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If you’re planning a camping trip, you need to prepare by buying the best gear. These days, car camping is becoming more popular, meaning you can enjoy the creature comforts of your vehicle while spending time outdoors.
Since sleeping space is limited in a car, we recommend buying the best SUV tents instead. These tents allow you to get the best of both worlds while still keeping the elements at bay. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best SUV tents and see what they have to offer.
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Top SUV Tent Models
Fortunately, you don’t have to search far and wide to find the best SUV tent. We’ve compiled a list of the top seven models that are sure to make you and your family enjoy your next camping trip.
- 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
As you’ll notice, most SUV tents are made by the company Napier Outdoors. While this one brand doesn’t have a monopoly on the best SUV tent options, it’s certainly more widely available than others.
Although there are a few Napier SUV tents on this list, we like the Napier Family Sportz SUV Tent the best. Not only does it have more than enough room for everyone and their gear, but it’s weatherproof and sets up in minutes.
Seven-Foot High Ceiling
One issue that you can avoid with an SUV camping tent is that the roof is often much higher than a stand-alone tent model. In this case, the interior space is seven feet tall, so you can stand up and move around without being hunched over.
Plus, with such a high ceiling, it’s easier to hang a lantern or other supplies from the gear loft. Overall, you won’t feel cramped in this SUV tent.
Front Awning Room
There are two front entrances – one with a screen room and one with an open-air awning. The screen room is helpful because you can use it as a mud room if it’s raining, or as a bug-free space for your little ones. Either way, you can keep shoes and other dirty equipment in the screen room so they don’t track a mess inside.
- Extensive sleeping space
- Holds up to six people
- Front awning provided
- One person setup and tear down
- Works as a freestanding tent
- Interior storage space
- Not meant for heavy rains
- Weighs almost 50 pounds
- Spacious 10’ x 10’ tent providing over 7’ of headroom and sleeps 5 adults
- Full rainﬂy with taped seams and built-in storm ﬂaps in the windows and door provide privacy and ultimate weather protection
- Seamlessly connects to the cargo area of your vehicle, creating additional sleeping or storage space and a connection to power outlets to keep your devices charged
Next, we have another Napier model, the Napier Backroadz SUV tent. This model is very similar to the Family Sportz tent, but it doesn’t come with a screen room. Otherwise, we like the Backroadz SUV tent because it’s spacious, tall, and easy to set up. Here are a couple of its top features.
Universal Vehicle Sleeve
One issue with SUV tents is that they may not fit all vehicles. Because hatchback tents have to accommodate cargo doors of different heights and widths, it’s hard to make them fit all SUVs and CUVs.
Fortunately, this vehicle sleeve is adjustable, so you should be able to install the tent no matter what you’re driving. Even if you have a minivan, it should fit without damaging the tent or the vehicle.
10-Minute Setup Time
One of the great things about SUV camping is that you can often get set up much faster than if you had to hike your gear to a separate campsite. However, while most SUV tents are fast and efficient, the Napier Backroadz SUV tent is just a cut above the rest. Basically, you can pull into your spot and be ready to sleep for the night in no time.
- Sleeps five people
- Full rainfly for better weather protection
- Universal vehicle sleeve
- Extra ventilation provided
- Fast setup in 10 minutes
- Lightweight tent model
- Gear pockets and lantern holder
- Some components may break relatively easily
- Not meant for high winds
- 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
At first glance, the Napier Outdoors Sportz Dome To Go Tent seems a bit smaller and more cramped than the Family Sportz model above. However, it’s still 6.5 feet tall, so you can still move around easily without risking a bumped head.
That said, this tent isn’t quite as spacious, and it doesn’t have a front screen room, which is why it’s not our top pick. Still, it comes with some pretty awesome features that make it work having.
Full-Length Rain Fly
Typically, a rain fly only covers the top tent portion, meaning that water can still seep in through the side walls. Thankfully, that’s not a problem with the Sportz Dome To Go, as it comes with a full-size fly. So, when it’s pouring outside, you can zip the whole thing closed and stay warm and dry all day long.
Dual Front Doors
Most stand alone tent models have a single entrance, which can make it hard for everyone to get in and out efficiently. Most Napier Outdoors SUV tents come with two doors so one person could be coming while another is going. Plus, if it’s hot outside, having multiple doors allows you to get better airflow and stay cooler.
- Compatible with most SUVs and CUVs
- Large doors for easier access
- Works as a freestanding tent
- Front awning provided
- Full rainfly to keep water out
- Fast and easy setup
- In rare cases, the poles may bend or snap
- Hard to set up by oneself
Finally, we have an SUV tent not made by Napier Outdoors. The Rightline Gear SUV tent is massive, but it’s also lightweight and easy to carry. So, whether you’re camping by yourself, with a partner, or with the whole family, this SUV tent should be more than accommodating for everyone.
Lightweight Tent Model
Because the Rightline Gear SUV tent is so tall, you would expect it to be heavy as well. However, part of why we consider this one of the best SUV tent models is that it only weighs 21 pounds. So, even if you weren’t car camping, you should be able to take this tent with you.
Freestanding Tent Version
Technically, this isn’t a unique feature to the Rightline Gear SUV Tent, as many other SUV tents work as standalone models. However, this tent seals better than most others, so you shouldn’t have to worry about pests and other unwanted guests.
Basically, you have more flexibility with this SUV tent than you do with other models. Now, you can feel free to drive off during the day and reattach your vehicle for sleeping space at night. But, since this tent sleeps six, you may not even need the extra room inside your SUV.
- Sleeps four
- Fast and easy setup
- Front awning for better weather resistance
- Works as a freestanding tent
- Lighter than other SUV tents
- Universal compatibility with SUVs
- In rare cases, the tent may leak at the seams
- May not fit some smaller SUVs or CUVs
- 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
If you look at the description for the North East Harbor SUV Camping Tent, you’ll notice that it says it can sleep eight people. That’s a bit misleading because you can fit six inside the tent itself, and another two inside your vehicle.
Nonetheless, this is a pretty massive SUV tent, so no matter how many people you’re bringing along, there should be enough room for them and their gear.
Sleeping Space Fits King-Size Air Mattress
One of the best ways to ensure you get a good night’s sleep when using camping tents is to bring an air mattress. In this case, you can fit a king-size mattress in the tent portion and still have plenty of room to spare.
Raised Bathtub Floor
One issue you’ll notice with most SUV camping tent models is that they don’t necessarily keep water from seeping in from the ground. So, if it starts to rain a lot during your trip, you’ll have to find a way to keep your sleeping bags and equipment from getting soaked.
Thankfully, a big reason why the North East Harbor model is the best SUV tent is that it comes with a bathtub floor. This term means you get a built-in tarp on the bottom, and the sides are raised so you have a watertight seal all the way around the bottom edge.
- Dual awnings for better rain protection
- Fits a king-size air mattress inside
- Interior storage options
- Bathtub floor helps reduce water seepage
- Lightweight tent model
- Sleeps six people
- Can take a while to dry off when wet
- In rare cases, the poles may break under heavy stress
- Standard size tent (sleeps 2-3) with high-density 92" x 55" foam double/full mattress and 661 lb. max load
- 600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly; sunroof; side windows with mosquito netting; anodized aluminum tent frame poles; telescopic ladder; interior LED strips and many more features
- Easy to set up and take down; heavy-duty PVC cover keeps tent dry and free from UV rays when not in use
So far, we’ve only looked at SUV tents that attach to the rear cargo space in your vehicle. However, rooftop tents like this one from Smittybuilt are another way to go SUV camping without needing any extra space on the ground. Let’s look at a few reasons why the Overlander might be a suitable option for your needs.
Rooftop Tent Model
If you’re driving a full-size SUV, there’s plenty of room on the roof for you and at least one other person. Rooftop SUV tents offer a bit more flexibility regarding where you can bed down for the night. Now, instead of needing a designated camping spot, you can sleep wherever you park your vehicle.
The downside of using a rooftop tent is that you can’t get as much interior space. So, if you’re traveling with a big family, you’ll have to bring a separate tent or have some people sleep inside the vehicle.
600D Waterproof Top
Many SUV tents say they’re waterproof, but few of them can actually stand up to heavy rains. Fortunately, the Overlander has extra-thick waterproof material on the roof, so you should be able to stay warm and toasty all night long, even if it rains the entire time you’re camping.
Plus, this rooftop tent has awnings on each side, so you can keep the windows open for airflow without letting buckets of water come in and drench you and your gear.
- Easy to install on most SUV roofs
- Annex available for extra privacy
- Memory foam mattress provided
- Waterproof rainfly for better weather protection
- Ladder included
- Larger sizes available
- Some components are flimsier than others
- Can be tricky to get in and out
Technically, the Kampkeeper SUV tent is not designed for overnight camping because it doesn’t come with a floor. Instead, it’s meant as a festival tent, meaning you can use it during the day and pack it up at night when you’re ready to leave.
However, we like this model because it’s so big and spacious that you almost feel like you’re at a resort. Plus, it’s relatively easy to weatherproof the ground – just lay down a tarp or use wooden pallets to elevate your sleeping bags.
Overall, you may have to get a little creative with the Kampkeeper Tent, but it’s worth it for the added comfort.
Over Nine Feet Tall
At 9.2 feet high, this is definitely the tallest SUV tent on this list. Car camping will never be the same when you roll up with this monster in tow. However, what’s most amazing about the tent is that it’s relatively lightweight and super easy to set up (with two people).
Having such extensive headroom makes SUV camping even more accommodating since you won’t feel cramped at all. Plus, you have more flexibility about what you can bring with you since you’ll have so much interior space.
Extra-Thick Weatherproof Fabric
Another reason we like the Kampkeeper compared to other SUV tents is that it’s made of waterproof canvas material. So, it can withstand harsher weather without ruining your camping trip. But don’t forget about waterproofing or sealing the bottom edge to keep water at bay.
- Durable construction
- Weatherproof tent
- Extra interior space
- Fast setup (with two people)
- Extra tall design for better versatility
- Works for daytime events and overnight camping
- Fits most SUVs, CUVs, and even pickup trucks
- Doesn’t have a floor, so you need to provide a tarp
- Needs at least two people to set up properly
What is an SUV Tent?
An SUV tent is a tent that attaches to your vehicle, usually with a sleeve attached to one of the tent walls. The best tent for SUV will also work as a standalone tent model so you can drive away without leaving a gaping hole in the side.
Most SUV tents are hatchback tents, meaning they connect to the rear door, allowing you to use the vehicle’s interior cargo space. However, you can also find rooftop tents that attach to the roof rack. These models are much smaller, though, so they only work for two or three people max. So, they’re not ideal for family camping trips.
Pros and Cons of Using an SUV Tent
If you’re going to search for the best SUV tents, you need to know whether they’re worth the trouble. Here are some advantages and disadvantages you can expect from SUV camping.
Pro: More Room For Everyone
Since you can attach the tent portion to your SUV, you can access the rear cargo area. Depending on the type of SUV you have, you can use it for sleeping or for gear storage. Either way, you can have more sleeping space for everyone.
Con: Not Ideal for Freestanding Tents
Although the best SUV tents can seal themselves when not attached to your vehicle, it’s still easy for debris and pests to get inside. While there are ways to mitigate this problem, it’s not something you have to worry about when buying a separate tent.
Pro: Easier Setup
Since your SUV makes up one of the tent walls, you can often get set up faster than you would with a regular tent model.
Con: Higher Price
The average SUV tent costs several hundred bucks, compared to standalone tent models that can cost $100 or less. While cheap tents tend to be leakier and won’t last more than a couple of seasons, they’re good for what they are. Overall, if you’re not sure you want to practice SUV camping often, you may not be able to justify the price.
How to Choose an SUV Tent
Looking at all the best SUV tents on our list, it may seem a bit daunting to make a final decision. However, here’s a breakdown of all the various components we pay attention to when comparing and contrasting each SUV tent.
Size and Dimensions
The first question you have to ask is – how many people will be sleeping in this tent? The more people you have coming along, the more room you need. However, an SUV tent’s size and dimensions matter for several other reasons, including:
- Standing Up – Short camping tents can feel uncomfortable because you can’t stand up all the way. So, something as simple as changing your clothes can be a relatively tough ordeal.
- Tent Shape – Just because a tent is tall in the center doesn’t mean the side walls are too. Fortunately, most SUV tents have to be tall on all sides because of the hatchback cargo door. So, a wider shape means you can move around more easily inside.
- Height Compatibility – Some SUV rear doors can stand over 6.5 feet tall when fully opened. So, if your tent doesn’t reach that high, you won’t be able to connect it to your vehicle.
Freestanding Tent vs. Attached Tent
Fortunately, all the SUV tents reviewed on this list work as a freestanding unit as well as an attached tent. This way, you have flexibility over whether your SUV needs to be hooked up to the side wall at all times.
That said, some other SUV tent models don’t have a side closure or flap to cover the sleeve. In these instances, if you take the vehicle away, there will be a gaping hole in the side of the tent.
Another point to consider is if you’re looking at a rooftop SUV tent or a ground-level model. One way to upgrade a rooftop tent is to buy an annex section. Annexes extend the side of the tent all the way to the ground so you have more room for changing clothes and storing your gear.
One of the primary issues with buying an SUV tent is ensuring that it fits your vehicle. In many cases, the sleeve is either too large or too small with no way of adjusting it. Even “universal” sleeves may not work on all vehicles, especially if you’re using a minivan or hatchback car.
So, make sure to read the description or contact the company directly to verify that it fits your make and model. Also, remember that newer versions of the same car may have slightly different dimensions, so you might have to adjust accordingly.
Interior Storage Space
The sleeping capacity of a tent is crucial, but you also have to consider how much equipment everyone is bringing. One advantage of an SUV tent is that you can store gear inside your vehicle while you’re not in it. So, even if you have a relatively small rooftop tent on your roof rack, you can maximize the sleeping space inside.
One way that some SUV tents alleviate storage problems is to have built-in pockets or gear lofts. These add-ons allow you to keep some items off the ground so you have more flexibility and can stay organized more easily.
Almost all SUV tents are rated as “three-season,” meaning they’re not meant for heavy rains or ice and snow. The main reason four-season SUV tents don’t exist is that it’s practically impossible to create an airtight seal between the tent and the vehicle.
Overall, you should look for tents with awnings, a screen room, and full-sized rain flies. These elements can help prevent leaks and other undesirable elements, such as pests. Also, bathtub flooring is hugely helpful in avoiding flooding inside the tent during heavier storms.
Some SUV tents are built to be lightweight and portable, while others are heavier-duty. As a rule, lighter tents don’t last as long because elements like tent poles can break more easily. Also, thinner fabrics can tear by accident, such as when you’re setting up or tearing the tent down.
When checking a tent’s durability, pay attention to the seams, the material (i.e., canvas is more durable than nylon), and the poles. Fiberglass poles are the most common, but they’re also the cheapest and break the fastest. Aluminum poles are stronger, but they can add weight.
SUV Tent Type
We’ve already discussed ground vs. rooftop tents, but there is another type of SUV tent available – the sun shade. In this case, rather than having a full-sized tent on the ground, you just have an extendable shade coming out of the back of your vehicle.
Shade tents are useful for daytime use, but not overnight camping, which is why we didn’t include any on this list. However, if you want more flexibility, you can buy both types of SUV tents for different occasions.