When I was a kid in Upstate New York, my family and I would go camping all the time.
Back then, we’d camp in a simple ground tent, and sometimes my brother and I would even sleep under the stars.
Today, though, I lay my head down to rest in a rooftop tent. It’s a lot nicer than what I had growing up, to say the least!
When I got a rooftop tent, I wasn’t totally sure I was going to like the experience. You might find yourself in the same situation of not being completely sure what kind of tent you want.
To help you make the right decision for your needs, I’ve outlined some pros and cons of rooftop tents. Let’s get to it!
Pros of Rooftop Tent Camping
Let’s kick things off with a discussion of some of the best benefits of rooftop tent camping.
You’re Off the Ground
A rooftop tent gets you away from critters, off of snow-covered terrain, and out of the mud.
What’s more, you don’t have to worry about rocks and tree roots poking you in the back as you sleep!
Without having to clear the ground of obstructions, you can get your rooftop tent set up quickly and get to bed faster after a long day of overlanding or off-roading.
Rooftop Tent Camping is Comfortable
My Torro Offroad Skylux tent has a king-sized mattress inside. After a long day on the trail, that big foam mattress is SO comfortable.
I suppose you could put a king-sized mattress in a ground tent, but where would you keep the mattress when the tent isn’t set up?!
With a rooftop tent, the mattress can stay inside at all times, so there’s no need for extra room to store it and you don’t have to wrestle a huge mattress each morning and night, either.
Setup is Simple
Getting your rooftop tent ready to go for the night couldn’t be easier. In my case, my tent takes just a few seconds to get set up.
It’s a hardshell tent, so I literally just lift the roof up and the front of the tent folds forward.
And this quick and easy setup means that taking it down is also quick and easy. You don’t have to sweep dirt or mud off the bottom of the tent or fold up a ton of tent poles. Just fold it up, shut the lid, and you’re off!
You Get Great Weather Protection
By and large, you’re going to get excellent protection from the weather in a rooftop tent. This isn’t to say that many ground tents aren’t also rock-solid in bad weather. But at least with a rooftop tent you don’t have to worry about rainwater rushing underneath you when a storm hits!
My Torro Offroad tent has proven to be incredibly durable. It’s kept me warm and dry in all sorts of different settings. And even in some pretty strong winds, the tent has felt completely solid and secure.
A big part of what makes my tent so nice for colder camping is the 140-gram quilted thermal insulating panels. You’d be surprised how much of a difference that insulation makes when the temperature begins to dip!
Rooftop Tent Camping Saves Space
Another great feature of rooftop tents is that they save space.
My tent is mounted on my Turtleback Expedition trailer, which I keep in a storage facility. That means I never have to take my tent off my trailer and worry about where I’m going to store it.
And when I’m out adventuring, having the tent on top of the trailer means my campsite has a smaller and more streamlined footprint. I also like that the tent hangs over the side of the trailer so I have some built-in shade and protection from the elements.
So, as you can see, rooftop tents have plenty of benefits. But there are some possible downsides that you should be aware of as well.
Cons of Rooftop Tent Camping
Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely love my rooftop tent. However, I recognize that there are some features of these tents that reduce their usefulness for some people.
Rooftop Tents Can Be Expensive
I’ll be the first to say that rooftop tents can often be far more expensive than most ground tents. You can get a really fantastic four-season tent for a few hundred dollars. But some rooftop tents will set you back a few thousand dollars.
This is a you-get-what-you-pay-for situation, though…
My Torro Offroad tent is big, comfortable, and well-built. It’s something that is more than spacious enough for me and when my family comes along for the ride, they can fit inside nicely as well.
Though you have to stick to a budget that works for you, the benefits of a rooftop tent outweigh their expense (for me, anyway).
These Tents and Heavy
There’s no getting around it – rooftop tents are heavy.
Where your little two-person ground tent might weigh a couple of pounds, a rooftop tent might weigh well over 100 pounds. My Torro Offroad Skylux tent tips the scales at 121 pounds.
This obviously makes getting the tent on your roof a bit challenging. And if you have to take your tent off and put it back on for each trip, it can be quite inconvenient.
You also have to keep in mind that the roof rack on your vehicle or trailer needs to be rated to support the weight of the tent, so that could present additional problems if you have to modify the rack.
Accessibility Can Be a Problem When Rooftop Tent Camping
One of the clear problems with a rooftop tent is that it’s difficult or impossible for someone with a physical disability or injury to get up into the tent.
And if you take your dog with you, it could be a challenge to get it up into the tent as well – especially if you have something like a St. Bernard or a Burmese Mountain dog!
Storing the Tent Could Be an Issue
I’m fortunate in that I can leave my tent on top of my Turtleback trailer inside a storage facility.
But if you don’t have a place to keep the tent out of the sun, wind, and other elements, you’ll find that the tent degrades much faster and that its lifespan is reduced.
This goes back to the issue of these tents being on the heavy side. I can’t imagine taking my tent off after each overlanding trip, lugging it into my garage or my house, putting it in its hiding place, and then reversing the whole process the next time I head out. No thanks!
And it’s not like you can throw your rooftop tent in a corner of the garage and call it good. These suckers will take up a good chunk of real estate in your house.
Your Campsite Options are Limited
When you’re backpacking you can throw your tent or bivy sack pretty much anywhere. But with a rooftop tent, you can only camp wherever your vehicle can park.
With my Jeep and trailer, I can get to some pretty gnarly places. But not everyone that overlands has the rig to get way off the beaten path.
And once you find a place to park, you might need to level the vehicle or trailer, that way your tent is also level. This isn’t a huge deal – leveling blocks are a God-send – but it’s still something to consider.
With that, you have five pros and five cons of rooftop tent camping. I hope this discussion helps you identify whether a rooftop tent is the right solution for you or if you need to go in another direction.