My outdoors skills, and what I enjoy doing outdoors, have expanded over the years.
I learned to backcountry ski and to become more efficient with winter backpacking.
Some basic technical climbing techniques were acquired. I’ll never be a truly proficient climber, but climbing has helped my scrambling and comfort level with off-trail backpacking jaunts.
And part of this evolution was becoming more efficient and enjoying, car camping.
The younger, arrogant, and less experienced version of me not only eschewed this type of outdoor experience but was woefully unprepared for it.
Finding isolated spots that are not only attractive but also not overrun with people takes becoming efficient with many different map types and resources.
I quickly learned a simple table makes setting up these camps much more useful. And that if I treat car camping trips similar to hut trips (lots of activity during the day, some rustic luxury at night), I tend to enjoy myself quite a bit.
I had to learn that sometimes the best way to enjoy an area and truly experience a place is to sit still, take it all in, and let it all wash over over me.
To quote the well-known philosopher Yogi Bera: You can observe a lot by just watching.
I also learned that long distance hiker type shelters are fine for setting up overnight and stashing back in the pack. But these same shelters are not efficient for setting up all day and making a temporary home for a bit.
So what to use? Most car camping specific shelters are, well, terrible: only partial rain fly coverage, brittle fiber glass poles, designs that are not particularly weather worthy when it comes to the wind or light snow, and often inefficient to setup.
So what to do?
My suggestion? I advocate purchasing a larger double-wall backpacking tent.
And the one I purchased was back in 2011 through REI Outlet (recently renamed REI Garage) as a closeout for the princely sum of $120 ($135 in 2017): The REI Hoodoo 3.
This three person shelter weighs in at 7 lbs. A bit too heavy to schlep for backpacking purposes.
However, this free-standing, double wall tent is quick to set up. Sheds wind like a champ and even handles moderate snow loads well. A double wall construction means the shelter is less prone to condensation even when raining. As a bonus, there are two separate vestibule and entrances. Very helpful when sharing a tent with a significant other. 🙂
This tent is very spacious for two and an absolute palace for one. I’m able to set up a small beach chair and have room to read in quite comfortably. If I was so inclined, a small folding cot could even put in the tent (I’m not). Makes for a very comfortable home when out and about. Perfect for the Fall or Winter when I tend to car camp more. Though not a winter tent by any means, it will handle light snow loads fine esp in sheltered areas.
Though this tent is no longer made, it is still possible to purchase similar tents from REI Garage or Sierra Trading Post at closeout or discounted rates.
If you car camp, and tend to go to obscure areas in all four seasons, considering purchasing a similar tent. The REI Hoodoo was one of my better purchases and one I intend to use for years to come.
Disclosure: The Hoodoo 3 was purchased with my funds.
We finally purchased a nice 4-6 person car camping tent, the Marmot Limestone 6p. We love it for the exact reasons you mentioned including being able to stand up and change clothes with ease 🙂
Cool! Now THAT is a palace!