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Car camping - recommendations for good vehicles?

Hello! Until now I have been backpack and motorcycle camping. I think I’m gonna get a car to continue camping in. What does everyone drive, what would you recommend as a good vehicle for camping. I have to park in the city as well as suburbia when not camping.  Thanks!

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If by car camping you mean driving to a campsite and sleeping in a tent then any car will do so long as it is reasonably reliable.

You will want something with high clearance and maybe AWD/4WD if you want to go disperse camping on BLM/NF land since access is mostly by dirt road which can get rough and difficult if there is weather.

If you want to sleep comfortably in a vehicle then you will need to make some modifications to get a flat sleeping area...can be a simple as a supported board across fold down seats.  For that a hatch back or SUV type vehicle is better SUV's being a bit larger will provide more options but people use Priuses.

The next step up is a van which can be fitted out from the most rudimentary level up to luxury RV level with full facilities.

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Hi @AmyRoseF - Thanks for reaching out!

A conversation titled What is your camping vehicle? came up recently that might have just the recommendations you are looking for!

Personally, I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee for more than a decade that was a great car for sleeping in, leaving at trailheads, and being in town too. In the last couple of years I switched to a Toyota Rav4. At 5' 10",  I have to go a bit diagonal to sleep comfortably in the back of it, but the gas milage being so much better makes up for it.

Hopefully this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Subaru's are great in general for active people and to camp out of.  Another great option but sadly you can only get them used is the honda element it was made for camping out of.

There are quite a few YouTube tutorials on how to convert your car to sleep in it- not sure of your budget/where you hike but here in CO by far the most popular vehicle for this is the Subaru Outback. If you remove the back seats you can sleep completely flat so you don't have to sleep at an angle, and it has decent clearance + AWD for dispersed camping. Other hatchbacks might offer similar specs too. Have fun!

If you want to get super comfortable, check out tutorials like this one where you can add storage and a livable space to the back: https://youtu.be/7PTwJCW84bs

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How much will you be camping versus, say, hauling groceries?

How far do you intend to drive to camp? I love my Prius, but at times the seat just isn't sufficient after several hours... I don't like to drive it on thousand-mile trips.

How much are you willing to pay for fuel?

What part of the country are you in? I know people who love diesel, but in some places it can be difficult to find.

My son was wrestling with the same decision last year, and settled on a Subaru as a decent compromise... less clearance than he would sometimes like, better mileage than a full-size SUV, decent space and seats. The calculus might work out differently for you.

I frequently wish we had "transformer" automobiles... a Prius that unfolds into a Volkswagen Westphalia at night and converts into a Jeep Wrangler equipped to go off road the next morning?!?! Alas, life is not a Saturday-morning cartoon!

 

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Personally I drive a truck but that is for other reasons, not specifically for camping.

 

If I didn't need to tow heavier stuff I was seriously looking at a 4Runner or possibly even a Rav4. 4Runner's are great on and off road, good size, good gas mileage (I mentioned I drive a truck) in my mind, and lots of room. Also has adaptability for things like roof racks, hitches, and some towing ability for most things, and last but not least if you have kids a little room.

 

Rav4 is just as good, better gas mileage, not as adaptable or even ability to tow but can, slightly less room than a 4Runner for people and gear but enough room for camping gear and 4 people.

 

This is my thoughts for car camping, now if talking about sleeping in a vehicle type car camping I would opt for a larger vehicle like a 4Runner that has thousands of tutorials for setting this up or even a truck with a camper shell.

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Subaru Outback and Forester