There’s nothing quite like driving up to a beautiful outdoor locale and setting up camp in an idyllic spot. Memorable excursions are filled with nights under the stars, roasting marshmallows over the fire, and enjoying nature with friends. One essential upgrade to this dreamy scenario? A good car camping tent.
How to choose a car camping tent
The beauty of car camping—when you set up next to or in your car versus hiking into a campsite— is you can bring more gear than you could for a backpacking trip, and not worry so much about weight or space (this will, of course, depend on your car’s size). Without those weight limitations, you can get gear that offers more comfort than your typical backpacking tent. With a car camping option, you can have enough floor space to stand up and walk around a couple of steps, mesh pockets on the walls for organization, room dividers, and plenty of room to store supplies.
If you have lots of gear or use large camping mats, Asia Bradford, founder of Black Girls Camp, recommends getting a tent made for roughly double the number of travelers. For example, if you’re camping luxuriously with five people, get a 10-person tent. Car camping with one other person? Opt for one made for three or four people You absolutely can make a two-person tent work for a duo, but it will likely be a bit cramped. Just know that the size rating for tents is a measurement for how many people can sleep inside, which means it could be a tight fit if you want space for anything else.
Car camping tents can range in price from under $100 to well over $2,000, depending on the size, quality, and luxury features. In beautiful dry weather, most tents will do the job for that one annual outing, but if you know you’ll be camping regularly or in the rain, it may be worth investing a little more in one that will be reliable for the long haul.
For a more detailed explanation of features and tent considerations, check out our full tent buying guide.
The best car camping tents
I’ve been an avid camper for almost a decade. My journeys have taken me to seven different states and internationally from Iceland to Spain, where I’ve spent plenty of intense rainy and snowy nights. I know all too well that if your tent leaks, breaks, or doesn’t set up right, it’s a massive buzzkill. At the same time, the right car camping tent can set you up to relax and enjoy the outdoors. So to help you find the right option for your next trip, we polled over a dozen camping experts for their picks. These were the nine tents that came out on top.