Rainy Days
If you’re going out for more than a few days, particularly in the spring or summer, the chances are good that you’ll encounter inclement weather at some point. For many people, that means hunkering down in the tent or car and waiting out the storm. If you’re camping with adults, it’s easy to just doze off as a group.
However, if you’re camping with children, they’ll want to be entertained during the bad weather, so you should be prepared. A deck of cards can do wonders for your group’s boredom, as can a book or a small musical instrument like a harmonica.
Set Up Your Tent Before Leaving
I set up my tent periodically throughout the year to air it out and make sure there’s no mildew. At the least, you should set it up prior to your trip to check for holes (especially in the screens), check the seams and make sure all the zippers work. Suffice to say, you should check that all parts, poles and cords are present and accounted for. Tent stakes, in particular, have a way of getting lost, and it’s not a bad idea to pack an extra one or two.
A little duct tape in the woods will go a long way to patch holes or tears until more professional repair can take place. I don’t recommend sleeping in the car at night, as many people have found out the hard way that vehicles aren’t nearly as bug-proof as a tent.