Sleeping under the stars used to be so simple. These days, if you want to sleep “outdoors” or go camping, you have a myriad of options. I have slept in a traditional tent, in a floorless tipi-style shelter, in a hammock, in a bivy sack, in a pop-up camper, in a massive RV — and, yes, truly under the stars.
Recently, I added another style of shelter to the list: the rooftop tent (RTT). Such tents have been growing in popularity in recent years, particularly as the “overlanding” scene has exploded. If you aren’t familiar with that term, The Overland Journal defines overlanding as…
“A self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-highway capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping.”
I am not a self-proclaimed “overlander”, but I do enjoy the outdoors — from hiking and backpacking, to hunting and fishing, to family camping trips — and I do use a vehicle to assist me in these pursuits. I have had my eye on RTTs for years now, and have often wondered how a RTT would work for me and my outdoor pursuits.
It is time to find out.
I recently began testing a Yakima Skyrise HD rooftop tent. I am planning on documenting my experience using a RTT for all type of trips and adventures, but for now, let me first outline some of the pros and cons that are worth thinking through if considering a RTT. These pros and cons listed below apply to, but are not specific to the Skyrise. This list applies to the use of RTTs in general.
Ease of Use
Take the cover off of the RTT. Unfold the tent and secure the ladder. Remove or secure rain fly.
I can’t tell you how nice it is to go camping with my family and not have to set up a giant tent, inflate multiple air mattresses, etc.
Breaking-down camp is simple as well. If we know we have another trip soon, we even store our sleeping bags inside the RTT as we fold it up.
My Yakima Skyrise RTT includes a 2.5″ memory foam mattress. No more inflating sleeping pads that lose air. No more rocks or roots poking you as you lay on the ground. And speaking the ground…
Finding just the right spot to pitch a tent — especially pitching a large tent for multiple people — can be troublesome. An open, level spot free of rocks, roots, dips or rises is a rare thing; but if you aren’t sleeping on the ground, that doesn’t matter.
My RTT can go anywhere my truck can go. When I need to move camp, I am packed-up and onto the next spot quickly. A RTT is ideal for multiday trips that have you moving from place-to-place each day.
Yes, I know —I just said that the mobility of a RTT is a benefit. But depending on your needs, it can also be a massive drawback. Because camp is attached to your vehicle, you can no longer setup camp and then drive away. Your camp and your vehicle are one.
Some people mount their RTT to a small trailer, which you can un-hitch from your vehicle, allowing you to drive away from camp.
You can leave your RTT on your vehicle 24/7/365, but most people won’t want to need to do that. Think through where and how you will store a RTT when it isn’t mounted on your vehicle. A RTT is not small and storage could be troublesome if you are tight on space.
Installing my Skyrise RTT on my truck was incredibly easy. And we already talked about how easy it is to deploy, once installed. But the problem is that I cannot mount or dismount a RTT from my vehicle by myself. There are ways around this, such as hoist systems, but I am not there yet.
Even the cheapest of RTTs aren’t cheap. And speaking of it, I would be careful about going too cheap on a RTT.
It is foolish to think, though, that a RTT is nothing more than what would otherwise be a couple-hundred dollar tent, which happens to mount on your car. Once I started using a RTT and really understood the materials, construction, and design that goes into them, the cost began to make more sense. Still, they are far from cheap for the casual tent camper.
THE BEST PART…
There you have it. Some of the pros and cons to think through if you are considering a RTT.
The ultimate reason I chose to try a RTT is that I think that I believe it will help me and my family spend more time outdoors.
Whether we want to take a quick overnight trip and not have the hassle of the packing, setup, and tear down of a traditional camp, or it is the flexibility to take multi-day adventures that have us moving camp to see a new spot each day, we look forward to using our RTT and I will be sure to follow-up with more of our experiences along the way.