Overlanders care more about the journey than the destination. And on many occasions, the journey leads to closing out the day in the middle of nowhere. That means not having access to hotels or public campgrounds. But no worries. Overlanders have plenty of options, including roof-top tents.

A roof-top tent is just as its name implies: a tent you set up on the roof of your vehicle. The best models are designed to be permanently affixed to a platform which, likewise, is permanently affixed to the roof of your truck or van. The thing about roof-top tents is that they are not the best choice for everyone. They certainly have their pros and cons.

Roof-Top Tent Pros

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the roof-top tent is the ease at which it can be pitched. Unlike ground-based tents that require steaks, ropes, and a college degree to assemble the poles, a typical roof-top tent pops open in place. Insert one or two poles and you’re done.

Other pros include:

  • Self-Containment – Because a roof-top tent is affixed to the top of your vehicle, your camping experience is completely self-contained. You don’t need a campground. You can sleep wherever you can park your rig.
  • Efficient Setup – Ground-based tents need to be unloaded, placed in the right position, and pitched. The entire process is terribly inefficient. Pitching a roof-top tent is just the opposite. It pitches in place.
  • Elevated Sleeping – A roof-top tent obviously keeps you off the ground. Being in elevated position eliminates the problem of the cold ground sucking the heat out of your body. You are also less likely to be bothered by critters.
  • A Flat Platform – When you pitch a tent on the ground, you’re also sleeping on the ground. It may or may not be flat. No such problems exist with a roof-top tent. The platform is always flat and stable.

A good roof-top tent features sturdy construction and high-quality materials. It can be secured in place with buckle straps or, if you don’t mind drilling into the roof, bolts. If buckle straps are the choice, investing in a quality brand, like Rollercam, is a good idea.

Roof-Top Tent Cons

Overlanders who swear by roof-top tents have a hard time finding any disadvantages to doing so. But like anything else, the disadvantages are there if you are willing to look at things with an open mind. Truth be told, no tent is perfect.

Here are the primary cons:

  • Poor Aerodynamics – Any time you have something strapped to the top of your vehicle there is an aerodynamic cost to pay. Roof-top tents can hinder aerodynamic performance and reduce fuel efficiency.
  • Challenging Installation – Although pitching a roof-top tent is easy, initial installation can be anything but. It can be challenging to figure out the best way to keep a roof-top tent in place.
  • Day Trip Inconvenience – If you are the type of overlander who likes to pitch camp and then use it as a home base for day trips, using a roof-top tent means taking it down every morning and setting it back up every evening. That is not so convenient.

Last on the list is cost. Unfortunately, even an entry-level roof-top tent can be more expensive than a quality ground-based tent. On the other hand, you will spend a lot less on a roof-top tent compared to a camping trailer or RV.

A roof-top tent can be an overlander’s dream accommodation. It can also be his worst nightmare. Before you invest in one, do your homework. Make sure you understand what you are buying before you spend the money.