Roof Top Tents: Shameless Glamping or Tactical Camping?
Avid Overlanders are familiar with potentially uncooperative weather: Maybe the ground is cold, wet and uninviting, or perhaps the environment and surroundings are slightly sketchy. Lying on the ground in the rain, in a flimsy tent where the snakes, bugs and other creepy critters (scorpions?) seek shelter isn’t all it's cracked up to be. Roof top tents may lead to more “glamping” than camping, but it’s worth the ribbing that rough-and-tough diehards dish out.
It was during my last camping trip in Northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when I realized the value of having a roof top tent. The sun had already set once I arrived at the empty, rural campsite after a long 14-hour drive. It was chilly and moist, and the mosquitos, which appeared to be the size of my fist, immediately swarmed around their chosen piece of fresh meat (me). Threading each tent pole through delicate fabric took patience, and with bug bites already swelling into large welts, my patience ran thin. Once the sleeping area was set and the mattress inflated (yes, I cheat at camping), I was enveloped in pure bliss as I lay there listening to the rainfall. The blissful feeling disappeared with the rain when I awoke at 4 a.m. to a deflated mattress and sharp rocks against my bones. Maybe I’m just getting old and frail, but one thing is certain: It’s time for some tactical camping.
Bring on the glamping! Roof top tents are more than just a nice place to sleep; they also save space, which is valuable to the Overland junkies who are carrying a week’s worth or more of supplies. The tents are quickly and easily set up and then packed away, and the bedding can remain in the tent. If there’s extra room on your roof top rack, you may even find space for spare gas and water cans or a set of MaxTrax.
If it fits in the budget and will be used regularly, adding a camping penthouse to your rig is, at the very least, worth considering. There are hundreds of roof top tent options out there, and it was extremely difficult to narrow down the selections to just five, but this list should give you a head start on the road to glamping. Remember to utilize YouTube for video reviews; there's a surprising amount of tent reviews out there!
Tepui Ayer Sky
I’ll start with the tent that made me bite the bullet after two years of obsessive research: the Ayer Sky made by Tepui, plus their long line of accessories. It’s the perfect solution for someone looking to get their feet wet. Alongside the lower price tag and ease of setup, this tent features two built-in screen roof panels that allow for wondrous starry night views, otherwise known as pure bliss.
Weighing in at 95 pounds empty, this is also one of the lightest two-person, four-season tents that I could find. Not only that, but the closed footprint is only 42 inches by 48 inches, which makes this the ideal application for smaller vehicles, or for those with limited space on their rigs. There is plenty of room inside, plus a little extra, for two people. With the tent’s 2.5-inch high-density foam mattress, you may find yourself choosing to sleep outside rather than in bed.
Cascadia Tents is a family-owned company known for their quality materials and workmanship. Cascadia carries several different tent designs, from bachelor pads to family accommodations. The Mt. Rainier Extended Summit is a favorite. This three-plus person tent is extended for extra space inside the annex room below, which allows for additional privacy. There will be no more low-roofline struggles while squirming around on your back trying to put your jeans on. (If you buy one of these setups and still have that problem, you might consider larger jeans.)
A nice perk to this tent is the built-in interior LED lighting with a dimmer switch, as well as two USB ports. This tent model also comes with two shoe racks, one on each side of the ladder, which keeps the mess out of your sleeping area. Best of all, the annex room is included, along with a removable PVC floor. If you don’t need as much space, have a smaller vehicle or trailer, or are just looking to save on cost, the Mt. Bachelor Standard Pioneer is a great two-person tent without all of the extra glam.
ARB Series III Simpson Roof Top Tent
ARB Corporation Limited is Australia’s leading off-road manufacturer and distributor of quality 4WD vehicle accessories, such as ARB Air Locking differentials, custom OME suspension systems, IPF high-performance lighting and Safari snorkel systems. Their solid reputation also extends to roof top tents, like the ARB Series III Simpson.
The base of this tent is made from vacuum laminated ABS materials for superior strength and insulation. Waterproof, heavy-duty poly/cotton rip stop canvas with Polyurethane coating is used throughout, and all stitched seams are reinforced with welded seam tape to eliminate moisture seepage. The mattress is manufactured from high-density bonded chip foam for increased comfort and stability, and to reduce the likelihood of collapsing from extended use. The cover is made of UV stabilized laminated PVC to ensure the longevity of your investment.
James Baroud Hardshell Tents
We are nearing the end of the list, so it’s time to get extreme. Mother Nature is no match for hardtop roof top tents, and the handcrafted units made by the James Baroud company are no exception. Compact units all the way up to XXL tents that fully pop up for a 360-degree panoramic view are offered.
According to their website, these masterful creations are ready to use in less than 30 seconds and can be packed away in 90 seconds! All models have a five-year warranty and are made of fiberglass and rugged waterproof fabric. Other features include gas struts for ease of opening, a reversible solar-powered fan for extra ventilation and condensation prevention.
If high-end luxury is what helps you sleep at night, Bundutec’s roof top tent will have you sleeping like a newborn baby. Said to be the world’s first all-aluminum electric roof top tent, the Bundutop opens and closes with the push of a button, which makes setting up camp effortless. Yes, I mean effortless: The rain fly even self-deploys automatically when raising and lowering the top.
Superior ventilation is achieved by zippered openings on all four sides, while the RipStop fabric and rubberized screen provide years of protection from the elements. Also included are an interior overhead light, an interior outlet and dual USB port for your gadgets. This tent’s lightweight construction is perfect for any vehicle or trailer roof rack, which makes this a perfect Overlanding palace for those who can afford it.