I was recently listening to a podcast called The Average Overlanders and the guests mentioned how they tried the rooftop tent experience and eventually moved away from it. It got me thinking… why haven’t I tried the RTT overlanding experience with my Toyota Tacoma? Of course, it has to do with me having a truck bed to sleep in, but what else?
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Here are a few reasons I’ve passed on a rooftop tent for overlanding:
Cost. You need to spend at least a thousand dollars, often more than $2,000.
Getting up there. And down. I’m not stoked on getting in and out of that and down the ladder at 3am to go pee or take the kids out. Don’t even get me started on the dog.
Wind. Just like a tent, desert wind can make your night sleepless. In the back of my truck there isn’t any flapping of material and possibility of my shelter collapsing in (I’ve heard stories of RTTs).
Weight. These suckers are heavy, and I rather not have that much weight so high up on the truck. It makes the truck more unstable and less aerodynamic (not that it really matters in our overland vehicles).
Lack of versatility. After the trip, my truck goes back to a normal truck bed after a few minutes of cleanup. Where would my rooftop tent go? Stay on the truck year-round? I don’t have any room for it in my one-car garage.
I have a long bed truck. On a trip where it’s just myself and my son we both sleep in the back of the truck. I recently setup a bed platform that goes above my gear, which should make setup even easier than before. My Gazelle ground tent is also very quick to setup and amazing.
Most of my points have to do with me owning a truck instead of a SUV. It makes things easier to sleep in the pickup bed. Even still, I think if I owned an 4Runner or Xterra I would make a bed setup in the back with the seats folded down. Utilize the roof rack for recovery gear, fuel, etc.
On my recent trip from the desert near Joshua Tree up to Big Bear (about 20 miles of dirt) we setup camp in the back of my truck. I used a Slumberjack Roadhouse Awning off the back of the Softopper and we were set.
At night my cooler stayed in the cab along with food and the little trash we had. The wind was relentless that night so I was glad to be sleeping under the Softopper instead of up on the roof.
One caveat. If I were to go with a RTT setup it would be something like a clamshell tent that is short and rigid when closed up. Similar to the Go Fast Campers design. Like this:
When your trip is over you have full access to your truck bed and the tent stays sealed up in the hard platform up above.
What about a ground tent vs rooftop tent for overlanding?
I love my Gazelle tent. I really do. It’s super-fast to setup and fits my family of four. I would rather use a Gazelle T4 Hub Tent when overlanding than a rooftop tent. But usually when it’s just my son and I, the back of the truck works much better for us than a tent.
The only downfall of a ground tent instead of a rooftop tent is you’re on the ground. More creatures and… rocks. Granted, my EXPED Megamat DUO mattress mostly solves that issue, you still deal with animals and bugs.
In the end, we’re all just camping. I think rooftop tents are great, but my personal preference would be in the truck or probably on the ground. Half the time my whole family of 4 plus the dog are with me, in which case it becomes a normal camping trip with my trusty Livin Lite Quicksilver tent camper trailer.
All that matters is that you just get out there and explore.
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