Rooftop tents are the gear of the moment, and for some they add instant credibility to their outdoor aspirations. But, does that mean everyone who enjoys camping should pony up the big bucks just so they can sleep 6 feet off the ground. Here are the pros and cons of rooftop tents compared to ground tents, to help you make the best decision for your camping adventure.
What was once a very niche camping experience, rooftop tents have exploded in popularity over the last few years. Larger brands like Yakima and Thule are following the trend, which signals that you’ll see more of these contraptions sitting atop cars and trucks in the near future.
So why has everyone seemingly gone crazy over rooftop tents? Well, they are basically turning your vehicle into a treehouse, and most of us have enjoyed climbing into a treehouse at some point in our lives. There is something more exciting about sleeping on an elevated platform, as opposed to crawling into a tent on the ground. And nothing beats the epic views from your rooftop tent when camping in a scenic area.
In addition to the romantic thought of sleeping in a treehouse, there are some practical reasons why a rooftop tent might be the best option for you. Andrew Pasquella of Front Runner Outfitters states, “Rooftop tents provide a super comfortable and quick set up sleeping situation without worrying what type of terrain you’ll be sleeping on, because you’ll be off the cold or wet ground, avoiding rocks, and away from any bugs or animals.” It’s obvious that elevating a tent has a lot of benefits.
It only takes seconds to remove the cover from a rooftop tent and then release a few straps to unfold a tent. Plus, you can usually store a few blankets and pillows in the tent, so you can instantly hit the rack. This is especially helpful when you roll into your campsite after dark, as you won’t need to mess with tent poles and bedding.
A hard top rooftop tent is even easier to open and close compared to a soft canvas rooftop tent, but they typically offer less interior volume and overhead space. These are available as clam-type opening or hard tops that lift straight up. There is no cover to fuss with and a rack can be attached to some tops to hold additional gear.
Ground tents have evolved over the years, and the best ones have now made setup a cinch. The lightweight material is easier to manage and there is a design for everyone and every budget.
We’ve all struggled with the folding poles and slide through options for setting up a ground tent, especially in the dark. But a slew of newer ground tents can almost be setup on their own as the poles are integrated into the tent and all a camper has to do is release the tension on them for the tent to open.
Ground tents are available in large walk-in style tents that are setup like outdoor rooms. These can easily hold a queen-sized blow up mattress, cots, and gear for four or more people. Tents are now ultralight, which make them ideal for backpackers who might be hiking with their pack for hours or days into the backcountry. And, there are tents of all types in between.
Beyond easy setup, ground tents allow you to setup your camping spot and then drive off for more exploring. Rooftop tents need to be closed up anytime you leave the campsite and you are literally tied to your vehicle for sleeping.
Ground tents are more subject to bad weather as wind and rain can cause flooding and a cold and rocky ground can make sleeping very uncomfortable.
Before investing in a rooftop tent, check out a friends tent and try to do an overnight trip. Most retailers like Frontrunner and CVT Tents, have rooftop tents setup so you can climb into them and get a feel for what it’s like sleeping in one.
The best option could be using both! If you have a rooftop tent, you can always bring along a ground tent if you feel the need to explore a bit more, or just want the option of not using your rooftop tent.