Decathlon

Car tents for car camping: why, where and top picks

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All the info you want (or didn’t know you need) about car tents (SUV tents, tailgate tents, rooftop tents or hatchback tents and awnings). This will help you decide whether you need one, what to look out for and what type is best for your needs. Plus some of my top picks to save you time searching and comparing.

Decathlon

Types of car / SUV tents that attach to cars

You might come across several variations of an SUV tent/hatchback tent – some attach to the car at the back, some at the side, others cover only the boot opening and don’t touch the floor and some are just awnings to give you rain and sun cover. The most frequently used types of car / suv tents are following (hover for more info / click on mobile):

SUV tent type

Rear (boot) tents (tailgate tents / hatchback tents)

Here you can find either big tents that cover the boot opening + create additional space behind the car (freestanding) – or – smaller boot tents that don’t touch the ground, just extend the boot opening area a big + protect it against rain or mosquitoes.
Typical price range: freestanding –
boot only – 50 – 800 EUR

SUV tent type

Side door tents / awnings

These tend to be bigger and made for Multivan and bigger type vans. But sometimes they fit cars with sliding doors – like the VW Caddy, VW Sharan, Citroen Berlingo and similar.
Typical price range: 150 EUR + depending on type and features

SUV tent type

Awnings

Protecting you from the sun or easy rain, these don’t do much for sleeping or additional floor space, just add more shaded area. They come usually in three versions: rear (boot), side door and 270 degrees (rear & side door)
Typical price range: 30 – 150 EUR

SUV tent type

Rooftop tents

Move your bedroom to the roof… Handy if you don’t have any sleeping room in the back of your car. On the other hand – you need to climb the ladder each time you want something from there. Great for sleeping (higher up, safer, more room, additional features like a solar powered fan), but quite expensive.
Typical price range: 1000 – 4000 EUR

Each one of these SUV / car tent type has it’s benefits and disadvantages – it all depends on what type of car do you have, whether you have a roof rack, whether you want to have easy access from the ground or don’t mind climbing up and what is your budget.

What to look out for when buying a car tent

  • does it fit your car well? Make sure it will fit your cars boot opening (or side door) and also its height. For example, there are awnings made for VW T5 / T6 (Multivan etc), that have adjustable height – 180cm – 210cm or similar. A VW Caddy is just above 180cm, Sharan is 172cm high (more with a rack) – you probably can fit it there too, but any lower than that might be a problem (i.e. water accumulating when it rains or not fitting properly and water leaking into the tent/car).
  • does it need a rail to be attached or is it the “over van” type (you pull a sheet over your entire car and fix it into the ground on the other side of the car)
  • build strength – will a gust of wind send it across the field or break its supports? Low price is always welcome, but at a certain level, corners have to be cut somewhere – usually the quality of materials and build strength.
  • fabric quality and attributes – is it waterproof? tearproof? Is it a material you don’t like/prefer? (Polyester, nylon, cotton – each has its own benefits and disadvantages.
  • ventilation – enough windows to let light and air in, preferably with nets to stop mosquitoes getting in
  • make sure there’s a groundsheet included in the package (or that you are aware that you’re buying it without and need to get one)

Are car/tailgate tents any good? What are their benefits?

You don’t need a car tent to do car camping or sleep in your car – but they are a nice addition. I see their main benefits as follows:

  • extend your floor space – add shaded + closed space to leave stuff in or to sleep in, have a picnic, rest – it can get hot in a car during a summer day, a tent/awning will get more air, more headroom and you’ll be closer to the ground (cooler). Or at least you’ll get a space you can walk around barefoot, leave your shoes in – before you enter your car. You’ll have a bedroom (the car) + a lounge (the tent).
  • headroom – you will be able to stand up yet still be “inside”
  • storage – you’ll appreciate this especially during longer stays – leaving things you use daily in the tent without having to pack it into boxes in the car or roof storage.
  • shade/rain cover – even if you can’t store stuff in there safely (in case you get an awning), it’s still good to have a shaded area everywhere you go, no matter the time of day.
  • ventilation – you can leave the boot or car windows open letting more cold air in during hot summer nights or during rain (not something easily done without a tent)
  • mosquito protection – ventilation without mosquitoes getting in, as the tent works as a mosquito net

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Spring & Summer Collection 2021 250x250

Where to buy an SUV / car / tailgate tent

Most websites only recommend tents available at Amazon. It’s mainly because it’s the easiest affiliate program you can use (i.e. the websites get rewarded if you buy from Amazon). Nothing wrong with that except it creates a bottleneck – the top 5 “suv tent” websites all recommend the same 5 tents on Amazon – but there are many more available, even at better prices.

I will list both – other online retailers with a wider selection and Amazon, so you can compare easily.

MY TOP BUDGET TAILGATE TENT – Decathlon Arpenaz Base M

I have this one personally + it’s recommended by many users in the car camping community (FB groups like Berlingo campers only, Small Vehicle Campers etc). See my review for some of their testimonials. These groups are also good to verify whether the tent will fit your car – just join and ask!

MY TOP BUDGET HATCHBACK – TAILGATE TENT – Decathlon Arpenaz Base M

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

arpenaz base M - Car tents for car camping: why, where and top picks
If you don’t mind it’s not meant to be used as a car tent – but it actually can do the job pretty well, you’re in for a treat – at only 99 GBP / 99 EUR (yep, cheaper in EU), you will get a pretty good tailgate tent – or a side door tent, you can make it fit both. Better for cars like Caddy, Berlingo, Shara etc – with lower height compared to a Multivan (as most car awnings are made for those). Confirmed to fit a Berlingo, Kangoo, Sharan, Touran (see images below).
– Very cheap!!
– Height : 2.15 m | Floor area: 6.25 m2 | Comfortable for 6 people
– Openings on 3 sides | 3 mosquito nets
– Waterproof (200L per hour per m2)
– Packed size – rectangular cover | 57 x 18 cm | 18 litres
– Weight 8kg
– Easy set-up with a free-standing structure | Only two fibreglass poles
– The fabric filters UV radiation with a UPF of 30
– Withstands force 6 winds – around 50 km/h | Wind tunnel test
– doesn’t need a rail to be attached
– will not fit exactly as it’s not meant to be used with a car, but should do the trick – the opening is high enough for the tailgate + the sheet will protect from rain.

99 GBP / 93 EUR*

*yep, in EUR it works out a lot cheaper
Available at any Decathlon website or store in your country.
I recommend buying this foldable table + 4 chairs too – good ratings, price and takes up almost no space.

4.9

There are three ways how you can fit it over your tailgate or side door:

second image thanks to: WILL WALKLEY OUTDOORS, third image: Sweeper Liam

Touran image source: rjrdaydreamer.com

MY TOP MPV/minivan tailgate tent: Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021

MY TOP MPV/minivan tailgate tent: Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021 (awning + tent in one)

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

dometic 1 - Car tents for car camping: why, where and top picks
Very cool design and I love the versatility – fits SUVs, MPVs, campervans. You can pitch it freestanding on the beach, on-site with your campervan or as valuable shelter when off-roading with your 4×4 or motorhome.
Best feature is the ability to REMOVE (unzip) ALL 4 WALLS – making it an awning + tent in one!
– Width:230x230cm Depth:230cm
– all walls removable
– Single Point Inflation AIR Frame
– weight: 13.8kg
– Weathershield™ Pro
– Quickpitch™ Guying System
– doesn’t need a rail to be attached
– fits tailgate as well as side door, MPV, SUV, Multivan (attachment Height: 160-210cm)
– windows have mosquito nets

428 GBP / 504 EUR

4.9

SEE IT IN ACTION:

Other good SUV – tailgate tents, awnings and places to shop

VAUDE – Drive Trunk – Motorhome awning

159.99 GBP / 187 EUR

Fits most station wagons and minivans / MPVs
2.2kg
Great for tailgates – Berlingo, Sharan, Caddy, Partner…
Doesn’t need a rail to be attached
Integrated bug net, incl. stuff sack
Free delivery
100 days returns policy

VANGO – Bondi Low awning

218 GBP / 253 EUR

7kg
Connection height: 180-210cm; various attachment options (should fit the Caddy and Sharan or any car with sliding side doors and at least 180cm height)
– multiple entrances
– Vango TBS II; Multi-Flex doors; privacy curtains

many more options at
alpinetrek.co.uk

200 – 2000 GBP / 230 – 2300 EUR

A wide selection of rear / side tents and awnings, all sizes and good price range

good roof tent selection at
rei.com

135 – 3500 GBP / 155 – 4000 EUR

A wide selection of roof tents and good price range

SUV / car / tailgate tents and awnings gallery

27.5″ E-ST 100 ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKE

4.3/5 stars

ebike £999.99 – BUY NOW
at Decathlon UK
PORTABLE CHEMICAL TOILETS FOR CAMPING – 20L

4.2/5 stars
– Clean water tank up to 50 uses – tank capacity: 16 litres – a seat with antibacterial coating, a lid and a tank that prevents odours and mould

portable toilet £89.99 – BUY NOW
at Decathlon UK
27.5″ MOUNTAIN BIKE ST 540

4.3/5 stars

mountain bike £479.99 – BUY NOW
at Decathlon UK
SUP? Paddle for the entire family (max load 320kg)

Inflatable paddle board for any weight: less than 60 kg: ultra-stable board – 60 to 80 kg : very stable board – over 80 kg: ideal board for easily starting out

stand up paddle sup BUY NOW
at Decathlon UK

🤠 Hey fellow camper! Get the latest posts and tips into your inbox:
Subscribe to our newsletter

Marketing permission: I give my consent to NimbleCamper Newsletter to be in touch with me via email using the information I have provided in this form for the purpose of news, updates and marketing.

What to expect: One, maybe two emails per month with useful info about car camping and microcampers. If you wish to withdraw your consent and stop hearing from us, simply click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email we send or contact us at lukas@nimblecamper.com. We value and respect your personal data and privacy. To view our privacy policy, please visit our website. By submitting this form, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.


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