For two straight months now, I have literally been gone every weekend. What started off as a small hobby, has grown into a full out passion of pure #wanderlust and #nomad adventures. & to be upfront there's two things you need to know about me with this exploration phase:
1) I have no true plans fully when I go
2) I am only about a year deep into realizing my love of hiking/neat-ure
In fact the new joke for most I talk to is, "Wander where Taryn will be?" Or, "What state are you going to next?" Another fun factoid here is that I didn't leave TX once until I was about 27/28 years old. (Obviously my first trip was none other than Disney World). & now this year alone I have checked off 14 states total. There is something about flying or driving to a see a view that fills my soul. Now being that I travel solo every time, there are some questions I get asked. The most common one is, "Where do you sleep?" Hence this blog post you're reading right now. After many Youtube searches of SUV lifers, Van lifers, and campers I knew car camping was something I wanted to embark on. I love the idea of minimalism, and given that I have an Off Road TRD RAV4 I have the vehicle to do it. Given that as a woman, solo, and in areas unknown that can be concerning I want to share how I go about these trips to hopefully lend some confidence for those wanting to do it too! Or heck maybe you just want to live vicariously through my expeditions.
First, let me dive into my "Setup" or rather what all do I take with me to stay the night in my car. As you can see in the picture this isn't "glamorous", nor is it laid out 100%. The biggest suggestion I will give is TINT YOUR WINDOWS. The goal is to be as incognito as possible, and window tinting or even window coverings help make you a bit more stealth. (Personally, I looked at WeatherTech for custom window coverings which I will likely get later. As of now I only have tinted measures on all my windows).
Now the good stuff, what the heck is all in the back of this SUV!?
20 degree sleeping bag I have the Nemo Forte from REI & love that it has vents to "adjust" the temperature. (This sleeping bag is also small enough to go into my Osprey pack should I backcountry camp later on).
EXTRA blankets. For the moment mine serve as a way to have my seats be more leveled as the RAV4 does not lay 100% flat.
Pillows, you want to be comfy. I also have the Cocoon pillow for the ability to backcountry camp as well.
Tent This isn't the exact one, but it is light enough to attach to the bottom of my pack as well.
Jackery charger. The last thing you want in unknown areas is to not have your phone. Personally I have this charger, and a handheld portable charger for when I am hiking.
Bins: One has towels, TP, paper towels, & any other RR items needed to clean up. The other has fairy lights that can hang in my car, a small lantern, portable USB charged fan to allow more air flow, mosquito window coverings to be able to crack my windows if weather permits, & printed off maps from parks I am going to.
The wicker basket has sunscreen, baby wipes for "quick" clean off, washcloth, bug spray, and my travel bag of soaps/shampoos/face wash.
Lululemon bags for clothes I will change into/wear, and then an extra for dirty items, I also use a giant Lululemon bag for my hiking boots/shoes as I don't want dirt getting inside my "home".
Cooler/bag for snacks and foods. The Yeti Roadie is the perfect size to tuck behind the passenger seat & holds ice for days.
As you can see, it isn't glamorous but easily gets the job done. Now comes the safety part, sure you can have your car set going but what about sleeping? When I car camp there are a few rules I have inside my setup. I only sleep on the passenger side, as I want quick access to hop in my front seat if needed. My keys are next to me in the back seat as well as my phone. I have a mini alarm on my keychain, and knife as well. Also given that I don't have window coverings yet I do not turn on lights or use my flashlight when I am at my destination for the night. My approach is park, crawl into the backseat, change, and sleep. Typically I don't get out until morning or unless there's a major bathroom break needing to happen lol...gotta love being hydrated.
In terms of where to sleep, there are plenty apps that allow you to search for campsites, rest stops, or other known free/paid for locations on your route. READ reviews, know your driving limits, and most important trust your gut. I ALWAYS make sure that if I need a hotel for the night my bank account isn't going to break doing it. Personally, I have only stayed at rest stops. However, there are FB groups that give more insights on other options. Most popular are Walmarts, Love's, Cracker Barrels, & then on national/state park locations if you're hiking. Another smart idea is to check the crime rate near by, and ALWAYS tell someone where you plan to be. My mom whether she responds or not knows the parks I am going to, and the area I choose to stay for the night. This last time I did one night at a rest stop, then booked a hotel the following as a girl just wanted a legit hot shower. Like I mentioned before, I pull up check the area to see if it looks safe, and then park/hop into my backseat for the night.
The best part about car camping is that on a budget it makes things easier. Plus for me there's something cozy about the small space. It also allows me to more on a whim up and go wherever the wind literally takes me.
On this trip I started my day off at about 5/6 am, hiked 8 miles, drove through a little downtown area, grabbed food, then finished my drive to my sleeping spot for the night. Normally I like to arrive somewhere around 8ish that way it is already dark and I can get settled for the night.
Hopefully this blog gives some ideas, tips, or suggestions so that way you too can wander all over. I plan to have my dad help me build a platform for my car that will allow me to add pull out storage compartments as well. If you know me personally, it's voiced that I would live the SUV life for a while daily once the setup is legit. For now, the weekend trips in my RAV4 are doable this way. It is quite the learning curve, and I am still learning as I go. That is the other biggest thing, it takes time to find your rhythm. I would suggest pack your car how you think you'd like it, and then practice in your driveway or complex for the night. It is easier to adjust/modify in the comfort of your own area VS. being somewhere unknown & having things go wrong. My next venture ideally will be 7-10 days, and if you want to follow the journey IG: taryn_annette is where you'll find me. Until next time, this little nomad is out.