Tips & Tricks on how to pack a small car for camping 2023

how to pack a small car for camping

Camping is a type of experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, starting from kids to grandpas. While preparing for camping, lies two different types of groups. One is the backpacking campers group, while the other is the car camping group. In my opinion, I think that car camping is better when compared to backpacking campers due to the ability to take a lot more essential items in your cars.

However, not all cars are big and compatible to handle everything you need to take. Did the previous make you worry?  Yes, we know, packing for camping is always challenging, on the other hand, packing for small car camping is even more challenging. Well, in that case, hang on tight as we are going to describe to you how to pack a small car for camping. When packing for a camping trip in your small car, it is important to use every space available to you. Without maintaining proper steps for organizing your small car camping, there would be chances to be messed up your camping journey.

To know more about car camping, we would suggest you read our article on how to camp in your car as well as Camping In Your Car: The Fun and Affordable Way to Vacation!

How to pack a small car for camping

Let’s get started with the steps on how to pack a small car for camping, we would like to request you to follow the steps and jot down the main points so that you can cover all of them.

Packing a small car for camping

Step 1. How to make sure your small car can handle the trip?

If you’re planning on taking a road trip in your small car, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’ll be able to handle the journey.

  • First, check your tires and make sure they have enough tread. Also, make sure your car is properly tuned up and that the brakes are working well.
  • Get an oil change. Old oil can cause engine problems on a long trip.
  • Fill up your gas tank. You don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
  • If you’re carrying any extra weight in the car, try to distribute it evenly so the car doesn’t get too top-heavy.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and be aware of potential hazards like construction zones and tolls roads.
  • And finally, always drive slowly and carefully on unfamiliar roads. With a bit of preparation, you can ensure that your small car will be able to handle even the longest road trip.

Step 2: How to clean up your car before small car camping?

One of the best ways to enjoy small car camping is to make sure your car is clean and organized before you head out. This will help make packing and unpacking easier and will keep your car organized and clutter-free while you’re on the road. Here are a few tips for cleaning up your car before small car camping:

  1. Start by emptying out the entire car, including the trunk. Get rid of any unnecessary items, and organize what’s left into piles.
  2. Take a wet towel and an anti-bacterial spray and make sure to wipe and clean out the complete back storage space. This will make sure to get rid of molds and any sort of harmful substances present in your car while also preventing the buildup of such harmful creatures.
  3. Clean the inside of the car with a vacuum cleaner or a rag, making sure to get into all the corners and crevices.
  4. Wipe down all of the surfaces with a cleaning agent or a wet rag. Pay special attention to areas that tend to get dirty, like the dashboard and door panels.

Step 3: What do you need to pack for a small car camping?

Given that the size of your car’s trunk is small, you will need to think and calculate before throwing stuff in there. One thing that you can do beforehand makes a list of the essential items you need at first then after completing your ‘needs’ list then you can move on to your ‘wants’ list.

However, you must keep in mind to prioritize your essential items first as, without them, you might face various sorts of trouble during camping. Besides, don’t fill your car with unnecessary items that aren’t essential for your camping trip.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Food and cooking supplies
  • Clothing and footwear
  • First Aid kit
  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • Tools and other gear

Step 4. Keep visibility clear for small car camping

When packing up the items, make sure you are packing them up yourself instead of using a house cleaner, as this will help you organize your items better and you will know which item is placed where. If someone else organizes it for you, then you will have a hard time knowing which item is where. Others might not even care about the items and just place them randomly and in an uneven order, such as putting up heavy objects on top of light items.

If you arrange all the items yourself, then you won’t form up a pile on the back of your car. Now you might think, what could possibly go wrong if you form a pile since at least you will be able to fit all your items. Now, if you all stack them on top of one another and form a pile, you will end up blocking your vision to look back as whenever you look in your rear mirror, you won’t be able to see the cars behind you. This is a highly dangerous activity and might cause accidents since you won’t be able to see who’s behind you and move sideways without noticing. While you might say that you got your side mirrors or wing mirrors, those aren’t enough, as a rear mirror is crucial while driving. Therefore, make sure that you avoid any sort of piling up on the back of your car, which might block your vision.

Step 5: How to organize heavy items during small car camping?

When you going to be packing up, your main agenda must be to make sure that you put the heavy items down and place them on the car storage floor at first. This will make sure that your heavy items are safe and secured. Placing them on top of other unstable items will make them topple and cause damage all around. Placing them up top near the door is also a huge risk as you might need to suddenly brake your car or you accidentally go over a rough patch on the road, your heavy items might hit the door forcefully and might open the door, which might lead to all your items getting stranded in the middle of the road. Therefore, make sure that you put the heavy and big items first and then proceed with the rest

Step 6: How to use storage box and labeling while small car camping?

Here’s another tip that will come in handy while packing up and that is using a storage box to group and pack. Normally, we would just take everything and put them in the back of our car. What if we started using storage boxes? That’s right. By using storage boxes, you can group your items more easily and you will know where that specific item was placed while searching for them. Your items will be more organized and the back of your car will look more neat and tidy.

You can take a leap of faith and start labeling your boxes. This will make it a lot easier to spot the boxes and know what item is present inside which box without opening them and searching all the boxes for one specific item.

Step 7: What Food and drinks to bring during small car camping?

Every single creature on planet Earth needs different types of food sources to survive, as, without food, any creature would simply just perish due to hunger and thirst. Therefore, we need to make sure to pack plenty of food to feed our hunger, You don’t have to worry about water as you can just easily obtain them from nearby lakes or wells and heat them up to purify them and eliminate all sorts of bacteria and parasites.

When you are going camping in a small car, there are a few things to consider when packing your food and drinks. You will want to bring food that doesn’t require refrigeration and is easy to prepare. You may also want to bring along drinks that don’t need ice. Some good food choices for small car camping include sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, granola bars, and chips. When it comes to drinks, bottled water, juice boxes, and soft drinks are all good options. If you plan on cooking over the campfire, you can also bring along hot dogs or s’mores ingredients.

You need to make sure you have enough food for the trip or you can take less food to use that space for other essentials and later on, hunt for food in the wild and get a more natural experience on how to obtain food. This could be a fun activity and will help you with team-building exercises if you are doing it with other people while time goes by.

Step 8. How to store food and drinks during small car camping?

Camping with a small car can be a challenge, but it is not impossible. You just need to be creative and make use of the limited space you have. One thing to consider is how to store food and drinks. If you are only going for a short trip, you can probably just pack everything in the trunk. But if you are going on a longer trip, you will need to store food and drinks somewhere else in the car.

Here are a few tips for storing food and drinks during small car camping trips:

  • Use a cooler. A cooler is a must-have for keeping food and drinks cold while camping. Make sure to pack plenty of ice or frozen water bottles to keep everything chilled.
  • Organize your cooler efficiently. Place the items that will expire first on the bottom and work your way up. This will help ensure that everything stays fresh throughout the trip.
  • Use airtight containers for packing snacks and other dry goods.

Step 9: Snapping a picture of your packing items

After you are done packing properly and successfully, you can take a picture and save it in your gallery for future needs. You might think that you don’t need to take a picture as you will remember it but when you go camping a year or two later, that time you will definitely forget the pattern as it isn’t easy to remember the exact details of what was kept where and their exact positions.

Therefore, just take a pic or two once you are done because you will also need to pack up your stuff the same way you brought them while you head back home. Taking a picture will also mark as an achievement for doing something impossible, whilst showing it to your friends as doing the impossible.


There are a lot of different types of cars with various designs and storage spaces. Just because you own a small car doesn’t mean you can’t go camping at all. You can definitely go, but with slightly fewer items, and you need to be sagacious on what to take and where to put your items. These tips will definitely come in handy the next time you decide to go camping. Happy Camping!

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