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When I was in my 20s, I’d head off on solo camping trips almost every weekend. I was new to the Midwest, and low on funds, so camping was the best way to explore. I prided myself on being able to wrestle a six-person tent into place on my own. (It was on sale, and it had a rain vestibule, I loved it!)

Then I got older, had more responsibilities, had less inclination to leave behind my creature comforts and just take off. My adventurous, wanderlust soul got buried in self-imposed obligations and societal expectations.

But that girl was the truest, happiest me, and now that I’m in my mid-40s, I wanted to find my way back to my true nature. Though, I have more means now. I no longer tent camp. Instead, I tricked out my Prius. Meet “Panda Express”:

Panda Express is the tiniest of tiny homes, complete with unexpected amenities! My two favorite luxuries are the Habitent, which I can set-up solo in less than ten minutes, and my Therm-A-Rest MondoKing self-inflating mattress. The Habitent add so much extra headspace and ventilation to the car, you’re actually able to change and take care of business in the car if you need to. As for the mattress, I can’t even tell it’s an inflatable. It has some kind of high-tech foam core I think, that maybe firms up with air? I absolutely love it. Here are a few shots of my setup.

This was my first solo venture in this set-up, and everything worked out even better than expected. On my second night, it rained pretty good for about five hours. I knew it was coming, so moved essentials away from the tented area. I decided to leave the Habitent up because, in theory, the Prius was designed to channel precipitation away from the trunk. And holy moly, those engineers! Not one single solitary drop inside the car. The next morning, I just spread my tent over the picnic table to dry, and my tent was good to go the next evening.

This trip absolutely sold me on car camping in my Prius, and I’m so excited for all the future possibilities!


Distracted, working mom seeking short escapes from a hectic life via quick crafts and fast food. Sure, she could meditate, after she cleans the house.

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