There is nothing like escaping the hustle and bustle of the big city and hitting the road for an adventure. While some road trippers prefer the luxury of an RV with all the creature comforts of home on four wheels, some people prefer the simplicity of a tent and sleeping under the stars, in traditional camping style.
However, when camping, over-landing, or even overnighting in a highway rest area, comfort and protection from the elements are not your only concern – you need to think about safety too. This is where an SUV tent is ideal.
Offering the same simplicity as regular tent camping where you are sleeping beneath the stars, an SUV tent offers an extra level of safety that is set up on the roof of your vehicle or attached to it. This not only protects you from the elements and curious creatures at night but allows you to hit the road quickly in case of an emergency.
Having your vehicle close by also provides certain comforts such as battery power for charging devices, extra light if needed, additional storage space, and extra protection in storms and inclement weather.
An SUV tent offers an extra level of safety that is set up on the roof of your vehicle. Tent on the roof by Bill Nicholls / WikiCommons / CC BY-SA 2.0
What is an SUV Tent?
An SUV tent is a camping tent that can be attached to the back of your SUV or truck, providing a combined dwelling space between the vehicle and the tent. Some can also serve as stand-alone tents if desired. SUV tents can also be set up on the roof of the vehicle to provide a separate living and sleeping space from the vehicle.
Typically, SUV tents that are attached to the back of the vehicle have a large opening that is secured to the back of the SUV and a second entrance that leads directly outside. A rooftop tent mounts directly to your car’s roof crossbars, allowing you to camp anywhere without having to find a suitable piece of ground on which to pitch the tent. Most rooftop tents are solidly built with tough durable fabric and come with a foam mattress for added comfort.
A rooftop tent mounts directly to your car’s roof crossbars. Tent on the car roof mounted on a roof rack by W. Bulach / WikiCommons / CC BY-SA 4.0
What Are the Benefits of Using a Vehicle Tent?
So, you are thinking about getting an SUV tent for your next road trip – let’s take a look at the benefits of these types of tents.
Firstly, you have the choice of sleeping on the ground or above the ground on the roof of your vehicle. This gives you more options of places to set up camp – when there isn’t a suitable piece of ground on which to set the tent up, you always have the option of sleeping above the SUV.
If you are using a tent that attaches to the back of the SUV, you have access to anything in your vehicle without having to leave the tent. A rooftop tent provides you with beautiful views and safety from curious nocturnal animals if you are camping in the wild, and this type of tent requires very little space except the footprint of your vehicle. The hatch of a rooftop tent can also be left open at night for clear airflow, providing there are no mosquitoes around.
Rooftop tent with a ladder by W. Bulach / WikiCommons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Best SUV Tents
We hit the open road with a range of SUV tents to try and test and we’ve gathered a few of our top picks for SUV tents.
Napier Backroadz SUV Tent
The Napier Backroadz SUV Tent is a spacious 10-foot and 10-foot tent that attaches to the back of your vehicle and provides enough living and sleeping space for up to five adults. Boasting a ceiling height of seven-foot, the tent is secured to the ground by two shock-corded ﬁberglass tent poles which also make it very easy to set up.
The tent features a watertight, universal vehicle sleeve that ﬁts all SUVs, CUVs, and minivans. The sleeve has one large opening for the door and three wide mesh windows which provide fresh air and views without allowing flying bugs and insects in.
The sleeve is fully waterproof and boasts taped seams and built-in storm flips in the windows and door for excellent protection against inclement weather. This also offers extra security and privacy when set up. It also has a connection to power outlets to keep your devices charged, a gear pocket, and a lantern holder.
- Seven-foot ceiling height
- Universal sleeve for all makes of SUVs, CUVs, and minivans
- Fully waterproof
- Connection for power outlets
- Gear pocket and lantern holder
Offroading Gear SUV Instant Popup Camping Tent
The Offroading Gear SUV Instant Popup Camping Tent is super easy to set up and can accommodate up to five adults in the tent with two extra in the vehicle. Offering nine by nine-foot of floor space, this spacious and roomy tent is great for relaxing during rainy weather.
The tent has innovative popup technology, which does not require poles for setting up and standing. The tent can be attached to the back of a minivan or an SUV or can be used as a standalone tent and simply pops up when opened.
Additional features Offroading Gear SUV Instant Popup Camping Tent include a large six-by-four awning for the door and a rainfly, making this an all-season tent.
- Innovative popup technology – no poles required
- Can accommodate up to five adults
- Large door awning and rainfly
Rightline Gear-110907 Universal Fit
The Rightline Gear-110907 Universal Fit is an ideal tent for a family of four. It can be attached to the back of a vehicle but can be used as a standalone tent as well. Boasting eight square feet of floor space and over seven feet of headroom, the tent is a comfortable little enclave in which to sleep or relax during rainy weather.
The tent attaches to any size SUV, CUV, minivan, wagon, or pick-up truck and can comfortably accommodate four sleeping adults, with an additional two sleeping in the vehicle. The tent is made from a water-resistant fabric with tape-sealed seams for protection against the elements.
- Can accommodate up to four adults
- Universal fit to a range of vehicle types
- Universal-Fit Car Tent: Camp without leaving all the luxuries of home behind; This tailgate tent features an adjustable vehicle sleeve that can be attached to the back of any size SUV with or without a roof rack
- Intuitive Features: This outdoor tent comes equipped with 2 gear pockets for small personal items, an overhead lantern hook, glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls, and a water-resistant PE bathtub floor — no ground tarp required
- Family Size: This large tent comfortably sleeps 4 adults, while the vehicle cargo area sleeps up to 2 adults, making this car camping tent the perfect family tent
- Quality Construction: Our water-resistant hatchback tent features tape-sealed seams and no-see-um mesh windows and doors with storm covers that can be closed for privacy or left open to allow in fresh air and light while keeping bugs out
- Simple Setup: This lightweight tent works with rear hatch and rear barn doors; Simply tie up the vehicle sleeve with the dowel and loop fasteners to disconnect from your vehicle and go
Patio Joy SUV Tailgate Tent
The Patio Joy SUV Tailgate Tent is a large tent that can be attached to the back of your vehicle or used as a stand-alone tent and can accommodate up to five people. Boasting a spacious interior with over 14 square feet of space and seven feet of headroom, this is a great option if you are traveling in a large group or plan on exploring an area with inclement weather and need to spend time “indoors.”
The tent has two separate entrances when standing alone and when attached to a vehicle offers direct Access to the inside of the truck or car. Extra features include a removable rainfly to allow for better airflow and protection against flying insects and the weather and an attached mud mat that helps keep the inside of the tent clean and dry.
A convenient entryway is a great place to remove and leave your shoes to keep the inside of the tent clean and dry. It also provides a shaded area to sit and enjoy the outdoors while being protected from the rain and sun.
- Large floor space
- Can accommodate up to five adults
- Covered entryway
- Removable rainfly
- Mud mat for keeping interior clean
Raptor Series 100000-126800 Offgrid Voyager Rooftop Tent
The Raptor Series 100000-126800 Offgrid Voyager Rooftop Tent is a premium rooftop tent that is secured to a roof rack and provides a comfortable space in which to sleep and relax above the ground. The tent requires a 140-pound roof rack and rests on parallel or crossbars and can accommodate a maximum weight capacity of 750 pounds.
The two-person tent is easy to set up and takedown and mounts easily onto standard roof rack systems. Built for all types of terrain, the tent is constructed from heavy-duty fabric that is water and weather-resistant and is aerodynamically engineered to withstand heavy winds.
The Raptor Series 100000-126800 Offgrid Voyager Rooftop Tent comes with a high-density 78 x 48-inch foam mattress.
- Premium quality tent
- Maximum 750-pound weight capacity
- Comes with a high-density foam mattress.
- Standard size tent (sleeps 2) with high-density 78 x 48in foam double/full mattress and 750 lb. max load
- Sets up and closes in seconds. Unique design eliminates need for additional setup. Heavy duty telescoping 8ft aluminum ladder
- Aerodynamically engineered to withstand heavy winds and shed rainwater.
- Heavy duty cover keeps the tent dry and protected when tent is stowed away
- 2 hanging shoe and storage pockets that roll up and store with ease.
Explorer 2 SUV and Minivan Tent
The Explorer 2 SUV and Minivan Tent is a great tent for budget-buyers. The tent attaches to the underframe of your vehicle with a bungee cord and plastic-coated hooks and provides good airflow through a large opening with a mesh no-see-um insect screen.
An inverted T layout on the net with two-way zippers allows for easy access to the car and the sleeping capacity of the tent depends on the size and make of your vehicle. Outer door panels can be folded and tied back for maximum ventilation or zipped and tied at the bottom corners for extra privacy.
- Attached to the underframe of the vehicle with bungee cords
- Easy to set up and takedown
- Universal fit to a range of vehicle types
- Mesh insect-screen
- EASY SETUP - Bungy cord with plastic coated hooks attach to the vehicle's underframe
- Outer door panels fold up and tie back for maximum ventilation, or zip and tie at bottom corners for privacy.
- No-seeum insect screen.
- Inverted 'T' layout on insect screen and two way zippers provide easy entry into rear of vehicle.
ARB 813208A Awning Room
The ARB 813208A Awning Room is a unique SUV tent in that it is attached to the side of the vehicle instead of the back, thus making it compatible with non-hatch-back vehicles. It features heavy-duty, waterproof flooring that keeps the interior dry. It features an ARB awning that automatically deploys on arrival and to which 300D Oxford Polyester outer UV-treated exterior walls are attached.
Mesh sides ensure airflow and offer clear views of the surrounding landscapes and the eight square foot floor space provides plenty of room to relax in inclement weather. There are high-mounted cable ports and guides for lighting and heavy-duty nylon hooks for the awning pole attachment.
Accessories for the ARB 813208A Awning Room include two guy ropes, six pegs, an internal mesh pocket organizer, and a nylon stuff sack for storage.
- Unique side attachment
- Heavy-duty, waterproof flooring
- Mesh windows for insect protection
- High mounted cable ports and guides for lighting
- Nylon stuff sack for storage
- AWNING IS NOT INCLUDED BUT NECESSARY, Product ONLY compatible with ARB Awning 814409 or previous ARB models That are 2000x2500 or 6.5' x 8.2'
- Heavy duty, polyethylene waterproof floor, Exterior walls are made from 300D Oxford Polyester outer UV treated
- Cross flow ventilated mesh roof, Midge-proof mesh side panels
- Heavy duty nylon hooks for awning pole attachment, High mounted cable access ports and cable guides for lighting solutions
- Accessories include nylon stuff sack for storage, 2 guy ropes, 6 pegs, Internal mesh pocket organizer
Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 3
Manufactured by a well-known brand, Thule, the Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 3 is a premium four-season tent that can accommodate up to three people in all kinds of weather. Made from UV resistant, 600 deniers, and a 260-g poly-cotton blend, this all-weather tent is well insulated for colder climes and has large mesh panels that can be opened during warmer weather for better airflow and cooling.
The tent is attached to roof racks on the roof of the vehicle and accessed by a telescoping ladder. It has a built-in foam mattress for a comfortable sleep and an extended private canopy entrance with a removable annex for extra shade or privacy. Inside the tent, there are four, large internal pockets for storing gear and camping accessories.
- Four seasons tent
- Heavy-duty, material construction
- Access by a telescoping ladder
- Removable annex for extra shade or privacy
- Four, large internal pockets
- Can accommodate up to three people
- Includes an extended private canopy entrance with removable annex
- Constructed from coated 600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend made to withstand the elements of any season
- Tent fabric is UV resistant and withstands the elements of any season
- Mesh panels offer plenty of ventilation and open for more airflow
North East Harbor Universal SUV Tent
The North East Harbor Universal SUV Tent connects to the cargo area of your vehicle and is available in multiple sizes that include models that can accommodate up to eight people. Boasting a universal fitment, the North East Harbor Universal SUV tent fits all makes of vehicles from SUVs, CUVs, and wagons to crossovers, minivans, and hatchbacks.
Made from durable polyester taffeta fabric with a sturdy polyurethane floor, the tent is super strong and will keep things dry in the wettest weather. This tent can be used as a connecting tent to your vehicle or as a standalone tent if needed.
- Universal fitment
- Heavy-duty, waterproof flooring
- Mesh windows for insect protection
- Various models – can sleep up to eight people
- Sleep Off The Ground - Nothing Beats the Comfort of your Vehicle, plus gives you the added security of having access to your vehicle
- Extra Cargo Sleeping Space - Connecting to the cargo area of vehicle creates additional storage or sleeping space, plus access to power.
- Free Standing Tent - Quickly disconnect your vehicle and go about your day leaving the free standing tent behind
- 6-Person Sleeping Capacity - Tent Sleeps (4-6) Adults and Vehicle Cargo Area Sleeps (2) Adults, Perfect for Large Familys!
- Universal Fitment - Connects to SUVs, Minivans, Crossovers, Wagons, Jeep Wrangler Hard Top, or Pick-up Trucks with Bed Caps
Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent
The Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent is the perfect tent for those who love the rugged outback and rough terrain. Designed to withstand inclement weather, and built to protect against mud, rain, and all types of flying insects, this rooftop tent is one of the sturdiest on the market.
It features a hefty frame covered with heavy-duty 600D ripstop skin with an extended rainfly and can accommodate up to three adults. It has a range of outdoor features that backcountry campers will love such as built-in LED strips to light up the inside, side windows with mosquito netting, and a folding sunroof. It comes with an Advantage Warranty that provides limited lifetime coverage for all steel-based products, such as bumpers, sides, steps, and armor, from manufacturer defects.
- Built for the outback and backcountry camping
- Heavy-duty 600D ripstop skin
- Built-in LED light strips
- Foldable sunroof panels
- Advantage Warranty
- Standard size tent (sleeps 2-3) with high-density 92" x 55" foam double/full mattress and 661 lb. max load
- 600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly; sunroof; side windows with mosquito netting; anodized aluminum tent frame poles; telescopic ladder; interior LED strips and many more features
- Easy to set up and take down; heavy duty PVC cover keeps tent dry and free from UV rays when not in use
- Smittybilt Tent Annex (sold separately #2788) with removeable floor can be attached with heavy duty zippers for privacy
- Tent also available in Size XL (sleeps 3-4 #2773). Ladder extension also available (#2785).Ladder capacity:265 lbs
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent
The Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent is another fantastic option for outdoor lovers. Built to accommodate three adults, the rooftop tent has some of the best waterproofing ability on the market with a marine-grade 600D rip-stop polyester-cotton canvas and a 420D polyester Oxford waterproof rain fly.
The rooftop tent also comes with a three-inch foam mattress and an insulated base for the ultimate in comfort when it comes to sleeping, and breathable windows keep the air flowing and the insects out.
A standard USB port is available for recharging devices or lighting solutions like strips of LED lights and six built-in storage pockets located throughout the inside are available to keep the inside of the tent well-organized and neat.
- High-grade waterproofing capability
- Foam mattress and an insulated base
- Free-flow breathable windows
- USB port for charging and lighting solutions
- Features: Marine Grade 600D Rip-Stop Polyester Cotton Canvas Water Proof Body, 420D Polyester Oxford Waterproof Rain Fly, 110g Fade-less Gaze Breathable Windows, 3" High Density Foam Mattress with Quilted Cotton Cover, Insulated Base, Marine Grade Stainless Steel Hardware, 1000g Transportation Cover, Tubular Telescoping Ladder, Six Built In Storage Pockets, Storage Loft, Power Bank Pouch, Hand Held LED Light, LED Velcro Strip & Bonus Pack
- Fitment: Anything with a factory or aftermarket roof rack. Please confirm rack weight capacity prior if you’re unsure.
- Installation: Requires no drilling or modification to your vehicle if equipped with factory or aftermarket roof rack.
- Tent Bonus Pack: Memory Foam Pillows, & Mini Broom and Dust Pan
Frequently Asked Questions
Are SUV tents easy to set up?
Most SUV tents are set up in a matter of minutes. There are standard pole tents as well as instant popup styles in this category. In general, you can expect these tents to take the same effort as a standard tent. They’re quick and convenient so that you can get to the more exciting parts of camping.
How Do You Set Up an SUV Tent?
Setting up an SUV tent is quick and easy and very similar to setting up a standard tent that is used on the ground. Some SUV tents are pop-up style and open immediately when unpacked, while other tents have poles that require setting up.
Generally, SUV tents are strapped to the wheels and the hatchback of the vehicle, ensuring a snug fit to prevent rain and insects from getting in. Rooftop SUV tents are attached to the roof racks of the vehicle and include an attached ladder to access the tent from the ground. SUV rooftop tents require careful unfolding to ensure the tent is opened correctly.
Do SUV tents keep the bugs out?
Yes. Most SUV tents come with zipped openings that can be closed to prevent the weather or insects from entering the interior. Many have windows with mesh screens for protection and some come with extra accessories such as special insect screens.
Where can you SUV camp?
Camping with an SUV tent allows you to camp anywhere from campsites to backcountry terrain. A rooftop tent can be set up without having to find a suitable piece of ground on which to set the tent up – you only need the space that your vehicle will stand on. Tents that attach to the back of a vehicle can be set up anywhere on flat ground.
What is the best mattress for SUV camping?
The quality of your sleep when camping can make or break a trip and the type of mattress plays an essential role in this. Some rooftop tents come with mattresses, however, if you are shopping for one, a good quality memory foam mattress is the way to go.
How do you keep your food away from bears and other animals while SUV camping?
The best way to keep food away from prowling animals is to keep it all sealed in a cooler box or a bear-resistant canister. It is recommended that you keep your cooler and all food locked inside the vehicle and not in your tent.
Do you keep the tailgate up when you camp with an SUV camping tent?
Yes. You keep the tailgate up all night when SUV camping.
Does keeping your tailgate open all night while SUV camping drains your battery?
No, it doesn’t but is recommended to check the SUV manual for your battery power.
Are there any safety concerns when SUV camping?
SUV camping is the same as regular camping and the safety concerns are the same.
- Keep your food packed away and sealed to avoid attracting wild animals.
- Make sure you have enough drinking water if you are wild camping.
- Don’t eat wild berries or plants unless you know what they are and whether they are edible.
- Watch the weather and keep an eye out for fires.
Top Safety Tips for Camping
- Be aware of any risks around your tent
- Bring plenty of food and water
- Be aware of the weather
- Have First Aid equipment available
- Know what services are available
- Keep your eye out for wildlife
- Be fire safe around campfires
- Drive safely
Jill Miller is the founder of Your RV Lifestyle. Trading corporate America for the open road, Jill, along with her partner Jose, began their RV journey, making an unconventional start by wintering in New Jersey. A natural adventurer, she was motivated by a desire to explore the USA and beyond, embracing the varied landscapes, communities, and cultures across the country.
For Jill, the allure of RV living was not about material accumulation, but rather the pursuit of an adventurous, fulfilling lifestyle. A lover of golf, bicycling, hiking, and line dancing, she has carried her passions across the country, engaging with them in diverse settings. Jill’s commitment to the RV lifestyle came after years of careful research, numerous consultations with RV owners, and personal trials, including living in a rental RV.