How Not To Sleep In Your Car

“24” – the temperature gauge on the rearview mirror stated the obvious – it was frigid out. We pulled the Tahoe into a hotel parking lot just after one in the morning and scrambled around the luggage. Between snowboards, firewood and camping gear, sleeping space was slim. A snowplow circled the lot, spreading salt in preparation for the incoming snowstorm. We inflated our mats, covered the windows, and climbed into our sleeping bags. Our mats, with not enough room, laid one, half way on top of the other - Joel’s, partially on the wheel well. My freezing cold face relentlessly reminded me of how this was rather unfavorable sleeping conditions for someone fighting a cold, like myself.   I nudged Joel, “Uhm, honey, this probably wasn’t our best idea.”

Sleeping in your car is one of those things – depending on who is telling the story, the emotions associated with the concept might differ, starkly so. To many people, the mention of “living out of your car” is a bad flashback to times of struggle. Then, at the same time, there is a group of folks, now, living out of their cars, fist pumping to “simple life” and getting famous on YouTube. They’ve normalized and popularized something that, for many people, would be considered a“worst case scenario”. However, although Pinterest might try to tell you otherwise, sleeping in your car is never, in any condition, all “rainbows and butterflies” – or better yet all “colorful blankets and glorious views.” Especially, in the harsh conditions of winter weather.

From experience, we knew going into this most recent wintery road trip, that crashing in the trunk would be far from glamorous. Even still, we were hit with a heavy dose of reality as we crammed into our Tahoe’s frigid trunk. It seems like we always have to learn things the hard way. Of course, I would still do it again, but I would definitely do things differently.

After all, hotels can be expensive and camping isn’t always an option while traveling. So, if sleeping in your car along the way is what makes your adventure possible, it’s worth it – even in the cold of winter. You can do it! You should do it! And, hopefully, this quick list of “Dos” and “Dont’s” I crafted [out of our mistakes] will help you to have the most comfortable car sleeping experience possible.    


Dos & Donts Of Sleeping In Your Car


DO check your route before you go for potential parking spots. The last thing you want, is to be scrambling, tired, and end up parking somewhere unsafe. Or, somewhere that you might get woken by a tow truck.

DO  have a planned method for covering windows. It helps to have one that doesn’t look sketchy. I’ve seen it done best with Reflectix, cut to the shape of the car window. We use Windshield shades, which works decently well. 

Winter weather can be harsh – DO make sure you are prepared if something goes astray (especially, if parking somewhere seldom traveled)  - water, snacks, emergency heat blankets, a second charging source for phones

Don't leave without testing out your sleeping space. – You probably have less room than you imagined. 

Don’t be tempted to use your car’s interior lights for too long – pack a flashlight and save your battery.

Don't plan to spend a lot of time outside your vehicle. Arrive at bedtime and leave by breakfast.