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Best Suv For Camping And Hiking

How Much Does All Your Camping Gear Weigh

Is This REALLY the Best Hike in the United States?? (SUV Camping/Vanlife Adventures)

Lets pack up for a virtual weekend camping trip and find out what kind of weight a typical trip could add to a vehicle. These weights are just an approximation and could vary wildly depending upon what you might want to bring. We are packing for two people on this mock adventure who each weigh 180 pounds, plus a 40-pound dog.

Rooftop tent: 130 poundsSleeping bags and pads: 6 poundsClothing and toiletries: 15 poundsFour gallons of water: 32 poundsThree days of food: 12 poundsPropane stove and fuel: 20 poundsCooking equipment/mess kit: 6 poundsTwo folding camp chairs: 20 poundsLarge cooler: 25 poundsShovel and tool kit: 10 poundsMiscellaneous : 20 poundsGear total: 296 pounds

The combined weight of our adventurers and all this gear is 696 pounds. Thats quite a bit of weight. The good news is that plenty of SUVs carry a payload rating right around 1,000 pounds. However, packing for longer camping trips could require more weight capacity.

Can You Sleep In Your Car In Winter

Yes, you can camp out in your car, though car camping can refer to a drive to a campground and an overnight in a tent at your tent site.

If you want to sleep in your car, you will need to prep your car for winter car camping. First, insulate your windows with a reflective sun shield.

Trap warmth in your car by placing a reflective sunshade on the inside of your windshield. This also helps ensure privacy.

Next, make window coverings with a reflective foil insulation wrap, like Reflectix. Insulating window coverings keep in heat and avoid condensation.

To sleep in your car, its also key to select weather-appropriate sleeping gear. Look for a four-season sleeping bag and an insulated sleeping pad.

Your sleeping bag should be designed to keep you warm in temps as low as 20 degrees. Maybe even low as zero degrees, depending on your destination.

Personally, I also like to pair a sleeping bag with a sleeping bag liner for one extra layer of bonus warmth to help ensure a good nights sleep.

Biking & Water Sports

Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V made our list because of its fuel efficiency, all-wheel drive option for all models and spacious interior up to 58.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Thats plenty of room for your hiking, kayaking and biking gear. Add a roof rack as an option and youre ready to take your mountain or road bike everywhere.

The front-wheel drive version gets 28 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway, considered outstanding in its class. With seating and legroom for five passengers, you can go exploring comfortably.

Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma was made to get dirty. Equipped with Fox shocks, a wide stance and 9.4 inches of ground clearance, this pickup truck is more at home off road than on city streets, where its ride is described as stiff.

Outdoor adventurers will love the utility of having an open bed to throw all their gear into. Off-road enthusiasts will love how the Crawl Control feature will take them up and over the roughest terrain by modulating braking and power between all four wheels.

Chevrolet Colorado

Hitch up the boat or camper, were going on an adventure. When equipped with a turbo-diesel engine, the Chevrolet Colorado has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, the best in its class, plus decent gas mileage at 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

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More Than Meets The Eye

The best camping cars need more than just a spacious cabin. There are some key boxes you need to ensure are ticked before you sign off on a purchase. Here are some tips to help you reach the right decision.

  • Is it a good off-roader? While most crossovers offer all-wheel drivetrains, not all are genuinely capable of handling rough terrain.
  • Does it have the all the essentials? Roughing it does not mean abandoning all creature comforts. With features like heated seats, multi-zone climate control, moonroofs, and sound-proof windows all work to create a pretty luxurious mobile camper.
  • Can it haul your family and all your gear? You do not require all that much power to get around town, but when youre climbing steeper terrain or pulling a trailer with a full cabin, you need a lot more.
  • Will it keep you safe? When youre far from civilization, you will want to know that your vehicle is reliable. High safety ratings and a decent list of safety features are a must.

Subaru Xv Crosstrek 20 Limited

Large Compact Pop Up Camping SUV Hatchback Tent Zincera
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

For your weekend shop who is not attempting to go to the ends of the ground with everything in tow, then this little crossover is the ideal alternative. Youre going to receive exceptional gas mileage more than 30 mpg typical and nearly 9 total inches of ground clearance within an all-wheel-drive bundle. For driving down fundamental dirt streets and getting a bit off the beaten path, you can not fail with this Subaru.

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Land Rover Discovery Sport: The Perfect Off

Yes, we are starting with a pricey model that most owners never take off the road because it looks more luxurious than hardy. But let’s not forget that the Discovery Sport comes teeming with so many off-road features, you may as well never take it off the off-trails.

Its Terrain Response driving modes can adjust everything suspension, transmission and traction control to tackle whatever you are driving on. And by whatever we mean deep rivers, dunes, beaches, rocky roads et al. With its seven-passenger capacity, and an under $40,000 price tag this is one car that can ferry campers just about anywhere and do it danged comfortably.

Car Camp In National Forests

National Forests offer many free options for car camping as well as semi-established and basic campsites.

The semi-established and basic campsites usually cost a few dollars depending on the area and an information sign is usually posted at the front. Most semi-established campsites will usually have a communal pit toilet and occasionally a picnic table.

If you dont care for services, start driving through the woods on forest service roads. These are roads throughout the national forest commonly used for logging, mineral extraction, and livestock. Often they are gravel or dirt roads.

There are often pull-offs on the side of these roads. They vary in size, some as small as a parking space for a compact vehicle and some are large enough to fit multiple cars.

Once again, I generally find these national forest campsites using the free campsite apps or looking at detailed local maps. Forest Service roads are often labeled FH and then a number ie. FH401.

I love camping off of forest service roads but it can be difficult to find a spot if you dont know the area so be prepared to search for a while. There are times where Ive searched for a camp spot for over two hours so it helps to do so during daylight.

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The Dirty Truth Of Suv Camping

Its the curse of the camper. Once you become an aficionado of traveling outdoors, you can never look at another vehicle again without envisioning it as some sort of converted RV. This might go double for SUVs.

Popular sport-utility vehicles might just be the gateway drug into the camping life. They are a major step up from sleeping in a tent but dont require the cash or experience needed for a traditional RV or travel trailer.

Many people already own an SUV, so turning it into a stealthy, off-road camper really only requires some thought, a few basic building skills, and a sense of adventure. Oh, and a healthy acceptance of a little bit of extra dirt.

Converted SUV from The Beating Road

How Much Cargo Weight Can Your Car Carry

SUV Camping in the Owyhees || Hiking Overlanding Adventure || Nowhere Pacific

You need to know how much weight the vehicle can handle that is called the payload. This spec can be found on the inside of the drivers door jamb or in the owners manual. Be aware, the total payload weight can add up very quickly. For example, a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has a payload that ranges from around 850 pounds up to 1,300 pounds, depending on how the vehicle is optioned from the factory.

That number doesnt just count the weight of the cargo on board it also includes the people. So two 200-pound passengers and their gear could take up a sizable chunk of Wrangler payload. And thats assuming the Wrangler owner has not bolted on serious off-roading equipment. That electric winch and those heavy-duty steel bumpers add serious weight.

Tents and Rooftop Tents

One way to shave some weight from the camping equation is to forgo the tent option and sleep inside your vehicle. But generally, tents arent too heavy unless you opt for the rooftop variety. Rooftop tents are popular, especially for overlanding, which is long-distance off-road camping. They can provide a great sleeping experience because many are roomy, include plush mattresses, and are high off the ground .

Plus they save space inside the cargo hatch for other gear. But these tents can be heavy, ranging from around 80 pounds up to 200 pounds. That extra heft eats into your vehicles available payload. And because the heavy tent is also up high, it can affect the vehicles handling on the road and off.

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Lack Of Headroom And Foot Room

Depending on your height and the size of your vehicle, sleeping in the back of an SUV might be challenging. Some adjustments to seating, bedding, and even the vehicle itself might need to be made.

This comes in double when the space is being shared by more than one person. When converting an SUV into a camper, work out the bed space first and then add in the storage and cooking options later on.

Popular Suv Car Camping Setup

Who can afford a traditional camper or motor home these days! A decent camper can start at $10,000 or a fully loaded motorhome can top $1,000,000. In my opinion, you can have a pretty great experience right in the comfort of your own vehicle without spending thousands of dollars.

I’ve researched tons of car camping setups throughout the years. Most of these systems are designed with some sort of platform in the back of the vehicle leaving storage space underneath for personal belongings and supplies. I’ve seen these setups come in a wide variety, with most of them a sort of DIY type of situation and some created by skilled carpenters and craftsmen. For those of us not really professional carpenters, the DIY way is probably the way to go. With a few rudimentary tools such as a jigsaw, hand saw, a hammer, and some screwdrivers, you could probably get away with a decent sleeping platform and storage spaces that would work for you.

For those with disposable incomes or who lack the time, facilities, or patience to construct their own camping system, there are other options. During my research, I found quite a few companies on the internet that offer ready-made car camping solutions for a wide range of vehicles, these include rear storage area conversions or rooftop tents. We’ll dig into some of these offerings.

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The Ford Bronco And Bronco Sport Cant Be Left Out

The Ford Bronco has made more noise than almost any other vehicle in recent memory. Aside from delays and parts shortages, the Bronco and Bronco Sport are both massively exciting SUVs.

The Bronco Sport, which is currently stomping around the country, is a nice middle-ground for someone who may want an SUV but still doesnt want to go full off-roader. The Bronco Sport was made for lovers of casual camping.

It sports AWD as standard. It rides on independent suspension all the way around as opposed to a solid axle found in more serious 4x4s. The result is a friendly SUV that is plenty capable without being too intimidating or expensive. The Bronco Sport starts at $28,115.

On the other hand, the full-blown Ford Bronco is still yet to put tires on the road in significant numbers, but it is more akin to a Jeep Wrangler than it is anything else. The Bronco will be a staple in the 4×4 and overlanding world with its killer 4×4 system, optional off-road packages, and a manual transmission.

Camping will be a foregone conclusion for many Bronco owners. This is easily one of the best SUVs for camping that has been made in a long time. Rugged, dependable , and capable, the Ford Bronco should live in the dirt.

Gear I Use On My Suv Camping Adventures

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This is a collection of the gear I use on my trips. Note that this page contains Amazon and other affiliate links. I dont always take all of the gear listed here on every trip I draw gear from this list as needed for the particular trip Im going on.

If youre looking for gear to organize your car camping adventures, check out my online store.

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Bring Plenty Of Water

Always bring plenty of water. As a general rule of thumb, plan to carry at least a gallon per person per day. Generally, you can fill up at visitor centers and grocery stores, but if you dont know when youll have access to water next, make sure you have extra with you.

If your car breaks down or you find yourself lost in a remote area, you will need water to survive. Also, if your radiator starts overheating and you dont have coolant, you can fill that with water until youre able to make it to a shop or gas station.

Carrying a water filter is also very beneficial. Depending on the area youre visiting you can refill your water supply from streams, creeks, and rivers.

There are a few great options for water filters.

  • GRAYL makes water bottles with a built-in filter.
  • A SteriPen filters both bacteria and viruses out of clear water.
  • The Katadyn filters water very quickly and efficiently.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 44

No list of adventure vehicles would be complete without the Wrangler. There are very few vehicles as capable from the factory as the Jeep, and the massive aftermarket for these vehicles makes them even more capable and customizable.

Price: Four-door Wranglers arent particularly thrifty. Youll have to go back to about 2010 in order to get a good example with all the bells and whistles, including the Rubicon package, for under $20,000.

The good: The off-road capabilities of the Wrangler are second to none. With the Rubicon edition, theres little that can stand in the way of this little machine.

The bad: Dont expect good fuel economy in this boxy, solid-axle vehicle. The interior volume is also a lot smaller than you might imagine, as the roll cage intrudes on much of the space.

Why Wrangler? Buy this if you need to tackle off-road obstacles on the way to your next adventure. What other vehicle allows you to pop off the doors and roof to have open-air driving, especially off road?!

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Dont Share Too Much Information

This is especially important if youre car camping alone. If you meet someone creepy they shouldnt know where you are going. If a stranger finds out Im car camping I usually say Im meeting some friends or make up a different location than where Ill actually sleep.

However, the more time you spend car camping, the more people youll meet who are also on the road. Use your best judgment. I have received great information about the best camping spots and met people who Ive felt comfortable car camping near.

Use your instincts before deciding to share too much.

A Brief History Of Car Camping

Adding New Truck Camping Accessories And Winter Hiking (Insane view at the top)

Humans have been car camping since the first car was built back in 1885. By 1919, Tin Can Tourists was formed by Ford Model T owners and grew to 100,000 members by 1930. With our love of the outdoors and our obsession with cars, it’s only natural we combine these two iconic past times and hit the roads and highways looking for adventure.

In 1916, Henry Ford, of the famed Ford Motor Company, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and conservationist John Burroughs set out on the first of several annual road trips in custom Model Ts outfitted for camping. These vehicles were designed with a built-in stove, cooler, and custom bins for tents, beds, and lawn chairs. This was in 1916!

1916 Model T Camper

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Shopping For A Used Ford Compact Crossover

The Ford Bronco Sport is an all-new compact SUV, but the Ford Escape offers a lot in a similar price range. It was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year and carries over into 2021 with minimal changes. The previous generation was introduced in 2013, with a mid-cycle refresh in 2017.

2021 Subaru Outback / Photo credit: Subaru

Subaru Outback: Fuel Efficient & Rugged

The Subaru Outback is yet another classic camping car thats both fuel-efficient and sporty. While it may not be marketed as rugged as other outdoorsy cars are, it is still very agile to drive and can take on most dirt tracks with ease. It is not a huge car so space is not very big, but with the rear seats folded down there is enough to accommodate two campers in sleeping bags.

It can also tow a decent amount and can be used in tandem with a small caravan or pull-behind camper. Its a good car that makes economical sense, and rugged enough to be used outdoors with little to no concern.

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