Choose Your Own Adventure: Car Camping Edition

If the sun is still shining past 8pm, it can only mean one thing — camping season! Time to shake out those dusty sleeping bags, check the tire pressure, and say goodby to 5G. But how to best enjoy the great outdoors? There are so many ways to get outside, from cowboy camping to luxury van camping. Take a look below to see what style fits you best!

When thinking about a long weekend ahead, you’ve got a little anxiety about getting a good night’s sleep. If your anxiety is centered around what degree sleeping bag to pick out, continue reading. If it’s more centered on how many blankets you might need to keep warm, **click here.**

So you’ve picked out your 20-degree bag and are ready for a few nights under the stars. If that’s the extent of your packing list, take a little scroll. If you need a few more essentials, we’ve got the solution for you, **click here.**

The Dirtbag Camper

Gather up that dirt, because it’s about to become your best friend. Everyone will know you’re a true dirtbag when the muck under your fingernails becomes a permanent part of weekend adventures. You don’t need a tent, or even a rudimentary shelter, just you and the land. This is a great option when backpacking or bikepacking, or whenever space is especially tight. Not for the feint of heart!

Protip: Lay a tarp down under your sleeping mat to really create a sleep area, and keep everything dry from any ground water or dampness.


The most economical
Easiest set up and tear down
Smallest footprint
Beautiful views (stars, landscapes, animals)


No protection from the elements
No protection from possible preditors
Wake up with the sun (possibly a pro!)

The Classic Car Camper

So you prefer a sleeping bag, but need a little bit of security. We’ve all been there! Classic car camping is the name of your game, and you couldn’t have picked better. Have wheels, will travel, and in luxury too. Car camping allows you to bring the best of all the worlds: a cozy sleep set up, tent, maybe even a two-burner, and, dare I say it, a table! Realy dialing in your camp gear can make a long weekend an absolute delight.

Protip: Use bins from your favorite hardware store to keep things organized for travel and easy to access once you’re at your site. Separate cooking/cleaning supplies and actual camp gear for easy retrieval. Even better if you pack it back in nicely at the end of the trip, then you’re ready to embark a few days later!


Protection from the elements
Privacy from camping neighbors
A tad warmer


Miss out on views
Can have leaks in inclement weather
Set up and take down

So you prefer the comforts of home while sleeping under the stars? We don’t blame you — cozy blankets and comforters are the. best. If a blanket is all you need, scroll on down — your preferred camping method is waiting just around the corner. If you think blankets are great, but also want a french press, and, let’s face it, maybe even a fridge, it may be time to consider a new way of sleeping under the stars: **click here.**

The Truck Sleeper

You’ve got a truck, it’s got a bed, why not use it as an ACTUAL bed. The truck sleeper is the perfect compromise between full on vanlife and car camping. You’ve got hard walls around you, but all the other camping activities are done outside. This is a great solution for areas with heavy bear activity (not that tent sleeping can’t be safe as well), or if you’re on the move often.

Protip: If you’ve got the space, try leveling up on your sleeping pad. It can make or break a night, and really change the experience. You can even get a double sized one if you’re sleeping with a partner.


Stay warm throughout the night
Your bed is always set up
Big pillows and fancy sheets


Moisture can be your enemy
You lose storage in your vehicle (or need to build aftermarket)
Headroom can be tricky

We’re getting to the luxuries of car camping. We like your style. If comfy blankets, a fridge, and some insta-worthy shots are enough to fill your camping cup, scroll on down. If you’re looking for even more bells and whistles, you’re entering the big leagues of car camping, luxury van camping. Take a **click here** and see how fancy things can get.


You’ve heard it before, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. Vanlife is turning into a norm, as more cousins, friends of friends, neighbors, and maybe even yourself, are trading stable sticks and bricks for the mobile lifestyle. You may be a weekender, or live part/full time, either way, the van has become an ever present lifestyle. This camping experiance comes with home made breakfasts, mild tempretures, and a freedom to pack it all up in a few minutes and find the next camp spot. It’s not all mandala blankets and mala beads though, with added luxury comes added responsibility. Now you have a full vehicle to look after — flat tires and engine repair might become a permanent part of your vocabulary.

Protip: Our very own Roxy Dawson just wrote a book on EVERYTHING vanlife. If you are at all considering this lifestyle, grab a guidebook from Amazon, or your local REI, and dive in.


Excellent cooking setup
Comfy bed, headroom
Bring your camp with you wherever you go
Cool factor


Car troubles
Finding a legal place to park for the night
Showers during extended travel

#Vanlife 2.0 (Fancy Van, Airstream…)

This is vanlife, but supercharged. You know what you want, and it’s got to have every bell and whistle. You’ve got the SUP’s if flat (or not flat) water presents itself, you’ve got the bikes when a single track calls your names, you’ve got the lifted bed, the toilet, the shower, and hopefully, you don’t have a mortgage, because this choice is EXPENSIVE. You’re trading luxury for a huge hole in your wallet. But, if you have the means, this is a phenomnal way to weekend camp or long term travel. File this one under #dreams and get back to us in 10 years, hopefully this is what we’re driving around.

Protip: Often, professional van build companies can lump together the purchase of a van, and build out in one big loan. This allows for “mortgage” payments so you can start van’ing right away, but don’t get the full-on sticker shock.


The utmost comfort
Any sport you wish
Luxury pooping


Enviromental impact

You’ve got your ideal way to car camp — now it’s time to put dreams to action! If you’re sleeping under the stars, you can start at any moment! If you’ve chosen Vanlife 2.0, it might be time to really start looking at your bills and income, and set a budget and plan. Perhaps it stays a dream for many years!

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
Roxy Dawson
Content Marketer :: Outdoor Prolink | Website

Roxy Dawson lives in a van full time and travels around the country working as an adventure journalist, searching for backcountry adventure, and using her dog as a pillow. Like most adventurers, she loves coffee, hot springs, and getting pretend lost. She works for Outdoor Prolink as the Content Marketer. She is trying to make a small positive impact on the world, and a larger one in her community. Follow her on Instagram at @roxyjan_

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