The rooftop tent, like so many things, has advantages and disadvantages in relation to the purpose of use and the needs of the user. However, the rooftop tent still brings very specific advantages that you do not have with other camping modalities and we will examine them in this article in the form of a list.
Table of Contents
Putting up a rooftop tent is very easy. All you need is a roof rack. If you don’t have one yet, you can find the right one by entering your vehicle here.
A rooftop tent usually comes with the appropriate assembly kit, and with the help of a few friends (to position the rooftop tent) and some tools, the rooftop tent is fully assembled in minutes.
The disadvantage here is, of course, that you still need someone’s help to assemble and disassemble the rooftop tent.
Or that you drive it around when not in use and the car consumes more and has poor driving dynamics.
But if you consider that a mobile home or even a smaller RV consumes more and usually has poorer driving dynamics, you still have an advantage with the rooftop tent and the possibility of dismantling it.
The height of your vehicle
A rooftop tent raises your vehicle by an average of 14 to 16 inches, with the roof tent being 12 inches and the roof rack being another 4 inches high (of course, it always depends on the manufacturer of the rooftop tent, as well as the manufacturer of the roof bars or roof cross bars).
Due to the construction, you always have to make sure that the vehicle still fits in the garage or in the car park.
This point may be important to some – and I am one of them because I have a parking space in a garage – and not to others because they park outdoors or under a carport with more height.
However, a rooftop tent becomes a disadvantage the higher your vehicle is already.
Because it not only limits your choice of parking space but also shifts the center of gravity of your vehicle.
But here, too, you can compensate for this disadvantage by buying a light rooftop tent.
The fact that a rooftop tent has a mattress is always mentioned as a great advantage. But these are not full-fledged mattresses.
Most rooftop tent mattresses are 3 to 4 inches and vary in firmness.
I’ve lain on rooftop tent mattresses, which were so soft that you practically lay directly on the wooden panel (base plate of the tent).
In my current rooftop tent (Thule Tepui (link to Amazon)) there is a 4-inch thick roof tent mattress, which is quite comfortable, and both me as a back sleeper and my girlfriend as a side sleeper
The rooftop tent is still camping in nature and you do without some comfort that you are used to at home.
Each rooftop tent comes with a ladder. You have to get up there somehow. Although some find other ways to climb into the rooftop tent, e.g. by hoisting themselves into the rooftop tent via the open car door.
Each rooftop tent ladder is different.
But there are basically two types.
Once the scaling ladder. I.e. a ladder made of two parts that can then be put together and fixed at the right height.
And there are telescopic ladders, which can be easily extended like a telescope and fixed at the right height.
Both forms have advantages and disadvantages.
A push-up or scaling ladder may be ideal for sandy terrain because the sand cannot penetrate between the individual parts of the telescopic ladder and thus does not block the ladder.
On the other hand, a scaling ladder is bulkier.
With my rooftop tent, I have a scaling ladder, which fulfills its function perfectly, but is a bit impractical when setting up. Here I would wish for something simpler like a telescopic ladder.
The space in the vehicle
An obvious very big advantage is that you sleep on the car roof in the tent and thus have all the space in the car at your disposal; sometimes one of the decisive reasons to buy a rooftop tent.
Especially if your own vehicle does not have enough space to sleep inside.
So if you don’t want or don’t want to buy another car, a rooftop tent is the easiest option to turn your car into a mini camper.
The view when you open the rooftop tent in the morning and look out is one of the most beautiful moments of rooftop camping.
Because you camp relatively high above the ground, you have a great overview of the pitch and the surrounding area.
That just gives you a good feeling.
However, the height is a disadvantage when it is windy, because “up there” you have a better attack surface.
However, this disadvantage can be reduced by aligning the rooftop tent in such a way that the wind does not have as much force on it or by using natural features such as a tree front as a windbreak.
Rooftop tents are very well-ventilated. With my rooftop tent, I have a large opening at the head and foot part, which is equipped with mosquito nets to keep the little crawlers from getting into the tent.
There are also two small side openings on the left and right of the roof of the tent. So I can close the tent completely and ventilation is still guaranteed.
Roof tents usually not only have so many openings for ventilation but also so that you can better enjoy the landscape from above.
You realize how important good ventilation is when you sleep in a tent on hot summer nights.
A little tip here: Choose a roof tent that doesn’t have a mosquito net that is too fine. Why? Because a mosquito net reduces the draft extremely and the finer the mesh, the less fresh air gets through.
As long as you only want to protect yourself from mosquitoes, spiders, and ants, an appropriate mosquito net is sufficient.
The toilet and the shower
Having a toilet and a shower is a huge comfort that you, unfortunately, don’t have with roof tents.
Depending on how great the personal need is to have your own toilet and shower, this can be a deal breaker for the rooftop tent option.
Especially if you are traveling for a long time.
But there are emergency solutions here too.
But if this point is extremely important to you so that you can experience a great trip, a mobile home is probably the better decision.
Emergency solutions are portable chemical or separation toilets.
>> Here is my recommendation for a mobile camping toilet << (link to Amazon)
If you value privacy then a rooftop tent is not for you.
Or you would have to leave your comfort zone, which does not entail a relaxed journey but gives you opportunities to develop yourself personally.
You reach your limits and decide to grow beyond them or return to your comfort zone.
If you do not need absolute privacy and some privacy is sufficient for you, you can consider buying a rooftop tent with an awning/annex or a separate tent so that you can at least change your clothes comfortably and out of sight.
With the rooftop tent, you can find a pitch almost anywhere. If you have a hard shell roof tent that does not protrude beyond the dimensions of the vehicle, you can theoretically set up your rooftop tent in any parking space.
If you have a folding roof tent, you need at least two parking spaces.
Basically, with a vehicle and the rooftop tent on it, you can get to pitches that an RV cannot go to purely because of its size.
As a result, it is not so easy to be seen when standing alone or you have space between two trees where a larger vehicle would not have space.
The assembly and disassembly
I count the assembly and disassembly as one of the disadvantages of a rooftop tent compared to a mobile home, for example.
On the other hand, if you compare it to a conventional ground tent, it is easier to set up and take down.
If you buy a hard-shell roof tent, the effort required to set it up is practically zero. A crank or gas springs make it possible to erect and dismantle a hard shell roof tent in just a few seconds.
This is a very good hardshell rooftop tent with a low price tag:
Hard-shell roof tents are therefore very practical when you change locations frequently.
Folding roof tents are already more cumbersome in terms of assembly and dismantling.
The construction is usually also very quick.
When you dismantle it looks a bit different.
You have to fold the tent skin well all around so that the hood fits on it again and can be closed properly.
The hood is stored in the car or outside the car and can be dirty depending on the weather conditions.
If you then have a high vehicle, you can work up a sweat when dismantling it.
The organization of the camping trip
If you want to get along well with little, you have to be well organized. It can depend on whether a trip is pleasant or not.
The less space you have, the better the organization of the available space has to be.
If you are traveling with the rooftop tent, you have a little more space in the car, but there tends not to be much space for all the things you need for a pleasant trip or camping holiday.
Before planning a longer trip or even a vacation, you should definitely make test trips over the weekend.
Because only if you do it yourself will you recognize what you really need and what annoys you and for which a better solution needs to be found.
This saves you a lot of stress when you finally go on your well-deserved vacation.
With the rooftop tent, you are practically directly exposed to the weather. Unless you are in the rooftop tent, where space is very limited.
You should be aware of this before setting off with the rooftop tent.
Either you have an awning that protects you in bad weather or you have an awning under which you can stay in the rain.
Without this accessory, you can only stay in the car.
The small animals
A really great advantage of the rooftop tent is that you are high above the action.
This means you are relatively protected from crawlers and small animals.
Relatively because you often stand under trees and one or the other larger insect or even rodents can get onto the tent.
In the tent, we once had a stowaway for a few days: A large black spider, which nested in one of the ventilation slots on the roof.
I’m not afraid of spiders, but I’m a little scared of them and when I saw them while taking down the tent, I shook off quite a bit.
However, no insects and certainly no rodents can get inside the tent.
If you always close the rooftop tent diligently when leaving, you can be almost 100% sure that the tent is free of crawling animals.
Camping always means a little bit of adventure.
An adventure that can be made a little more comfortable with the rooftop tent than with a normal ground tent.
The fact that you often don’t know where you’re going to sleep at night and you’re always looking for a location can sometimes be exhausting and frustrating, but looking back it’s always a great experience.
Especially if you are lucky enough to find a great spot and then enjoy the sunrise and the breathtaking landscape there in the morning.
And these moments are what it’s all about. They make up for any effort or sacrifice in comfort that one has made.
Download Our Roof Top Tent Overview (PDF)
In this pdf file, we give you an overview of the most popular rooftop tents. You can download this PDF file for free and use it freely!