The best camping car is one that you own. First of all, there is no "perfect car to camp in". Automobiles are made for driving and transportation and not specifically for camping.
The short answer is you can camp in any car as long a you pack correctly. I have seen families camping in everything from very small 4 seater Fiat's to converted bread trucks. The key is to make your gear fit in the car. Don't go out and buy a vehicle to fit your gear unless you really need a new vehicle.
Our family of four traveled for 6 years in our Subaru Legacy Outback wagon. It's all-wheel drive, has a lot of cargo, room and can accommodate a cargo container on the roof.
We often sleep in vehicle, so we bought a large Ford Club Wagon van and outfitted it both for tent camping and sleeping. Never the less, a car like Subaru can travel in places that a standard van or car cannot go.
The 6 Best Cars For Camping
The best cars to camping in are the cars that we own and drive. Whether you drive a 2 door coupe or an old mini van, you can equip your vehicle for an enjoyable camping trip. Let's get down to business. Subaru's are my number 1 camping vehicle pick because they are all wheel drive, fuel efficient, have lots of storage room, and extremely reliable. I drive a 1999 Subaru Outback with close to 200,000 miles and it's running great.
1. Subaru AWD Wagons For Back Country Adventures
Subarus are an amazing machine for camping. Most are equipped with factory all wheel drive and roof racks. I own the Legacy Outback with a heavy duty transmission and suspension system. The cargo area rivals most SUVs. Fuel economy is much better than an SUV.
2. Spacious Mini Vans
Mini vans give you the best of everything. They are super comfortable. You can remove a row of seats and have incredible cargo room. A roof top rack system with a cargo box mounted on the rails will help you evenly distribute the weight and keep your gear organized. Two people can easily sleep on the inside by removing the rear seats and replacing them a simple raised platform bed. Gear can fit under the platform bed. Toyota Sienna Van You can easily remove the rear seats and still have room for up to 5 people including gear. Most mini vans have a roof rack for extra storage. Honda Odyssey Van The Honda Odyssey is not much different in terms of functionality for traveling. Both the Sienna and Odyssey are perfect for family camping trips.
3. Full Size Cargo And Passenger Vans
If you don't mind spending a little more on fuel, then a full size van like a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge is the way to roll. We purchased a used Ford Club Wagon and outfitted it with 2 folding platform beds. All of our gear is neatly stowed away under the sleeping area. It has more ground clearance than most stock SUVs.
We average 15 mpg on our camping trips. This includes driving on back country gravel forest roads and over steep mountain passes.
We are self contained and can camp anywhere. Chevy sells AWD vans that can help get you out of bad situations such as snow, rain, or mud. Several companies such as Quigley and Sportsmobile install 4x4 van conversions that will turn your van into the ultimate camping machine. A porta-pottie is stowed away under the bench seat for those times when we don't have a bathroom nearby.
4. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV)
SUVs are an ideal vehicle for camping because they offer high ground clearance, AWD or 4 wheel drive, heavy duty suspension, roof racks, and ample room for gear storage. I am a Toyota man and suggest looking at a used Toyota 4Runner. I see these on the road boasting 300k or miles. If you plan on doing an off-road camping, definitely go with a 4x4.
5. Pickup Trucks
Ford F150 Extended Cab Pickup The cargo area is amazing. It's nice to have the cargo area separate from the passenger area to keep things neat and organized. Add a shell to protect your gear and you will be set. Toyota Tacoma Pickup I have owned 3 small Toyota pickup trucks and have used them all for camping. You cannot beat them for fuel economy and reliability. The 4 door and extended cab models work best for family camping trips.
6. Compact Family Sedans
Toyota Camry While not exactly a camping vehicle, the Camry is one of the most durable family sedans on the market. You can install an inexpensive cargo box for carrying light weight gear like sleeping bags and clothing. Honda Civic or Accord These are phenomenal bell weather vehicles. You can equip them just like a Toyata Camry by adding a roof rack. Chances are you already own one of these vehicles or a similar model.
6 Easy Steps To Packing Your Car Like The Pros For A Camping Trip
Most car campers drive practical vehicles easy on the gas and short on storage. This is an easy solution if you know how pack.
- Store all your camping gear with the exception of clothing in stack-able clear plastic storage bins.
- Take only the things that you need. Leaving behind things you "might need".
- If you forget something, find a Walmart or an outdoor gear store to buy things that you forgot.
- Think small and light weight. It's no fun stuffing your car and trying to find the things you need. Keep all your gear in organized see through plastic storage bins.
- Store clothing should in soft sided gym bags.
- Store Sleeping bags in compression sacks.