When Size Doesn’t Matter: How I Camp in My Honda Fit

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A Honda Fit is one of the fuel-efficient vehicles available, making it the ideal vehicle for road trips. The small but surprisingly spacious interior makes for a comfortable living space on the road, even if it requires you to stay organised.

I decided to live off a Honda Fit after watching inspirational vanlife videos and evaluating the cost of a Sprinter van. My economic education taught me to be thrifty. So pricing a nice pickup truck just wasn’t going to work. One day I looked in my garage and saw my black 2016 Honda Fit sitting there and I thought, Maybe that would work. The Honda Fit lifestyle was born.

Photo: Frank Colorado

After writing a rough plan (and with some trial and error), I created a car setup that had many advantages, with some disadvantages. Eventually I upgraded further by removing one of the rear seats and investing in a large battery.

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Big improvements

For those looking to camp in a small vehicle, the first upgrade I recommend is to craft rain deflectors. Not only do they allow you to open your window slightly while you sleep, but you can also leave your cracked window in hot environments without exposing it to rain or theft. I wanted to make sure I installed them correctly, so I invested in having them purchased and installed by the dealer. However, car rain deflectors can be found on the aftermarket for less.

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The second major purchase is the mattress. I bought a sheet of foam and custom cut it to the exact shape of the trunk area (with the seats down.) The Honda Fit has a rear seat that folds almost completely flat, so I don’t I didn’t need to make any other changes.

View of a mountain sunset through the open hatch of a car, with blankets and sleeping bags in the foreground
Photo: Frank Colorado

To arrange my sleeping space, I raise the front passenger and driver seats and stuff the wheel well with a duffel bag before rolling out the mattress. After a few trips I learned that it is much easier to manage several small pieces of foam instead of one large piece. So I cut my mattress into four pieces and stack it in the back when not in use. You can find foam sheets at any fabric store or on Amazon. I also sewed a mattress cover myself. This was probably the hardest part of the whole build as I don’t have much sewing experience. In some of my tests, I used an inflatable camping mattress, but it wasn’t as comfortable.

A man holds a phone in one hand and a large battery charger in the other while sitting in a camping chair
Photo: Frank Colorado

The last big improvement I would recommend is a battery backup. I needed a way to keep everything charged. So I bought a large solar battery, but I didn’t need to install a solar panel. I found that I could easily charge this battery on long trips and it lasted long enough to allow me to take trips without needing wall or solar charging. This is handy for charging personal devices while sleeping and also in hot environments for powering a small fan.

The inconvenients

One of the most difficult aspects of a vehicle’s interior is the temperature. You are at the mercy of the elements in most cases. Someone with an RV or large van may have other heating and cooling options. With the Honda Fit, my best bet is to add covers for cool settings and a fan for hotter environments. I plan my trips according to the temperature of the region in the season where I want to travel.

The view of a sunset through an open car hatch is partially blocked by a hanging piece of fabric.  An open ebook on a tablet in the foreground.
Photo: Frank Colorado

Staying organized is also very important in a small space. It seems that every day I search for my spoon, my toothbrush or even my car keys. I learned that I had to make sure each item had a specific place in my car and make sure to put it back after each use. I also edited all my stuff and took only the essentials.

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The equipment that makes it work

I drew my inspiration for organization from my backpack. Most backpackers recommend organizing by system: a sleeping system, a cooking system, and a hygiene system. I use a large plastic container to keep everything for cooking in one place. All of my bedding and sleep items are stored in a large stuff sack that I set aside during the day. Ditto for hygiene. I keep a small bag that I use for showering at truck stops and another small bag for brushing teeth and general hygiene.

For my kitchen setup, I chose not to use any form of cooling. It saves me a lot of time and headaches. I don’t want to worry about restocking ice to keep everything fresh or using the battery to run a fridge. But there are many things you can do with hot water. I have a portable burner that I can use on the tailgate or the picnic table. I create meals from dehydrated foods, as well as many canned foods. I also buy small amounts of meat or prepared hot meals from grocery stores.

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Showering and keeping clean in general is quite difficult on the road and even more difficult in a small vehicle. Some people recommend using wet wipes to take short showers as you go. I found these really remove dust and sand. Instead, I try to find suitable showers at parks, beaches, and truck stops, and use wipes in a pinch.

A smiling man in front of a black car and a sign saying
Photo: Frank Colorado

When I first told people I was going to live off a Honda Fit, they looked at me like I’d lost my mind, but once they saw my setup and my adventures, the conversation has changed. The freedom and low cost of traveling out of a Honda Fit far outweighs the inconvenience for me. If you’re looking for inexpensive transportation, consider the many advantages of a compact car.

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