Home Is Where the Car Is: Tips and Tricks for the Car-Camping Climber

Photo: Carly Squires

Photo: Carly Squires

Car camping has long been adopted by climbers as a substitute for traditional four-wall home-style living. Mobile and rent-free, your little compact car could be your ticket to paradise. Every car is different, and obviously roomier is better, but if your back seats go down, chances are that you can make your car your casa.


Location, location, location. Where you park is where you sleep, and nothing is worse than sleeping on a hill. It's an easy thing to avoid: hang a small weight (anything from a book to a pen can work) from your rear-view mirror as a makeshift level. If it doesn't hang straight, you’re not sleeping straight.


Sleeping in your car usually means that there isn't much room for anything else in there. So ropes, crash pads, and your hunky trad rack should be moved outside overnight. One of the best storage places is on the ground underneath your car. Bring a tarp to keep things dry. Don't encourage the critters though! Keep your food in the car with you.

Photo: Carly Squires

Photo: Carly Squires


If you can charge your phone in your car, why not your laptop? Or camera? Or Xbox? Be warned though, charging these things use up your car's battery, so charge them sparingly and when the engine is on. For a more environmentally friendly option, consider getting a solar panel. For those of us away from work for just a few days, one of these adapters can save us constant trips to the coffee shop in town.


Every car is different, so you're going to want to scope out your bed situation while the sun is still up, preferably before you leave on your trip. The seats fold down in most compact cars, and you can usually remove the back seats in SUVs. Consider leaving extra car bulk behind (keep your spare tire). For seats that don't fold flat, I've found that a crash pad stuffed in the trunk can make a great leveler. Cover your windows with t-shirts and towels to help block the sun in the morning, and remember to crack a window open for ventilation. Don't hotbox yourself!

Photo: Carly Squires

Photo: Carly Squires


Most cars have handles on the ceilings. Take advantage of these design elements by bringing a couple coat hangers or door hooks to hang things on. Keys, headlamps, clothes, things that are small and easy to lose in the crevices of your car. I've even seen a hanging planter used as a fruit basket.   


This one's for the ladies. Peeing outside can be glorious, but for a woman, it also means bushwhacking off the trail, getting half naked, squatting into some brambles, and trying to avoid spraying all over her shoes. There's nothing charming about it. Since purchasing the P-Style, I can honestly say that I'm a changed woman. Having to pee in the middle of the night used to be one of my greatest fears about camping. I would avoid water, one of the necessities for life, so that I could hold it till morning. Now with the P-Style, I can spout it with ease anywhere, anytime. And I don't even have to take my pants off. Boo-yah.     

Remember, even if you bring your house with you to the crag, it’s still important to practice Leave No Trace ethics. Carry a trash bag with you and dispose of it responsibly!