It is quite difficult to decide which is best: a rooftop tent or a ground tent. The truth is that both have advantages and disadvantages and there are a few factors that will determine which one will work best for YOU. So let us have a look at the broader picture.
A rooftop tent is the easiest way to sleep off the ground. You will have to decide why this is important for you and your family. We as a family prefer to go for a ground tent as we do not want to carry all the weight on Wallace’s roof as it becomes a bit top heavy then. Top heavy in a Landy spells danger going down slopes – it always feel like Wallace is going to topple over.
The pro’s and con’s
One of the pro’s of a rooftop tent is it helps when your campsite is uneven like in many places in Lesotho where it is nearly impossible to find a level place to pitch a tent – for this very reason Lesotho is called the Mountain Kingdom of Africa! This also applies when you are visiting marshy areas where the soil will not hold a tent pen as anchor.
One of the biggest pro’s for me towards a ground tent is when you are planning a longer stay in an area. You can pitch your tent, off-load your stuff, stow it safely and go for drives during the day. With a rooftop being fitted to your vehicle you will have to close your rooftop every morning and pack up your camp before you can go on your daily drive and hope that nobody took your spot when you return in the afternoon …..
They say that rooftop tents are quick and easy to open up. Without a doubt I tend to disagree on this one! Being on the shortish side it is always a problem to reach the top to help unfold and pack it. We have proved on numerous occasions that we can pitch our ground tent in the same amount of time as fellow campers with a rooftop tent. I think this comes with experience and understanding your camping buddy – what to take when and the process that we follow.
Those campers that are unsure of wild camping almost always prefer to go the rooftop tent way as they claim that they feel safer from lurking wild animals. This is a false sense of security as it has been proven over the years that you are just as safe in a ground tent as long as you keep your tent properly zipped up. Most of the unfortunate incidents that occur during camping excursions is because of the neglect of campers and thus landing in trouble.
Surely the biggest con to a ground tent is that, although it is comfortable and you can stand upright, it is bulky and take up some space in your vehicle. However, we have managed to sort our packing for a trip so that it is easILy accessible and can be taken out first.
Rainy conditions also make me lean towards a ground tent. The little veranda in front gives some protection where you can prepare a meal whereas with a rooftop you are quite exposed unless you erect a gazebo …………. or climb into bed and eat tinned food.
There can be a significant cost difference between entry-level ground tents and rooftop tents – a budget two person dome tent is far cheaper than the cheapest rooftop tent. So if you are a novice camper and do not have big bucks or are unsure whether camping is for you, start off with a ground tent before spending heaps of money.
There are some hidden (and often not thought of) costs when considering a rooftop tent. If your vehicle is not fitted with a roof-rack or luggage bars yet, it will add to your cost layout plus remember to add a percentage to your fuel bill as well. However, if you carry your ground tent on your roof-rack it will also add to your fuel bill.
One important factor which might rule out a rooftop tent for you is your mobility. If you are a senior person and not that mobile anymore you need to reconsider a rooftop tent. Add the fact that you need to “crawl” into your bedroom and cannot stand upright and have to negotiate the ladder at night when nature calls …… you can injure yourself badly if not careful and spoil your long awaited trip.
Think carefully about your needs (and that includes the age of your children who will need to use the bathroom during the night), abilities and places that you are planning to visit before investing in a tent. At the end of the day there is no right and wrong, it is all about what suits your needs.
I hope this contributed to your reasoning in making a well thought over decision and that I did not mess with your head even more! If you are still unsure if camping is your thing you can read more about camping under my Wilderness camping post.
My recommendation is, where possible, buy second-hand. There are various Facebook pages where you can buy/sell camping gear which is still in good condition. If you need pointers, please pop me a message on Facebook or e-mail me.