RAV4 Car Camping Guide

Wondering if your RAV4 will be a comfortable option for sleeping and car camping?

Since you’re reading this article, you’re in luck. I’ve spent many nights sleeping and camping out of my RAV4 and am here to share my experiences.

In this guide, I’ll go over different sleeping setups, how to get comfortable depending on your height, privacy tips, and much more.

rav4 in the wilderness

Sleeping in the Back

If you’re wondering if this is a feasible idea… Yes! You can sleep comfortably in the back of a Toyota RAV4.

I had a chance to test this out while passing through Moab, Utah.

2021 toyota rav4 in the desert

With so much wind, dust, and sand, it was not worth pitching a tent for just one night.

Being 5 feet 11 inches tall, I was a bit concerned that it would be a tight fit. Luckily, I was able to find a few different options that would make RAV4 car camping comfortable for anyone’s height.

If You’re Shorter Than 5′ 8″ (173 cm)

Sleeping in the back of a Toyota RAV4 is easiest if you’re under 5′ 8″. At this height, you can comfortably sleep in a normal position with your head facing the front end of the car.

However, there is a trick I recommend that will give you an extra 8-12 inches of headroom! You’ll need this if you’re taller than 5 feet.

By placing an object (in my case, a tent) between the front seat and the folded-down rear seat, you can create a platform to rest a pillow without it falling in between the seats. This will add an additional 8-12 inches of length.

item placed between seats for extra sleeping length
pillow placed with extra headroom

Using this method, here is the end result:

back of a rav4 with sleeping arrangement

This is pretty straightforward and the best way to sleep in the back of a RAV4.

Unfortunately, if you’re taller than 5′ 8″, you won’t quite have enough room using this method. There is a different method that I’d recommend if you’re too tall to fit comfortably in this position.

If You’re Taller Than 5′ 8″ (173 cm)

As mentioned earlier, it will be a bit more difficult to sleep in the back of a RAV4 if you’re taller than 5′ 8″, however, it is still possible.

Since I am 5′ 11″, this is the method I used for comfortable RAV4 car camping.

Instead of sleeping with your head towards the front of the vehicle, you’ll want to sleep facing the rear. This will give you plenty of room to extend your legs towards the front in a comfortable sleeping position.

rav4 sleeping position facing the rear

Easy enough, right? Not exactly!

Unfortunately, the RAV4’s rear cargo area is angled slightly downward from front to rear. Even though it is only a slight incline, it’s pretty uncomfortable to sleep in this position (at least for most people).

The solution?

If your camping area has a small hill or incline, all you need to do is back up so the rear of the car is elevated above the front. This will level out your sleeping area, as seen in the photo below.

rav4 backed onto slight incline

Quick Tip:

If your camping area is completely flat, you can also use other objects to elevate your rear wheels, such as:

  • Flat rocks, 2-4 inches in height
  • 2×4 wood blocks

A small difference in incline could make a big difference in comfort!

Do the Seats Fold Down Flat?

If you’re planning a car camping trip where you’ll be sleeping in your RAV4, you may be wondering if the seats fold down all the way. Of course, you’ll want the sleeping surface to be as flat as possible for maximum comfort.

The seats in the Toyota RAV4 fold nearly completely flat; however, there is still a slight angle when the seats are folded down.

seats folded down flat closeup
seats folded down flat

Even though the angle may look uncomfortable, I personally think it is negligible and did not notice it.

Increasing Comfort

There are two ways to make sleeping in the back of your RAV4 even more comfortable: a sleeping platform or a mattress.

Let’s discuss both of these options.

Build a Sleeping Platform

If you plan on car camping in your RAV4 frequently, you may want to consider a sleeping platform.

With a sleeping platform, you won’t have to worry about the angle of the seats folded down. You’ll also have more room if you’re tall.

If you want to take your RAV4 camping experience to the next level, you’ll want to build a DIY sleeping platform that fits perfectly within your RAV4.

If you’re not familiar with projects like these, don’t worry! It can be achieved with learning and practice.

There are a handful of instructional guides for building a RAV4 sleeping platform. Personally, I recommend the video below:

They have written instructions to go along with the video, which can be found here.

Use a Mattress

If you’re looking for ultimate comfort when sleeping in your RAV4, a mattress is the way to go!

The RAV4 is roughly 39 inches wide, which means a twin mattress, which is 38 inches wide, will fit perfectly in the rear cargo area with the seats down. The cargo area will be long enough to accommodate the 75-inch length of a twin mattress as well.

Choosing the best twin mattress for the back of your RAV4 is not easy. There are more things to think about when buying a car mattress than a mattress for your home.

Consider these factors when choosing a mattress for your RAV4:

  • Frequency of use: If you plan on using your RAV4 mattress quite often, it’s worth spending more money on a comfortable one.
  • Space optimization: The mattress will take up a lot of space in your RAV4. You should consider a mattress that folds up, rolls up, or deflates. This means you can set it aside when it’s not in use.
  • Ease of cleaning: Choose a mattress that is easy to clean. You may track in dirt while on your car camping adventures.
  • Weather conditions: Consider the weather conditions when you plan on using this mattress. For example, you may want to opt for a mattress with cooling gel if you’re camping in the heat.

For a comfortable and convenient car camping experience, I recommend the HEYTRIP Inflatable Air Mattress designed specifically for SUVs, such as the RAV4.

This mattress features two separate air chambers with individual inflation and deflation ports on each side, allowing for personalized firmness. Perfect for solo or couple use, it ensures a peaceful night’s sleep whether you’re on a solo camping adventure or enjoying the great outdoors with a loved one.

Crafted from durable PVC-free 600D Oxford fabric, this mattress is built to withstand outdoor use and is easy to clean. The included storage bag ensures compact storage, making it a space-efficient addition to your gear when not in use.

Privacy Tips

If the thought of someone staring into your car worries you, you’ll want to cover the windows for increased privacy.

There are a few different ways to increase privacy:

  1. Create your own privacy curtains.
  2. Purchase universal car privacy curtains.
  3. Improvise with bedsheets or blankets.

1. Create Your Own Privacy Curtains

This is the overall best option for complete privacy while car camping. You can design your own curtains to perfectly fit the shape of your windows.

The downside is that it can be a time-consuming process.

Here are the steps I’ve used to create custom privacy curtains:

  1. Using black fabric, measure and cut the fabric to fit the shape of each window, leaving an extra 2 inches of length at the top of the cutout.
  2. Place small circular magnets across the top section of the cutout, spaced 4-6 inches apart.
  3. Fold the excess fabric over the magnets and sew them securely into place.
  4. To install the curtains, place the magnetic strip on the top metal frame of your window.

Quick Tip: You can also sew magnets into the sides of the fabric for an extra-tight fit in your window.

2. Buy Car Privacy Curtains

There are a few different companies that sell privacy curtains that universally fit any car.

This will save a lot of time when compared to creating your own curtains, but it will cost more, and the fitment may not be perfect.

Although this is more costly than crafting your own privacy curtains, it saves time, and you’ll be ready to embark on your car camping trip as soon as possible!

3. Improvise With Blankets

Don’t feel like spending any money or time on privacy curtains? Just bring some extra bedsheets or blankets!

Wrap sheets or blankets around the RAV4’s interior grab handles, across the top of the front seats, and any other place you can find to block the view of the windows.

It won’t be perfect, but improvising to block the windows can be a quick and easy solution, especially if you’re only camping for one night.

Camping Accessories

Anyone who goes camping regularly knows that your equipment and accessories can make or break your experience.

I could write for hours here about my favorite RAV4 camping accessories, but instead, I’ll focus on some of my favorites.

Roof Rack

A roof rack is one of my top recommendations for car camping mods.

It gives you so many ways to support your camping trip. It can be used as extra storage, a rooftop tent, or even a shower mount.

For my RAV4, I went with the Prinsu roof rack, which is a lot more high-quality and covers your entire roof.

prinsu roof rack on 2021 rav4

Prinsu is not the only brand that makes a rack in this style. You can also check out Slimline and Sherpa racks.

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires give you the extra traction you need when camping in more rugged areas.

The RAV4’s original tires are not always great for dirt, mud, and rocks, so all-terrain tires can make a huge difference. I noticed an immediate improvement when I upgraded to all-terrain tires. It did not have any negative effects on road noise or fuel economy, either.

I went with Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail tires on my RAV4, which can be found on the Woodland Edition and TRD Off-Road from the factory.

I recommend the Falken Wildpeak as my top choice because it is already trusted by Toyota on some of their RAV4 trims. However, there are plenty of other all-terrain tires to consider.

rav4 with all terrain tires

Water Tank

My least favorite part of camping is the lack of water, especially if the trip will last several days.

Thankfully, there is a solution for this! You can buy a self-pressurized water tank that requires no electricity.

WaterPORT is a well-known brand that offers this. They have a 3.8-gallon and an 8-gallon configuration, depending on how much water you need to store.

Trunk Tent

If you want to expand your RAV4 into a spacious camping area, a trunk tent does just that.

This type of tent attaches to your hatch and uses your car’s interior space as an extension of the tent. Rightline Gear makes on that is universal and sleeps 6.

Hitch Cargo Carrier

Having enough storage is essential for a comfortable camping trip, but sometimes the RAV4 itself is not enough to hold all of your gear.

A great way to expand the space capacity of your RAV4 is to install a hitch cargo carrier, which will store items by attaching to your hitch. It will fold away when not in use, so you don’t have to worry about it interfering with your trunk access.

Is the RAV4 Good for Car Camping?

If you’re thinking about camping with a RAV4, you’re on the right track. There are plenty of great reasons why the RAV4 is an awesome car camping choice.

I traveled around the United States and lived out of my RAV4 for two months in 2022, so I’ve had a lot of experience with this topic. I’ve also done this in a smaller car, so I have something to compare the experience to.

Here are the top reasons why I think the Toyota RAV4 is a good choice for car camping:

  • Spacious, but not oversized
    • Since I traveled for two consecutive months in my RAV4, I brought nearly all of my possessions. I still had enough room to sleep in the back!
    • It’s not uncomfortably large to drive in the city if you need to do that during your road trip.
  • Good gas mileage
    • The RAV4 is a perfect blend of size and fuel economy.
    • Many SUVs are not fuel-efficient, but the RAV4 provides enough space without severely degrading fuel economy.
  • Flexible on- and off-road capabilities
    • It drives great on highways. My trip started with a 1,500-mile highway drive, which was quite comfortable.
    • It performs well for light trail and off-road use. I got to explore lots of scenic dirt trails in Colorado.
  • Good reliability
    • I never worried about my RAV4 breaking down while I was far from home or in remote locations.
    • This was a huge benefit for me since I experienced some reliability issues while traveling with my previous car.

Quick Tips

To help quick-start your RAV4 camping adventure, I’ve listed some quick tips that I’ve learned from my camping excursions.

  • Stay organized
    • It’s easy to let your car get messy when you have lots of items inside. Be sure to stay organized.
    • Consider using storage bins and drawers to hold your smaller items.
  • Utilize exterior storage, such as a roof rack or trailer hitch cargo carrier.
  • Make a gear checklist so you don’t forget to pack something.
  • Have an emergency plan in place.
  • If you won’t have cell service, let friends and family know.
  • Pack a first-aid kit and basic hand tools.

In Conclusion

Overall, sleeping in a Toyota RAV4 can be comfortable regardless of your size, as long as you know how to make the most of the space.

Hopefully, this guide helped you make the most of your RAV4 car camping experience!

Let us know your upcoming camping trips in the comments below!

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  1. Dan Daniel says:

    Nice info, thanks. Like you, the Rav4 was the right combination of space and economy and handling for travel, sleeping in the car, camping, etc.

    I have a piece of 1/2″ plywood cut at 25 inches by 40 inches to make a platform that extends the head area to the front passenger seat so that I do not need to build a pillow platform. This even tucks on edge behind the rear seats when they are upright (my common travel setup with the rear cover so I don’t draw attention to sleeping and living in the car).

    There is a set of window inserts available on Amazon for the gen 5 Rav5. Thin black material with metal band inserts. Fits well. Good enough for privacy, almost good enough for stealth camping (seal with sewing needle holes with black paint to educe the glowing edges). Includes a rear window cover but no front window cover. I have a separate heavier duty heat cover for that.


  2. Awesome tips! I am using mine now for a camping trip… I have one question nobody has answered yet – is it possible to lock yourself in the car while sleeping? With the key fob Auto Unlock feature when nearby, it seems the door would just unlock if someone tried to open driver door even after hitting lock inside on the door. I don’t have anyone to test it out with, I’d love to hear if anyone has experience with this.

  3. Great thanks and bon voyage.

  4. I slept in a 1985 Volvo wagon and the temperature at night was about 10C. To help with condensation and prevent mosquitos entering the car I put two windows down and put cheese cloth in the space. The windows were still fogged up by morning but my sleeping bag was dry.

  5. Don Cameron says:

    Thanks for the information. In a 16,000 Km trip last summer to the Arctic Ocean through Yukon Territor and Northwest Territory of Canada, forest fires blocked the only road so we were forced to sleep in our RAV4 or turn back to Inuvik. We tried a couple of configurations, but settled on tilting the front seats back, and it worked just fine. We’re a Canadian senior couple , age 79 and 82 this year, and have another trip planned for this summer, of 6,000 km, to Labrador and Newfoundland (Canada). In previous years we have visited all 50 U.S. States, all 10 Canadian Provinces as well as many other countries. If you don’t keep moving you might seize up!

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      Wow! Thank you for sharing your story, Don. That’s great to hear and very inspirational.