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As the weather warms up, the opportunities for outdoor activities are on everyone’s minds, and that includes car camping. Innovative car-camping tents help you transform your car, truck, or SUV into a makeshift RV, set up a campsite, and comfortably sleep inside or tailgate. The best car-camping tents are excellent for road-tripping or camping for music festivals, and most can be set up in minutes.
How to Pick the Best Car-Camping Tent
Before packing for your next adventure, here’s what to know before getting a car-camping tent.
Placement: For hatchback cars and SUVs, most tents attach to the rear of your vehicle, so having the trunk open lets you easily pass through the tent into the car’s interior — instantly doubling the amount of room. The sleeves lock onto the cargo storage area, which also allows you to crawl into the car if the tent section becomes too cold at night or the weather gets nasty.
Other options, like rooftop tent models, also exist. These turn the roof of your vehicle into the “ground” surface that your tent’s floor will be on (usually along with a ladder), but make sure your ride can support the weight first. Also be certain the “sleeve,” or opening that connects to the car, is wide enough to fit your make and model.
Size: If this is just for you and a partner, even a small tent should have enough room to sleep two, though it’s still best to check the measurements, as some are made just for sitting and may be too tight to lay down. For families, it’s better to go bigger: 10×10-foot tents can generally fit multiple people, but if you want more space, we recommend going with a larger tent.
Materials: Water-resistant fabric is something you’ll be glad to have after a rainy night, but polyethylene or polyurethane can hold up to light rain and winds. For the poles, fiberglass strikes a nice balance between sturdy and giving just enough bend to form a curved roof while resistant to rust, and steel is even stronger.
Extras: An additional tarp or covering can be a simple but invaluable addition when a sudden downpour strikes, along with a “bathtub” style base which can also keep out bugs. Plus, multiple ventilation windows, skylights, and exits make it easier to get in and out or let in fresh air. An awning is a nice option when you want to sit in the shade and fully enjoy the outdoors, while pockets are convenient to keep supplies like food and flashlights within reach.
If you’re not sure where exactly you’ll be setting up for the night, or simply want some added versatility and not be forced to use it with a car all the time, some of these can also work as a standalone tent too. This also makes it a whole lot easier when you need to use the car for errands, but don’t want to take down the entire tent.
What Are the Best Tents for Car Camping?
If you’re ready to upgrade your spring camping gear, check out our top recommendations below.
1. Thule Tepui Autana Rooftop Tent
The Tepui Autana is the ultimate in car camping, basically turning your ride into a small portable apartment. Thule, a recognizable and reliable name in the outdoor space, created this to fit four people, with room for sleeping on the ground and roof. The upper annex attaches to your car’s roof rack, and the lower half is optional when you don’t need it set up. The material it’s made from is also incredibly tough, and ready for when even the nastiest weather hits your campsite.
2. Napier Backroadz SUV Tent
This one works best with mid-size vehicles, providing enough sleeping room for four adults in its 10×10-foot footprint. The rainfly, flaps, and seams keep water out during a downpour, and storm flaps hold steady in heavy winds. In addition to the car-side opening, there’s also a nice-sized door, and three windows for increased ventilation.
3. Sportz Dome-To-Go Tent
This option is best for small to mid-sized hatchback cars and can comfortably fit up to four adults with its large footprint. A wide opening lets you crawl between the tent and car, with the option to close it off and use the tent as a standalone setup. Mesh paneled windows inside let the breeze in while not being see-through, and the added canopy for sitting outside keeps you protected from sun and rain.
4. Guide Gear Premium Truck Tent
For trucks, this tent is a nice option for avoiding sleeping on the ground when conditions are wet and cold. There’s enough space in here for two adults (with the tailgate down), and it’s quick to set up with just four poles total. The tent fits most full-sized pickups, with enough headroom to sit up inside.