My No-Build Prius Camper “Conversion” for Solo Camping

My Prius in the woods
My Prius at the local woods

 I have been camping in my 2008 Prius for about a year as a weekend activity. Sometimes I even convince my partner to come with me. It occurred to me that I haven’t shared my non-damaging “build” before. Let's walk through how I handle camping with such little space with one person. I don’t have any fancy pictures of my setup, because car camping is not as aesthetic as the van life photos would make you think. Luckily, I do have some graphic design skills, and have made up some fun illustrations instead. 

Basic Prius Layout

Infographic of a Prius

A Prius looks like this with the seats up. It has seating for five people including the driver. The bench seats fold down perfectly flat - something that is not universal across hybrid vehicles, making the Prius one of the best small cars for camping. There is a small bit of space between the folded bench seats and the front seats, which can be slid forward at night to make more headroom if needed. Note that the trunk area is not perfectly rectangular. The wheels take up some of that space, which must be accounted for when choosing bedding. 

One of the main disadvantages of a prius is height. Unless you are very petite, there will never feel like there is enough of it. You shouldn’t make a bed/storage platform for this vehicle, because there won’t be enough space to comfortably sleep, change clothes, and do other daily activities. This can also make storage and organization challenging. 

My One Person Car Camping Set Up

Infographic of my solo camping setup

One person camping is actually pretty easy! It's basically pack and go! 


I use a foam mattress topper from my college days, topped with a plush comforter as a mattress. On top of that I will usually use either another blanket or a sleeping bag. I tend to put my bed diagonal in the trunk area, so that I have more room to stretch and spread out while relaxing. I usually get in bed through the back door at night, after setting up my window socks.


When It's just me traveling, I try to avoid bringing refrigerated foods. I prefer to bring shelf stable items, as well as basic fruits and veggies instead. Breakfast might be overnight oats or a peanut butter sandwich, lunch might be salad, and dinner might be hiker trash pad thai. I like to keep my foods in a cooler without ice, because it keeps out creatures as well as any other box, and because it offers some basic insulation so produce doesn’t cook in the sun. I also keep my water in the cooler. That cooler lives on the front passenger seat. I keep my main water bottles on the floor of the front passenger seat for easy access as well. Additionally, I bring a milkcrate of non-food items like napkins, silverware, and my handy electric kettle, which will get stored somewhere in the back.

Other storage

I place my camp chairs in the gap between the front and back chairs, along with some other miscellaneous items, such as the mini-camp kit that my dad made me, first aid, extra water, tissues, and more. 

I keep my clothing and toiletry items in the flat back area of the car. I usually bring just one backpack with a change of clothes, a sweatshirt, extra socks, and a seasonally appropriate jacket or coat. The backpack also doubles as my daypack for outings and hiking. I keep a very small bag with bare essential toiletries, including toothpaste and a toothbrush, hairbrush, floss, deodorant, hand sanitizer, shampoo and conditioner. I do not worry about anything else while I’m camping. That's why it's called camping after all. 

When they aren't in use, I roll up my reflective window shades and push them against the side of the wall in the back compartment, using the clothes storage and milkcrate to keep them from moving around. I also keep a set of window socks stored in pockets on the passenger doors. I am considering upgrading to homemade curtains for an easier set-up and take-down process that doesn’t involve getting out of the car. 

I also keep a few permanent items in the center console compartment, for use both during the week and on adventures. This includes bug spray, sunscreen, sun glasses, and a collection of packaged, non perishable snacks. I usually keep a sunhat on the dash for easy access. 

Final Thoughts On My Solo Prius Build

This works great for me traveling solo on weekends, but keep in mind that when I travel with my partner, the set up completely changes. Likewise, if you want to travel longer, you might have some serious issues with storage, since you will also need to bring electronics, a wider range of clothes, and whatever equipment you need for hobbies and activities. This is calibrated by the fact that Prius have so little vertical height, as I mentioned above. If you want to travel longer, consider some kind of storage that goes outside of your car, and/or removing the back row of seats. I’ll make sure to write a post later showing how we make the same space. If you want a more general article about what tools you need to get started car camping, read my blog post here. Or, if you want to see how other people have made Prius camping work for them, visit Niki's Youtube channel.

If you found any of this useful to you, please comment below! Be kind to yourself, and happy adventuring!


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