Charge Up Your Camping Trip: The Trend in EV Camping

About the Author

Tom Davidock

Tom has been working in the outdoor recreation and environmental fields for over 25 years and writing about for the past 15. Whether it's camping, or RVing, Tom provides first-hand kneowldge of the information outdoor enthusiests need to enjoy adventures on the road. Tom has had his content featured in industry-leading news publications including RV Business, RV News, and RV.com. Tom is also the author of "Used RV: The Complete Guide for Buying a Used RV."

Electric vehicles (EVs) are clearly transforming the auto industry and, over the coming decade, will likely be the majority of vehicles sold. With that, the ways we use our cars will increasingly be for more than just getting from point A to point B. We’re already seeing this when it comes to camping, where EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Tesla Model are opening new possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts. Combining the innovation of electric cars with the popularity of camping offers a unique experience. In this article, we’ll take a look at the ins and outs of EV camping, from charging challenges to the added benefits of a quieter campsite. 

If you’re new to electric cars, it may not seem obvious why they make great camping vehicles. However, the key thing to remember is that they are like really big battery banks. And, when combined with innovative technology, they become a great resource when car camping. However, there are some limitations, which we’ll also discuss. One of the biggest ones is charging, especially now when the miles of range a vehicle can travel can sometimes be less than a tank of gas. Combine that with a yet-to-be-complete charging network, and you have an obstacle. However, this will be short-lived as charging infrastructure catches up with the availability of gas stations.

Understanding Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Electric vehicles may look like any other car but they are pretty different. With an electric car, an electric motor operates by converting electrical energy from the battery into mechanical motion. This process differs from traditional internal combustion engines, which generate through fuel. This shift to electric motor vehicles is a significant move away from the fossil fuel we’re all used to putting into the gas tank when we need to drive. Instead, it’s all about charging your batteries, resulting in a quieter and more environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

When selecting an electric vehicle, you must realize that not all are the same. The size of the vehicle, the number and size of batteries, and the conversion of electricity to mechanical movement will differ. One significant consideration is the range of the vehicle. Larger and heavier cars will travel shorter differences than lighter ones, even with a similar kWh battery pack. Hence, when choosing an electric car, you must consider how far it will travel on a single charge. 

EV batteries

Technology is another big difference from one unit to another. As we’ll discuss below and in other sections of this website, some cars will have lots of bells and whistles afforded by the electricity you have available in the batteries. However, like most things in life, the more you add, the more expensive it will be. Finding the right balance between costs and amenities will be necessary. These features are what tend to make these vehicles suitable for camping.

Prepping for Your EV Camping Trip

Choosing Your EV

Several vehicle features should be considered when preparing for an EV camping trip. The roof rack capacity is vital for campers who need to transport larger items or additional storage. Cabin space determines how much equipment and how many passengers the vehicle can comfortably accommodate. Ground clearance is another important factor, especially when traveling to uneven or off-road terrains. 

Several EV models are gaining traction among camping enthusiasts. The Hyundai Ioniq 5, for instance, offers a blend of efficiency and utility, making it a choice for many campers. Meanwhile, the Rivian R1S, known for its longer range and outdoorsy features, has become a favorite for those who venture further and require more gear for their outdoor escapades. Evaluating these vehicles’ range, storage space, and other features can guide potential EV campers in their decisions. Some larger SUVs will even allow for a blowup queen-size bed if you plan to sleep in your vehicle.

Woman camping in the mountains with Hyundai Ionic 5

2024 Top 4 Electric Vehicles for Camping:

If you want to compare the top cars (regardless of power source) for camping, check out this article on the best cars to sleep in.

Essential Gear

Beyond the standard camping gear, those traveling in an EV need to think about their charging options. A portable charger is essential as it offers flexibility in where and how the vehicle can be charged. The Duosida level, a type of charging equipment, further broadens the options for charging, ensuring that the vehicle battery remains at optimal levels throughout the trip.

Planning Your Route

Mapping out the trip is a key part of any road trip, even more so for EV campers. With the increasing availability of tools that highlight EV charging points, planning becomes more straightforward. These tools reduce range anxiety, which is the fear of running out of battery before reaching the next charging station. By plotting the route in advance and noting the locations of charging points, campers can enjoy their trip without constantly worrying about the next charging stop or the absence of gas stations.

Charging Infrastructure

The world of electric vehicles has witnessed a surge in charging infrastructure in recent years, especially fast charger options, which can significantly reduce the charging time compared to standard chargers, and have become more widespread and accessible. For campers, many RV parks recognize the rise of EVs and incorporate EV chargers into their amenities. Additionally, public charging stations are no longer confined to urban areas. They’re popping up in more remote locations, ensuring campers can maintain a full charge even deep into their adventures.

Finding a charging station is also becoming easier, with many apps and websites offering information on the growing network of rapid chargers located throughout the country. Also, many vehicles will use their connected interface to assist with planning routes and incorporating places to stop and change along the way, pulling new data from over-the-air updates. Tesla, makers of the popular Model Y for camping, is known to do an excellent job at this and has been in the game for many more years than the competition. Some campgrounds also have change points available for EV campers. However, you should check first to see if you’re allowed to charge at the campground electric hookups, which RVers plug into at the camping site.

The Benefits of Camping in an EV

Environmental and Cost Savings

One of the most evident benefits of using an electric vehicle for camping is the reduced reliance on gas stations. This not only means fewer emissions into the environment but also potential savings in fuel costs. Additionally, since EVs usually require less maintenance, they tend to have lower maintenance costs than their gasoline counterparts, further reducing long-term costs. Plus, with many new models boasting impressive long-range capabilities, campers can venture farther without worrying about the next charge.

EV Camping 2

While electricity isn’t free, your cost per mile significantly decreases when running off batteries than gas. However, factoring in the cost savings needs to be done when comparing the overall cost of ownership of the car. While your trips may be less expensive, your overall monthly car payment could be much more than a similarly sized gas model. Here’s a great breakdown of the costs of electricity or gas. As you can see, deciding to buy an EV may not always be less expensive overall, but the benefits may be worth the extra expense.

Comfort and Experience

Electric vehicles bring a new dimension to the camping experience. With features like non-driving climate control, campers can maintain a comfortable temperature inside the vehicle regardless of external conditions. This makes electric vehicles very popular to sleep in. Also, the quiet operation of electric motors offers a quieter camping experience, free from the noise of a running engine or a generator, making it easier to connect with nature, which is likely one of the reasons you went camping in the first place. Moreover, features like camp mode or utility mode, available in some EV models, are specifically designed to optimize the vehicle’s camping systems, further enhancing campers’ experience.

Rivian R1S Frunk

Electric cars will typically have a better ride quality. Many options are available with an all-wheel-drive system that can outperform many gas models when combined with sensors and tech. Also, campers can benefit from new storage options like a Frunk (a trunk in the front of the car) without the need for a large engine. Some of this space savings can also be passed along to other parts of the vehicle, like the often cramped rear seats.

Cons of Camping in an Electric Vehicle

Despite the many advantages of camping in an electric vehicle, there are some challenges to consider. One primary concern is the limited range provided by certain EV models. While some vehicles boast impressive distances on a single charge, others may not suffice for extended trips, especially in regions where charging infrastructure is yet to be built out. Furthermore, while urban areas and popular destinations may have a plethora of EV chargers, remote areas might pose a challenge due to a lack of charging options. However, this challenge is changing quickly and will be less of a concern in the coming years.

Weather Constraints

The performance of an EV’s battery can vary based on weather conditions. Cold weather, in particular, can reduce battery efficiency, limiting the distance one can travel before needing a recharge. On the flip side, using an air conditioner can consume a significant amount of power during hotter seasons, potentially reducing the overall range. Campers need to factor in these weather-related considerations when planning their trips, ensuring they’re prepared for any impact on their vehicle’s performance.

While weather isn’t a big limitation, if you plan to camp in your car, you can benefit from the constant climate control options (if available) when parked. You can now stay warm with the heater or air conditioning at the campground. You can’t do this in a gas car without running the engine.

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Camping in an Electric Car Vs. Camping in a Gas Car

Below is a quick list of what to expect when choosing an electric or gas vehicle for camping:

Camping with an Electric Car (EV):

  1. Silent Power: EVs are generally quieter than gasoline engines so that you can enjoy the serenity of nature without the hum of an engine idling.
  2. Power Up Devices: Using the car’s battery, you can charge personal electronic devices like phones, tablets, or laptops without having to run an engine or use external generators.
  3. Climate Control Without the Engine Running: Some electric cars allow you to use the heating or cooling system overnight without the engine running, using only a fraction of the battery charge.
  4. Lower Emissions: Camping with an EV means reducing your carbon footprint even when using the car for basic amenities.
  5. Campsite Flexibility: Due to the silent nature of EVs, some campsites that restrict noise may be more accommodating to electric vehicles.
  6. Advanced Infotainment: Many electric cars come equipped with advanced infotainment systems, which can be useful for looking up nearby attractions, mapping hiking trails, or even stargazing apps.
  7. Mobile Power Source: In some cases, with the right equipment, you can use an EV as a backup power source for camping equipment or other necessities. Some cars even have adapters to give you enough power for heavy-load appliances like a space heater or induction stove.

Camping with a Gasoline Car (Internal Combustion Engine):

  1. Longer Ranrangeypically): Gasoline cars generally have a longer range than many EVs (though this is changing as EV technology advances), which can be helpful for reaching remote camping destinations.
  2. Refueling Speed: It’s quicker to fill up a gas tank than to charge most EVs, which could be advantageous on long road trips with multiple camping stops.
  3. Wider Fuel Availability: Gasoline stations are more prevalent than EV charging stations, especially in rural areas.
  4. Less Planning: You might not have to plan your route as meticulously in terms of fuel stops when compared to charging stops for EVs.
  5. Familiarity: For those accustomed to camping with gasoline vehicles, there’s a familiarity regarding vehicle operation, fueling, and maintenance.
  6. Towing Capacity: While there are EVs with significant towing capacity, many gasoline-powered trucks and SUVs are designed with heavy-duty towing in mind, which can be helpful for pulling a large camper trailer.
  7. External Accessories: Many gasoline vehicles, especially trucks and SUVs, have a myriad of aftermarket accessories available for camping, such as roof racks, storage solutions, and off-road modifications.

Future of Camping in Electric Vehicles

Emerging Vehicle Models

The automotive industry continues to innovate with an emphasis on electric vehicles. Upcoming releases include electric trucks designed with robust capabilities suited for challenging terrains and towing. Moreover, crossover SUV models are emerging, specifically tailored for outdoor enthusiasts, ensuring better adaptability and convenience for camping excursions. The Rivian R 1S is an excellent example of how to make an EV into the ultimate camping vehicle. 

EV Camping 1

Tech and Infrastructure Evolution:

As the popularity of EV camping grows, so does the infrastructure to support it. In the near future, we can expect a rise in national parks incorporating EV charging points to accommodate the needs of EV campers. This will ensure a more seamless camping experience in nature’s most beautiful spots. In addition, advancements in car camping technology, like induction stoves powered by the vehicle’s battery, are on the horizon, further enhancing the convenience and possibilities of EV camping. 

Additionally, we’ll see a rise in larger electric vehicles, like RVs. While options are limited, expect the RV industry to undergo a big transformation to electric in the coming years. If you want to see what’s on the horizon, check out this article on Electric RVs and the models on the market today. Also, some cars are now integrating solar panels in the roof for added charging when parked, such as the Toyota Prius.

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