Van Camping Vs. Tent Camping: Which Will Win?

Tent vs Van camping - tent camping with woods view

Camping is one of the all-time favorite leisure activities people at any age enjoy. You can either go van camping or bring your tent and go tent camping, both having a different vibe and bringing you different experiences. If you are yet to decide which one to choose that suits you, this article would surely enlighten you on the goods and the bad of these two camping styles. 

Van camping is great for family trips with many places to visit and camp with. You can bring all your necessities like beds, camping gear, and store food for days. Tent camping is a perfect choice for backpackers and people who want to connect to nature and discover unknown places. 

This article discusses which camping style suits you better, van camping or tent camping. I listed down all the pros and cons of each camping style and why each is a great choice in comfort, security, and overall camping experience. Lastly, I included the advantages and disadvantages of van camping and tent camping to help you decide which one would work best for you. 

Van Camping for All-Out Comfort

Van camping directly means camping in a van for the all-out comfort you need. It allows campers to travel with many pieces of baggage, including beds and numerous camping gears. Van camping provides you with no hassle to set up a tent and look for a place. It is best for providing all-out comfort to campers. You can stay in a van that feels like home while also enjoying the feel of the nature around you. 

Van Camping and All the Reasons to Choose It

Let us look into all the reasons why van camping is great for families, groups of friends, couples, or even solo travelers. 

Park Your Van and You’re Camping

In van camping, any place can be your campground. You don’t need to set up tents, which would take up to one hour to set up, including your whole camping area. Therefore, your time can be spent on other fun and valuable activities like campfires and going on some fun trails.  

Camping in your van is the real deal. You can use parking lots like Walmart’s if campgrounds are full, forest roads, and commercial campgrounds. Your van is your comfortable sleeping and resting space with many parking alternatives to choose from, bringing you different sights every night you’ll park to sleep. 

Since the van is your home on the road, it has all the things you’ll need, from food storage that lasts for days, bathroom and water system, electricity, and of course, a warm, comfortable bed. 

Van camping is indeed great for long drives. You can rest just by pulling over to the side of the road and taking a nap or just drinking a cup of coffee and eating snacks to make you feel more awake throughout the trip. 

It’s Like Bringing Your Home With You

Campings are fun until you forget some of the essential things you’ll need for your activities, like your camping gear or the grill for your dinner. Vans provide shelter during the camp offering more storage space, so you don’t need to hand-carry all equipment and forget some of them. 

Another great reason to choose van camping is for your safety. Vans provide safety and protection to you and your companion. Camping in the wilderness may get you to encounter some wildlife. If you camp in your van, the possibilities of being scared by big bears and the risk of heavy winds blowing towards you are close to none.

You’ll have a car and accommodation in one when you choose van camping. It keeps all essentials in your van home, so there is no need to pack before setting off on a trip. Also, there will be no hassle of carrying stuff in and out of your vehicle to set up your camp.

You have everything with you in your travels, and all your valuables are safe with you, like a phone, cash, important papers, and cards. Things you cannot bring with you during a hike are kept securely locked inside your van. You can install extra locks and protection for your valuables if you want to. 

You Can Bring Along More Gear for All Your Activities

Load your van with all the gears you’ll need for your outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and surfing, and never be sorry for bringing them all, as you have the capacity to do so. 

In van camping, you can drive straight to where you will camp. This will make you experience many scenic and beautiful parking alternatives, sleep overnight at the trailhead or beach car parks. Bringing your gears costs less than renting them, especially if you are camping at different places on a single trip.

Camp Anywhere Regardless of the Weather

Van camping prolongs the camping season. It has the proper insulation for hot summer trips and air conditioning to keep you fresh after the fun activities under the sun. It is also properly sealed during the rainy or snowy season and provides you with a heater for the cold nights to get better sleep.

Vans are great for rainy days. If you are tent camping, the bad weather will force you to pack up early, causing you to go home and end your trip right then and there. In a van, you can enjoy the rain while having a cup of coffee inside and resume your outdoor activities when the weather is good.

Enjoy the wilderness, whatever weather there is, and get outdoors all year round with van camping!

Beneficial for Adults, Elderly, and Kids

What else can provide maximum comfort and accessibility on the road than van camping. You get to sleep on a mattress rather than on the ground. Sink into the thick memory foam and relieve all muscle stress and pain. And then wake up feeling energized and refreshed, ready for the day’s activities.

Vans may also be equipped with a bathroom, so there is no need to use public bathrooms. Using your bathroom is hygienic and safe for both children and the elderly as there is no risk of contact with harmful bacteria from public toilets.

If you are traveling with a bigger van, it may have a kitchen, sink, and refrigerator. This is very convenient as you won’t need to bring a cooler and you can store a week’s or more worth of food without the worry of spoilage. 

You can cook any food you want with the complete set of utensils and ingredients and a clean area to cook and wash the dishes. There is no need to set up a campfire that would take much time and effort to cook simple meals. This can certainly take away time that you can use to explore the wilderness. 

Two of the most important things in camping are electricity and water supply. As vans have their own, there is no need for you to bring battery packs and portable solar panels as electricity is right in your van. You can charge your devices anytime for free and power your electric equipment such as an air conditioner, refrigerator, and heater for colder seasons.

Vans are more self-sufficient, leaving you zero worry about finding electricity in the middle of the woods.

Camp Anywhere with Limitless Possibilities of Places to Visit

Camping in a vehicle makes it easier to roam around many areas. You can visit multiple places in a day or the days of your trip. You’ll be able to stop over different cities, explore nature, and discover distant places that are yet to be known by many campers. 

Have more freedom when planning your trip, as van camping also permits visiting galleries and various tourist attractions while keeping the cost of your trip to a minimum. I mean, you can always stay at Walmart if you do not have any parking space available. 

Some Considerations to Look Out in Van Camping

The great van camping also has its flaws which campers should look out for before starting their adventure. Let us discuss all of these in this section. 

Van Camping Can Be Expensive

Getting started with van camping is expensive, especially if you still don’t have the van to use. Maintenance is also costly, and you need to plan out everything before camping as some parts of the van needs further modifications for your comfort during camping.

You can try RV and van rentals. This is a common choice before buying your van for camping. Depending on the model, renting a camper van costs around $100-$200 per night. Other added expenses in van camping include gas cost, insurance, registration, campsite fees, and wastewater fees if you have a water system and bathroom on your van.

Needs Access to Water and Dumping Stations

Easy access to water and electricity on your van comes with a responsibility. Wastewater from the bathroom and sink needs to be dumped regularly to avoid having leaks and a bad smell on your van.

Access to dumping stations is a must as tanks need to be filled with fresh and clean water and wastewater tanks need to be drained. However, dumping stations are rare in far-off areas. When tanks are full and not drained, you may need to use public toilets and showers until you have dumped all the wastes in your van. 

It Can Be Hard to Find Overnight Parking

There are many free camping sites for vans, but it’s hard to find a place in these spots, especially during the camping season. You may need to pay extra for campgrounds that charge fees for parking. 

Some tips to keep in mind when searching for an overnight parking space. Park on public land and not on National Parks, as these parks may charge fees. Furthermore, always make sure that there is no “no overnight parking” sign on your spot and that the spot is off-road. You don’t want to wake up with cars lining in front and behind you, honking their horns because you are causing some traffic. 

Park at store parking lots like Walmart’s. But before doing so, make sure it’s allowed and free of charge if possible to cut down on expenses. 

Tent Camping for a Nature Experience Under the Sun

Tent camping is a great choice for backpackers who need shelter or a night or two of camping without carrying too much equipment with them. It is also an excellent option for people who like to spend time outdoors, enjoy some nature experience, and be away from the city for a while.

The Bests of Tent Camping

This section talks about why you would go for tent camping, budget-wise, and overall experience-wise. 

Inexpensive Yet Enjoyable Camping Experience

Tent camping is inexpensive. Tents and sleeping bags are cheap to buy. They are often found on garage sales and are sold cheaply at Walmart or Amazon. Some stores also allow renting of equipment before buying. 

Another good thing about tent camping is that it is perfect for traveling to many places, saving you additional gasoline expenses. Tents may also house mattresses, depending on the tent size. Some larger tents can fit a whole family inside, making your camping experience more intimate and close with your family members or friends. 

Requires the Use of Minimal Equipment

Tent camping requires some minimal equipment that is easy to carry. This way, you would only bring all the essentials like tent pieces, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads (optional). Since sleeping in tents, also allows hiking into areas not accessible to cars.

Hiking into the wilderness with your tent takes you to beautiful places, sites that are not reached by many campers. You can also camp in campgrounds which provide level areas to set up your tent. 

Be Constantly Immersed in the Outdoors and Nature

When tent camping, you can experience the surroundings more. You’ll get the chance to sleep under the stars, eat under the sun, witness the sunrise and set, and feel the cool wind against your skin. If these scenarios are not worth the camp, I don’t know what is!

Vans tend to take us away from nature. Choosing the comfort of the van over the exciting experience outside may not serve the purpose of why we decided to camp in the first place. 

Spending prolonged periods absorbed in nature has some great effects on people. For one, it makes you relaxed, calmer, and overall happier. Tent camping is also a form of meditation as being surrounded by the beauty and sound of nature gives you peace of mind and comfort.

Tent camping helps people appreciate and value the environment more and is a great way to unplug from the digital world.

Long-term Tent Camping Teaches You Many Life Skills

Van camping provides everything you need, from easy cooking, complete water and electricity supply and a comfortable bed. While all these are great, the comfort vans may not be what everyone wants when camping.

Tent camping would teach you life skills you can use in the future. Such are patience, planning, and teamwork in setting up your camp area and planning the whole trip. Tent camping also teaches us to be resourceful. You’ll need to cook and clean dishes without a kitchen sink and water source, and accomplishing it is already an achievement.

Other life skills you’ll learn as you go tent camping are tying knots, making fires, finding shelter, and reading the environment (when it’s going to rain and where is the proper place to build up a camp). You cannot build all these survival skills if you are already comfortable lying on your van bed. 

Disadvantages of Tent Camping

You may encounter some disadvantages as you choose tent camping over van camping. However, these things can also be great experiences to teach us life skills we can use in our future camping adventures. 

Limited Things to Bring

Tent camping is fun but tends to limit our resources. You’ll have no electricity and water supply of your own, especially in off-grid areas, and you’ll be charged if you use facilities in campgrounds.

There is a little sleeping and resting space with no fancy beds and pillows. Cooking is also a difficulty. You need to bring all the cooking utensils and the food you are cooking and a cooler to preserve fresh meat, vegetables, and cold drinks.

Cooking produces dirty dishes, and tents do not have sinks like vans, so you’ll need to look for campgrounds with sink facilities. An alternative to resolve these problems is to bring canned goods or foods that do not need cooking. 

The Assemble and Disassemble is a Big Hassle

The assemble and disassemble of your tent every time you settle into your camp area is a big hassle. It would take a lot of time setting the tent up where you need to find a level place for it. It should also be secured properly on the ground as ties may loosen up with long periods of use.

The assembly and disassembly would eat lots of time, especially when traveling to many areas and you have a limited time with you.

You Should Always Consider the Weather

Sleeping outdoors under the cool summer night to feel the natural cool breeze is great. However, there is rain, which spoils the mood. You should be ready to evacuate when the rain pours.

Setting up a tent under the rain is a big hassle as every single thing gets wet, whereas, in a van, everything is secured and dry. Some tents are labeled waterproof, but it won’t stop rain from getting inside the tent.

Another constant enemy of tents is the heavy wind. It could blow the whole tent up if properly secured on the ground.

Could Become Uncomfortable and Unsafe Sometimes

There is always a risk of encountering wild animals, whether in a tent or van camping. You can’t just get away from them, especially when camping in the wilderness. One known animal to invade and steal food from campsites is a bear. 

So if you want to be away from them, you should camp at campgrounds which are often free of wild animals as animals tend to stay away from places with many people. 

Sleeping in a tent can be uncomfortable. Tents cannot compare to beds, and the ground could be rough on the body, even with sleeping bags. Sleeping on the ground for many nights would leave you tired and feeling cranky, which might spoil the mood for exciting outdoor activities and sightseeing.

Another thing is, sleeping on rough surfaces is not recommended for adults. It would not ease body pain and muscle stress after a day’s worth of activity. An alternative is to blow up an air mattress, but this only applies to bigger tents.

Lastly, bugs and mosquitoes could enter your tent. In this manner, make sure to keep your tent doors closed, especially when sleeping at night. 


Your preference is a big part of deciding whether to go van or tent camping. If you are more of the adventurer side and want to learn things on your own with limited resources, you can go tent camping and be immersed in the wilderness. But, if comfort is what you need as you camp, the choice would be van camping, complete with all the amenities you’ll need in your trip.

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