What To Do When No Room At the Inn?

Man sipping coffee beside small tent.

Even bivouac camping can be comfortable.

Basic bivouac camping gear saved our night as we drove along a rainy Ohio Interstate.

We were returning to Iowa from a business trip in New Jersey. The 1000-mile trip is too far for us to make in a day so we normally plan to overnight in a comfortable motel in Ohio or Indiana.

On this recent trip, we didn’t make a reservation in advance, so Marion called motels ahead of us as Rich drove through pelting rain. Bad news. They were all booked for the night.

Bivouac Camping Saved Us!

Our basic bivouac camping gear saved us. Marion spotted West Branch State Park on the map. Not far ahead of us and near the Interstate, we exited just as the downpour subsided. Soon we enjoyed a hot dinner inside a restaurant near our tent.

Bivouac camping gear in car. It takes up little room.

Lightweight camping gear stashed on the sides of the car.

Although we weren’t on a camping trip, we always carry basic bivouac camping gear just in case we run into a situation like our recent one. Modern backpacking gear is lightweight, compact, and effective. It’s essential for a long trail trek but also takes up little space in the car and comes in handy should camping be necessary.



Here’s what we always slip into the car:

  • Small nylon tent and ground cloth. Sturdy pegs (spikes or gutter nails are sturdy, don’t bend and so are useful to hold cords to tie a tent down.)
  • Lightweight foam mattresses and sleeping bags.
  • Folding chairs.
  • Cooking and food gear that includes:
    *  Tiny featherweight butane stove and fuel bottle
    *  A few backpacking-type meals
    * Basic utensils
    * Matches! (Remember these!)

Cooking gear and dried meals fit in a small cardboard box and it’s easy to stash the other gear here and there in the car.


The morning after our unplanned campout we woke well-rested, sipped instant coffee, packed up, found a breakfast cafe, and were soon back on the Interstate heading home.

A Note on Dried Food

Years ago, dried camping food was tolerable but hardly tasty. That’s changed.  Modern foods are delicious. We keep two weeks of dried meals in our preparedness bin at home. Should we be impacted by a natural disaster we’d break out our camping stove and enjoy tasty meals. Although this food lasts for years we occasionally eat a few meals at home, on planned camping trips, and during emergencies. Then we restock with fresh meals. We have previously written about preparedness on our blogs.