Over the past couple of years, more and more people are heading out into the Great Outdoors to camp with their families. And while plenty of people are content to tent camp or load up in an RV for more creature comforts, there is another option that is currently gaining in popularity. Originally popular in Africa and Australia, vehicle rooftop camping is the latest trend in camping shelter options.
The idea of mounting a shelter to the roof rack on a vehicle became a necessity in these parts of the word in order to keep away from dangerous and pesky animals. It also provided a better vantage point for observing some of those animals, be it day or night.
When choosing a rooftop tent you really only have two style options: the soft-sided tent and the hard-shell. Each has their own set of benefits and challenges.
Soft-sided tents are low and on weight and they won’t take up a lot of space on the roof of your vehicle. However, they also tend to trap more dirt and water and can be a pain to set up or take down on a wet day.
Hard-shell tents are obviously more durable and aerodynamic while you’re driving on the highway. But hard-shell shelters are also pricier than their soft-side counterparts. They also take up a lot more space on top of your car and add more weight.
No matter which model you choose, it’s important to take all that extra weight into consideration while driving. Your vehicle won’t handle as well and on difficult trails that added weight can increase your chances of rolling over. Your fuel economy won’t be nearly as good when you have a rooftop tent mounted, so work that into your camping budget. While we’re on the list of challenges, also keep in mind that sleeping on top of your vehicle in a heavy wind will result in your bed swaying a good bit. You’ll also find it very difficult to sleep comfortably if you’re not parked on level ground, which is why some rooftop campers place rocks under their vehicle wheels to balance everything out.