Heading away on a long trip? Good for you – having some well deserved rest and relaxation is what everyone needs to recharge the batteries.
Getting into the country, hitting the open road, breathing fresh air – it’s what everyone needs.
But there are going to be times where you don’t quite make it to your destination in time, and you’ll have to pull over for the night. And that’s where a bit of trepidation sets in.
If you haven’t got a tent, or a camping setup, or you weren’t able to get to a suitable campsite, then you’ve only got one alternative – sleep in the car.
Not the greatest option, but sometimes you have to cope with the cards you’ve been dealt. So, how do you do it? And what is the best machine for you?
Ideally, it would be a van or an RV. But let’s be honest, not everyone is going to buy a van for getting around, nor are they going to purchase an RV unless they’re doing long trips on a regular basis.
What about an SUV? Can you actually sleep in one, and if you can, what’s the best SUV to sleep in?
An SUV can be an alternative to a tent
Imagine it starts to rain. And then the wind picks up. The tent is starting to sway, the cover is pulling at the tent pegs, the rain is getting in around the zips and the ground is starting to get muddy.
It’s one of the worst scenarios when you’re out camping, and though you can look back later and laugh about it, at the time it’s pretty gruelling. Now imagine the same sort of weather and you’re sleeping in the back of your SUV. A bit easier to deal with, right?
People may scoff when you tell them you’re not going to put up a tent and you’re sleeping in the back instead, but let’s be honest, how much easier is it when you can simply rock up to a destination, fold the back seats down and you’re set.
Everything else is the same as tenting – you still have to have an air mattress, food, cooking equipment, somewhere to stash clothes, somewhere to shower and plenty of other details. The only thing the tent does is give you some shelter and somewhere to sleep.
So, if you get the right SUV, then it virtually replaces the tent.
Fold flat floor
Clearly, you’re trying to mimic the ground in a tent, so you need something quite flat. Plenty of SUVs have split fold rear seats, which is handy for loading luggage or carting goods around. But not every SUV has a completely flat floor.
Did you really want to sleep with half the floor angled up? If so, then go right ahead, but for most of us, we’d rather not sleep like we’re sitting in a seat.
You’ll notice the vehicles we’ve listed below are ones that have properly fold flat floors, but we’ve also given you SUVs with plenty of space in the back. Which brings us to our next point.
Your height makes a difference
Determining the best SUV for camping (or just sleeping in) will absolutely vary from person to person. For example, if you’re 6′ 8″ and your partner is a similar height, then you’ll need something very long. Shorter people will have a wider variety of vehicles to select from.
It’s stating the obvious, of course, but no-one wants to sleep folded up. Sometimes you have to sleep on an angle, and while that’s fine for when you’re on your own, when you have two people, it’s not the most comfortable.
Overnight or several days?
Sometimes sleeping in your car is a necessity, so you can put up with it for one night. But what about for extended periods? What should you look for?
As we mentioned, having a fold flat floor is non-negotiable, but the height of the floor can make a difference, too.
Some SUVs have the floor quite close to the ceiling, which means you could feel a bit more claustrophobic, and it also makes it harder to maneuver when you’re trying to wriggle into a sleeping bag.
Sleeping the right way around is also worth thinking about. With your head toward the front of the car, you’ll have more room for your elbows and arms as the rear of the vehicle usually has wheel arches that cut into the usable room.
Park in the right spot
Again, it may sound obvious, but the way you park is going to influence how well you sleep. For example, if you park where the sun is going to rise and punch its way into the windows first thing in the morning, then you’re going to wake up with the birds.
Park under a tree and if it rains, the drips from the leaves are going to drive you nuts. “Ting”, “ting”, “ting” – yes, the sound of large drops hitting a metal roof may be nice when there’s twenty feet between you and the roof – like in a house – but when it’s two feet, then it’s loud.
Parking with the vehicle on an angle isn’t the preferred method, but when you absolutely can’t find a flat piece of ground, then make sure your head is above your feet – blood doesn’t like running the other way, and you’re certainly not going to sleep like that.
The top five best SUVs for sleeping in
We’ve been in a lot of SUVs over the years, and part of our road tests is seeing how versatile the seating options are. Because of that, we’ve seen how well the seats fold and are often hanging out in the back of these machines.
We’ve gone through the lists of vehicles we’ve tested and here are our top five SUVs for spending overnight in.
While the Discovery and Q7 aren’t exactly cheap, they’re certainly well equipped and both are quite good off-road – especially the Disco.
The Pathfinder’s all round versatility means it’s a great option and it’s priced quite well, too.
But the Yukon is the one that has the most room. Set up an air mattress back there and you’ll find you have an automotive version of a tent.