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Rooftop Tent Pros and Cons

We enjoy camping in our rooftop tent and have spent several years exploring the Western United States when we have the chance to travel.

Rooftop tend on a Ford F-150

Rooftop tend on a Ford F-150

Is a Rooftop Tent Right for You?

We've enjoyed camping for many years with a regular ground tent and recently decided to make the leap to a rooftop tent made by Roam Adventure Company. If you are trying to decide if a rooftop tent is right for you, hopefully, this article can help you decide which way to go.

First off, why did we decide to choose a rooftop tent over a popup camper, overland trailer, or van? In our case, we already owned a four-wheel-drive pickup truck that's capable of getting us to our favorite camping destinations, many of which are a bit off the beaten path.

Secondly, since we enjoy going to more remote places to camp, some of which are down rough and narrow roads, we didn't want to have to drag a trailer along. For this same reason, a two-wheel-drive camper van wasn't really in the cards either.

A rooftop tent—in our case mounted above our truck's bed—proved to be the best choice as an upgrade to our ground tent. We recently went on a one-month trip throughout the Western US and camped in it on public land in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

Good Things About Rooftop Tents

Let's take a look at some of the positive aspects of owning a rooftop tent, before looking at some of the downsides.

  • Rooftop tents are easy to set up compared to regular ground tents.
  • Rooftop tents allow you to sleep off the ground—providing more ventilation and distance from crawling insects, snakes, etc.
  • Because they are affixed to your heavy vehicle, they are more stable in strong winds—when properly tied down.
  • The sleeping platform in a rooftop tent is always constant and smooth - unlike traditional tent camping where you may have rocks, etc., under your sleeping pad.
  • Putting away a rooftop tent takes just a few minutes and is relatively easy.
  • Rooftop tents are typically made of heavier, longer-lasting materials than regular ground tents.
  • Most models are compatible with awnings and alcoves, which can expand the size of the tent and offer a place to sit and relax out of the elements.
  • Compared to pop-up campers and overland trailers, rooftop tents are much less expensive.
A low-profile set up of a rooftop tent, using bed rack made by KB Voodoo Fabrications.

A low-profile set up of a rooftop tent, using bed rack made by KB Voodoo Fabrications.

Downsides of Rooftop Tents

A rooftop tent is not always the best choice for all campers. Here are some of the "not so great" aspects of them.

  • The cost of a rooftop tent can be as much as 10 times that of a regular tent.
  • You'll need a stable vehicle that's compatible with mounting a 100 lbs+ square box on its roof.
  • When camping in a rooftop tent you'll need to park on fairly level ground.
  • Your camping area will be limited to where you can park your vehicle. This means you can't camp in many campgrounds where the tent camping area is located beyond where you park your vehicle.
  • Rooftop tents can be heavy and are not that easy to put on and take off of your vehicle.
  • You may experience more wind noise when driving, depending on where you mount the tent.
  • Because you use a ladder to climb up into them, it may be difficult or impossible to camp with your pets, whom you'll have to carefully lift in and out.
  • You'll have to be careful of pets and children, as typical mounting heights can be 5 feet or more above the ground.
  • Climbing up and down a ladder to get into the tent may prove to be a downside, especially for those who may need frequent bathroom breaks, etc.

Tips for Choosing the Right Model

There are several great manufacturers of rooftop tents, including Thule, Roam Adventure Company, Smittybilt, Tepui, iKamper, Napier, and several others. All of them offer quality built tents that range in price from $1,200 to more than $3,000.

You'll find a variety of sizes, from one-person rooftop tents to those that can sleep four or more people. If you have a growing family, you may want to invest in a larger-sized tent so that it doesn't become obsolete. One thing to keep in mind is that the larger-sized models may not work as well on smaller vehicles.

Closing Thoughts

If your camping "sweet spot" is somewhere between a typical tent and a pop-up camper or trailer, then a rooftop tent just might fit the bill. For those who love dispersed camping on public land, where you can drive right up to your camping site, they can be a great choice.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Nolen Hart