Perma-camping kit: What the heck is it?

I’ve mentioned the term “perma-camping kit” on and off on various posts over the years.

So what does that term mean?

In essence, the “perma-camping” kit is merely the gear I have permanently packed in our vehicle for quick camping or road trips.

We tend to use Joan’s efficient Honda for in-town or backpacking trips that are accessible via pavement or otherwise 2WD passenger-friendly roads.

But we use our 4WD vehicle for any other trip. Esp. here in Utah where access to many of the areas does involve travel along a rutted dirt road where 4WD and good ground clearance makes life a lot more pleasant.

As such, we find it efficient to keep the vehicle packed with some essentials more or less permanently.   We see we can pack for a trip with ease when any free time presents itself.

The first part of the perma-camping kit is the cargo shelf built a few years ago. This shelf, frankly, won’t win any carpentry accolades but has served me well for a few years now. And I made extensive use of it when I lived out of my car for about a year on a road trip.  I can, have, slept on it when solo. Useful for a quick overnight trip or camping out near the trailhead before a backpacking trip.

I have some typical auto repair type tools (socket set, jump starter, compressor) for emergencies in addition to duct tape, cord, a utility knife, and bungee cords for both emergencies and general camping supplies.  In winter, I keep my trusty avalanche shovel in the car.

For all-purpose use, I have an immensely useful 8×10 tarp and an equally helpful scrap of blue foam I use when taking off shoes without getting my feet muddy or snowy.

Under the shelf, I have the following camping items:

Towards the liftgate,  I have room for shoe and an easily accessible stuff sack that contains a one-burner propane stove, a small cook kit, two spoons, a lighter, and a Luci Light.

The cook kit is Wally World special I purchased at the last oil change just before I put my belongings into temporary storage for a  year. A last-minute purchase I made good use of over the months. With my 20+-year-old propane stove, I quickly brewed up a hot drink at multiple trailheads and parking lots, made hot lunches after a morning hike, and continue to use it often.

PCO Joan

Instead of taking a large stove for just one night,  we had everything we needed this past weekend on a quick camping trip mostly ready to go.  We quickly packed up the car camping winter bags, our winter gear, and some food and water.  Being winter, and a relatively short drive, no cooler needed.  If we do take a cooler, and it is a quick weekend, we’ll take our trusty and beat up sub-$20 Coleman cooler.

In well less than an hour, we packed everything up needed to enjoy the Colorado Plateau during winter.  And had another memorable weekend.

Time is an outdoor person’s most precious commodity. And the perma-camping kit helps make efficient use of that time. Being able to take off quickly and efficiently is, and will always be, a priority in helping to get in many outdoor trips.  And the perma-camping kit reflects that priority.

EDIT June 2020:  The Kia went to the auto heaven in the sky after over 200k miles. We went with a Toyota Tacoma. We still have the same perma-camping kit, but many of the items now all fit into a tote. As of this writing, a camper shell is on the way. Due to COVID, there’s a six-week delay. I owned a 1999 GMC Sonoma (S-10) for five years and I missed owning a truck.


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RIP Kia Sorento 2005 – 2020. … For ten years I’ve had this vehicle and it took me from one coast to another, up and down the mountain roads, and through the desert. And I spent nearly a year essentially living out of it. … The 2005 Sorento is now a rarity in 2020: A mid-sized SUV built on a truck frame with 4WD and 4L and 4H. And the reason why I partially held on to it so long. It took us to many great places and made an excellent vehicle for our outdoor jaunts. Always packed with a “permacamping” kit, we could be out the door with it in under an hour. Or less. … Alas, after over 200,000 miles and a used engine put in a while back, it is at the point of no return. In the space of 10 miles, “something” happened, the temp gauge spiked, and the sickly sweet smell of coolant permeated the air. Even after immediately stopping, smoke still came from the engine. You don’t have to be a mechanic to know that a hot Utah day and an overheated engine = a ruined engine. Luckily it all happened on pavement and within a pocket of cell reception. Luck indeed in our neck of the high desert. … I signed over the title to a charity today and the tow truck took it away. … Saturday we get a new-to-us Toyota Tacoma. But that’s another story. … So long Kia, and thanks for the places you took us. … #kialife

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Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson
1 year ago

Like 🙂