A complete car camping checklist

Car camping is the perfect way to explore new places while being flexible and traveling more sustainably. This guide includes a complete car camping checklist with everything you need to bring, and think about before heading for your next adventure.

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A Complete Car Camping Checklist
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What to think about before going car camping

There are obvious things to think about when planning to camp in the car, and less top-of-mind things. Before jumping to the car camping checklist and going through all the things you need for your next road trip adventure, take a moment to read about some of the things you might not have thought about yet.

Car rentals

If you don’t have your own car, a rental one is definitely the best option. It goes without saying that you need to find a car that’s big enough for you (and maybe another person) to sleep in. And if you’re like me, and don’t know anything about cars, well, here’s a quick list of the best cars for car camping.

Insurance + roadside assistance

Wherever your road trip adventure takes you, make sure you have car – and travel insurance, and know the phone numbers to call roadside assistance.
Most car rental places include basic insurance, which is enough for everyday road trips.

Where is car camping allowed and how to find those spots?

Depending on your road trip destination, there are very different rules about where you’re allowed to camp in your car. In most countries in Europe and North America you can sleep in your car in designated areas along the road, but in some countries you have to stay at an official camp site. There are great apps to find spots where you’re allowed to car camp; the ones below cover most places around the world.

Park4Night App (Europe)

This app covers most of Europe (and some very small parts of the US). Everyone can add spots to the map, or edit existing ones with more up-to-date information. With the Park4Night app you can find simple camping spots on the side of the road, or more equipped places with showers and toilets.

RoadTrippers App (global)

This is a great app to plan your entire road trip including camping spots, sightseeing opportunities and even fuel usage estimation. There is a free version in which you can add up to 5 stops (or waypoints); the paid version for €29.99 per year includes 150 stops/waypoints, offline maps, live traffic maps and more.

Campermate App (AU + NZ)

Campermate is the best app for camping in Australia and New Zealand. Not only can you find the best camping spots, but also rent camper vans or book accommodation.

A complete car camping checklist

Essentials for car camping

  • Air mattress

    This air mattress folds up super small so you can easily store it when you don't need it. It's WxL cm (WxL inches) which is about half the width of your car.

  • Sheets & Bedding

    You can bring your own sheets and bedding from home, or use a sleeping bag instead.

  • Sleeping Bag

    If you think regular bedding won't be warm enough, get a sleeping bag instead. It keeps you warm all around; and should be approved up to 0 degrees minimum.

  • Blanket or isolating mat

    The bottom of the car is the coldest spot at night, so put another layer in between the floor and your air mattress. Either a wool blanket or isolating mat (like a yoga mat) is perfect. I LOVE these ones from Sackcloth & Ashes!

  • Window coverings

    Cover all your windows with these shields. Not only do they keep the light out, they also keep the heat in. Plus, they keep your front and rear windows from fogging up.

  • Cooker & cookware

    If you don't want to eat out all the time on your road trip, get a simple cooker and some durable, lightweight cookware.

Secret life-savers for car camping

The above list is for all the essentials you need for your car camping adventure. But there are some secret life-savers that nobody tells you about. 

  • Packing Cubes

    Camping in your car already means having little space: for sleeping, eating, but also for getting ready. With packing cubes you can organise your clothes and don't have to dig through your entire bag to find that one shirt.

  • Crack a window

    You'd think keeping your windows closed would keep you warm, but no. The resulting condensation makes your car even colder, plus all your stuff inside gets damp.

  • Offline Netflix episodes + Google Maps

    You might not always have internet connection, so having some episodes of your fave show downloaded will keep you entertained. And downloading maps for where you're going is just a smart safety net.

How to get your car ready for camping

It’s one thing to know what you’ll need for an epic car camping road trip, but a completely different thing to put it all together.

So here’s a list of steps to get your car ready for camping.

You can download or print the checklist below to have it with you for your next road trip adventure.
And don’t forget to save it to Pinterest too, to share it with your friends!

Car Camping Checklist
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Hi, I’m Nadine

Part-time traveler with full-time wanderlust.
I explore the world one weekend and one vacation at a time and share my experiences, travel and photography tips, and food recs on this blog.

I believe the answer to (almost) any question is traveling.
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