Nimble Camper – sleeping in your car / car camping criteria
1. Car camping that is comfortable (a car long enough to stretch in)
Have you ever tried to sleep in a car? It’s not the most comfortable of experiences if you don’t have the right equipment and your car isn’t prepared for it. What we are going to focus on is comfortable sleeping in your car – so that you can travel, explore > rest > continue exploring. And comfortable means the ability to stretch your legs when you lie down in the back, without bumping your head into the front seats. A general rule of thumb – you’ll need about 170cm (5.57ft) boot length with rear seats folded down. I’ll allow some buffer as you can always move the front seats forward and easily gain about 20cm. That should give enough comfortable space for the average man (~175cm / 5.74ft) and woman (~163cm / 5.34ft).
Look, there’s plenty room at the back – and that’s just a tiny sample of all the cars and SUVs available:
Toyota RAV4 image: Reddit
2. Car camping that’s affordable – (car price max 10,000 EUR / 11,700 USD)*
This isn’t about buying a 70K campervan with everything ready for sleeping and just driving around. Anyone with 50K+ can be a happy car camper easy. This isn’t about easy – but about creative and DIY. It’s flashpacking vs backpacking. Anything is easy with money, we prefer things not being as easy, but a lot more interesting and challenging :). It’s about being creative with what you have and low cost. There’s no need to invest a lot into car camping. If you have an average size car (most sedans will do, a station wagon (combi in EU) or an SUV are even better, and the best is an MPV/Minivan – which is specifically aimed at providing more space inside.
Image source: ethnotek.com
*I understand this might be too subjective – you can set your own threshold of what’s affordable. These values should work well enough in EU / US.
**It’s still perfectly fine to buy a VW California or an RV and enjoy car camping, but this website is not about that.
3. Car camping gear that’s reversible – portable & minimalist
One car is enough to work as your standard day-to-day car and also as your camping car. The setup shouldn’t require a whole car rebuild – where you throw seats out and make it a camper forever. Nowadays, it’s easy enough to just fold down rear seats and throw a mattress in (in the most minimalist way), or add a few creative touches and handy gear to turn any standard car / suv into a useful and comfortable camper. And then take this gear out to have a standard car back again. A removable camper conversion is the goal.
What is car camping – suv camping – “microcamper” all about?
For our purposes, it is literally camping and sleeping in your car. I don’t mean just driving in your car, pulling into a campsite and/or sleeping in a tent. It is taking your car – driving to a nice spot and sleeping in your car on that spot. As simple car camping definition as it gets :). You might have also heard the phrases “boondocking”, “dry camping” or “wild camping” associated with car camping. They are all a specific version of car camping, each with its own characteristics. Check out our post about car camping for more details + a database of 30+ cars.
Best cars for car camping
Car reviews and other posts looking at which cars are best for car camping / microcamping.
Car camping essentials
All the gear to make your trip even more memorable.
DIY Car camping (microcamper) conversions
Get inspired by other people’s DIY conversions.