NOTE: A more recent post regarding Prius camping was published on August 15, 2012.
During my last two trips, I've used the Prius as a "mini-RV" to gain easier access to remote locations for sunrise photo sessions. Clearly, the Prius offers a gas mileage advantage over any other camping vehicle. While driving the flat highways of Florida, my 2006 Prius achieved over 60 miles per gallon!
Surprisingly, there is plenty of room for sleeping comfortably in the Prius. The distance from the dashboard to the back of the vehicle is nearly 9 feet long. I purchased a 3" thick Thermarest sleeping pad that fits perfectly into this space.
In contrast to tent camping, the Prius offers far better protection from the elements--and from bears! Also, I am able to set the thermostat on the Prius to control the cabin temperature. One night in western Wyoming the outside temperature was 18 degrees, but the Prius maintained the cabin temperature at 68 degrees all night. The hybrid battery powers the heating system with the gas engine acting as a generator when the battery power falls below a certain level. So, the gas engine might kick on for a few minutes every 20 minutes or so, but then it shuts down once the battery is charged. This system works for cooling as well as heating.
I purchased a power inverter which provides an electrical outlet in my Prius. This allows me to recharge my laptop and camera batteries from my car.
Most camps offer modern restroom and shower facilities.
Prius camping makes it much more convenient and economical to capture photographs that are far from any motel. To capture this image of the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, one must arrive at the site at least 30 minutes before sunrise. It takes well over an hour to reach the parking lot from Moab, the nearest town. Then, there's a half mile hike in the dark. It's much more convenient to reach this site from the national park's campground which is located just two miles away!