10 Tips For Living Out Of Your Car On A Road Trip

Bring the comforts of home on the open road.

By: Anna Cohen + Save to a List

Ah, the open road. There are few things that inspire and excite an adventurous soul more. Road trips can be fun, memorable, and life-changing experiences. There’s just something about a road stretching for miles ahead of you that makes you feel like anything and everything is possible. But, if you don’t play your cards right, road trips have the potential to be stressful and uncomfortable; especially if you are planning on living out of your vehicle for the majority of your trip. Space is limited and it can be easy to lose things, and before you know it, the inside of your car looks like a bear got into it.

The good news? With a few tips and some careful planning, living out of your car on a road trip can be a breeze. In fact, it can be down right cozy. Here’s what you need to know:

1. First and foremost, organize.

Organizing your stuff and having a system in place will save you a load of headaches down the road. Make sure that every piece of gear and every item has it’s own designated place. This will make it easier to find what you need quickly. It will also help you to be able to fit everything into your car and make the most of the space that is available.

2. Have a tote for wet things.

This is an important one. Designate a tote or bin that is specifically for wet things. This is a particularly good idea if you are going to be fishing, or spending any time in snow or rain. Having a separate place to put your wet things will help to keep the rest of your stuff dry.

3. Bring your own food and drinks along.

Save money and reduce your risk of being stuck in the car with a 'hangry' road trip buddy. Pack your own food and drinks and stick them in a cooler. That way you wont always have to be eating out all of the time, and you will have easily accessible snacks and beverages at the ready.

Photo: Nick Oman

4. Map out your route.

Taking the time to have a tentative route in mind will help to keep you on track and on schedule. It will also serve to keep you from getting hopelessly lost, and will ensure that you hit all of the spots that you want to on your trip.

5. Research where you’re going to spend your nights.

Along with mapping out your route, you will want to do some research ahead of time to figure out where you will be spending your nights. Mark any and all good campgrounds along the way. Be sure to take note of any campground fees, and check the availability of each site as well. Otherwise, you might find yourself exhausted and without options at one o’clock in the morning, forced to spend the night at a semi-truck pull-off on the side of the highway in your Prius, surrounded by truckers and passing semis. Been there, done that. Don’t need to do that again.

Photo: Austin Trigg

6. Know how to bathe without running water.

The true sign of an expert road tripper is a person who knows how to bathe without the luxury of a shower, or any running water for that matter. Baby wipes are your friend. Dry shampoo is heaven-sent. And who doesn’t love an excuse to rinse off in a river or lake (as long as swimming is allowed)? If you plan to use soap or shampoo, be sure to use biodegradable products and keep a safe distance from the water source.

7. Have an option to store your stuff outside of your vehicle.

If you plan on sleeping in your car at all, it might behoove you to have a method of getting all of your stuff out of the car at night in order to make more room. There are a few options for this: Use totes to organize your gear. That way you can just pull them out and set them beside your car at night. Make sure you have lids for them. Another option is to carry a tarp and some bungee cords with you. At night, just lay out the tarp, wrap your stuff in it, and bungee it onto the roof of your car. Whatever method you go with, being able to move your things out of your car at night gives you a lot of extra room to spread out.

8. Designate a trash bag.

Having a trash bag in your car will help to keep your limited space tidy. Be sure to empty your trash bag often.

9. Invest in good ol’ fashioned paper maps.

It is always surprising how many places still don’t have cell service. The last thing you want is to rely entirely on electronics for your directions. You may find yourself in a spot where you don’t have service, or your batteries may die. Having paper maps will not only give you a more reliable and dependable source of direction, but they are also much more fun to use. There is something about a paper map that screams adventure.

10. Have a killer soundtrack.

This is important. In fact, it could even be said that good music makes a road trip. Don’t hit the road until you have your jams in order.

Photo: Andy Earl

Cover Photo: Christin Healey

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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