Last weekend I embarked on a different kind of road trip than I've done before. My plan was to live and sleep out of my SUV for 3 days while exploring around Central Oregon. To park my vehicle for the evening I choose to take advantage of dispersed camping, which means to camp on public lands outside of established campsites. End result: Success! Check out this blog post to read more about dispersed camping and my vehicle DIY road trip and sleep system set up.
In November 2020 I rented a VW Westfalia van and headed out on a five day Oregon Coast Van-cation over the Thanksgiving holiday. In that trip report I talked about the popularity of "van-life" these days. And, yes, I too was enamored with the adventure vehicle trend. Since that van rental experience I've been pondering if and how I could simply live out of my own SUV for short road trips (instead of a van for now).
As many road trips as I take, I have already perfected most of the logistics to easily live out of my vehicle. But I had never actually slept in my vehicle overnight. Plenty of people convert their vehicles into full fledged car camping machines - just Google "car camping conversion" to see what I mean. By searching through such resources on social media and the internet I picked up a few tips and tricks for my first DIY car sleeping experience. My intent for this Central Oregon trip was to simply give it a try and see what worked, what didn't work, and how I could improve for future trips. Overall my plans worked out perfectly! And I identified a few new ideas and improvements for next time...and yes, definitely a next time! Check out my SUV set up in the pictures and notes below. For all the full trip and hiking details, check out my Central Oregon trip report.
My DIY SUV Road Trip and Sleeping Set Up:
This road trip was my first time to try out dispersed camping - which is essentially camping on designated public lands outside of established campgrounds. And wow, what a world of possibilities dispersed camping opens up. More available places to camp and more remote areas outside of high usage campgrounds! And it is free!
If you have never heard of dispersed camping, let me back up and explain... Public land in the United States is managed by four federal land management agencies: National Park Service, United States Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Since the land is public it is "owned" by the people of the United States! Meaning all of us - and we can go use it! Each land management agency has a charter for how the land should be used and applies rules to the people and industries using the land. All that being said, the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management both allow dispersed camping on their public lands. Essentially you can camp most anywhere on the land for free!
On my trip I camped two nights on United States Forest Service land (Crooked River National Grassland) and one night on Bureau of Land Management land (Oregon Badlands Wilderness). I had researched these two "popular" dispersed camping locations and turns out there were many other groups camping out nearby as well (both well known areas and on the weekend). Dispersed camping can take some research as you'll need to know where to go and the best roads and established sites to access. Also, just like backpacking, no amenities out there so be prepared! On all three dispersed camping nights I found beautiful views and it felt like an off the beaten path type experience.