There have been countless times I wish I’d had a tent that attaches to my van after nearly two years on the road. Sometimes I’d be in the Arizona desert for weeks, wishing a tent could expand the outdoor living space of my van (and help me stay cooler). Or I’d have friends stay with me and wish I’d had more space for them to sleep and move around. Heck, even using it to sleep outside and stare up at the stars (instead of my van’s boring ceiling)!
But a camping tent that is compatible with conversion vans is HARD to come by–they almost don’t exist. Most come in the form of pop-up canopies or are only compatible with SUVs or minivans.
That’s why I’ve dug deep to figure out the few and far-between van tent options on the market so you can up your van life-living game. I chose these van tents based on price, functionality, versatility and overall user reviews. So, let’s dive in!
1. Napier Sportz Minivan Tent with Screen Room
Price: $399 – $555 (depending on size)
Compatible With: Ford Econoline, Chevy Astro vans, minivans, lower-roof conversion vans
Sleeping capacity: 10’x10’ size sleeps 5-6 people and 9’x9’ size sleeps roughly 4 people
Starting off with a big boy, the Napier Sportz tent comes in a 9′ x 9′ for $349 or 10’ x 10’ for an extra $50. The bigger size can fit up to 6 people with the extra screen room. If you have friends, family, or a couple of furry companions with you, this tent will provide everyone plenty of space to move around.
Made from super sturdy polyester taffeta and equipped with a waterproof floor and a rain protection system, the Napier Sportz offers reliable water protection from heavy rain.
The Napier has a universal vehicle sleeve that can attach to SUVs, overlanding rigs and low-roof campervans. While it isn’t specified anywhere, I don’t think it could fit high-roof vans such as Sprinters, Promasters or Ford Transit vans.
Because of its steel and fiberglass poles, the Napier Sportz van tent is not only strong but also easy enough to set up that one person can do it alone! You shouldn’t need more than 15 minutes to get this tent up and functioning.
You can remove the vehicle sleeve from this tent and use it as a regular, freestanding tent – which makes it great for camping trips as well. That being said, if you do detach it from your vehicle, the rainfly won’t work. Comes with an expandable carry bag.
2. Kelty Backroads Car Camping Shelter
Compatible With: Conversion vans (high or low-roof), trucks, overlanding rigs, SUVs
Sleeping capacity: “Varies”
The Kelty Backroads shelter is one of the few tents on the market that is compatible with most high-roof vans such as Sprinters, Ford Transits and Promasters. I highly recommend measuring the width of your sliding doors before purchasing, though. The tent is reportedly 72 inches wide where it attaches to a vehicle at the top and roughly 96 inches wide where it meets the ground.
One reviewer noted, “if you have side sliding doors as I do on my Transit Connect, please measure them fully open. The canopy is not wide enough to span my sliders, so my only option was to use it at my tailgate (lift style).”
The Kelty Backroads tent is technically just an awning tent (AKA canopy) because it doesn’t have a tent floor. This makes it pretty limiting and dependent on weather conditions. But for just $170, reviewers seem to think it’s a good bang for their buck. It’s rated for three seasons and great for festivals, car camping and hiking.
You can still get nearly full coverage with a zippered entrance door and adjustable side walls, but you’ll want to lay down a tarp so you aren’t sleeping directly on the ground. However, it can’t be used as a freestanding tent. Reviewers report that it’s easy to set up, and it comes with roof rack attachment straps for more flexibility and a Sharkmouth Duffel storage bag.
3. Rightline Gear SUV Tent
Compatible With: Ford Econoline, Chevy Astro vans, minivans, lower-roof conversion vans, SUVs, crossovers, wagon, Jeep Wrangler hard top, or pick up truck with cap.
Sleeping capacity: 4-6 people
Like a lot of others, the Rightline Gear SUV Tent attaches to the back of your rig as a tailgate tent. But it’s also compatible with barn-style doors, so you can use it on smaller, lower-roof vans that have sliding side doors. But heads up, one reviewer noted that the tent poles were not sturdy.
Sitting at a spacious 8’ x 8’ with over 7’ of headroom, this tent has a sleeping space to comfortably fit 4 adults (and 6 if you count two sleeping in the car’s cargo area).
This Rightline tent has been weather-tested and approved to keep you safe from the elements no matter what nature decides to throw at you. It also keeps you safe from bugs with no-see-um mesh windows.
You also have organization options from the double gear pockets and plenty of visibility thanks to the lantern hook and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls.
The only downside to this tent is the setup, with many people saying it’s difficult to put up alone. You may also need to buy sturdier stakes separately to make sure it’s as stable as you want it to be while you’re camping.
4. North East Harbor Universal SUV Camping Tent
Compatible With: SUVs, minivans, crossovers, wagons, or pick-up trucks with bed caps
Sleeping capacity: 6-8 people
The North East Harbor Universal car tent has the most extra space of any tent on this list–fitting up to 6 people in the tent area and 2 more in the car’s cargo area! This camping tent is much like the Rightline with a slightly bigger size, but similar gear pockets and lantern hook.
However, this tent doesn’t guarantee a fit for vans that feature barn-style doors. Unfortunately, the manufacturer can only guarantee a fit with minivans. You can measure your van just in case to see if it fits with the tent’s 8′ W x 8′ L x 7.2′ H measurements. The tent is made of sturdy polyester taffeta, with mesh windows and door.
If you’re looking for a budget tent that can either attach to your rig or stand alongside your rig as a freestanding tent, the North East Harbor Universal is absolutely made for you. It can be a great starter tent until you’re ready to upgrade.
One complaint about this tent is that even though it’s reportedly an easy setup, it doesn’t seem to come with any instructions.
5. Front Runner Roof Top Tent
Compatible With: “This tent is not vehicle specific. It comes with mounting hardware that will mount to most crossbar systems.”
Dimensions: 131 x 90 x 52.4 inches
Sleeping capacity: Max 2 adults and 1 child
The first rooftop tent on the list is the Front Runner Roof Top tent, which is one of the most budget-friendly rooftop tents you’ll find.
You’ll want to heavily research the dimensions of your van and this tent to determine if it’s compatible with your campervan before buying. Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn’t specify exactly what vehicles it will fit. But its dimensions are 131 x 90 x 52.4 inches.
This rooftop tent is not only incredibly low profile but it’s also the lightest of its kind at only 93lbs. But being this small means it’s not nearly as wind-resistant as some other rooftop tents while it’s folded down.
But don’t let it fool you. The Front Runner might be on the smaller side but it still fits two people comfortably inside on the included mattress and keeps them safe from weather and bugs alike. You can enjoy unimpeded views of nature from all windows and then zip up the privacy panels when you’re ready for some peace and quiet.
The Front Runner tent reportedly comes with everything you need to mount it to your vehicle (including the tent ladder). But one reviewer noted, “I have a Land Rover LR4 and the load bars are super wide, about 3 inches wide. The included mounting plates can only accommodate about 2 – 2.5 inches. So I went to Home Depot to get a 1/4” steel plate by 2 feet long. I measured, cut out 4 pieces, drilled holes, and spray painted them with rust-oleum rust resistant paint. The bolts included are fairly long and works perfectly.”
Compatible With: Jeeps, overlanding rigs, SUVs
Sleeping capacity: 2-3 people
The Smittybilt Overlander rooftop tent packs a mean bang for its buck (even comes with a mattress). This tent is a great option for casual campers who get out occasionally and won’t need to frequently “push” a tent’s features to its limits.
It’s got all the basics covered like ease of setup, great mosquito netting to keep the tent breathable (and to see stars at night!), and a waterproof coating and rain awning. Its PVC material also offers UV protection on sunny days.
That being said, one reviewer wrote, “I noticed right when I opened the tent up and installed the poles for the awnings over the openings; I could see it was going to pool water on the rainfly. I know that other makers use two sets of poles to keep this from happening.” As mentioned, this tent could be ideal in good weather.
An included high-density full-sized foam mattress means you can comfortably sleep 2-3 people in this 95″W x 56″L x 51″H tent. But if you’re on the lookout for more space, there’s an XL size available as well as a ladder extension to make sure you’re safe on the climb up.
The Smittybilt comes with LED light strips and clamps – points for practicality! Although you can get your money’s worth from this tent with appropriate care, it may not hold up in the super long-run. Some reviews indicate tearing in the side seams.
What to Consider Before Choosing a Van Tent
Before you pick up the first tent you see that says it can attach to your van, there are a few factors to consider first. With a little forethought, you can find the ideal tent for your van.
If your budget is on the smaller side, you may have to compromise a little bit on features. It’s important to figure out what matters most to you so you can find a tent within your budget that suits your individual needs.
Just keep in mind that a tent that attaches to your van is an investment. Most of the time, you get the quality you pay for.
How many people are going to be sleeping in your tent? How much stuff do you want to keep in your tent with you? Do you have animals staying in your tent?
Considering how large your tent needs to be to accommodate you and anyone else camping with you is essential. If you end up getting a tent that’s too small, no one is going to be comfortable on those overnight trips. Make sure to look at the capacity of every tent you research before buying.
Never buy a tent just assuming it’s going to fit your van. Some tents are made for specific vehicles while others claim to be universal. You know your van best so it should be pretty easy to find a tent that’s compatible.
The last thing you want to discover when you get to the campground is that the tent you paid so much for doesn’t even attach to your van properly.
Finally, take a look at a few reviews from actual customers before you commit to a tent.
Technical specifications can give you numbers and features until your head is spinning but nothing is going to tell you more about a van tent than the people actually using it in real life. Carefully consider the best reviews as well as the worst reviews and see what people are complaining about.
Sometimes you can deal with the downsides but other times reviews can open your eyes to major deal-breakers.
The best tent for your van is one that gives you plenty of space and protection from the elements. Choosing a van tent depends on your budget, how many people are traveling with you, and which tent fits your particular van.
In the end, getting a tent that attaches to your van is about being comfortable while you’re camping without losing access to your beloved van. Which type of tent will make you feel most at home?