Packing up and heading off-grid to spend time in nature can be a fantastic way to unplug from the stresses of modern life and unwind. And while one could take the KOA approach, the best camping is typically found well off the beaten path. Having a purpose-built off-road vehicle obviously makes it markedly easier to reach these locales, however, there’s no shortage of utilitarian, off-road-capable SUVs that can get you to basecamp on the weekends while still serving as a dependant daily driver Monday through Friday. And it’s this category of vehicle that we’ll be exploring today in this guide to the best SUVs for camping.
Rolling Base Camp Qualities
The 8 Main Factors To Consider When Buying A Camping SUV
While there are dozens of finer points one can take into account when shopping for an SUV for camping, there are a handful of factors that unequivocally stand above the rest in terms of importance. Directly below, we’ll briefly touch on eight of the most pivotal factors to take into account before buying an SUV for camping.
Daily Drivability: Assuming you’ll also be using this vehicle for regular daily driving, it’s essential that an SUV also lends itself to commuting, grocery getting, and other day-to-day on-the-road tasks. While certain factors here will boil down to opinion or personal preference, one will nonetheless want to explore areas such as tech, miles-per-gallon, maneuverability, and comfort.
Storage Space: Even if you take a minimalistic approach to packing, having the ability to transport ample gear and equipment is an absolute must when shopping for an SUV for camping. As such, it’s crucial to explore a given model’s available cargo space, looking into both interior cubic footage, as well as available supplementary storage such as exterior roof racks or rail systems.
Ground Clearance & Suspension Travel: A significant part of what separates off-road-capable vehicles from their exclusively road-going counterparts is ground clearance and suspension travel. These areas give a clear sense of a model’s ride height, the height of the obstacles it will be able to traverse, and how efficiently a vehicle’s suspension is able to absorb bumps, drops, and impacts. It is worth noting that these areas can be upgraded via a lift kit and upgraded shocks.
Powertrain: As the heart of any vehicle, the powertrain is of extreme importance. Alongside the transmision it comes mated to, one will also want to look into the displacement of an engine, its number of cylinders and configuration, whether it features forced induction or is natural aspiration, whether it features a hybrid system (or a fully-electric powertrain), and how much horsepower and torque it produces. Additionally, how a vehicle’s power is sent to the ground is also of extreme importance, as all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles tend to perform much better in off-road settings.
Range: Considering camping SUVs are used off-grid, often far from the nearest gas station, having the ability to cover ample miles in between trips to the pump is beyond essential. As a result, one should explore the size of an SUV’s tank, and couple that with how many miles it gets to the gallon. One can also purchase supplementary jerry cans or fuel cells for storing additional gas to use to extend autonomy in between fill-ups.
Tech & Connectivity: With the exception of some budget-focused models, pretty much every new car on the market comes loaded with a decent amount of tech, and SUVs are no different. Modern tech and connectivity features to look out for include Alexa, Siri, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, touchscreen displays, 360-degree camera systems, HUDs, auto-piloting functions, blindspot detection, lane-keep assist, auto-braking, intelligent traction management, and hill-descent control, just to name a few.
Off-Road & Off-Grid Amenities: To further an SUV’s off-roading abilities, some manufacturers bestow their respective sport utility vehicles with off-road-specific elements such as steel bumpers, rock sliders, crash bars, auxiliary lighting, and skid plates. These items are often included on some off-road-focused trim levels or are available as optional factory upgrades. There are also SUVs available from the factory with full-on off-road kits that still come backed by a factory warranty.
Upgradability: Alongside being offered with optional off-road elements straight off the showroom floor, some SUV models also lend themselves incredibly well to off-road and overland builds, with some of the more popular platforms featuring hundreds of available off-road upgrades from third-party and aftermarket companies. This includes components such as auxiliary lighting, winches, skid plates, bead-lock-capable wheels, roof racks, rooftop camping tents, slide-out kitchens, and lift kits, just to name a few of the more popular and common upgrades. Purchasing an off-road trailer is also a great way of instantly upgrading your mobile basecamp setup without hindering your SUV’s daily drivability.
Subaru Forester Wilderness
Considering its sub-$35,000 MSRP, the Subaru Forester Wilderness arguably offers the best value of any new camping-capable SUV on the market, with symmetrical all-wheel drive, a full-sized onboard spare, 9.2” of ground clearance, a 3,000-lb towing capacity, a 180-degree front-view monitor, exterior cladding along the wheel wells and lower impact zones, a roof rail system, and a dual-function X-MODE with pre-tuned settings for snow, mud, and dirt — all coming as standard. Boasting an interior trimmed in rugged textured StarTex upholstery, the Forester Wilderness doesn’t skimp on tech either, featuring Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and well as its STARLINK Safety and Security system.
Engine: 2.5L Boxer-Four
Power: 182HP & 172FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 69.1 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 9.2”
Honda Passport TrailSport
Back in late 2021, Honda officially debuted its TrailSport off-road label starting with the brand’s 2022 Passport SUV. The TrailSport trim level of the Passport comes standard with independent suspension, a cargo attachment-ready roof rack system, intelligent traction management, Honda’s i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system, 18” TrailSport-specific wheels, LED fog lights, cargo area under-floor storage, flared reinforced fenders, Honda’s satellite-linked navigation system, and a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 that comes backed by the world-class levels of reliability that Honda has built its name on. The Honda Passport TrailSport also gets a suite of modern tech and a surprisingly well-appointed interior.
Engine: 3.5L V6
Power: 280HP & 262FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 77.7 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 8.1”
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited High Tide 4×4
Restricted to only 5,000 units worldwide, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited High Tide is a high-performance limited edition 4×4 that comes straight from the factory with a host of standard upgrades. On top of being offered in a slew of vibrant paint options — all of which sport model-exclusive decals — the High Tide-spec Wrangler also sports wheels shod in 35” all-terrain tires, LED headlights and fog lamps, heavy-duty steel rock rails, a Sunrider hardtop roof, slush floor mats with a topographical pattern, and a windshield crafted from ultra-rugged Corning Gorilla glass. Like all Wrangler variants, the High Tide is also an excellent candidate for further customization, with an endless sea of available aftermarket upgrades currently made for the 4×4.
Engine: 3.6L V6
Power: 285HP & 260FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 72.4 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 12.9”
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Massively benefitting from lessons learned by the Japanese automaker’s off-road race division, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is an extremely off-road capable SUV that’s kicked along by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that cranks out 270hp and 278ft-lbs of torque. Equipped with part-time 4WD, the range-topping TRD Pro-spec 4Runner features a TRD-stamped skid plate, 17” flow-form TRD alloy wheels, a TRD roof rack, TRD x FOX shocks paired with TRD-tuned front springs, an electronic locking rear differential, a unique “TOYOTA” front grille, and a multi-terrain monitor and mode selector with a dedicated Crawl mode.
Engine: 4.0L V6
Power: 270HP & 278FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 89.7 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 9.6”
Ford Bronco Everglades
Designed for off-grid exploration straight from the factory, the Ford Bronco Everglades has been outfitted with a generous slew of off-road upgrades such as a factory-installed Ford-designed snorkel with a quick-swap, reversible air vent and a Ford Performance heavy-duty modular front bumper with an integrated 10,000-pound ZEON 10-S WARN winch. The Everglades-spec of this popular revived model also comes loaded with the Ford Bronco Sasquatch package as standard, and as such also features a 4.7 final drive ratio, Blistein position-sensitive monotube shocks, high-clearance flared fenders, locking differentials fore and aft, and 17” bead-lock-capable wheels wrapped in 35” all-terrain tires.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.3L Inline-Four
Power: 300HP & 325FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 82.97 Cu-FT
Ground Clearance: 11.5”
Land Rover Defender 130 X
Offering seating for up to 8, the Land Rover Defender 130 X is a thoroughly high-end and high-tech take on an off-road-capable SUV. Riding on 20” Style 5095 diamond-turned wheels, the Defender 130 X sports an electronic active differential, configurable terrain response, all-terrain progress control, wade sensing and a 35.4” maximum wading depth, electronic air suspension with adaptive dynamics, a 3D-surround camera, second-generation Terrain Response, and approach, departure, and break-over angles of 37.5, 28.5, and 27.8 degrees, respectively. The Defender 130 X also features excellent road-going capabilities with a 395-hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that allows for 6.3-second 0-60mph time.
Engine: 3.0L Inline-Six
Power: 395HP & 406FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 76.1 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 8.5” (or 11.5” W/ Air Suspension)
The SUV counterpart to Rivian’s MotorTrend “Truck Of The Year” award-winning R1T, the Rivian R1S is an incredibly high-tech and well-appointed fully-electric SUV that lends itself just as well to off-roading as it does to family hauling and on-road daily driving duties. Guided by a state-of-the-art system backed by 11 cameras, five radars, and a dozen ultra-sonic sensors, the R1S boasts a plethora of drive modes including off-road-specific settings, a wading depth of at least 3’, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, a towing capacity of 7,700lbs, a crossbar cargo rack system, a ride height adjustable between 8.8” and 14.9”, and a range of between 260 and 320 miles on a single charge.
Engine: Dual Electric Motors
Power: 600HP & 600FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 104 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 14.9”
Porsche Cayene E-Hybrid
The Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is a high-performance, daily-drivable SUV that can still take you off the beaten path. Weighing in at 5,164lbs at the curb, the Cayenne E-Hybrid features approach, departure, and break-over angles of 27.5, 24.4, and 18.7 degrees, respectively, as well as a max wading depth of 11” and 8.2” of ground clearance that can be raised up to 9.6” with the Porsche’s Air suspension. Powering the Porsche is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine equipped with a 100-kW (134-hp) hybrid system that allows it to generate a collective 455hp and 516ft-lbs of torque — figures that allow for a top speed of 157mph and a 0-60mph time of as little as 4.7 seconds.
Engine: Hybrid Turbocharged 3.0L V6
Power: 455HP & 516FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 56.8 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 8.3” (or 9.6” W/ Air Suspension)
Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series I
After a roughly three-decade hiatus, Jeep has revived its iconic Grand Wagoneer model, delivering the plushest, most capable, and most high-tech iteration of the full-sized luxury SUV to date. Offering a unique combination of comfort and off-roading capability, the Grand Wagoneer Series I features Quadra-Lift Air Suspension with semi-active damping, a healthy 10” of ground clearance, and a generous 94.2 cubic feet of collective cargo space. Powered by a massive 471-hp 6.4-liter V8 engine, this American-made SUV also gets Jeep’s ParkSense automated parking system, 24-way adjustable heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, a 12.3” info cluster display, a 12” Uconnect touchscreen, and an industry-first MX950 19-speaker entertainment system from renowned American audio brand McIntosh.
Engine: 6.4L V8
Power: 471HP & 455FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 94.2 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 10”
GMC Hummer EV SUV
Appropriately referred to by its manufacturer as a “super truck,” the GMC Hummer EV SUV is tangible proof that the electric vehicle era has ushered in new levels of performance that would have sounded utterly ridiculous only a few years ago. Along with available four-wheel steering and the ability to diagonally crab-walk, the Hummer eSUV boasts GMC’s underbody camera-equipped Ultravision system, independent front and rear suspensions, optional front e-lockers and virtual rear lockers, an Infinity roof with modular Sky panels, a 14-speaker Bose audio system, and 10.1” of ground clearance plus an extract mode that lifts the SUV up by an additional 6”. Powering the electric truck is a trio of electric motors that allow this fully-electric SUV to put down 830hp and an even more impressive 11,500ft-lbs of torque.
Engine: Tri-Electric Motors
Power: 830HP & 11,500FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 82 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 10.1” (or 15.9” W/ Air Suspension)
Tesla Model X
While it lacks many of the rugged elements and go-anywhere abilities of some of the other models on this list, the Tesla Model X nonetheless makes for a great SUV for camping for those that aren’t interested in leaving their tech and devices behind when headed off-grid. This rolling mobile base camp features an array of displays including a 17” touchscreen, plus a 960-watt 22-speaker audio system, smartphone connectivity, and a slew of other high-tech amenities — all while still delivering 670hp, a 5,000-pound towing capacity, and a 348-mile range. And, with just over 8” of ground clearance, this electric vehicle is more than capable of taking on some light off-roading duties.
Engine: Dual Electric Motors
Power: 670HP & 713FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 92 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 8.1”
Equipped with a twin-turbocharged 6.7-liter V12 engine pumping out 563hp and 627ft-lbs of torque, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is an ultra-premium luxury SUV that offers a smooth yet high-performance ride whether on or off-road. And while the Cullinan may seem an odd choice for camping, Rolls-Royce recently released a range of customizable slide-out lifestyle module kits — which can be outfitted specifically for camping, Overlanding, or other off-grid exploration. What’s more, even in its stock form, it’s nearly 70 cubic feet of storage space and roughly 7.5” of ground clearance also means the Cullinan is good for some light off-roading. With that said, there are also safari-style upgrade kits for the Cullinan that massively increase its go-anywhere abilities.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 6.7L V-12
Power: 563HP & 627FT-LBs
Max Cargo Space: 68.15 Cu-Ft
Ground Clearance: 7.48”
Best Off-Road Camper Trailers For Outdoor Adventures
Looking to turn your vehicle into the ultimate mobile base camp for off-grid adventures? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best off-road camper trailers for the most rugged trailers currently on the market.