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

Car camping essentials | SUV Tents
suv tent car tent tailgate tent heckzelt

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.

Types of tents for SUVs / car camping

You might come across several variations of an SUV tent – some are at the back, some at the side of the car, others cover onlyl 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 (hover for more info / click on mobile):

SUV tent type

Rear (boot) tents (tailgate 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/SUV 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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Where to buy an SUV / car 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 MPV/minivan tailgate PICK – VAUDE – Drive Trunk – Motorhome awning

MY TOP MPV/minivan tailgate PICK: VAUDE – Drive Trunk – Motorhome awning

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

vaude drive trunk motorhome awning
Very light, inexpensive and will fit any MPV / minivan with a tailgate (Berlingo & similar, Sharan, Caddy etc). Easily add 2-2.7 meters of living space to your car, use it as a tent for privacy or just as an awning for shade.
– length 200-275cm x height 190-210cm
– front door has a built in window & mosquito net
– small to carry around – Packed dimensions: 45 x 20 cm
– weight only 2.2kg
– waterproof (3,000 mm)
– Vaude is a strong brand amongst tent manufacturers
– doesn’t need a rail to be attached
– one of the lowest prices out there
– NOTE – doesn’t come with floor sheet

160 GBP / 180 EUR

Also avalable on berfgreunde.eu for the EU market.

4.7

SEE IT IN ACTION:

MY TOP BUDGET PICK – Decathlon Arpenaz Base M

MY TOP BUDGET PICK – Decathlon Arpenaz Base M

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

arpenaz base M
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 | 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 / 99 EUR

Available at any Decathlon website for your country.
I recommend buying this foldable table + 4 chairs too – good ratings, price and takes up almost no space.

4.8

Touran image source: rjrdaydreamer.com

MY TOP VERSATILE PICK – Vango Tailgate Hub Low Drive Away Awning | 2021 (rear)

MY TOP VERSATILE PICK – Vango Tailgate Hub Low Drive Away Awning | 2021 (rear)

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

vango tailgate hub low awning
This is a great awning/tent combo – it does all you want it to, you can use it as a tent or lift the walls to have an awning with columns – all at a great price – not that much more compared to cheap Alibaba options, but Vango is a strong name in tents.
– Kador Adjustable Attaching Height: 180cm – 210cm – fits CitroenBerlingo, VWCaddy according to the website, so should fit all similar cars too
– Walls are removable – it’s a tent or a shelter 🙂
– Diamond Clear Windows – big windows to maximise light and visibility to provide a bright and airy environment
– Drive-away – and leave the tent in place if you need to pop to the shop
– Also works on cars with barn (double) rear doors
– Weight 11kg – pretty light for it’s size!
– Mesh Front Door – Fitted with internal mesh fly screen for bug-free ventilation
– Tunnel Adjustment Strap – Helps collect any excess material and creates a neater looking tunnel and a tighter fit to the vehicle
– Vango is a strong brand amongst tent manufacturers
– doesn’t need a rail to be attached

315 GBP / 362 EUR

5

Other good SUV tents, awnings and places to shop

Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi Mid Drive Away Awning

199 GBP / 230 EUR

6.5kg (very light!)
Height Range:  180cm – 240cm (should fit the Caddy and Sharan or any car with sliding side doors and at least 180cm height)
– needs a rail to be attached

VANGO – Magra VW – Motorhome awning

887 GBP / 1026 EUR

22.5kg
Connection height: 180-205cm; various attachment options (should fit the Caddy and Sharan or any car with sliding side doors and at least 180cm height)
– multiple entrances
– freestanding
– sealed seams, Flame-retardant
– needs a rail to be atttached

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

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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: 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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