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Best Car Camping Tents: Indoor Comfort in the Great Outdoors

Create your comfortable home away from home with a car camping tent.

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BYAndra DelMonico/ LAST UPDATED ON July 15, 2022

My version of camping involves either a boat anchored at a sandbar or car camping tents hooked to a vehicle at a drive-up beach. You don’t have to live in Florida and go to the beach to use a car camping tent, though. These convenient tents are perfect for those who love camping but don’t necessarily want to rough it. They are easier to transport, set up, and take down. All it takes is waking up one morning and enjoying the elevated view, and you’ll understand why these tents are so popular. Plus, you never have to deal with rocks and sticks jamming you in the back as you lie in your sleeping bag, so no more crappy night’s sleep.  


Embrace an easier way of camping with one of these car camping tents that will keep you comfortable.

Best Overall

Thule x Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3

Summary
Have all of the features you could want with this rugged rooftop tent.
Pros
  • Insulated fiberglass base 
  • High-density foam mattress
Cons
  • Large gaps 
  • Very firm mattress
Best Value

Napier Backroadz 19 Series Truck Tent

Summary
This budget tent is perfect for turning your truck bed into your campsite.
Pros
  • Color-coded poles and sleeve system
  • Oversized entrance door
Cons
  • Only works with a truck bed
  • Can feel awkward to get in and out of
Honorable Mention

Yakima Skyrise Rooftop Tent

Summary
This spacious three-person tent has a rugged rainfly and an easy installation system.
Pros
  • Included foam mattress
  • Tool-free vehicle mounts
Cons
  • Lacks breathability 
  • Lacks internal organization and storage
Best Car Camping Tents: Indoor Comfort in the Great Outdoors

Summary List 

Best for Families: Napier Sportz SUV Tent 

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

Reliability is paramount when you’re camping. You can’t risk having your gear break or fail while you’re far from civilization. That’s why The Drive takes creating these lists seriously. The first step was focusing on brands with a reputation for quality and a history of reliability. No risking your safety with a cheap imported knockoff. From there, it was important to consider a variety of styles because not all designs work with all vehicles. Finally, the best of the best were identified by comparing the quality of the materials, construction, and features. An included mattress, internal storage pockets, and mosquito mesh helped specific tents stand out. 

Best Car Camping Tents Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Material: 260g polyester cotton, 600D ripstop fabric
  • Capacity: Three-person
  • Season: Four-season

Pros

  • High-density foam mattress
  • Telescoping ladder
  • Four mesh side panels, two roof mesh panels
  • Insulated fiberglass base

Cons

  • Large gaps
  • Very firm mattress

This convenient tent has the best of everything. Its rugged construction and four-season design make it perfect for any adventure you could plan. What I love about this particular tent is that you can completely close up the rainfly. This is crucial for staying warm in the colder months. If you want more ventilation, open the rainfly, and you have awnings that create shade and allow for ventilation. A unique feature of this tent is the insulated fiberglass base, making the tent lighter and insulating the tent.

My only complaint is that the mattress is very firm, making it uncomfortable for most people. So while it’s supposed to save you money not having to buy an additional mattress, this isn’t the case for most people. There are also large gaps in the design if you don’t get the setup just right. These gaps allow rain, bugs, and dirt into your tent.

Specs

  • Material: 68D polyester taffeta and polyethylene
  • Capacity: Two-person
  • Season: Three-season

Pros

  • Color-coded poles and sleeve system
  • Oversized entrance door
  • Two mesh windows
  • Gear loft, pocket, and lantern holder

Cons

  • Only works with a truck bed
  • Potential paint damage

If you don’t have the budget to spend thousands on a rooftop tent and drive a truck, then this budget tent is a perfect alternative. It comes in various sizes to fit perfectly into your truck bed. This tent is ideal for even the casual camper, with color-coded poles making assembly fast and simple. The large door sits at your tailgate to make getting in and out easier. As someone who’s tall, I appreciate the tall roof design, making it comfortable to sit and move around inside. A standout feature is a full floor, which not all truck bed tents have. It keeps you clean and dry while camping.

One thing I don’t like about the tent is that it has straps that wrap around the outside of the bed to secure the tent to the truck. The rubbing of these straps on your paint can cause micro scratches that damage your clear coat. To prevent this, I’d add a protective layer between your truck and the straps.

Specs

  • Material: 210D nylon fabric with PU-coated
  • Capacity: Three-person
  • Season: Three-season

Pros

  • Included foam mattress
  • Ventilated mesh windows
  • Folds up to a low-profile size
  • Tool-free vehicle mounts

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Lacks internal organization and storage

Having a tent on top of your vehicle will increase drag and reduce your fuel economy; there’s no getting around it. However, I like this tent because it packs down compactly, reducing drag as much as possible. The tool-free mounting system is also nice, making it easier for people to install. While it’s a three-person tent, it’s perfect for two because you’ll have extra space to move around. There are plenty of vents and skylights, so you’ll enjoy breathability and a great view. If the weather gets bad, a rugged rainfly will give you plenty of protection, thanks to the generous overhang design.

One thing that I don’t like is that the mesh is dense, reducing the amount of airflow. The rainfly also significantly reduces ventilation. It would also be nice to have some internal pockets or organizational features.

Specs

  • Material: 100% polyester, 70D 185T polyurethane coated
  • Capacity: Two-person
  • Season: Two-season

Pros

  • Offset for climate neutrality
  • Mosquito protection
  • Packs down small
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • No U.S. dealers means a lack of local suppor
  • Lacks features

Finding genuinely eco-friendly and sustainable camping gear, especially tents, can be challenging. That’s what makes this tent stand out. Not only did Vaude think about the planet, but they also thought about usability. The increased height of the tent makes it nice for those of us who are taller and get tired of crouching. Another nice feature is the canopy design, where it’s one continuous piece of material from the tent to the vehicle attachment. This reduces leaks and gaps where bugs can get in. Finally, if you live in a place where mosquitoes are an issue, you’ll love that the mesh is mosquito fine, so no more smacking yourself to sleep as they treat themselves to a camper buffet.

My only complaint is that you have to order it with international shipping, which defeats the purpose of specifically looking for a sustainable tent. Also, the fact that the company hasn’t made it to the U.S. yet means you’ll have a lack of customer support should you need it.

Specs

  • Material: 420D polyester oxford, PU coating, 600D ripstop polyester-cotton
  • Capacity: Two-person
  • Season: Four-season

Pros

  • Large internal pockets
  • Mesh panels
  • Includes a high-density foam mattress
  • Tent fabric treated to be both UV- and mold-resistant

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Uncomfortable mattress

This rooftop tent stands out simply because it’s a beautiful blue color. However, you shouldn’t buy it because it’s a pretty color. Instead, consider that it’s only 100 pounds and compact, making it ideal for smaller vehicles. The durability of this tent is impressive, thanks to the fabric having both UV and mold-resistant treatments. It also comes with a high-density foam mattress, giving you more cushion for more comfort. If you live somewhere hot like me, the large mesh panels on all sides are a lifesaver. Thule even thought of small conveniences, like four internal storage pockets.

So let’s be real. It says that this tent is big enough for two people, but like most two-person tents, you better be real friendly with the other person. There are also a lot of mesh panels on all sides of this tent, so while it comes with coated cotton-poly walls and canopy, I wouldn’t trust this tent in freezing temperatures.

Specs

  • Material: 280g ripstop polyester, cotton, 600D diamond ripstop nylon, and heavy-duty PVC
  • Capacity: Four-person
  • Season: Three-season

Pros

  • High-density foam mattress pad
  • Water-, UV-, and mold-resistant
  • Two clear vinyl sunroof windows
  • Low profile packed design

Cons

  • Very large and bulky when set up
  • Can expose you to harmful chemicals

If you like camping but also like luxury, then this extra-large car tent is the five-star experience that you’re looking for. It comes with a rooftop tent and annex for privacy and multiple rooms. The tent is large enough for four people and comes with a high-density foam mattress pad for increased comfort. I love that there are ventilation windows throughout. However, the standout feature is the two clear vinyl sunroof windows, so you don’t sacrifice visibility or natural light when you add the rainfly. The annex also has a unique design, with the oversized door placed on the outside panel and not directly next to the vehicle, making it easier to move in and out of the tent when you have a campsite.

Unfortunately, the extra-large size of the tent also means it’s heavy, with a packed weight of 160 pounds. The tent also takes up a lot of space once set up, so you’ll need to account for this when choosing your camping spot. The materials used to make the tent can expose you to potentially harmful chemicals.

Specs

  • Material: 280g ripstop polyester, cotton, 600D diamond ripstop nylon, and heavy-duty PVC
  • Capacity: Four-person
  • Season: Three-season

Pros

  • High-density foam mattress pad
  • Water-, UV-, and mold-resistant
  • Two clear vinyl sunroof windows
  • Low profile packed design

Cons

  • Very large and bulky when set up
  • Can expose you to harmful chemicals

If you like camping but also like luxury, then this extra-large car tent is the five-star experience that you’re looking for. It comes with a rooftop tent and annex for privacy and multiple rooms. The tent is large enough for four people and comes with a high-density foam mattress pad for increased comfort. I love that there are ventilation windows throughout. However, the standout feature is the two clear vinyl sunroof windows, so you don’t sacrifice visibility or natural light when you add the rainfly. The annex also has a unique design, with the oversized door placed on the outside panel and not directly next to the vehicle, making it easier to move in and out of the tent when you have a campsite.

Unfortunately, the extra-large size of the tent also means it’s heavy, with a packed weight of 160 pounds. The tent also takes up a lot of space once set up, so you’ll need to account for this when choosing your camping spot. The materials used to make the tent can expose you to potentially harmful chemicals.

Best Eco Pick, Most Sustainable

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could buy and use environmentally friendly products while you’re out communing with nature? Finding an eco-friendly or sustainable tent is a bit of a challenge, and you’ll want to consider buying internationally. While the North Face does make an effort to take environmentally friendly steps, their UK site is much better at explaining which products qualify over the U.S. site. While they have made steps, they are more at the starting phase of sustainability, which applies more to their gear than the tents. Another lesser-known American brand is Nemo Equipment. The company boasts a commitment to positively impacting people and the environment. If you are willing to purchase from an international brand, Bergans of Norway and Vaude have reputations for taking sustainability seriously.

Our Verdict

My top pick for the best car tent is the Thule x Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3. It’s a well-known, trusted brand with a history of quality. This tent has an adjustable rainfly, an included mattress, mesh panels, and internal pockets. This gives you usability and comfort. 

For a more affordable alternative, the Napier Backroadz 19 Series Truck Tent is ideal for those who occasionally go camping. While you’ll need a truck to use it, the affordable price makes it perfect for those on a tight budget.

Consider Secondhand

When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools, or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service, all while saving you money. 

If those options don’t have what you need, your local salvage yard is great for car parts, while swap meets are a great resource you should tap. Just Google either and head on down.  

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips to finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner. 

  • Check the stress points on the tent for signs of wear and tear. 
  • Test the poles as the cabling can break down with use and lose elasticity. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Car Camping Tents

Vehicle Compatibility 

Rooftop tents are cool, but they only work if you have a vehicle strong enough to support the weight of the tent combined with the weight of you sleeping in it. People think because vehicles are made of metal, that they can support a ton of weight. While this is partially true, there are limits. Rooftop tents can weigh 80 to 200 pounds. Combine that with your weight, and there are several hundred pounds of dead weight just sitting on top of your vehicle. Look up the static weight capacity of your roof rack and vehicle. Alternatively, there are tents with an open side that really only work well with vans, despite people trying to use them with SUVs or Jeeps. A third style is a tent that’s essentially freestanding but has a tunnel that connects to the back of the vehicle. These are more forgiving with broader vehicle compatibility, but also less like car camping and more just a tent with an extra flap. 

Hardshell or Softshell 

There are two basic types of roof tents: hardshell and softshell. Hardshell is more durable and protective from inclement weather. They are also crazy fast to pop up. Their drawback is that they tend to lack ventilation, making them hot and stagnant. They also can feel more confining. Softshell is more common and can be much bigger. While they can take a bit longer to set up, you can get ones with annexes and awnings for more protected space. 

Awnings and Annexes

If all you need is a place to sleep, then you can keep things simple with a basic rooftop tent that’s just large enough to sleep in. However, if you want to make your camping trip feel more like home, consider buying a tent with an annex and/or awnings. If you’re familiar with camping, then you should already know what an awning is. It’s the extra fabric that creates a covered open space. An annex is like having two tents in one. In addition to the tent on the roof, the annex is an enclosed space underneath the tent and next to your vehicle. This gives you an additional sleeping space, changing room, or small kitchen. 

Car Camping Tents Pricing 

If your budget is small, you can find a used or basic car tent for under $1,000. However, if you’re looking for a large car tent, a hardshell tent, or one with extra features, expect to pay more than $1,000. Extra-large tents or ones that use innovative materials can easily cost $2,000 to $3,000. Hardshell tents are more expensive than softshell tents because you’re paying for the extra material used to make the shell. Rooftop tents are also more expensive than tents that sit on the ground next to the car because there is an additional framework required to mount the tent on the vehicle’s roof. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Is car camping safer than a tent?

A: There are several advantages to camping in your car versus a stand-alone tent. Your car is more secure than a tent, giving you an increased level of security. It’s also easier to make a fast getaway when your tent is attached to your vehicle. You are also limited to campsites that are less remote, which allows for easier access to emergency aid. 

Q: Are car camping tents warmer than regular tents?

A: Yes, car camping tents tend to be warmer than regular tents. Because they are set up to be attached to your vehicle, there is a natural wind blocker, which reduces the pull of warmth away from the tent. Being off the ground means the cold earth isn’t pulling heat away from the tent. Additionally, in some cases, the tent is smaller. The smaller space is easier to get and stay warm. 

Q: What are the best tents for family camping?

A: There is no best tent for families looking to go car camping. The best tent for your family is one that’s large enough to comfortably fit everyone and meant for the climate you are camping in. 

Q: Where do I recycle my car camping tent?

A: If your tent is in good condition and still usable, you can donate it to a local charity that can use it. Alternatively, you could repurpose the individual parts for your own use. For example, use the poles as plant stakes and sew the tent material into repair patches, stuff sacks, or reusable shopping bags. If the parts aren’t worth reusing, aluminum poles are recyclable. Unfortunately, fiberglass poles and nylon material with w

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