Vehicle roof tents are growing in popularity, especially with off-road adventure enthusiasts. How do they stack up against a ground tent?
Overland adventure guru Andrew St Pierre White takes the opportunity of an off-road camping adventure in Zambia to discuss the pros and cons of ground tents versus vehicle roof tents.
If you are as unfamiliar with the vehicle roof tent as I am, this is a very interesting and informative presentation.
Let us give a very brief synopsis of White's main concerns and thoughts, bullet-list style.
- Will a rooftop tent keep you out of reach of animals?
- It depends on what animals you're concerned about, but overall White doesn't put much stock in the notion that a vehicle roof tent is inherently more discouraging to animals than a ground tent.
- Ease of erecting?
- This too is conditional on the type of tent, either rooftop or ground, that you intend to use, and what the duration of your camp stay may be. For overnight camp set-ups, White avoids deploying all of the features of his roof tent, simply because it is unnecessarily time consuming. Generally speaking he believes that a similarly complex ground tent can be erected in less time than a roof tent.
- Space inside to get dressed?
- The ground tent has the advantage here. Standing up to dress is not so easy in a roof tent.
- Ventilation and insect protection?
- Ventilation and insect protection is an extremely important consideration when purchasing a roof tent for camping in hot environments. It is less important for moderate environments.
- Ease of access and egress?
- Again, a ground tent has the clear advantage here. White emphasized the danger of entering and exiting a vehicle roof tent in wet conditions and if wearing shoes lacking good traction. His story of a friend who was seriously injured from slipping off the ladder should be heeded by every roof tent user.
- Ease of packing up?
- The ease of breaking down and packing either tent, again, depends on the style of tent you wish to use. Also, clamshell style roof tents are much easier to erect and break down than other styles, either roof or ground.
- Other pros and cons?
- Roof tents place greater demands on your vehicle's fuel consumption. White roughly estimated that they add approximately a gallon of gas consumption for every 125 miles or so with his vehicle. They also impact the stability of both your vehicle and on-site set up because of the extra weight they place on the top of your vehicle.
- On the other hand, White considers the fact that your sleeping gear - mattress, sleeping bags, pillows - can simply be folded up into a roof tent, never needing to be removed, to be a very attractive benefit. Sleeping items will stay clean, out of the way and will not take up space in the vehicle with a roof tent.
White uses and recommends a vehicle roof tent manufactured by the Eezi-Awn tent company. He indicates that Eezi-Awn is "one of the pioneers of the rooftop tent." The South African company's tents are exported and available around the world.
The off-road adventure show, Expedition Overland, also uses vehicle roof tents. They used roof tents on their Central America and Alaska/Yukon adventures.