What’s this?.. buying a RoofTop Tent
A buyers’ guide from two guys who sell roof tents? Yes! Feel free to check our tents out! I am writing this blog post to help people understand if a roof tent is suitable for them and if so what type.
Roof Top Tents can be described as a folded tent, often box-shape, mounted on a vehicle roof. The tent will usually fold open or pop up with minimal effort creating a comfortable sleeping platform and living space. There are two main categories of roof tent. Soft Shell Tents: The shell (Roof Material/ Cover) of this kind will be canvas or similar material. Hard Shell Tents: These normally have a fibreglass or plastic roof, they look like a large luggage box when packed. When popped up the sides are usually canvas. In a nutshell Soft Shell Tents are usually cheaper and take slightly longer to set up than Hard Shell Tents.
Pros and Cons of all roof top tents
– By their nature Roof Top Tents are quick to erect and pack down. Most tents can be made ready to sleep in, in under 5 minutes with pack down taking a similar amount of time.
– Most Roof Top Tent include a mattress and are a comfortable place to spend the night. Being off the ground dampness is kept to a minimum.
– Being up off the ground there is a greater sense of security than a traditional ground tent.
– Fantastic ventilation. Being up off the ground means that the tent stays cool even in the middle of the day. Most roof tents have a lot of windows which means you can lie in bed taking advantage of the view.
– Inevitably you will make lots of new friends when people come over to ask about the tent at camp sites!
Once a roof tent is setup the vehicle beneath is unavailable until the tent is packed. Roof tent advocates will say that good planning and the Tents’ quick pack-down time make this a small issue.
The tents can be heavy to fit or remove. Fitting/ removing is generally a two person job. Soft shell tents are often mounted for the duration of the summer and then removed for winter. Hard shell tents are often left on a vehicle year-round.
There is a small impact on vehicle fuel economy. Hard shell tents are usually more aerodynamic and have a smaller impact on economy.
Soft Shell Tents – Pros and Cons
– Quick setup/ pack down time – Usually 5 minutes + 10 minutes for a lower annex.
– Most soft shell tents are moderately priced
– Usually more spacious than a Hard Shell Tent
– Designs usually include a lower annex which makes a great bedroom, changing or shower room.
– Lightweight and quick to fit/ remove. A standard-sized Soft Shell Roof Tent is usually around 55kg
– Tent fly and material can be noisy in poor windy weather.
– Not really suitable for permanent mounting on a vehicle. Most soft shell tents have good quality travel covers. However, being a pvc/ material cover it will wear out after a year or two of being permanently mounted. On the plus side covers are easily replaced.
– Setup isn’t as quick as a Hard Shell Tent.
– Most soft shell tents are highly waterproof. However, after several days of constant rain and setup/ pack down the interior of the tent is likely to feel damp. Simply because only breathable canvas is between the interior and rain.
Hard Shell Tents – Pros and Cons
– Incredibly quick setup/ pack down. Usually 1-3 minutes.
– Highly weather proof with next to no wind noise in poor weather. The hard shell roof sheds most of the rain and the vertical canvas sides shed the rest.
– Can be mounted permanently on a vehicle roof. Fibreglass shells have a long lifespan and look attractive, plus are aerodynamic.
– Usually not as spacious as a soft shell tent. The sleeping platform is limited by the size of the shell.
– Cost is often a lot higher than a Soft Shell
– Weight. Often around 90-100kg for a two person unit.
– Annex options are more limited than most Soft Shell Tents.
Buying a suitable tent for your vehicle
Soft Shell Tents
If you are looking at a tent with a lower annex it is worth checking the minimum suggested height for the annex. Usually higher vehicles like vans, 4x4s and Utes work best with an annex. The high mounting height gives good headroom in the lower annex.
Soft shell tents can be mounted on cars and lower vehicles. However, it is usually best to choose a model which doesn’t include an annex. The lower vehicle height means that there wouldn’t be much head room if a lower annex were attached to the tent.
Hard Shell Tents
Since most hard shell tents do not have a lower annex vehicle height isn’t usually an issue. If the tent you are looking at has a lower annex it is worth checking the minimum/ maximum mounting height.
Another major consideration is the tent’s weight. Since hard shell tents are usually quite heavy it is a good idea to check your vehicle roof is capable of supporting the roof racks and tent weight.
Buying roof racks suitable for supporting a roof tent
I often get asked this question: I am looking at roof racks for my new roof tent. The racks I am looking at are rated to 75kg each. A pair have a combined load rating of 150kg. I know the tent is only 54kg but with two people, will it exceed the capacity of the racks?
Here is my answer: The roof racks have a dynamic load rating of 75kg per a roof rack. In essence they are capable of supporting 75kg in most driving situations. They would have been tested at emergency breaking loads etc.. This means that in a driving situation where the Roof Tent only weighs 54kg you are well within the limit. In a static situation where the roof tent is erected for camping and two people are sleeping in it the loads on the racks are far less than what they have been tested for in a dynamic situation. Therefore you are fine to get the 75kg racks!
If you want to know more about a Roof Top Tent..