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Car Camping Adventures: Ruth the Subaru

Meet Ruth, short for Ruthless, shorter for Subaruthless!

Ruth is amazing. Getting a Subaru Outback has really changed the way that I adventure. Car camping adventures are rad! Camping in itself is a great way to disconnect and get into nature. whether it’s in a car, in a tent, or just our under the stars- camping brings us back to our roots.

With Ruth I can wander down dirt roads without the fear of getting stuck on a rock or something. Yes, that has *almost happened to me. I can comfortably sleep in my car and cook in it while we are on adventures. Ruth can comfortably fit everything we need for an adventure and always gets us to where we want to go.

Sleeping in the Sube

When I was looking for a car dealership workers caught me putting down the back seats and laying in the trunk. While explaining myself was a bit awkward, it helped me find that the Subaru Outback was going to be a perfect fit. Stephen and I are lucky to be just tall enough to lay down comfortably in the back of the car. Just throw down two sleeping pads, an open sleeping bag for cushion, a bunch of blankets and pillows, and you got yourself a bed on wheels.

That may sound easy, but making the bed is more like playing tetris than laying out a blanket. Every time we settle down for the night we play gear shuffle. The fridge, stove, storage boxes, and bags of camera and climbing gear take over the front seats. It can be really annoying to have to move everything around especially when it’s freaking cold outside of the car, or when we want to go somewhere for sunrise in the morning. Luckily, after a few trips we got our system down and now it’s not so much of a burden. A van is going to be such a blessing when we get one.

Tips for Comfort

The little gap between the front seats and folded down back seats has to be filled with food and clothing bags to optimize its pillow holding abilities. You really don’t want to wake up wondering what hole your pillow got swallowed up by or why your neck hurts. You could try laying with your head at the trunk opening but it gets hella cold over there. Don’t be surprised if you wake up to your condensed split dripping on you. Yup. You heard me.

On real cold nights water vapor condenses to the windows, freezes, and then melts. We quickly added paper towels to our list of must haves to avoid wet everything. We are still trying to figure out a good way to have air flow while we sleep. Cracking the windows doesn’t seem to be enough to escape from steamy windows or the lovely smell of stale dog breath. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know!

Car Camping Experiences

My favorite car camping experiences have been in Alabama Hills. Alabama Hills is BLM land in California, which means free dispersed camping. The area overlooks the Eastern Sierras home of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous US of A. Fun fact: it is my favorite mountain range that I have seen this far! Alabama Hills is home to so many dirt roads to drive down and campsites to find. And you really can’t beat the sunrise. I mean look at it. How can you go wrong? Stephen and I have camped there four times in the past year. It’s dog friendly, is in the cutest town of Lone Pine,and has great hikes, climbing, and hot springs nearby. So again, how can you go wrong? I’ll be writing more on this incredible place real soon.

We have also enjoyed car camping outside Joshua Tree National Park, in Holcomb up in Big Bear, in Death Valley National Park, in Fort Townsend State Park, on a random BLM road in Oregon, in Black Mountain in Idyllwild, in a Red Rock Canyon parking lot, and at Castleton Tower in Moab. We found great resources through this guide to find places to stay, or look for BLM land that allows dispersed camping. Ruth has seen many roads and many, many miles.

That One Time We Almost Froze

While we’ve had some pretty great camping experiences we have had some that have just been the worst. Sometimes you can go wrong. One night we slept in 8 degree weather without proper sleeping bags.

We were heading up to Utah to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I really wanted to take Stephen to these incredible hot springs on the way, so we found a free campsite nearby and set out to stay there for the night. We knew it was going to be cold but the weather app definitely lied and I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to throw up from how cold my feet were. We ran the heat several times, cuddled for warmth, and shivered till daylight. I guess it’s one way to feel real alive. On a good note the hot springs were totally worth nearly freezing.

Cookin’ in the Car

Another awesome thing about car camping is having a kitchen on wheels. Cooking in Ruth’s trunk is super easy, and can even be done from inside the car when it’s too cold to stand outside (or we are too lazy). Having two people cook inside the car takes a careful balancing act and good teamwork, but I’ve only spilled food everywhere one out of a bunch of times so it can be done without making a mess. Always make sure to crack a few windows or leave the trunk open when cooking in the car with a propane stove. I always keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

Our Dometic 32 L fridge really makes car camping a luxury. We are able to make eggs in the morning and bring fresh veggies which is a huge plus when we are on the road for up to a week. After many months of searching I was lucky enough to find mine on Craigslist from a vanlife family who needed to buy a larger fridge. The Dometic is an investment that you can’t go wrong with!

Now Go Have Fun!

If you are setting out to start car camping, or have been for some I hope you really enjoy it. There are so many incredible places to go explore and it’s awesome when you can just wake up there, step out of the car, and go. As always, be sure to leave not trace. We owe it to the land to leave only footprints on trails and tire tracks on real roads.


A quick list of must haves apart from real camping gear:

See-through storage bins

Toilet paper

Paper towels

Excess lighters

Matches (be prepared!)

Headlamp batteries

Dark chocolate

A ball for Lilly

A good book

A pencil or pen

Black out reflective and insulated window shades (so easy to make!)


*my sedan got trapped on a large rock. We had to rock the car forward to get the front wheels to touch the ground so I could gun it and get free. I was real lucky the car was okay. Sorry mom


Want to adventure together and meet Ruth? Let’s book and adventure!