The Different Ways to Camp in a Vehicle
Although camping purists will insist that camping isn’t really camping unless one is sleeping in a tent, on cold or stormy days being able to sleep in the back of one’s vehicle is a godsend. Furthermore, setting up for the night in the back of one’s car can be a great, cheap option for those who don’t already have a tent. Not only that but with the right vehicle sleeping in the back can actually be quite comfortable. One requisite for whether one is going to be able to sleep in their vehicle or not is its size. Obviously, SUVs and minivans work better for getting a good night’s rest than smaller cars. Furthermore, it’s essential that the car has an open truck and seats that can lay all the way flat. Without these aspects to a vehicle, spending a comfortable nights rest inside it simply won’t be possible.
Other options for camping inside a vehicle are truck beds and vans. These can be incredibly comfortable options, particularly vans, which may feature many of the amenities of a small apartment inside this mobile shelter. My boyfriend and I started sleeping in the back of his truck over a year ago and we will never go back to sleeping in a tent. The truck keeps us much warmer in the winter, makes camp easier to set up, and can be easily leveled on any terrain using rocks or firewood. Granted, this particular setup works especially well for us, since we spend most of the weekend exploring sport climbing crags that are accessible from nearby dirt roads, however, I truly believe that everyone with a capability should try sleeping in their car while camping at least once.
Below you will find descriptions of the three most common ways that individuals might go about camping in their vehicle. I will also touch upon some of the issues that arise when camping in a car.
Camping in a Car (SUV, minivan, wagon, or hatchback)
As stated earlier, when trying to sleep in one’s car it is essential that the vehicle in question has an open truck and seats that lie completely flat. Without these features getting comfortable in the back of a car is simply not possible. No, sleeping in the seats is not an option unless you want to wake up with some major back pain the next day.
Once you have established the feasibility of sleeping in your car, here are a few tips to make the experience much more comfortable. For one, don’t just sleep in the back of your car without some extra padding underneath your sleeping bag or blankets. A sleeping pad or thin mattress can both work for this. Another tip to increase privacy and to stop the sun from waking you up first thing in the morning is to add curtains to the windows.
Although you should always try to find a flat spot to park your car if you are camped on a slope make sure to position your head higher than your feet. This will be much more comfortable than sleeping with a low head, which can cause a mid-night head-rush. Sleeping with your head towards the center of the car is also recommended since sleeping this way typically increases one’s elbow room. It also allows one to stare at the stars if they are lucky enough to have a moon roof!
Camping in a Truck
If you have a topper for the back of your truck, sleeping in your truck bed is a great option for camping in a vehicle. Without a topper sleeping in a truck is less feasible, although it could be possible on a warm, clear night in an area where there are few bugs. However, under those circumstances, you will be completely exposed to the elements, so only do that if you are certain that you won’t get rained on or eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Those who are going to sleep in the back of their truck with a topper have a few options. There are models available that are as high as the top of the truck, which can be better for fuel economy and offers a more streamlined look. However, these flush toppers have minimal headroom, which means that those who use these should expect to be slouched over when they aren’t lying down in the back. High toppers, which have space elevated above the top of the truck’s cab are also available. These can be more expensive, however, the extra price may be worth the added headroom.
The other thing to consider when sleeping in the back of a truck is how you will insulate and flatten the floor. Most truck beds are ridged, so sleeping directly on a bed will not be very comfortable even with a sleeping pad. Furthermore, much like sleeping on the floor of a tent, the bottom of a truck bed will not provide the best insulation. For these reasons many individuals who consistently sleep in the back of a truck build a raised platform. These platforms serve the dual purpose of providing a more comfortable place to sleep and creating extra room to store things. Those interested in building a raised platform in the back of their truck can find countless examples of how this has been done on the internet.
The ultimate in vehicle camping are vans, which have become a staple of the outdoor adventure scene in the US. There are countless options for a van to sleep in, some which involve retrofitting a van oneself and others that can be bought will all the amenities still in place. Retrofitting a van is typically much cheaper, with some ready-to-go models, such as the conspicuous Mercedes Sprinter costing tens of thousands of dollars. Whatever van one chooses though, they all offer the important benefit of being able to cook inside.