Car camping is the future of travel

Jason Weiland

Travel has changed, and we aren’t going to be doing everything the way we did it before. Air travel is problematic. Stuck in a sealed tube 30,000 feet in the air with 200 other people who may or may not be carrying COVID or one of its variants is not my idea of a good time.

I’m traveling internationally soon, but even though I will be fully vaccinated, wearing two masks, a face shield, and dousing my body with alcohol, I am still nervous about being on an airplane that whole time.

Train travel is just as bad. I’d planned on a trip around the US on Amtrak, but couldn’t see myself sharing the same air with all those people for that long.

Do you blame me? Half of you aren’t even planning on getting vaccinated and are trying to force everyone to go back to “normal.”

Don’t get me started.

So instead of a train, I thought, I could rent a car and road trip. Think about it. You can sanitize all the surfaces and travel alone in your own filtered space. Sure you are limited by distance, but I don’t know about you, I love to travel by car.

But there is a problem with the expense of it all. Say you either don’t have a car or your car isn’t made for that kind of road miles. The minimum you will spend to rent a car for a week with unlimited mileage is $350. That is an economy car without much power, but at least you have air conditioning and most cars will hook up to your Apple Music.

But, then you have to eat three times a day, plus snacks and drinks. Plus, you have to stop every night, and a decent hotel will be $100 a night, minimum. In some cities, you will pay triple that.

The option is you could rent an RV for $200 to $300 a day, stay in campgrounds for $30 a night, and sleep and cook in the RV. But what if you want to travel the country for two weeks? Now, with the rental, food, gas, and campground fees you are talking $5000 or $6000 dollars for a few weeks of fun.

At least you can sanitize and practice social distancing.

But there is another option, especially if you are a solo traveler or a two-person group.

Here Are Some Options for Car Camping

Say you already have a car or SUV with folding seats. Maybe it's a Subaru Outback with AWD or the family mini-van. You are one step ahead of the game.

All you have to do is fold the seats down, put down a mattress, throw in a few pillows and blankets, a jug of water, a camp stove, buy the economy bag of ramen, and hit the road. You have a sanitized environment as comfortable as any hotel room, and you can stop at a rest area or state park and cook up some noodles for lunch.

All you are paying for is gas and food.

Where do you stay? Anywhere. Because you are stealthy, you can park in places where an RV wouldn’t be acceptable. You can stay in any Wal-Mart parking lot with permission. Most state parks and recreation areas will let you wild camp for free, as will rest areas, and truck stops (which are especially good if you want a shower).

Even if you don’t want to cook on a little stove on the side of the road, you can stop and spend a few hours working and using the wi-fi at Mcdonald's.

You can save so much money stealth camping that every week you can splurge and rent a nice room, wash your clothes and sheets, have a fancy dinner, and go out on the town.

I’ve met people who live like this for years. Creatives who are basically nomads and can live anywhere, and even people with 9 to 5’s who shower every morning at a gym and go into an office.

My Gear and Setup

I’ve decided that I’m going to stealth camp for a month when I go to the USA for a month-long visit.

When I arrive from the Philippines, I’m purchasing a used car, most likely an SUV or AWD Subaru. After making sure my chariot is mechanically sound, I am going to build out the cargo area with a camping box kit (think bed in the back).

In addition to a bed in the back, there will be:

  • Wi-fi
  • A battery to charge devices, make coffee, power a rice-cooker (for rice, stew, soup), and lights that are charged when the car is running or by a solar panel if you are off the grid.
  • A portable toilet
  • Filtered water
  • GPS navigation
  • A kitchen with a chair and desk where I can work

All this will fit in a small car or SUV and I will be mobile, stealthy, and wild camping off the grid, staying in truck stops along my route, and cooking my own meals.

It will be safe, not only because I will be distanced from everyone, but because I will be able to choose how much interaction I want to have with the public in stores and restaurants. It will be sustainable because I can filter my own water and use my own eating utensils. I can limit the plastic I use, and have reusable bags and straws when I visit donut shops and taco stands to review for my blog and YouTube channel.

I can stop every so often for a nice night in a hotel in Vegas or LA, knowing my house-on-wheels is safe and ready for me to use the next night.

You see, you don’t have to travel by plane and stay in expensive hotels, all the while leaving yourself open to infection from a largely unvaccinated and unwashed population, and you can travel in style for cheap, staying stealthily in places where others cannot.

The future of travel is here, and the big news is that it’s safe to travel by car alone or in small groups. Not only can you mask up, but you can keep your distance, and your hotels will be the mountains and beaches of the great US of A.

How does that sound for a safe vacation?

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA

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