Whether you're planning on doing some car camping out of it or simply driving it to your preferred trailhead before embarking on an overnight hike, no vehicle is quite as well-suited to camping as the sport-utility vehicle. Like trucks, sport-utes offer the added ground clearance and payload and towing capacity to haul ample people and cargo; like cars, they offer a completely enclosed space for making sure valuable items don't fly away (either due to breeze or theft).
A few decades back, choosing which SUV to use as your camping vehicle would have been fairly easy; there were only a few types of them, after all, and they were all fairly equivalent in terms of capability. Here in the modern day, however, SUVs — both car-like crossovers and the more traditional truck-like models — have effectively taken over the new car market. It's almost harder these days to find a new car that isn't a truck or SUV than the opposite.
But still, some stand above others when it comes to camping. If you're going camping, odds are good you want as much room as possible, in order to stash plenty of gear (or bring friends and their gear along). You likely want solid ground clearance, so you can clamber over obstacles without getting high-sided. You probably want four- or all-wheel-drive, and you probably don't want to spend too much; after all, while you could camp out of, say, a Lamborghini, it's much more pleasurable to do so out of a vehicle you don't mind getting dirty.
So, we've rounded up some of the best new SUVs you can use for camping, stretching across a wide range of sizes and price ranges. (A quick note: while we've listed the base price for these models, AWD or 4WD often costs extra, and many options that are great for camping may be in more expensive trims, so check the manufacturer's website out.) Check 'em out below.
Okay, sure, calling the Kia Soul an SUV is a bit of stretch. Still, if you don't need all-wheel-drive and can live with 6.7 inches of ground clearance (which, to be fair, is only 0.6 inches less than the Seltos), it's hard to beat the Soul's versatile interior for the price. You may be tempted by the off-road-esque X-Line Trim seen here, but don't be fooled; the base LX has just as much capability, and offers a six-speed stick instead of the CVT found elsewhere.
Base Price: $18,765
Really, any Subaru bar the BRZ and Legacy could arguably find a place on this list, but it's the brand's latest model, the Outback Wilderness (which starts at $38,120) that deserves it most. Building on the already impressive turbocharged Outback XT, the Wilderness adds ground clearance (standing 9.5 inches off the ground) and off-road capability without compromising the excellent cargo space (33 cubic feet with the seats up, 76 with the seats down) and other traits that make the Outback such a great ride.
Base Price: $27,845
With its playful attitude, rugged looks and arsenal of handy, outdoorsy features (MOLLE straps! A bottle opener!), the Bronco Sport was pretty much made for camping. Cargo space is limited compared to some vehicles on the list, but it still has up to 32 cubic feet with both rows up and 65 cubes with the back seats down.
Base Price: $28,115
Every version of the Durango offers ample space inside, with 85 cubic feet of space after the second and third rows have been folded down — enough to sleep, in a pinch (we've checked). But the 4WD Durango R/T Tow N' Go (which starts at $54,685) takes things a step further; its 5.7-liter V8 delivers 8,700 pounds of towing capacity, and it even offers low-range for its four-wheel-drive system, for those times you need to take a campsite way away from everyone else.
Base Price: $33,740
Car camping makes getting away easy as pie. These items make it even tastier.
Not everyone wants a third row of seats. If that covers you, but you also want 100 cubic feet of available cargo space (or up to 50.5 cubes with the second row upright), Honda reliability and a well-equipped price of around $35K with all-wheel-drive, the Passport is your...well, y'know...to adventure.
Base Price: $33,975
The Expedition became an even better buy for adventurous buyers who don't need room for more than five people last year, when Ford rolled out the more affordable two-row-only XL STX trim. No matter which trim you choose, you'll find 57.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 104.6 cubes with all the seats folded flat. (If you need even more, there's a longer Expedition Max, too.)
Base Price: $51,690
By now, you probably know everything there is to know about the reborn Land Rover Defender. Whether you love it or hate it, there's no arguing that it's an excellent camping rig — especially if you're planning on going well beyond the beaten path. Granted, it's not the most commodious SUV for the money, what with just 58.3 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows down and just 15.6 cubes with the second row up. Still, its impressive towing capacity, gnarly off-road capabilities and extensive collection of accessories (both official and aftermarket) make outfitting it for your camping adventures very easy.
Base Price: $51,850
But if the Expedition still isn't big enough, you'll want to go Suburban. It's unmatched among in cargo space (except for amongst its GM SUV brethren), packing 41.5 cubic feet with all three rows up, 98.3 cubic feet with the third row flat, and 145 cubic feet with second and third rows down. Plus, if you're planning on doing some casual overlanding, you can even order the burly Z71 off-road trim.
Base Price: $53,995
The Mercedes GLS may not have quite as much cargo space as you might expect given its size (you're looking at 85 cubic feet with the second and third row folded flat), but it's still ample roomy — and makes up for any deficiencies with an interior so luxurious, you might wonder why you bother sleeping outside.
Base Price: $77,050
Because you should give your SUV the fancy rubber it deserves.