Embarking on a car camping adventure presents a unique blend of freedom and challenge, offering a minimalist way to explore the great outdoors. However, before diving headfirst into this lifestyle, it’s beneficial to test the waters and prepare yourself for the realities of life on the road. A strategic approach to this preparation involves spending time traveling to truck stops such as Pilot, Loves, and Flying J along major interstates. This method not only acquaints you with car camping but also equips you with valuable insights and solutions to common problems encountered while living out of your vehicle.

The Trial Run: A Week or Month on the Road

Consider dedicating a week or even a month to travel along a major interstate, making stops at well-known truck stops. This experience serves multiple purposes: it provides a safe place to rest each night, access to amenities such as showers and food, and a firsthand understanding of the challenges and solutions related to car camping. Sleeping in your car throughout this journey allows you to assess your comfort levels and adaptability to such a lifestyle.

Encountered Challenges and Creative Solutions

Throughout your trial run, you’re bound to face a series of challenges, each offering a learning opportunity and a chance to improve your car camping setup:

  • Keeping Devices Charged: Discover the necessity of a power inverter to keep your phone and other devices charged.
  • Managing Hygiene: Evaluate whether you need a daily shower or if a gym membership could serve as a cost-effective solution for your hygiene needs.
  • Cooking and Eating: Consider investing in portable cooking gear like pots, pans, and a butane stove to prepare your meals.
  • Sleeping Comfortably: Explore ways to optimize your sleeping space, whether by removing a front seat, building a sleeping platform, or finding other creative solutions.
  • Storing Cold Drinks and Food: Decide if a cooler is necessary for your journey or if you can do without cold beverages and food.
  • Dealing with Noise: Learn whether earplugs are sufficient for a good night’s sleep or if you need to find quieter sleeping locations.
  • Feeling Safe: Reflect on your safety concerns and realize that you may be more unnoticed than you think, alleviating fears of being watched or disturbed.
  • Entertainment Needs: Figure out if a tablet and a hotspot can satisfy your entertainment and connectivity needs while on the road.

The Benefits of Testing the Waters

This preparatory phase is not just about facing and overcoming obstacles; it’s also an opportunity to explore and capture the beauty of your surroundings. Traveling to different truck stops and experiencing various environments enrich the journey, making it not only a test of endurance and adaptability but also an adventure in its own right. By the end of your trial, you’ll have a clearer understanding of whether car camping is a viable lifestyle for you.

Conclusion: Is Car Camping for You?

This immersive experience is crucial for anyone considering car camping as a long-term endeavor. By directly confronting and finding solutions to common challenges, you equip yourself with the knowledge and confidence needed to embark on a more extended car camping adventure. Whether you decide that car camping is your calling or if it’s better left as a short-term experiment, this journey through truck stops and interstate travels will leave you with invaluable life lessons and a deeper understanding of what it takes to thrive on the road.


For those of you ready to tackle the challenge of keeping your devices charged and enhancing your overall car camping experience, I’ve created a comprehensive guide on building a LiFePo4 battery station. This detailed tutorial walks you through the process of assembling a reliable, efficient power station, ensuring you have a sustainable power source for your electronic devices, lighting, and even small appliances. Embracing the DIY spirit, this guide is designed to empower car campers with the ability to craft a crucial component of their camping setup, ensuring energy independence and peace of mind throughout their adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or just starting, this guide is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to elevate their car camping experience with a touch of self-sufficiency and innovation.

In the realm of car camping and outdoor adventures, maintaining a reliable power source for electronics and small appliances can significantly enhance your experience. Recognizing this need, I’ve crafted an in-depth article on the Jackery portable power station, an indispensable companion for any outdoor enthusiast. This piece dives into the features, benefits, and practical applications of the Jackery power station, detailing how it stands out in the market for its durability, portability, and capacity to keep your devices charged no matter where your travels take you. Whether you’re navigating remote wilderness areas or enjoying a weekend getaway at a local campsite, this article will guide you through understanding how the Jackery can fulfill your power needs, making it a must-read for anyone looking to elevate their car camping setup or outdoor adventure kit.


Embarking on a car camping adventure requires not only a spirit of adventure but also a well-thought-out plan, especially when it comes to packing the right supplies. Equally important is knowing the best destinations that offer breathtaking views, unique experiences, and a safe environment to explore the great outdoors. This article will delve into the essential camping supplies every adventurer should have on their checklist (including a printable PDF!) and highlight some of the most enchanting places to visit, ensuring your car camping journey is as comfortable as it is unforgettable.

Places to Sleep

When embarking on a car camping adventure, finding a safe and legal place to rest for the night is a crucial aspect of the journey. For many travelers, traditional campsites offer a scenic and immersive outdoor experience, but there are times when such options aren’t available, or you’re simply in need of a quick overnight stop. Enter the unconventional yet practical alternatives: Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots. These locations are well-known among the car camping community for their openness to allowing overnight stays in their parking areas, making them invaluable resources for travelers.

Walmart has long been recognized for its accommodating stance towards RVs, vans, and car campers seeking a night’s rest. While policies can vary from store to store, many Walmarts across the country offer a portion of their parking lot for overnight stays, providing a well-lit, safe environment. It’s always recommended to check in with store management upon arrival to ensure overnight parking is permitted at that location. Similarly, Cracker Barrel restaurants are known for their hospitality towards travelers, with many locations across the U.S. offering their parking lots for overnight stays. This option not only promises a restful night but also the convenience of waking up to a warm breakfast option right at your doorstep.

These parking lot options offer a practical solution for travelers in transit, needing a place to rest without the hassle of setting up camp. They embody the spirit of car camping, where flexibility and adventure go hand in hand. However, it’s essential to approach this option with respect and courtesy, ensuring that you leave the space as you found it, to maintain the goodwill of these businesses towards the camping community. Whether you’re passing through or looking for an economical alternative to traditional camping, Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots can provide a welcome respite on your journey.

Stealth car camping involves parking and sleeping in your vehicle without drawing attention. It’s a valuable skill for travelers seeking rest in urban areas or where traditional campsites aren’t available. Here’s a list of potential places where you can stealth camp with your car:

  • Walmart Parking Lots: Often open to overnight guests, but always check with store management first.
  • Cracker Barrel Parking Lots: Many locations welcome RVs and car campers overnight. It’s courteous to check in with the staff.
  • 24-Hour Fitness Centers: If you have a membership, these can be inconspicuous spots to park overnight. Ensure you’re abiding by the center’s policies.
  • Hospital Parking Lots: Often overlooked, but they can be a quiet place for a night. Stay discreet and park out of the way.
  • Hotel Parking Lots: Choose larger hotels where your vehicle blends in more easily. It’s riskier, so arrive late and leave early.
  • Rest Areas: Some states allow overnight parking at rest areas. Check the specific state’s regulations beforehand.
  • Industrial Areas: Look for areas with less activity at night, but be mindful of private property and no-parking signs.
  • Residential Streets: Choose a spot in a safe neighborhood and be as inconspicuous as possible. Move regularly to avoid drawing attention.
  • BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Land: In the U.S., BLM land often allows dispersed camping for free. Ensure you’re following all rules and regulations.

Remember, the key to successful stealth camping is to remain unnoticed, leave no trace, and always follow local laws and regulations. It’s also important to feel safe and secure in your chosen location, so always trust your instincts when selecting a stealth camping spot.

FAQ: Cooking While Car Camping

1. What are some essential cooking tools for car camping?

  • Portable stove (gas or butane)
  • Lightweight cookware (pot, pan, utensils)
  • Cooler or portable refrigerator
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Biodegradable soap and sponge for cleaning

2. How do I store food safely while car camping?

  • Use airtight containers to keep food fresh and prevent spills.
  • Invest in a quality cooler or portable fridge to keep perishables cold.
  • Plan meals that require minimal refrigeration for longer trips.

3. What are some easy and nutritious meals to make while car camping?

  • One-pot pasta or rice dishes
  • Grilled vegetables and meat
  • Pre-made sandwiches or wraps
  • Overnight oats or cereal for breakfast
  • Campfire classics like hot dogs or marshmallows

4. How can I minimize my environmental impact while cooking outdoors?

  • Use biodegradable soaps for dishwashing.
  • Avoid single-use plastics by opting for reusable containers and utensils.
  • Dispose of waste properly, following the Leave No Trace principles.
  • Use a portable stove or campfire in designated areas to reduce the risk of wildfires.

5. Are there any tips for cooking in bear country?

  • Store all food, toiletries, and garbage in bear-proof containers or in your vehicle.
  • Cook and eat at least 100 yards away from your sleeping area.
  • Clean up immediately after meals to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • Never leave food or coolers unattended.

6. How do I manage cooking in bad weather?

  • Invest in a portable canopy or cook in the shelter of your vehicle’s tailgate.
  • Plan no-cook meals as backups, such as canned food, trail mix, and other snacks.
  • Ensure your stove is suitable for windy or rainy conditions if cooking outdoors.

7. Can I cook over a campfire?

  • Yes, but always check fire regulations in your area first.
  • Use a fire ring or pit and keep a bucket of water nearby for safety.
  • Consider bringing a grate for easier cooking over an open flame.

iOverlander – Where to Go, What to Do

iOverlander Overview iOverlander is a collaborative mapping project initiated by overlanders Sam Christiansen and Jessica Mans. It was created to consolidate various accommodation listings for overlanders into one comprehensive resource. The project has grown beyond its original scope, now featuring an iPhone app and a website, thanks to contributions from numerous travelers who have shared their GPS coordinates and insights.

Mission and Functionality The mission of iOverlander is to facilitate overland exploration globally while respecting local cultures and environments. It serves as a tool for overlanders to submit, update, and find information about essential and non-essential places for their travels. The platform emphasizes the importance of high-quality data, user-friendly functionality, and accessibility in various formats, ensuring a free version remains available for all users.

iOverlander | Find your next destination

Car Camping Safety and Security

Embarking on a car camping adventure offers unparalleled freedom to explore the great outdoors, but it also necessitates a keen focus on safety and security. Being well-prepared can make the difference between a memorable journey and one you’d rather forget. This section is dedicated to providing you with essential tips and guidelines to ensure your safety and security while enjoying the car camping lifestyle.

Personal Safety

Staying Safe in Remote Locations: Always inform someone of your travel plans, including specific locations and expected return time. Choose well-lit, populated areas for overnight stays, and trust your instincts; if a place feels unsafe, move on.

Interacting with Strangers: While the camping community is known for its friendliness, maintaining a level of privacy is wise. Be cautious about sharing personal information with strangers, and always have a way to secure your vehicle if you step away, even for a short period.

Vehicle Security

Securing Your Vehicle: Invest in a good quality steering wheel lock and ensure your car alarm system is functioning. Always lock doors and close windows when you’re away from your vehicle or sleeping inside.

Emergency Preparedness: Your vehicle should contain an emergency kit that includes, but is not limited to, a flashlight, jumper cables, a tire repair kit, a fire extinguisher, water, and non-perishable snacks. Regularly check that all items are in working order.

Protecting Belongings

Valuables Storage: Keep valuables out of sight to avoid tempting potential thieves. Utilize hidden compartments within your vehicle, or invest in a portable safe for extra security.

Campsite Security Measures: When stepping away from your campsite, take valuables with you or hide them cleverly within your vehicle. Consider using a lockable cargo carrier for extra storage security.

Dealing with Wildlife

Avoiding Attracting Animals: Store food in airtight containers and keep it in your car overnight. Dispose of trash properly in designated receptacles, or take it with you until you can do so.

Wildlife Encounters: Familiarize yourself with the wildlife common to the area you’re visiting. If you encounter wildlife, keep a safe distance, store food away securely, and never feed wild animals.

Health and Environmental Hazards

Environmental Awareness: Stay informed about the weather and any environmental alerts for your camping area. Be prepared for changing conditions and have a plan for seeking shelter if necessary.

Health Precautions: Bring a well-stocked first aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, and any personal medications. Know the symptoms of common outdoor health risks, like dehydration and heatstroke, and how to treat them.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Understanding Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with the legalities of car camping in your chosen destination, including parking regulations and permitted camping areas. Always adhere to campfire regulations to prevent wildfires.

Leave No Trace Principles: Make a commitment to leave your campsite better than you found it. Pack out all trash, use eco-friendly products, and minimize your impact on the natural environment.

Safety and security while car camping cannot be overstated; they are as crucial as the adventure itself. By following these guidelines, you ensure not only your own well-being but also that of the natural environments you visit and the communities you pass through. Happy and safe travels!

Your Trial Run – Testing Your Car Camping Setup

Embarking on a car camping road trip presents a unique blend of freedom, adventure, and the raw beauty of the open road. To truly maximize this experience, combining the convenience of truck stop stays with the practicality of a gym membership, such as Planet Fitness, can transform your journey into an ultimate adventure. This combination not only addresses the essential needs of safety and hygiene but also enhances the overall comfort and feasibility of long-term travel on the road.

The Ultimate Road Trip Test

The Convenience of Truck Stops: Places like Love’s Truck Stops are strategically located along major highways and offer a range of services that can make car camping more comfortable. These stops provide well-lit, relatively safe places to park overnight, along with access to food, restrooms, and sometimes even Wi-Fi. The familiarity and consistency of services at truck stops can be a boon to road trippers, offering a sense of security and convenience.

The Benefits of a Gym Membership: A nationwide gym membership, particularly to a chain with extensive facilities like Planet Fitness, is a game-changer for car campers. Not only does it provide a network of locations for regular showers and restroom facilities, but it also encourages maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road. The access to gym equipment allows you to stretch and strengthen your body, which is especially beneficial after long periods of driving. Moreover, most Planet Fitness locations offer 24/7 access, ensuring you can stop by at any time that fits your travel schedule.

Why This Combo Works

  1. Hygiene and Health: Regular showers and the ability to exercise contribute significantly to your physical health and mental well-being, making the rigors of the road more manageable and enjoyable.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Utilizing truck stops for overnight stays and a gym membership for fitness and showers can be more economical than traditional lodging and dining options, stretching your travel budget further.
  3. Flexibility: This combination allows for spontaneous travel plans. You’re not tied to hotel reservations or specific locations, giving you the freedom to explore at your own pace and change your itinerary as you wish.
  4. Community and Safety: Both truck stops and gym chains like Planet Fitness have their own communities. You’ll meet fellow travelers and locals, offering opportunities for connection and insights into local attractions and dining options.

Taking the Challenge

We encourage our readers to consider this ultimate test: Take your car on a road trip, utilizing truck stops like Love’s for your nightly stops and a Planet Fitness membership for your hygiene and fitness needs. This approach isn’t just about saving money or seeing the country—it’s about challenging yourself to live differently, even if just for a short time. It’s an opportunity to break free from the routine, test your adaptability, and explore the vast landscapes and diverse cultures that the road has to offer.

So, pack your bags, plan your route, and embark on an adventure that promises not just memorable views and experiences, but also personal growth and stories worth telling. This is your chance to discover the joys and challenges of the open road, equipped with everything you need for a journey that’s as comfortable as it is thrilling.