Riley Kooh / January 19th, 2022

How to Choose an SUV Tent

Product Guide

Interested in experiencing ‘Van Life’ without the price tag of a campervan or hassle of renovating your own from scratch? Instantly add a living space to your SUV, CUV, or minivan with a Napier SUV Tent. With sizes ranging from 72 to 170 square feet, there’s a size option for any adventurer. But how do you decide which option is best suited for you? With a variety of options available, things can get confusing for someone new to the vehicle camping scene. As the global leader in vehicle camping tents, we’re here to help. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to choose an SUV Tent.

Interested in learning how to choose a truck tent? Check out the guide here.

What is an SUV Tent?

SUV Tents are a revolutionary way to approach “Van Life”. Rather than going all out on a camper van, simply attaching an SUV tent to your existing vehicle instantly creates a car camping space. They attach via an elastic vehicle sleeve that wraps around the open hatch of your vehicle, and hook to both the exterior and interior of your vehicle.

Full Size vs. Compact Tent Models

The first thing to understand off the bat is which tent will be compatible, based on vehicle size. Without getting into the nitty gritty of vehicle specifications, cargo vehicle sizes can be laid out as compact, mid-size, and full-size. Currently there is only one Napier SUV Tent designed for compact vehicles. The Sportz Dome-to-Go is designed to fit any hatchback vehicle which sits lower than 10′ from the ground, with a max hatch height of 74″. Beyond those measurements, up to a maximum hatch height of 80″, more options become available.

Examples of Compact VehiclesExamples of Full/Mid Size Vehicles
Chevrolet Spark
Ford Focus Hatchback
Honda CR-Z
Hyundai Elantra Touring
Toyota Prius
Nissan Juke
Subaru Crosstrek
Toyota Yaris Hatchback
Volkswagen Golf
Pt Cruiser
Chevrolet Equinox
Chevrolet Tahoe
Ford Escape
Ford Explorer
Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Liberty
Kia Sorento
Nissan Pathfinder
Subaru Outback
Toyota 4Runner

At the full-size level, there are three options in the Napier line up. The Backroadz SUV Tent (19100), Sportz SUV Tent (82000) and Sportz SUV Tent with Screen Room (84000). Napier’s goal with these three models is to provide a variety of options, since we understand there are a variety of different camping needs.

Backroadz

 

The Setup

Starting with The Backroadz, this SUV tent is the most affordable option that Napier offers. Due to the tent’s dome-style design, it can be pitched with just two corner-to-corner poles. This drastically cuts down the overall tent weight compared to its Sportz counterparts, making it ideal for lightweight travelers. Weight is also cut down with the awning design. Using a lip-style awning over the doorway means the awning can be established with a single fiberglass pole. In total, the Backroadz SUV Tent can be set up with just three poles in under 10 minutes.

Setup Video for Backroadz SUV Tent (19100)

The Features

There are some feature differences to keep in mind as well when evaluating the Backroadz vs. Sportz. Although setup is simple and easy, the lip-style awning does not provide much for covered outdoor space. This design is focused on directing water away from the tent door, rather than offering a roof for outdoor seating/cooking like the Sportz series. Additionally, Backroadz vehicle sleeves do not detach. If you plan on primarily car camping this should pose no issue. However if you plan to regularly use your tent as a standalone from your vehicle, it may be worth considering a Sportz.

Some features you can expect across the Backroadz and Sportz line include a gear loft, lantern holder, window/door storm flaps, and 5 person sleeping capacity.

 

Weather Resistance

The weatherproofing design is also a core difference between the Backroadz and Sportz. Coming with a partial rainfly instead of full, the Backroadz’ fly does not extend to the ground or cover the doorway. This design allows for more airflow while the fly is set up, but does so at the expense of protection against severe weather. The partial fly and storm flaps will combat most modest weather, but if you plan on camping in rainy climates, a Sportz SUV Tent can offer superior protection. In contrast, if you live in a drier, hotter climate, the Backroadz will be able to offer more relief from the sweltering heat.

Summing it Up

The Backroadz SUV Tent is an excellent option for those looking for something lightweight and simple. If you plan to primarily car camp in a drier climate such as Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, etc., then we highly recommend the Backroadz.

Sportz

 

The Setup

The Napier Sportz series packs more of a punch when it comes to features. However in doing this, the setup can be a little more extensive. For more interior room, a 6×6′ awning, and optional 6×7′ screen room, the Sportz series trades the dome tent for a pole/hub design. This innovative design means that even though the Sportz series has 3-4 times more poles than the Backroadz, it remains easy to setup as a solo camper. There may be an initial learning curve if you’re used to a dome tent, but once comfortable, the setup can be under 15 minutes.

When it comes to total weight, the number of poles does add up. With the 82000 model weighing in at 36lbs, and 84000 at 52lbs, they are significantly heavier than the Backroadz. If weight is a major concern to you, it could be beneficial to opt for the 25lbs Backroadz tent.

Setup Video for Sportz SUV Tent with Screen Room (84000)

The Features

There are a few large differences between the two Sportz models and the Backroadz. To start, both Sportz options come with a 6’x6′ awning over the doorway and detachable vehicle sleeve. These features provide a comfortable outdoor area safe from the rain or sun, as well as the option to use as a standalone tent. Both Sportz models also come with an additional doorway compared to the Backroadz’ one door design.

 

Between the 82000 and 84000 there is one key difference. The base tent areas are nearly identical, although the 82000 is 9’x9′ while the 84000 is 10’x10′, just like the Backroadz. The difference is the 84000’s additional 6’x7′ screen room. This floorless screen room offers additional space for larger groups to store extra gear, use as a sleeping area for pets, or upgrade to an extra room with the footprint addon.

Weather Resistance

Additional weather resistance is another reason to keep an eye on the Sportz models. Both options come included with a full rainfly that covers the doorway and extends right to the bottom of the tent. This ensures superior rain coverage, but as mentioned above, at the expense of some airflow. The Sportz models are better suited for rainier conditions with less extreme heat like North Carolina or Washington. Additionally, Sportz branded tents come with a 1200mm PU coating vs. the Backroadz 800mm, which lends a hand in water resistance.

The Takeaway

Sportz SUV Tents offer a 6x6ft awning, detachable vehicle sleeve, full rainfly, and screen room option for additional space. These additional features come at a cost of overall weight and setup time. However if you’re in the market for something feature-rich, and weight is no issue – you can’t go wrong with a Sportz. For those looking to camp in particularly dry/hot climates, or prefer something light and quick to setup – we recommend the Backroadz.

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