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What is Car Camping?

No, car camping doesn’t mean you sleep in your car. It just means you drive to a designated campsite, park, unload the car, and set up your tent. No backpacking or hiking required.

Pack a cooler, pack your sleeping gear, grab a pillow or two if you want. Throw it all in the car and go – it’s as simple as that.

Although some outdoor enthusiasts prefer the additional solitude and challenge associated with backcountry camping, car camping can be a great option for families with small children as well as people who just aren’t interested in “roughing it” for a day or two. If you’re a camping novice, car camping is probably your best bet.

Why Cruelty-Free?

Camping seems innocuous enough. Why the need for a cruelty-free guide?

Although the activity itself is centered around an appreciation of our natural surroundings, unfortunately many of the traditions and products associated with camping are not good for the environment, for animals, or for our health.

Down-filled sleeping bags, cancer-causing processed meats, and gelatin-laden roasted marshmallows are hardly compassionate or healthy choices. But that need not be the case!

With just a few easy swaps, camping can be a fun, cruelty-free summer activity for people of all ages and levels of outdoor enthusiasm. So let’s get packing!

One of the major benefits of car camping is that you can bring as much or as little as you want. Bring a huge tent, air mattress, and your favorite pillow for a comfy camping experience, or just grab a sleeping bag and sleep under the stars. You can craft your own experience! Here’s what you’ll need:

Around the Vegan Campfire

With car camping you can really bring whatever you want to eat, but for a fun and authentic camping experience, roasting your dinner over a campfire is a must! You only need a few simple ingredients:

Veggie Dogs: There are plenty of vegan-friendly veggie dog options! Throw a package or two in the cooler, build your campfire, grab a stick or skewer, and get roasting!
Salads and Sides: You can put together a tasty salad or side dish to go with those veggie dogs in just a few minutes. Depending on how long it’s going to sit, you may want to pack dressing and other wet ingredients separately. Here are a few camp-friendly side ideas:
Vegan Marshmallows: What’s a campfire without s’mores?! Vegans and vegetarians need not be left out of all the ooey, gooey, s’more making fun. Check out these awesome vegan options!
  • Sweet & Sara makes several vegan marshmallow flavors, including Vanilla, Strawberry, Toasted Coconut and Cinnamon Pecan. Get them here!
  • Dandies Vegan Marshmallows are also an excellent option for campfires!
Chocolate: As long as it doesn’t have milk, cream, or other animal products added to it, chocolate is naturally vegan! Many brands of dark chocolate are “accidentally vegan” (e.g. Chocolove’s dark chocolate varieties) but are processed on equipment with milk-containing varieties and therefore are not certified vegan. It’s up to you how strict you want to be, but the varieties below are certified vegan and/or milk allergy free.
Graham Crackers: Many mainstream brands of graham crackers contain honey, and a few even contain milk, but there are several great vegan options available! An added bonus: many vegan varieties have a shorter, more wholesome ingredient list. The following crackers are vegan-friendly:
Drinks and Extras:
  • You’re sure to work up a thirst with all that fire-building, veggie dog roasting, and sticky s’more eating, so don’t forget to pack some beverages! Go simple with a jug of water and some tin cups or grab a six-pack. Just be sure to abide by your campsite’s rules for glass bottles and alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t forget the plates and utensils! You can simply throw in whatever you use at home, or grab some eco-friendly To-Go Ware. Check out the Eco-Friendly Vegan Picnic Guide for more suggestions!
  • If you have room in the cooler, you may also want to throw in some ketchup, mustard, vegenaise, relish, and extra salad dressing.

Sleepy Time


There are plenty of options for tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, chairs, and other camping gear. And you’ll need to consider your group size, how long you’ll be camping, the time of year, and your expected level of comfort when deciding which gear is right for you. But the main consideration for a cruelty-free camping trip is the materials used to construct that gear. Look out for down and other animal-derived products, and seek out recycled materials when possible.

  • Down sleeping bags have historically been the main offender. Fortunately, it’s now really easy to find high-quality sleeping bags made from synthetic materials (instead of down). Most major retailers, from REI to Target, now carry vegan-friendly sleeping bags.
  • Looking for an eco-friendly AND vegan bag? Check out Marmot’s UpCycle line! These awesome bags are made from 80 percent post-consumer products.
  • Big Agnes makes several sleeping pads constructed with at least 50 percent recycled materials.
  • Also be sure to check online (e.g. eBay or Craigslist) for pre-owned tents and other camping gear. It’s a great form of recycling, and you can definitely save some money!

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Image Credit 1: MVI/Flickr
Image Credit 2: thruhike98/Flickr