There’s nothing like hitting the great outdoors for a relaxing adventure.
No matter how much modern convenience and technology there is, it’s hard to beat the peace and serenity that comes from camping. Packing up the family and loved ones to head for the country is great for the soul. But not making that destination, or worse yet, getting stranded there, is not. To fully enjoy a nature-based vacation, the proper vehicle is required.
But there is no simple answer when it comes to the question of what’s the best car for camping. What works for one person may not work for another. Each solution comes down to lifestyle, needs, and budget. To help consumers out, we’ve assembled a list that features the best car for camping from a variety of viewpoints. So if pitching a tent and cooking dinner by campfire sounds like the perfect weekend getaway, read on.
Subaru Crosstrek Sport
The Subaru Crosstrek is a great do-it-all camping choice for a couple or small family. There is over 20 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear hatch which can expand to 55.3 cubic feet if there are no rear passengers. There’s also a plethora of rooftop accessories that can further provide space to haul your gear.
With 8.7-inches of standard ground clearance, it can crawl over larger obstacles than almost every other vehicle in its class. This makes it well suited to traverse the roughest of camping roads to reach that perfect site to spend the weekend. As well, if the weather turns stormy, the symmetrical all-wheel drive should help ensure you make it back out to civilization. We pick the Sport (Outdoor in Canada) specifically as it gives you easily washable StarTex seating surfaces and the more powerful 2.5-liter engine.
Subaru Outback Wilderness
With the Subaru Outback Wilderness, take everything that makes the Crosstrek a best car for camping, and expand on it. The larger Outback is a better suited choice for families of four or a group of friends looking to escape into nature. The rear seat offers more headroom (39.1-inches) and legroom (39.5-inches) to accommodate adult passengers. The cargo area swallows 32.6 cubic feet of gear and of course there are countless rooftop accessories for more storage.
Under the hood there’s more oomph to ensure a fully loaded Outback Wilderness can climb a small mountain thanks to the standard 260 hp 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine. The 9.5-inches of ground clearance means it should be able to crawl over any small trees that may be blocking the road as well.
Volvo V90 Cross Country
If camping in a bit more style and comfort is your thing, there’s the Volvo V90 Cross Country. Think of it as a much fancier Subaru Outback. Not as hardcore as the Outback Wilderness, the V90 Cross Country is still wholly capable. The all-wheel drive lifted wagon features 8.3 inches of ground clearance. Under the hood is a trick turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine that is paired to a mild hybrid system. This delivers over 300 hp total – more than enough to get to the campground in a hurry.
Volvo measures the V90’s cargo are at 30.1 cubic feet which is quite generous and the rear seat should accommodate all but the tallest of adults.
Ford F-150 Lightning
Not everyone goes camping with a tent. Some like to bring along a travel trailer. Nothing is better suited for this task than a pickup truck. But what if that truck could also power your camping trip while there? Then the Ford F-150 Lightning might be the perfect choice. The all-electric pickup truck is still a truck even if it lacks a gasoline engine. It features a 5.5 foot bed, 8.4 inches of ground clearance, and a SuperCrew cab configuration that can hold five adults. It can even tow between 5,000 and 10,000 lbs. depending on configuration.
But the F-150 has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Since there is no gas engine, the front end has been converted to a cargo area that can hold 14.1 cubic feet of gear. As well, the truck features onboard power outlets that can be used to power a whole host of camping accessories.
A full-size pickup truck, electrified or otherwise, might be overkill for some campers. Some might want the benefits of a pickup truck’s enclosed cabin, open bed, and towing capacity, but in a smaller, more affordable package. This sounds like the perfect customer base for the Ford Maverick. Starting at a price just over $21,000 after destination charges, the Maverick comes standard with a hybrid drivetrain and front-wheel drive. Those looking for a bit more power and capability will want to step up to the turbocharged all-wheel drive models.
With this more powerful engine and tow package installed, the Maverick can pull upwards of 4,000 lbs which is more than enough for a variety of small travel and/or pop-up trailers. And when not towing, the Maverick drives unlike most trucks thanks to its car-like reflexes.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Enough of this regular camping, time to talk about the folks who want to spend the night on top of a mountain. For those, only the most capable of vehicles will get them there. Something like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. There isn’t much outside of a Ford Bronco or Mercedes G-Class that can venture where a Wrangler can. With 10.8 inches of ground clearance, the Rubicon comes from the factory with plenty of the go-anywhere gear. But for those who want even more capability, there is the Xtreme Recon 35-inch Tire Package that upgrades most aspects of the Rubicon’s off-road capabilities.
With the five-door body style, four to five passengers and 31.7 cubic feet of camping gear can fit inside. The Jeep can also tow up to 3,500 lbs. when properly equipped, so a small off-road camper trailer could be brought along for the adventure.
At the other end of the camping spectrum are those who plan to hit a facility-rich campground with a massive travel trailer. These are the campers who want to enjoy the great outdoors, but still have most of the comforts from home. As mentioned previously, the best choice for this style of camping is a full-size pickup truck and a fifth-wheel trailer. But some folks have large families and need more space, but still a decent amount of towing capacity. The best compromise for this situation is a large, body-on-frame SUV like the Chevrolet Suburban.
With seating for up to nine passengers, the Suburban can still hold an astounding 41.5 cubic feat of gear behind the third row. Fold down the second and third row and space grows to 144.7 cubic feet. But back to towing, the Suburban can tow 7,400 to 8,300 lbs. depending on configuration. If the vehicle will be full of people while towing a decent sized trailer behind it, go for the 3.0-liter diesel engine.
The Toyota 4Runner is a unique offering in today’s vehicle landscape. It’s one of the last old-school, body-on-frame SUVs still on sale. Some may call it old and out-of-date, but that’s exactly why fans and customers of the 4Runner love it. Is it quick, nimble, and efficient? No. Will it travel almost anywhere a Wrangler Rubicon can go, with as much space and cargo room as an Outback? Yes.
It also has available seven passenger seating and the ability to tow upwards of 5,000 lbs. The best part of the 4Runner may be the amount of choices on offer. Everything from on-road versions like the TRD Sport to fairly hard-core off-road models like the TRD Pro are available.
Land Rover Discovery
Take the Toyota 4Runner and Chevrolet Suburban, blend them together and add a dollop of luxury. The resulting vehicle would be something like the Land Rover Discovery. The Discovery is a do it all SUV that’s just as at home at a campground as it is a shopping center. It can seat upwards of seven passengers, carry 45 cubic feet of gear and tow up to 8,200 lbs.
Of course, the Discovery has all the off-road capability that Land Rover is known for, so getting stuck on the camp site access road shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re looking to go glamping, the Discovery is a great choice.
Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition
Nothing, and we mean nothing, beats the versatility, comfort, and space of a minivan. These boxes on wheels are designed to maximize passenger space and cargo carrying capability. Seven passengers can’t ride together in any better comfort than in a van. It’s a perfect addition to our Best Car for Camping list, assuming the camp ground is easily accessible. But what if it’s more off the beaten path?
Well, Toyota has a solution for you; the all-new Toyota Sienna Woodlands Edition. The hybrid-powered minivan comes with standard on-demand all-wheel drive and an increased ground clearance of almost 7-inches total. It’s not going to traverse the worst of roads like a Jeep Wrangler or Subaru Outback Wilderness, but the Woodland does give the Sienna a bit more capability. Perfect for that family camping trip into the wood…land.
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