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First “major” car camping trip. Tips?

Good morning all!

Don’t worry, I’ll be scouring the forums over the next couple weeks as well as I know there is a lot of great info; but, I’m taking my daughter to Yellowstone in about 2 weeks. We’re pretty much set, but looking for last minute tips and advice. 

This is my first major trip. I did Mammoth cave years ago, but this is a bit of a different scale. While I am generally comfy in my skills, I can never learn too much. And, I’m quite anxious. I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll be posting in the introduction section as well since I want to start getting to know a community to learn from. 

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.
16 Replies

Assuming you will be using a tent, try erecting it first while at home.  Be sure your cooking set up works.  Seems odd while we are hearing of record heat waves, but be sure your sleeping system is warm enough and comfortable.

Yellowstone will be quite crowded.  With covid still lurking, avoid crowds.  There is plenty to see and do in Yellowstone, or any other national park, while not following the herd.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Don’t rely on electronics get paper maps as back up, gaiters for your legs. 

I’ve used the tent and kitchen stuff a few times now so we’re good. We should be safe on cold or hot and we’ll cross our fingers. 

Thank you!

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.

By "car camping" I assume you will be using a tent to sleep in but will probably be setting it up within an easy walk to the car, perhaps what some call a drive in primitive site, maybe with a tent platform, picnic table, fire grate, and even a pole for bear bag and/or lantern as in many National Forests. The nice thing about car camping is that you do not have to worry about weight. I take heavier food and even when I car camp, and I have car camped for up to ten days or more in a Subaru Forester without resupply while camping at five different National Forest Primitive Campgrounds. On the other hand, I take nothing that needs to be refrigerated or kept on ice.  I pack almost everything, food, cooking gear, clothes, and odds and ends in watertight plastic bins. I can simply pull the bin out of the car to find what I am looking for and do not have to think about anything getting wet or dirty as long as it is in a bin. It also helps to keep bugs and small critters out of the food. Since weight is not an issue, I carry a tarp to pitch over the picnic table, eating area, or over the rear hatch of the car in case of rain in addition to a tent. At one National Forest Campground I was able to pitch the tarp over the almost unmovable picnic table in such a way that I could back my Subaru up to it and open the rear hatch under the tarp so I could cook, eat, and access the plastic bins without getting wet.

aka "Boonerelli"

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@John4and @Kb9nbd , Yellowstone, being a National Park and not a Natural Forest it will have a lot more amenities at the campground including showers and a store where you can buy food and other camping supplies.  While one never wants to forget something and have to pay the outrageous prices at the NP store, it's not as huge of an issue. There will also be bear boxes at each campsite unlike in some National Forests. 

Found Myself Outside

Hi @Kb9nbd - Good afternoon! Thanks so much for reaching out with this question. 

One thing that comes to mind is about Yellowstone itself. Because it is such a big park, some people can feel pressure to try to do visit every single place they can fit in. Knowing that this is your first big trip and there is some anxiety around it, feel free to take things slow and not put expectations on checking off all of the "must do" activities. Often spending more time in just a few places is even more rewarding than trying to go, go, go. No matter where you are or what you do, Yellowstone is impressive!

I know when I'm camping in a new place, I like to get back to my campsite well before dark to sort out my tent and sleeping arrangements, cook my dinner, and have everything ready to go once it is dark. The sun doesn't set until late up in Yellowstone in the summer, but giving myself ample time to relax at the campsite is always welcome after big days. 

It's amazing to hear that you are excited to learn from this community. There are lots of people here across many different experience levels ready to answer questions and share their own experiences. We look forward to having you in these discussions going forward! 

Best of luck on your trip. If you're keen on sharing, we'd love to hear how it goes after you and your daughter get back!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Dont pet the fuzzy cows


I will try to remember that…😂

Finally finding time to have adventures instead of waiting for time.

This is kind of obvious, but fundamental.  Be sure your vehicle is in good shape before the trip - tires, required maintenance, etc.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.