What does "car camping" mean, in your opinion?

When you say you're going to "car camp," what do you mean?

  • I'm going to sleep in a tent, vehicle, camper, etc. at a camping spot I drove to

    Votes: 25 89.3%
  • I'm going to sleep specifically in a vehicle at a camping spot

    Votes: 1 3.6%
  • I don't use the term "car camp"

    Votes: 1 3.6%
  • Other (explain in comments)

    Votes: 1 3.6%

  • Total voters
    28

Jackson

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Here's something superfluous to discuss. What does "car camping" mean? I swear this comes up every time I'm telling someone I'm going non-backpacking camping, so I figured I would do a reality check to see if I'm crazy.

When I say I'm going to "car camp," I mean that I'm going to drive my car to a spot that I can camp at, whether I am going to sleeping in a tent, a car, a hammock, an RV, whatever. But when I say I'm going to "car camp" to people who don't camp much/don't backpack, they almost always take it to mean that I'm going to sleep in my car. And then I have to clarify that I pretty much just mean I'm going to use my car to get to the place I'm going to camp.

For you, does "car camping" specifically mean you're going to sleep in a car? Is it generally something that people who backpack say to differentiate between types of camping? Go ahead and cast your vote!

I know it doesn't really matter, but I'm just curious to know what you all think.
 

Wyatt Carson

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Apr 15, 2015
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We’ve only had to actually sleep in the SUV twice, once for a small herd of cattle whose lead female seemed to take strong affection to me, didn’t want to get accidentally trampled in the night. That was near Round Valley Draw. Don’t remember the reason for that other time, maybe severe weather. We always normally sleep in a tent when we car camp, way more comfortable and warmer in the cold weather.
 

Jackson

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We’ve only had to actually sleep in the SUV twice, once for a small herd of cattle whose lead female seemed to take strong affection to me, didn’t want to get accidentally trampled in the night. That was near Round Valley Draw. Don’t remember the reason for that other time, maybe severe weather. We always normally sleep in a tent when we car camp, way more comfortable and warmer in the cold weather.
Couldn't agree more. I've slept in my Outback three times: once to see what it was like (not comfortable!), once at the 2019 BCP Fest because of strong winds and blowing sand, and once because a camping area required people to sleep in something hard-sided. Didn't enjoy a single one of those nights of sleep. Haha. I'm sure there are ways to make it more comfortable, but tents are perfectly fine for me, and I've got a good spacious one for car camping.
 

futurafree

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Apr 1, 2021
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I've always used it to mean that you sleep in a tent next to your car, and that you have at least some extra gear and comforts afforded by the car. I also usually consider it to be at an established campground as opposed to dispersed (car) camping on BLM or national forest land.
I never think it means sleeping inside a vehicle. That would be RV-ing or "SUV RV-ing" or van life stuff.
 

Wyatt Carson

Desert Vagabond
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Apr 15, 2015
Messages
320
Couldn't agree more. I've slept in my Outback three times: once to see what it was like (not comfortable!), once at the 2019 BCP Fest because of strong winds and blowing sand, and once because a camping area required people to sleep in something hard-sided. Didn't enjoy a single one of those nights of sleep. Haha. I'm sure there are ways to make it more comfortable, but tents are perfectly fine for me, and I've got a good spacious one for car camping.

We have a nice large tent for car camping too, an REI basecamp 6 that we can stand up in. It has survived some real strong storms. The Helinox cots fit easily with lots of room left over and they are like sleeping on a cloud.
 

priz1234

Member
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Jun 10, 2020
Messages
176
I rarely use the term 'car camping'. Generally if I am driving my car to the campsite I'll just tell people I'm going camping. I feel like most people think that 'camping' means you are driving out to a campsite. Or maybe everyone is thinking I go backpacking way more often than I actually do since I just say 'camping'

Maybe I should end up using 'car camping' if people are thinking that means you are sleeping in your car. I rarely use a tent when 'car camping' and just sleep in my car. Even though I agree with all of you that a tent is more comfortable, I still sleep just fine in the car and like the convenience of it.
 

Jackson

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I rarely use the term 'car camping'. Generally if I am driving my car to the campsite I'll just tell people I'm going camping. I feel like most people think that 'camping' means you are driving out to a campsite. Or maybe everyone is thinking I go backpacking way more often than I actually do since I just say 'camping'

Maybe I should end up using 'car camping' if people are thinking that means you are sleeping in your car. I rarely use a tent when 'car camping' and just sleep in my car. Even though I agree with all of you that a tent is more comfortable, I still sleep just fine in the car and like the convenience of it.
Yeah, I think "car camping" for me is just "camping" for most people, and that's why they're often thrown when I say I'm going car camping. Haha.

I think what we're seeing with the poll here is that it's too general of a term for a lot of BCP users because most of us are backcountry campers that camp in lots of other ways like backpacking, bikepacking, packrafting, and canoe/kayak/raft camping. So it helps to differentiate when "going camping" could mean a lot of different things.
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
Messages
269
I often sleep in the car at a campground or boondock when I'm too lazy to set up a tent and want to get an early start. So, I'd almost use it to describe both situations. But, since vehicle was included in the first answer, that seems to cover both. Agree, tent's generally more comfortable.
IMG_20200827_190326813.jpg
 

Rockskipper

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When I say car camping I refer to sleeping in my vehicle. Otherwise I say tent camping. But actually, I usually just say camping as an all inclusive term.
 

John Goering

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Sep 30, 2014
Messages
470
Jackson, you didn't give me the Jeep camping option. That lies someplace between car camping and backpacking and other than a larger backpacking tent and a real air mattress, it's all the same stuff that goes in the pack so you can still get a few hundred yards from any vehicles. I really dislike camping in developed camp grounds and have probably only done that once in the last two decades.

My definition of car camping is the same as yours. RV's? I don't even consider that camping.
 

PaulMags

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Feb 14, 2022
Messages
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For me, "car camping" means driving to a site and basing ourselves out of it.


1658374445036.png


1658374807669.png



As others mentioned above, we go camping when we backpack, so "car camping" fine tunes the definition for us, esp since we'll often do a quick car camp before we go backpacking for the rest of the weekend.

EDIT: I should add that among my backpacking or otherwise backcountry-focused friends, I say "car camping." For others, we just say "camping" because even backpacking to them is camping! Language is a funny thing!

1658374543105.png


Most of the time, we sleep in a tent, but when it gets colder out, esp with snow on the ground, we'll sleep in the back of our Tacoma (extended cab, 6' ft bed).

We have our truck dialed in for camping, and while not as spacious as our car camping tent, it makes a cozy setup for the winter months. At 5'6", I fit in the 6' bed just fine. My wife, at 5'10", has just enough room though we often drop the tailgate to allow more ventilation. The step stool always in truck is for my benefit. :D
 
Last edited:

balzaccom

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Messages
605
I only use the term car camping to differentiate from backpacking. In that context, car camping is any camping that doesn't involve hiking to the campsite and carrying your gear on your back.
 

Udink

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Jan 17, 2012
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When I say I'm going to "car camp," I mean that I'm going to drive my car to a spot that I can camp at, whether I am going to sleeping in a tent, a car, a hammock, an RV, whatever.
I would agree with this definition except for the RV part. I do use the phrase "car camping," but only to differentiate between RV camping. I'm posting this from my RV on the Markagunt Plateau, where I have solar power, Starlink internet, a queen sized bed, refrigerator, flushing toilet, gas stove and oven, ad nauseum. :D When I actually go car camping I only have my Jeep and like two bins for food and cooking stuff, and a sleeping bag and maybe a cot.
 

Jackson

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I would agree with this definition except for the RV part. I do use the phrase "car camping," but only to differentiate between RV camping. I'm posting this from my RV on the Markagunt Plateau, where I have solar power, Starlink internet, a queen sized bed, refrigerator, flushing toilet, gas stove and oven, ad nauseum. :D When I actually go car camping I only have my Jeep and like two bins for food and cooking stuff, and a sleeping bag and maybe a cot.
Living in the lap of luxury! That sounds like a hell of a base camp.

Yeah, I think I probably shouldn't have included RVs in that list, especially since I said "drive my car to a spot that I can camp at," which necessarily means that I won't have an RV present. Haha.
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
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For me, "car camping" means driving to a site and basing ourselves out of it.


View attachment 111939

View attachment 111941


As others mentioned above, we go camping when we backpack, so "car camping" fine tunes the definition for us, esp since we'll often do a quick car camp before we go backpacking for the rest of the weekend.

EDIT: I should add that among my backpacking or otherwise backcountry-focused friends, I say "car camping." For others, we just say "camping" because even backpacking to them is camping! Language is a funny thing!

View attachment 111940

Most of the time, we sleep in a tent, but when it gets colder out, esp with snow on the ground, we'll sleep in the back of our Tacoma (extended cab, 6' ft bed).

We have our truck dialed in for camping, and while not as spacious as our car camping tent, it makes a cozy setup for the winter months. At 5'6", I fit in the 6' bed just fine. My wife, at 5'10", has just enough room though we often drop the tailgate to allow more ventilation. The step stool always in truck is for my benefit. :D
Even within the same activity, there's definitely also a difference between "crashing at the trailhead" and going out there with intention of setting up a nice/comfortable/enjoyable camp.
 

LarryBoy

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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
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Jackson, you didn't give me the Jeep camping option. That lies someplace between car camping and backpacking and other than a larger backpacking tent and a real air mattress, it's all the same stuff that goes in the pack so you can still get a few hundred yards from any vehicles. I really dislike camping in developed camp grounds and have probably only done that once in the last two decades.

My definition of car camping is the same as yours. RV's? I don't even consider that camping.
I actively avoid formal campgrounds unless I'm going with someone who requires a spigot/pit toilet/the certainty of not having to hunt for a site among a maze of backroads.
 

Rockskipper

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What's it called when you crash in the pit toilet? :)

LOL you posted just as I was writing this.
 
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