When you’re building your travel setup, the final goal is essential. Do you want to escape to campgrounds for the weekend, or are you trying to explore hard-to-reach places with a capable rig? If you prefer the latter, you need to look into your overland tent options. What tents are right for overlanding, and what are the pros and cons of owning one?
What Is an Overland Tent?
Virtually any tent for camping is suitable for overlanding. Whether you have a hammock tent or a beefy rooftop setup, it all falls under the same header. Overlanding is less about the gear and more about where it takes you. Even so, certain tents are more often associated with overlanding. Here are some of the features that make some tents more attractive to overlanders:
- They have a more rugged and masculine appearance compared to other alternatives.
- They can withstand extreme weather conditions, including heavy snow and high winds.
- They can take hard use and abuse, such as this RTT that survived a 4Runner flipping while offroading.
- Manufacturers design them for long-term accommodations as opposed to the occasional weekend use.
- Some mount directly to the vehicle, such as truck bed tents and rooftop tents.
What Are the Pros of a Good Overland Tent?
Most people think of rooftop tents when they talk about overlanding gear, so these pros and cons center around RTTs. However, many of the points also apply to other tents.
If you don’t mind the extra weight, an overlapping rooftop tent can give you a better perspective of your surroundings. They may offer less headroom than most standard tents, but chances are you’ll only be sleeping inside anyway. These tents also make it easier to see approaching vehicles or animals.
More Flexible Sleeping Arrangements
Overland tents offer similar space as standard tent options. However, an even larger tent can house sleeping areas for several people and their gear. You can expand RTT spaces by adding annexes. These provide privacy for the area below your tent. They also make it easier to get up and down in unfavorable weather.
Strong Weather Resistance
If heavy rains cause a few inches or even a foot of water to invade the camping spot, people in ground tents will likely get wet. Even if they don’t, the water could start to move their camping gear.
A camper in a rooftop overland tent can sleep through the night and wake up dry in the morning. Some rooftop tents also hold up better to wind storms. RTT owners with wedge tents often point the wedge into the wind. The wind passes over the roof without damage and with very little disturbance inside.
Most tents provide room for sleeping and not much else. Overland tents often provide additional room for protecting expensive gear from the elements. Rugged hard-shell tents also provide extra room for storage onboard. Some of these tents often have mounting systems so owners can add their shovels, axes and solar panels.
Because companies build them with long-term use in mind, these tents are often easier to ventilate than traditional options. They usually have larger openings, so you’ll get better airflow no matter how hot it is outside. Some tent manufacturers design doors to double as windows, which makes it easy to enjoy the view and get in from multiple angles.
To be fair, no tent is 100% secure. The only known “tent” with a secure locking feature is the Redtail Overland Skyloft, and it is not yet available for sale.
Even so, with the right design and locking mechanism, an overland tent can be more secure than a standard option. For example, the sturdy bucket-like base of the Gazelle T4 tent makes it much more difficult for a snake or other critters to get inside. Similarly, a thief can steal something from inside an RTT, but taking the actual tent would be difficult.
What Are the Cons of Owning an Overland Tent?
Overlanding gear has countless benefits, but they are not without downsides. Knowing these ahead of time can help you find ways to mitigate them before buying a new tent or taking your next trip.
High Price Tag
If it has the word “overland” in the name or the description, you can bet it will be expensive. Overlanders often spend thousands of dollars modifying their vehicles. Manufacturers know it and price their gear accordingly. Quality also comes at a high price. Gear that potentially has to hold up to haboobs and wild animals needs premium materials to keep people safe.
People can almost always spot an overlander by the rugged look and the RTT mounted to the roof. Sadly, sometimes these people are thieves. Where there is a pricey tent, there is often also costly gear. Consequently, your rig could become a target for opportunists who know the resale value of trackpads, axes, generators, guns and other expensive gear overlanders often take to camp.
Overlanders often drive thirsty, capable rigs with big lifts and even bigger wheels. None of these modifications improve a vehicle’s MPG. Manufacturers usually take this as their cue to focus on other details besides the boxiness and weight of the gear. Consequently, they can often weigh a lot. If you have a low payload or you’re towing an overlanding trailer, keep this in mind.
What Are the Best Practices for Finding a Good Overland Tent?
Think carefully about how you camp and what you want to improve. For example, if you know your soft-shell tent is too heavy for your rig, a hard-shell tent is not an upgrade. You should also be mindful of your budget. Overlanding is an expensive hobby, and a tent is one of the priciest additions. You can pay significantly less by buying used gear.
Your overland tent should provide shelter in most grueling conditions, so prioritize quality. Talk to other owners to see what they love and hate about their tents and choose an option that best meets your needs. Check out our blog for more information about finding the right tent for your setup.