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Packing your car for a road trip depends on so many factors. What kind of car do you have? Where are you going? What season is it? The advice I can offer stems from a road trip undertaken in the heat of late July/early August from Georgia to Texas.

To read about how I built my sleeping platform click here.

In order to determine how to pack my car for a trip I had to first identify how much space I had to utilize. With my set-up I have 2 large storage areas underneath the footboard of my platform, a lower area under the bodyboard, and the footwell of the back seats.

I’ll go by area.


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Organization

To figure out how to most efficiently utilize the space under my platform, i laid out my bins on the floor in the approximate layout I would use in my car. I ended up moving things around but this was a first attempt to visualize how things would be organized.

You want to make sure the items you need more often or in an emergency are easily accessible. I wanted to ensure I would not have to move more than one thing to access everything else.

footboard, all packed

The Footboard

The footboard is the part of my platform closest to the trunk. The storage under this area consists of 2 long spaces that reach from the trunk to the back of my back seats. To utilize that space effectively I needed longer, skinny bins so I would not have to reach all the way back in those spaces to grab items.

In the right space of the footboard I store the 25 quart gray Sterilite bins pictured above. One contained all food and the other all of my clothes. The food bin was in front as I needed access to food more often than clothing. Next to the food bin is a tarp I can stand on to change clothes or sit on to cook.

On the left side of the footboard I stored my 2.5 gallon water jug and a small Sterilite bin containing all water purification (sawyer mini and platypus bladder) and cooking gear. My cooking gear consisted of:

first dinner from the car

first dinner from the car

-Etek City Stove

-Mallome Mess Kit

-MSR gas cannister

Behind the water jug and small bin were items I did not need access to quickly or often: my tent, hammock, and other camping supplies.

Camping foods and non-perishables (ramen, honey, tea, camp meals, crackers etc)

Camping foods and non-perishables (ramen, honey, tea, camp meals, crackers etc)

bodyboard view from the left back door

The Bodyboard

The bodyboard is the portion of my platform lying on top of my folded-down back seats. This part of the platform slopes at an angle and does not have as high clearance as the footboard. I used the same small Sterilite bins as the one containing my water purification and cooking systems. Luckily, these bins come in a pack of 12. These small bins, 2 on each side, face outward toward the back doors and are accessible from there. Organized into these 4 bins were medical supplies, tools, extra shoes, and miscellaneous items.

Left Footwell

Also pictured is the left footwell behind the driver’s seat, which contained only my laundry bag (accessible from the front and back) and my daypack (not shown) which I could put one night’s worth of clothes and toiletries in when I stayed with some friends in Dallas.

Right Footwell

This is where I stored my cooler. Wanting to road trip in August in the southern United States poses a few challenges. One of these is keeping cold foods cold. I purchased a small, cheap Igloo Ice Cube cooler and used some Relectix I had to increase the insulation capability. Then I froze water in plastic bottles to use as ice packs.

This set-up far surpassed my expectations. The water bottles stayed frozen and kept the inside reasonably cool for about 5 days before melting inside my car in the Texas heat (though out of direct sunlight).

I also stored small items in the nooks between the footwells and the trunk. The small nook on the right had books (because I can’t go anywhere without books) and the one on the left had a small fan that plugs into the car outlet located in the trunk to provide some airflow. I didn’t really end up using the fan very much because I was afraid to kill my car battery.

Lastly i hung a fabric car organizer (this one) between my driver and passenger seats to hold my toiletries, luci light and other small items I wanted to be able to access from the bed.

library

Igloo cooler with reflectix lining

Igloo cooler with reflectix lining


Comfort

Once you’ve decided what to bring in terms of gear you want to think about the actual camping aspect of your trip. It’s time to make your car comfy cozy!

Insulation

Whether you’re planning a trip in hot or cold weather you need to consider insulation. In my case, I needed to keep the heat out at much as possible. Especially in a black car, in Texas, in August, keeping my car at a safe temperature for me to be inside it at night was paramount. My solution was to purchase a 25-foot roll of Reflectix and cutting out pieces to conform to my windows. This took some trial and error. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Use cardboard, tissue paper or some similar throw-away item to cut out the shapes of your windows. Make sure you get a very snug fit. The Reflectix needs to be snug enough to stay put in your window.

    Hint: Pairs of windows that are the same shape only need one mold.

  2. Once you have all your shapes lay them out on the reflectix.

  3. Cut out your shapes, leaving approximately an extra inch border around the edges.

  4. Fit the pieces into each window and trim the excess, ensuring that Reflectix maintains a tight enough seal to remain upright.

The Reflectix serves a dual purpose as a privacy screen, preventing people from looking into your car. As an added privacy measure I painted the outside of the Reflectix black, that way at night it was not obvious there was a person in my vehicle.

Did the Reflectix keep my car perfectly temperature controlled in Texas in August? No, but the car did remain at a liveable temperature at night that I could sleep in. I felt no worse than had I been sleeping in my tent.

Bedding

Since my road trip occurred during summertime, I did not have to give a whole lot of thought to bedding. I purchased an egg carton mattress pad on clearance at Target for about $20 and cut it to fit the irregular “T” shape of my sleeping platform. I laid my Cat’s Meow sleeping bag down and then made the bed with regular full-size sheets. I brought along a blanket on the off-chance that Texas was colder at night than I anticipated. It wasn’t.

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10 miles of off-roading to get to the top of this bluff in oklahoma. not a soul in sight.

10 miles of off-roading to get to the top of this bluff in oklahoma. not a soul in sight.

That’s pretty much it. If there’s something I didn’t cover or that you still have questions about feel free to contact me.

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