When it comes to camping, the less roughing it I have to do, the better.
So I thought we could enjoy some camping without the sleeping-on-the-ground part that I'm not so keen on. I borrowed a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek and packed up the family for a two-night trip to Ontario's Presqu'ile Provincial Park.
As part of a deal with Napier, Subaru offers two tents with sleeves that attach to the Crosstrek, Outback, Forester and Tribeca. The $400 Sportz SUV tent is 10-by-10 feet, and the $330 Sportz Dome-To-Go is 8.5-by-8.5 feet. (Other vehicles might work as well, but check before buying.)
Napier claims the SUV tent sleeps five to six, plus two inside the car. Unless you're Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, however, don't count on it. I was disappointed to discover I'd need to either sleep in the fetal position or have my legs dangling awkwardly over the bumper.
With the back seats folded down, my 4-foot-6 daughter fit perfectly in the back of the Crosstrek. A mattress under her sleeping bag provided cushioning from the seat anchors. My five-foot son had to sleep at an angle to fit comfortably, but both loved the novelty of having a car bed for a night.
My husband and I slept in the tent with one child between us, leaving enough space to avoid kicking and elbowing each other. Three in the tent leaves enough space that your sleeping bags won't be touching the walls and getting wet when it rains. More than four people would have been ridiculously crowded.
Having the hatch open meant the door-ajar warning light stayed on all night, which didn't really bother the kids but left me concerned about draining the battery. With the windows up, there was less air flow inside the car than the tent. And unless you like being woken by the first light of dawn, you'd need some sort of shade curtain or eye patch while sleeping in the car.
Unfortunately for us, we got a lot of wind and rain, allowing us to give the tent a good weather-resistance test. For the most part, the tent delivered. However, because the car roof slopes down in the back, rain was able to puddle up by the hatch and run down the sides. The elasticized seal was not perfectly snug around the back of the car, and a bit of water came in around the bumper and dripped on my sleeping bag below.
Determined bugs could have found their way past the seal as well, but there is a mesh screen and rain cover to separate the tent from the car if no one is sleeping in the back. Those covers allow you to detach the car without leaving your gear exposed to the elements.
Having access to your car from inside your tent definitely has its advantages. You've got a raccoon-proof spot for your food, a secure place to charge your phone and a high-and-dry place for your clothes. Although Napier advertises power access as an additional benefit, you'd need to be careful not to drain the car battery with plug-in accessories.
The SUV tent has a separate six-by-seven-foot storage room that was handy for keeping extra gear and shoes dry. There's no floor for the storage area, so bring a tarp if you want to keep your stuff clean.
The tent takes up a quarter of the Crosstrek trunk, so unless you have a large SUV or pack really light, you'd need a cargo bin or trailer for your gear. Our test model didn't have those features, so we needed to bring a second car for our bikes and luggage.
So who is the Napier SUV tent ideal for? An outdoorsy couple would like it, or a family with a small child unwilling to sleep on the ground. I sure would have loved to try it, if only I was a foot shorter.
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