Car Camping

I like camping. There, I said it. Sure, it’s not much fun reinflating an airbed at 3am in torrential rain but it’s worth it for those nice quiet evenings around a fire with a nice little meal off your camping stove, hearing a river rush by as you sleep and getting away from all the noises of normal life for a while. But what if you want that but hate camping and don’t want to spend extortionate prices on a hotel? You can still go away (post-COVID of course) and support your favourite tourism businesses but it doesn’t have to break the bank. I discussed car camping a little while ago on a previous article but here’s a little more detail and tips about how to have a whole holiday inside your motor. Well, not the whole thing, but at least a little nap.

  1. Choose the car wisely

Whilst I am a small car owner and a great believer that you can fit almost anything into them if you use the space correctly, they aren’t always best suited to this kind of adventure. If you can take your rear seats out, that’s a good idea as it makes the whole car a lot more level for the insertion of a mattress or an airbed but leaves room for storage underneath. If your seats fold down but not completely flat, don’t worry as you can use your luggage to pad out the area so the back of your car becomes level enough to be comfy. Most cars are just about long enough to accommodate a full-sized human lying down with the front seats set forward as far as possible when you’re sleeping, but if you have a 1960s Mini or a Reliant Robin, maybe consider borrowing a larger car off a relative or friend. It’s usually not too expensive to add yourself to their insurance policy for a week or so and opens your options up a bit – 7 seater cars are great as their seats can usually be completely taken out and used more like a campervan.

2. Remember you’re still camping

A car might seem like it has a lot more creature comforts than a canvas tent, but there’s only so much you can do with them, so it’s important to bring the usual camping essentials. Cool boxes that plug into your car’s 12 volt socket are great as fridges but leaving them on can drain your battery quickly so try not to use them overnight unless you have a friend nearby with a set of jump leads and a battery charger.

Camping gear like a little lantern and a torch are essential if you’re in a dark spot so you can get an idea of your surroundings in case of emergency. Another thing to consider is bringing a sleeping bag and a duvet as it’s not likely to get wet but it probably will get a lot colder overnight! To get the authentic experience you can bring a camping stove, foldable chairs, an awning to prop against your car when parked and these will make you feel a bit more nomadic (even though purists would say this is cheating!) Remember to still bring an airbed or mattress as the flat bottoms of car interiors don’t tend to be built for comfort.

Also bring something to cover up your windows (a makeshift curtain or a sunshade will do) so you don’t have passers by looking in whilst you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep, or the sun blasting you in the face at 5am if you’re camping at the height of summer.

3. Consider local laws

Whilst it’s not actually illegal to spend the night in your car, it’s a good idea to inform the local authorities or landowner about what you’re doing, as with any camping excursion. Make sure you’re not causing an obstruction where you park and that you’re legally allowed to stay at your chosen location – it generally isn’t a problem in quiet areas with no traffic or houses nearby but some places have specific by laws preventing overnight parking (usually venues owned by bodies like the National Trust or English Heritage.)

Some places may also require you to apply in advance for permission to stay overnight, so make sure you get some good research in on whatever location you want to make camp. If there’s off-roading or super rough/snowy roads involved in reaching your destination, think about whether your car is capable of it and if it’s legal to drive there as cars can damage the natural environment and scare off wildlife.

4. Bring an air freshener

There’s not really much I can say about that one. It just helps.

So, with (hopefully) staycations on the way and hotels looking likely to be booked up as soon as they’re available, I hope this guide gives you a little insight into an alternative method of holidaying that’s great for a night or two away if you aren’t the biggest camping fan.

Published by Jonathan Tonge

23 year old history graduate, classic car enthusiast, musician

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