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If you’re a consistent car camper / weekend warrior / drop-everything-and-get-outside type of person, then the convenience and importance of a great, outdoorsy car has probably hit you at some point, whether it was on the way to the top of a mountain on a road that only your car could handle, or on the side of the road with a flat tire, where you contemplated the value of trading up for something a little more rugged.
Whatever the final straw was in your car camping game, if you’ve bottomed out when it comes to your current vehicle, you’re not alone.
12 of The Best of the Best Cars for Camping
Here at The Dyrt, we’re always drooling over the latest and greatest in vehicles that seem built just for the outdoor adventurer, the backroads driver, and the avid car camper, and we’re on the hunt to find the best options available. Whether you’re looking for cars with a little extra room for your coolers or you’re hoping to find the best cars to sleep in for boondocking along that forested highway, we’ve created a list of some of our team’s top choices on four wheels.
The Cargo Space Champions
The best cars for camping might not always be cars you’ll end up sleeping in. Often, one of the top complaints we hear about camping vehicles is that there just isn’t enough room in some traditional crossovers or SUVs. Indeed, if you’re planning to camp with more than a couple of friends, packing can be the hardest part of the trip. The following cars for camping solve the Rubik’s-cube-trunk problem by eliminating it entirely.
Despite the pick-up truck appearance, the Honda Ridgeline is a crossover vehicle that drives like an SUV with the convenience of a pick-up. With four doors and a truckbed to boot, this is the ideal option for heavy packers looking to hit the road in a hurry, without the hassle of the packing process. The truck bed can open outward or down, and, when down, can double as a sleeping platform, and it includes a locking, waterproof trunk for your more valuable items. While it’s not necessarily an off-roading machine, Honda kept campers in mind with this one, as they offer a specialized, fitted tent that fits inside the truck bed, making it one of the best cars to sleep in for camping and an excellent choice for skiers, family car campers, and those who just need to get up and go.
2. Chevy Blazer
The perfect blend of space and sport, the Chevy Blazer is a car for families with a keen interest in the outdoors yet a need for a functional crossover with adequate storage space. The power liftgate is a game changer for heavy packers, featuring the automatic opener with just a wave of the foot underneath the car. In addition to that, the ever-kid-friendly sunroof runs almost the length of the car, making it a family favorite in the summer. With an easy-to-maneuver size without sacrificing on engine power, the Chevy Blazer is a one-way ticket to becoming the weekend warrior you always dreamed you’d be.
The Most Durable Camping Cars
So what if you’re not into cargo space, but want something that can withstand the dirt, grime, and spills that inevitably come with camping? If you’re a mud-runner or a kid-hauler, these cars provide the best of the outdoor vibe with the added plus of being indiscriminately durable.
The second Honda to grace our list, this one SUV is a monster when it comes to outdoor recreation, particularly for its stain-resistant seating and washable floors. Although it might not look as cool as some of the other boxy vehicles out there, the height of this vehicle allows for storage and packing of many larger items like coolers, chairs, grilling equipment, and a slew of other must-haves while camping.
With the all-wheel drive added on, the Element can be the perfect family camping car while still boasting the ability to navigate those tough dirt roads to your hidden campsite. Did we mention the washable floors? It’s a parent’s dream, and the 6-person tent that Honda offers as an attachment makes it an easy sell for the adventuring family. Not into the tent? The seats can all be removed, making it one of the best cars to sleep in for camping, regardless of whether or not you’ve run out of tent space.
A classic in the camping space, the Toyota 4Runner has to make the list, if only for its longtime dependability in the outdoors. With four-wheel drive and a body that accommodates both riders and their gear, the 4Runner is tough to beat when it comes to a durable vehicle to take on all of your adventures. Sitting just being the Pontiac Aztek in terms of cargo space (89.7 cubic feet), there’s little this vehicle doesn’t offer when you’re headed to the outdoors. The 4Runner is also a towing machine, capable of handling up to 5,000 pounds, meaning if you’re a pull-behind camper type, you’re set. It’s the ideal family car without the look of a minivan, and with the added cargo space of a larger SUV. What’s not to love?
The Classic Camping Cars
The cars on this portion of the list need no introduction, but we’ll blurb them anyways. These are for the ideal outdoorsy types. The ones that really want the aesthetic of the outdoors combined with pure utility and high-end drivability. Did we mention these cars are just flat-out cool?
Let’s be real, we couldn’t make a list of cars for camping without mentioning the car for camping over the last few decades. As far as off-roading, towing, and overall badassery goes, the Jeep Wrangler is in a league of its own. With innumerable customization opportunities and expert, trail-ready construction, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the few vehicles that probably performs better in the outdoors than it does on the highway. Although the cargo space might be lacking, newer models of the Wrangler continue to improve upon this, and the four-door Wrangler allows families with a taste for high alpine tracks to still indulge in their Jeep-driving dreams. If you’re looking for more, Jeep offers an array of camping accessories, including air beds, hammocks, and tents. Of all the cars for camping on the market, Jeep might own the label as the most iconic—just don’t forget to do the “Jeep wave” once you own yours.
Right up there with the Jeeps (though a step behind if you ask us) is the Subaru Outback, another classic when it comes to cars for camping. As backcountry stable as it is efficient, the Outback is the happy medium between a fuel-efficient highway machine and a trail-ready outdoorsy vehicle that always stays at the top of our best cars for camping list. With a lower profile than most traditionally “rugged” vehicles, the Outback has a reputation for being extremely agile and easy-to-pack without sacrificing a huge amount of cargo space. With the seats folded down, the Outback offers 73.3 cubic feet of space, and can easily accommodate two campers with sleeping bags. With up to 2,700 pounds of towing capacity, this Subaru can also be an option for pull-behind campers.
The Weekend Warriors
So maybe you’re not the off-roading type, but weekend camping trips are a staple of your summer. These cars are as perfect for camping as they are for navigating those windy mountain roads, with the added benefit of being sturdy, well-spaced family vehicles.
For families, the Pathfinder is hard to beat. It’s supreme navigability and highly drivable frame makes it a solid choice for parents looking to haul their kids and the camper into the woods. With towable capacity up to 6,000 pounds, there are few things that this vehicle can’t bring along. Updated technology in the latest models has expanded the view from the vehicle without sacrificing on the urban-rugged design. With three rows of seats, you can feel good about bringing some friends along, too, without having to think about a second car.
This popular alternate to the classic Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee is an SUV version of a vehicle made for the outdoors, which puts in on the list of cars for camping that double as solid, drivable family vehicles. Whether it’s a one-nighter, a two-night weekend rampage, or a lengthy day-hike turned impromptu car camping trip, the Grand Cherokee provides comfort, space, and rugged functionality that’s tough to beat from a best-of-both-worlds angle. With added tech flourishes that bring family-friendly luxury to an otherwise trail-ready vehicle, this is a great middle-of-the-road solution for the adventurers that hit the campground after taking in a couple kiddie soccer games.
The Sporty Car Camping Rigs
For the car fanatics seeking a sportier way to get outside, these cars ride the line between fast rides and functional juggernauts, providing all the handleability without sacrificing on the durable, sturdy frames that mark all great cars for camping.
A sportier vehicle than others on the list, the VW Golf Alltrack is a crossover with options for 4WD and AWD that take it to the next level when it comes to cars for camping. While it lacks the extensive cargo space of its larger compatriots, the Golf Alltrack is all unto its own in terms of handleability on high, winding alpine roads. It’s a drivable machine with an off-road capability in snow or rough weather, while still allowing for speedy highway travel in between destinations. While not necessarily a “classic” camping car, the technology, capability, and overall feel of the car make it a great option for campers looking for a sportier way to move through those illustrious mountain towns.
10. Subaru Impreza
One of the best sport-style Subarus in a long line of utility vehicles, the Impreza is a speedier, sturdier version of its Outback cousin that boasts the same all-wheel drive capability combined with an updated sport-steering system and a slightly lower center of gravity. It sticks to the road nicely around steep mountain curves, yet still impresses in its mileage (38 mpg highway). With easy roof access and the same sturdy frame that are a hallmark of Subarus, this vehicle is a perfect way for urban dwellers to still invest time in the outdoors without having to switch up their ride. Did we mention the camping accessories?
The Dependable Wild Cards
Sometimes, the perfect vehicle looks a little bit different than its trademark companions. These vehicles offer a unique take on the outdoorsy functionality of the other cars for camping on this list, but still merit consideration from even the most skeptical of trail warriors.
11. Toyota Tacoma
Okay, so not everyone’s a truck person—and we respect that—but there’s something about the Toyota Tacoma that transcends the traditional pick-up truck and makes it a must-feature on any list of cars for camping. While not built for the city, this truck is as dependable as they come in the outdoors. With a wide set platform and nearly 10 inches of ground clearance, this high-sitting trail machine is the answer for folks seeking an all-around adventure vehicle. Perhaps the coolest feature in the TRD Pro version of the Tacoma is its “Crawl Control,” which allows drivers to simply steer the vehicle while its automated system navigates through complicated off-road terrain.
Notoriously eccentric, the Clubvan camper is a wild card if only for its limited capacity. That said, when it comes to cars for camping, this vehicle was literally made for it. The interior features a cot, an extendable kitchenette, and a propane stove, making it a virtual camp-anywhere machine and one of the best cars to sleep in for camping trips of all kinds.
The addition of the fridge and a handheld shower turns it from a Mini into a full-on van life adventure rig. The only reason it isn’t tops on our list of cars for camping is its inability to accommodate more than two people, with one person being the ideal fit in this miniature go-van. Still, it’s worth the look for avid solo campers, or couples who don’t mind a snug fit!
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