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The Trip Home: A Little Extra Preparation Can Make the Car Ride More Comfortable

July 27, 2021

No matter how great your camping trip was or how much fun you had, most campers love the first glimpse of their car, waiting at the trailhead to ferry the group back home. After a week of eating dehydrated food from a pouch, sleeping on the ground and going without a hot shower, the creature comforts of home begin to beckon.

But reaching your car is not the same thing as being home – you’ll still have to endure a several-hour-long car ride with your companions before you can truly put the trip behind you and begin washing off a week’s worth of campfire and dirt. This can often be a bit miserable, but fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can employ to make your trip home more comfortable.

We’ll cover eight of the most helpful below:

1. Stash a spare set of clothes in your car.

Few things will help you feel better upon arriving at your car than a clean set of clothes (including a pair of comfortable shoes). You don’t need anything fancy – just a comfortable pair of shorts or pants, a t-shirt (and sweater if it’s chilly), a pair of socks and a change of underwear should suffice.

2. Keep a sealed package of unscented wet wipes in your vehicle.

Wet wipes are always helpful for cleaning yourself off when you can’t take a proper shower, so they’re great to keep in your car. However, because scented versions may draw the attention of bears and other creatures, you’ll want to be sure to select unscented varieties to leave in your car. If you aren’t sure if the wipes are truly scent-free, just pack a few in a sealed plastic bag and keep them with you when you initially head out on the trail.

3. Leave a few snacks in the bear box by the trailhead.

Most campers will be eager to chow down on a few tasty snacks upon reaching the trailhead, but you don’t want to leave edible items in your car in bear country. But, many trailheads provide bear-proof storage boxes in which you can cache food. Stick to ready-to-eat foods, as you won’t want to go to any trouble to prepare your food – you’ll just want to grab it and eat.

4. Bring along a few folding chairs.

It’ll often take a while to get everything packed in the car and situated before you are ready to drive off. Additionally, if you are camping in the summertime, you’ll likely find that your car is hot and must cool off for a while before you feel like getting inside. A couple of folding chairs won’t take up very much space, and yet they’ll give you a comfortable place to sit while you’re waiting on everyone to store their gear and the car to cool off.

5. Store a few gallons of water in the car.

Because water is heavy, you’ll often want to limit the amount you carry on your hike back to the car. Plus, many trailheads are at the high point of the trail and carrying water uphill is a chore. But, you’ll likely be thirsty upon arriving back at your car, and a few gallons of water will be a welcome resource. Additionally, you can use some of the water to clean up before getting into the car or changing clothes.

6. Stash a few garbage bags in the car.

You’ll often have a number of smelly and wet items with you (primarily clothes) when you arrive back at your car. To help prevent odors and limit the mess created, keep a few garbage bags in the car to contain these types of items. Of course, you may carry garbage bags with you while camping, in which case you probably won’t need to leave any extras back in the car. But, it’s not as though doing so requires great effort, so many campers will do both.

7. Leave a charged cell phone in the vehicle.

If you like to bring your cell phone on the trail, and your trip lasts more than a day or two, you’ll likely find that your battery will die at some point. So, it is a good idea to leave a fully charged cell phone in the car, so that you can make emergency calls or touch base with friends and family when you arrive back at the vehicle. A cell phone will also let you catch up on the events of the last few days, which you may have missed while on the trail. Don’t leave a several-hundred-dollar smartphone behind in your car, as it’ll be vulnerable to thieves. Instead, use an inexpensive, pre-paid model, in case something happens while you’re on the trail.

8. Bring a few plastic storage bins or crates and leave them in the car.

While most of the tips outlined above are designed to help you achieve a bit of comfort upon arriving back at your car, it is important to prepare for the moment you make it back home, too. Unloading the car and hauling all of your gear inside is quite a chore for weary campers, so you should try to make the task as easy as possible. One way to do so is by packing all of your equipment into storage bins when you arrive back at your car. This way, when you get home everything will be easy to grab and carry inside.

Try to implement these tactics during your next camping trip. They’ll not only make you more comfortable on the way home, they’ll give you something to look forward to while hiking back to the car. Don’t hesitate to leave other items in your car or make other plans for your return.

Just be sure to keep bear safety in mind and avoid leaving any edible or odorous items in your vehicle – you don’t want to make it back to your car and find that one of the doors has been ripped off! It’s also wise to keep potential crime in mind. Don’t leave any valuables behind, as thieves often target trailheads.


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    bob rochelle
    January 25, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    again, thank you for some simple and helful tips. even one-day hikes can be made more enjoyable at day’s end by employing these. kudos. in one peace – bov