Owning a sport utility vehicle gives you access to a wide range of outdoor activities. It’s no secret that SUVs can go places ordinary vehicles can’t, but little attention has been paid to proper SUV camping equipment and methods. That’s right, we’re talking about sleeping right there in the back of your SUV.
The first consideration, of course, is whether your particular model of vehicle has enough room to stretch out and sleep. I’m six foot tall and have no problem sleeping in the back of my Nissan XTerra. The best way to find out if you fit in is to crawl in there and lie down! I discovered that sleeping in the vehicle itself has advantages. The most important of these is the safety of being in a vehicle during a storm or bad weather. Also, while I’m not averse to camping in old-fashioned tents, I find the vehicle to be much warmer than the cold ground. Another advantage is that I don’t turn around at night to find a tree root stuck in my back. Some great solutions for a good night’s sleep in the back of your SUV may be in your closet or basement right now. One of the best is a single size futon. These rollers are ideal for transport and provide not only comfort, but also insulation on the coldest nights. Some campers like to use air mattresses of various sizes, including the small inflatable models sold for hikers at most equipment stores. Personally, I use a cushion from a lounge chair on my back deck. It folds up nicely and is durable enough for heavy use. Plus, the SUV makes a great base camp for day hikes or fishing expeditions. By using the SUV as a tent, you don’t need to carry a restrictive mummy bag if you don’t want to. Rip off the cotton sheets and sleep comfortably!
Another consideration is ventilation. Sleeping in your SUV with the windows closed can become uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. Not only do the windows fog up, but the entire interior of the vehicle can become damp from exhaled air and quite stuffy. Leaving the windows open is a solution that works well as long as there are no insects flying around. However, add a few mosquitoes or other buzzing critters and the night can get very uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a couple of ready-made solutions to this problem. The first, and most expensive, is to purchase a truck tent system for your SUV. There are many models designed to fit over the tailgate of many common models. Some are smaller and just create a little extra space with the door open. Others create an entire room in the rear of the vehicle with screened windows and space for the family. This choice is a matter of personal taste, budget and intention. Another solution, which can complement a truck top or be used on its own, is a product called “Magna Screen”. These allow you to sleep with the windows down and provide a barrier against insects. Basically, a Magna screen is a screen that snaps magnetically over the outside of the side window. They are inexpensive, durable and solve the problem very well.
Getting to the interior of the country should not be a problem. The best thing you can have is a detailed map of your local forest or national park. Make sure you have a map detailing all accessible fire roads in the area, and check local conditions to make sure motorized vehicles are allowed where you plan to camp. High-end dash GPS units such as Garmin will also have access road details. Once you use a GPS unit, you may never buy a map again, and with a good GPS system you can mark all your favorite fishing and camping spots to return to again and again with laser precision. There you have it, your SUV can do even more for you if you’re willing to try something new. Sleeping in your SUV may seem strange at first to some, but once you experience the freedom it allows on backcountry excursions, you’ll be convinced. Remember, always respect your surroundings and always practice “leave no trace” tactics when enjoying the outdoors.