Best SUV Tent To Convert Your Car To A Camper

Love camping but prefer to stick close to your vehicle? The best SUV tents turn your car into your camping command center for easy access to gear, goodies, and extra sleeping space.
The Napier Sportz SUV tent : Our Best Choice Overall – Photo from manufacturer

Most people aren’t familiar with SUV tents, which is a shame because they’re a fun and convenient alternative to traditional camping systems. You’ve probably seen one version or another at some point like a rooftop tent, but as great as those are, they aren’t the only option.

That’s why we decided to put together a guide to the best SUV tents currently available. Below you’ll find all our favorite picks for a variety of SUV tent styles, as well as a detailed buyer’s guide on how to choose your next SUV tent.

After testing and analyzing dozens of options, we found that the Napier Sportz Family SUV tent is the best all-around option for most campers. Its versatile design works with just about any rear hatch vehicle from SUVs to station wagons and pickup campers, and is waterproof, durable, and fairly quick to setup.

The Napier won’t be everyone’s first pick though, especially depending on the type of vehicle you’re camping in. The best solution differs between larger and smaller vehicles, and can also depend on each vehicle’s existing equipment (like roof racks, awnings, etc.).

Ready to explore the wide world of SUV tents? Let’s get started.

TentBenefits
Napier Family Sportz SUV Tent: Best SUV Tent OverallA highly versatile SUV tent that attaches to any vehicle with a rear hatch. Fun and affordable with added convenience features like a screen room to further sweeten the deal. See Review
Smittybilt Overlander Tent: Highest QualityFantastic rooftop tent option at a price that can’t be beaten. Highly durable materials, a comfortable foam mattress, and fantastic weatherproofing make an excellent all-around package. See Review
Napier Sportz Dome-To-Go: Best On A BudgetHatchback style SUV tent that won’t break the bank. A classic dome tent with tons of floor space and standup height ceilings that works great with or without your vehicle. See Review
Roadie SUV Window Tent: Best SUV tent alternativeA simple solution to SUV camping that converts existing vehicle windows into breathable waterproof mesh for solid ventilation. Incredibly inexpensive and easy to install if you’ve got a large enough vehicle to sleep inside of. See Review
ARB Awning Room Deluxe: Best SUV awning tentA unique take on the SUV tent that uses an existing vehicle awning for a frame. High quality materials and a simplified setup at a great price for anyone already planning to use a sun awning on their vehicle. See Review

Napier Family Sportz SUV Tent: Best SUV Tent Overall

Specs:
Weight: 50.6 lbs (22.7 kg)
Packed size: 32” x 15” x 15” (81cm x 38cm x 38cm)
Floor size: 120” x 120” (305cm x 305cm)
Peak height: 87” (221cm)
Rooms: 2
Shape: Extended dome
Seasons: Three seasons
Type of tent: Hatchback tent
Occupancy: 6 person
Best for: Three-season car camping
Price: $$

Taking our top pick as the best SUV tent overall is the Napier Family Sports SUV Tent. We love this tent for its outright versatility, spacious floor plan, added convenience features, and excellent price point.

We say the Napier Family Sports is versatile because it utilizes a hatchback design rather than relying on a roof rack or awning system like some of the other models on our list. This design requires zero modification to your vehicle, and works with just about any vehicle with a hatchback or similar rear opening. That means most SUVs and station wagons can take advantage of the Napier’s universal hatch port, but trucks with camper shell setups can use it to expand their footprint and waterproof storage space as well.

At ten feet square, the floorplan of this tent is more than generous, especially when considering the Napier is over seven feet tall at its peak. That means you’ve got the convenience of stand-up height ceilings throughout the main body, which are ideal for setting up camp, changing clothes, or getting in and out of your rear hatch.

In addition to the main cabin, we also love this tent’s standalone screen room and extended sun awning. The screen room is large enough to park a few camp chairs and a cooler for bug-free afternoon hangouts, while the awning provides a nice shady spot in the sun or some extra shelter from the rain when entering/exiting the tent in poor weather.

As much as we like this tent, it isn’t perfect, so we’ll note a few of its shortcomings here: First, Napier designed the tent’s added screen room to extend out on the driver’s side of the vehicle, which is opposite from the layouts of many developed campgrounds. This isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch, especially if you prefer boondocking or backcountry camping to dedicated camp spots, but you might have a tough time finding a spot with enough space to fully extend the extra room in certain campgrounds. Our second gripe is the rear hatch port itself. Some campers swear this connection is as watertight as they come, while others say it’s prone to leaking water into the body of the tent. You should be fine as long as you take your time setting it up properly, but considering the fact the Napier Family Sportz can also be used as a standalone tent without utilizing your vehicle’s hatchback in a pinch, this is also a minor complaint.

Pros:Cons:
– Hatch port design works with wide variety of vehicles
– Screen room and sun awning at a great price
– Also functions as a freestanding tent
– Driver’s side screen room won’t work for some campsites
– No floor in screen room
– Getting vehicle port watertight requires skill



Smittybilt Overlander Tent: Highest Overall Quality

Specs:
Weight: 48 lbs (21.8 kg)
Packed size: 56” x 48” x 12” (142cm x 122cm x 31cm)
Floor size: 96” x 56” (244cm x 142cm)
Peak height: 51” (130cm)
Rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Seasons: Three
Type of tent: Roof top
Occupancy: 3
Best for: Three season camping for two
Price: $$$

Rooftop tents can get expensive. Especially the nicer, more reliable ones from brands you can trust. That’s why we love the Smittybilt Overlander: It’s got everything you want in a great rooftop tent, but costs about half as much (or even a third in some cases) as what you’d spend on a Roofnest or iKamper tent. Don’t get us wrong, the Smittybilt Overlander is still by far the most expensive tent on this list, but that comes naturally with the territory of roof top tents.

This was an easy pick for our highest quality SUV tent. Smittybilt has made a name for themselves by providing highly durable overlanding goods at budget prices like hand-welded off-road bumpers and tube-steel roof racks, and their rooftop tent is just as well made as we’ve come to expect.

The tent canopy is made from a durable 420D polyester, while the rainfly gets an even burlier 600D polyurethane infused fabric. The tent floor is made from solid aluminum (one of the perks of roof top tents over conventional designs), so there should be no durability concerns there either. Poles are made from a combination of aluminum and spring steel (to keep tension on the pop-outs), and all zippers, straps, and tie-downs look about as tough as they come.

As far as weatherproofing goes, that 600D polyurethane rainfly we just mentioned is absolutely bomb-proof, while the canopy’s attached window awnings do a solid job of keeping rain out with the windows open in all but the wildest storms (you can always close them entirely if things really get hairy). Comfort is also top notch, thanks to the Overlander’s included high-density foam mattress.

Our main complaints with this Smittybilt tent are that it (a) requires a roof rack (or bed rack) on top of your vehicle to use, and (b) still costs a good bit more than any other tent on our list. There’s just nothing quite like the convenience of having what is basically an instant tent on the roof of your vehicle though, so if you’re willing to spend the money this tent will absolutely change the way you camp forever.

Pros:Cons:
– Extremely durable materials
– Top notch weatherproofing
– Comfortable mattress included
– Costs way less than most rooftop tents
– Requires a proper roof rack
– Well priced, but still expensive
– Velcro cover is a little tricky to get back on



Napier Sportz Dome-To-Go Tent – Best SUV Tent On A Budget

Specs:
Weight: 30 lbs (13.6 kg)
Packed size: 28” x 10” x 10” (71cm x 25cm x 25cm)
Floor size: 102” x 102” (259cm x 259cm)
Peak height: 78” (198cm)
Rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Seasons: Three season
Type of tent: Hatchback
Occupancy: 4
Best for: Three season car camping
Price: $

If you like the hatchback style system of our top pick but want something less expensive, check out the Napier Sportz Dome-To-Go. It’s made by the same company and features many of the same features, but comes at a considerable discount for folks who don’t need all the extra bells and whistles.

You’ll still get the same waterproof hatch-port that directly connects your vehicle with your tent, and a full length (6’ x 6’) expandable awning for a shady spot outside the front door. The tent structure itself is the main difference, as the Dome-To-Go uses a classic dome design with fiberglass poles and sleeves rather than the cabin-style construction of the Sportz SUV tent above with its hubs and vertical walls.

Whether you hook it up to your vehicle or not, the Dome-To-Go checks all the boxes we like in a big dome tent like double doors, a spacious floor plan, and a 6.5-foot ceiling height that allows even the tallest campers to stretch out with impunity.

Drawbacks are few, however this tent is designed for small to mid-sized SUVs/crossovers/hatchbacks, so owners of full-sized SUVs or pickup truck campers will likely need to stick to the Family Sportz SUV tent above. Aside from that a few owners have reported that the tent sleeves are prone to ripping if you attempt to force the poles through. Shouldn’t be an issue so long as you use a little finesse during setup. All things considered, these are minor complaints for a tent that’s fairly priced and feature-rich even before considering the car-compatible bonus.

Pros:Cons:
– Hatchback tent versatility
– Functions as a spacious stand-alone tent when needed
– Great price
– Pole sleeves require finesse
– Limited to hatchbacks and small to mid-sized SUVs and crossovers



Roadie Overnighter SUV Window Tent

Specs:
Weight: 1 lbs (.5 kg)
Packed size: 10” x 10” x 4” (25cm x 25cm x 10cm)
Floor size: N/A
Peak height: N/A
Rooms: N/A
Shape: N/A
Seasons: Three to four
Type of tent: Window tent
Occupancy: N/A
Best for: Car camping in larger vehicles
Price: $

Ok, this next one will be a little controversial (because it isn’t a tent), but it 100% belongs on this list. If you’ve never seen a Roadie “window tent” before, feast your eyes on this bad boy.

Essentially what the Roadie Overnighter does is convert your vehicle itself into a tent by transforming one (or more) of your vehicle’s doors into a tent-style window with bug-proof mesh and a waterproof/breathable opening/closure. This allows you the comfort of keeping a window open throughout the night without any unwelcome bugs or critters getting into your vehicle (probably wouldn’t trust it against bears though, fyi).

If you’ve got enough room inside your vehicle to stretch out (larger SUVs, vans, and station wagons with fold-down seats are ideal), there’s no cheaper way to start vehicle camping comfortably for less money. In fact we highly recommend purchasing two Roadies and using one on either side of your vehicle to promote cross-ventilation. Even if you put one on every window of your vehicle, you’re still spending way less than you would on a dedicated SUV tent, so why not go crazy?

Pros:Cons:
– Easiest option to setup
– Least expensive option
– Super light and compact
– Limited to space inside vehicle unless using secondary SUV tent
– Two Roadies are needed for optimal airflow



ARB Awning Room Deluxe 

Specs:
Weight: 17.6  lbs (8 kg)
Packed size: 23” x 11” x 11” (58cm x 28cm x 28cm)
Floor size: 79” x 98”) (200cm x 250cm)
Peak height: Depends on vehicle
Rooms: 1
Shape: Square
Seasons: Three seasons
Type of tent: Awning tent
Occupancy: 3
Best for: Three season car camping
Price: $$

ARB is another one of those companies that just makes good stuff. They’ve been making bombproof accessories for off-road vehicles like bumpers, locking differentials, and recovery equipment for decades, and they remain one of the most respected names in aftermarket accessories on the market today.

One of those accessories happens to be rooftop awnings, which have been exploding in popularity lately as an easy way to make some shade for occasional car campers and van-lifers alike. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to convert an awning into a proper outdoors shelter, and we’re glad ARB rose to the occasion.

That’s because the ARB Awning Room Deluxe is one of the fastest, easiest to set up SUV tent options out there, and it’s also surprisingly affordable to boot. Essentially the ARB Awning Room Deluxe converts the space underneath an existing awning into a four-walled room with a waterproof floor. We love that each of the four walls can be rolled up as needed for maximum ventilation, as can the secondary layers of bug mesh underneath when you just want an open sun shade.

Setting up the Awning Room is as easy as taking it out of its included nylon stuff sack, unfolding it, and then cliping the attached hooks onto the roof of your existing awning. No poles, no rainfly, no fuss. We also love that the ARB Awning Room includes its own waterproof ceiling, so your shelter’s wet weather performance isn’t limited by the quality of your existing awning.

A few potential pain points with the ARB tent that we’ll share: First, because the walls of the tent are completely vertical and hang more freely than your average tent, the Awning Room has a tendency to catch wind, even when properly staked out. It’s not going to fly away or anything but it does tend to get a little noisy when the wind really starts blowing. Our second concern with this tent is the roof: While completely waterproof, the roof’s flat-top nature has a tendency to allow water to pool up on top. How you choose to handle the issue is up to you. Some owners add a pole in the middle of the room to create a high point in the center of the tent, while others just drop one corner of the awning a few inches to create a sloping roof structure. Either way it’s a little more involved than your typical tent, but we find the convenience and added cool factor of such a unique design well worth the tradeoff.

Pros:Cons:
– Fast and easy setup uses existing awning frame
– Highly versatile with retractable walls and netting
– Solid floor space and standup height throughout
– Requires an awning system to use
– Needs some help shedding water from roof



Buyer’s Guide For The Best SUV Tent

Why Buy An SUV Tent?

If you’re planning on doing the vast majority of your camping in close proximity to your vehicle, an SUV tent transforms the existing space inside your SUV, pickup, crossover, or hatchback into a convenient extension of your tent for added storage or sleeping space.

Best SUV Tent - Buying-guide
The Napier Sportz from the inside – Photo from manufacturer

It’s a perfect solution for campers traveling with pets, children, or extra gear who stand to benefit from adding an extra room to their camping setup without significantly increasing their footprint. It also gives you the ability to easily camp anywhere you can drive your vehicle, so these tents are particularly attractive for cars, SUVs, and pickups with some added offroad capability like four-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Types Of SUV Tents

SUV tents typically come in two main varieties, which are hatchback tents and rooftop tents. Hatchback tents are the best option for campers who want direct (and waterproof) access to the inside of their vehicles from their tents, while rooftop options are generally quicker and easier to pitch and take down, but don’t connect directly to the interior of the vehicle.

Best SUV Tent - Type of tents
An example of set-up combining rooftop tent AND awning tent – Photo by Kyle Brumm

You’ll also see a few other unique designs out there like awning tents, which can be set up with direct access to the vehicle in good weather only, or “window tents” which convert the actual vehicle itself into a tent-style shelter.

Seasonality And Weatherproofing

Generally speaking, all SUV tents are three season tents. If you’re considering taking an SUV camping in the winter months, you’ll likely need to consider a standalone winter tent or some serious winter gear to keep you safe below freezing.

Spring through fall, however, your main concerns are rain and wind. All the usual rules apply (check out our guide to three season camping for more details), with the added consideration of the tent’s attachment to your car or SUV where applicable.

Because the hatch designs on vehicles vary, not all vehicles work with a hatchback-style SUV tent. Vehicles with longer hatches that extend beyond the rear wheel wells (the Chevrolet Volt, for instance) typically struggle to form a reliable seal against the rain. Consider the primary vehicle you’ll be using the tent with, and if possible verify that it is compatible with your specific year model before purchasing.

Durability And Materials

Good SUV tents use the same durable materials as the best camping tents, and we recommend you evaluate them in the same manner.

For tent fabrics, you typically want a thick and rugged synthetic material like polyester or nylon. Thickness is expressed in a measurement called “denier” which is noted as a number followed by a “D” (400D polyester, for instance), and the higher the number the more durable the fabric (so 400D fabric is stronger than 300D fabric, all other things equal).

Best SUV Tent - Durability
The Napier Sportz SUV Tent has fiber glass (yet highly durable) poles – Photo from manufacturer

The best SUV tent poles are made from metal, typically either from lightweight aluminum or heavier steel on some budget models. You’ll also see a fair amount of fiberglass tent poles on less expensive designs, which are less resilient than metal poles, but help keep costs low.

Fiberglass poles aren’t a total deal breaker, but they’re more prone to snapping in high-wind situations, and don’t typically last as long as either of the metal options above. If you do choose a tent with fiberglass poles, just know that heavier/wider diameter poles tend to last longer than the thin and lightweight varieties you’ll see on most inexpensive department store tents.

Ease Of Set-Up

When it comes to SUV tents, the rooftop tent is the king of easy setup. These tents typically require little more than opening and unfolding, plus clicking a few spring steel poles into place to set up the exterior awnings.

Hatchback-style tents tend to be the most labor intensive because their setup includes securing the hatch port to the vehicle. Attaching the port to the vehicle isn’t particularly difficult, but requires extra care to ensure the seal is sufficient to keep water from making its way into the tent or vehicle itself. Most hatch-style tents have the option of removing the hatch accessory all together and just using the tent as a stand-alone shelter, which is great when you don’t feel like fumbling with the vehicle attachment or don’t have enough space for it in your campsite.

Conclusion

For the reasons above, we found the Napier Sportz Family SUV tent to be the best SUV tent overall. The versatility of its convertible hatchback design combined with its convenience features and fantastic pricepoint make it a truly standout product for car campers who aren’t ready to spend rooftop tent money just yet.

Best SUV Tent - Conclusion
The Smittybilt Overlander: Our Highest Quality Pick – Photo from Stefan Widua

Of course if/when you do decide to step up to the rooftop tent experience, our favorite option by far is the Smittybilt Overlander. There’s just no better combination of durability, comfort, and all-weather performance on the market at this price point.

And, if you’re working on a budget or just want to keep things simple, we think the Napier Sports Dome-To-Go checks all the most important boxes for an SUV tent without adding any extra expense for added convenience features. Of course if you’ve got the space inside your vehicle (occasional van campers, we’re looking at you), you can always just pick yourself up a Roadie Window Tent for next to nothing and save some extra gas money for your next cross country epic.

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