May 8, 2014 at 11:16 am #1316599
I am heading to South Jersey tomorrow in search of a place to rent, when my family moves there next month. I am trying to keep my trip as cheap as possible, and I am considering camping for $5/night vs the cheapest hotels at $50/night. I will have a small rental car, not big enough for comfortable sleeping inside of (ford focus or similar). The trip is 3 nights. For this trip, camping is a means of sleep rather than the goal. Perceived to be safer than couchsurfing or walmart parking.
Forecast is overnight low of ~60F, chance of rain one night.
Everything must fit in a airline "personal item" defined by Frontier as 18x14x8. I have a messenger bag that suits. Weight is less important, bulk (does it fit) is what matters.
Exped Downmat ul7s or Synmat ul7m. Similar weight, I own both. if the down UL7S works I would prefer it, as the synmat is new in package.
Wearable midweight fleece blanket. Just barely full coverage when fully opened and placed diagonal.
Long johns? Wool or silk available
fleece hat or balaclava
all weather Sportsmans blanket, 5'x7' 13oz (its a reflective poly tarp)
Integral Designs Salathe Bivy (borrow from friend)
Mosquito headnet if not using bivy.
2oz dr bronners
2oz hand sanitizer
MSR pack towel
Rock crystal deodorant or conventional speedstick
Compass with mirror
Bathroom at site
light wool felt dress slacks
light wool socks
200wt icebreaker t shirt
light woven wool pendleton button up long sleeve
Standard leather shoes
Jacket of choice. What to bring? Have synthetic columbia parka, heavy wool felt duffle coat, fleece choices, goretex shells, swanndri wool bush shirt…
2 pr underwear. One merino one synthetic
2 pr socks. Both wool
Long sleeve woven silk button up camp shirt
Vinyl or poly poncho?
Small first aid kit. Has meds, gauze, trauma shears, tape, emergency space blanket. Sandwich bag size kit.
1 book safety matches
1 bic lighter
Fire ring at site
Nalgene/guyot 40oz stainless bottle
Space saver stainless cup
LMF Ti spork.
Credit card and cash
Potable water available at site
Chargers for phone
Road atlas upon arrival
Rite in Rain notepad and sharpie
zebralight h50w, no strap
Backup plan, hide in car for weather. Run heater if hypothermic. Get the skeezy hotel if needed.May 10, 2014 at 9:18 am #2101083
you could add the light airline blanket they'll give you for a few degrees more warmth! Also, airlines let you bring a second carry-on "personal" item, like a laptop bag or purse, a way to add a bit more bulk.May 10, 2014 at 10:22 am #2101095
I know it's irritating when you ask a question and instead of answering, people question your premise. Seems to be how it's done at BPL. So with apologies:
A Ford Focus doesn't have a reclining passenger's seat? In your situation my first goal would be to find a way to make my car into my tent, and the seats into mattresses. But I'll take your word, that it's just too small. My second option then would be to put that additional $5 or $10 per night toward a larger rental car, one with fully reclining seats. Or a PT Cruiser style vehicle. And I'd take a sleeping pill to help with sleeping. With the car locked, you'd be pretty durn safe, and could vacate in seconds if necessary.
Seems you could really cut down on gear, hassle, and planning, if only you could make your car be your tent.May 10, 2014 at 11:01 am #2101102
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
18x14x8=2000 cubic inches or 32 liters. What's the challenge? You don't need a pack, so just find a cheap duffel bag or suitcase that fits the dimensions. Do check with the airline to see if they allow one carry-on plus one "personal" bag.
Remember, you are going to be in civilization and not the wilderness, so there are all kinds of services and options available. Eat fast food/deli/fresh fruit supplemented with hiking style snacks, so no cooking. Buy a cheap paring knife for food prep when you get there so you don't have to worry about TSA.
I've spent 3+ weeks in Europe with a much smaller bag. We do the "three" system for clothing on long trips: one to wear, one clean and one dirty. Ben has told many stories here about world travel with a tiny carry-on pack.
If you have time, you could mail your stuff ahead, just like a through-hiker drop box and mail it home when done (see USPS.com for "hold for pickup" services)
Are there campgrounds like KOA there? That would make car camping easier. You could buy a super cheap car camping tent at a big box store and ship it home or donate it when you leave. If there is an REI near, you could rent stuff too.
There are lots of compact cars with fold-down rear seats than might allow sleeping.May 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm #2101152
I've slept in my ford focus numerous times before. the back seats fold out and open into the trunk so you can lay out diagonallyMay 10, 2014 at 4:48 pm #2101167
I too have spent many a night in Ford Focuses (Foci?), Neons, Corollas, Priuseseses, Accents, etc. I used to do it because it was cheap. Now I don't care about a $100/night room, but sometimes I don't want to spend the time to find a hotel, check in, check out, etc. Hotel stays never seem to be under 9 hours, but 4-5-6 hours napping in the car and I'm good to go again. Several tricks / info:
Letting the engine idle uses very little gasoline – less than a 1/4 gallon per hour for a compact car, about 1/7 gallon per hour in a Prius. Driving out and back from the campground uses some gas anyway. Skip the sleeping bag, just set the car thermostat to where you want.
Walmarts are open 24 hours and let people stay in campers / motorhomes in their parking lots. Park away from the doors and pay some attention to NOT having a streetlight shine in your eyes.
Bring a pillow. Or, with your minimal baggage volume, buy one at Walmart ($3.97 to $5.36). A pillow is the the FIRST, biggest trick for road-tripping of all sorts.
The next most important item is a towel. But a roll of paper towels does in a pinch. With those, you can take a sponge bath in a restroom (use one as the sponge, others to rinse and a few more to dry).
I always brought a road atlas or AAA maps on road trips. Until I got a smart phone. Learn your maps app. With practice, it is easier to follow (less distracting) than a paper map.
Campgrounds near large cities are often pretty sorry places – jammed in between buildings and parking lots with lots of traffic noise. I'd really sleep better in a reclined seat of a car. Most rental-car places let you choose from a variety of compact cars. So recline the seat and see which one is most comfortable for you.
Hospital parking lots are another possibility. Ambulances cut their sirens when they approach the hospital, so they are often quieter than other metropolitan spots. There are public restrooms and often a well-stocked, 24-hour, low-cost cafeteria inside. My standard answer should anyone official ask, is "Officer, I was driving through the night, got tired and it didn't feel safe to drive more without a nap." No one is going to cite you for doing that (no has cited me the 5% – about 10 times that it's come up), they just tell you to move along.May 11, 2014 at 9:19 pm #2101523
@glenn64Locale: Snowhere, MN
I wouldn't rule out examining the car you end up getting. Some of the newer back seats fold down pretty flat, expanding the trunk compartment and back seat area into a queen sized, carpeted sleep area.
Just something to keep in mind I guess. Good luck.May 12, 2014 at 4:27 am #2101572
David- what you are describing is the same thing my wife and I are doing this summer to go to Utah. We are traveling out there to see the sister in law and we are going to be stealth? car camping in parking lots and what not.
Do you happen to know the etiquette about parking at rest stops along the way? seems ideal to sleep in our car at rest stops along the high way.May 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm #2101693
Also a David (;))
I don't about Utah's laws, but when I moved from SF to Seattle a few years back, I had to drive between them about 4 times. I often slept at rest stops. The rules (in Washington anyway) are that you can't pitch a tent and you are usually limited to something like 6-8 hours. And no one really clocks that.
I did have one weird experience. I was sleeping in a saturn, feet in the trunk, head on the folded forward back seats, and one morning I woke, looked up, and there was a FACE just above me. An 8-year old kid saw me sleeping and decided to film me through my window with a camcorder. Made me jump!
But never any cop problems. That said, Utah has its own, sometimes strange laws, so I'd check the local rules first.May 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm #2101718
Nathan – You're just fine in those highway rest areas. That's what they're there for – to avoid drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Yeah, as the other David says, most states prohibit tents. Once it's dark, no one is going to care if you roll out your sleeping bag under the most distant picnic table, but you might get kissed on the nose in the middle of the night by a dog let off-leash to do its business or a skunk looking for discarded food.
So I just sleep in the car. Officially, there's a 4 or 6 or 8 hour limit in each state, but that's just to give an officer leeway to move someone undesirable along. Don't set up camp, don't hang out a clothes line, don't litter and everyone's cool.
A few tricks: You want to park well away from the restroom building because it will get traffic all night. The truck parking area is noisier because they idle their diesels all night. I test for street lights in my eyes by reclining my seats and double-checking. Sometimes I'll move my car a few spaces to improve that.
Biggest tip (I've done this a lot): Don't try to save gas. Waking up cold and shivering (or hot and sweaty) at 1 am is no way to get a good night's sleep. A gallon of gas is $4 and that's a lot less than a $50-90 motel room. All night long in a 4-cylinder car is less than 2 gallons of gas.
One time I was driving I-70 near Saline, Kansas and I remembered that a particular rest stop had the double-whammy of hot water in the sinks AND the 10-amp, hot-air hand dryers (not just the 2-amp fast air ones), making it a great place to do a sponge bath and wash my hair. Then it dawned on me, "I've done this a lot, if I'm memorized rest areas 1500 miles from home).
KOA campsites will sell you a shower for $5 or so. If you put a water-bladder on the rear deck of a sedan, by day's end it will be toasty warm for a shower (when car-camping on a road trip, I travel with a bladder and shower-head adapter). But you can also walk into any McD's and fill up a bladder or water bottle with their warm water. Generally, south of I-80 McD's bathrooms are multi-stall so you need to be more uninhibited to get naked by the sink and sponge yourself clean. Whereas in the northern tier of states, there's a locking door on a one-person bathroom, making it less nerve-racking to wash up. Service station bathrooms aren't nearly as clean at McD's, but are typically single user. And, HEY!, you just saved >$50 on a hotel room, so spend $1 on a roll of paper towels and whip down all surfaces, leaving it cleaner and drier than you found it. Road-tripping LNT.
Depending on how fast I'm aiming to travel (PB: 2650 miles Seattle-Kenai, 51 hours, solo), I'll stay in a motel every 2nd or 3rd night. A full-on shower and a flat bad is a nice thing. If there you two of you, you MUST bring a big pillow like on your bed at home. Then you can leverage the driving time with the other person taking a nap. Good tunes on ear buds and dressing a little cooler can help the driver stay alert while chaffuering the napper.May 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm #2101852
> All night long in a 4-cylinder car is less than 2 gallons of gas.
Very interesting post. One comment: I was taught running the A/C on an idling car for an extended period put excess wear and tear on the engine. Maybe that's old thinking–maybe modern cars have no problem?May 13, 2014 at 1:01 am #2101879
Delmar, a 1966 Ford might have a problem. With only an engine-driven fan, but more load on the engine, maybe idling with A/C could overheat an engine. Modern cars all have electric fans on the radiator.
The car I slept in the most, a 1988 Corolla, had 294,000 miles when it needed its first repair over $100 (its first new clutch) and my wife wanted me to get a new car that smelled less like the dog. Someone else drove it around town for few more years.May 13, 2014 at 6:51 am #2101919
sweet, my wife and I are taking our van our west I think, take all the seats out of it i think we might be able to fit our full size mattress in the back, if not we have our expeds and backpacking stuff (plan to go backpacking for a few days out there if we have time, not sure how much time we'll have depending on when our jobs in Korea will start)May 13, 2014 at 8:29 am #2101940
"Taking our van"
That makes it easy. Driving the moving van to Alaska, I intentionally put the sofa on top on the whole pile. We'd trade off who slept on the sofa and who drove. Did 2650 miles in 2.5 days that way.May 13, 2014 at 9:02 am #2101950
that gives me a better idea. We have a ratty old futon i can take the legs off of and we can use that!
"2650 miles in 2.5 days"
Makes me think of the trip I took recently from Detroit to Grand Rapids and truly appreciating modern transportation.
If someone wanted to make the trip by foot say hiking 15 miles a day for a 200 mile trip (on the interstate so it could be longer by foot with rivers in the way and such) It would take a week and a half just to get there. Amazing that we can do it in three hours.
Sorry for the thread drift.May 13, 2014 at 10:37 am #2101990
@feetfirstLocale: Northern Sierra Nevada
"Biggest tip (I've done this a lot): Don't try to save gas. Waking up cold and shivering (or hot and sweaty) at 1 am is no way to get a good night's sleep. A gallon of gas is $4 and that's a lot less than a $50-90 motel room. All night long in a 4-cylinder car is less than 2 gallons of gas."
A couple of years ago two girls I went to college with died from carbon monoxide poisoning from this. They made a late night road trip to a ski resort planning to sleep in the parking lot, in their car, till morning when the lifts opened up. They backed into a spot with the bumper inches from a tall snow berm that, along with fresh snow overnight, allowed the exhaust to build up and get sucked back into the cabin of the car by the running heater. So, be sure your exhaust is not blocked and accumulating around and in the car before dozing off.May 13, 2014 at 10:46 am #2101994
Yes, be careful about breathing exhaust. Was that incident quite a few years ago? Modern cars with catalytic converters shouldn't put out much CO once the catalytic converter is up to temperature. I'd theorize it was an older car, or the tailpipe was in snow/water that cooled it, or it was extremely cold weather. If the tailpipe was mostly/partially blocked by a snowbank, small leaks and cracks that usually suck in air could leak exhaust out even before it got to the catalytic which would be highest in CO.
I do consider wind direction at times and try to park pointing upwind. Especially in the Aleutians. But that's so the doors don't get blown off.May 13, 2014 at 10:55 am #2101997
@feetfirstLocale: Northern Sierra Nevada
It happened only a couple of years ago, but it was an old early '80s Buick. I was really shook by the story not only for the loss of life, but because I've let my car/truck idle while resting off the highway during snow storms many times.May 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm #2102012
Doesn't take much CO to do it, if the conditions are right. A dear friend lost her daughter while waterskiing. The kid was hanging onto the back of the boat, near the boat's exhaust but otherwise in open air, adjusting her ski. Lost consciousness and sank without a noise, and in the half minute before the family looked over the rail to see if she was ready for a pull, she was gone.May 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm #2102075
The sell battery powered CO monitor/alarms because of gas stoves in houses….cheap.
I have heard of similar incidents with people in camper shells in the rear of pickups. Dont know if it was exhaust buildup around the camper shell, or exhaust leak from underneath getting in.
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