arpenaz base m MPV - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks

Car & tailgate 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.

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:

Each one of these SUV / car tent type has its benefits and disadvantages – it all depends on what type of car 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.

How do you pick a good car tent?

  • does it fit your car well? Make sure it will fit your car’s 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, and 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). The ones with a rail are more difficult to fit on a car without a rail.
  • 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 from 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)
  • weight and size when packed – this also depends on your car size, but usually, the lighter and smaller, the better.

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, so 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” – great for changing or rainy days
  • storage – you’ll appreciate this, especially during longer stays – leaving things you use daily in the tent without having to pack them into boxes in the car or roof storage. Especially when you fit them out with some foldable storage shelves.
  • 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
folding camping storage unit 1 1 - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks

Folding camping storage unit

  • Storage and outdoor kitchen in one
  • Height : 92 cm | 3 shelves | 1 zipped and ventilated door | 2 net pockets
  • Compact when folded | Volume: 40 L / Dimensions: 68 x 57 x 10 cm
  • Steel structure | The top surface withstands a maximum load of 50 kg
  • Weight: 7.5 kg including the carry bag

Best-in-class from a global portable clean energy leader:

Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station

Every camper knows about Jackery. Tested by time and are favoured by millions of campers worldwide. If you want a kit that will last you for ages, get a Jackery kit.

518-watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, about the size of a basketball and has a solid handle, recharge using a wall outlet, car outlet, electric generator or a solar panel.

jackery power station 500
EXPLORE THE JACKERY
RANGE


Want a full off-grid kit?

Jackery Solar Generator 500 (Explorer 500 + SolarSaga 100W Bundle)

Never run out of power in your camper.

All-in-one portable power station: includes three USB ports, AC outlet, and 12V car output, recharge using a wall outlet, car outlet, electric generator or a solar panel, weights 6kg + foldable solar panel 4kg

jackery power station 500EXPLORE THE JACKERY
RANGE

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.

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!

Decathlon Arpenaz Base M

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

arpenaz base M - Car & tailgate 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.

~120 GBP / EUR*

*yep, in EUR it works out 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.

4.7

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

Touran image source: rjrdaydreamer.com

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

MY TOP MPV/MINIVAN TAILGATE TENT: Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021

Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021 (awning + tent in one)

Lukas Cech – Nimblecamper.com

dometic 1 - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks
Very cool design and I love the versatility – fits SUVs, MPVs, and 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.
The 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

574GBP / 564 EUR

4.9

SEE IT IN ACTION:

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

Open each item to see how it fits onto a car.

decathlon car tents2 - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks

Car roof tents at Decathlon

Aside from the selection of standard car tents that also happen to fit cars well, like the Arpenaz Base M above or more in our shop, Decathlon recently expanded their offer by car rooftop tents, starting at 599.99 GBP.

Car tents at CampingWorld.co.uk

A wide selection of rear/side tents and awnings, all sizes and a good price range: 200 – 2400 GBP / 230 – 2800 EUR

campingworld - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks
gooutdoorsUK car tents - Car & tailgate tents for car camping: why, where and top picks

Car tents at GoOutdoors.co.uk

Over 180 tents, many will fit over a tailgate at a good price range: 99 – 1600 GBP / 115 – 1850 EUR

Car tents at AliExpress

A wide selection of rear/side tents and awnings, all sizes and a good price – starting at 100 GBP/EUR, worldwide shipping


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