Is it Safe to Camp in Your Car?

If you spend a lot of time in your car when you are camping, it can start to feel like a second home. This is especially true if you are sleeping in your car when you are camping instead of using a tent. Why do people choose to sleep in their car when they are camping? For one, it does save costs on purchasing a tent and is more convenient while traveling.

When you are camping in your car, the great thing is that it can just be a place to sleep for you. If you bring some essentials for camping such as a camp stove, dishware, and food then you can spend the majority of your time enjoying nature and sleep in your car.

This way, you will be able to enjoy having some of the comforts of home with the benefits of being outdoors and camping. This also gives you the freedom to travel wherever you would like and spend the money on expensive lodgings, such as hotel rooms.

Additionally, if you are traveling and feeling sleepy, you can simply pull over into a campground and safely sleep in your car. This is great if you are one of those individuals that like waking up and going to sleep with the sun and does not place a lot of value on possessions. Before going camping with just your car to sleep, one thing should be addressed:

Is it Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

The legality of sleeping in your car can depend on the county that the campground is in. In cities, sleeping in your car may be banned in an aim to lower the homeless population. However, the same laws and rules don’t necessarily apply when you are out camping in the wilderness.

However, to avoid any type of run-ins with the local police or the law, it is always a good idea to check with the municipalities for the region if sleeping in your car is allowed for that particular county. It should be noted as well that several states will allow overnight parking at a rest stop, while some do not.

To be safe, if you plan on camping in your car overnight it would be a good idea to do so in an actual campground. Or, a designated camping area will work as well; as long as it is alright for campers or RV’s to stay there overnight, then you should be fine. Outside of cities, you most likely won’t run into any sort of trouble with the law; with the exception of highway patrol if you are sleeping in your car just off the road.

If you feel like you are getting sleepy when traveling to your next camping destination, planning ahead would be advised. Additionally, knowing the camping areas that are on your way will allow you to further decide where you will be staying for the night while giving you peace of mind.

Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car?

Even though criminals won’t generally target someone who is sleeping in their car (and you are far more likely to encounter anyone like this while camping), you can still feel vulnerable. The good news, however, is that there are precautions that you can take while you are camping from your car that you can take in order to give yourself some peace of mind. As you sleep in your car, you will want to make sure that there is also proper ventilation. This can be easily done by cracking one or two windows, or opening the sunroof (if you have one).

There are two main ways to protect yourself when you are camping in your car that experts suggest:

  • Camouflage Yourself – this can be done in a variety of different ways; with tinted windows, blankets or tarps, and possessions pulled up around you. Basically, anything that will make it appear like there is not a person that is vulnerable when they are asleep will help to keep you safe. This is less of an issue when you are camping in the wilderness, but should still be addressed depending on your surroundings.
  • Choose a Safe Location – When you are camping in your car, you will want to try to pull in farther from the road as you can. If you are sleeping somewhere that isn’t considered to be designated for camping like a rest stop, make sure that you are close to a light or other vehicles.

There are other dangers to camping in your car that are not related to people. For instance, there was a case in New Jersey where a woman slept in her car in between her shifts at her three different jobs. According to the New York Times, there was one night in 2014 that she was asleep in her car as normal and a gas container tipped over. This filled the car with fumes that ended up killing her as she slept. Sleeping in your car with the engine can also cause dangerous fumes to fill the car, which can be fatal.

As long as you are aware of the potential hazards of sleeping in your car, you can easily avoid all of them. The most dangerous aspect will be from the fumes if your car is on or if there is no proper ventilation, as well as the people that are around you. Again, if you are camping you will be less likely to encounter anyone who seeks to cause you harm than you would if you are sleeping in your car in a populated area.

Camping in Your Car Tips

Find your Comfort Zone

When you are camping in your car, you may find that some areas are more comfortable to sleep in than others. Factors that can affect the maybe your height, the length of your legs, and how much headspace you need. If you find that you aren’t able to get comfortable enough for a good night’s rest when you are reclined in the front seat, try laying down the back seats and sleeping partly in the trunk. Depending on the size of your car, you may even be able to fit a compact air mattress in this section.

Vehicle Size Matters

Larger vehicles will have more room for you to sleep comfortably when you are camping in your car. That does not mean that you need to get a massive SUV or even a large sedan. It should be noted however that the larger the back seat and trunk, the more space you are going to have and be more comfortable. Trucks are great options for camping in your car, as they have the whole truck bed that can be utilized.

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If you are comfortable with the area that you are camping in, you can simply place an airbed with essentials in the back of the truck. If you are worried about anybody sneaking up on you while you sleep, you have the option to cover the truck bed as well; this is as close to a bedroom that you can get when you are camping from your car.

Convert Your Car Into a (Very) Small Home

While on the subject of the versatility of trucks and the size of your car, it is possible to convert a car into a tiny home. One man in Los Angeles has been famously known for doing just that. In the camper of his truck, he installed a memory foam mattress, a small bookshelf, a butane stove, and even a small fridge. The great thing about cars, trucks, and SUV’s is that they have a power supply that you can tap into whenever you need to.

Pack Light

When you are camping in your car, you are going to really only be spending time in your car to sleep. One of the greatest parts about camping in your car is the ability to enjoy the great outdoors with the freedom to pack up whenever you are ready to travel to your next destination. In order to get the most from this, you should pack light. This will make it easier to pack up and leave and will give you more room for a better nights’ rest.

There is a ton of camping equipment out there that you can use in order to get the most out of camping from your car without taking up a lot of space. They have collapsable dishes, compact camping stoves, and even airbeds that you can deflate when you are not needing them.

Final Thoughts

If you are able to think outside the box, then you can be very happy when you are camping outside of your car. The ideas are limitless, and the great thing is that whenever you want to change locations you can just get in your car and travel. If you are smart and think about safety first, there is no reason that you shouldn’t camp in your car, and it gives you the option to see the great outdoors and be a part of nature every day.

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