I have never been much of a car camper with the exception of car camping at Assateague and The Outer Banks, preferring instead to enjoy Backpacking. That might be about to change.
I recently enjoyed three days and two nights car camping in the Mongahelia National Forest. The NFS campground not onky offered a tent pad, picnic table, fire grate, water pump, and outhouse, but also served as a jumping off point for a couple day hikes. These day hikes were just a couple minutes away from the campground but hours away from my home. With many more trails and possible day hikes near that campground, I think I will be retuirning the next time I get a few days off.
Glad to hear you’re discovering car camping. It’s not quite the experience of immersing yourself in the outdoors as backpacking, but can still be an enjoyable experience. Here in the Pacific Northwest, you can have the range of experiences. From campgrounds with all the amenities to very rustic, the opportunities are there, and you can get there by car. Car camping allows you to bring more ‘creature comforts,’ allowing you to be more ‘comfortable’ than backpacking typically allows. Sometimes, you want to get out in nature, but still have some of those comforts—perfect car camping opportunity.
I think car camping shouldn't be looked down on. It's a great way to spend time outside and away from screens without having to commit to long hikes and uncertainty. When it comes to kids, elders, people with disabilities, etc. car camping can be a way to get exposure without putting people in danger. For even the hardcore campers, car camping can be a good way to explore a wide range of terrain without wasting time "hiking between destinations". This is absolutely true for road trips. I find that you can also hone skills by car camping that you can't by backpacking. Everyone loves the camp chef, the people who can start fires without thinking twice, people who can tell great stories and entertain others. Car camping lets you hone skills you otherwise wouldn't focus on during backpacking. Also those who want to use their time for things other than hiking, like photography, astronomy, and other fun things.
We ditched the tent a few years ago and haven't looked back. Gone is the hassle of struggling to put up a tent as soon as we ariive at a site. We fold down the back seats in the SUV, put an air mattress in the back and sleep in the car! So much easier.
Unfortunately, my SUV is not that comfortable to sleep in. I feel more at home in a tent, in a light weight one person then. However, I am thinking about purchasing a larger tent just for car camping.