EVs Are Reviving A Fun Kind Of Camping

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For some people, camping is about roughing it. Tents, campfires, and backpacking provide people with an escape from the stresses of the modern world. For other people, camping is about seeing the world, but taking as many of the luxuries of home along for the ride as possible. Million-dollar motorhomes, giant fifth wheel trailers with four slides, and elaborate camping in huge house-like tents often accompany this kind of camper. But most of us fall in between somewhere, doing things like carrying basic camping supplies in a car or using things like rooftop tents and modest campers.

But, with the advent of EVs, there seems to be a new category of camping that’s gaining immense popularity and becoming a cottage industry: sleeping inside an EV!

Sleeping inside of a car is obviously nothing new. People have been doing this for decades, and you can find cars going way back that were designed to be slept in. Traveling salesmen, itinerant workers, and teenagers all loved that feature (the latter to the chagrin of traditional parents). In more recent years, sleeping in cars has become more associated with homeless people, drug addicts, and other ne’er-do-wells. But, there has been a bit of a resurgence in recent years, as people have built custom interiors and platforms to camp inside of cars of all sizes.

While an ICE car that’s built or modified for sleeping does provide protection from rain and wind, it doesn’t provide much insulation, and it doesn’t provide the kinds of heating and air conditioning options that a travel trailer or motorhome offers. So, the popularity of such camping has been limited to places where the temperature is already close enough to comfortable for a sleeping bag or a fan to bring comfort.

This all seems to be changing now that EVs are a thing. Unlike an ICE vehicle, an EV can provide days of heating or air conditioning without having to idle an ICE engine. Not only does this mean you don’t waste a bunch of fuel, but you also don’t risk fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the idea of sleeping in an EV on camping trips making a comeback!

One friend on X offers a growing range of EV camping furniture kits, including one that’s about to be released for the Rivian R1S.

His company started as a personal project to live in a Model Y. By making careful use of every nook and cranny of the vehicle, he managed to come up with a pretty cool camping setup that makes the vehicle a great camper for one! Here’s a longer video of his whole setup:

Not only did he make a nice place to sleep, but he also made space for a kitchen, storage, and a place to eat. As these setups have improved, people are running more and more things off the car’s battery, including cooktops, microwaves, and everything else previously provided by fossil fuels on most people’s camping trips.

Now, he’s offering a range of products for Tesla and Rivian vehicles that let other people take advantage of his experience living in a Tesla for a while!

Not Just For Men

Another cool thing I’ve recently come across is the tale of a woman in California who took a trip to the Redwoods in a sleep-in Tesla she put together:

While the whole video is interesting if you’re into EVs and you’re into traveling, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll first focus on her camping setup (about 29 minutes in). The Model Y she drives focuses first on providing a bed that runs all the way to the back of the hatch. It has a mattress that runs the full width of the vehicle on a wooden platform. This also gives some storage on top of the sub-trunk to still carry camping gear. In the second row footwell, she takes advantage of more storage to get a folding chair, toiletries, and food in.

When sleeping, the passenger seat gets used for storage, but it has to be freed up to make room for her partner when traveling, but when driving, the bed is free to make room for that stuff. Finally, the frunk is where she placed her kitchen supplies. She has a Tesmanian cooler that fits just right in the frunk, plus some room to put supplies like drinking water alongside the cooler.

Along the way in the video, you can also get an idea of what kind of battery usage she dealt with when using the Tesla in camp mode. Things like heating or air conditioning uses power, after all! But, if you plan some extra charge for those times, you won’t run out of power.

Not all setups require special kits or special mattresses, though. Here’s another camping setup that uses milk crates and a board in a Rivian R1S (which gives a lot more room):

Some of the setup was using 3D-printed parts, but for most of the rest, it’s just a matter of laying a board across some special braces that lock into carseat locks. When put together, the whole system raises the board to sit above the seats flat instead of following the downhill taper of the seat. Atop that, he puts a small mattress, and the milk crates are useful for holding kitchen supplies, including a cooktop.

Other touches include suction cup-mounted lighting for the interior and for the kitchen area, as well as some headboard lighting set up on the headrests of the first row. Finally, some custom blackout pieces seal up the windows using foam that slots into the gaps between the glass and the side panels. So, he can keep the interior dark and private during trips.

Advantages & Disadvantages

While you get a nice sleeping space in this kind of a setup that’s heated and cooled, safe from the elements, and often private, there are still some downsides that keep people seeking other alternatives, like traditional RVing and tents.

The biggest one is that you just don’t have room for more than one or two people. If you don’t have more than one or two people coming along, that’s not a big deal. But, for families, it can be less than ideal. Another related problem is setup and takedown time. If you need to remove and replace the bed at every stop, it’s less convenient than an RV, but more convenient than a tent in most cases.

So, this kind of a setup still isn’t for everyone, but because people are doing it in an EV, it’s more convenient and nice than it ever was in ICE vehicles.

Featured image by Fruble.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba