Taking the plunge-Our first car camping trip! Across the country, and on a budget.


This is a last minute trip, and we’re doing it on a budget! 12-13 days to and from The Midwest/California. Our Coleman Green Valley Sleeping Bag arrived today, it is a 30 degree bag and has high reviews on Amazon. I chose it because I wanted a a cotton flannel lining, and I don’t think that I will use it below 40 degrees out and they say that you should give yourself a 10 degree leeway.  It also fully unzips so I can just use it as a quilt in warmer weather. I took it out and inspected it, nothing like my Sierra Designs mummy bag that I had 15 years ago which was all slippery inside and out, and it’s big enough for Chico and I to sleep in, and the zippers seem really, really awesome. Not bad for $28, of course we will have to see how it holds up on the road. It also has a nifty little pocket for a cellphone, Chico approves.


Since it’s car camping, I have the luxury of using heavier items. I will also be getting a Coleman Tent, and borrowing my roommates Coleman stove–I have never used Coleman products before, they have a reputation as quality budget items, time will tell.  i was originally going to borrow a tent, but I have never been camping with Chico before, and even though we will practice in the backyard, I really don’t know how he will react once on the road, I don’t want to be responsible if he bites or claws a hole in it, even though he never does anything crazy like this at home.  The tent we chose was the 2 person Coleman Sundome and it also had crazy high reviews 4.5 stars out of 5, 2100 reviews. It was $44.  Last tent I bought 15 years about was $300…so, yes, a tad nervous.  Ultimately, if we like camping, we will prob get a 3 season Big Agnes or Marmot, or maybe even one of the REI tents.

After searching for a few days on the Interwebs  for campground info for tent camping, but getting 99% RV stuff or the option to buy a million different books, I found out about the ALLSTAYS app through a random comment on a blog , I am in love! You can also find rest stops, and it lists major gas stations in the area that you are searching, when you click on these, you can also get to their website fast and find out the price of gas, which is cheaper in every state than California. Also tells the weather, sport stores, and where to buy propane. Totally worth the $10.

I will be  staying at a KOA the first 2 nights because it will be a holiday weekend, and I don’t want to be scrambling for a place, last minute, in the dark. My roommate is aghast at this! They are horrible and ugly for non RV people I guess. But my feeling was that as a woman traveling alone, I would like to have tons of those electronic fiending RV people around. And I also got the VKR rewards card, cuz you never know what will happen down the road. Really, for my first leg of the trip, I am just looking to crash for the night, the beautiful hiking part will come later.   I will be staying at both a tent site, and in a Kamping Kabin, and will let you all know about the experience!

While there is a TON of info about what you should bring car camping, I haven’t found a how to actually stay at different campgrounds article or guide. My roomate says that you only need to make reservations in California, and that for the rest of the country, you just pick a campgrounds when you get to the city you want to visit,  drive to it, and if they don’t have a spot, drive to another campground. I’m sure this is probably what I did when I car camped across Colorado and New Mexico 15 Years ago, but for some reason I can’t remember a thing about it.  It feels a little too carefree for me, maybe I am just too electronically connected now.

The ALLSTAYS app has phone numbers and connects you to websites where you can make reservations. It also has reviews and when you hit the “photos” button it brings up a Google search of the campground photos. I think that I will feel more comfortable making reservations, but when I am in Iowa, I will try to at least stay at a National Park or Army Corps of engineers campground–unfortunately, a lot of these say ‘Walk In”  And I don’t know if there is an industry standard–less than a mile? Less than a half mile?  Car in sight?  I’ve tried looking at Google Earth, but many are so forested you can’t tell. So this is something that I will just learn by trial and error and post about it.

The KOA I am staying at the first night has really bad reviews, but KOAs are  suppose to be resort like, and the most expensive campgrounds.  Many of the bad reviews say that it is ugly, dusty, windy, and the cable or WiFi is shitty.  I am not worried, I have backpacked across Europe twice, and stayed in some pretty questionable places  both with good gear and barely any gear at all, including a campsite in a French Skiing Town in which I froze all night despite my 10 degree Sierra Designs bag and $300 tent, sleeping outside in Amsterdam with no tent, and an unexpected night in a Switzerland train station, at a time when there were tons of heroin addicts trying to steal from tourists.  I’m really not worried about shitty WiFi, or too much dust.  I will of course be extra cautious, and keep everyone posted with my experiences.

5 thoughts on “Taking the plunge-Our first car camping trip! Across the country, and on a budget.

  1. What an exciting adventure! I would think this time of year may provide more open campsites if you don’t have reservation. Michigan campgrounds fill up during the summer but once Labor Day comes, you tend to have your pick since kids are back in school. Good luck and have fun!


  2. What a fun adventure! I would think you will be able to get a campsite without a reservation this time of year. I know Michigan campgrounds tend to be full during summer but once Labor Day comes, there is more availability because kids are back in school. Good luck and have fun!


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