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  • Shaye (@rileys.roadtrips)

My 5 Must Haves for Car Camping/Van Life

Updated: Apr 22

Here I'm going to break down five things I've got to have or do now for comfortable car camping. You can definitely go without these things, I did at one point. (Which I'll talk about what I used to have/do). So although I was pleased with myself to be out living minimally to give my dog better experiences (yes I did it for my dog) I wasn't exactly comfortable. Hopefully this list will get you off to a more cozy start but I truly believe you shouldn't let what "you don't have" stop you from starting. If I waited until I had one of those pretty built out vans, then I would have literally zero of the experiences I have with my dog. Don't let what you don't have stop you from starting!! So get out there and start, you'll learn what *your* personal list is. And that is ultimately what you need to do!


1. Something For Safety Near Me While We Sleep

This just makes me feel more relaxed that I have *something* in case things go awry. Ideally I'd just jump in the front seat and pedal to the metal (which I always keep accessible).. but yeah otherwise I keep bear spray handy because I feel like that's something I'd be able to use. Sorry not fun to think about but unfortunate reality! Think about how you want to stay safe. Moving on to the pleasant things... :)


2. Lighting

Wow what a difference lighting makes!! Forrrrever I only used a flashlight. Which is very camp feeling (okay for a few days but cumbersome weeks on end), you never really have the light where you need it, it often is that harsh white light you don't want at night and difficult when you're trying to do things like set up a bed or make food. Enter, battery powered fairy lights. For the fantastic price of like $15-$20CAD. String them up around the ceiling permanently so you have perfect lighting every night. This single feature makes the world of difference in making the back of my car feel homey and pleasant and a space I love to be in.

3. Make an Investment in Bedding

Another one I put off for a long time, which is all good. This could be one of those items you have to just go without at first. It's not the cheapest so I understand putting it off. I put it off in order to just start going camping right away (no regrets!) But I also don't regret finally buying something comfortable :p. If you can get it, get it sooner than later(!!) I never really looked forward to going to bed with my box store yellow 3inch foam before but with that mattress pictured above, I love it every single night for months on end. That one was $275CAD. It's no longer available sorry I can't point you in its direction but it's a tri-folding twin size 3inch memory foam.


4. Wet Wipes

You're going to want these. That's all.


5. A Spot for Your Keys

This is a super serious must have/do! My goodness it will save you headaches and stress. When you don't do it, and you're trying to find your keys, you'll think back to this article and go "Dang!! Riley's mum was right!!" :) and then never again put your keys in the wrong spot. Every night and every day have a spot that is THE spot. Mine when I'm sleeping or hanging out at the camp spot with the doors open is the little shelf nook by the steering wheel. When I'm away, same safe zippered pocket. I'm diligent about this. You should be too. It super sucks when "you just set them down for a second it will be fine" but the blankets eat them and you have to wait for them to be digested to find them again many stressful minutes later. Yeah my biggest fear solo car camping is losing my keys....They are your most prized possession! Give them a nice safe home.


I just wanted to close this off with showing a couple pictures of my first car camping. I basically had none of the things above (except the first one, something for safety) but I have all the experiences from it! I prefer to adapt to not having luxuries in order to gain experiences then build on the luxuries as I go. This is to help encourage anyone to feel like they can go no matter what their level of earning is <3

Simple car with simple set up is all we had. Had to start somewhere.




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