Katie lives in a house with her partner in Wisconsin, but loves to travel. She is also a camping hacker and loves to find multiple uses for things in a minimal space. I met Katie at the sugar beet harvest in Michigan and we became buddies. She had outfitted the back of her pickup truck for the harvest and towed a popup tent for changing, cooking, etc. Katie had a little cot set up in the truck and had an electric kettle for coffee. She bought just about everything at the thrift store or got it for free. Katie is very organized and was able to live in the truck for the entire harvest. Later, I bought her tent, as she wanted something bigger.
We met up at a campground recently, and she was driving an SUV that was loaded with her stuff. She also brought a hammock tent that she wanted to try out. All of her kitchen items including the stove were in two file boxes that looked like the square milk cartons people use. The lip of the box served as a holder for her cutting board, and the boxes were stackable. Everything Katie had served at least two purposes, and she loves trying to figure out how to make things more efficient, whether it’s using dog leashes to hold down the hammock or using plywood in the back of the car to keep the area level.
Katie kept her water in a small 3 gallon Primo jug from Walmart and had a pump attached. Of course, there was the toilet bucket and was tucked away in front of one of the seats. This car has a lot of space for storage, which is a huge advantage for car camping.
The kitchen contained a small cutting board, camping utensils, knives, a JetBoil stove, a single burner butane stove, pan with folding handle, Aeropress coffee maker, and other items. The paper towel was strung through a bungy cord and attached to the outside. It also fit in the box. All of this fit into both of the boxes. I was amazed at how easily everything worked together. She even put 3 eggs in the coffee holder and they didn’t break! Food was kept to a minimum, but we did share bacon and eggs for breakfast. Katie used the bacon grease to help light the fire for cooking, and yum, it smelled good! She used a Walmart cooler that just held dry food and was a good seat. It didn’t really work well as a cooler, so this will be a future project.
Inside the back of the car, the seats are folded down and Katie put pieces of plywood down and held them together with plastic straps (correct me if I’m wrong here.) In front, one of the pieces could be lifted up to access the seat and items in storage there. The water jug was on the floor in front of the seat. Normally, it goes in the front seat, but I was riding with her and she just moved it. The bed was foam with linens and blankets, and just folded or rolled up to make room. The kitchen boxes fit on the other side of the bed and everything had its place. Katie loves her hammock tent, but uses the bed in the car as a back up.
Female hygiene is always a big topic among women and we are always trying to come up with the most practical and efficient way to go. Most ladies I talked to did not like the “she-wee” funnels for peeing, as they are too small. I saw a woman on YouTube explaining how to use an oil filter with a lip at the top using a bottle (from Nalgene to milk bottles and beyond) and this is what I use when I’m boondocking for more than a couple of days. Number 1 and number 2 always have to be separated, otherwise the smell is just like a sewer. You don’t want to deal with that in a small space, believe me! My dry toilet has a regular seat on it and the 3 gallon bucket has two plastic liners mostly for peeing. I don’t put toilet paper in that, that just goes in the garbage. This way, I can empty the bucket pretty much anywhere when I’m boondocking, and use the dump station if it’s available. I’m also careful to empty near a plant further away from the camp area and the van. I gave Katie a one gallon bucket and she stores her toilet items in there now. She uses a Lugable Loo toilet seat for her bucket.
Katie splurged and bought two Osprey back packs, a small and large one. They hold clothes, laundry, and linens, and they hook up together for long back country hiking trips. Awesome! Who needs a purse with this set up?
For short trips or even long ones, I absolutely loved Katie’s ideas on how to be a minimalist car camper. She can pick up and go any time she wants. This would apply to men as well, but you probably don’t need as much stuff. The bottom line is to be organized and just take what you need. This doesn’t happen overnight, either. It takes a lot of thought and rearranging to get exactly what you want. Please let me know how car camping works for you and how you hacked your space.