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  1. Default Sleeping in my car

    I'm a 25 year old woman who will be traveling alone. I'm hoping to spend most of my nights at cheap campgrounds and truck stops like Flying J's. I think I can buy a Planet Fitness membership for showers and go to libraries if I need to charge my phone and use WiFi. As far as sleeping in my car, it's a hatchback so I can fit my whole mattress in the back but the car has lots of windows. Should I try covering them up when I park for the night? My plan is to travel for a few weeks, checking out condos and houses as I go then hopefully settling somewhere eventually :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Your comforts in a hatchback.

    Hi and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    If you stick to campgrounds with an attendant and truck stops, you should be safe. But have you considered other potential obstacles? For instance, where will you put all your possessions when getting ready to sleep, and getting dressed, not just when you are sleeping. You can't stand up in your car, and depending on which hatchback it is, you may not be able to sit up on the mattress.

    So when are you planning on doing this? There are other comforts to consider depending on the season, which will affect your comfort, and hence your trip. In summer a hatchback can get unbearably hot, and in winter there is condensation to prevent. You can't keep the engine running. You'd end up being poisoned. Neither would you want to sleep with the windows open.

    Covering all the windows is a big red flag. Whereas I know you would do it for privacy, as would I, but it is a message to others that you are sleeping in there. Not such an issue so long as there are others around who know you are in the vehicle. Have you considered getting a small tent, sleeping bag and mat?

    I would be wary parking overnight when you are the only one in the campground. Also, be sure to always tell reception at the truck stop of your overnight plans. Let them know you are there, and make sure it is OK with them.

    Stay safe.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default Sleeping in your car!


    When I was about your age, my girlfriend and I (who is now my wife of 35 years), took a three month road trip through 35 states, in a '67 VW Bug. I'd removed the rear seat and installed a carpeted platform in its place, about seat height, and we kept our gear stowed underneath it. When we camped, we stayed in campgrounds, and we mostly used a tent. On nights that were threatening rain, or when we got to the campground late and setting up the tent was too much trouble? I would remove the front passenger seat, set it beside the car under a tarp, and I'd shove the driver's seat as far forward as possible. I had a second section of platform, L-shaped, that had folding legs so I could stow it out of the way when not in use. That front piece bolted to the back piece, creating a much larger platform that was seven feet from front to back on the right side of the car, and a little shorter on the left. By sort of spooning together, we were both able to sleep quite comfortably in that dinky little Volkswagen. (Oh, to be that young again)!

    BUT! That was then, and this is now, and you don't drive a VW Bug, so my personal best advice would be to consider a compromise between tent and car sleeping, and to stick with campgrounds, either public or private, rather than truck stops. I won't recommend a product by name, but there are tents you can buy that literally hook on to the back end of your car with an elasticized boot. They make large models for SUV's like my Jeep Cherokee (Photo attached), and smaller ones for small SUV's and hatchbacks. With the tent attached you can leave the hatchback or tailgate open (just be sure to switch off your interior lights to avoid draining your battery). The back end of your car becomes an upper berth, so you sleep up off the ground, while your stuff goes in the tent, safe from the weather. Alternatively, you can leave your gear in the car, no need to unpack or rearrange, and you can roll out your sleeping bag in the tent (hint: get a good air mattress). It's all one big space, so you have easy access to everything. There's good cross ventilation, and zippered mosquito netting panels that keep out the bloodthirsty swarms. You can stand up in it, no problem, making it much easier to change your clothes and whatnot, and with the rain fly in place you have privacy. I used this set up on a two month road trip to Alaska and back last summer, and it worked great. I was solo most of the time. The larger tent was a little bit tricky for one person to set up alone, but I figured out a system (Duct tape was involved, substituting for the extra set of hands that would have come in, um, handy). The smaller tents should be easier to manage. And in campgrounds? There's nearly always someone around to lend a hand with such things, if you need it. (Even so, always carry duct tape :-). And, honestly, you should try to avoid campgrounds where there is nobody else around.

    I've slept overnight in many different kinds of vehicles, in all sorts places and all sorts of weather. Relatively speaking, the tent set-up I've described was like a palace by comparison, and resolves, or at least softens most of the concerns that Lifey raised in her reply to you.

    Good luck, have fun, be careful



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Hints from Experience

    Similar to rcquinn, I did a lot of sleeping in my car when I was younger. It helped that my first car, though small, was designed to make up into a bed. I later did minor modifications (mostly changing out the bolts on the passenger seat back so that it would fold all the way forward to the windshield) that allowed me to do pretty much what you are planning to do with my next two RoadTrip vehicles, a 1972 AMC Gremlin and a 1979 Subaru Outback, that turned them into quite serviceable sleeping platforms. Note that everyone of those cars was a hatchback, more or less. The key is to find the length to stretch out at full length and as nearly horizontal a possible. If you have to sit or curl up this really doesn't work.

    As far as curtaining things off, I wouldn't. As noted, it would just advertise that someone's sleeping inside. If safety is a concern, there are other ways to address it. One, make sure someone knows that you're there. This is easy enough if you're parking in a truck plaza. They're quite used to such things. Just let them know your plans and make a point of buying something from them, a meal, a cup of coffee, a shower, whatever. Second, be ready to make some noise. This could be as simple as being ready to hit your car horn, putting your key fob (if it has a 'panic button') on a wristband while you sleep, or getting a small airhorn or whistle. In either case, you're actually going to want to keep at least a couple of your windows rolled down about half an inch or so to get some ventilation while you sleep. If noise and light bother you, get some ear plugs and a sleep mask.

    And finally plan on spending every third night or so in a motel with a real bed/shower/TV to just relax and fully recharge.


  5. Default

    Maybe this is naive, but I was thinking of sleeping on the twin size mattress in the back of my car (1994 subaru outback) some nights and putting up a stand alone tent to sleep in for other nights. I really didn't plan to have much stuff - I don't need any cooking equipment or a cooler because I primarily consume Boost/Ensure. In the past for a 1 week trip, I was able to fit my clothes and most of my other stuff in a backpack, so I could either do that and visit the laundromat or bring some extra clothes. I'll have my tent, sleeping bag, headlamp, etc of course but I think everything could fit in the front passenger seat or next to me on the bed. As far as being able to stand, I figured I could grab my change of clothes for the day and use the facility's bathroom for that. Or I can test myself to see if I'm able to set up the 4 person tent alone, which allows a person to stand up in (otherwise I have a 2 person tent that I've set up on my own before and could use). I plan to go in May when the weather should be fairly temperate. I haven't planned out which campgrounds I'll stop at yet, but I plan to go places that at least have a bathroom. My goal is to spend roughly $600 on the trip for gas and accommodations so my budget is tight, but I'm going in knowing that the trip will be a rugged adventure. That means I'll have an average of $10/night to spend in accommodations. If I can stay somewhere free for 2 nights, then I'd be able to afford a hostel or maybe a cheap motel for the 3rd night. I've done a 9 day trip that included 2 nights of a hotel and I've done a 7 day trip that included 1 or 2 nights in a hotel, so I'd agree that every few nights or so it'll be nice to have access to electricity, WiFi, room to stretch out, etc.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Not leaving yourself much choice.

    Most of the big truck stop have laundromat facilities. Free camping places rarely have any more than a basic toilet - which you would not want to use to get changed in. State Parks/Forest campground these days average between $15 and $20 - depending very much which area you will be travelling in, which you have not told us. But counting on $10/night seems quite unrealistic. You'd end up spending the two in between night at truck stops, which may or may not be plentiful in the area.

    Do note though that not all truck stops welcome overnighters..... not even all FJs. I know in States like Illinois and Indiana there are some 3 dozen Pilot/Flying J of which about 7 welcome RVs and folk sleeping overnight. You might like to get hold of this directory, which lists the relevant truck stop. Flying J also put out a small booklet which shows where RVs/overnighters are welcome, and some of their other services.

    If you want to stay at hostels, I suggest that you check out this site for hostels in the area where you are. By booking directly with the hostel (or just turning up) you can save yourself around $3, which is the fee the booking service charges the hostels.

    Again, depending on where and when you will be travelling, all these facilities and prices differ.


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