In This Article
One of the latest trends in vacations and excursions is called car camping. The basic idea is that you drive to new destinations, go on extended road trips or visit campgrounds and tourist locations in your car. You don’t set up a tent. Instead, you use your vehicle for sleeping.
Besides car camping, there are several other reasons you may need to sleep in a car. Some are better than others, but if you ever find yourself needing to sleep even a few hours in the car, you will quickly find out how uncomfortable it can be. This article will review using your car as an overnight sleeping quarter and how you can do it comfortably.
The most important thing to note about sleeping in your car is safety. Your car isn’t very secure, being surrounded by glass windows. It also isn’t insulated like your home. Because you will most likely be sleeping at night, you will need to be sure you have all the essentials of safety covered.
Lighting should be the first thing you look for when parking your car. You will want a well-lit area so that your car is visible. You will also want to be able to look out the window and see your surroundings. By being visible, you run less risk of being hit by another car traveling on the same road or parking lot that you have parked in.
You will also need to decide how you are going to sleep in the car. We will cover this in more detail later. For now, you need to understand before you ever set out, that moving vehicles are cramped quarters. Unless you are very petite, you will find most vehicles to be cramps and uncomfortable. With that in mind, you will be better prepared for the sleep.
Temperature is also very important. Depending on your geographic location and time of year you can easily become too cold or overheated while sleeping. It is never a good idea to leave the car running, so you will need to make sure you have everything you need to keep your body temperature in check.
If you and your car are both safe, you can have an enjoyable night’s sleep inside your vehicle.
The average height for men is five feet and eight inches. The average height for a woman is five feet four inches. Combine that with the average interior width of a car being four feet five inches, and you can easily see that most of us won’t have a lot of room inside the car.
There are ways to make more room, of course, as we will cover some of those methods here. If you have a truck with a bed, you can use that for more room as the average full-size bed is eight feet. However, exposure to the elements and nature are imminent unless you also have a camper shell.
You can create more room in the car by laying seats down. Some compact cars with trunks allow the back seat to lay down giving interior access to the trunk compartment. This is an easy way to maintain a flatter surface and still have room for your legs to stretch out.
If your car isn’t equipped for that, you can use the front seats laid all the way back. You should note how far back they do go as some won’t allow the driver’s side to recline fully. You may also need to remove the headrest to allow the seat to go even further back.
One word of caution as it pertains to your health and safety: always sleep with your head elevated higher than your feet. Even if an alternate position allows you to have more room, your head should always be higher than your feet .
Location, Location, Location
As we covered in the safety section, where you park is important. However, you have several options for where you should park and where you should not.
You will want to find a place off the main road. The less traffic, the better, which will aid in lowering the danger of being hit by a moving car, for example. There are many places that will allow you to park overnight, for free.
When possible, you will want to choose a parking lot in a well-lit area. If there is a business there, you should attempt to visit the shop during business hours and alert them to your intentions of sleeping in the parking lot overnight.
This small act will usually be met with gratitude and acceptance of your request. You will also be less likely to have any interference with night watch or security.
Parking at Parks
Local Parks and State parks will generally allow overnight parking and sleeping for free. Some will charge an admission fee, but if you aren’t staying in a campsite, this is usually minimal. Make sure you properly display any permits or decals required for overnight parking in these parks and campsites.
You will want to try to avoid areas where there is a lot of foot traffic and easy access to the exits, such as a rest stop. While this is a better choice than the shoulder of the road, you are more susceptible to vandalism in these areas as they aren’t generally monitored or patrolled.
There’s an App for That
When all else fails, you can turn to your mobile device for assistance. There are several apps and websites designed to assist you in finding a safe location to park and sleep. While some places are free, others won’t be. These apps, like Hipcamp, will show you where you can park and be left alone.
If you find the cramped quarters of your car to be too much, you can also find sites like couchsurfing.com or Airbnb to find a local place to stay. Sometimes these are free as well, or trade for a service you may be able to provide, such as repairing an appliance or help with some house cleaning.
What You Need
While sleeping in your car, you will need a few things. Be sure to double check the list and details to ensure you are as prepared as possible.
- Bedding. There are several options here from a simple comforter to an inflatable bed designed to fit your car. Make sure you have enough bedding to be warm and dry while sleeping in your car.
- Chargers. Bring enough extra batteries or charging cables to keep your cellphone and tablets full. You can also purchase solar powered chargers to place on your dashboard since you will have your car turned off.
- Lights. Having flashlights and lamps with fresh batteries is always a good thing. You do want to avoid using propane lamps or heaters inside the car, though.
- Food and water. You will need to eat. Make sure you have a cooler close by with access to fresh water and food. Protein is important so make sure you pack snacks like nuts and beef jerky to ensure you get enough nutrition for when you get back behind the wheel.
- Hygiene. Unless you are staying a camper with a shower or sink, you won’t have running water in your car. Make sure you pack a toiletry bag with hand sanitizer, toilet rolls, towels, and your combs, tooth brushes and soaps. Use bottled water to wash up with to keep yourself fresh and clean.
- Ventilation. When you sleep at night, even if it is raining or cold out, you need to vent the car. Leaving a window or sunroof cracked will allow the moisture in the air to escape instead of building up in the cabin of the car. If you are on an extended trip, this is even more important. Breathing high humid air can cause you to become ill over time. Use screening material to block off the opening to prevent bugs and critters from getting in.
When you are sleeping in your car, you will need to take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The first order of business is to find a good place to park. If you are using a public parking lot, make sure you have permission from the business to stay there overnight. If you are in a park or campground, be sure to post all permits as required.
Make sure you are in a well-lit area and prepare yourself accordingly. You will need some type of bedding to help your comfort and your temperature. You will also need to ensure you have made enough room for yourself, with your head, elevated higher than your feet. If you find it difficult, park on a slope or hill in such a way that your head becomes higher than your feet.
Make sure you have food and water and all the hygiene essentials with you and within easy reach. Finally, don’t forget to tuck those seat belt clasps between the seats, so they don’t dig into your hips.