The Best SUV Tent in 2023 – Reviewed

Home » Camping » Shelters » The Best SUV Tent in 2023 – Reviewed


If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best SUV tent is, we recommend the Thule Tepui Foothill tent.

Direct access to food, water, games, power, and…air conditioning?! It sounds too good to be true when you’re out roughing it in the wilderness. But what if I told you that it was possible, and all for the price of a normal camping tent?

The beauty of SUV tents is that they can do all of that and more, sometimes providing an elevated sleeping arrangement, and other times giving you direct access to your vehicle from ground level. Want to find out what the best SUV tents are? We’ve done the research for you, laying out everything you need to know in our guide below.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best SUV tents:

Types of SUV Tents

jeep with rooftop tent and ladder in a yard

SUV tents come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be placed on top of your vehicle, while others act as an extension to your hatchback or side door. Each have their own merits, so it will be up to you to determine what works best for your situation.

Assuming your SUV has roof rails, a shelter like the Thule Tepui Foothill tent is the way that I would go. It gets you off the ground, away from annoying (and potentially dangerous) critters, and will provide the most complete protection.

If you don’t have rails, or you just don’t feel like spending so much money on a rooftop tent, I’d suggest getting something along the lines of the Napier Backroadz SUV tent. Like a normal shelter, you’ll set it up on the ground and make sure it’s properly secured and staked out. However, unlike your average tent, it has a few tricks up its sleeve that makes it compatible with an SUV. The first of which is that it actually has a sleeve to store its tricks!

The sleeve is what they call the part of the tent that connects to the vehicle. Most have straps to secure it to the car, and some form of elastic to seal the edges, preventing insects from entering. It’s a cool way to get that camping vibe while being able to scoot through a protected tunnel into your SUV to grab dinner or a game to play.

Durability

SUV tents can range anywhere from $50 to $2,000+, depending on the style. However, regardless of how much you pay for it, you’re not going to want to waste your money on a shelter that lacks durability. Single use tents are far from ideal for anyone.

If you don’t know how to gauge the durability of a shelter, start by looking at the poles and the tent fabric itself. Fiberglass poles are cheap, but they’re some of the easiest to break, especially in colder temperature. Aluminum is far more durable and lightweight, making it one of my personal favorites. But in a test of durability, nothing is going to beat steel.

As far as fabric goes, you’ll want to pay attention to a term called denier. This is what describes the thickness of thread used to make a certain fabric, with a higher denier equating to a thicker thread. Some SUV tents have a denier of 30 while others have a denier as high as 600. You can probably guess which one is going to withstand the test of time a lot better than the other.

Ease of Setup

tan tent on an old jeep by a lake

To be frank, rooftop tents are notorious for being difficult to setup. They tend to be two (or three) person jobs, because of the sheer weight of the shelter, and the effort it takes to put it on top of your vehicle.

Awnings and tents that extend from the side or back of your vehicle are much easier to manage. You don’t have to worry about lifting them on and off your SUV, which makes them as easy to pitch as a normal camping tent. However, some people don’t like them because they feel a little too similar to regular tent camping. The only difference is that the tent attaches to your vehicle, giving you easy access to anything you might have stored inside.

Seasonality

Many of the best SUV tents are designed for 3 season use. Some rooftop tents will fare a little better in wintery conditions, since they get you off the frozen ground, but even they aren’t meant for subzero temperatures and blizzards.

Generally speaking, summer and the shoulder months are going to be the way to go. That also means that you’re going to be camping in the rainy season, so your tent needs to be completely waterproof. Most do a pretty good job in this regard, though there are a few bad eggs out there that fail to seal the seams properly, or they produce an ineffective rainfly. It can be hard to know what you’ll get based off a product description alone, so I always recommend checking out the reviews before purchasing anything.

Weight

tan tent on an suv at a campground in the forest

There’s a lot of fluctuation in weight, depending on the type of tent that you buy. Rooftop tents can weigh in excess of 100 pounds, when you consider the shelter itself and the materials that securely fasten it to your vehicle. While this makes them extra sturdy, they can be quite the pain to lift and carry. If you aren’t careful, all that weight can easily scratch up the top of your SUV, so make sure you lift the tent into position, as opposed to sliding it.

Who are SUV Tents For?

SUV tents are for anyone who wants a change of pace from the traditional camping setup. Not only is it a fun way to spice things up, but it also lets you stay closer to essential gear and transportation. Overlanders, especially, will enjoy having a shelter that’s compatible with their vehicle while they’re out on longer expeditions.

The Best SUV Tents – Reviewed

Thule Tepui Foothill Tent

  • Weight: 108 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Peak Height: 38 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

From personal experience, I find that sleeping on top of a car is one of the most exciting forms of camping out there. There’s just something about staying high off the ground, away from snooping animals and puddles of water, that feels so much safer and more secure than normal camping.

As far as rooftop tents go, the Thule Tepui Foothill encompasses everything that you’d hope to find in an elevated shelter. Large enough for two people, it takes up more than half the space on top of your SUV, while leaving enough room for a kayak or mountain bike. It’s waterproof, and withstands strong wind gusts fairly well, if you’ve managed to properly secure it to your roof rack. There are also a number of windows surrounding the shelter that create adequate ventilation and airflow.

Unfortunately, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns with the Foothill, though. It’s an incredibly heavy tent, and it will scratch the top of your vehicle if you aren’t careful. You’ll need at least two strong bodies to lift this shelter up, and someone with a nimble mind to figure out how it attaches to the car. Thule products have a steep learning curve, which can be frustrating for people who aren’t familiar with rooftop tents.

Pros:

– Get off the ground
– Fairly spacious
– Skylights
– Well ventilated
– Can sit on top of the vehicle along with a kayak or mountain bike

Cons:

– Heavy

Check Price at REI Check Price on Amazon

Kelty Backroads Shelter

  • Weight: 11.5 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Fiberglass
  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Peak Height: As high as the vehicle
  • Number of Doors: 1

The Kelty Backroads is a shelter that can fit almost any vehicle. SUVs, hatchbacks, Jeeps, vans…you name it, there’s a way to make it work.

Now, this particular product isn’t going to give you the full coverage protection that you’d find in a standard tent. There will be gaps here and there, specifically close to the ground in areas where it hugs the vehicle. It’s not enough to let in rain or the blustery wind, but a small animal wouldn’t have a hard time finding its way inside. So if you intend on living in this SUV tent, you’ll have to take extra precautions with food storage.

At 11 pounds, it’s a very reasonable weight, and is certainly easy enough to set up by yourself. You wouldn’t be backpacking with something like this anyway, so poundage isn’t too big of a factor, as far as I’m concerned. The peak height is also dependent on the size of your vehicle, as the tent will need to be raised higher to accommodate a taller SUV.

Durability seems decent, especially for the price you’ll pay. It’s inexpensive as far as SUV tents are concerned, so there’s only so much you can expect from it. The stitching is solid, there are plenty of tie downs, and the stakes are halfway decent. Not a bad option, if you’re looking to expand your SUV, or create a sheltered space for cooking, hanging out, or sleeping.

Pros:

– Inexpensive
– Universal mount
– Lightweight
– Holds up well in bad weather
– Versatile

Cons:

– Doesn’t create a full enclosed space

Napier Backroadz SUV Tent

  • Weight: 2.2 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Fiberglass
  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Peak Height: 74 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

If there’s one thing that Napier Outdoors got right with their Backroadz SUV tent, it’s ventilation. When the rainfly is off, you’ll find that the entire shelter is made almost entirely of mesh, aside from the floor and corners. This allows a generous amount of air to move around, helping to cool things off in hotter climates, while also working to prevent the buildup of condensation.

The universal design can fit any SUV, CUV, or minivan. Just slip the sleeve over the back of your vehicle, and attach it by connecting the included tethers and straps. It’s a very spacious tent with a 10×10 foot layout and a 7 foot peak height, allowing most people to stand up comfortably. Setting it by yourself will be a challenge, but it’s not too difficult if you have a pair of helping hands.

Now, I have to say, the sleeve doesn’t always cinch around the vehicle perfectly. There will likely be tiny openings for bugs to come through, but at the very least, it keeps the water out. It’s also worth noting that the tent doesn’t work without a vehicle to attach it to, as there’s no way to remove the sleeve and seal off that side of the tent. The lack of versatility is rather sad, but it plays its part as an SUV tent fairly well.

Pros:

– Lots of space
– Great ventilation
– Fits most cars
– Tall peak height
– Attached instructions

Cons:

– Difficult to set up alone
– Thin tent floor

North East Harbor SUV Tent

  • Weight: 19 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Fiberglass
  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Peak Height: 76 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

If you want a ground tent that connects to your vehicle, you’re not going to do much better than the North East Harbor SUV tent. I say that, even after reviewing the Napier Backroadz, because of a few key differences. While both are fairly inexpensive, I feel that the Harbor SUV tent gives you a better experience for the price that you’ll pay.

To start, the Harbor fully seals around your vehicle without leaving any gaps. The elastic ensures a snug fit, and it’s made from a soft material that shouldn’t damage your car. Of course, if you have a lot of dirt, dust, and debris coating the outside of your car, you may experience a little bit of scratching.

Another thing that I like about this tent is the universal fit. While this review is centered around the best SUV tents, it’s no fun if you purchase something that’s only compatible with an SUV. If you have a second vehicle, or you plan to replace your SUV with something else later on, your tent will still be useful.

It is a few square feet smaller than the Napier Backroadz, though. Instead of 100 square feet, the Harbor measure in at 64 square feet, which is a fairly significant difference. However, it’s still spacious enough for a small family to live comfortably, and the 7 foot peak height provides enough room to stretch out, change clothes, and walk around without hunching over.

Pros:

– Seals around the vehicle
– Tall peak height
– Easy setup
– Universal fit
– Good ventilation

Cons:

– Fiberglass poles are a bit flimsy

Roadie Overnighter SUV Window Tent

  • Weight: 1 Pound
  • Pole Material: N/A
  • Tent Material: Nylon
  • Peak Height: N/A
  • Number of Doors: N/A

I’m not really sure it can be called a tent, but that’s what it’s marketed as, so it made this review. The Roadie Overnighter window tent is a unique design that doesn’t actually create a separate shelter for you to sleep in or use for other purposes. Instead, it fits inside the window of your SUV, allowing you to keep your windows open without letting water or bugs inside.

The obvious downside is that you’ll have to sleep inside of your car, which can be somewhat uncomfortable. But aside from that, it’s a pretty useful product to have if you do a lot of car camping. My wife and I often sleep in the car on long road trips, and it’s nice to be able to open up the windows for some fresh air, without needing to keep the car running all night.

Overall, the Roadie Overnighter is a pretty straightforward “tent” that doesn’t have a lot of extra features. It’s easy to use, and it’s the cheapest option in our list of SUV tents, making it an attractive option for those of you who don’t need a separate shelter to spend the night in.

Pros:

– Easy to use
– Minimalistic
– Allows you to keep your car windows open
– Blocks bugs and water
– Inexpensive

Cons:

– Not actually a separate tent, so you’ll have to sleep in the car

Campoint Rooftop Tent

  • Weight: 15 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Peak Height: N/A
  • Number of Doors: 1

Like the Thule Tepui Foothill, the Campoint rooftop tent will be secured to the top of your SUV. However, unlike the Foothill, this tent is only a couple hundred bucks – significantly less expensive than what you’ll get from Thule. Is that always a good thing? No, not necessarily, but it does allow people on a budget to experience the joys of sleeping on top of their car.

To start, it’s actually unbelievable how lightweight this shelter is. At 15 pounds, it’s a tenth the weight of the Foothill rooftop tent, which means it’s so much easier for a single person to set everything up. The lightweight design does mean that it’s less durable than the Foothill, but that feels like a reasonable tradeoff to me.

With the help of a ladder, you can easily access the 3 person tent. Both the ladder and entrance are fully enclosed by polyvinyl and mesh, giving you a protected space to enter into when you want to come and go. It’s a handy feature if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but it happens to be raining cats and dogs. Now you don’t have to get soaked just to relieve yourself, and you won’t have to mess with a wet, slippery ladder.

Ventilation could be a little better, but the windows do allow for some measure of airflow. It’s sturdy in strong winds, and holds up well under heavy rain, making it a decent option for most climates and environments.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Easy to setup
– Protected ladder
– Weather resistant
– Relatively inexpensive for this type of shelter

Cons:

– Can be some mix-ups with color
– Ventilation could be better

Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 3 Tent

  • Weight: 152 Pounds
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Tent Material: Polyester/Cotton
  • Peak Height: 52 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

The final SUV tent on our list, Thule’s Autana rooftop tent is a similar style to the one just mentioned by Campoint. It has a covered ladder to help you stay dry in rainy conditions, as well as a few windows with awnings to keep the water out of the tent itself. Overall, it provides a pretty comfortable place to sleep, and is a lot more spacious on the inside than it looks, fitting two adults with ease.

Though it’s quite durable, I admit that the 152-pound weight is quite a pain to deal with. I won’t say it’s impossible to setup by yourself, but you’re going to resent the day you were born if you try to pull the lone wolf routine. If you don’t injure yourself, you’ll injure the vehicle, so I’d suggest bringing a strong pair of hands with to help get the job done.

Another point to consider is that the ladder can be a little tricky to figure out at first. It’s also a little fragile, so you’ll need to be gentle with it when you’re trying to get it into position. But once you’re up inside the tent, it’s time to lay back and enjoy the included mattress that puts some padding between you and the top of your car. The mattress is pretty firm, so if that’s a bother for you, I’d suggest getting a topper or something plush to put on it. Large pockets give you all the space you need to store your belongings, and the skylights will give you a great view of night sky as you fall asleep.

Pros:

– Sturdy
– Great annex
– Comes with a mattress
– Holds up well in bad weather
– Spacious
– Plenty of storage space

Cons:

– Heavy
– Difficult to put on and take off

FAQ

What is the Best SUV Family Tent for Camping?

Rooftop tents typically aren’t big enough for family camping, which is why we believe the North East Harbor SUV tent is the best for families. Spacious and easy to put together, there’s plenty of room for you, your family, and all of your gear.

Most SUV tents can only be used with a vehicle. Rooftop tents don’t really work well on the ground, and other types of SUV tents don’t seal fully, unless they have a car to connect to.

With an SUV tent, you get all the benefits that come with having access to the inside of your car. You can store food and other gear in your vehicle, and you could even turn your car on to cool off using the air conditioning.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re overlanding, road tripping, or just want to try something different, an SUV tent is the way to go. There’s an option for everyone, encompassing various styles and price ranges, so that you can get the best fit for your needs.

That being said, the best SUV tent should still be waterproof, durable, well ventilated, and relatively spacious. Out of the options that we reviewed, we believe the Thule Tepui Foothill does it the best. Sturdy, weatherproof, and fun to hang out in, it checked most of the requirements that we were looking for.


Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes to have fun and stay active in nature.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Get My guide for FREE!

New to rock climbing and don’t know where to start? It’s an intimidating sport, but contrary to what you might initially think, it’s not completely inaccessible for beginners. To help you on your way, I’ve put together a guide I wish I had when I first started climbing. Drop your email in the box below to get a free copy today!