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Car Camping Storage: 23 Essential Tips and Innovative Hacks

Car Camping Storage: 23 Essential Tips and Innovative Hacks

Camping, especially when confined to the space of a car, demands meticulous organization. Not only does this ensure quick access to gear in emergencies, but it also safeguards against attracting wildlife, and significantly cuts down time spent on unpacking and repacking. As every seasoned camper knows, a well-organized camp is the cornerstone of a successful outdoor experience.

1. Establishing Organization Systems:

The first step to car camping like a pro involves adopting organization systems. This means having a consistent place for every item, from food in clear plastic bins to backup headlamps in the console. Systems remove guesswork, reduce mess, and prevent gear from being misplaced, ensuring everything has its designated spot, whether you're on the move or settled at the campsite.

2. Mastering Smaller Items:

While larger items like sleeping bags are straightforward to organize, smaller essentials like headlamps and cell phones require more thought. Micro-organization focuses on assigning specific, easy-to-remember places for these smaller items. This approach not only declutters your space but also ensures you don't lose track of these often indispensable items.

3. Key Management:

A simple yet crucial aspect of car camping organization is key management. Misplacing car keys can quickly escalate into a stressful situation. Establish a consistent spot for your keys – a cupholder, a specific hook, or a compartment in a cargo hammock. For added security, consider having a backup key hidden under the car or in a magnetic hide-a-key.

4. Utilizing Cargo Bins and See-Through Storage:

Cargo bins are invaluable for keeping gear organized. Grouping similar items in labeled bins simplifies finding what you need without rummaging through everything. Clear plastic bins take this a step further, allowing you to see contents without opening them. This visibility is particularly useful for locating specific items in a jiffy.

5. Converting Unused Space into Storage:

Innovative solutions like seatback organizers and cargo hammocks transform underutilized space into useful storage areas. These organizers provide compartmentalized storage for a variety of items, from water bottles to headlamps, while keeping them within arm's reach.

6. External Storage Solutions:

For wet or bulky gear, external cargo carriers are a godsend. They keep your sleeping area free of clutter and moisture, especially vital in cooler temperatures where condensation can be a problem. Brands like Thule and Yakima offer secure, spacious options for roof or hitch-mounted storage, perfect for skis, boards, or fishing gear.

7. Outdoor Gear Storage:

Storing gear like camp chairs and coolers outside the vehicle can free up significant space inside. This strategy is particularly useful in bear country, where keeping food and scented items outside and secure is crucial. Always ensure that your outdoor storage methods are safe and respect wildlife.

8. Embracing Creativity and Repurposing Items:

Car camping doesn’t have to break the bank. Look around your home for items that can double as storage solutions: hanging shoe organizers for kitchen supplies, suction-cup window planters for added shelf space, or shower caddies as dish racks. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

9. Color Coding and Dry Bags:

For those who enjoy water-based activities like kayaking or canoeing, color-coding your dry bags is a game-changer. Assigning specific colors to different types of gear (e.g., orange for breakfast items, blue for dinner gear) ensures you grab the right bag every time.

10. Isolating Scented Items:

In areas with active wildlife, particularly bears, it’s critical to isolate scented items like toiletries in specific bags or odor-proof containers. This practice prevents the scents from permeating your gear and attracting unwanted wildlife guests.

11. Focusing on Multi-Use Gear:

To minimize clutter, select gear that serves multiple purposes. A carabiner that doubles as a knife and firestarter, or a cooking pot that also serves as a bowl, can significantly reduce the amount of gear needed, keeping your space organized and manageable.

12. Safety Item Organization:

Keep safety items like a compass, whistle, and knife consistently on your person during the day and

 in a designated spot at night. This practice ensures these critical items are always at hand when you need them.

13. Efficient Trash Management:

Proper trash storage is often overlooked. Plan in advance by bringing along specific bags for trash. This keeps your campsite clean and ensures that your other storage systems aren’t compromised by scattered waste.

14. Compression Sacks for Compact Storage:

In space-constrained situations, like winter camping, compression sacks are invaluable. They significantly reduce the volume of bulky items like clothes and sleeping bags, freeing up precious space.

15. Dedicated ‘Poop Bag’:

For a smooth outdoor bathroom experience, especially for new campers, create a dedicated ‘poop bag’ with all necessary items. This includes a trowel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bags for used paper, making the process as hassle-free as possible.

16. Hand and Dish Washing Stations:

Set up a designated area for hand and dishwashing. A simple setup with a water jug, soap, and a bin to catch gray water keeps your campsite orderly and minimizes environmental impact.

17. The Utility of Clotheslines:

For longer camping trips, a clothesline is a versatile tool. It’s perfect for airing out clothes, drying wet gear, and keeping items off the ground and away from critters.

18. Using Hard-sided Containers:

Hard-sided containers like repurposed 5-gallon buckets offer secure storage for your gear, keeping it safe from common campground critters. They’re also water-resistant, adding an extra layer of protection.

19. Repurposing Office Storage Solutions:

Portable plastic drawer sets, commonly seen in offices, are surprisingly effective for organizing gear in RVs and cars. They’re ideal for keeping things tidy and accessible without consuming too much space.

20. Old Metal Coffee Cans for Snack Storage:

Reusing metal coffee cans is a clever and eco-friendly way to store snacks. They’re sturdy, stackable, and perfect for keeping your food secure and fresh.

21. Wall-Mounted Magnetic Strips in RVs:

In RVs or camper vans, wall-mounted magnetic strips are a smart solution for storing knives, tools, and other metal utensils. Magnetic hooks can also be added for hanging additional gear or clothing.

22. Preparing a Camping Grab Bag:

To expedite your departure, prepare a camping grab bag with essentials. Items not suitable for long-term storage in the bag can be listed on an index card, making it a quick checklist to ensure you have everything before you leave.

23. Post-Trip Storage with Labeled Totes:

Post-trip organization is as crucial as pre-trip preparation. Use large, labeled plastic totes to store different types of gear. This makes locating items for your next adventure much more straightforward and keeps your gear in good condition.


Car camping storage, when done right, transforms the experience from daunting to delightful. It’s about finding a balance between creativity, efficiency, and practicality. Whether through innovative storage solutions or simply adopting a systematic approach to gear organization, these tips and tricks pave the way for a smoother, more enjoyable camping journey. So pack up, hit the road, and relish the adventure, secure in the knowledge that everything you need is neatly stowed and ready for use.

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John Harvey

John est un passionné de camping automobile avec une Jeep Wrangler 2009. Il adore la pizza 🍕 et apprécie la compagnie de son chat espiègle.