32 Car Camping Hacks That Are Actually Useful!


I love life hacking, but only if they are actually useful. I have seen and read a lot of car camping “hacks” that weren’t really all that useful for me, and probably not useful for most of us. So I decided to create this list of 32 car camping hacks that are actually useful:

1. Have (almost) everything pre-packed and ready to go.

2. Use a camping checklist before you go.

3. Tell someone about your camping plans.

4. Bring more food than you think you will need.

5. Take a screenshot of your campground reservation.

6. Leave as early as possible!

7. Inspect your camping gear before you leave.

8. Leave your electronics at home.

9. Research the area you will be camping in ahead of time.

10. Upgrade those cheap tent stakes that come with the tent.

11. Get a tablecloth for those nasty camping tables.

12. Use giant clothespins to keep your tablecloth from flapping in the wind.

13. Bring cash for small towns and small campgrounds.

14. Get two sleeping bags that can zip together.

15. Use string lights for an awesome camping ambiance.

16. Clear Drawers are a great way to organize your camping pantry.

17. Store your matches in a sealable container.

18. Get biodegradable soap so you can wash off anywhere.

19. Stay clean the easy way with a bucket and a washcloth.

20. Bring some games to stay entertained.

21. Bring a small broom and dustpan to keep your tent clean.

22. Put your S’mores ingredients all into one container.

23. Pre-scramble your eggs.

24. Use foam tiles to make your tent floor nice to walk on.

25. Run out of lighter fluid? Use hand sanitizer to start your campfire.

26. Save your dryer lint as a free and easy fire starter.

27. Fill a thermos with hot water and put it in your sleeping bag with you to stay warm.

28. Create your own lantern with a headlight and water jug.

29. Cover your ice chest with a damp towel to make your ice last longer.

30. Use block ice instead of ice cubes.

31. Use two separate ice chests, one for food and one for drinks.

32. Put your tent under the safety of a canopy

Keep reading to get a lot more information about these 32 car camping hacks, that are actually useful…

By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

1. Have (almost) everything pre-packed and ready to go.

One of the best things that I ever started doing for my camping trips was to put pretty much all my gear and accessories in one place ready to go at a moments notice. You are a lot less likely to forget things because it is already there. It also makes getting ready for your trip super easy.

For the most part, the only thing additional that I have to pack for my camping trips is clothes and food. Have as much as you can pre-packed and you will be so happy that you did.

2. Use a camping checklist before you go.

Another thing that I eventually developed was making my own checklist of camping stuff that I needed to bring. I love checklists because they are foolproof ways to make sure you don’t forget anything. Also, you can update them over time. There are lots of free worthwhile camping checklists you can find online, but I like to have my own customized one. If you are in need of a camping checklist then check out this post that I wrote and get a free PDF checklist for camping.

3. Tell someone about your camping plans.

Always make sure that someone knows where you plan on going and for how long. Instill this responsibility with someone you trust. You never know what is going to happen while you are on the road or in the wilderness. Most places you go camping won’t have any cell reception or internet either.

Tell someone your plans and tell them what to do if they don’t hear from you within a certain time frame of when you are supposed to be back.

4. Bring more food than you think you will need.

I used to always make the mistake of thinking I was going to bring just enough food to last me for the trip, and what ends up happening is I run out early because I eat a lot more than I had planned. Eating lots of good food is one of the best perks of camping.

Now I always bring more food than I think I will eat and I never run out of food.

5. Take a screenshot of your campground reservation.

If you are camping somewhere that takes reservations then always keep an offline version of your reservation. I used to print a copy, but now I save some paper and just take a screenshot of my reservation using my phone.

What you don’t want to happen is to arrive at the campground with no reception and not remember what campsite you are in. Then you go to look online or in your email and it doesn’t show up since you have no reception. Save yourself the worry and take a screenshot of your reservation to have offline.

6. Leave as early as possible!

The earlier you get to your campsite the better I say, It gives you more of the day to relax or do camping related activities. If you are after a first-come, first-serve campsite then you get the best pick. Besides, setting up camp with daylight is a much more pleasant experience. 

7. Inspect your camping gear before you leave.

Nothing is worse than finding out that some of your gear is broken after you are already at your campsite. You should always look over your camping gear occasionally. I like to do a quick inspection before each trip. If it is something new or something that I haven’t used in a long time then I do a more thorough inspection to make sure everything is in working order before I head out.

8. Leave your electronics at home.

The fewer electronics you bring with you camping the better your camping experience is. I used to bring my phone, my laptop, my tablet, my headphones, and a speaker, but now I am down to just my phone. I don’t need any of that other stuff when I am trying to enjoy some camping.

I would advise you look at how many electronics you bring with you camping and ask yourself if it’s really worth it. It’s nice to take a break from them every once and awhile.

9. Research the area you will be camping in ahead of time.

Try to always make an effort to know where exactly you will be going if you are unfamiliar with an area. I know that it can be exciting to just explore an unfamiliar area, but doing some basic online research is much more helpful than detrimental in any way.

10. Upgrade those cheap tent stakes that come with the tent.

The tent stakes that come with your tent are probably garbage. Mine bent on the first day with a rubber mallet. Do yourself a favor and upgrade your tent stakes if you haven’t already.

11. Get a tablecloth for those nasty camping tables.

It’s not like the tables at campgrounds get cleaned at all. Bring a tablecloth and you will be glad you did. Many people use disposable table cloths, but I like to have a washable and reusable one just for camping. It really does make your camping experience better.

12. Use giant clothespins to keep your tablecloth from flapping in the wind.

Speaking of tablecloths, they can flap around in the wind quite a bit can cause a nuisance. An easy solution is to pin it down with giant clothespins, usually found at dollar stores.

13. Bring cash for small towns and small campgrounds.

It’s difficult for me too since everything is done electronic or with cards, but having some extra cash on you is always a good thing while camping. Some small shops might require cash payment and some small campgrounds only accept cash payment in envelopes that you fill out when you get there.

14. Get two sleeping bags that can zip together.

Sleeping bags that can zip together are awesome. If you are a couple then you can decide if you want to zip them together or not tonight. 

15. Use string lights for an awesome camping ambiance.

If you want to take your camp lighting to the next level then look no further than string lights. They create such a unique atmosphere at your campsite.

16. Clear Drawers are a great way to organize your camping pantry.

If you have room in your vehicle for some clear drawers then using them to organize your food items could be just what you need to keep everything organized. They are usually stackable and so they can be great for putting in bear boxes too.

17. Store your matches in a sealable container.

Matches can get wet, and wet matches are pretty much no good. Avoid ruining them by taking them out of their matchboxes and putting them in a sturdier container.

18. Get biodegradable soap so you can wash off anywhere.

If you want to take a shower or bath in nature then you are going to need some eco-friendly soap to go with you. Don’t use the normal soap you have at home, get biodegradable soap if you are gonna use natural water sources to stay clean. Also, be sure to check out these ideas that I wrote about for staying clean while camping.

19. Stay clean the easy way with a bucket and a washcloth.

By far the easiest way to stay clean while camping is simply with a bucket and a washcloth with some biodegradable soap. Simply fill the bucket with water, dip the washcloth in the water and clean off your body in a smart sequence.

20. Bring some games to stay entertained.

You might think that you will be entertained by just being outside and next to a campfire, but if you are like me then you need some extra stimulation sometimes. Games are the perfect way to stay stimulated while camping. 

Board games are awesome for camping, if you need some game ideas then check out this post that I wrote about some awesome camping games. Card games are another favorite of mine, so is “backyard games” and sports.

21. Bring a small broom and dustpan to keep your tent clean.

Even though you take your shoes off before entering your tent, the dirt still seems to find its way inside with you, among other things like leaves, sticks, and such. Bringing a small dustpan and small hand broom can keep your sleeping area clean. You could also find it useful for cleaning other things like a dirty bear box.

22. Put your S’mores ingredients all into one container.

It won’t be a camping trip without S’mores. With that being said you have three different ingredients that you have to worry about. Why not combine all three ingredients into one container to make your S’mores creations effortless.

Instead of rummaging around in your food bin trying to find the graham crackers, chocolate, and the marshmallows you can put all of them together in a Tupperware container that makes them ready to go.

23. Pre-scramble your eggs.

I love waking up with the sun and cooking some nice scrambled eggs. What I realized is that it’s a little bit inconvenient to store and transport eggs while camping. It’s easy to accidentally crush them open and they could take up a lot of space in your ice chest, and the egg cartons could get wet from the melting ice and become useless.

The solution it to pre-scramble your eggs and put them in a bottle that you can pour them out of. It saves a lot of space and it makes it super easy to wake up and cook a nice breakfast while you are camping.

24. Use foam tiles to make your tent floor nice to walk on.

Tent floors are thin, and that means that everything underneath your tent is going to stick out and go right into your feet. Sticks and stones aren’t exactly pleasant to walk on, but foam tiles are. They aren’t just for kids, we too can use them to line the bottom of our tents and have a nice soft space to walk on while camping in our tents.

25. Run out of lighter fluid? Use hand sanitizer to start your campfire.

Hand sanitizer has a good reputation among campers. Sometimes we don’t have access to running water to wash our hands and so we often turn to hand sanitizer, but did you know that hand sanitizer works hell for starting your campfire?

The alcohol in hand sanitizer ignites beautifully, if you don’t have any lighter fluid but have some hand sanitizer, try squirting a little bit onto your firewood and using it to get it started.

26. Save your dryer lint as a free and easy fire starter.

Finding small sticks and pine needles can be a pain sometimes. Simply saving all the dryer lint that you produce is easy and it works very well for starting your campfire. You have to clean out the lint in your dryer before each use anyway so why not make use of it? It’s free, it’s easy to come by, and best of all it actually works well.

27. Fill a thermos with hot water and put it in your sleeping bag with you to stay warm.

It always seems like your feet are the last thing to warm up in a sleeping bag. Sometimes you have to get in the fetal position in order to try and help them warm up. Using this hack will allow you to warm up your feet or any other body part quickly.

Simply warm up some water on your camp stove and put it into a thermos, and place that warm thermos in the sleeping bag with you. My favorite is putting it down by my feet if you can’t already tell. It will stay warm for a while if you have a good thermos.

28. Create your own lantern with a headlight and water jug.

Did you forget your lantern? Or maybe you just don’t have one. Odds are that you have a headlight or at least a regular flashlight. Wrapping your headlight around a water jug will help illuminate a large area just like a lantern. Pointing a regular flashlight into a water jug can also work, you just have to get the right angles. 

This hack works well since you won’t have bugs flying into your face at night because of the headlamp light

29. Cover your ice chest with a damp towel to make your ice last longer.

Your ice chest sweats just like me and you do. Putting a damp towel over your ice chest helps with evaporative cooling. Its kind of like how wearing a wet t-shirt on a warm day will keep you cool, especially if there is wind. It’s also similar to how a swamp cooler works by putting water into the air in a dry climate. 

30. Use block ice instead of ice cubes.

You can make block ice at home by putting water into a deep metal baking pan. My advice would be to stick with the metal ones since water will expand when it freezes and could break open plastic. I would also suggest that you put the pan in the freezer first and then fill it with water rather than trying to carry a wobbly pan full of water to the fridge.

Block ice will melt much slower than cubed ice since there is less surface area for the surrounding air to melt it. You can find block ice in some grocery stores but it’s definitely not as common as cubed ice. You can save a lot of money by creating your own block ice and your food can stay cooler longer.

31. Use two separate ice chests, one for food and one for drinks.

If you have space, then you should bring two ice chests with you so that you can keep your food and drinks separate. The reason for this is simple, the drinks are most likely going to be needed much more frequently than the food is.

In order to make the ice last much longer and keep your food at a cooler temperature, keeping the ice chest with your food in it closed for a long period of time will be beneficial. If you’re like me and only drink water when you are camping then what you could do is just use frozen water bottles as your ice in your food ice chest.

32. Put your tent under the safety of a canopy shelter

Tents are great shelters for us while we are camping, but even they are vulnerable to the elements. The sun’s rays, in particular, can cause damage to your tent’s fabric over time. If you want to protect your tent then consider putting a canopy above it during the day. Not only will this protect your tent from the sun, but it will actually help keep you dry in case it begins to rain.

If you have a canopy above your tent then the rain would have to make it through the canopy and your tent’s rainfly. If it does make it past both those things then you need to re-evaluate something. Additionally, during the day you will not have to disassemble your tent to protect it from the sun, and as an added bonus, the tent should be a bit cooler inside since it won’t have the sun beating down directly on it. On this page, you will find my review of the canopy that I use for camping.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.


Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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