Beginners Guide to Car Camping

 If you’re a car camping newbie, consider this your car camping 101 crash course. I will be sharing everything you need to know to get started car camping; from what to pack, how to find a campsite and even a few cooking tips. 

Car camping is an easy and affordable way to get you outside and enjoy the outdoors, and it is especially great during COVID if you’re like me and really trying to avoid people. I typically like to plan my trips close to hiking trails, water, or rock climbing.  

Jack and I recently went on a car camping trip in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring and wrote down all the details that any beginner should know, and wanted to share all the details with you!

How to plan a car camping trip

I am a big planner, even if they are loose plans I like to get the most out of everything, and planning ahead ensures that will happen. Not to mention when you plan ahead you’re able to snag your ideal campsite during the dates you actually want it. 

1. Decide how many nights you will be staying.
2. Select a few dates that will work for your car camping trip.
3. Reserve your spot – is it first-come, first-serve or do you need advanced reservations?
4. Search the area and plan your itinerary.
Pro Tip: I look at Instagram, Pinterest, and do online searches to figure out the best activities for myself.

How to pick a campsite
When it comes to picking the right campsite this will depend a lot on what kind of vehicle you have and the terrain you’ll be driving on. There are two types of campsites: paid and dispersed.

Paid campsites Paid campsites are campsites that are managed by the state, public lands agency, or a private owner. They require a fee that will vary based on the location and the type of amenities that are provided.
Pro Tip: Paid campsites typically have a toilet and a shower.

Dispersed campsites Dispersed campsites are campsites that are located on public lands. You need to come to these campsites fully prepared with absolutely everything you need. 

How to pack for a car camping trip
Typically with a car camping trip, you can bring more things along since you do not have to worry about keeping things lightweight and compact. Car camping provides the flexibility to bring the gear that you will need for your outdoor activities such as a paddleboard or kayak.

Camp cooking essentials One of my absolute favorite things to do is cook while camping. It is so easy to become a good camp chef. If the campsite does not have a fire pit provide I bring my Solo Stove with me. This allows me to use my pie irons to cook up delicious sandwiches and desserts. I also love mixing canned corn, canned black beans, and a can of Rotel together and having that in a wrap.

Pro Tip: Plan ahead what you’ll be cooking and bring all the items needed to make those items. 

What to wear car camping
Like an onion, you want to think layers. Go for breathable moisture-wicking layers. Be sure to check the forecast so you know if you’ll need to bring a hat and gloves to stay warm at night.

Pro Tip: Avoid cotton, it will retain moisture and won’t keep you cool, dry, or warm if you get sweaty. I also like to snuggle in a blanket as well. I also love to bring a Pandana with me – you can easily move it from your neck to around your nose and mouth, use it as a headband, ponytail holder and more!


How to find things to do while car camping
Car camping is a great way to get the most out of the outdoors, and since you have an easy vehicle to move around why not make the most of your car camping adventure
1. Look up local hikes near your campsite.
Pro Tip: Apps like PeakFinder, Map My Hike, View Ranger, and my personal favorite AllTrails are great for discovering places to hike.
2. Use TrailForks to find bike paths.
3. Download a constellation app like Sky Map for stargazing on a clear night. Join A Girls Guide to Cars and Lincoln on September 22nd for a virtual day of creating sanctuary as you listen to speakers, get ideas and tips at The New Now: Live Your Best Life. Registration is free and open to all, and the first 200 attendees to join the full event will receive a special gift in the mail from Lincoln and A Girls Guide to Cars. Register here: 

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