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11 Pros and Cons of Having a Roof Rack Tent

Do you enjoy sleeping on hard, uneven ground when you camp? Probably not. How about the unwanted back massage from stray pieces of gravel? 

With days of hiking and other demanding activities ahead, you need a good night's sleep - every night. 

Many campgrounds have cabins for rent - great for the light sleepers among us - or anyone who wants the guarantee of proper sleep. But we don’t all want to restrict ourselves to campsites. 

Sleeping in the wild doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable, unpredictable, and awkward struggle.  Having a roof rack tent solves this problem - and many others. Let’s find out more.

Pros of Having a Roof Rack Tent

  1. Comfort

Wake up refreshed on a comfortable mattress. You still get to experience the outdoors and sleep under the stars but you get a good night’s rest.

Most roof top tents come with built-in mattresses. They vary in thickness and you’ll find the most comfortable ones in hard shell tents. Some models come with memory foam topping.  

  1. Protection from wet conditions

When you’re camping, wet weather probably annoys you for many reasons – before, during and after the event.  

These tents come to the rescue. You don’t have to worry about setting up on muddy ground. You don’t have to worry about standing water, snow, or anything to do with clearing the tent site.

Compared to a ground tent, you never have to deal with flooding or sleeping on cold, wet ground. Many models come with awnings so if you need to step outside, you have extra cover.

When you pack up, you don’t have to clean off any mud. You don’t need to store a wet and dirty tent in your car. If it’s been raining during your trip, all you need to do is open the tent after and let it dry.

  1. Convenience

You can camp where you want. You don’t need to look for flat, even ground to sleep on. If the ground is slightly uneven, placing pieces of wood under the tires levels things out.

You can set up a roof rack tent in a couple of minutes and they’re just as easy to pack away. Some tents have built-in ladders while others come with ladders you attach in a matter of seconds. There’s no need to pack up your sleeping bags either. When you move locations, spread them out and leave them there. Next time you open the tent, you’re all set.

Hard shells are quicker to set up than soft shells. Also keep in mind your vehicle’s height– it’s going to take more effort to set up on something taller. If you have a garage, make sure your vehicle can fit inside with the tent fully open. You need to do this if you want to dry it indoors.

Tents with annexes are a great way to add extra space on the ground for sleeping, washing or to use as a changing room. One example is the ARB Simpson III Softshell Rooftop Tent and Annex Combo, which is also popular as a jeep roof tent.

  1. Predator and pest protection

Snakes, spiders, other pests big and small – it’s not impossible for them to get in but sleeping at a height makes it unlikely. After all, roof rack tents were created for camping in the Australian outback.

  1. Ventilation

Roof top tents offer better ventilation than ground tents because air flows between the tent base and your vehicle’s roof. Different body fabrics are available depending on your needs. If ventilation is a priority, models with cotton or polycotton are a good choice.

Built-in anti-condensation mats are common. They may be under the mattress or under a hard shell roof.

  1. Weather-proof

Whatever climate you camp in, you have weather-proof options. For harsh conditions and stronger winds, go for a hard shell tent. The shells are made from aluminum or fiberglass, making them sturdy, durable, and waterproof. For cold conditions, many models have the option for adding extra insulation.  

Plenty of tents have awnings over the windows and doors - you get ventilation, without moisture coming in.

Just because the tent is off-ground, this does not mean there will be problems with wind. Again, hard shell roofs provide a sturdy structure. You can always stake the overhanging canopy into the ground for extra support. This also reduces the noise of the material flapping.  

Yet another advantage compared to ground tents is it’s much less hassle if you need to set up in windy conditions.

  1. They’re fun!

If you camp in the forest, kids (and big kids) can enjoy the treehouse atmosphere. Some models accommodate up to six people so you can bring the whole family.

Like all things, these tents are not infallible. Let’s have a look at some of the cons and their workarounds.


  1. Weight

These tents can be hefty. Soft shell models are lighter, like the front runner roof top tent which weighs 93 pounds, while the heaviest hard shell models weigh around 215 pounds. You might need two men to lift it, which could be tricky for taller vehicles.

Before buying, check whether the tent is compatible with your vehicle’s roof top weight capacity. You need to consider the static weight capacity (when it’s still) and the dynamic weight capacity (when it’s in motion). Make sure the maximum weight your car needs to bear is below the limit, including the weight of whoever will be sleeping in the tent – and the weight of the roof rack itself.

Consider if you’re comfortable driving with a heavier model, since the added weight affects the vehicle’s center of balance.

Not all roof racks can support the weight of heavier tents. You may need to upgrade to something stronger, depending on the model you’ve got your eye on.

Best roof rack for roof top tent? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. A versatile option is the Yakima LockNLoad Platform. It comes in six sizes and has a rating of up to 300 pounds depending on your vehicle specification. Eezi Awn have some heavy duty models for Jeeps, Land Rovers and other off-road vehicles.

  1. Storage space

What if you want to store bikes or kayaks on the roof? Of course, storing a tent will limit your space. Some layouts give you space alongside your tent but of course, you lose some.  

If you have a trailer, you can fix the tent on top to save the roof rack for storing other items. They also work well above truck beds. Some hard shells have external storage (a bit like a pop up camper roof rack), so you can make up for the space this way.  

  1. Accessibility

These tents are not suitable for anyone with mobility issues that can’t climb ladders. Keep in mind you’ll need to go up and down the ladder for bathroom trips during the night.

  1. Limited height

There’s not enough space to stand up inside these tents. The way around this is to get one with an annex.

 Do roof racks damage your car?

Not if you follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions, take care when loading and unloading, and keep within your vehicle’s weight capacity. They need routine maintenance so remove them once in a while to clean off any grime and make sure everything’s in working order. Finally, never go through a car wash with roof racks attached. 

The Verdict

Minimal setup, hassle-free, flexible. As long as you get the right roof rack tent for your vehicle, you can enjoy flood-free, pest-free, comfortable camping in any season.  

With roof top tents, gone are the days of handling soggy, muddy canvas. Gone are the days of searching for even ground so you can at least try to get some sleep.  Gone are the days of struggling to pitch your tent in the howling wind and rain. 

Instead, you can save your energy for what matters - your camping trip. With a quick and easy setup, you can get straight to it in a matter of minutes - or as little as 30 seconds, thanks to Bundutec’s well-ventilated, weather-proof BunduTop Hardshell Roof Top Tent