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 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):
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
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
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
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
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!
There are three ways how you can fit it over your tailgate or side door:
Touran image source: rjrdaydreamer.com
MY TOP MPV/minivan tailgate tent: Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021
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
Great for tailgates – Berlingo, Sharan, Caddy, Partner…
Doesn’t need a rail to be attached
Integrated bug net, incl. stuff sack
100 days returns policy
VANGO – Bondi Low awning
218 GBP / 253 EUR
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