A Beginner’s Guide To Car Camping In Colorado

June 24th, 2019 by

Without a doubt, one of the most appealing parts about living in Colorado is all of the great outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s a big reason why people move here and why natives can’t see themselves living anywhere else. Here in the Northern Colorado region, we’re lucky to have a lot of great camping sites in the area. But if you’re new to camping, and you’re not quite ready to commit to a multi-day camping trip, car camping is a great way to connect with the great outdoors.

Here at Markley Motors in Fort Collins, we think that there are few things better suited to each other than Colorado, an adventurous spirit, and a rugged and reliable Honda vehicle. So if you’ve got the itch to give car camping in Colorado a try, check out our beginner’s guide.

Finding a Spot to Camp

While there are some places that allow you to camp wherever you please, for the most part, you can’t just pull over and set up your tent. It’s best to have a destination in mind before you even start packing. Here in Northern Colorado, you’ve got great locations to choose from. A few hours north is State Forest State Park that features great car camping spots that are close to numerous hiking trails. Of course, there’s also Rocky Mountain National Park, but campsites often book up quickly and far in advance. The Hermit Park open space is another great choice. Up the Poudre Canyon, you’ll find numerous sites along the road and throughout Roosevelt National Forest.

Start Packing

Here’s the fun, if not challenging, part. No matter what you do, you will invariably forget to pack something while packing too much of something else. This happens to even the most seasoned of campers, so don’t stress out. Remember, your packing list is only limited by your cargo space, so bring the things that are sure to make you comfortable. Don’t let those Instagram posts from hardcore ultralight campers dissuade you: the only look you need while car camping is comfortable and happy.

Not sure what to pack? No worries, we’ve got your back.

Living Equipment

Again, we’re all about comfort when it comes to car camping, so now is the time to break out the huge tents, the heavy and luxuriously soft sleeping bags, and the full-size air mattress. You might be out in the woods, but that doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Your packing list for living equipment should include:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Air pad/mattress or sleeping mat
  • Pillow
  • Camp chair or foam pad
  • Camp table
  • Extra blankets or pajamas
  • Headlamp or lantern

Bringing these items will ensure you get a good night’s rest after a day of hiking or traveling. Extra layers are always a good idea in case the temperature drops unexpectedly. Camp chairs and tables are useful for lounging as well as enjoying your meals.

Kitchen Gear

When backpacking, you’re limited to freeze-dried meals cooked on a single burner camp stove. But while car camping, you can bring everything you need to make delicious meals, including the kitchen sink! Thanks to coolers and larger two burner camp stoves, you could have fresh scrambled eggs and fruit for breakfast and steaks for dinner.

We make sure that our car camping kitchen includes:

  • Stove and appropriate fuel
  • Firestarter (lighter, matches, etc.)
  • Pots and pans
  • Plates, bowls, and utensils
  • Cups or mugs
  • Cutting knife and cutting board
  • Cooler with ice or cold packs
  • Camp sink or wash basin
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Sponges and towel
  • Trash and recycle bags

Of course, you can get really fancy and bring French presses, dutch ovens, grilling racks and more.

When it comes to what food to pack, your limited only by how much cooler space you have and your appetite. As much as possible, make sure to pack your food in reusable containers. Store your food in bear-proof containers or in your car. And don’t forget plenty of water. You’ll want to bring about a gallon per person, per day at least.


While some are happy to hike all day, eat a meal back at camp then crash in their tent, others like to bring games with them to enjoy in camp. You can bring decks of cards, board games, or field games. Thanks to portable batteries, you might even bring a laptop loaded with movies! You can play music at your campsite, just make sure it’s at a volume that won’t bother your neighbors.

Exploration Supplies

If you’re planning on doing some hiking near your campsite, you’ll want to bring the supplies to do it. Whether you’re hiking to a nearby lake and back, or going on an all-day mission up a 14’er, consider packing the following:

  • A day pack
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder
  • Navigation tools (map, compass, GPS)
  • First aid kit
  • Rain jacket
  • Extra insulating layer (down or fleece jacket)
  • Sunscreen and bug repellent
  • Hat

Even when you’re relaxing in camp, wearing the right clothes can make your car camping in Colorado experience more enjoyable. Wear moisture-wicking materials, sturdy shoes or boots, and comfy wool socks.


Just because you’re out in nature, surrounded by dirt doesn’t mean you can slack on your hygiene responsibilities. In fact, you’ll want to be extra diligent about washing your hands before mealtime. We bring the following with us to help keep us clean:

  • Biodegradable soap and hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Quick drying towel
  • Prescription medications
  • Menstrual products
  • Lip balm
  • A trowel (if there are no pit toilets)
  • Brush or comb
  • Glasses or spare contacts with fluids
  • Earplugs and eye shades

You’ll find that at the end of a long day of hiking and playing, taking the time to clean yourself up is a great way to unwind and relax.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

Whatever you bring with you on your Colorado car camping adventure, make sure it goes home with you. Bring all of your trash home, or get rid of it in the critter-proof dumpsters at your campsite. Don’t leave food of any kind at your site, including things like orange peel, chips, or food wrappers. The local animals don’t need your help feeding themselves, and you want your site to look nice for the next group of campers.

Follow a New Path In Your Honda

Car camping is one of the best parts of living in Northern Colorado. It’s a great way to connect with the outdoors and explore your home state!

We believe that there are few vehicles better suited to your next Colorado adventure than a new Honda SUV, truck, or minivan. You can check out the all-new Honda Passport at Markley Honda in Fort Collins. It’s tailor-made for trail work, helping you get to even the most remote of campsites. Test drive one today at your local Honda dealer!