If you ask me, the best thing about Electronic Vehicles (EVs) is the climate control capability. Having the ability to chill and camp all night in perfectly set climate control without smelling or spewing noxious gases all over yourself and others is a luxury indeed. That said, we camp el natural often as well because we sometimes need to save our energy consumption to ensure we make it to the charging station the next day. That is, if we are not staying at an RV site which typically comes with a 30AMP charging capability (more on the specific converter you will need if you have an EV later in this ongoing article).
Fun fact; An EV car camper could expect to burn through 60-100 miles of range in energy usage per night. Roughly 7.5 miles per hour will be used if you run your climate control with 15 degree fahrenheit temps outside with a cozy set of 78 degrees fahrenheit on the climate control.
Pro tip; In order to achieve that 78 degree climate interior with the run rate of 7.5 miles per hour energy reduction you must keep your energy losses to a minimum. How do you do that? Aside from keeping the doors closed a reasonable amount of the time overnight, you could direct your dashboard heater vents up all the way so they are facing the ceiling of your automobile and also directed between your seat at the headrests so that the warm air is flowing over your head and drops down onto your feet in the rear of the vehicle.
You could waste energy pumping the heat all night at HI levels with the vents pointed in the wrong direction and you would still feel chilly because your feet will still be cold in that not so sealed rear area. Without this setting you will burn through precious energy and mileage range which may be needed to reach a charger the next day. Assuming you don’t have a 30AMP charging post, and the proper EV 30AMP converter for keeping your energy sustained all day and night. There is a different 30AMP converter specifically made for EVs.
We will start this first blog with only the essentials then build upon these weekly in future blog post updates on this ‘camp mode setup’ series.
Below we start by providing you with the basic essentials which you will want and certainly need for a comfortable overnight stay away from home. Whether you plan to car camp as an EV or ICE (internal combustion engine) owner, this article and product suggestion list should get you started on your path to getting outside more, breathing more fresh air and blazing your own path out there on the trail, and on the road.
Please comment and write to us directly at email@example.com with any ideas, tricks, or tips or random thoughts you may have for us!
Warmth is first and foremost. If you’re an EV owner you’ll have the advantage of running your heat all night, UNLESS your battery is running low. For that reason, allow us to address both car camping heating options.
The first heating option is ‘convection heat’ which comes out the vents of any automobile, EV or otherwise. In an enclosed space, convection heat is wonderful, but once the rear hatch or any door is open for any period of time you quickly lose that heat as it dissipates very quickly into the local atmosphere without much residual effect. Unless you’re warming your shoes on the floorboard of your car or some other functional or survival reason running your car’s heat is only good for sleeping overnight or with the doors closed. Otherwise it rapidly becomes a massive energy suck and waste of resources (gas or electric power).
For that reason we recommend staying warm all day using the below key items which you will definitely want to stay warm and cozy in winter as well as in the shoulder seasons. Even summer nights can have the relative feeling of chilly or even cold. Particularly in the desert.
First on the list is one of our favorite life savers at Space Innovation Labs, a propane heater which provides ‘radiant heat’ to better fill your interior space with radiating warmth when the doors are open. Do not use with doors or tent widows closed. This product requires ventilation.
The Buddy Heater by Mr Heater is formatted to accept the small easy to carry bottles of propane, similar to those used for two burner camping stoves, and will provide a toasty, cozy atmosphere in the evening or the morning. One bottle should last for 2-4 hours or part of a day depending on how much gas you can pack away in your car and whether you run this propane heater on the high or low settings.
Now back to the true basics. Sleeping comfortably with a blow up mattress. We have a twin size blow up mattress from S3XY Models which can be found in their ‘camper mode section’ of their website.
On the ground an air mattress transfers cold from the ground into your body but in a car that transference is lesser by orders of magnitude. Regardless, you should still protect yourself from the coldness of a blow up mattress and in the same stroke you will dress up your sleeping space by purchasing some quality bedding from your favorite bedding store.
We found soft pillows, cozy yet durable pillow covers, bedsheets, and a really soft furry cozy large throw which we use to sleep on. That cozy twin size throw gives us the protection needed from any midnight cold air radiating from inside of the blow up mattress while making our camp experience feel a bit closer to a home in the back of our ride.
Whether sleeping in a heated EV or doing it ‘tent style’ in the back of your car or SUV, pack a sleeping bag. Make sure your bag is rated at the temperatures which you plan to be experiencing.
Because we happen to drive a Tesla EV, we can get away (most times) by bringing a highly packable puffy blanket. We love this awesome one from Rumpl. Their ‘down puffy blankets’ pack small enough to keep in your car and are capable of keeping two people warm through some 40+ degree nights without climate control on. Anything colder than we strongly suggest a proper camping or backpacking sleeping bag.
Be safe! If you don’t have the convenience and luxury of all night heating from a fully charged, or plugged-in EV in ‘camp mode’ then you should certainly pack sleeping bags. Blankets and puffy blankets cover a lot of ground but will definitely NOT keep you happy, cozy and well slept on those really cold sub 40 degree temperature nights.
Have a portable ‘two burner’ stove or a solo backpacking stove depending on the size of your party or trip length.
Nothing is more important after a hike or outdoor adventure than a good hot plate of your favorite camp food. We love this two burner stove by Coleman because well Coleman makes solid products that last a lifetime. This stove provides a compact and smart design which allows it to be added to any car’s trunk (or frunk) for a luxurious snack in the great outdoors. Shop Now
We will write about more on the subject of specific dining options in later blogs. For now, plan to pack 1500-4000 calories in either nuts and legumes, canned veggies, and cheese and crackers at the very minimum. Snacks vs meals can work for you if you don’t mind not having a hot meal. Either way, bring chocolate or a sugary snack along like a candy bar or one of our favorite cinnamon salted roasted almonds to lift your spirits in the evening.
You can always start out with snacks on a few overnighters then upgrade to a stove and fancier meals later once you are ready.
Pro tip; You will burn more calories when at high altitudes.
Plan for water! Bottles and jugs of it. Pack a backpacking water filter, and a water storage container, along with a battery powered shower system for showering, rinsing dishes, washing hands, or brushing teeth at night. In the event all else fails you can always keep water and a water purifier in your car. Bottom line; plan! Are there springs nearby? A proper local park map will show you where the natural fresh water springs are. Is there potable water at the park’s facilities? Check before leaving home. Always be ready to fill your water bottle. We like these Hydro Flasks from REI.
Pro tip; Make sure you do not go to sleep without a full bottle of water by your side. The last thing you want is to wake up needing or craving water and not be able to go search for it, or not want to walk in the dark and cold to get it. Be like a Boy Scout with water. Always be prepared!
Bonus tip for this week; Keep yourself and your space clean with a few multi-towels like these we use from REI.
Next week’s blog post topic; Power up!
+++ The specific 30AMP charging converter you’ll need for any EV. Anything else will not work and could put your battery on and software on the fritz.
+++ General car camping guide to adding electric or gas generators including e-heaters plugged into your cars 12V outlet or a more power from robust 30AMP connections at RV campgrounds. Stay tuned!
Oh, and never forget jumper cables (gas) or a backup plan such as AAA to get a charge out to you if you run out!