Can I Sleep in My Car at a Campsite? – Dos and Don’ts 

can i sleep in my car at a campsite

Last updated on July 7th, 2023 at 08:57 am

Camping is the go-to outdoor activity for many people. And for a significant percentage of these people, sleeping in the car makes for a flexible and efficient alternative to tents, particularly if there is inadequate space for setup, or you want to save time. 

Yes, it is possible to sleep in my car at a campsite. However, this requires prior planning so you can find the ideal place. Some grounds do not allow you to camp in your car overnight while others may allow you to do so at a fee or require a prior reservation. Alternatively, you can opt for the backcountry and dispersed camping sites. 

This is just a preview. Read on for more in-depth information. 

So, Is It Possible to Sleep in My Car at the Campgrounds? 

Many campers prefer setting up a sleeping area in their vehicles to sleeping in a tent. It only requires a few modifications in your car to have a comfortable sleeping experience when outdoors. So how much work are you willing to put in to transform your car to make it a conducive and comfortable place to spend the night outdoors? 

Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

If you are settled on car camping, here are a few tips that can help get you started. 

Where to park? 

You need to find a place where you can park legally, or keep in mind the permits you need. There are several mobile applications such as Hipcamp that can help with that, offering you a wide range of paid and free locations to spend the night. 

Sleeping position

Whereas flat places are preferred, they are not always available in remote areas. Therefore, if you can only find a sloping area, ensure that the car positioning is such that you can sleep with your head above the feet. Having your head towards the front of the car also offers additional elbow space for optimum comfort. 

Keep electronics charged 

This is often a challenge to many. A great tip is to utilize the car while it’s running. Moreover, you can invest in solar panels and portable power devices to charge your phones, camera, and tablets. 

Adequate lighting 

You can bring along a headlamp or hang a lantern to illuminate the interior. Getting comfy in your van also includes reading or organizing your small haven. Adequate lighting is also important for middle-of-the-night nature calls.

Make your ‘bed’ comfortable 

Sleeping in the car conveniently removes the need of carrying around a bed in your backpack. Therefore, you can opt to invest in comfy and heavier pillows, blankets, and mats. 

Wi-Fi free entertainment!

Having a movie on your smart device is a great way to unwind after a long day. Ensure to have them downloaded beforehand so you can just relax and pass the night. 

Essential things you need to remember 

These essentials apply on the road as well. 

Stay clean 

If you decide on sleeping in your car, it is unlikely that you have access to showers and/or sinks. Therefore, to maintain high levels of hygiene, ensure you fully stock your toiletry kit and pack in some items that do not require much water such as hand sanitizer and no-rinse shampoo. 

Keep the food in a cooler 

Your appetite is likely to be high after long hours of driving. To avoid any disappointments, ensure that you have all your food secured in your car. Ideally, you can pack a cooler to keep the perishables fresh. 

Build your shower 

A warm shower sounds just about right after camping or hiking the whole day. You can always enjoy that feeling when outdoors or on the road by building your own camp shower. 

Dos and Don’ts 

  • The car should not be left running the whole night. This puts you at high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If the place you’ll be camping at is cold, ensure that you bring along some thermal blankets or other means to get warm. 
  • Ensure that you keep the car ventilated. You can do so by slightly opening the windows for fresh air and letting the moisture out. Bring along mosquito nets or bug nets and customize them according to the need to keep the flying insects at bay. 
  • Don’t forget to carry adequate baby wipes and toilet paper for obvious reasons. 
  • Water is important. Bring some with you for the night and throughout the camping time. 
  • Plan ahead for the sleeping setup. You can surf the net for ideas. 
  • You should carry some curtains or have makeshift curtains to ensure privacy and block out some light. 


As earlier mentioned, campsites have different rules and regulations. Some only allow sleeping in an RV. You can always ask anyone who’s in charge so that you do not get into unnecessary trouble when all you wanted was to have fun outdoors. 

Sleeping in the car is by far warmer than sleeping in a tent. Vehicles are designed with insulation trapping heat inside. At night, the interior cools off at a slower rate. Moreover, the inbuilt insulation traps the body heat, keeping you warm throughout the night. 


Undoubtedly, sleeping in your car rather than in a tent is a great alternative. As outlined above, it comes with both pros and cons. You can always make a decision based on the nature of your camping trip. 

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