What makes a good camper? NimbleCamper rating & Car camping criteria

What is the NimbleCamper rating?

The NimbleCamper rating is there to give you the best indication of a car’s suitability for car camping – using the car for daily life, as well as for sleeping in.

It’s a scale from 0 to 5 points, 5 being the best. We score each car in different categories/attributes and then calculate the average total score from those. It’s weighted towards boot length, then height, with comfort and consumption influencing the rating the least.

We calculate a weighted score. The logic of weighing length (45%) & height (40%) higher than consumption (10%) and comfort (5%) is – headroom is important when you sleep in the back of the car, so is the length. A comfy ride is a factor, but you can sleep in a big car that’s not that comfy, however, you can’t sleep in a comfy car that’s too small.

What attributes does the NimbleCamper rating score?

1. Car boot length – for a comfortable sleep (with your legs stretched out)

Have you ever tried to sleep in a car? It’s not the most comfortable of experiences if you don’t have the right equipment and your car isn’t prepared for it – meaning you sleep in the front or back seat. That’s not what you want to be doing whilst car camping. What we are going to focus on is comfortable sleeping in your car – so that you can travel, explore > rest > continue exploring. And comfortable means the ability to stretch your legs when you lie down in the back, without bumping your head into the front seats and also having enough room to store your belongings. A general rule of thumb – you’ll need about 170cm (5.57ft) boot length with rear seats folded down. I’ll allow some buffer as you can always move the front seats forward and easily gain about 20cm. That should give enough comfortable space for the average man (~175cm / 5.74ft) and woman (~163cm / 5.34ft).

The logic for NimbleCamper rating is – the longer the boot, the better.

Look, there’s plenty room at the back – and that’s just a tiny sample of all the cars and SUVs available:

Toyota RAV4 image: Reddit

2. Car boot height – the higher, the more headroom you’ll have, the more comfortable it is

No one likes to feel claustrophobic – even if you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, you probably don’t like to have to crawl into your bed or crawl out at night when you need the loo. Bumping your head into the roof (although padded) isn’t your aim in the morning either. The higher the car, the more comfortable your car camping trip will be. Aim for at least 90cm from the boot floor to the roof, the more, the better. You really want to be able to sit inside, on the bed, without having to crouch or bend your head.

The logic for NimbleCamper rating is – the taller the boot, the better.

This also depends on your camping style of course – if you are into stealth camping, you might want to have a small and inconspicuous car. But if you are after comfort – you want a tall and long car.

3. Good storage options

The more bare the interior of a car, the harder it will be to live inside. If you have plenty of compartments, hooks, holders, lights, 12V sockets – it’s easy to keep your day-to-day things handy. If you only have some small compartments in the front (not in the back, where you’ll spend most of the time car camping), you’ll either have to create your own storage compartments or have to settle with things lying on the bed all the time.

The rule for NimbleCamper rating is – the more storage and more clever solutions, the better.

Some storage examples:

4. Comfort – interior, driving

When taking your car camping, you will usually drive to places far away. It makes sense for the ride to be comfortable too, as well as the interior – like a coffee holder or an armrest, a comfortable seat. The car could be the longest and tallest one, but if it’s just bare bones without any creature comforts for a long journey, you might not enjoy it as much as a more comfortable one.

The logic for NimbleCamper rating is – overall comfort rating, usually an aggregate from external car review sites (and users reviews) + our own opinion.

5. Consumption

You want a comfortable ride, but also don’t want to spend half of your salary on just getting somewhere. There are many (mostly US-made) cars that are very big and comfy, but they eat twice or more compared to similar EU cars. It wouldn’t be therefore fair to give two cars with roughly the same size and comfort rating the same rating if one eats twice as much + its maintenance will cost more too.

Another point is that the higher the consumption, the more you have to plan where you travel as petrol might not be always available. So the lower the consumption, the more free you are, the longer you can drive away from civilization, without having to worry about refilling the tank.

The logic for NimbleCamper rating is – the lower the consumption, the better – but we don’t weigh consumption as much as boot length or height in our calculation.

What NimbleCamper rating doesn’t score

Price of the car – new or used

There are so many versions and used models from each year for every car that reflecting the price would be too cumbersome. Someone doesn’t mind a 15-year-old camper at a cheap price, someone else wants a newer one. The price of the car is a subjective feature – it shouldn’t influence its feasibility for camping. It’s down to each individual’s research and economic situation to choose which camper to buy. What we try to give you here is camping related rating, primarily based on the size and comfort of the car.

You can narrow your “shopping list” using NimbleCamper rating and database, and then do your own research to find the best price for your chosen car, or choose a close match at a lower price.

NimbleCamper rated database: Best cars for car camping

Browse a database of campers that’s very easy to filter by boot length, width, consumption and more…