There are around 5,000 to 10,000 stars visible from Earth, and there’s nothing quite like car camping to help you take them in. Whether you’d rather camp out in the bed of a pickup truck, set up a few telescopes and tripods, or pitch a tent next to your vehicle, here are the best cars for stargazing.
The F150 is the quintessential pickup truck. And if you want to travel far off the beaten path for stargazing, it just might get you there. A review of the 2014 model notes that the Raptor trim is perfect for off-roading. It comes equipped with all-terrain tires and a high-performance suspension system for comfort even in relatively rough terrain.
The F150 is a worthy companion regardless of the type of camping you want to do. The spacious bed can hold all of your camping gear, and it’s also perfect for lying out under the stars.
And if you’d prefer to haul a camper, the F150 is the truck for the job — it has a maximum towing capacity of up to 8,000 pounds. You’ll also have plenty of room to bring friends if you choose the four-door CrewCab or SuperCab models.
The Dodge Ram is one of the most spacious pickups around, and it strikes a great balance between luxury and utility. The extended cab version of the 1500 can seat an impressive six people, so it’s ideal for taking the whole family out for a night of stargazing.
While any trim would work for an off-road camping trip, the Sport trim is ideal. Powerful projector headlights help you see clearly in the dark, heated seats keep you warm even in cold weather, and a powerful V8 engine makes towing a breeze. If fuel economy is a concern, you can also find the high fuel economy (HFT) trim with a V6 engine.
Depending on the exact trim and cab size, the Ram 1500 comes with either a 6-foot 4-inch or an 8-foot bed, giving you plenty of room for sleeping out under the stars. And in the case of rain, a bed cap makes an instant camping shelter. Plus, its reliable and cushiony suspension means it’s significantly more comfortable than many similar models.
If you’ve ever seen a Subaru commercial, you know that these vehicles are designed for the outdoors. And if you want an off-road-friendly vehicle that’s still relatively compact, the Subaru Forester is a good choice. It was named by Edmunds as one of the Best Small SUVs of 2019.
And as its name suggests, the Forester is great for outdoor adventures. It’s ideal for driving on dirt roads thanks to its ample 8.7-inch ground clearance. Its X-Mode driving mode selector has specialized settings for trails and for descending steep hills. This trim also comes with the Subaru All-Weather Package to keep you comfortable in any season.
For a small SUV, the Forester has a fair amount of interior storage, so it’s ideal for packing your telescope and tripod along with any camping gear you may need. Though it’s a relatively small SUV, the Forester also offers you an opportunity to look up at the stars without even leaving the vehicle. Some trim levels come with a panoramic sunroof, which is an extra-large opening that covers much of the vehicle’s roof. With this expansive view, everyone in the car can enjoy the opportunity to look up at the stars.
If you prefer the look of a compact crossover to that of a pickup truck or standard SUV, you might like the Volkswagen Tiguan. You might not think of a Volkswagen when you imagine off-road vehicles, but the Tiguan is a capable off-roader although it’s not quite as rugged as some on the list. In particular, the Sport trim offers larger wheels and more comfortable suspension that give you a smoother ride over very bumpy terrain.
The Tiguan is also uniquely suited to stargazing — some trim levels come with a panoramic sunroof. If you’re sleeping in the vehicle, you can look up into the night through the extra-large glass panel. And on especially pleasant nights, you can open the sunroof to enjoy the breeze as you look up at the stars.
As a mid-size SUV, the Toyota 4Runner offers a little more interior space and a higher towing capacity — up to 5,000 pounds. The 4Runner is also one of the best SUVs for off-road driving. In particular, the TRD Off-Road trim has wheels and tires designed for difficult terrain. Its high clearance and lockable rear differential make it especially safe to drive on difficult dirt roads.
The 4Runner comes in several trim levels, including Limited and Premium, that include large sunroofs. If you choose to sleep in the vehicle once you arrive at your destination, you can admire the stars and pick out constellations all night if you wish. And since this SUV has ample storage space, you can easily pack multiple telescopes and camping gear for several people. The Toyota 4Runner has become more and more popular since its first release in 1984, and it’s easy to see why.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
No list of camping or off-roading vehicles is complete without a Jeep Wrangler. Edmunds describes it as being the best stock vehicle for off-roading. Much of this is thanks to its high ground clearance and excellent axle suspension.
If you choose the Rubicon trim, you also get larger wheels and lockable front and rear differentials. There’s even a front stabilizer bar that you can disconnect if needed.
For a somewhat smaller vehicle, the Wrangler has a decent amount of storage space. It might be too small to sleep in, but it has an advantage few vehicles do — if you remove the top and doors on the soft-top convertible version, you can admire the stars even as you’re still driving to your campsite.
If you’d prefer a larger SUV for car camping, the classic Chevrolet Suburban comes to mind. It’s an especially good choice if you’re bringing a trailer along as it can tow more than 8,000 pounds. If you regularly need to tow a trailer, you might want to look into the Max Trailering package, which has axle ratios optimized for towing and a top-notch suspension.
The Suburban is also a good choice if you’re going stargazing in a large group. It can seat up to nine people, and it offers up to 120 cubic feet of cargo space, so you’ll have ample room for your entire group and for everyone’s camping gear.
For smaller groups, you can easily fold down the back two rows of seats to sleep in the vehicle. Thanks to its very large size, the Suburban isn’t the best choice for extreme off-roading, but it’s still a solid choice for milder outings.
If you’re ready for your next outdoor adventure under the stars, be sure to check out some of these great camping vehicles!