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Are Rooftop Tents Becoming as Popular as Campers?

 photo by Oleksandr Filon  via iStock

Camping is a timeless hobby and one that has taken several different forms these days. One of these forms that are rapidly increasing in popularity is car camping. Just slap a rooftop tent on top of your car and go wherever your heart desires! 

Do the camper van and RV motorhome have a real competitor? As rooftop tent sales have more than doubled in the past years, it may very well have! In this article, we will discuss car camping with a rooftop tent.

The Appeal of a Rooftop Tent

Man Camping

 photo by choochart choochaikupt via iStock

There does not seem to be a direct reason for the increase in sales of rooftop tents other than the increasing popularity of van life in general. A rooftop tent simply has more appeal than building a van conversion for some people. Some of those people just want to go back to basics; others want freedom, adventure, or the feeling of flexibility. 

The pandemic should, without a doubt, also have contributed to the increased popularity of camping as many other travel options have been restricted all around the world. This situation leaves car camping as one of the very few things left to do to get away from it all and reconnect to nature. 

The Benefits of Camping with Your Car

Two people camping

 photo by pixdeluxe via iStock

The most significant advantage of camping with a rooftop tent on your car, instead of on the ground, is that you are always high and dry. After a heavy rain shower, your tent on the ground can sometimes become clammy and damp. 

In any case, when camping on top of your car, the moisture cannot enter through the bottom of the tent, and the rising cold will pass you by easily. In addition, your camp is set up and folded up again in no time, making it ideal for short stops. Camping in this way also does not take up any extra space; only the footprint of the car counts.

Nowadays, using a roof tent is no longer just for people with a 4×4, but they fit on almost all cars. Unique roof tents have been developed for some notable car brands, such as the MINI Countryman. 

There is a choice of different brands, sizes, and hard or soft exteriors. Also, you can opt for all kinds of extras, including an awning. 

You can go car camping at practically any campsite, although there is a chance you have to stand in a place for a camper, instead of in a regular place depending on the local rules on camping.

However, many people will prefer wild camping; unzip your tent and wake up in the middle of overwhelming nature. Unfortunately, it is not allowed everywhere to park and spend the night. So make sure to plan ahead and do some research on whether this is allowed on your next destination so that you can still look for the best adventure. 

Diesel Heater next to an SUV in the snow

So, you might be wondering about staying warm in your rooftop tent…

If you want to extend your camping adventures into the colder months, a heater is a must-have.

Of course, you want to be warm but safe, too, which is why the Planar Heaters Portable Diesel Air Heater is such a great option!

As you can see in the image above, the unit stays outside, which minimizes the chances of carbon monoxide in your tent, camper, or RV. But don’t worry – the unit is built like a tank and can withstand rain, sleet snow, and whatever else Mother Nature throws at it!

diesel heaters for overlanding

With the ability to run off of diesel or kerosene (and 12V power), you have flexibility in terms of how you run the heater. And since it has a silencer, you can be warm and not be disturbed all night by a loud heater!

Other features include a wired remote, excellent portability, great fuel efficiency, and the ability to work in high-altitude situations.

In other words, it’s the perfect addition to your winter camping kit!

The Experience of Using a Rooftop Tent

woman in a rooftop tent

 photo by simonapilolla via iStock

What’s it like sleeping on your roof? Well, it’s not hard to set up a rooftop tent when you go car camping, but it does require some practice. But, on the other hand, you get used to it pretty quickly. In the beginning, you will be a little unsettled when you turn around in your sleep and the car wobbles with you. But after a while, it will start to feel quite normal.

A disadvantage of a rooftop tent is that the mattress cannot be too thick because otherwise, the tent system can no longer close properly. That means you will have to be able to endure lying on a thin mattress, or you may want to consider replacing the standard bed with a different material for a better night’s sleep.

The most significant advantage of traveling with a camper is the freedom: it is easier to really feel and get into nature. In addition, the comfort of a roof tent is greater than that of a regular tent. You sleep off the floor, on a mattress, and you always lie on a straight surface on the car. 

Setting up a rooftop tent takes around five minutes. If you travel in the company of people that bring regular tents, you can crack open a beer and watch them fiddle with their tents while you already have yours set up.

Car camping is an elegant way of camping. Because you are in a car, you can charge almost anything these days. For example, you can brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush while off-road enjoying a view of the mountains. 

What if You Have to Use the Restroom at Night?

Rooftop tent under the milkyway

 photo by miroslav_1 via iStock

Then you pee from one of the windows on the side! But, of course, we are only joking here; if you need to have a toilet break in a rooftop tent, then you have to get out! And having to get up in the middle of the night is annoying because you have to go down the stairs or jump off your car. 

But with a typical tent, it will be just as annoying to have to get out at night. So basically, no matter what kind of tent you are in, having to get up, get dressed and get out in the middle of the night will always be an unpleasant experience.

Our Recommendations

solar power for camping on a rooftop tent

Choosing a rooftop tent depends highly on the type of vehicle you drive and the comfort levels you want. The average price for a quality roof tent starts at around $900 and may set you back a couple of thousand dollars. 

First of all, I have a  Torro Offroad Skylux tent that has been a great setup for me. In addition, Smittybilt, Nomadic, and Trustmade all have great options you can check out. Also, if you aren’t driving a large SUV or a truck, you can check out the Thule Tepui Explorer.

Lastly, always remember to plan your camp ahead of time because if you need to go on a liquor run, you will have to pack your tent before you can move your vehicle!

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