Top 10 Best Advantages Of A Rooftop Tent


Are you planning to go camping and wondering what the advantage of a rooftop tent is? After a year of traveling with our rooftop tent on top of our car, we can tell you all about it! 

The advantages of a rooftop tent: 

  1. Fits on almost every car
  2. Easy Set-Up
  3. Sleep secure and dry (of the ground)
  4. Frees up extra car space
  5. Low cost (cheaper than an RV or Caravan)
  6. Comfort Sleeping
  7. Perfect for a Roadtrip (mobility)
  8. Easy parking
  9. Long-Lasting material
  10. Weatherproof

In this article, we tell you all about the advantages and some disadvantages of traveling with a rooftop tent. 

But be prepared! After reading this article, you might get as enthusiastic about traveling with a rooftop tent as we are! 😉 Ready to find out more? Let’s read on!

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Advantages of a Rooftop tent

In 2019 we traveled almost the full year through Europe with our 15-year-old Toyota Yaris and a rooftop tent on top. It was our second travel adventure wit a rooftop tent. In 2018 we traveled around a large part of Australia with a rental car and rooftop tent. We really love this way of traveling and camping! 

Here’s our list of 10 unique advantages of traveling with a rooftop tent;

1.) Fits on almost every car

A Rooftop Tent Fits Even On Our Toyota Yaris!

Many people still think that traveling around with a rooftop tent on your car is only possible when you drive a four-wheel-drive, a van, or something similar. Luckily that’s not the case anymore! 

Most rooftop tents can fit on top of an average car. The weight of an average rooftop tent is between 110 lbs – 165 lbs (50 to 75 kilograms). When the rooftop tent is closed most of the time, the dimensions are around 78 inches x 49 inches x 12.5 inches (length x wide x height). In centimeters: 210 cm x 125 cm x 32 cm. 

Each rooftop tent has slightly different dimensions and weights. This depends on the design of the tent if it’s a hard-top or soft-top shell, the way it folds open, and the material of which the tent is made. 

Dynamic vs. Static weight

When putting weight on the roof of your car, there’s a difference in measuring dynamic and static weight limit. 

The Dynamic weight limit refers to the maximum weight limit you can put on the roof of your car while driving. 

The static weight limit refers to the maximum weight limit you can put on the roof of your car when parked. 

Each car has a different dynamic weight limit. For many cars, the dynamic weight limit is around 165 lbs (75 kilograms). Always make sure to know what the dynamic weight limit of your car is, before purchasing a rooftop tent. You don’t want to overload your car and create unnecessary damage! You can find the maximum weight limit of your car in the driver’s manual. 

Static Weight 

The static weight limit refers to the maximum load of your car while standing still. So when the car is not in motion. This weight limit is much higher than while driving. When you go sleeping in the rooftop tent, you don’t have to worry about damaging the roof of your car. The rooftop tent is mounted on crossbars or a roof rack, so the weight is evenly divided over the roof. 

On average many suppliers say that to measure the static weight limit, you need to multiply the weight limit by 5. So in this example, when the dynamic weight limit is 165lbs (75 kilograms), the static weight limit will be 825 lbs (374 kilograms). However, this always differs for each car. And most of the car suppliers don’t even mention a difference between dynamic and static weight. Always make sure not to overload your car’s maximum load, which is different than the maximum roof weight while driving. A complete technical explanation of how to measure this weight is to find on the German Rooftop Tent site DachzelNomaden, who are specialized in traveling with rooftop tents. Thule, which is a famous brand for crossbars and roof racks, also provides more in-depth information

When you calculate how much weight you’re putting on your car, this sum might be helpful; 

Weight of Rooftop tent Weight of Crossbars or Roofrack + Weight of baggage (matrasses and other stuff you might put in the tent while closed) = total weight you put on the roof. 

2.) Easy Set-Up

When you went camping with a regular tent, you probably know the hassle of setting up your tent. Finding a flat camping spot and dry ground. Unpacking your tent, making sure it is mounted correctly in case the wind picks up at night. Even with the easy pop-up tents, you still need around half an hour to set up everything in the correct way. 

Setting up a rooftop tent is different. You just park your car, pop up the tent. In a matter of seconds or a few minutes, you’re done with setting up the tent and have more time to go relaxing. 

Hard-top tents are the easiest to set up. You only need to open the top, and you’re done. With a soft-top tent, setting up takes a few minutes longer, because you first need to take off the cover before unfolding. Still, you’ll be done in minutes. 

3.) Sleep secure and dry (of the ground)

Are you a bit worried about insects, snakes, or even bears coming into your tent while you are asleep? When sleeping on top of the car, you minimize that risk (however, bears can get everywhere!)

The most positive side of sleeping in a rooftop tent above the ground is that when it is raining, you don’t have to set up your tent on the wet ground. And that you always sleep on a comfortable mattress. No more air mattresses where you can feel almost every rub, stone or twig pierce through.

It is also much warmer because you don’t feel the cold coming from the ground through your mattress. Of course, when sleeping in a standard tent, you can use an extra sleeping pad. The so-called, isolating thermal matrasses that protect against the cold floor. However, you don’t need all that additional equipment to keep warm when sleeping in a rooftop tent!

4.) Frees up extra car space

In most rooftop tent, you can leave your bedding while closing the rooftop tent. You don’t have the hassle rolling up the sleeping bags and mattresses every time you go to a new destination. 

Also, many rooftop tents have enough space for extra luggage, like a foldable camping table and camping chairs. Or maybe some clothing or other stuff you don’t need while driving from one destination to another. 

Either way, you free up a lot of extra space in your car because you can leave your bedding in the tent, and also can put away the larger stuff on top of the car. This way, we were able to bring all the necessary kitchen stuff and other useful equipment we needed when on the road. We still packed in the lightest way possible!

We did that as well when we were on the road. Our camping table, chairs, and bedding were always inside the tent. At one time, when a friend was traveling with us, we even put her additional tent and sleeping bags inside the rooftop tent! This way, we had enough space to fit in our small Toyota Yaris with 3 persons.

The rooftop tent we currently use only sleeps 2 people, so when friends are coming by to travel with us, they always bring their own tent. 

Recommended Rooftop Tents

There are many brands and variations in rooftop tents available on the market. So it can be overwhelming choosing that one rooftop tent that fits your wishes the most. 

We made a selection of different rooftop tents, which makes it easier for you to choose the right one. 

Yakima SkyRise 

This Soft Top Rooftop Tent is lightweight, around 115 pounds (51 kilograms), and fits up to 3 persons! 

Smittybilt Rooftop Tent

An all-weather tent, often used for offroading camper experiences. Not very lightweight, 143 pounds (65 kilograms), so it won’t fit on top of every car. Ideal tent when you’re driving an SUV or larger car. 

Tepui LoPro Rooftop Tent

When it comes to lightweight, soft top rooftop tents, the Tepui Rooftop Tents are one of the best in the market. The tent only weighs 120 pounds (55 kilograms), and therefore ideal to fit on top of almost every car. 

Rooftop Tent Accessories

Annex Tent

An extra tent that connects to your rooftop tent is ideal when traveling for a longer time. The annex can function as a small living room where you can relax, enjoy your diner, and you can use it as a changing room. 

Tent Lamps

Rooftop Tents doesn’t have standard lighting inside, so you need to make sure to arrange that for yourself. However, when camping, you don’t want to bring that much stuff, so I would recommend using these batteries powered LED lights. Ideal when you want to read a book in your tent. 

Travel Hammock

This lightweight travel hammock from La Siesta is the best hammock you can bring on your travels. It’s very small, made of parachute fiber, and easy to mount. The perfect lounge accessory every traveler needs!

There are a lot of things you can do to make your rooftop tent more comfortable during traveling. Find out more in our article How Can I Make My Rooftop Tent More Comfortable.

5.) Low cost (cheaper than an RV or Caravan)

The price of a rooftop tent varies per brand, size, and material. On average, the price of a rooftop tent is between 1100 US Dollars – 3500 US Dollars.

Prices for crossbars or a roof rack from, for example, Thule, are around 80 US dollars – 250 US dollars. Depending on which one fits best on top of your car.

We use the Thule crossbars on our Toyota Yaris because it fits best on the roof of our car, and Thule is the most trusted brand when it comes to quality crossbars.  

According to camperreport.com, the average price of an RV is between 10.000 US dollars and 300.000 US dollars. The price depends on how big and luxurious you want to go with an RV. So let’s say, we compare the price of the most basic RV, like a small campervan, for example, with a rooftop tent. 

When an essential RV costs around 10.000 US dollars and the most expensive rooftop tent around 3500 US dollars. A rooftop tent is still on average, 6500 US dollars cheaper! You can do a lot of fun things with that amount of money! 😉

6.) Comfort Sleeping

You’re not only sleeping from the ground, which is much more comfortable than in a normal tent. You also have the opportunity to sleep on a regular mattress. Most rooftop tents have a standard foam mattress between 1.1 inches and 2/3 inches thick (around 3 – 6 cm). 

It is not a thick as the mattress you might sleeping on at home, but it is way more comfortable than sleeping on a sleeping matt or air mattress! 

You also can use your own bedding. You don’t need to use a sleeping bag while sleeping in a rooftop tent. We always use our own bedding and pillows. And when it is to warm at night, we just put the duvet in the car and only sleep under the duvet cover. 

7.) Perfect for a Roadtrip (mobility)

Nothing beats driving around in your own comfortable car. It’s even better when you can stop everywhere you want, pop up your rooftop tent, and start relaxing. 

You can drive everywhere you want, and there’s almost always a space available on a campsite. You don’t have to worry that your car doesn’t fit.

There aren’t any limitations regarding mobility. It is one of the best things about driving around with a regular car and a rooftop tent. In many cities, it is not allowed to drive after a certain point when you’re driving an RV or large van. However, when driving a normal car, you don’t have that problem. 

8.) Easy parking

The second best thing when it comes to mobility and driving a regular car with a rooftop tent. You can park everywhere. When driving around with an RV or a large campervan, parking is always a hassle. 

With a normal car, parking is easy, like always! You can also fit in most parking garages. For example, we drive around with a Toyota Yaris. And with our rooftop tent on top of the car, the height is 6 foot (1.85 meters), most parking garages have an entrance between 6.2 foot (1.90 meters) and 7.2 foot (2.20 meters). So we fit almost always in a secure parking spot! 

9.) Long-Lasting material

Most rooftop tents are made from durable material. Many tents are made of canvas, with a hard shell. It’s like having a ski-box on top of the car. 

It’s completely different than a regular tent, which is often made of light material, that is less durable. 

You can easily leave the rooftop tent on top of the car when you’re not traveling. 

10.) Weatherproof

The durable material of most rooftop tents is also weatherproof. Most tents are tested thoroughly, and easy to use when its raining or even in strong winds. 

When it’s a day with really strong winds, sleeping in a rooftop tent is not the most convenient, but you still can manage. We stayed many times outside in the rain, and on windy days and didn’t have any problems. However, we are more like ‘beautiful weather campers.’ We just love to be outside, but when it is raining heavily and cold, we sometimes skip the rooftop tent and rent a hotel room via Airbnb or booking.com. 

And there’s the other convenient thing about traveling around with a rooftop tent and regular car, you can quickly go somewhere else without any hassle. 

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Disadvantages Of A Rooftop Tent 

There aren’t many disadvantages to traveling with a rooftop tent. However, when the weather is bad with lots of rain, you don’t have many places to go to. You probably stay inside the tent or sit in your car, which is not very comfortable. I would say that a bit of rain isn’t the problem, but like, when it is raining a few days in a row, you probably want to go somewhere else where the weather forecast is better. I love the flexibility of traveling! 

When we were traveling through Europe, we didn’t drove when it was a day with extreme winds. It’s easy and safe to drive around until the wind reaches 11 BFT. It’s still possible to drive, though, but we didn’t feel comfortable, also because we didn’t want to take the risk that anything would get damaged. 

Because the car is heavily loaded, you might be less efficient with gas. Still, after driving over 20.000 kilometers last year, we didn’t notice that many extra costs on fuel. So it’s nothing really big but really depends on the car your driving. 

When you’re traveling around when as a family with children, let’s say a family of four, it can be a challenge finding the right rooftop tent. There aren’t many rooftop tents on the market that fits four people and also fit on top of a regular family car. It’s still possible, though! But your choices are more limited. 

Honestly, I can’t think of any other disadvantages of traveling with a rooftop tent. 

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Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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