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Car Camping In A Toyota RAV4: Tips and Setup Ideas

car camping in toyota rav4 tips

If you’re anything like me, you crave outdoor adventures and deeply appreciate a good night’s sleep. That’s where car camping comes in – it’s camping but with an added layer of coziness and convenience.


Instead of lugging your gear on your back, you drive up to your campsite in your trusty vehicle, ready to unpack all the essentials (and maybe a few luxuries if there’s room!).


For the last six years, my husband and I have been on dozens of car camping adventures in our beloved 2016 Toyota RAV4. 

car camping Toyota RAV4

The spaciousness and versatility of our RAV4 allow us to pack all the gear we need for extended road trips and camping excursions. Plus, it can transform into a fully equipped adventure rig with our kayaks secured on top and mountain bikes attached to the back. 


We may be biased, but the Toyota RAV4 is one of the best adventure vehicles and SUVs for sleeping inside!


This blog is your go-to resource for all things car camping in a Toyota RAV4 – from handy tips to smart setup ideas and essential gear recommendations. 

what is car camping

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Table of Contents

What Is Car Camping?

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Car camping is the perfect blend of simplicity and adventure. It doesn’t require an overwhelming amount of gear or a marathon drive to remote locations. Instead, it’s an accessible and convenient way to embrace the great outdoors right from the comfort of your Toyota RAV4.


Picture this: You fold down those backseats, add a few extra blankets for comfort, and grab dinner on your way out of town. It’s as easy as that. Car camping offers a cozy and budget-friendly route to weekend getaways, a welcoming invitation to connect with nature without the hassle of extensive planning.


However, let’s not forget two crucial elements of car camping:


  1. Leave No Trace: While car camping simplifies the process, it doesn’t mean we should simplify our responsibility toward nature. The Leave No Trace principles should always be at the forefront of our outdoor adventures. It’s about respecting the environment we so eagerly explore. So, as you embark on your car camping trip, remember to pack out what you pack in, dispose of waste properly, and leave nature as pristine as you found it.
  2. Be Prepared: Car camping may be accessible, but it doesn’t equate to being unprepared. Adventure, even of the car camping variety, still requires some degree of planning and preparation. Ensure you have essentials like first-aid supplies, communication devices, and weather-appropriate clothing. Check the weather forecast, respect park regulations, and always prioritize safety. 


So, embrace the simplicity of car camping in your Toyota RAV4, but also recognize that beneath the ease lies a world of opportunity to connect with nature, leave no trace, and be well-prepared for the unexpected.


It’s a balance that makes car camping not just accessible but also an enriching and responsible way to experience the great outdoors.

Can You Camp In A Toyota RAV4?

camping in a toyota rav4

Curious about whether there’s enough room to sleep in the back of a Toyota RAV4? 


My husband and I own a 2016 LE edition, and I’m 5’8″, while he’s 5’10”. Good news — we can comfortably sleep in the back together without feeling cramped. It’s snug but definitely not suffocating!


I especially love sleeping in the RAV4 during solo camping trips or dealing with cold weather/strong winds.


Note: While the seats do lay flat, they’re not completely flat. I’ll delve deeper into this topic later in the blog when discussing the best mattresses for a comfortable night’s sleep in a Toyota RAV4.

Toyota RAV4 Camping Setup

the best suv for camping

The options for Toyota RAV4 camping setups are as diverse as the landscapes you can explore! Let’s dive into a few ideas:


  • Budget-Friendly Approach: If you’re all about keeping it cost-effective (who isn’t?), start with what you already have. My husband and I began our car camping journey using our backpacking sleeping pads and those extra blankets stashed away at home. Don’t forget to bring your pillow!
  • Upgrading Comfort: If you’re ready to take your car camping game up a notch, consider investing in a high-quality car camping mattress like the Megamat Duo 10, which we’ll explore in the next section. It’s all about striking that balance between comfort and convenience.
  • The Permanent Setup: Why not build a simple platform bed for those looking for a more long-term solution? There are some fantastic DIY videos on YouTube that guide you through the process, tailored specifically for the Toyota RAV4. It’s a great way to create a dedicated camping space that you can customize to your heart’s content.
  • Use Your Tent: If you already have a tent you love, skip the RAV4 and sleep in your tent! Or if you’re traveling with a partner, one can have the car and the other can take the tent!

Remember, the seats in the Toyota RAV4 lay flat, but they’re not completely flat. You might notice a slight bump and a downward slope in the cargo area. Opt for the platform bed or a thicker car camping mattress to level things out and ensure you’re snoozing on a perfectly even surface.


The choice is yours, and it’s all about making your car camping experience as comfy as possible!

Best Mattress for Sleeping in SUV

car camping Toyota RAV4

When it comes to selecting the perfect car camping mattress for your SUV, the market offers a lot of options. 

I can personally vouch for one standout choice – the Exped Megamat Duo 10 sleeping pad


A little over a year ago, I upgraded our car camping setup from using our old backpacking sleeping pads to the Megamat Duo 10, and I’ve never looked back.


Here’s why it’s a game-changer:

  • Perfect Fit: I followed Exped’s sizing guide and the Duo 10 fits like a glove in our Toyota RAV4.
  • Effortless Setup: Setting it up and taking it down is a breeze, especially when you use the automatic pump. 
  • Mega Support: It stays firm and supportive throughout the night, ensuring a restful sleep.
  • Cold-Weather Ready: Designed with insulation, it’s a reliable companion for chilly camping escapades.
  • The Comfort Factor: Most importantly, it’s incredibly comfortable – a game-changer for car camping in your 30’s haha


Let’s talk about investments. The Megamat Duo 10 is pricey, but it’s worth every penny if you’re an avid car camper. And while you’re at it, I suggest picking up the Exped Widget Pump, which makes inflating it a breeze.


Psst! I saved big during the annual REI Co-op Labor Day Sale!

Car Camping Gear Essentials

car camping essentials

The beauty of car camping lies in its simplicity. While you won’t need a ton of fancy equipment, it’s still essential to pack some basics for a comfortable and safe camping experience:


  • Headlamp: A hands-free light source is invaluable, especially when setting up camp or exploring in the dark.
  • First Aid Kit: Safety first! Always have a well-stocked first aid kit on hand for any unexpected bumps and scrapes.
  • Cooler: Keep your perishables fresh and your drinks cold with a reliable cooler.
  • Water Jug: Hydration is key. A water jug ensures you access clean drinking water throughout your trip.
  • Food: Plan and pack meals that suit your tastes and dietary needs. Think easy-to-prep and delicious campfire classics.
  • Sleeping Bag: A cozy sleeping bag is your ticket to a good night’s sleep.
  • Extra Layers: Weather can be unpredictable. Extra layers of clothing will keep you warm during chilly nights and cool during hot days.
  • Camp Chairs: Comfy camp chairs are a great addition to your setup. They provide comfortable seating around the campfire or for simply relaxing outside your RAV4.


Want a comprehensive list of my car camping essentials? I’ve got you covered! I’ve put together a detailed car camping gear guide and packing checklist. You can download it below and be fully prepared for your next car camping adventure!

How to Cover Car Windows for Sleeping

car camping in toyota rav4 tips

Alright, folks, it’s time for a little confession from yours truly – for the past six years of car camping in our trusty RAV4, we’ve neglected a crucial piece of the puzzle: window covers. Well, almost all of them. Aside from our trusty front windscreen cover, our RAV4’s windows were left uncovered.


Now, while I’m well aware of the fantastic DIY tutorials available for crafting your very own car camping window covers, I decided to take the expedited route and ordered a pair that perfectly fit our Toyota RAV4.


As I’m crafting this post, I haven’t had the chance to take our brand-new Luno Window Screens on a camping trip just yet. However, I couldn’t resist giving them a test run, and I must say, they were pretty easy to slide over our vehicle’s rear doors. I’m genuinely excited about their potential because they allow for refreshing airflow and keep the bugs out.

Tips for Car Camping in a Toyota RAV4

tips for car camping

If you are ready to go car camping in your Toyota RAV4, here are some tried-and-true tips to make your camping experience smooth and enjoyable: 


  1. Park in Designated Camping Spots: First things first, ensure you’re parking in designated camping spots. This keeps you in line with park regulations and guarantees you a comfortable and safe camping spot. My favorite places to find campsites are,, and
  2. Find Level Ground: Once you’ve picked your spot, ensure it’s as level as possible. A flat surface enhances your sleeping comfort and prevents that awkward feeling of rolling around in your sleep.
  3. Lock Those Doors: Safety is paramount when you’re out in the wild. Be sure to lock your RAV4 doors at night to keep unwanted visitors (of the furry or non-furry variety) at bay.
  4. Embrace Fresh Air: A little ventilation goes a long way! Crack the windows to allow for airflow, and consider using a portable fan if the night gets stuffy. Trust me, it’s the secret to a good night’s sleep in the outdoors.
  5. Side Door Storage: Your Toyota RAV4 is more than just a means of transportation – it’s your cozy campsite on wheels! Take advantage of side door storage for easy access to essentials like headlamps, glasses, your phone, and more. Keeping things organized ensures a stress-free camping experience.
  6. Window Screens for Privacy: Privacy is golden, especially when you’re camping in public areas. Use window screens to block out light and curious gazes. It’s your own personal oasis in the midst of nature.
tips for car camping in a toyota rav4
  1. Plan for Weather: Be sure to check the weather forecast before every trip! While the RAV4 offers a cozy shelter, it’s a good idea to pack appropriate clothing and gear for unexpected changes in weather, whether it’s rain, cold nights, or unexpected heat.
  2. Trash Management: Bring trash bags and make it a habit to clean your camping area. Leave no trace and help preserve the beauty of the outdoors.
  3. Practice Campsite Etiquette: Respect your fellow campers. Keep noise levels down, especially during quiet hours, and be considerate of others sharing the campsite.
  4. Pack A Cooking Setup: If you plan to eat during your car camping adventure, you’ll need a reliable car camping cooking setup! Here’s a blog full of tips on creating a car camping kitchen.
  5. Emergency Preparedness: Always have a basic emergency kit on hand. This should include essentials like a first-aid kit, a multi-tool, and a communication device, such as a charged mobile phone or a two-way radio.
  6. Test Your Setup: Before embarking on a long journey, do a trial run in your local area. Spend a night or two in your RAV4 to ensure your setup is comfortable and all necessary gear works as expected.

Ready For Car Camping In A Toyota RAV4?

camping in a toyota rav4

I hope this post inspired you to embark on car camping adventures in your Toyota RAV4! If you have any questions, leave them below! You can also glimpse my car camping adventures on my Instagram. Happy camping!

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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