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How To Car Camp In A Subaru Outback

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Subaru Outback car camping guide

how to car camp in a subaru outback

Ever wondered how to comfortably sleep and camp in your car? After 6 years of spending around 50 nights annually sleeping & camping in our Subaru we have the process and best gear DOWN. 

In this guide to car camping (with printable check lists below) we'll specifically cover how 2 people can comfortably car camp in a Subaru Outback, going over the best quality items to bring and the process.

The Car Camping Process

Subaru Forester Camping

 

Packing up can be a game of tetris for sure, we use the above layout mostly and then start cramming in our gear and amenities around this. It seems to work great given the ample room Subaru's provide. We often fit a third person in the seat behind the driver because it's a single seat that folds down separately from the other side (great design idea Subaru).  We recently received a Yakima 21 Sky Roof Box for a wedding gift which makes packing up a breeze but definitely not necessary. When the tailgate is raised it barely hits the Yakima box but only in the last inch of being fully open so it doesn't affect anything. You'll see a your average mile per gallon go down by about 3mpg with a cargo box on. 

Comfortably sleeping is a big help to enjoying your time out. Once you arrive at your campsite find the most level spot or one with your head slightly uphill. Back into a spot that provides more privacy when your back hatch is open. This helps for changing in your car and making out with your partner. Although the dirtier and stinkier you get the less you really need to worry about the latter. Leave your shoes under your car (or inside) when you crawl in so you can slip them on for a night pee's and keep them dry from any rain. 

This sleeping pad can be a slight pain when packing but fits well enough as you can see in that picture. When the pad is laid out in the back it's just long enough to keep the back hatch barely open, which is convenient because you can't open the back hatch from the inside if you want to get out. It also helps to vent the condensation out. On chilly or rainy evenings the pad can be bent up just enough to close the hatch all the way too. 

We use the little handle space in each back door to hold our headlamps or phones. If it's really cold we'll also sleep with the clothes we're going to put on the next morning in the bottom of our bags to help with chilly mornings.

Crack a window to help with condensation build up too. On really cold nights the moisture in your breath will create a beautifully annoying layer of ice on the inside of your windows so it's also helpful to have an extra towel for the morning when it's dripping. Open up all your doors in the morning to allow the car to dry out if that's the case.


Kitchen Stuff

what to bring car camping

  • First, make sure you have some awesome stickers for your gear!
  • Spices Box, Food Box, Cooler as seen above. 
  • Coleman Cooking Stove & hose adapter which will fit your everyday propane grill tank. These stoves typically use those little green gas cans which don't hold much and cost a lot. That hose adapter lets you use whatever tank you want, we use this mini-propane tank.
  • Alps Mountaineering Folding Table - you can always cook on a rock, picnic table or back of your tailgate but this is really convenient if you have the storage. 
  • 7-gallon water jug from Walmart with a spigot. 
  • 1 cooking pot for boiling water (helps to have a lid) and 1 pan for sautéing. 
  • Knife, cutting board, spatula, utensils for each person, a bowl or plate for each person, sponge, soap, hand sanitizer, hot pad, can and wine opener.
  • The Luci solar Lantern - best camping lantern we've found yet, always has a charge.
  • Mugs for tea or coffee and for when someone has some extra margarita's to share. 
  • Indestructible Double Wall French Press for loose tea or coffee 
  • Plastic bags for trash.
  • Cooler with ice block from the store (most have them) or make your own by freezing water in a milk jug. Ice blocks are WAY WAY better than cubed ice because they melt much slower. 
  • Extra Tupperware for leftovers and helping to cut veggies. We reuse lots of random containers what Talenti ice cream comes in. 
  • Jet Boil - nice to have for tent camping scenario and making a quick cup of tea 

 

guide to car camping 

Car Camping Meals

The Go To Dinner: Any combination of chopped Peppers, Onions, Zucchini, Broccoli, Sweat Potatoes sautéed and combine with things like Quinoa, Lentils, Black Beans, or CousCous. And cheese, lots of sharp cheese is a must. 

Spaghetti Mash Dinner: We'll often pre-cook these protein noodles at home since they take so long and then saute a mix of the same veggies mentioned above, add a tomato sauce once the veggies are cooked and these vegan-friendly Field Roast Italian Sausages are great to toss in chopped. You can find them in most grocery stores nowadays actually. And cheese of course. 

Korma Dunner: Tasty Bite Vegi Korma with couscous. Tasty Bites have really simple ingredients and don't need to be cooked. I'll often eat them right out of the bag for a snack. 

Super Taco Dinner - put cheese between 2 tortilla's, fry in a pan to make crisp and melty (like a quesadilla). Bend into a taco shape and put whatever veggies and meat you desire in there. Aaaammmaazzing. 

Epic Scramble Breakfast: Again saute veggie mix or leftovers from the previous night, once the veggies are cooked crack a few eggs in and scramble it all up. Add hot sauce and you can even use the same Field Roast sausages mentioned above....and cheese. 

Lunch: We go light on lunch usually snacking on apples, peanut butter, bars, cured meats, dehydrated hummus from your health food store's bulk section is convenient, Wild Planet tuna thrown into a Tasty bite rice bag, boiled egg marinated in Braggs . Or just bring your leftovers in a tupperware container from dinner/breakfast with you on your adventure.

Spices: Sea Salt or better yet Truffle Salt (it's like cheating), garlic powder, Cholula sauce, Adobe Milling Hot Sauce, pepper, cumin, thyme for breakfast potatoes, coriander, Braggs Liquid Amino's (like a healthier better soy sauce). We utilize a mix of all these on all meals. 

By using similar ingredients you reduce the number of different items you need to bring and reduce the likely hood of wasting the food. 

group site car camping

Kitchen Tips:

  • In freezing temps put water in your pot for boiling water in the morning or bring your water jug into your car because that shit will freeze solid and it sucks not having tea or coffee in the morning. 
  • Clean up - boiling some water in a dirty pot or pan and scraping it helps to clean hard to remove burnt items, give this water to the dogs, they love it. 
  • When you leave camp close up all your boxes, critters love tearing apart your kitchen. 

car camping lists 

Sleeping & Toiletries

  • Foam Pad - twin XL fits perfectly
  • Lots and lots of pillows, you're car camping so why not create a nest?          
  • Sleeping bags + extra blanket to go on top especially when it's below freezing at night. This additional covering will keep the moister from condensing on your sleeping bag. 
  • Your dog's bed + old blanket for the front passenger seat. 
  • Ear plugs - you never know where you'll end up camping, people like to party.  
  • Towel for wiping up condensation on the windows from your breath and cleaning up muddy puppy paws.   
  • Toilet Paper and shovel for digging your poopy hole or better yet a wag bag. Pack it out. 
  • Wet Wipes - great for getting hands, private parts and pits clean. 
  • Tweezers - cactus suck and other things suck getting out without them. 
  • Toothbrush, paste, floss, nail clippers. 
  • extra batteries 
  • Tent - we often bring this as a backup in case the situation is not conducive to sleeping the car. Some developed area's don't allow you to sleep in your car, or the parking area for your campsite is far away. 

                                

Creature Comforts

  • Yoga Matt + tarp. The tarp helps to keep the dirt and sand away encouraging you to stretch more. And it can double as an extra shelter
  •  Alps Mountaineering folding chair - again, only if you have the room. We used the typical Crazy Creek for a long time or sat against a log on the ground. Foam sleeping pads are good as an impromptu seat.
  • Rain / Sun Fly - this Eno fly is awesome when combined with these poles to create a big area to escape from sun or rain. Use some cordelette attach to your Subi's roof rack then anywhere else like a tree's or another person's car.
  • BlueTooth Speaker - the UE Roll2 is a powerhouse of music. Be respectful of your neighbors, not everyone wants to hear music in the wilderness or when climbing. Simply ask if they mind music.
  • USB Portable Solar Panel + Goal Zero Flip 10 - you'll always have a charged phone.

 

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  • Bryant AuCoin
Comments 1
  • Chris Kisio
    Chris Kisio

    Great article. I have been turning my Subaru Legacy wagon into an adventure mobile I can sleep in and pack all my gear and cooking materials while maintaining maximum chill space. I have a skybox 16 which works so well for a single person carrying , snowboard gear , snowshoes as well as rock climbing gear and camping stuff.
    I found some really good foams pads at Home Depot u mind find useful..
    love the stickers also.!

    Chris

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