How to Pack for a Camping Trip in a Compact Car

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An RV, SUV, van or station wagon isn't always needed to pack for a camping trip. If only one or two people are going, a small, compact car is all you need, even if you're spending an entire weekend. There's more storage space in the trunk and rear seating compartment than you might think, and careful planning will allow all your needed gear and provisions to fit securely.

Clear out all space in the car, especially in the trunk and back seat. Take stock of everything you are planning to take on the camping trip. The basics usually include the tent, sleeping bags, a portable stove, one or two foldaway tables and enough provisions to last your stay.

Pack all items that are contractible first in the trunk, placing them in spots that save plenty of room within. A tent, properly stored in its bag, can go in the very back of the trunk up against the back seat. Any collapsible chairs can go next to the tent. Small, foldaway tables can lay flat on the trunk floorboard.

Place any cooking supplies near the front end of the trunk. This is especially true of the stove, so it can be removed easily without damage. A compact, two-burner camping stove will fit easily, and any utensils like pots and silverware should go in a box or case that can be closed. Do not store propane cans in the trunk.

Add anything large and/or soft on top of everything else. This includes sleeping bags, blankets and pillows. These go last in the trunk because it's easier to place them around the smaller, harder objects than vice versa. They will also secure and cushion the other items during the drive.

Store other items in the car's back seat, starting with a larger table if you are bringing one. A basic 20 by 45 inch table with fold-up legs can lie flat onto the back seat of most cars. Slide it into the car behind the front seats, then turn it to lay down on the seat. Coolers and any other containers holding provisions can be placed on top of the table. Store propane cans in the floorboard below the back seats, making sure they won't rattle around too much.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take vision into account when storing things in back. Your packed items shouldn't exceed the height of the back seat's backrest so you can still see out of the rear window while driving.

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