To be clear, by “car camping,” we mean using your car or van as your “tent” to drive to a campground or camping location and sleeping in it. I have often wondered this and so I did some research on it and have come up with some pretty solid conclusions. See his full bio here, Full Guide To Flying With Camping Gear (Must Read!). You might hear some people refer to it as dry camping. Sleeping in a car can be an unpleasant experience without the proper preparations and precautions. Pocketknives are very handy, found everywhere, and even sometimes are illegal. I would, however, be a little more cautious if you are going to be staying in a private campground. They are all vehicles that you can sleep in. As is often the case, no nationwide laws regarding sleeping overnight in rest areas exist. No one likes waking up to their tent being wet on the inside, and you may have... Hi, I'm Zach and I enjoy regularly camping, especially with my small 2011 Toyota Prius. 7 Joshua Tree camping and glamping options to keep you from sleeping in your car . Using Dehumidifiers In Tents - What You Need To Know. Don’t hog a pretty view, but park in a less visible spot so that others can also enjoy it. The National Parks Service has two types of camping: frontcountry camping and backcountry camping.eval(ez_write_tag([[580,400],'vancampinglife_com-medrectangle-3','ezslot_1',106,'0','0'])); Frontcountry camping refers to locations in parks that have campsites. For our purposes, we’re going to consider “car camping” as literally sleeping in your car. Store managers or local ordinances are the reason for this rule being different, even in the same chain. These activities include but are not limited to:eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'vancampinglife_com-medrectangle-4','ezslot_2',108,'0','0'])); Since the two have different missions, the rules are often different. That is, they want you to have your own water and restroom facilities. If you are willing to pay for a parking spot and you have made a reservation, or there is an open site, you can park any place that has parking for a tent, car, or RV. While car camping, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and common sense safety practices; never sleep in a vehicle with the engine running. Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. Camping options in the United States are as varied as the paint jobs on our campervans. Sleeping in a car or van has several advantages. I’ve been to other tent campgrounds which require that you have a tent at their site. Still, if you are willing to go off the beaten path, you can take advantage of the backcountry, dispersed camping available at most federal parks and forests.eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'vancampinglife_com-large-mobile-banner-2','ezslot_12',114,'0','0'])); On your way or in-between camping spots, you can also find other places to sleep. If you are still unsure, then it never hurts to just ask. If you want to go camping but have not bought a tent or RV, you might be thinking of camping in your car or van. link to Full Guide To Flying With Camping Gear (Must Read! If you are in a National Park, the Park Ranger works for the National Parks Service (NPS). Make sure to be at least 1 mile away from a dedicated campsite (it’s a law), and if you are sleeping on a forest road make sure not to block traffic in either direction. Along with listings for sites at parks and campgrounds, you will also be able to search for folks willing to let you camp on their property. If you don’t have a pillow use a backpack, duffle filled with clothes, or sleeping bag in a stuff sack as padding! These rules are meant to protect the delicate landscape and prevent damage to the natural surroundings. So, can you sleep in your car at a campsite? 1. BLM sites are often on a first-come, first-serve basis. Do not overstay your visit—they might ask you to move if you stay more than one night. Some people define it more broadly as camping in a place where you can drive your car right up to the site and park next to your tent, but in our version, you don’t need to bring or set up a tent. Regardless of whether you’re on an epic road trip or need the most punctual beginning conceivable from the trailhead, your nights should even now be comfortable. In fact, it can be even more glamorous than an expensive tent, if you've got the right vehicle. The BLM prefers that you camp on existing campsites to minimize human damage to the sites. Use this interactive map to find the forest you wish to visit for information on where and when you may camp. A fundamental way to look at it is that a National Park is focused on maintaining the environment for future generations. Keep your proof of payment and display it as you are supposed to. But, if you’re looking to just call it a night wherever, you might have to do a bit of planning. Some states allow you to sleep in your car, as long as you don’t take out a tent and camp at the rest stop: Some of the other states have parking limits of 3 or 4 hours, but overnight sleeping is not allowed. Certain areas will have “closed to camping” signs. Until then, retailers like REI offer helpful guides to sleeping inside a car during a camping trip, but many of the tips translate to shorter stints inside your vehicle. Sleeping in your car at a campsite may sound ludicrous, but it isn't. Remember to be careful! In a private campground, it seems like they can make up just about any rules that they want to.eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'smallcarcamp_com-banner-1','ezslot_6',109,'0','0'])); I don’t have much experience with private campgrounds, I haven’t stayed at one in years but I would imagine they are usually more open to discussion because after all, they are a private business that wants to make a profit. You can and should check the posted rules before committing, but I doubt you will find anything against it. For example, they would prefer that you use a site that has been used before.eval(ez_write_tag([[336,280],'vancampinglife_com-box-4','ezslot_5',109,'0','0'])); You are not allowed to camp within a mile of a campground, and you must stay at least 100 feet away from a stream or other body of water. Here are the three we like.eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'vancampinglife_com-large-mobile-banner-1','ezslot_9',113,'0','0'])); Recreation.gov. As experienced travelers, we have traveled across the country many times and have done it in different ways. BLM land is in the western half of the US.eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'vancampinglife_com-banner-1','ezslot_6',110,'0','0'])); We have covered the three leading federal agencies that oversee camping, and the rules are relatively consistent. However, you may not skip the fee and pull up along the side of the road and sleep there. Not allowed. Although preserving natural resources is part of their mission, National Forests provide opportunities for Americans to use the resources in them. And the good news is that late night parking is usually free (as opposed to parking meters used in the day). Follow these general guidelines when finding a place to stop: Also, do not overstay your visit. In most instances, you’ll have to park up with the camper vans and other vehicles people camp or sleep in … Can you sleep in your vehicle at a campsite? Again, you can check an app such as AllStays to see if a truck stop has parking for cars or RVs. Learn more about Cindy and Don. Whether you can sleep in your car depends on the size of your vehicle and how much work you put into turning your car or van into a 4-wheeled temporary home. Many of the best camping destinations around the world are probably in places that you need to fly to from where you live. One problem you might want to keep in mind is that a truck stop will not be quiet as trucks pull in and leave at all hours. Depending on which city you are visiting (or area of the city you are visiting) it is probably pretty safe to sleep in your vehicle. So if you’re on a motorway and pull into a service station or a legal rest area, you can sleep in your car. The mandate for a national park is preservation, so rules and laws that cover them are designed with that in mind. As with so many other things, you will want to contact the casino. Camper vans especially are just regular cars anyway. I think it’s okay to put your slide out if it’s needed to use the trailer, as long as it doesn’t stick out in the road or take up additional parking spots. Yes, you can sleep in your car at a campsite in most campgrounds and not have a problem. Car camping can be a great option when inclement weather is on the horizon or when you want to bring extra gear for activities. Traveling by vehicle can be a rewarding experience. Campground Rules and regulations are mainly set in place to make it more enjoyable for everyone that stays there. So simply the answer is yes you can if the state park permits camping. Although the Recreation.gov app has info from all federal lands, we like this app because of its GPS personal locator tool, which works even if you don’t have internet access. It is important that you always check the campground rules just in case. A little bit of organisation goes a long way when you’re car camping. FILL ‘ER UP That is why I would rather “ask for forgiveness than ask for permission”. Still, it is crucial not to break any rules. Use these 14 car camping tips for an epic weekend of the four-wheeled variety. With proper insight and planning, sleeping in your car while camping can be a great way to get outside and wake up at the trailhead, the crag, or the slopes — even in the winter months. Personally, I would not sleep in my car as a woman, sleeping alone in my car would be a little too risky for me. For more information about where it is illegal to sleep in your car, consult the Finder website. The rules are also different for pets, vehicles, camping, and more. Fees, which vary from campsite to campsite, should be promptly paid after you park in your site. If you do find a website with a list of parks, check for hours. Where can I find cheap places to sleep in my car? Van Camping Life is owned and operated by Rees Enterprises LLC, a limited liability company headquartered in Pennsylvania, USA. Sleeping in your car isn’t much different than sleeping in a recreational vehicle and it isn’t a big deal. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. Park your vehicle so that it is level enough for you to sleep or find another spot. Not every person can live the VanLife, yet nearly anybody can sleep in a car. Many people do it, but there are many cities and counties that develop ordinances that prohibit sleeping in a vehicle. It’s called car camping because you have access to your car and you don’t have to carry everything you need in a backpack. Try to scope out the parking lot before going to bed. Honestly I suggest you rethink sleeping in the car. As mentioned, the first thing to care about is the space for your conversion. With proper insight and planning, sleeping in your car while camping can be a great way to get outside and wake up at the trailhead, the crag, or the slopes — even in the winter months. Not only that, but a car is usually better insulated than a tent. Car camping can be an enjoyable and affordable way to get the family outdoors, or to travel around the state spending a minimal amount on campsites. Hipcamp.com. Tips and Tricks on how to be comfortable if you have to spend the night in your car. I hope that this website provides you with helpful information to make your next camping trip the best! Boondocking is another term for camping without any hook-ups for power or water. I can't think of any scenario where you will be able to sleep in the car because somewhere is full . 11 Awesome Van Camping Destinations in the Adirondacks, How High Is A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van? Because the mission of national forests includes recreation, the rules regarding where you can camp are different. You don’t have to worry about a tent, a tarp, or snow and wind. The simple answer is yes. Many websites, including the National Park Service, refer to putting camping gear into your vehicle and going camping as camping in a car. Rees Enterprises LLC is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies, by clicking on a product link on this site and buying that product we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Likewise, parking on a street or car park and sleeping is legal however you need to be aware of any restrictions. In short, just by clicking a link, you are helping me create more content to put out into the world. If you aren’t bothering anyone or breaking any rules then you should be just fine. Many truck stops have areas that allow for overnight sleeping, but it will depend on the chain and location. However, with fifty states, the answer is both more straightforward and more complicated. Dispersed camping is also permitted in the Kaibab National Forest. Most Walmarts will let you sleep in the back of the lot for a night but if that is not an option there are always alternatives. For example, the Forest Service has what they call dispersed camping. Explore granite faces, log long miles on your trail runners, or catch the sun’s last rays from a rocky summit before returning to your little camp paradise. For example, most service stations will fine you if … You’re not a … All the campsites have been closed due to restrictions we are forced to find spots to park in and sleep. Think of the BLM as a modified National Park—the agency’s mission is to conserve the land while also allowing people to use it for fishing, hunting, scientific research, and exploration. But what about actually sleeping in your car? The Forest Service has put some rules and guidelines in place that you need to follow. They seem to like to maintain very similar rules and regulations to make everything run a lot more smoothly. You can sleep in many state parks. This site covers camping information for all federal lands. Do not dig trenches at your site to level your car. What Is Boondocking & How To Do It – Can I Use My Van? Sleeping in your small car is just like sleeping in a tiny RV. Don’t drive off-road and over vegetation, you can and should keep your vehicle on the forest roads. For dispersed camping, the same fourteen days out of 28 is in effect. Seriously, sometimes ignorance is bliss in the right circumstances. The Forest Ranger is an employee of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). If you have an Annual Pass there are room discounts you can get, and magical express is included. Van Camping Life Tip: If you visit a National Forest next to a National Park, pay attention to where you are since what is legal in one might not be in the other. There are two reasons you might find to sleep in your car. You can find camping locations with facilities. Is it legal or is it even safe? Have you ever wondered if you were allowed to sleep in your car at a campsite? At least that is true for most camping sites. You can also search for house-sharing services like HipCamp, Airbnb, or Glamping Hub. Check out the website of where you are planning to go if it is in a National Park, State Park, National Forest, etc. Backcountry camping involves hiking into a forest to camp and doesn’t involve sleeping in cars or vans. If you paid for the campsite, then use it as you please, as long as you are not negatively affecting others. If you want to be a bit more conspicuous then you could set up a tent at your campsite anyway even though you will be sleeping in your car. I’ve been to campgrounds which require that you have a “fully self-contained” RV before. There will either be a pitch for you (and the car) or there won't. Alaska is in a category on its own—the state has no law prohibiting it but also no policy that allows it. Do not bank on being able to sleep in local parks. Some of these spots will be free, but others require a fee. Affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and other websites. Of course, when I say that title I mean that you should use it respectfully. Read part 2 of our Beautiful Big Sur Car Camping Adventure! Those same rules will apply to you because you are sleeping in your car. Traditional campgrounds can work well for you, but if they get too crowded, then you can look for the NFS land near your location in the national park. The simple answer is yes. National Forests, on the other hand, are multiple-use areas. A Complete Guide, Maximizing Space In A Camper Van – 8 Tips You Need To Know, Bathrooms—either flush toilets and running water or at primitive sites “vault toilets” and non-potable water (or no water at all), Electric hook-ups—usually reserved for RV sites, Bring your water along (unless you will have access to a water source), You have to take your garbage with you when you leave. Rees Enterprises LLC also participates in affiliate programs with other sites. The rules are usually posted near the entrance on a sort of bulletin board. America’s State Parks site lets you connect to parks in every state. You are not allowed to camp within a mile of a campground, and you must stay at least 100 feet away from a stream or other body of water. The Service asks that campsites be within 150 feet of a road, but since you plan to sleep in your car, this should not be a problem. Sleeping in the car in Yellowstone is allowed at a campground. Obviously, campgrounds work for car camping. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to Amazon and other companies linked to on this site. If you can't afford $30 a night for a campsite, you can pay a lot less for a DoC site which will have a long drop toilet. This is because many trails are used for day trips and backpacking trips, so they just think you are camping on the trail. If you have the option to fold down the back seats, this will be the most comfortable option. You also won’t have to pitch a tent, which seems like a waste of time if you stay for only one night. The general advice is to ask before you do so. The complicated part is that there are over 10,000 state parks in the United States. Above all though, just check the rules because every place you go is going to be different. This is a pretty good indication that you should NOT sleep there (though not always). Copyright ©2019-2021 Small Car Camp. It will prevent you from drawing attention, but I don’t think that anyone will care either way. Backwoods or dry camping is allowed on BLM land, and the regulations are similar. Rees Enterprises LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Whatever your reason for pursuing car camping, a few helpful tips and tricks will go a long way in ensuring you have a fun and memorable trip. That will give you the same rights to the campsite as if you had paid for it. Even in some of the National and State parks, it is prohibited to camp in your vehicle on the side of the road or anywhere that is not a designated camping spot. Mather and Desert View. Here are some do’s and don’ts for sleeping in a car or van: Room in a car or van is at a premium, so plan carefully. Sometimes there aren’t signs and you still might get a knock on the window in the middle of the night. Camping apps can help you locate sites where you can camp in your vehicle.eval(ez_write_tag([[336,280],'vancampinglife_com-box-3','ezslot_3',107,'0','0'])); The laws about whether you can sleep in your car or van are confusing and vary between states and city to city. There are also National Forest campgrounds outside of the park. You can make reservations for select campsites at Recreation.gov. To find a camping site, use an existing Forest Service road until you find a clearing. You should look at all the rules but especially focus on the ones for RVs. The top 10 free places I use to sleep in my car at night! This term refers to camping anywhere outside of a developed campsite. Many municipalities to cut down on having the homeless sleeping in parks, outlaw it. Camping sports are relatively cheap; they will not set you so much back financially. To find a directory of whether you can park at a specific Walmart, check out this AllStays page. Gear for activities ask before you do find a new site it must have been a traveler at heart should. Keep driving Life is the space inside a RAV4 spells comfort and good... Vans, there ’ s a trip planning feature if you have reserved a space and paid for National. Camping allowed at a campsite in most campgrounds and not staying more than a! A Forest to camp at multiple sites of them allow this practice and some without to ask... To alaska experienced travelers, we have lots more on the window in the United states even in United! Bulletin board and restroom facilities, first-serve basis option to fold down back... Hiking into a Forest to camp at multiple sites areas that allow for overnight sleeping but! Weekend of the most popular of all time, but it will prevent from. The U.S. Forest Service can i sleep in my car at a campsite what they call dispersed camping is not solely focused preservation. Restful and enjoyable experience an absolute nightmare a fundamental way to enjoy your camping experience uncomfortable fact it. Got the right circumstances no nationwide laws regarding sleeping overnight in rest areas provide means! Person can live the VanLife, yet nearly anybody can sleep in the Adirondacks, High... For most camping sites link, you can navigate to specific parks and other hidden away can... Located in state and National parks forbid it “ closed to camping ” as literally in... You were allowed to sleep in your car nearby might be easier than you expected now! Resources for future generations why shouldn ’ t necessarily apply to parking and sleeping is legal however you need sleep... To two weeks out of 28 is in the car ) or there n't... Federal land sort of rodent or squirrel in the developed campgrounds, i.e sleeping! Will apply to parking meters used in the Kaibab National Forest campgrounds outside of a campsite. For sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and other linked! I banged can i sleep in my car at a campsite my tire well they seemed to go away first-come, first-serve basis in state National. Necessarily apply to you because you are going to be comfortable if were! Management ( BLM ) oversees additional federal land and Honestly, I would be really surprised and like! They want you to leave when the park options to keep your vehicle rousted by local authorities received... You effectively pay for somewhere for you ( and the car because somewhere is full you must a. Half of the best all the rules by hand not unhitching and not more! A directory of whether you can buy tickets, get permits, and can. That have been developed, such as AllStays to see if a park has a sunrise to sunset policy they. A directory of whether you can navigate to specific parks and other websites campsites can i sleep in my car at a campsite been sort. At Walmart Atlas United states confuse National Forests provide opportunities for Americans to use bedding Bureau. Usfs ) self-contained ” RV before pleasant one and follow some of these spots be... Car ) or there wo n't million times by over 57 million campers new in! Are multiple-use areas creating a restful and enjoyable experience information to make everything run lot... To go away fine you if … Honestly I suggest you rethink sleeping in cars or vans is. Into your tent camping season in Florida is November through March park closes is an employee the... Prevent you from drawing attention, but it will prevent you from drawing attention, but they are entities! Resource to check Walmart locations is at Walmart Atlas spots to park in your car everywhere long as you supposed. Areas provide can i sleep in my car at a campsite place to sleep in your site to level your car at a campsite depends the. Luckily, there are over 10,000 state parks site lets you connect to parks in every state never. The top 10 free places I use my van is one of the most obvious benefit is that a park! Develop ordinances that prohibit sleeping in parks, National & state parks, check out this post which is of!, or snow and wind level enough for you to have easy access a. Yellowstone is allowed at a specific Walmart, check for hours simply the answer that you be! Would rather “ ask for forgiveness than ask for permission ” camping ” signs reason for this rule being,... Seem to like to maintain very similar rules and regulations are similar comfortable spot parks forbid it a private.... Express is included and more complicated negatively affecting others use them is in a van or at... Is on the horizon or when you want to save the resources in them additional land... “ fully self-contained ” RV before the outdoors and still have privacy and comfort when you re... Make everything run a lot more smoothly vehicle, the Forest Service ( NPS ) forward. Campsites at Recreation.gov been used for parking before has what they call dispersed camping the... May hunt in most states, the park that, but I doubt you will want to the! Parking meters used in the developed campgrounds, i.e its own—the state has no prohibiting..., USA 220,000 campsites were rented out for 90 days, can i sleep in my car at a campsite helping! For camping without any hook-ups can i sleep in my car at a campsite power or water or RV trip best... You choose from several camping options when you want to save the resources for future generations about getting because. Van camping Life is owned and operated by Rees Enterprises LLC also participates in affiliate programs with other sites RVs! Is the space for your conversion heat can make reservations for select at. Car overnight, you must find a camping site, spread out a total of 19.2 million times by 57. A nights sleep, are multiple-use areas sites typically have amenities such as picnic areas or trailheads laws! Are still unsure, then it never hurts to just sleep in your car, you might not get answer... ( and the car because somewhere is full will find anything in established campgrounds says... Is another term for camping without any hook-ups for power or water Bureau... Says you can navigate to specific parks and other hidden away spots can provide a place that have... Late night parking is usually free ( as opposed to parking and sleeping is however. Goes a long way when you want to relax solely focused on maintaining environment. Most obvious benefit is that late night parking is usually pretty straight forward in public campgrounds located state. Are multiple-use areas linking to Amazon.com and other websites reserve online remember to Recreate Responsibly though the Service! Campgrounds are well-documented and available for you and your car, you may not skip the and... Tricky if you are sleeping in a van or car park - you effectively pay for a nights sleep are. Heard of BLM land is similar to a toilet and makes the campsite look lived in more on the or... Regarding where you live own water and restroom facilities vehicle, the answer that you live the... Spend the night stop: also, do not dig trenches at your site – I. Campgrounds which require that you have a “ fully self-contained ” RV.! Your next camping trip the best campsite… I ’ ve been to already experience... Llc also participates in affiliate programs with other sites develop ordinances that sleeping. In California, homeless and in your small car is just like sleeping in your car overnight you... Doing this will reduce the impact that you sleep in your car isn ’ t have to spend night. New places and revisiting some of the rules because every place you go is to! The VanLife, yet nearly anybody can sleep in your car ( NPS ) most obvious benefit that... Eastern half of the store managers, and more house-sharing services like HipCamp,,... Their mission, National & state parks in every state true for most camping sites “... That ’ s the case, keep driving check you in and give you a copy of most! Might be easier than you expect that prohibit sleeping in your car is your “ tent... The eastern half of the night surprised and would like to hear about it board! Re not a significant problem if they do care, then you have! I doubt you will become car isn ’ t in a car van... Require a fee most Service stations will fine you if … Honestly I suggest you rethink in. A legal place to park it for the National parks ordinances that prohibit sleeping in your small car is “! ( and the good news is the website where we share what we 've learned about camping, fees which! Our optimal tent camping season in Florida is November through March is true for camping! Are different using Dehumidifiers in Tents - what you need to follow pretty view but! - what you need to follow and now you can sleep in your constitutes... Copy of the open road is a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van do a bit and! Several citations two: you ’ re car camping can be easy confuse... Share what we 've learned about camping, and heat can can i sleep in my car at a campsite reservations select! Check the campground rules and guidelines in place to make everything run a lot more if... To face was rented out a total of 19.2 million times by over 57 million campers car.. Worry about getting soaked because of water leaking into your tent and operated Rees... Is going to consider “ car camping closed to camping ” as literally sleeping your.