I do a lot of solo camping before and after day hikes when I’m up in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for the weekend. It’s a great way to save money, get a good night’s sleep between hikes, and get a little privacy to think. I know a lot of hikers who’d rather sleep in their car than set up a tent for the night. But, I’ve got a simple system for solo car camping that makes it easy to set up camp quickly and tear it down in the morning.
Solo Car Camping Tips
- Use a freestanding tent which is fast to set up and take down, in the dark, if necessary
- Find free primitive camp sites that you can drive up to, but still provide privacy
- Keep your car loaded up with firewood and jugs of tap water
- Pack a lawn chair for hanging out by the fire
- Keep a JetBoil and extra backpacking meals in your car
Since most of my regional hikes are in a national forest, there has lots of FREE primitive campsites that I can drive up to and camp at during the night: Haystack Road, Old Cherry Mountain Road, Galehead Road, etc. You just need to get yourself a decent White Mountain National Forest Map to find them.
First come, first serve. No reservations or credit cards required. Most of them already have fire rings, so you can built a small fire to relax by without having to worry about leave no trace impacts. Plenty of water nearby and no need for a bear bag: just put all your food and smellables in the car and lock it up for the night!
Come spring, I load up my trunk with firewood, a lawn chair, a freestanding tent (which is super fast to set up), sleeping bag, pad, a Jetboil, and a couple of backpacking dinners and breakfasts. I fill a couple of gallon jugs with tap water, so I always have plenty of clean water on hand too.
Having everything pre-packed in my car gives me a lot of flexibility to drive up the night before a hike and camp out or stay an extra day, without any preparation and hassle. Once you get a system down and figure out a couple of good places to camp, solo car camping becomes really easy and enjoyable.
If you like to hike someplace that a few hours from home and you do it nearly every weekend, solo car camping is the way to go.