Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

Whether you’re a natural wanderer with a heart for travel, or you’re an occasional adventurer who likes a change of setting every now and then, you may like car camping. 


A huge feature of car camping for most people is sleeping in their cars. Sleeping in your car can be a wonderful and enjoyable experience. Just imagine the ease of not having to haul your camping gear from place to place or having to grumble through the struggle of setting up a tent. Imagine falling into a calm and cozy slumber to the pitter-patter of rain on your car roof, a nearby trailhead awaiting you for an early morning hike. Sounds great, right? But you may be wondering how you can comfortably sleep in your vehicle and take advantage of the vehicle’s protection and convenience. No need to fret! Here are some tips that will make your car a safe, comfortable, and homey place to sleep.

Park in a Safe and Legal Location

Parking your vehicle is an important part of sleeping in your car. Ideally, you want to park and sleep somewhere that legally allows overnight camping, has limited disturbances, and is safe. Good places to park that typically offer all of these things are U.S. Forest Service roads, Wal-Marts, religious buildings, and small businesses. But before you choose any place to park, you need to do your research to determine if overnight camping is allowed, and if you must have a permit or pass to sleep in your car in any location. If you are permitted to camp in your car in such locations, be sure to avoid parking in an area that disturbs or hinders any business’ traffic. And don’t overstay your welcome! Use the parking lot to sleep and be on your way in the morning.

Pack the Essentials

You have to know what you need in order to sleep in your car! Here’s a list of basic items that you should consider packing to have an enjoyable and safe experience:

  • Camping bin-These storage bins are good to store clothing, sleeping gear, toiletries, electronics, or anything that you may need.
  • Food bin-These storage bins are specifically for food and beverages (bring some water!). You may consider packing freeze-dried, dehydrated, and shelf-stable foods. If you do plan to bring perishable foods like meat, eggs, or dairy, you should bring a cooler to keep these foods from spoiling (and from leaving a putrid smell in your car). For fresher foods or cooked foods, you can always visit a nearby grocery store or supermarket and have a small feast in your car! Yummy!
  • Clothing-Be sure to pack comfortable clothing for sleeping. You can separate and store shirts, pants, socks, and underwear in packing cubes.
  • Hygiene products/toiletries- You should pack oral care products like floss, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Also pack toilet paper, baby wipes, and deodorant. Biodegradable soaps, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes should be brought to keep your hands clean and to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. 
  • Sleep gear-Pack a sleeping bag and sleeping pad. If your car has enough available space, you may even consider investing in a nice and comfy air mattress. Despite bedding choice, be sure to pack extra blankets! Try to look for blankets that provide insulation. It’s best to avoid blankets made from cotton material. Cotton traps moisture and can freeze, which makes it a potentially dangerous material to be on your body in cold weather conditions.
  • Chargers-Bring chargers for your electronic devices. You can only plug devices in while the car is on, so make sure that any electronic devices you bring are charging in the daytime so that they have high battery percentages at night. However, you can use portable power devices to charge your electronics at any time of day. Just be cautious of charging devices in your car so that no fires or any other dangerous incidents occur. 
  • Car sun shades- A lot of experienced car campers and road trippers use sunshades. These sun shades are reflective, insulating material that’s made to fit your windows and windshields. The sun shades block light, and they provide insulation from the cold. They also give you more privacy.

Sleep Comfortably

Your sleeping position depends on the type of car you have, but it’s wise to always sleep with your head elevated. Sleeping with your head elevated prevents you from getting sick, and it overall provides a better quality of sleep. Some cars, namely SUVs, are very roomy, and they’re great for camping and sleeping in. If you’re a frequent camper, or you just love sleeping in your car, you should find the best camping SUV that fits your needs and desires for comfortability.

Crack the Window Just a Little

Cracking a window seems counterintuitive if there’s cold air outside, you might think. But think of it this way: breathing all night in a car fogs up windows and collects moisture. To prevent this, just roll the windows down enough to allow for ventilation but keep them high enough to keep bugs and animals and other people out of your car. As an extra secure measure, you can put a piece of clothing over the opening or bring a piece of mosquito netting or mesh to block the cracked window’s passageway.

Bring Entertainment

Sleeping in your car should be fun! Relax and unwind after a long, strenuous day (or before a long day) by watching a movie or TV show from your smart device. Just make sure to download your entertainment content before traveling to an area with potentially poor WiFi service.


Were these tips helpful to you? Hopefully they provided you with ways to better your experiences with sleeping in your car. 

No matter what you choose to do, stay safe and keep exploring!

Happy trails!


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