Can You Sleep In Your Car In A Campground?

For many people, the idea of pitching a tent and taking all of that additional equipment for temporary accommodation may feel like too much. Furthermore, there may be people who find themselves looking at an unexpected overnight stay on a campground without the appropriate equipment - but they do have their car. But can you sleep in your card in a campground?

Around the UK, there are many campsites that will allow you to camp in your vehicle. That being said, there are also those that strictly do not allow this. The only way to find out is to speak to the campsite. One of the greatest aids for car campers is to download an app that gives information on local sites where car camping is permitted. 

But that could still leave a lot of people feeling confused, so let’s take a closer look at what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to camping in your car. 

Why Would You Want To Sleep In Your Car?

When we think of camping, we would typically imagine sleeping in a tent but one of the greatest things about outdoor adventures is that the world is your oyster and you make do with what you’ve got. This means that if all you have is your car, then why shouldn’t it double as a place to lay your head?

If you are looking to save money, then using your car for accommodation can be a wonderful way to do this. While we love tent camping, there is no denying that some models can be very pricey. 

What’s more, if you are only planning to stay away for one night, the idea of pitching a tent and eating into your adventure time can be pretty miserable. This is also an excellent option for rainy or cold nights since a car will typically be much warmer than a tent.  We wrote a big article about Camp In Your Car which is well worth checking out for tips.

So, Can I Car Camp On A Campground?

This is a tricky question because the rules surrounding this will vary from campground to campground. There are many that welcome car campers with open arms but others that do not permit it at all. 

Some campsites will rent you a pitch and this will include a space to park your car for the duration of your stay. But then again, other campsites may require you to park away from the pitch, in this case, you certainly wouldn’t be able to camp out in your car. 

However, there is a cheeky way to get around campsites that do not allow car camping. Many people will use a car awning which can be attached to the car and serve as a ‘tent.’ When the sun goes down, it would be assumed that you will be sleeping in the awning but there is nothing stopping you from bedding down inside the vehicle. You will still need to pay the same fee as someone camping in a tent, even if your setup takes up less space since most campgrounds rent by the pitch. Although there are some sites that offer smaller or larger pitches depending on your needs, again, this is something you would have to check with the individual campground. Helpful hint: If the campground doesn't allow to use their toilet bring your own camping toilet!


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This boot mattress has two advantages – it’s self-inflating (though you might need to top it up with a bit of breath) and the fabric is more comfortable than some.

Car Camping Around The World

If you have decided to go on an international adventure then it is likely that you will want to explore your accommodation options. For most of the world, car camping rules are very similar to those in the UK. 

In the USA, for example, there are some National Park campgrounds that only allow hikers and no vehicles at all, even for accessing the site. However, there are others that will permit several types of camping including in the car. 

In Australia, there are many campsites that offer car camping owing to the vast number of travellers and backpackers that the country sees. Typically, there will be signs dictating whether this is allowed or not. 

Camping In Car Parks At Campsites

There have been many success stories of people camping in their car in the car parks of campsites, especially if they have suddenly found themselves in need of emergency accommodation. 

It doesn’t hurt to ask the management if it would be OK for you to bunk down in the vehicle on their property if you have no other option. You’ll likely find that kindness will prevail. However, this should be kept for emergencies otherwise you may get a reputation for being a freeloader - and nobody wants that!

With permission, there are also many campers who have made use of parking spaces in pubs and other privately owned property, so you aren’t limited to campsites if you ever find yourself in need of an emergency stop-over. 

What About Car Camping In The Wild?

Some people don’t want the restrictions of camping on an organised campground and would prefer to get out into the wild. 

The laws on wild camping in the UK are very clear; you cannot camp in a tent, RV, car or any other form of temporary accommodation without express permission from the land owner. While you may think that some areas are public, they will have an owner. If you are planning a trip, it is worth getting in touch with the local council to find out who owns the land and whether you can camp there. 

Sleeping in your car on the side of a road may not be as adventurous or fun as wild camping, but in the UK, it is permitted provided that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and your car doesn’t pose a hazard to other road users. 

Conclusion

Camping doesn’t always need to be in a tent and there are a lot of explorers who like to double their vehicle up as a makeshift ‘tent.’ While this is perfectly acceptable and can be very comfortable when the right equipment is used, there may be limits on where you can camp. 

Campsites around the UK, and often across the world have varying rules on what type of accommodation is allowed. Some sites will allow car camping, others won’t. The only way to find out for sure is to contact the campground before your arrival.

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