If you follow any overlanding influencers and publications, most likely you’ve been flooded with images and videos of Jeeps equipped with roof top tents and other trendy accessories, making you ask yourself “Why are roof top tents so popular?”
We’re going to argue at the end that roof top tents are highly desired products, but not as common and popular as you might think, but for now, let’s dig into WHY roof top tents are so popular with the overlanding and automotive adventure scene:
#1. Awesome Vantage Point, Amazing Views
If you lose sightseeing and waking up to an awesome view makes your day better, a roof top tent might be the best choice for your next camping adventure. Wherever your vehicle takes you, you’ll have a very good vantage point with a much better view than being stuck on the ground, with the scenery obstructed at many times.
#2. Comfortable Sleeping System
By default, roof top tents are built with comfort in mind and there are some considerable advantages in terms of sleeping in a roof top tent as opposed to a ground tent. First of all, consider that you’re always working with an even surface because all roof top tents have a solid baseboard designed to support the weight of multiple inhabitants and most of these RTTs feature high quality mattresses that will ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Couple this with easier ventilation and climate control options, roof top tents are a dream come true for the more demanding campers.
#3. Pest Protection / Avoidance
Critters and pests will have a harder (if not impossible time) bothering you while you’re sleeping like a king a few feet above. Fortunately, most bugs, pests and critters won’t attempt climbing the ladder to bother you.
#4. Year Round Freedom
Be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, most premium roof top tents have sufficient insulation and some other neat climate protection features that allow you to camp anywhere, anytime, without having to compromise on comfort or buy a whole load of other accessories.
#5. Quick Setup
While this feature varies from RTT to RTT, most of them require a quick set of steps to be taken to be ready to use in under 5 minutes. While some models might be a bit more finnicky, once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate how much time it saves compared to putting up a classic ground tent, especially if you can’t find a good, even spot.
#6. Extra Storage Space
Depending on your vehicle, roof top tents can save you a lot of interior space you can use for other camping gear and essentials, instead of a (possibly) large ground tent system.
#7. Price. We’re serious.
Although they’re relatively expensive, there’s a good argument that roof top tents are indeed the more affordable and practical solution compared to caravans / motorhomes / camper vans for most consumers. If you already own a truck, Jeep or SUV, it might make a lot more sense to get a roof top tent than a separate vehicle you’re going to use occasionally. Of course, if price is the main deciding factor, we recommend sticking with a ground tent.
#8. Long(er) Lasting Investment
From our research, we’ve seen that roof top tents tend to keep more of their value when being resold than other habitats. While it’s hard to call it a true “investment”, if you end up not using it a year or two in a row and decide to sell it – you’re more likely to recover a decent portion of the money you’ve spent. Plus, roof top tents are built to last, as they have to account for a lot of wear and tear, plus be built properly enough for wind resistance and other factors.
#9. Easier Climate Control
Did we mention great insulation capabilities due to their premium build and materials? You can bet that there’s a lot more accessories that will help you efficiently manage heat / cold / humidity in your roof top tent and make you feel comfortable no matter where and when you’re camping.
#10. Safety & Security
Coupled with a couple flood lights, your roof top tent can basically become the watchtower of your campsite, giving you at least a sense of safety and potentially a 360 degree view on your surroundings. We don’t (yet) live in a post-apocalyptic world filled with raiders, but we’re getting there.
#11. Flood Proof
Suffice to say, roof top tents are high enough that you don’t have to worry about many inches of rain. Sometimes weather reports get it wrong and camping in a flooded tent is never fun, which won’t be the case with your roof top tent.
#12. Time Saving
Besides the quick setup factor we’ve mentioned above, roof top tents are designed to be easily closed, folder and even dismounted from your vehicle (some brands have cool quick release mechanisms for example) so you can store them if you don’t want them mounted on your vehicle year round (which is generally a bad idea since it does increase suspension wear and tear plus it comes with increase fuel consumption due to extra drag & weight). While it may amount to a few hours every season, wouldn’t you rather be spending those hours enjoying nature or…anything else to be honest?
#13. Increased Mobility
With a roof top tent, you arguable have increased mobility and can more quickly change camp sites or even pick camp sites you wouldn’t normally choose for a ground tent (uneven surface, lots of critters around etc.).
#14. Practical Vehicle Fit
Roof top tents are a practical solution for lots of vehicles that don’t have much storage room inside and you wouldn’t see them carrying all sorts of accessories on top of roof racks. That’s why many campers choose a roof top tent that’s compact / aerodynamical and store the rest of their camping accessories inside.
#15. Less Work
It’s not just less time, but also less work at the end of the day, to set up your roof top tent instead of trying to find the right spot for a ground tent, then clearing that spot and installing it. I’d rather be fishing than hammering tent stakes, to be perfectly honest.
#16. I Did It For The ‘Gram
We’re not here to judge, but a lot of people end up buying their roof top tents because they’re very into posting their adventures on Instagram and a roof top tent gives you A LOT of great photo / video opportunities your competi… ehm… follow… hmm… friends don’t have access to.
#17. It’s a Status Symbol
Due to their price and desirability (generated by the constant barrage of roof top tent adventure imagery on social media), roof top tents have been a clear status symbol for many Jeep & truck owners that are passionate about overlanding, camping and automotive adventure in general.
$18. It’s a Trendy Industry
Last but not least, roof top tents are so popular nowadays because it’s simply a trendy and highly lucrative market at this time. Both new and established brands are working with a lot of influencers to get the word out and it’s been working. Everyone gets paid and campers, overlanders and nature enthusiasts have bought into the new trend because of the benefits listed above.
On the other hand…
…you should keep in mind that roof top tents might not be so ubiquitous as they appear. While they are indeed popular, most consumers still choose classic ground tents for their camping needs – it’s just that camping photos with classic tents are a bit passé to say so. Roof top tents are now the trend and they are somewhat over-represented in most media. We’d argue that for every influencer sharing a roof top tent picture there are at least 20 people who stick to the tried-and-true and affordable ground tent system. At the same time, looking at some sales data we have access to from a few reputable, we can roughly estimate there are at least 100 ground tents sold for every roof top tent at this point in time. But don’t quote us on that – it’s not a very scientific estimate.