What seems like an obvious choice turns out not to be such – should I get a car with a tailgate or barn doors for camping? The answer, it seems, is very individual. Let’s see what a survey of 50 campers tells us.
Tailgate or barn doors?
Here are the answers – their summary and also what 50 everyday car camper enthusiasts listed as benefits of each type of door.
53% prefer a tailgate, 47% barn doors
Yes, I know. How useful, “it’s about 50/50”. But once you dive into the reasons, you’ll understand why.
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1. People like what they already have
If they already have a tailgate, they will list good reasons why it’s better. If they have a barn door, they like that and can also name many reasons why.
This is also known as justification bias or choice-supportive bias or post-purchase rationalization in cognitive science, and it describes a tendency of humans to positively describe an option they have already selected or to negatively describe options they have not chosen.
Hence, you don’t have to worry too much if the car you like doesn’t have the type of doors that people recommend to you. If you don’t have a strong preference for one or the other, you’ll be eventually happy with whatever you choose. You will find a good use for both, a tailgate or barn doors.
But if you do have a strong preference for one of the two types, and you know exactly why, then stick with your gut. Read the benefits of each rear door type that people have provided below – you’ll find that both have advantages and disadvantages, that people have learned to live with. They also came up with ideas on how to make the most of the type of door, they already have.
2. People tend to pick their cars for camping using other attributes, like mileage, quality, and how well-maintained the car is, not the type of rear door
The main reason for this, in my opinion, is that the type of rear door is more of a nice to have, than a strict requirement, if you are planning to use the car for everyday life and some camping too.
If you are buying the car as your camping car only, and have a different car for daily use, this might change – although you still want a well-maintained car for camping too, you might have a preference for a certain type of rear door, depending on your camping habits or plans.
See the individual reasons people have listed as their reason for preferring a tailgate or a barn door – and decide which fit you more.
Real-life feedback from campers – benefits of both, a tailgate and barn doors, when camping
Barn door benefits
- you can hang things on them, put shelves on them, fold-away tables etc
- you can open them from inside easier (Berlingo)
- you can open just one
- wind cover from the sides
- you can throw a tarp over them for rain cover
- less room required to open them (behind the car)
- more privacy when open
- you won’t smack your head into them… 😄
- easier to let a bit of air inside during the night (only when it doesn’t rain)
- you can mount a spare tire onto the back of barn door
- you can load stuff onto the roof by standing in the boot
- rain cover (good for when you need to change your shoes, clothing or dry your dog before you get into the car, for cooking during rain etc.)
- sun shield (shade)
- can hang a curtain from it (additional living room, privacy)
- can hang a shower from it (even build it in)
- some have a window that opens (Berlingo)
- no need to walk around it when open (as opposed to barn doors that don’t open 180 degrees)
- there are more tent/awning options for a tailgate (this is an individual observation, not a verified fact…)
- car tents fit better (closer to your car) with a tailgate
- better view through the wide tailgate window (no column in the middle)
- you can open it a bit even when it rains to let air in
- doesn’t get in the way of pull-out drawers as some barn doors might
Some feedback was in support of both:
So there you go! So many benefits of both, you can’t really go wrong with either a tailgate or barn doors. Now you know how they can be used, think about how you will camp – will you stop at a place and do lots of cooking using a kitchen mounted to the car? Do you need to load anything onto the roof that is better accessed from the back? Are you planning to buy a car tent to extend your living room at the back? Do you need to mount a spare tire onto the rear door?
Once you figure out your way of camping and what gear will go where, you will know which door type is better for you.
But don’t worry – if you don’t know how you’ll camp just yet – just focus on getting a good car for camping using other criteria, like it’s boot length (or a good NimbleCamper rating), regardless of the door type. You will learn by using it and they know for your next car.
And still – choice-supportive bias is always there for you – you can never be wrong (in your own mind)! 😄
Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.