Real Life Model 3 Road Trip: Day 1 – first time camping!

I have done a lot of car camping, but never actually slept in the car. This was going to determine how the entire trip will go. Can we sleep in the car or do we need to set up a tent every night? We also had never not ended up at home after a day of driving. Time to leave the nest for the Tesla.


The first chore was packing the car. We needed to buy some camping pads to sleep on, so that was quick trip to REI. We found some self-inflating pads that seem to suitable in size. We then went to Dick’s for a ice cooler, or an Esky as the Aussies say. We also packed a large quilt, 3 suitcases with clothes, shoes, etc. We have minimal food, just the basics you need everyday, a backpacking camp stove and mess kit, our fishing tackle, rods, waders, etc. We also brought our tech with us: 1 laptop, 1 surface pro, 1 iPad, 2 phones, and all the plugs, wires and chargers.

The Pass

We could have just gone up i-70 and thru the tunnel, but we wanted to see what the Tesla could do going over Loveland Pass. High altitude, winding, cold, and a real challenge to any car.

The Tesla had no issues at all. Zoomed up the pass as altitude has no impact! The elevation change did sap some juice, but we got almost all of it back going down the other side. Awesome.

Heater was on the whole ride up. It was cold up there.

Silverthorne Super Charging

We will do a little documenting on the super chargers (and other charging) we do on the trip. This gives a good feel for the lifestyle of tripping in an electric car. I won’t use the words ‘inconvenience’ or ‘time to charge’. They don’t apply and indicate a mindset, not a report of real-life.

The Silverthorne charger is right behind the Starbucks off highway 9.. Basically right behind the Wendy’s and across the street from the Big Gulp for Coloradians. We used it twice. Once when we arrived, and once when we left camp. Very convenient. Car was always charged before we finished our coffee. Free WiFi was available, so in the morning this was our new corporate office for a while.


We stayed at the Blue River Campground about 11 miles or so outside Silverthorne. I think the elevation is about 8000 ft (I may be wrong on that, but it is up there). We got a great spot right down by the river. We just parked and rearranged some gear, put the food in the bear box, and we were set. 5 minutes max. Lets start a fire!

Sleeping in a Tesla

Now the big test. Can 2 relatively ‘large’ people sleep in the back of a car? I am 6-1 and Kathy is 5=10. We are not small people but we were willing to find out if this could be done.

We were going to use sleeping bags, but decided to just use the quilt. It was going to 32 degrees overnight. That would have been ‘uncomfortable’ in a tent, but what about the Tesla?

We just folded down the back seat and setup our camp pads. We moved the front seats forward (but not all the way). We then filled the gap between the front and back seats with clothes and other soft things. I used the sleeping bag as a pillow (you can see that they are small).

First, getting in was a challenge as there is not a lot of head room. I tried crawling in from the trunk. It works, but not easy. Going thru the rear doors is actually quite easy once you have done it.

The view from inside is pretty spectacular. But, with the moon out, it can be bright… We will see how that all works out.

Camper Mode

The Tesla Model S has a camper mode for sleeping in the car. The Model 3 does not. We wanted to have the car maintain temperature overnight so that we could see what the impact on our battery charge would be. We kind of need to know that to plan out how much battery reserve we need for each night’s camping.

To manually put into ‘camper mode’ we did this:

  1. Turned on climate. This will keep the climate control working until the battery reaches 20% and then will shut off. We started with about 70%.
  2. Turn off ambient lighting. The car tries to make things nice for you when you (your phone) is in the car so while they are nice when driving, they are not while sleeping.
  3. Set the temperature. We thought if we set it low it would save juice. We were wrong. We set it to 62 degrees. Ran the air conditioner as the interior temp was about 77 and outside temp was under 50. By the time the outside temp reached 32, the inside temp was 62 where we set it. Too cold, so we set it for 70. We learned that what we needed to do is set the temp to something comfortable like 70 and the fan at about 1. We used about 10% of our battery the first night. Not bad really. Way better than a tent.
  4. Lock the car. You want the big screen to turn off, the radio off and lights off. To do this, you need to turn the car off using your phone.

The screen then goes black. You can use the interior roof lights (put right where you need them) to light up the car if you need something. We put the phones on the center arm rest and plugged into the 2 USB ports for the back seat passengers Perfect.. You can easily reach them, they are always charged and ready to go with virtually no impact on the car itself.

The first leg was a complete success. We are off to Arches National Monument next.


A Better Route Planner

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