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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know car camping has been discussed at length in this forum but I'm not seeing a lot of active threads right now, at the start of peak car camping season, so I'm going to try to start one here.

I just got back from an 8-day road trip from Oregon to Wyoming and back. My lowered Alltrack was pretty heavily loaded with lots of gear for two people, hitch-mount bike rack, and two mountain bikes. No problem on gravel roads, although didn't do anything particularly gnarly on this trip. The photo below was taken from Falls Campground near the Tetons. At 8350' elevation, it was chilly. I think it dropped to the 30s Fahrenheit that night (mid-June).
Plant Tire Table Plant community Car


I have several friends who have jumped on the van-life bandwagon, and though I'm tempted, I think for my goals right now, I'd rather stay on the regular wagon. ;) You can read things like this and think it looks pretty cool, or drool at a $250k Sprinter/Revel build, but that it prohibitively expensive for most and just so excessive unless you are really living on the road for more than a few weeks a year. Not to mention terrible gas mileage compared to our 1.8L turbos. So, with an eye towards better car camping in the future, let's discuss ways to improve the car camping/road trip experience with a wagon.

Whether you're lifted and doing more serious off-road adventuring, or sticking to mostly paved roads, these cars can do so much and take you so many places. And, to soapbox a bit, I think even in the great American/Canadian West there is no need for a lifted vehicle for 99% of what I want to do. Heck, I took my lowered '99 Maxima (FWD) on some really gnarly dirt roads with huge potholes, tall humps in the middle, etc., and never got stuck. Just takes a little skill. Get me to the trailhead, and then I'll hop on my mountain bike and ride the really fun stuff. Your mileage may vary—if you need a lifted vehicle, I am not going to argue with you!
 

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2018 VW Alltrack SE
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So, first topic of discussion: I was reading this article about car-camping "must-haves" and got to wondering if those electric coolers would work with the 115v outlet in the Alltracks. Could run it while driving, and it should stay cool overnight while unplugged without issue. Some of these coolers draw surprisingly low power and would not exceed the Alltracks' 150-watt (300-watt peak) power limit. 150 watts at 115v is 1.3 amps. And for those who don't have the 115v AC, there are DC 12v options too. Has anyone tried this? How did it work? Any recommendations on brand/model of electric cooler? Avoiding the hassle of ice would be so nice for a longer trip.
 

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'17 Alltrack SE
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I know car camping has been discussed at length in this forum but I'm not seeing a lot of active threads right now, at the start of peak car camping season, so I'm going to try to start one here.

I just got back from an 8-day road trip from Oregon to Wyoming and back. My lowered Alltrack was pretty heavily loaded with lots of gear for two people, hitch-mount bike rack, and two mountain bikes. No problem on gravel roads, although didn't do anything particularly gnarly on this trip. The photo below was taken from Falls Campground near the Tetons. At 8350' elevation, it was chilly. I think it dropped to the 30s Fahrenheit that night (mid-June).
View attachment 197215

I have several friends who have jumped on the van-life bandwagon, and though I'm tempted, I think for my goals right now, I'd rather stay on the regular wagon. ;) You can read things like this and think it looks pretty cool, or drool at a $250k Sprinter/Revel build, but that it prohibitively expensive for most and just so excessive unless you are really living on the road for more than a few weeks a year. Not to mention terrible gas mileage compared to our 1.8L turbos. So, with an eye towards better car camping in the future, let's discuss ways to improve the car camping/road trip experience with a wagon.

Whether you're lifted and doing more serious off-road adventuring, or sticking to mostly paved roads, these cars can do so much and take you so many places. And, to soapbox a bit, I think even in the great American/Canadian West there is no need for a lifted vehicle for 99% of what I want to do. Heck, I took my lowered '99 Maxima (FWD) on some really gnarly dirt roads with huge potholes, tall humps in the middle, etc., and never got stuck. Just takes a little skill. Get me to the trailhead, and then I'll hop on my mountain bike and ride the really fun stuff. Your mileage may vary—if you need a lifted vehicle, I am not going to argue with you!
Love this idea of firing up ideas and solves for car camping. Bring it back to the surface.

  • lighting hacks (interior or exterior)
  • Bed platforms
  • Hatch attachments
  • canopies/netting/etc
  • Have always wondered what interesting partition could be hacked with the little clothes-line hooks behind the front headrests.
  • ac/dc must have gadgets

Glad the trip was successful. Assuming you weren’t able to sneak into Yellowstone with all their sad issues at the park.
 
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So, first topic of discussion: I was reading this article about car-camping "must-haves" and got to wondering if those electric coolers would work with the 115v outlet in the Alltracks. Could run it while driving, and it should stay cool overnight while unplugged without issue. Some of these coolers draw surprisingly low power and would not exceed the Alltracks' 150-watt (300-watt peak) power limit. 150 watts at 115v is 1.3 amps. And for those who don't have the 115v AC, there are DC 12v options too. Has anyone tried this? How did it work? Any recommendations on brand/model of electric cooler? Avoiding the hassle of ice would be so nice for a longer trip.
I have not tried this, but recently used my Toyota 4runner for self-contained camping (Golf R32 handles fun car duties) and would like to learn more about people's experiences with accessory power and electric coolers. Last month I took an 8 day road trip with a standard cooler and it worked well. Crushed ice lasts about three days or so, block ice lasts much longer, but it's not available everywhere.

I was browsing Lithium Ion power stations and Jackery seems to be the name brand, but I would be happy with equivalent options that do not sacrifice quality or performance. A break down in the size of power stations and how long they power specific items is listed here: Portable Power Station to Charge and Explore- Jackery
I think the Explorer 500 bundle pack would be ideal as it provides 9 hrs of run time for coolers Jackery Solar Generator 500 (Explorer 500 + SolarSaga 100W) Additionally, I live in a rural area that can have power outages during warm months to reduce wildland fires. The Jackery would be useful in those situations, meaning I didn't buy an expensive camping gadget used infrequently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have not tried this, but recently used my Toyota 4runner for self-contained camping (Golf R32 handles fun car duties) and would like to learn more about people's experiences with accessory power and electric coolers. Last month I took an 8 day road trip with a standard cooler and it worked well. Crushed ice lasts about three days or so, block ice lasts much longer, but it's not available everywhere.

I was browsing Lithium Ion power stations and Jackery seems to be the name brand, but I would be happy with equivalent options that do not sacrifice quality or performance. A break down in the size of power stations and how long they power specific items is listed here: Portable Power Station to Charge and Explore- Jackery
I think the Explorer 500 bundle pack would be ideal as it provides 9 hrs of run time for coolers Jackery Solar Generator 500 (Explorer 500 + SolarSaga 100W) Additionally, I live in a rural area that can have power outages during warm months to reduce wildland fires. The Jackery would be useful in those situations, meaning I didn't buy an expensive camping gadget used infrequently.
Yeah, ice works fine, just takes up quite a bit of space and makes a big pool after a couple of days. And you don't want to drain that cold water because it provides significant cooling itself. I have eaten my share of soggy cheese from this, but it's nothing that some careful plastic bagging can't prevent. Block ice lasts longer but won't cool as fast (less surface area). But a good option if available, especially if you can pre-cool the cooler first.

For extended trips, a solar panel, battery, and electric cooler would be worth it. But really, all of my road trips have been under 2 weeks so hard to justify the expense for convenience alone. The good electric coolers are around $1k... Maybe next summer I'll spend a month or two living on the road and be able to justify that.

What other high-tech or low-tech gadgets have you guys found helpful for road trips, off-road adventures, or car camping?
 

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This Slumberjack brand has a few interesting tent-attach-to-vehicle products that I have kept an eye on but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Assuming there’s a few other brands out there doing something similar.

Really looking for anything that could let me expand/extend the interior space when rouge car camping…. Alltrack-Vanagon crossover territory.

Tire Wheel Plant Sky Plant community


 

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So, first topic of discussion: I was reading this article about car-camping "must-haves" and got to wondering if those electric coolers would work with the 115v outlet in the Alltracks. Could run it while driving, and it should stay cool overnight while unplugged without issue. Some of these coolers draw surprisingly low power and would not exceed the Alltracks' 150-watt (300-watt peak) power limit. 150 watts at 115v is 1.3 amps. And for those who don't have the 115v AC, there are DC 12v options too. Has anyone tried this? How did it work? Any recommendations on brand/model of electric cooler? Avoiding the hassle of ice would be so nice for a longer trip.
Eurovan owner here. My weekender has a 12V cooler but it also has a separate battery. I would never use my main AT battery for powering something else for a long time. A few things you could do:

1. Buy a really good cooler and then get dry ice. Put dry ice in zip lock bags. That way you can freeze stuff. I have a Pelican cooler and can freeze things at -35F for up to three days. By day 4, goes to 0 deg F and day 5 above freezing. In the end, no hassle of regular ice. Just remember you need the cooler to be a bit vented.
2. If you want a 12V cooler, I suggest looking into a good jump box. Just carry and then recharge when you can. Portable and your regular battery will not discharge
3. Be cheap and get a cheap cooler. Then drill holes in the cavities and fill with a product like Great Stuff. You'd be amazed how I took an old 20 year cooler that was not so great and it insulates really well now. Performed close to my Pelican. Wal Mart coolers are really good too.
4. Think like a backpacker. Use those products so you are not taking up valuable space and you are not spending all of your time loading and unloading. Same for food options.
5. Roof Rack. Buy one of the brands that uses generic bars on the top. I found that the ones with the more noisy round bars can be easily modified for items like a side awning. Then get the biggest roof box you can. I also suggest a folding step stool as it makes it way easier to load and unload.
6. Hot Hands. Work great for those cold nights in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

I have camped in all sorts of things but have realized that after backpacking, my AT with a hitch and roof box, I have plenty of room. I now have an RV that i tow a Jeep with, so the EV and AT stay home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Eurovan owner here. My weekender has a 12V cooler but it also has a separate battery. I would never use my main AT battery for powering something else for a long time. A few things you could do:

1. Buy a really good cooler and then get dry ice. Put dry ice in zip lock bags. That way you can freeze stuff. I have a Pelican cooler and can freeze things at -35F for up to three days. By day 4, goes to 0 deg F and day 5 above freezing. In the end, no hassle of regular ice. Just remember you need the cooler to be a bit vented.
2. If you want a 12V cooler, I suggest looking into a good jump box. Just carry and then recharge when you can. Portable and your regular battery will not discharge
3. Be cheap and get a cheap cooler. Then drill holes in the cavities and fill with a product like Great Stuff. You'd be amazed how I took an old 20 year cooler that was not so great and it insulates really well now. Performed close to my Pelican. Wal Mart coolers are really good too.
4. Think like a backpacker. Use those products so you are not taking up valuable space and you are not spending all of your time loading and unloading. Same for food options.
5. Roof Rack. Buy one of the brands that uses generic bars on the top. I found that the ones with the more noisy round bars can be easily modified for items like a side awning. Then get the biggest roof box you can. I also suggest a folding step stool as it makes it way easier to load and unload.
6. Hot Hands. Work great for those cold nights in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

I have camped in all sorts of things but have realized that after backpacking, my AT with a hitch and roof box, I have plenty of room. I now have an RV that i tow a Jeep with, so the EV and AT stay home.
Great tips, thanks! My idea was to only run an electric cooler while driving (because the 115v outlet only works while the ignition is on and would drain the car battery fast if the engine isn't powering it through the alternator). Won't lose much coldness overnight even in summer, so less need for power then. I am a backpacker too and do find that for 1-2 people the Alltrack has plenty of room, especially with a roof box.

Nice RV setup. Class C? Do you tow the Jeep with it?
 

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Great tips, thanks! My idea was to only run an electric cooler while driving (because the 115v outlet only works while the ignition is on and would drain the car battery fast if the engine isn't powering it through the alternator). Won't lose much coldness overnight even in summer, so less need for power then. I am a backpacker too and do find that for 1-2 people the Alltrack has plenty of room, especially with a roof box.

Nice RV setup. Class C? Do you tow the Jeep with it?
26ft Class C. Then I tow the Jeep. I also have 800W of solar and a 4000W inverter/battery charger/solar charger unit. For that pic, we Went from PA all the way out to CO, NM, AZ and UT. Rest of the family flew back to PA and I spent a week going back. I used BLM land for the west. Pics I posted were from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming. Trust me, I took a leap of faith getting that RV down there and parked on the beach. Funny part was there was some sort of Jeep convention down there and they were cheering me on (obviously after drinking lots of beer) to get the RV down there.


Plus my wife and I do trail maintenance on the AT and backpack.

I also did something odd. I took my brand new bone stock Jeep and off roaded it in Moab. Seems you need to put 35's on it and a 2.5: lift for it to be off road acceptable in that community. I broke the law and tried it stock.

So, the jump box is something that works quite well as there are many options today. Being portable, you can haul them around and not have to worry about them being on their side plus can charge them while you drive. Top it off, keep it in the garage and when you or a friend needs a jump, problem solved.

Look into the dry ice thing for when you do extended weekends. Welding gas suppliers usually have it on hand. Bring a cooler and have them fill up the amount you desire.

I also grew up camping in my parents 1968 VW Bus. Seems that the four of us barely needed a thing and we could go a week.
 
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