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Camping with a Roofnest on your car is like regular camping…but way better.
You don’t have to set up a tent, it’s more comfortable, more convenient, better protected from weather, and you wake up with a heck of a panoramic view.
A hard shell roof top tent automatically turns any car into a camper. That means that finding a spot where you can stay overnight with your Roofnest is really no different than looking for a camping spot for a normal tent — except with the added benefit of being able to stay in places that exclusively allow vans, campers, and RVs.
When you’re looking for a place to camp in your Roofnest, you’re essentially looking for a place where you can car camp. Before you plan your next great adventure with your hard shell roof top tent, take a few minutes to check out this guide on how to find car camping spots.
How to Find Places to Camp With a Roof Top Tent
There are four main types of places where you sleep in your Roofnest overnight:
- designated camp spots
- private camping
- dispersed camping areas
- alternative options such as Walmarts, rest areas, and more
Let’s take a look at how to find each type of camp spot so you’ll know all your options before you hit the open road.
How to Find Designated Camp Spots
National parks and state parks are full of designated camp spots, usually for a small fee. While these s[pts are typically setup with regular tents in mind, there’s no reason you can’t skip the hassle of the tent and get right to relaxing in your Roofnest.
Some of these spots are first-come, first-serve, while others can be reserved in advance online.
You can find more info and make reservations for camp spots in national parks on the National Park Service website. Just search for the park you’re interested in and go to the camping section.
Similarly, most state parks will have websites with information regarding camping.
Many parks have spots intended for camper vans and RVs, which you can use as well. Those are typically more expensive though, and offer amenities you probably don’t need, like power and sewage hook-ups.
If you’d rather take to the open road and see where your wheels take you, then we recommend the website Allstays.com. It has guides on where you can camp across the country, including national and state parks, KOAs, and more.
Private Camp Spots
Camping is a precious time to unplug and get away from it all. No phones, no internet, no nothing — just you, the great outdoors, and some peace and quiet (and maybe your buddies and a few beers).
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the power of technology to find an awesome camp spot before you officially go off the grid.
Hipcamp is a fantastically cool new app that allows you to find camping spots on private land. It’s like the Airbnb of camping: Landowners can host camp spots and post them on the site, and users like yourself can find a great place to camp for cheap.
The benefits of car camping on private land with Hipcamp include:
- Designated spots in a national or state park or a KOA are often surrounded by lots of other camp spots, so a busy night can feel more like an amusement park than a getaway with Mother Nature.
Easy-to-reserve in advance
- Popular national parks have huge demand and limited camping spots, so you often have to plan your trip months in advance or try your luck with a first-come, first-serve spot.
- On the Hipcamp app, there’s likely to be lots of options even on the day you want to camp.
Search by your current location
- Whether you’re in the middle of a road trip or at home planning your next outing, Hipcamp allows you to quickly find camp spots near your current location.
Filter by amenities
- Hipcamp allows you to filter your search by amenities such as proximity to a lake, whether the spot if pet-friendly, if fires are allowed, and more.
- Many hosts include other extras like grills, outdoor toilets, tables, etc.
Fits any budget
Hipcamp hosts a range of camp sites, but you can filter your search by price to stay within a budget that works for you.
See it before you book
- Camp site profiles on Hipcamp include photos, descriptions, reviews from past campers, and more to help you find the right camp site for you and your Roofnest.
Dispersed Camping Areas
If you really want to get out into the wild on your next trip, dispersed camping might be for you.
Dispersed camping is any camping not in designated, developed sites. That means no amenities like bathrooms, water, or trash cans.
The most widely available dispersed camping is in National Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands.
In National Forests, you can drive and park on the side of a Forest Service road and car camp there. With a little searching, you might be able to find a spot with a beautiful view of a lake, mountains, a meadow, or a river or stream.
Just be sure to stay on the road so you don’t damage the forest with your vehicle (but also make sure that any other passing cars can get by).
Before you visit a National Forest to car camp, check their website for information about any necessary permits you’ll need, or other restrictions.
Most BLM lands are in the western US in desert climates. And like National Forests, they usually allow car camping at pullovers or on access roads.
A lot of these roads are just dirt or gravel and are pretty out of the way, so you can count on a fair amount of seclusion.
The best way to find National Forests and BLM lands where you can car camp is to use the site Recreation.gov. Search for “National Forests in colorado”, for example, or “blm lands in utah”. You can also try REI’s Camping Project on their website.
Remember, when you car camp in dispersed camping areas, you need to pack out what you bring in. Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace principles before you head out.
Alternative Places to Car Camp
If you’re traveling cross country and just need to hit the hay asap, there are a number of options for car camping in a hard shell roof top tent that aren’t available to folks lugging around traditional tents. These include:
- Most locations allow car camping — just park out of the way in the far reaches of the lot.
- Look for truck stops that offer overnight spots for RVs, campers, trailers, vans, and the like.
- You might have to pay a fee for the spot, so just go inside and ask before you settle in for the night. Allstays.com has an epic truck stop locator, available here »
- The rules for overnight parking in rest areas vary from state to state.
- Many don’t allow overnight parking, while some do — as long as you don’t stay longer than a certain time limit.
- Here’s a guide to rest area car camping rules for each state »
- You may be surprised to learn that many casinos offer overnight parking for RVs, campers, and car camping.
- CasinoCamper.com is a good resource for finding casinos where this is allowed, but we’d suggest calling ahead to make sure you can stay in a roof top tent at such a facility.
Find Your Next Roofnest Get-Away
With just a little bit of digging, you can find thousands of places to car camp in your Roofnest across the US. That includes on the slopes for backcountry skiing, at music festivals, and much, much more.
But if you don’t want do the digging yourself, let us do it for you. Our blog is always being updated with posts about the best car camping spots around the country.
Check out our guide on the best car camping spots for your Roofnest outside of San Diego »
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