The Access Fund’s Guide to Car Camping like a Pro

There’s a certain feeling that accompanies crossing a state or county line. It fulfills our innate desire to roam and wander. New experiences and settings are on the horizon and a simple rotation of the steering wheel can take us to snowcapped mountains or vast expanses of red desert. When it comes to adventuring in your car, there are a few things that can make a good trip a great one.

In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Beta, the Access Fund Conservation Team gives us their pro tips on adventuring and camping from the trunk of your car.

Road trips are amazing. The sense of exploration and discovery that follows you as you crest each rise and cruise around every corner, never knowing what awaits; the sights the smells and the people you meet, it’s all one big adventure and you haven’t even arrived at your destination yet! Whether you’re out for a weekend romp or embarking on an open ended journey having an organized system will help you enjoy your travels to the fullest.

For the past three years, Amanda and I have been traveling the country as part of the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team program. Our work has brought us to iconic destinations as well as areas lesser known to the larger recreating community. Along the way we’ve perfected some systems for living a nomadic lifestyle out of a Jeep Cherokee and a Therm-a-Rest tent. Here are few that we think every road tripper should consider integrating into their life on the road.

Get Organized

Life on the road can be a little chaotic at times. Living a life of constant travel means that there is little that is constant outside of travel. Having a well dialed organizing system will reduce the stress of losing items in the clutter and make your time at camp or prepping for your next outing more efficient. We utilize a system of modular totes and containers to store everything from our dry goods and kitchen supplies to our clothing and gear.

car camping

Sleep Well

The best way to recover from long drive or a big day in the mountains is a good night sleep. Having a quiver of options in your sleep system arsenal is important as you move through different environments. We carry and use a multitude of Therm-a-Rest products to ensure a good night sleep no matter what our environment doles out. We rely on our Tranquility 4 tent, Slacker Hammocks, Therm-a-Rest Antares HD and Mira HD sleeping bags, Vela HD Double Quilt, as well as NeoAir Trekker SV and NeoAir Dream mattresses. The beauty of all these products is they pack big comfort but pack down for easy storage something that is paramount when living out of your vehicle.

car camping

Volume Matters

Whether we’re thinking about our sleep systems, our cook set, or whether to pack the ukulele instead of the guitar we put a high value on items that pack down and away with little effort. While backpackers think about every gram we think about every square inch.

car camping

Conserve When You Can

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using convenience items that have a limited life span. Utilizing gear that is reusable will help reduce your footprint and save you money that can be put towards experiences. One key consideration are fuel canisters. We use a refillable one-gallon propane cylinder that can be filled anywhere propane is sold. The initial investment will set you back around $100 dollars, but at three to four dollars for a disposable cylinder you’ll quickly make up the cost and start saving money in no time. With regular use we get roughly two weeks from one fill-up, at a cost of roughly three dollars per fill, a big difference from the three or so days we can get from a disposable cylinder.

Eat Well

Lots of people are surprised when we tell them that we seldom eat at restaurants or take advantage of convenience meals while traveling. The truth is it would be pretty easy to fall into a habit of simple meals that lack imagination and complexity, but those kinds of meals just don’t provide the fuel needed for an active lifestyle. In order to make fresh and nutritious meals we rely heavily on our cooler system to keep fruits, vegetables, and protein safe and fresh. We generally shop for about three days at a time and utilize a cooler organizing system that keeps highly perishable items the closest to the ice source, while separating items that would get soggy and ruined by the dreaded cooler water.

Make Time to Relax

Long drives are hard on the body and playing hard taxes our muscles. Finding time to rest when all you want to do is get out and explore is one of the most challenging, but most important things to embrace in order to maximize your long-term psych. It’s great when you can time a rest day with a poor weather day, but sometimes you just have to sit back and relax on a day that you’d rather be active. Find hobbies that suit a nomadic lifestyle like playing a compact instrument, and enjoy the time around camp to slow down and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of your outdoor home.

We hope you find these tips useful on your next road trip. Many of these ideas came from living on the road and discussing common challenges around the campfire with fellow travelers. Get out there, experiment, and have fun, that after all is what it’s all about.

Author: Mike Morin and Amanda Peterson work as traveling Conservation Specialists for the Access Fund. To learn more about the Access Fund and the many programs that the Access Fund supports check them out here.

 

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