How to Micro Camp in a Honda Element

The BLT (Brave Little Toaster) is at it again… and this time she’s ready for summer camping! I’ve had a Honda Element for eight years and I’ve only attempted car camping once. Let’s just say… I wasn’t prepared. I’ve never been that great at camping (i.e. shorts & a flannel are NOT warm enough for nights in the desert!).

This time, I’ve researched and prepared, and I’m all about the comfort. There is a trend called micro-camping where people build mini RVs in the back of their Honda Element. Some people have even vlogged their experiences living in these cars for months at a time! I liked it so much I started referring to the setup as “micro-glamping.”

While I’m not prepared to drop everything and live out of my car for six months, I am prepared for an epic two-week adventure through the American Southwest!

Read on to find out how I built my very own “micro-glamper” in my 2008 Honda Element.

I fell in love with the American Southwest when I lived in Colorado two summers ago, and I’ve been itching to get back. I spent a few days in Utah and it quickly became one of my favorite states in the U.S.

I also went on an attempted road trip to visit Great Sand Dunes NP, Mesa Verde NP and the Four Corners, but it was cut short when Alyssa and I realized how unprepared we were! (We stuffed a half-way inflated air mattress in the back and dressed for the 90 degree day-time heat, not understanding it would be 40 degrees in the middle of the night).

This time I went all out.

Building The Bed

This is the most important part of “micro-glamping” in a Honda Element. You need a platform bed to have enough storage underneath for your supplies. I purchased everything at Home Depot for $157, and the workers were incredibly helpful! Everyone was excited about my trip.

Supplies:

  • BCX Plywood board 4’x8′
  • 6 Black Pipes 12″ tall
  • 12 Black Malleable Iron Floor Flange
  • 3/4″ screws
  • 3-pack hinges

Start by having Home Depot cut your board for you. You’ll need one piece that is 57″ long, and a second piece that is 12″ long. Take those pieces home and get to work!

Start by attaching the foldable extension with your hinges. Then you’ll want to saw off a few inches from each of the back corners to accommodate the interior of the car. End by screwing in one leg in each corner (I went 8 inches in on the sides and 10 inches from the ends) and one in the very middle of the board. The last leg will be a support for your extension that you won’t actually attach, but will set up each night when you fold out the board.

Disclaimer: This set-up was meant for two girls under 5’6. If you are taller, you’ll want to make a longer extension and fold the front seats down flat at night so you can stretch out.

Then you can place it in the car and dress it up with a futon mattress & foam supports like I did! You drive around all day, then push the front seats forward and let down your extension at night.

Supplies For Two Weeks of Micro-Glamping

Since you have a foot of space underneath your bed, you have plenty of room for supplies! Use a duffel bag for clothes, it’s much easier, and bring just as much as you’ll need. Don’t forget those Chacos! And bring a raincoat, even if you’re going to the desert. Zote soap from Walmart is less than $1 and it’s awesome for washing clothes. It got me through five weeks in Greece and two weeks dispersed camping, and I highly recommend picking it up before your trip!

Bring a day pack for hiking and include medical supplies, sunscreen & bug spray in here. You won’t want to forget hats to protect your face from the sun and sunglasses.

Camping Supplies:

  • Coleman 1-burner stove
  • Small pot & pan
  • Plates, bowls & utensils
  • One sharp knife
  • Can opener
  • Kettle
  • French press
  • Cooler
  • Dish soap
  • Rag
  • Water bottle with a filter
  • Water jugs & bottles
  • Bin for non-perishable food
  • Folding chairs
  • Sleeping bag
  • Lantern
  • Rope (clothesline)

You basically play Tetris every day fitting the supplies underneath, but it works! It’s key not to overpack because you are still living out of a pretty small car, but it’s very doable. Some people live out of Honda Elements for months at a time!

My Favorite Campgrounds

The cool thing about this setup is the accessiblity. You can go into every small town without worrying about finding parking for a larger camper. It’s easier on gas, and you only have to pay for tent sites at campgrounds! It’s also easy to park in safe spots in cities when necessary.

A few places you can (usually) park when a campground is not available: Walmart, Sam’s Club, Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s & Cracker Barrel. Just be sure to check because some city ordinances ban overnight camping at these places.
A second tip: the rest area just over a state line is usually the nicest! We planned our long driving days so we arrived across a border when we were ready to sleep for the night.
Colorado Welcome Center & Rest Area | FREE
Dispersed camping just outside the west entrance of Capitol Reef National Park, UT | FREE
Bryce Zion Campground (with WiFi & Showers!), UT | $30
Dispersed Camping in Page, AZ | FREE
Beach front camping at Lone Rock Campground, Lake Powell, UT | $14
Boulder Beach Campground, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV | $20

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