Car camping

Car camping, Caravanning, RV camping... it goes by names, and the experience varies widely, but the use of motor vehicles to get to a camp site is popular in many parts of the world. Unlike more traditional "walk in" camping or backpacking, car camping allows you to bring more equipment, and focus on enjoying the site, cook-outs, day hikes, and other outdoor activities.


The character of car camping sites varies greatly. Some are rustic and remote, with bumpy two-track roads leading to sites consisting of nothing more than a partially-cleared patch of ground with a stone-circled fire pit. Others are conveniently located, with paved drives and carefully landscaped sites featuring charcoal grills, picnic tables, and electrical hook-ups, with a playground and swimming pool on the grounds. Either of those might be someone's ideal, but still others may be little more than a grassy field or a glorified parking lot, between a motel and a shopping center, a block from a major highway's exit ramp.

Get around

See also Renting a motorhome in New Zealand for information about car camping in that country.

There are a multitude of ways to car camp, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Contemporary travel trailers are lightweight and well outfitted for extensive voyages




Campsite in Valley of the Rogue Oregon

Some campers just use their vehicle for transportation, pitching a stand-alone tent to sleep in. Some use it to pull a pop-up trailer/tent or use their car or van as part of the tent or shade structure. Some drive large vans or recreational vehicles to sleep in, which may include many of the comforts of home (on a more compact scale). In car camping lingo, "boondocking" or "dry camping" refers to camping anywhere that RV hookups are not present. How long one can comfortably do this depends on the capacities of your rig's generator, LP gas, water storage, and wastewater tanks.


Remember, alcohol and driving do not mix.

Many campgrounds will have drinking water at the site, but you will need to bring your own into primitive sites.

Some campsites have vending machines, perhaps selling soft drinks, snacks, coffee, etc.

Laws regarding alcohol consumption at campgrounds vary greatly; some ban alcohol altogether (either for legal-liability reasons or to placate other campers, such as families with children) while others might have a small bar on the premises. United States campsites can sometimes be strict enough to check your cooler for beer when you arrive.


"Workamping", i.e. working while staying at a camp site, is an ideal arrangement for those who want to enjoy RV'ing on a full-time or part-time basis. You may or may not receive monetary compensation. RV parks offer either paid or volunteer positions or a combination thereof. Some will only provide you with a "free" campsite (with full hook-ups), whereas others will compensate you for your hours worked. Those who pay you will charge for your campsite, generally. One key note: Make sure you discuss SPECIFIC job duties and expectations, additional costs such as uniforms and cleaning, and the hours you want to work prior to accepting a job.

Volunteer opportunities also exist - mostly at National or State parks. While the only compensation is usually a free RV hookup, many people report very high satisfaction with these jobs.

Other work possibilities abound for those with "portable" careers - such as writers and artists, or those with careers that afford time off during the summer. For example, there are RVing accountants, teachers, and dentists. Some people combine an enthusiasm for RVs with very prestigious careers. For example, Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, is an RV enthusiast during the summer season when the Court is in recess.

Health and hygiene

You can often, but not always, expect restrooms (of some kind) at any campground, but facilities such as laundry, telephones, showers, etcetera, depend on the site; you'll want to find out about these before planning a long stay.

Most YMCAs around, at least in USA, offer amenities such as hot showers, saunas, pools and exercise equipment. Usually the cost for a non-member day pass is around $4, but if you hold a membership, you can use any of the facilities at any location for free. This includes fitness classes such as Yoga and Kickboxing.

Many truck stops offer showers. They are free with purchase of diesel fuel.

Truck GPS

If you have a large RV you should consider purchasing a truck GPS. A truck GPS is more expensive than a regular GPS. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because truckers make money. First, the screen is larger. Secondly, the GPS will avoid low bridges and underpasses when creating routes. Third, the GPS will provide listings of places to park such as Wal-Marts and truck stops of all sizes. The major truck stop chains (Pilot/Flying J, TA/Petro, and Love's) always have at least one model on sale each month.

Stay safe

Try to arrive at your overnight site well before sundown. Not only is this common courtesy at RV campgrounds, where others may be sleeping, but in the dark you may not notice obviously bad places to camp (such as an area littered with broken glass, or in front of a farm gate).

As much as you might like to believe that anyone who shares your love of the outdoors has good enough character to respect your belongings, you do have to take precautions against theft. Keep money and other such valuables with you whenever that's practical, and locked out of sight in your car when it's not. Don't leave items (even inexpensive ones) sitting out in plain view when you leave the site.

Do not assume that your automobile association's roadside assistance will provide for recovery of both your vehicle and camper trailer if you break down. Most are equipped to tow cars and light trucks (without trailers) to a repair facility, but a large motorhome (as one integrated vehicle) may require specialised equipment to transport if disabled. Some caravan clubs and RV associations may be able to resell third-party insurance to provide suitable roadside assistance; in the USA, the for-profit "Good Sam Club" sells coverage.

Downtown areas of cities are almost never good places to car camp.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.