Roof Top Tent Advice

Robert Mueller

New member
Hi all,

I am looking at getting a rooftop tent. I was wondering if anyone who has had any experience using them could let me know the pro's and con's and share any experience.

I look forward to hearing all of your stories,

Thanks,
Rob
 

shade

Well-known member
Welcome to ExPo! 👋

You may enjoy these articles.







And a full search of "roof" yields reviews on individual products. Bear in mind that some of those articles may be old enough that the products and opinions have changed, but those are a good starting point.

For car camping, I started with a ground tent & cots, which I still have for the times I'm base camping. I added a Tepui rooftop tent for a long trip with many stops, and it worked well. There were some drawbacks with the RTT: secured cargo space in my truck's bed was limited, wind noise from flapping fabric, and packing up the RTT could take a little longer than I liked. I addressed those shortcomings with a GFC pop-up camper.

There's a wide variety of options in vehicle based sleeping systems, so don't be surprised if you start with one solution in mind and something else catches your eye.
 

Robert Mueller

New member
Welcome to ExPo! 👋

You may enjoy these articles.







And a full search of "roof" yields reviews on individual products. Bear in mind that some of those articles may be old enough that the products and opinions have changed, but those are a good starting point.

For car camping, I started with a ground tent & cots, which I still have for the times I'm base camping. I added a Tepui rooftop tent for a long trip with many stops, and it worked well. There were some drawbacks with the RTT: secured cargo space in my truck's bed was limited, wind noise from flapping fabric, and packing up the RTT could take a little longer than I liked. I addressed those shortcomings with a GFC pop-up camper.

There's a wide variety of options in vehicle based sleeping systems, so don't be surprised if you start with one solution in mind and something else catches your eye.
Thank you very much for all of that! I will get started on reading through it all! The GFC looks fantastic, I hadn't seen those before!!

Rob
 

shade

Well-known member
Thank you very much for all of that! I will get started on reading through it all! The GFC looks fantastic, I hadn't seen those before!!

Rob
I really like my GFC, but even the pop-up/wedge camper category has seen several additions since 2018.

If you find a product that interests you, there's a good chance that someone on ExPo has posted something about it.
 

plh

Explorer
I'm mostly cons. Had one for a couple years, they are really neat. Difficult in my opinion to setup and put away on top of a 6' plus tall truck. This aspect really turned me off on them. Would probably think about it differently if pickup bed or trailer mounted. I'm currently building a wedge popup. @83mmax on IG
 

Wallygator

Adventurer
The biggest decision I feel if you are set on getting one is between getting a hard shell or a "conventional" style tent. I went with the hard shell but most of the time it's just me. It sets up in mere seconds and can be put away a few seconds longer than that.
I ruled out the GFC because I wanted to keep the bedding in the tent full time which you cannot do with the GFC.
I made the right decision. Eezi-awn Blade
 

Teri Mitti

New member
Welcome to ExPo! 👋

You may enjoy these articles.







And a full search of "roof" yields reviews on individual products. Bear in mind that some of those articles may be old enough that the products and opinions have changed, but those are a good starting point.

For car camping, I started with a ground tent & cots, which I still have for the times I'm base camping. I added a Tepui rooftop tent for a long trip with many stops, and it worked well. There were some drawbacks with the RTT: secured cargo space in my truck's bed was limited, wind noise from flapping fabric, and packing up the RTT could take a little longer than I liked. I addressed those shortcomings with a GFC pop-up camper.

There's a wide variety of options in vehicle based sleeping systems, so don't be surprised if you start with one solution in mind and something else catches your eye.
Thank you for the info.
I myself needed help with this topic.
 

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
OK, I hope you don't mind me chiming in about advice on rooftop tents. You can get a lot of advice but it is meaningless because it is a personal thing. We don't know why you want one? What do you like to do outside and how will it help? What kind of conditions do you go out in and where do you like to go. Think of buying a rooftent like buying a sleeping bag, get one that fits you and the conditions you go out in. Your tent will then outlast many many vehicles. Remember you don't always camp alone so what does your partner like? It is just a tool, it works with you. Don't be surprised if a rooftent isn't right for you.

Now that we have that out of the way, Design and materials play a big part. You can have two exact same tents but made of slightly different materials and they will behave differently so sweat the details if you have specific needs. Make a flowchart and list all your needs.

Example -

- Don't camp much - ground tent
- Drive long distances - hard shelled tent
- Camp in cold - insulated tent, small volume
- Sleep with your dog - ground tent
- Camp in hot - look for ventilation and materials that don't absorb heat
- Wet conditions - hard shelled tent
- Sleep walk - ground tent
- Need lots of room - folding tent
- Big family - ground tent

You get the idea. Once you determine your needs then don't limit your choice to the tents listed and advertised here in the Portal. It is a big world and there are a lot of tents and virtually none of them are made in the US. An example, say you are into kayaking, I mean really into kayaking so much so that you always have a kayak on your roof just in case. No problem, in Italy they make a tent that is perfect, instead of folding like a wallet, it folds lengthwise like a book. You can have your tent and kayak on your roof at all times .... if that is your sort of thing. Your tent is out there. Oh, and your answer to those guys that tell you rooftents are stupid, you can explain your choice and why it works for you. Chances are they didn't do any soul searching and listened to the salesman and bought some big cool expedition tent that weighs a ton and put it on their Subaru.

One last thing, sometimes what make a tent really good for one thing, makes it really bad at another. I talked to a fellow who had a really great expedition tent, you virtually had to show credentials to get one. He bought it used for his family to camp. The ladder was designed for sand so on pavement it would slide. He was camped at a park with his family and was climbing the ladder, it slid, he grabbed the blanket and as he fell took the baby with him, true story. Just because the tent is great, doesn't mean the tent is great for you.
 

Superduty

Adventurer
The biggest decision I feel if you are set on getting one is between getting a hard shell or a "conventional" style tent. I went with the hard shell but most of the time it's just me. It sets up in mere seconds and can be put away a few seconds longer than that.
I ruled out the GFC because I wanted to keep the bedding in the tent full time which you cannot do with the GFC.
I made the right decision. Eezi-awn Blade

Why can't you keep the bedding in a GFC full time?
 

shade

Well-known member
Why can't you keep the bedding in a GFC full time?
The GFC closes into a 6" thick package, leaving room for little more than a sheet or two. I store my down comforter & sleeping bags in a large compression stuff sack which takes seconds to fill, so this isn't a concern for me. GFC has apparently started making the mattress pads an inch thinner, but I'd rather have a more comfortable bed, so I'm glad mine has the original 3" mattress.
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[Edited for less snark.]
 
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Kerensky97

Xterra101
I think the biggest thing I forgot to consider with a RTT is how often you plan on driving away from your base camp. Every time you need to move your vehicle you need to pack/unpack your tent (and possibly bedding).

I usually take pictures of sunrise/suntset and sometimes I'm driving to different locations. or god forbid driving somewhere for late night astro photography.
That means waking up in the dark, packing up the tent in the cold middle of the night, driving off for 2 hours, coming back, re-deploying the tent going back to bed till morning. Making breakfast, packing up the tent, heading out for the day.
Meanwhile a normal tent takes an extra 10mins to setup but I can leave it during the day to adventure around the area.

Even though RTTs are a little quicker to pack and deploy, the soft sided ones aren't instantaneous and it's becoming a huge pain for me. That plus the price has made me a firm believer against RTTs. I'm sure they work fine for some people but for my needs it turns out they're terrible.
 

shade

Well-known member
I think the biggest thing I forgot to consider with a RTT is how often you plan on driving away from your base camp. Every time you need to move your vehicle you need to pack/unpack your tent (and possibly bedding).

I usually take pictures of sunrise/suntset and sometimes I'm driving to different locations. or god forbid driving somewhere for late night astro photography.
That means waking up in the dark, packing up the tent in the cold middle of the night, driving off for 2 hours, coming back, re-deploying the tent going back to bed till morning. Making breakfast, packing up the tent, heading out for the day.
Meanwhile a normal tent takes an extra 10mins to setup but I can leave it during the day to adventure around the area.

Even though RTTs are a little quicker to pack and deploy, the soft sided ones aren't instantaneous and it's becoming a huge pain for me. That plus the price has made me a firm believer against RTTs. I'm sure they work fine for some people but for my needs it turns out they're terrible.
I agree. Using one for base camping while attached to a vehicle or something similar as you described may not work well with a traditional soft side RTT, especially if you add an annex or some other construction project to the mix. A trailer mounted RTT gets around that problem, but then there are other trailerable options that may work better in the first place.
 

Airmapper

High-Tech Redneck
I know with mine it's always been love/hate. A few really big pros over a bunch of cons. It's very situational and personally, some trips I couldn't pull of without it, others it's a complete and utter pain.

My pro RTT example, sometimes I do multi-day trips and every day I move on to someplace new. Almost like touring I'd guess, usually no hard core off road trails but I'm not stuck to pavement. However, every night is a new spot. The RTT shines for this. For one it's very comfortable, I sleep as good as I do in my bed at home, so on longer trips that becomes very important. I have a tent-cot and hammock setups, and they are great in different respects, but neither are as comfortable and after 4 nights in that, you are going to start feeling it. While not effortless, setup is pretty easy and there is not a lot of folding and sorting gear. Bedding stays in the tent, tent folds, put the cover on, and go. With experience and a system, I've gotten it to be a 10-15 minute thing tops. For self contained on the go travel, it's great.

My con example, already discussed but several times a year I like to spend weekends in different places. 3-4 nights, in one spot. I quickly start to hate my RTT on these trips. It's a whole different mindset folding up a tent and breaking camp when you know that night you'll be back. In these situations, it would be so nice to be able to leave camp set and go run around freely and come back. I've also taken up mountain biking, and add that in the mix and it becomes more of a pain because then it starts to interfere with your other plans for the day, and breaking or setting up camp starts to become a chore you must do before/after you do the fun thing.

For me, a ground tent is all but out of the question. Last time I was in a ground tent, it poured rain, and I woke up as I always did with one, nearly floating on my air mattress on a dry tent pad. While I recognize my own inexperience, methods, and quality of gear might have contributed to my discomfort, I prefer to just find a more solid solution, and said screw this, never again. I just don't like being on the ground, if it's wet, that is where the water is, and while I'm not overly weary of bugs and critters, I don't like them having handy access to me all night. You get off the ground and things just get more comfortable.

So for me, being off the ground, and easy setup in relation to ground tents covers most of the cons. But on the cons, having a RTT on your vehicle is not a happy situation. It's heavy enough in a bad spot that it does affect handling and ride comfort negatively. It is a dead flat wall, 100% air resistance, and hits fuel economy. It's a pain off road, the extra height make low hanging trees a problem, and any off camber leans feel a lot more sketchy.
 
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