Usually, camping involves going out into the woods, pitching a tent, and sleeping in a sleeping bag. However, many modern campers are forgoing the idea of “roughing it” and opting for something of a hybrid approach, thanks to hatchback tents designed for car camping.
If you’re interested in utilizing your vehicle’s cargo space to enhance the camping experience, we’ve compiled a list of the top five camping tents for cars, SUVs, and minivans with a rear hatch door. Here’s what we’ve found.
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What are Hatchback Tents?
A hatchback tent is also called an SUV tent because it’s often designed to fit on an SUV. So, the terms are interchangeable since most SUV tents can fit on other vehicle types like cars and vans.
The primary purpose of an SUV tent is to fit over the vehicle’s rear hatch door while you’re inside. This way, you can make use of the vehicle cargo area for storage or sleeping. Most SUV tents are designed for overnight camping trips, but some models are designed for day trips and tailgating.
When looking at the best car tents, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to use them so you can pick the right model for your needs. You’ll have to consider elements like the number of campers, how long your camping trip will be, and whether you want to keep the tent separate from your vehicle.
We’ll discuss the features to look at with the best SUV tents later on so you can know what to expect.
5 Best Hatchback Tents for Car Camping
- Spacious 10’ x 10’ tent providing over 7’ of headroom and sleeps 5 adults
- The universal vehicle sleeve ﬁts all CUV’s, SUV’s, and Minivans. The easily adjustable sleeve straps ensure a bug-free and watertight ﬁt
- Full rainﬂy with taped seams and built-in storm ﬂaps in the windows and door provide privacy and ultimate weather protection
Kicking off our list is the Napier Backroadz SUV Tent, which is one of the largest models you can find. That said, it doesn’t come with an awning or screen room, so it doesn’t offer as much flexibility as other car tents we’ve seen.
However, if you want lots of headroom and a vehicle sleeve that keeps bugs and weather elements out, this tent works well for most situations.
Universal Vehicle Sleeve
No matter what you’re driving, this SUV tent fits anything with a rear hatch door. Vans, hatchback cars, CUVs – they’re all compatible with this model. You only have to use the Velcro straps to cinch the sides closed to ensure a tight seal around the opening when sleeping.
Over Seven Feet of Headroom
This tent has 100 square feet of floor space and seven feet of headroom, making it ideal for campers of all shapes and sizes. Also, the height of this tent means it works for large SUV camping since the rear door won’t risk damaging the tent structure.
- Tall dome design offers 7′ of headroom
- Fits all SUVs, cars, and minivans
- Full-size rainfly for waterproof protection
- Three mesh windows for maximum ventilation
- 10′ by 10′ floor space
- Hook and latch strips to close the opening when a vehicle is not attached
- Not ideal for colder weather
- Water can leak in through the seams around the vehicle
Although the main appeal of car camping is getting to combine your tent and vehicle, there are times when you may want a standalone version. For example, if you need to use your car to run errands while your tent stays at the campsite.
The Rightline Gear SUV Tent works best by itself, but it also comes with a universal vehicle sleeve. In total, you can sleep six as long as your vehicle cargo area sleeps two (the tent sleeps four).
Extra Interior Tent Features
A big reason why we like the Rightline Gear SUV Tent is that it comes with various amenities to make your camping trip more accommodating. Examples include an overhead lantern holder, glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls, a water-resistant bathtub floor, and two gear pockets.
Overall you can camp in this tent with or without your car, making it an ideal choice for its versatility.
Standalone Tent Design
With some SUV tents, you need to keep the tent attached to the vehicle at all times. While you can tuck the sleeve and secure it, most models allow air, rain, and bugs to get inside. The Rightline Gear SUV Tent is one of the best SUV tents because it seals firmly when your vehicle is not attached. Theoretically, you don’t even have to use it with your SUV for it to work.
- Tent sleeps four
- Sealed vehicle sleeve
- Two gear pockets for convenience
- Overhead lantern hook
- Glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls
- Water-resistant design
- Only works for six people if your vehicle cargo area sleeps two
- Some components are not as durable as others
- Doesn’t work for all vehicle rear barn doors
- Size: 10- by 10-foot tent
- Sleeps: 5-6 people
- Specs: 7 feet of headroom; 7- by 6-foot floorless screen room, transform the vehicle tent into a ground tent by fully removing the vehicle sleeve
If you’re planning on car camping for several days or a week, you might want something like the Sportz SUV Tent from Napier Outdoors. This particular model is built for long-term camping trips because it has extra space for lounging and playing while still staying out of the sunlight.
Front Screen Room
As you’ll notice, most of the best SUV tents don’t have any awnings or screen rooms. So, the fact that this tent does means you can spend more time in and out of the tent while staying comfortable.
A screen works well for little kids to play when there are lots of bugs around, or it can serve as a place to store shoes and clothes you don’t want inside the tent. Alternatively, you can use it as additional living space. Plus, the structure is massive, so it fits around all rear barn doors, regardless of the vehicle’s size or height.
Awnings are nice for car camping because they help protect you from harsh sunlight and rain. You can simply stick a couple of folding chairs underneath and enjoy the weather during your entire stay. Plus, the large mesh windows give you lots of fresh air to make your trip more relaxing.
- Wide 10×10 living space
- Front screen room for storage and lounging
- Side awning for outdoor relaxation
- Fits up to six people inside
- Standalone model
- Durable steel frame
- Heavier than most other SUV tents
- Vehicle sleeve doesn’t close as tightly as other car tents
- Sleep Off The Ground - Nothing Beats the Comfort of your Vehicle, plus gives you the added security of having access to your vehicle
- Extra Cargo Sleeping Space - Connecting to the cargo area of the vehicle creates additional storage or sleeping space, plus access to power.
- Free-Standing Tent - Quickly disconnect your vehicle and go about your day leaving the free-standing tent behind
When looking for an SUV tent, you don’t need to break the bank since you’re buying something designed to work in tandem with your vehicle. So, if you’re on a tight budget, you can get this tent with enough room for you and your family to enjoy each other’s company.
Raised Bathtub Floor
When camping in an SUV tent, you may want to bring a tarp to lay down underneath it. This way, you can avoid water getting inside and ruining your sleeping bags or other equipment. Fortunately, this model comes with a “bathtub” floor, which is like having a built-in tarp. So, you can feel confident that you won’t wake up soaking wet.
Durable Carry Bag
As an SUV tent, this model has most of the same features as something like the Napier Backroadz or Rightline Gear SUV Tent. One additional selling point is the carry bag that allows you to pack and transport the tent more easily. Also, since it’s only 19 pounds, it’s relatively lightweight compared to most tents in this category.
- Rainfly and tape-sealed seams for better water-resistance
- Comes with a sturdy carry bag
- Fits all SUVs and smaller vehicles
- More affordable than the average tent for car camping
- Not as durable as other SUV tent models
- Water can seep in through the vehicle sleeve
- 8.5 (L) x 8.5 (W) ft. tent sleeps 4 people along with the extra sleeping or storage space provided by your vehicle’s cargo area
- Unzip the removable vehicle sleeve to convert the vehicle tent into a stand-alone ground tent
- Includes a full-length rain fly with taped seams for extra protection and a 6’ x 6’ awning for shade
Our final SUV tent is the Napier Sportz Dome, which is a pretty average tent compared to other models we’ve seen. If you’re looking for something relatively large and easy to set up, this tent will work for most car camping situations.
Fast 10-Minute Setup
Typically, setting up an SUV tent can take a while because of how you have to attach the tent to the vehicle. However, this model can be up and running in 10 minutes, thanks to the design of the poles and sleeves and the overall lightweight materials.
With two large doors and two extra-wide windows, you can achieve maximum ventilation with minimal effort. This tent works best for summertime trips when fresh air is a precious commodity, but it can also keep light rain at bay if necessary.
- Fast and easy to setup
- Universal vehicle fit
- Lighter than other SUV tent models
- Excellent ventilation
- Zipper sleeve for a secure standalone version
- In rare cases, the poles may snap under pressure
- Some seams may leak in heavy rain
How to Choose a Car Tent
As you’ll notice, most of the best SUV tents are made by one company – Napier Outdoors. Also, there aren’t as many models as there are with other tents, so it’s a bit harder to find exactly what you need for your next camping trip.
That said, here’s how to compare SUV tent products and weigh the pros and cons of each model.
One problem we’ve noticed with a lot of SUV tents is that they’ll claim to have a “universal” vehicle sleeve, but that’s not necessarily true. As a rule, these sleeves don’t always work on smaller vehicles because they’re designed for SUVs and minivans.
So, if you’re planning on traveling with a small car (i.e., a station wagon), you might have trouble finding a tent that will work perfectly. However, if you’re using a larger vehicle, you just have to make sure the sleeve is wide enough to create a tight seal around the opening. Otherwise, it’s easy for bugs and debris to get inside.
Size and Sleeping Space
There are technically two types of car hatchback tents – those designed for day camping and those designed for overnight trips. On this list, we looked at the latter, but you can find day-trip SUV tents. These models essentially extend your vehicle’s cargo space and offer more sun and bug protection.
When talking about overnight SUV tents, you want to make sure it has enough room for you and your equipment. Keep in mind that these tents usually assume the vehicle cargo area sleeps two and include that total in their product features. For example, an SUV tent that “sleeps six” actually only holds four and assumes two more can sleep inside the vehicle.
As far as size and dimensions, you want something tall enough to handle the rear hatch door and allow for maximum headroom. This way, you can move around and go between the tent and your vehicle more easily.
If you’re planning on single-night trips, you don’t necessarily need a car tent that can stand on its own. However, if you’re camping for multiple nights, this feature is a must. This way, you don’t have to worry about rain, debris, or bugs getting into your tent when you’re driving the car elsewhere.
Some SUV tents have better enclosures like zippers or Velcro enclosures. Others make you tie a rope around the sleeve and hope for the best.
Awning or Screen Room
If you want to enjoy the weather, having an awning room or screen room is a nice bonus because they allow you to get fresh air without worrying about the sun or bugs. Plus, these rooms are ideal for children to play without wandering off or getting bitten by mosquitos.
As a rule, SUV tents are three-season models, meaning they’re not made for winter camping. Since it’s impossible to form an airtight seal around your vehicle’s rear barn doors, we don’t advise using these tents in cold or extra wet weather.
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