You have probably seen many roof top tents by now, both on the road as well as online. Perhpas you even own one or have tried one out. Roof top tents have actually been around for many years, and were popular for decades in Europe before recently becoming more mainstream in North America. In the past five years, many manufacturers have begun producing the tents in quantity, major retailers began carrying them, and their use started to explode. Lots of folks, from overlanders to backcountry hikers to cross-country roadtrippers, are curious about roof top tents. If you are starting to look at them, here are five things to know as you learn more about them.
5 Things to Know About Roof Top Tents
You can do hardshell or softshell. Roof top tents come mainly in two categories -- hard-sided, or soft-sided. Soft-sided tents probably make-up 75% or more of the market, so are more common. They are going to be less-expensive and you will find much more selection. Hard-sided tents, on the other hand, are typically quite expensive, but they have some advantages. They are obviously more protected as you are cruising down the road, they provide partial protection against elements when the tent is setup, and they actually setup faster than the soft-sided tents.
The mattress is built-in. One of the main advantages of a roof top tent is that your mattress is typically built-in, and it is a much better sleeping surface than you are going to get with a regular tent. If you think about it, because you are not carrying everything on your back, you can afford to have a more substantial, heavier sleeping surface in the roof top tent. We have seen some that have 4 inches of memory foam in a king-sized mattress. Not bad for “roughing it.”
Your roof rack rating is key. Roof top tents are heavy -- typically 120 to 180 pounds, and with a couple adults inside you could easily get up to 550 pounds or more. All of that weight sits on your roof rack (or if you drive a truck, on a rack that sits in your truck bed). Making sure that the static and dynamic (moving) weight ratings for your rack can accomodate your desired tent is a critical safety step.
You need to be able to climb. One of the main advantages of a roof top tent is that you are up off the ground, so you eliminate the risk of an uneven surface, water or frost under your tent, a cold ground, and critters trying to get in. But for folks who can’t climb well or have very young children, taking a ladder to and from your bedroom might be worth a second thought. One thing many folks do is add an awning to their tent setup, which allows for covered ground sitting and cooking space without having to climb up to the tent every time you are looking for shelter. Still, your bed is always going to be a short climb away, which has its advantages but also a few disadvantages.
There are lots of startup tent makers on the market today. The market for roof top tents has exploded lately, and there are lots of small outfits making really good rooftop tents. Compare them carefully, as some of these companies have only been around for a few months or years. We expect some consolidation of the market in the future, and are already seeing some as older gear makers seem to be interested in acquiring some of the startups.
North Outdoors did a thorough piece on roof top tents, and you can find it here. It provides even more information on different tents, how they compare, and how to use them. We expect this market to evolve quickly, and it is exciting to see. Roof top tents are a great option for many travelers and adventurers.
Author: Paul at North Outdoors.
North Outdoors was founded with the idea that the USA’s North Country is some of the most beautiful, rugged, interesting, and exciting area to explore. We are also active junkies and love to be outside. It doesn’t matter if we are cycling, fishing, hiking, running, paddling, sailing, hunting, or skiing — we will take a day outside over a day indoors anytime — no matter the season.
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