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Step up your camping game

Try car camping

A car camping setup gives you better protection from the Pacific Northwest weather. Photo provided by Anthony James Rhoads

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With all the rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest, camping in a tent may not be for everyone. You can still reap the benefits of this low-cost lodging option by car camping. Veteran Anthony James Rhoads, a locomotive electrician, has been car camping since 2012 and loves it. Over the last seven years, he has refined the process and shares his tips.

"I bought my truck in 2012, and it had a fiberglass shell on it. I have always loved hiking and climbing, so the shell helped open up a lot of possibilities. It's a lot easier to just pull up and climb in the bed and go to sleep than it is to set up a whole camp. The most difficult part is making the bed with not so much space," said Rhoads. 

He feels car camping has significant advantages over backpacking, especially in this climate. "Backpacking is for multi-day trails. However, the truck offers more security and insulation than a tent does. Not that I'm opposed to tents. If your setup allows it, you have available power on hand. When backpacking, you have to carry everything, including water, but when you're in a vehicle you have the option to have a few more luxury items and even more water, without the hassle of carrying it. Last but not least, it's honestly much more conformable than a tent. When you leave camp, packing up doesn't take nearly as long, and everything is already secured in your vehicle if you choose to hike from your camp. It's much easier to warm up or cool down a vehicle than depending on insulation or a cool breeze. Bear bags or cans are typically not required because you have the option of locking up your food in your vehicle."

Rhoads' current setup is a 2006 Toyota Tundra with a fiberglass shell, and for shorter two-day trips, he uses a 2012 Jeep. "We've done a lot of work, including a roof rack, carpeting in the shell, padding the bed, putting in remote lights and a USB 12v outlet combo, and curtains. Currently, there are two more projects we are working on, which are a pressurized roof-mounted shower/water source and a dual isolated battery setup. We just run an inverter for our mattress air pump and inflate our air mattress. We also use our 2012 Jeep Compass for quick two-day trips. In the Jeep, we just hang things in the windows for privacy, lay down the back seats and roll out sleeping bags and blankets. The front seats are where we store everything. Normally for food we either do backpacking meals or eat out when in the Jeep, but with the truck, we have a lot more options, including a propane stove." 

He has learned a few things over the years that improve comfort as well as safety. "If you're going to use a truck with a shell, carpet it. This helps with condensation absorption as well as noise muffling. In SUVs, always crack the windows, otherwise you run the risk of carbon dioxide poisoning. When carrying water in jugs, use a plastic tote if you can, in case they leak. Invest in a jumper pack for jumping your vehicle, especially if you use battery power for anything. No matter how careful you are, you can always inadvertently kill your battery. The biggest one is it all comes down to personal preference."

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