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How to Turn Your Car Into a Tent: No Pitching Necessary!

Car Tent

Mention “camping,” and many people think: pitching a confusing tent, fighting off bugs and animals, putting up with weather ranging from sudden showers to scorching heat, and stumbling around in the dark to find the bathroom and shower. At the other end of the camping spectrum are full-scale RVs, including all the comforts of home, full-size bed, hot shower, kitchen, couch and big-screen TV.

The happy medium? Learning how to turn your car into a tent. If you don’t want to “go native,” but don’t want to rent an RV or tow a camper, maybe car camping is for you. Not just tossing everything in your car and going to a campsite, but experimenting with how to turn your car into a tent. One of the nice things about this kind of camping is that you already have the bulk of what you need in your car, at home or in the garage. Put these accessible resources together, and you have an economical home away from home, ready to head to your favorite surfing or fishing spot. The best part is you don’t need to look for an actual campground. With a car that’s going to double as shelter, the world will be your campground.

How to Turn Your Car into a Tent: A Little DIY May Be Necessary

True, some cars are not well-suited to turning into a tent, such as small hatchbacks or sedans, but with the growing popularity of the crossover SUV, not to mention pickup trucks and the staple “van down by the river” panel van, you may already own a car that’s perfect for car camping.

Camping add-ons are an inexpensive way to transform your car into an ideal camping companion. For a few hundred dollars, you can buy a truck-bed tent, which turns the bed of a pickup truck into a tent. For some SUVs, a roof-rack tent is basically like pitching a tent on your roof rack, most kits include a sleeping platform, tent and ladder.

This DIY sleeping platform can be resized to turn your car into a tent.Perhaps the least expensive option is to build a sleeping platform inside your car. Fold-flat rear seats make things easier, but you can also unbolt and remove them, for even more space. A platform of 2″ x 4″ lumber and ¾” plywood gives you a flat place to put a mattress, as well providing storage underneath. Make curtains for the windows, suspending them on eye-bolts and strings, for privacy. A set of window deflectors will allow for air circulation without allowing rain to enter, and mosquito netting suspended from the headliner will keep pesky bugs at bay. Finally, a couple of tent poles, ropes, stakes and general purpose tarps can turn the back of your car into a vestibule, for changing clothes and cooking.

One thing that you’ll have to make sure you include is a sense of humor and affection for whoever you are sharing your car with, because you’re going to spend a lot of time exceptionally close to each other.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on DIY car camping, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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