Waking up to bright sun, the smell of a smoldering campfire, and a satisfied taste for adventure… Is there anything better than car camping in the summertime?
Whether you’re interested in rain forests, deserts, mountains, oceans, or plains, the Pacific Northwest really knocks it out of the park! Beautiful Camp Sherman in the Deschutes National Forest offers a mix of lakeside beauty with densely wooded coverage, while Kayak Point in Stanwood, Washington, blends windsurfing with picturesque hiking trails.
Though choosing a great campground is important, having the right car for the job is what truly makes or breaks a trip. In this article, we’re going to cover some great choices for car camping to ensure that you don’t leave home without the best vehicle companion for your needs.
PS- Don’t forget to pack the smores and hot dogs!
The Subaru Outback is a Northwest staple, and it makes an awesome car camping companion. It was originally marketed as a station wagon, but it’s more of a spacious crossover between a station wagon and an SUV. The interior is surprisingly roomy and comfortably seats five passengers. (And it will have enough room left over for your tent, firewood, and wine in the back!)
The perks of the Outback are perfectly in-line with adventurous needs, as well. This mini-beast comes with impeccable crash test ratings and a sturdy build. Its all-wheel drive excels in muddy, hilly, and off-road terrain and is handy for the campers who like to have a little fun off the beaten path. The all-weather floor mats spray off quickly, and its fuel-efficiency is comparable to newer sedans.
With up to 256 horsepower, we recommend checking this one out if you usually like to go farther from home, since the fuel economy is so excellent.
The Element can be described in one word: Versatile. This car gets a bad rap for its box-like exterior, but where it lacks in beauty it excels in functionality. The Element was engineered for car camping and even has an optional six-person hatch tent accessory. The interior also makes clean up a breeze with its stain-resistant fabric and washable flooring.
The Element’s rear seats can be removed for added space. Also, the roomy interior can carry everything from tents to blow-up mattresses and grills (read: tailgating heaven). At 166 horsepower, it’ll carry four passengers down the highway with no issues. Beside that, its visibility is stellar for campers who like to tow small trailers (up to 1,500 lbs).
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery Sport is a mid-range luxury option that has great off-road abilities. It seats up to seven passengers and is more aesthetically pleasing than the Element mentioned above. This SUV doesn’t quit at the exterior, either. It features 32 square feet of well-planned interior space and gets decent gas mileage.
Under the hood it has a nine-speed automatic transmission and puts out 240 horsepower. So with the Discovery Sport you won’t have to sacrifice looks for versatility, and you can roll into the campground in style. Tip: We recommend blasting R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of The World as we Know it” when pulling into the grounds in this bad boy.
Older Jeep Cherokees can often be found in great condition for several thousand dollars. They come with plenty of upgrade options, making it a perfect choice for the car camper who likes to have things tailored. If you want to go off-roading in a tough vehicle that’ll also help you bring home the bacon, you’ll love having one of these in the driveway.
The Cherokee won’t limit you to trails and pavement, either. So this is a great choice for sporty drivers who like to romp in the mud. The Cherokee has a six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission and carries four passengers comfortably.
The 4Runner is known for its bulletproof reliability, and they’re easy to find during a used car search. Prices can also vary quite a bit depending on the model year and accessories. There’s a 4Runner for every budget.
Find Your Next Used-Car On Our Site!GO TO INVENTORY!
The interior space is a bit more limited than the other options we’ve listed, but it makes up for it in off-road performance. It’s a comfortable ride for four adults and comes with a 4.0L V6 and about 236 horsepower. The power rear window is a fun feature for car camping that isn’t found on other SUVs, and the flip-up third row seating can squeeze seven people in.
Tip: If you’re looking for something to get rugged with off-road, keep in mind that the clearance and approach angles on the 4Runner aren’t stellar.
The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular pickups in the world. It’s known for its ability to run and run and run and… well, you get the picture. They’re trustworthy over 200,000 miles and can be found for $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the model year.
The Tacoma doesn’t come with elite off-road suspension, but it comes with a large bed that can withstand a pressure washer after an adventurous weekend. Under the hood is a 3.4L V6 with up to 280 horsepower. The cab seats five, and the bed fits all the car camping essentials (and can even double as your sleeping area if you like to look at the stars).
We chose to include the Trooper for those of you who love car camping but are on a tight budget. Many Troopers sell for under $5,000, and they have a ton of interior space. This vehicle is a great fit for those who like to combine camping with mountain biking. It can carry bikes inside the vehicle without removing the front wheels (less time, less work!).
The Trooper has a 3.5L V6 engine with 215 horsepower and seats five people.
This sedan is spacious and durable. It makes a wonderful companion for car camping and doubles as an everyday commuter. The interior is well-crafted, too, making this a good choice for those who seek style that meets their needs year round.
The Malibu comes standard with up to 252 horsepower and seating for five passengers. There are hybrid options as well, for eco-friendly drivers who like to do some car camping closer to home. Even though a sedan might not seem like a common vehicle for camping, they are more than adequate. From the office to the woods, the Malibu has you covered.
Studies have shown that spending 30 minutes in nature can reduce stress and reset the body’s natural functions. And there’s nothing like falling asleep under the stars with the smell of pine trees hovering close by. At TRED, we highly recommend taking some time to get out into nature this summer and expand your horizons.
If you’re looking for a new car camping companion, keep in mind that TRED specializes in a wide range of used cars that will suit your needs. With our 150-point inspection, CARFAX reports and competitive financing, you’ll have peace of mind. We’ll do all the dirty work so that you can focus on what matters most this season: fun!