tailgate vs barn doors for camping - Tailgate or barn doors? A survey of 50 campers says...

Tailgate or barn doors? A survey of 50 campers says…


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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.

I have asked a simple question in two Facebook groups about small car campers (one German and one English with a mix of campers from around the world, but the group originated in the UK):

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.

The result:
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.

My findings:

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.

For example, if a person chooses option A instead of option B, they are likely to ignore or downplay the faults of option A while amplifying or ascribing new negative faults to option B. Conversely, they are also likely to notice and amplify the advantages of option A and not notice or de-emphasize those of option B.


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
I covered the top and entrance with a clear tarp, overfed the gaps between doors and body with material. This gave me a nice cooking area.
I have a tailgate now. Not as convenient as barn doors
Barn – they were on my van when I bought it 😉. On a serious note, I store and hang lots of things on them
I’drather barn doors. I’d make a tarp clip on cover and use it for cooking under.
I like barn doors can open them right up and look out the back, people don’t walk into them, they don’t drop on your head in the wind. You don’t need as much space to open just one. You can always throw a tarp over the top if you want a bit of shelter. I think I’d always go for barn doors.
Barn doors, as the larger space needed to open a tailgate is a slight issue for me, when I park in towns definitely
I had a vw touran with a tailgate that we camped in a few times and it was good for standing under but I missed the privacy of the doors either side backed up
Barn – had a tailgate and its a lot of space for wind to blow in! Having one barn door open means you can get some shelter from the closed one
Once you walk into to corner of the tailgate and smack ya head you will want barn doors 😄
I like the option of only having one side of the barn doors open.
Also, as far as I remember (it’s a while since we had tailgate) it needs more space between you and the vehicle behind when you’re loading and unloading. But the shelter it provided from rain was welcome.
I have barn doors and love them, I can still have a little tarp over them if needed but like the fact that I can just have one open, or only a little bit open if it is wet or windy.
If you’re loading stuff the barn doors are a winner. (–because you can reverse closer to ramps, loading docks etc)
Rear mounted spare tyre… Can’t do that on a tailgate.
Barn doors are more practical for most applications and don’t have rams to fail at some point.
Have had both, preferred the barn for extra storage on doors. Also a quick change room with a simple curtain across. We used to run tarp off back for shelter, worked well.
I had barn doors which are great for privacy in the morning if you want to open the doors on a hot day
Barn door. You can put shelves on them or a TV maybe a fold down table. You can open one or two. You can reverse against a hedge and still open them. I open mine and put a fishing umbrella up between the two as a canopy in sun or rain.
I prefer barn doors! When opened, they offer great privacy and are easier to open from the inside (Berlingo)!
Barn doors have only one advantage for me and that is in everyday life because they do not have such a large opening angle
The Kangoo with barn doors was more practical than the Cherokee with a tailgate.
A tarp replaces the rear tent for doors.
If I had a choice, I would choose barn doors. Stay on the roof Flexible for a roof tent or similar. Quickly throw a tarpaulin over doors and protect against rain/wind from 3 sides! The tailgate is only used as rain protection when there is no wind.
Barn doors because it turned out that way / Caddy Maxi was available. But I’m actually quite happy with the doors and throwing a tarp over them quickly and attaching them with magnets also works for rain/sun protection
At that time I decided directly for barn doors because the plan was to get onto the roof like a kayak and there I would have problems with the rear flap.
I think the rear with barn doors looks nicer 🙂

Tailgate benefits


  • 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
I love my tailgate. I can stand underneath it when it rains.
Tailgate for me as i can use it as cover to stand etc under and wouldn’t have the second boot opening (–this is probably the Berlingo tailgate window )
Tailgate on mine and now considering putting a shower there. Plumb it through the tailgate and make it so the shower head folds away then shower curtain around the frame. Haven’t worked it all out yet but think it would work 🤔
Tailgate for weather protection and less walking to the side doors, I used landrover for years it was a right pain having to walk round the door to the drivers side
100% Tailgate – a great place to sit out of the rain
Tailgate every time, better than.any.umbrella! Also gives a nice secluded place to perch.underneath!
Tailgate, rain proof and also can use magnets to hang material for privacy
there are more awning options with tailgate.
Want a good view through the glass at the back… Tailgate pegs it.
Want to sit on the back of your van, with a little bit of shelter from the sun/rain… Tailgate
Tailgates are better for visibility.
A tailgate is more useful for wet weather cooking or perching out the back. If you’re having your kitchen in the back definitely tailgate, if your bed is at the back maybe barn doors would suit it better
I have a tailgate which is an advantage when it rains a little. So I could still cook in the “dry”.
And yes, it doesn’t rain in that easily, as long as the rain doesn’t come from the side.
But in the end, I just wanted a reasonably good used one and if it had barn doors, I would have taken it anyway.
I actually wanted barn doors, I’ve already thought of a great tent for it with rain deflectors, then everything turned out differently and the car had a tailgate…after I tinkered around a lot in the snow, I find the flap really practical, you have a canopy like that , at least with my 1.68 …. a tent for that I’ve just changed my mind
Tailgate! Offers a small roof. When opened, it does not stand in the way of a rear tent like doors do. The car is generally higher than one with doors. I can leave the flap open for ventilation, e.g. 5 cm across the entire width. This is not so great with doors. when it rains it rains in.
Tailgate as a tunnel to the rear tent
Always tailgate. If I come to the car with a wet dog, open the tailgate and let the dog dry myself and then get in the car. When it rains a lot, ventilate via the tailgate and everything stays dry. Can’t find any shade in the sweltering heat? Yes, under my tailgate etc etc
We have a barn door and I’d like to swap it for a tailgate – because it creates a way to pull out rear drawers when it’s dry and e.g. cook in there when it’s raining. In addition, it does not always rain on the bed.
I had doors before and now I have the flap and I don’t want to be without it anymore!
If you want to use your vehicle regularly for camping, I would personally recommend a tailgate (rain cover for short drizzles, a good option for a rear tent, etc.). However, last year I had the impression that e.g. small vans with a tailgate are more difficult to close get. Presumably, because they are often used as craftsmen’s vehicles and gullwing doors are probably more practical in this industry.

Some feedback was in support of both:

Both have their uses. Just look for a good deal on a decent running van. You can do it up a bit at a time.
In good weather barn doors in bad weather a tailgate
Wish they’d make something with back doors that can open either way🤣
As I see it, the advantage of a tail gate is a much more stable way of erecting a tarp plus a bit of protection in the rain when you can’t put a tarp up. Barn doors offer more protection and, when fully opened 180° you get a better view plus the option of only opening half or even just a bit to access the back if you’re loaded up on the way somewhere. I’m torn🤷
At first I tended towards the tailgate because of the rear tent, but there are now a large number of variable rear tents, which can be used with barn doors as well as with a tailgate and sometimes even on the side! Then it also depends on the design of the vehicle – is the tailgate straight when it is open, or inclined upwards? We had an Opel Combo with a matching rear tent. Since this was placed directly over the open tailgate, it did not have its own linkage, so it had to be dismantled for the journey and stowed in the car. After that we had a Citroën Berlingo with doors, so we couldn’t get the tent on. Next came a Dacia Lodgy, to which the rear tent did not fit, despite the tailgate, because the tailgate was slanted upwards. So we sold the rear tent, bought a new rear tent – our choice: the Trinity from Obelink! Free-standing and theoretically it would have fit on all three vehicle types…
I’ve got a vw camper with a tailgate and a berlingo with barn doors. I honestly can’t decide which is better. They just both have plus points. I would say buy the van for the mpg, internal space, headroom and price and if you get a good deal, you’ll like whatever doors it has
Since I’ve had the flap for 10 years, I tend to prefer the barn doors

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)! 😄

Post author:


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.

Check out my thoughts on a balanced life: sensimism.com

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