Car Camping: 8 Safety Tips for When Sleeping in Your Car

Car camping opens up a world of adventure, allowing us to embrace the freedom of the open road and sleep under the stars. While the allure of spontaneous road trips is undeniable, ensuring your safety during car camping is paramount. In this guide, we'll delve into crucial safety tips for a secure night's sleep in your vehicle, offering peace of mind as you embark on your next car camping escapade.

What is Car Camping?

Car camping refers to a form of outdoor recreation where individuals use their vehicles as a base for camping. Unlike traditional backpacking or camping, where participants carry their gear on their backs and hike to remote locations, car camping allows people to drive directly to their camping destination and set up a campsite in proximity to their vehicle. Instead of pulling into a campsite and setting up a tent, car campers stay sheltered from the elements by sleeping in the backseat, usually with the seats folded down in an SUV or hatchback.
Car camping is known for its convenience. Campers can pack more gear and supplies since they don't have to carry everything on their backs. This often includes larger tents, more extensive cooking equipment, and additional comfort items.

Is Car Camping Safe?

Car camping can be a safe and enjoyable outdoor activity when done with proper preparation, awareness, and adherence to safety guidelines.
When you go car camping, campgrounds and public lands are typically safer than parking lots and truck stops.
Many people pass through truck stops and these lots are often crowded and dark. Campgrounds and public lands offer more privacy than truck stops. Also, other car campers frequent these areas which can add to a feeling of security.
In the case that an issue arises it helps if you’re prepared.

Top 8 Tips for Sleeping In Your Car

While nothing is likely to go wrong, it’s best to prepare for situations that may arise. This is for your safety and can make you more comfortable when sleeping in your car. 

#1 Choose Safe and Legal Parking Spots

Start your car camping journey by selecting safe and legal parking spots. Opt for BLM lands, designated rest stops, or established campgrounds. Familiarize yourself with local regulations to ensure you're adhering to any overnight parking restrictions.


BLM Lands

BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management, and BLM lands refer to public lands managed by this federal agency within the United States Department of the Interior. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for overseeing a diverse range of public lands, including deserts, forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems. There is BLM land all over the U.S. and the Western states have a particularly high density. Car camping is quite easy on BLM land and accessible in many areas if you know what to look for.

Established Campgrounds

Established campgrounds provide facilities and amenities to accommodate campers and are designed to offer a controlled and organized environment for outdoor recreation. Some private campgrounds offer showers, laundry services, indoor cooking facilities, electrical hook-up etc. These sorts of campgrounds are handy to access whenever you are in the need for a freshen up and recharge.

Business Parking Lots

Not ideal but these kinds of options can come in real handy when you’re passing through a town and need a last minute place to stay. Plus, they are free and often encourage car / RV parking! Some places in the US that often allow overnight parking are Walmart, Costco, Sams Club, Home Depot, Lowes, Cabelas, Cracker Barrel, Kmart, truck stops and rest areas, casinos, and religious buildings. If you’re unsure, just ask permission regarding the parking laws and ALWAYS be respectful. If there are no trespassing or no camping parking signs, don’t sleep there. Nobody wants a police officer knocking on their door in the middle of the night…


#2 Always Be Ready To Go

Store your keys and personal essentials in a readily accessible location. Vehicles with open access from the front to the back, such as hatchbacks and SUVs, facilitate this practice. However, built-out pickup trucks may not offer the same convenience. In such instances, consider installing a sliding window system to ensure easy access.
If you wear glasses or contacts, keep them within arm's reach. Avoid wearing earplugs or headphones while falling asleep to remain aware of your surroundings and be responsive if necessary. Additionally, have a headlamp nearby to quickly illuminate your surroundings when needed.


#3 Mock One Hammock: Your Car Camping Companion

The Mock One Hammock is not just for traditional camping; it can be a game-changer for car campers too. The uniqueness of the Mock One Hammock with Stand lies in its freedom from location constraints, allowing for spontaneous outdoor relaxation, whether it's on the beach, mountaintop, backyard or lakeside.

ElephantRocks View with Mock One Hammock

day camping by the river with Mock One Hammock

Sandy's Lake Camping with Portable Hammock with Stand

You can even use it as a cot in your car. Here’s what campers do with Mock One Hammock when car camping. From Matt S. Helm:
“Purchased this for a very specific use - upcoming road trip. I sleep in a hammock at home and was really curious to see if I could find a hammock that would fit in my smaller SUV. Most of the fold up hammocks are too long. This one fits fine from front to back. I'm only 5'3“ and around 140lbs., so I AM able to get up and into the hammock (and back down) pretty easily using my storage box as a stool of sorts. I do figure I will bump my head at some point, especially if I jerk my head up. Taller folks probly aren't going to make this work inside the vehicle. Anyway - Time will tell if the hammock holds up well or not. 5 stars for now just because it has met my needs "

car camping with Mock One portable Hammock with Stand

#4 Don’t Share Too Much Information

This becomes particularly crucial when car camping solo. If you encounter someone unsettling, it's essential that they remain unaware of your intended destination. When divulging information to strangers, especially about car camping, I typically mention meeting friends or provide a different location than my actual sleeping spot.
As you spend more time car camping, you'll inevitably cross paths with fellow road travelers. Exercise your discernment in these interactions. I've gained valuable insights into optimal camping locations and connected with individuals with whom I felt secure sharing a car camping vicinity.
Always rely on your instincts before deciding how much information to disclose.


#5 Keep A Friend Updated Where You Are

In instances where you may not consistently have cell service, take advantage of the moments when you do. Send your friends a pin of your car camping location. In cases where you anticipate a lack of service, proactively inform a friend of your intended stay while you're in town.
Another useful tool is the Find My option on your smartphone, allowing you to share your real-time location with family and friends. When you have service, they'll have precise details on your whereabouts. Even if you lose service, they'll still have access to your last known location, providing a general idea of the area where you're spending the night..


#6 Carry Emergency Preparedness

Carry a well-equipped emergency kit in your vehicle, including first aid supplies, a flashlight, extra water, and any necessary medications. Ensure your phone is charged, and consider bringing a backup power source.
Also, keep your gas tank full and carry important car essentials like jumper cables and a spare headlight. Make sure your spare tire is filled to the right pressure—this is often easily overlooked.


#7 Weather Considerations

Stay informed about the weather forecast for your camping location. Be prepared for changes in weather conditions and have appropriate gear, such as rain gear or extra layers, to stay comfortable and safe.


#8 Respect Local Regulations

Adhere to local camping regulations and guidelines. This includes following leave-no-trace principles, properly disposing of waste, and respecting quiet hours to minimize disturbances for fellow campers.
Another useful tool is the Find My option on your smartphone, allowing you to share your real-time location with family and friends. When you have service, they'll have precise details on your whereabouts. Even if you lose service, they'll still have access to your last known location, providing a general idea of the area where you're spending the night..

 How to Stay Safe When Sleeping In Your Car

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