Roof top tents are all the rage, but there are a lot of compromises that no one tells you about before you drop $1,500 on a tent. Well, no one else at least. Some things to consider before purchasing a roof top tent:
1) They aren’t mobile. I have a bunch of vehicles that I use for outdoor activities depending on where I am going, what I am doing, and who I am going with. A single tent won’t really work for me. Plus, I always seem to be on the move and you can’t move your vehicle with a roof top tent deployed.
2) They are heavy. The average roof top tent weighs over 100 pounds, and that weight is all above the center of gravity of your vehicle. No thanks.
3) They take a long time to set up and an even longer time to take down and put away. Go around the vehicle to undo all the straps. Go around the vehicle again to zip off the cover. Go around the vehicle again to deploy the tent, then one more time to put the poles in the rain fly. Doing all of this is a pain on a stock height vehicle, much less a lifted Wrangler on 37s!
4) They are expensive! Expect to pay upwards of $1500 for an RTT before you even have a way to mount it to your vehicle. The three ground tents that I use cost less than this combined. I’ve slept on the ground in Alaska and Canada where there are bear and moose, and in Africa where there are lions. If you encounter these animals in the wild, being six feet off the ground is a false sense of security. Sorry.
We don’t think that we are alone based on the number of RTTs we see for sale on Facebook Marketplace with ads that say “only used once”. These days though you see RTTs not only on the tops of Tundras and Wranglers but Subarus and vans as well. Harry Wagner has three alternatives that he uses that cost under $500 each; all in for the three tents they are still less expensive than a low-end roof top tent!
Night Cat Pop Up Tent- This is a cheap tent, it costs under $100 and shows in the construction. It packs up small enough to fit in most vehicles, but you wouldn’t want to take it backpacking. The best thing about the Night Cat is the innovative mechanism that functions like an umbrella and sets up super easy in a matter of seconds.
MSR Advance Pro 2- This is a backpacking tent, it costs $500 but it weighs under three pounds and hardly takes up any space in your vehicle. This is a four-season tent that isn’t mesh, the walls are made of ripstop nylon. While listed as a two person tent it is a better choice for one person on the trail.
ARB Skydome Swag- This tent costs around $500 also, and honestly it is gigantic when it is rolled up, removing the included egg crate bedding helps, but you will still take up a good portion of your truck bed with a rolled up swag. It is constructed of heavy canvas, which helps retain heat in cold weather, is dark as a cave inside, and doesn’t flap in the wind.
Drop a comment and let us know what you want to see next from Harry and Mike!
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