Written and compiled by 4WD Truckin’
I know it’s not the most technical question, but I’m hoping you can help. I’ve recently fallen for the off-road / 4×4 way of life, and this has brought me to the question of which tent I should buy. Should I go for a rooftop or ground tent? It may seem to some that the answer is obvious, but given the cost of a rooftop tent, it’s not a decision I want to regret. Is there any chance you could help clarify some of the pros and cons of going the rooftop-tent route? Some guys reckon I should stick with a conventional ground tent, but there seems to be a strong argument for both.
Great question! Of course, the answer is entirely subjective and based on personal choice and/or preference. However, as requested in your email, here are the top 20 things to consider when buying a rooftop tent (RTT), or ground tent (GT)…
1. A GT requires a flat, smooth and level surface, whereas a RTT can be levelled out by driving your 4×4’s tyre up and onto a rock, chock, or piece of wood. You can also dig a small hole for the tyre to drop into.
2. GTs are available in a wide range of sizes: from single-man units, to massive family tents. What’s more, they are often linkable, allowing you to add more tents to accommodate a growing family, or to incorporate a kitchen / bathroom area.
3. RTTs can be folded up with your bedding inside, which can save you space and set-up time when you arrive at camp.
4. When the weather’s cold, a lot of heat transfer takes place between you and the ice-cold ground beneath you; RTTs are insulated from this problem.
5. A GT will usually be noticeably more affordable than a RTT.
6. If you’re a nervous camper, a RTT will keep you out of claws’ reach of predators.
7. A RTT will keep you high and dry in adverse weather conditions.
8. It’s easier to keep a RTT clean, both inside and out. Sand is often knocked off your shoes as you climb the ladder, and the tent itself isn’t pitched in dirt.
9. Although there are several quick (pop up) tents on the market which are very easy to erect, a RTT is generally set up more quickly and doesn’t require a second set of hands.
10. Because a RTT is permanently fixed to your 4×4’s roof rack, you generally don’t need to secure the tent in windy conditions. However, a ground tent often needs to be pegged down, which isn’t always easy to do on hard, rocky terrain.
11. Most RTTs are relatively heavy, which means that you’ll be adding extra weight to your roof rack, and thus raising your vehicle’s centre of gravity.
12. In most cases, you’ll need a roof rack in order to mount your RTT, which further adds to the expense.
13. RTTs take up the majority of your roof-rack space: up to 80%.
14. Your vehicle’s fuel consumption is likely to increase after the fitment of a RTT.
15. An RTT can make late-night toilet visits slightly trickier.
16. GTs generally live a hard, scuff-filled life, and may not last as long as a RTT.
17. GTs are often easier to sell second-hand, as more people have a use for them.
18. GTs generally offer more versatility in terms of location and where you want to sleep. (For example, your vehicle may not be able to access the best possible campsite.)
19. An RTT can be an inconvenience when you want to go on a game drive.
20. RTTs work incredibly well when coupled to an off-road trailer, so that many of a tent’s limitations would not be of concern.
4×4 Customisation specialists and off-road product retailer. Sole distributor of Arctic Truck conversions in Southern Africa.