Basic Guide To Car Travel and Living

I noticed before I set out on my trip that there is really not much information about there, at least not in one localized place, about the best ways to live out of your car, either while traveling, or just on hard times. I figured in my downtime while rebuilding funds and during my friends wedding, it could be useful for me to put together a list of things  I did, how I did them, what I might do differently, etc for anyone who is thinking of doing something similar but needs a little help.

These are what I have found to be the main Keys to comfortably living in your car:

Organization:

– By far the most important aspect of living out of your car is being organized. When you have such tight quarters to fit everything, no knowing where something is, or having things everywhere can quickly get very frustrating. The most useful thing you can purchase is a roof box for you car, this will allow you to have all your miscellaneous things up top while only what you need day to day is stored within the car.

Set-up:

-The most important thing I found was my curtain system. This I had to make on my own. I purchased a few curtains and cut them to be about the size of my windows. I threaded them with paracord and used suction cups to attach them to my windows. I also draped one so it created a barrier between me and the front seats to block out a little more light and give some extra privacy. I kept the cooler and water jug in the car with me so I would have easy access to food and beverage throughout the evening if need be. I also had my 3 drawer dresser in the car as well, all secured with bungee chords. For the dresser you will find the drawers fly open without some way of securing them. I used adhesive velcro to keep them from flying open around every turn, it worked very well. I debated for a while about a sleeping surface, but eventually found a “crash pad” at Big Lots for $20, it’s just a one person size, thinly padded surface to sleep on, it worked great. I also got a small “over the head rest” style trash bag, as having your car get full of trash while your living in it is no good, so it’s helpful to have a system.

Where to Stay:

– If all else fails, Walmart, the evil geniuses they are, will let you stay in their parking lots for free without hassle. This is not always the nicest option due to the huge flood lights and constant traffic in their parking lots, however, there is a bathroom on site and a pretty well stocked pantry should you find you need something. My personal preference was to find forest service roads. There are even a number of free primitive camp sites along forest service roads, and once again, you are allowed to sleep there with no hassle. The best way to find a free camp spot or place like this to park you car is often to find a local outdoor sports store and just ask. The other option is to use a service like Trails.com, which I used not only to find a lot of the hikes I went on, but you can also search for “off road drives” which are usually on forest service, BLM, or some sort of public land, where again, you are allowed to camp and rarely bothered. The other positive to these areas is  as you are often alone, it’s much easier to take a solar shower if you have one. No matter where you end up staying, the most important thing to remember is to park on a flat surface, or you will notice and not sleep well.

Water:

-Keeping your water supply up is important, as paying for water sucks, and you never know exactly when you will be able to refill it. If you’re in the desert I found that most of the outdoor sports stores will let you fill up jugs there free of charge. Otherwise, your best bet is to find a public park or baseball field, they often have places to fill up large jugs. I did find that number of these were dry, so expect to run into that every now and again

Food:

-I cooked most of my meals, which was generally a ramen type dish, or one of those yakisoba noodle bowls, however, I would add my own seasoning, fresh vegetables and some nuts, to make it a little more nourishing. These are cheap, and and as long as you have a cooler to keep veggies in, you should be good to go. I also made a lot of sandwiches and would snack on either fruit or trail mix type things. As for drinks, other than water, your cheapest, easiest, healthiest option is the zero or low calorie drink mixes. They come in individual servings and are actually pretty good. For breakfast I just did yogurt and granola, which happens to be one of my favorites and really easy to do.

Internet/Computers:

-If you don’t have a computer than local libraries are the best bet. Most require you to have a library card to use the computers, but if you let them know you are from out of town they all have a system for letting you get on without signing up for a library card you will never use again. If you do have your own computer your best bets are McDonalds and Starbucks. Every location has free wifi and you don’t have to buy anything at either place to use it, the employees don’t get paid enough to care. Your other option is local coffee shops, and often motels, but at motels you will have to sit outside your car to use your computer and the managers often frown on that.

Beating The Heat:

-Depending on the time of year it can be unpleasantly hot, and if it is, chances are it’s warmer in your car. The only solution I have found was to purchase some mesh material from Walmart along with some decently strong magnets, and use them as bug netting so you can keep the windows all the way down at night. I found this also helps keep rain out of your car if it does rain. The other way I stayed as cool as possible was to buy a outlet splitter for my car with a breaker in it which flipped if the battery power got close to the point at which the car wouldn’t start. Into that I plugged my power inverter and a fan which I strapped to the inside roof of my car with bungee chords. This allowed me to run the fan all night without worry of my car not starting in the morning. Other than that, you are really just going to have to get used to heat and or humidity depending on where you are.

What You Need:

  • Minimum 4 gallon water jug
  • Roof storage
  • Curtin system
  • Cooler
  • Bungee chords
  • Folding camp chair
  • Baby wipes
  • Solar Shower
  • Camp towel
  • Window sun shades and front window sun reflector
  • Water bottles and or empty Gatorade bottles
  • Stove or method to heat water
  • Trash bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping pad
  • mosquito netting and magnets
  • Plastic 3 drawer storage system
  • 12v outlet splitter with battery saver (turns off power to accessories before power gets too low to start the car)
  • Power inverter

This is just something I threw together, as I said, because I had trouble finding anything like it when I set out. Every situation will be different, rules may change, you really just have to be ready to roll with the punches. If anyone has any questions, or would like advice, or suggestions, please feel free to comment or email me.

I posted this before, but this is a short video tour of my living space, this was closer to the beginning of my trip and few things changed along the way.

Car Tour
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