Roof Top Tents are an amazing solution for anyone travelling by a vehicle of any sort. They allow you to sleep up off the ground, on a nice mattress, with all your bedding comforts. Not to mention that most are easy to set up and pack down. Just when you thought they couldn’t get much better, you also have the ability to leave all your bedding in them, saving valuable room in the vehicle.
In saying all this, choosing the best roof top tent for you is not an easy thing to do. Not all roof top tents are created equal and not everyone’s needs are the same. Ultimately there are a lot of things to consider when you are making that decision.
What we are going to look at;
- Hard Shell roof top tents Vs Soft
- Weight Considerations
- Interior room and liveable space
- Ease of Access
- Mounting systems
- New Ideas
Soft Or Hard
Hard Shell Roof Top Tent or Soft roof top tent. This is probably the biggest question you have to ask yourself and what you decide to do is dictated by a number of things.
The popular early roof top tents were certainly the soft style, they were a lightweight and revolutionary solution that made going camping a much more enjoyable experience. They were, and still are, easy to set up, comfy and convenient, they do however have a few drawbacks.
Soft Roof Top Tents are big and bulky, you may as well just put a sail on your roof with the additional drag that they create. Not to mention that packing them up is a less than speedy process. This style of RTT uses canvas and poles to create the structure meaning that when packing this away you have to stuff all the canvas back in before trying to zip up the cover. And don’t forget you have to do that 2m off the ground.
On the other hand you have Hard Shelled Roof Top Tents and these are often a fiberglass or Aluminium. The top quality ones have a low profile, with significantly less drag than its soft top counterparts. While these clamshell roof top tents tend to take up more area on the roof, they also offer a substantially larger bed space and thicker mattress as you lose the need to fold it over.
The hard shell options are also great because it is easy to load extra gear on top. Depending on the quality of the tent, some are rated to carry up to 100Kgs on top and still open and close no problem. The other popular option is to load up the roof with solar panelling to ensure that you always have your batteries charged up.
Hard Shelled Roof Top Tent
- Superfast set up and pack down.
- Roof storage still an option – Add solar panels with ease
- Plenty of internal storage options
- Bigger footprint
- Minimal integration with annexes.
Soft Roof Top Tent
- Can be lighter in some cases.
- Smaller footprint
- Can add rooms and annexes
- Comparatively long setup and pack down time
- Have to deal with painful zips and stuffing canvas in
- Massive drag factor
- Often thinner mattress
Weight is a massive factor when you are looking at Roof Top Tents. You need to consider it for 2 reasons;
First, the additional weight up high increases your centre of gravity.
Second, the load rating of where you are mounting the tent.
One thing to take note of is there are 2 different terms when you are looking at load ratings. The first is a static load rating. Static load is how much can be supported when the vehicle isn’t moving. This is obviously important to know because if you have a 100Kg tent and you and your partner weigh 100 Kg each, then you need to have a static load rating of 300Kg or greater.
The second term is dynamic load rating. This is arguably the more important one. The dynamic load rating is how much load it can tolerate while moving. If you have a 100Kg tent but a 70Kg dynamic load rating, you could very well end up with a disaster on your hands. To add to this, the dynamic load rating is aimed around a smooth road. When you are travelling on dirt or 4WD tracks it, most experts recommend that you consider the rating to be 20-30% lower.
This brings us to consider the mounting of the tent. When you are looking at mounting the tent you also need to look at and think about the weight bearing ability of where you want to mount it. As well as how high the tent sits.
When loading a vehicle the higher the weight is, the higher your overall centre of gravity is and the more susceptible to rollovers your vehicle becomes. Even small increases of a few centimetres here and there can be the deciding factor of if the car topples or not.
A quick one to consider is the mounting system. When you are looking at mounting you need to take the time to think about if you are actually going to take the tent on and off the roof regularly. If you are going to be doing that you may wish to think about ensuring you have enough room to work underneath. Alternatively, you may want to look for an option as low profile as possible to lower the centre of gravity and reduce drag.
Room And Living Layouts
The first thing that probably pops into your mind when room is mentioned is how big is the roof top tent itself. This is incredibly important as you can find small compact tents that are only about the size of a double right through to ones designed to sleep 4 people. Now, sleeping 4 people is probably overkill for most, but also considering how high the tent is can make life a little easier for you. Clam shell roof top tents are great when it comes to height and the Camp King Roof Top Tent allows for someone nearly 6ft tall to stand upright at the highest point.
When travelling it is important to consider where you are going and the amount of living space you have and will require. If you are in a wet climate, then you need to think more about covered areas, and the ability to have windows open without getting wet. If you are in a hot humid climate, you want to start thinking about how big the windows are and how the tent cools itself.
Thinking about layouts, you also need to factor in the overall configuration and usability of your set up. If you have your access point off the side of the vehicle then you lose the ability to use that side for an awning or to have easy access into a canopy.
Ease Of Access
How you are getting in and out of your roof top tent is something that is often overlooked. It is not uncommon to hear stories of people getting out to use their roof top tent for the first time and finding that their ladder interferes with the door or tailgate opening.
It is not only the positioning of the ladder but also that ladder itself. While most ladders are designed to allow for a little bit of lift in the vehicle, not all are set up to do it well. Some ladders need additional parts, others are telescopic and some just rely on reducing the angle of the ladder itself. The latter of which can sometimes mean that you are climbing straight up and down rather than having a gradual angle.
Then you have the actual entrance into the tent. When you are deciding on a tent you want to make sure that you can easily get in without having to contort yourself, and that you feel safe and secure when manoeuvring 2m off the ground. These openings can sometimes be small or require you to scramble over the lip of the tent.
Quality Of The Materials
Once you have spent lots of time thinking about what options you want to consider and what style of tent you want to have, make sure to think about the product that you are buying. Like everything on the market these days, you can find budget options of all of the main players in the market, however with those price tags also comes budget materials.
Things to think about;
- Quality of the canvas – Is it going to last over years of usage without wearing through?
- Heavy duty zip – Zippers get a lot of use, and they pretty much make the tent useless if they break
- Strength of the welds – Are the welds high quality and consistent? Your tent is going to see a lot of corrugations which are the enemy of bad welds.
- Thickness and material of the mattress – You will hopefully spend a lot of time sleeping in your tent, make sure to get something supportive and comfortable.
There is one solution that has recently joined the market that may be something additional to consider when you are looking at your entire set up. The Camp King Outback series is an amazing solution for pretty much anyone that has a ute with a tub on it. It allows you to have all the benefits of a roof top tent, combined with the benefits of a tub topper. It even allows for movement between the two without needing to go outside.
Roof Top Tents honestly are one of the best sleeping solutions for those wanting to travel. They make use of a space that for many would otherwise go unused and they provide a level of comfort and security that a ground tent just can’t offer. Plus they have the added bonus of looking great!
All the best deciding which is right for you, but if you have any questions or queries on the Camp King Roof Top Tent, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team