Right now is an excellent time to get into car camping. Not only is the trend booming, which means lots of choices when it comes to tents and equipment, but many of the vehicles are ideally suited to spending a little time outdoors.
Even better, that vehicle doesn’t need to be massive or expensive. But it does make sense to think about what type of camping is right for you and your family — and what type of vehicle will make that happen.
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.
2021 Ram 2500
The Ram 2500 is an excellent outdoors vehicle because of how it stands out from its rivals. The Ram is the only 2500 series (3/4-ton) heavy-duty pickup that has a smooth-riding coil-sprung suspension. Yet it can handle a payload of well over a ton — that’s a lot of camping and off-road gear. The Ram’s 4WD system is stout and includes front and rear solid axles as well as low-range gearing. And you can option the Ram with some great features. The torque-rich Cummins diesel is not only reliable but also delivers an excellent cruising range. This would be a great truck to take on a long-distance adventure.
Subaru Outback Wilderness
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.
With up to 97 cubic feet of cargo bay available and a starting price of under $33,000, it’s hard to beat the VW Atlas when it comes to bang for your buck.
2021 Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline is unique amongst its pickup peers because it rides and handles more like a crossover SUV than a truck. It smooths out rough terrain, has solid fuel economy, and offers a high payload at just over 1,500 pounds. Under that bed, Honda designed a 7.3-cubic-foot storage trunk that can hold extra gear. It can also double as a cooler because there’s a drain plug. Every Ridgeline comes with an all-wheel drive, but it doesn’t offer a low range.
So, the Ridgeline can’t explore the same rough trail terrain as some other midsize trucks. But unless that’s a real priority, the Ridgeline is an excellent machine. And much of that goodness comes in the base vehicle, so you don’t need to load this machine up with expensive options to get a well-equipped and capable Ridgeline.
When shopping for a good camping vehicle, look for intelligent ways that automakers help make gear-hauling easier.
In fact, a true off-road vehicle can be a stock-standard vehicle or one that has had some subtle aftermarket modifications.