There are 59 National Parks in America.
That’s 59 opportunities to experience nature in its purest form and make memories you’ll never forget.
From the gorgeous half dome at Yosemite to the stunning red rocks in Arches National Park, these are experiences that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Many people think visiting National Parks requires expensive RVs or hotel rooms. For those of you who think that we’ve got great news for you, it turns out all you need is your car and some equipment!
Not sure what you need to go car camping? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read on for your complete guide camping out of your car!
1. Plan Your Visit
Planning is probably the most exciting part of getting ready for a trip. The first thing you have to do when you want to go car camping is to select where you want to go!
Will you visit Dry Tortuga National Park and enjoy the beaches, sea turtles, and coral reefs? Or will you visit the snowy mountains of Grand Teton National Park?
Whatever your interests, there’s bound to be a park that meets your interests!
Many people pick just one place to visit, but if you have some extra time you can knock off multiple parks from your bucket list. Just make sure to pick the most efficient order in which to visit them.
Don’t forget to pack a map in case you get off track and lose cell service!
2. Check the Weather
Will it be cold and snowy, or will you be able to beat your insomnia by counting the stars in the sky?
The next step in planning your trip is to gauge the climate of your destination in order to effectively pack. You don’t want to pack a summer sleeping back when you’re staying somewhere with subzero temperatures.
3. Get the Essentials
Now that you know where you’re going and you know what the weather is going to be like, you can start gathering up everything you’ll need.
Are you planning to sleep in your car?
Make sure to pack plenty of padding and warm blankets. Unlike your house, your car will not protect you from freezing temperatures. You’ll want to purchase bedding from an outdoors store that is specifically rated for that climate.
Are you planning to sleep outside in a tent?
Make sure to get a tent that you can secure at night and that is rated for the climate in which you’ll be staying (are you sensing a pattern here?).
The better you plan, the better your experience!
4. Pack a Daypack
Prep a backpack that has everything you’ll need for your trips away from the campsite.
This includes a refillable water bottle, snacks, a map, a compass, and sunscreen. Don’t overpack, otherwise, your venture away from the campsite could be quite uncomfortable with all the extra weight on your shoulders.
5. Prep Your Meals
If you’re truly roughing it, you’ll want to pack meals and snacks for the entire span of your visit. Pack lots of stuff that will be good outside of a fridge for a while like peanut butter sandwiches and trail mix.
If you’re planning a short trip you can pack perishable items in a cooler and grill it at the campsite!
You’ll also want to pack more than enough water for the entirety of your trip. Remember, you’ll be out and active during the day in temperatures of varying extremes.
Don’t risk running out of water by underestimating how much you’ll need.
6. Gas Up and Hit the Road
Getting gas may seem super obvious, but it’s easy to forget in the shuffle. Fill up your tank the night before you head out to make getting out of town as easy as possible.
A good rule of thumb on the road is to gas up your tank every time you hit the half tank mark (or quarter tank, if you’re feeling adventurous). This way, you won’t be caught running out of gas if you hit a long stretch of road without gas stations.
If you’re driving a long distance, you might want to check your insurance coverage to see if you need to up it for the trip. Looking for a change?
If you’re in Florida, click here for more information about changing up your coverage.
7. Beware of the Bear
One of the great parts about visiting National Parks (and state parks, too) is that you’ll have ample opportunity to view wildlife.
In many cases this includes bears. It’s an exciting thing, having the chance to see these animals up close and personal, but you also have to be super careful not to have too close an encounter.
Double check to see if the park you’re visiting is home to any bears. If it is, you’ll want to make sure to take extra precautions to keep them away from your car and campsite. Most parks with high bear activity offer bear-proof food lockers that you have to use at night — locking it up in your car is not good enough.
Lastly, be sure to dispose of food waste in the designated bear-proof dumpsters.
8. Leave No Trace
Speaking of cleaning up, the number one rule of camping is to leave no trace. Make sure to properly dispose of all waste. The reason that these campsites are so stunning is that they are kept meticulously clean — as if no human had been there.
Pack up your stuff (and not anything you find there) and head home. What an incredible experience!
Let’s Go Car Camping!
Experiencing the US National Parks isn’t something that’s reserved for people who can afford RVs or expensive hotel rooms.
All you need is some basic equipment and a car and you and your family can have the experience of a lifetime. Now that you know all about car camping, you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your bucket list.
Need more helpful information about traveling? Check out the rest of our blog for super awesome travel hacks and much, much more!