Rooftop Tents Vs Ground Tents: which one to choose?
Rooftop tents are becoming increasingly popular with adventurers, road trippers and campers alike, and it's easy to see why. They're easy to set up, they keep you up off the ground and go anywhere your 4WD can take them. And while there are plenty of people who absolutely love their rooftop tent, they won't suit everyone. The humble ground tent has stood the test of time and for good reason - they're super versatile, affordable and come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. If you're not sure which tent setup is best for you, we're here to help! Let's break it down and look at what to consider.
Ease of set up
As far as ease of setup goes, rooftop tents will usually win hands down. To set up a rooftop tent, you'll generally just have to fold it open and position the supports. There will always be exceptions of course - there are some very easy to set up ground tents out there! But when you take pegging and setting up your bedding into consideration (bedding can stay in place in a rooftop tent), a rooftop tent will still usually come out on top when it comes to set up time.
The setup that offers the most versatility will depend on your unique circumstances. For example, a ground tent will offer more versatility when it comes to different kinds of camping - in other words, you don't need a car to use it. If you are car camping, a ground tent also enables you to use your vehicle during the day without having to pack up camp. A ground tent is also more versatile when it comes to the number of people sleeping in the tent, with many rooftop tents limited to two or three people.
On the other hand, if you don't have kids and the only kind of camping you do is with your car, a rooftop tent can offer greater versatility around where you camp. This is because, unlike a ground tent, you don't need a nice flat patch of dry ground that you're able to peg out. Instead, you can basically camp anywhere you can park your car or 4WD, even if that happens to be rocky, uneven ground that turns into a small creek when it rains!
A rooftop tent will also enable you to camp comfortably in a smaller campsite. Because it doesn't have a footprint other than your car, it's much easier to fit onto a small site with room enough for everyday living outside the tent.
Generally speaking, a rooftop tent is going to be more durable than a ground tent. This is largely down to the quality of fabric used. The fabric in most rooftop tents is around 600 denier, with the best rooftop tents using even thicker fabric. When you compare this to ground tents that are usually somewhere in the range of 60-150 denier the case is clear. What's more, rooftop tents are less likely to develop holes from sharp stones and the like because they're simply not coming into contact with them.
The one area where rooftop tents can fall short is when they're left installed on your vehicle for long periods of time, especially if you're parked outside. This can cause damage from exposure - the fabric can be degraded by UV light over time, and plastic can crack. If rainwater is left to sit on the tent it can also cause mold to develop if left unchecked.
A rooftop tent will nearly always cost considerably more than a ground tent. Then there's the expense of the roof racks to mount it on (if you don't have them already). You'll quite likely spend more on fuel too, as the added weight and wind resistance usually ups fuel consumption.
That said, if it's properly cared for, a rooftop tent will outlast a ground tent by quite a few years. As mentioned above, they're constructed out of sturdier materials and made to last.
When it comes to comfort, a rooftop tent will nearly always be better than a ground tent. Like swags, the best rooftop tents are made with an inbuilt foam mattress which are much more comfortable (and give you heaps more room) than most of the inflatable mattresses or camping mats people use in ground tents.
Rooftop tents are also better insulated than ground tents so will keep you warmer in cold weather. Because you're raised off the ground in a rooftop tent, you also don't have the issue of the cold ground sapping your precious body heat. Even better, the added height, and the air circulation provided by your roof racks, helps to significantly reduce condensation - which is sure to increase the comfort levels a notch or two.
Also, because you have to climb a ladder to get into a rooftop tent, much of the sand and general grit that would be tracked into a ground tent (no matter how diligently you wipe your feet!) will have a chance to fall off before you get in the tent. And as every camper knows: less sand equals greater comfort.
There's no getting around the fact that to get in and out of a rooftop tent, you're going to have to climb a ladder. Often the ladders for rooftop tents are quite narrow and lightweight and can present a bit of an issue for the elderly or those with reduced mobility. Ladders (and the height in general) can also be an issue if you have small children - while they'll almost definitely love the idea of sleeping on top of the car, excited kids in a tent two metres off the ground can impact your ability to relax!
If you're someone who needs to answer the call of nature regularly during the night, climbing up and down the ladder half asleep can also be less than ideal.
While it is possible to get a rooftop tent with a vestibule or annex that will provide extra living space without having to go outside, in most cases, a rooftop tent is limited in the amount of living space it can provide. Ground tents are not limited in this way and can be large enough to stand up and walk around in and can even have multiple rooms.
So, if you're looking for a tent for more than two people or standing space is important to you, a ground tent will probably be a better fit for you.
Camping in Australia is hardly a risky undertaking. We're lucky to live in a relatively safe country with no large predators that might come looking for a meal during the night. That said, by raising your sleeping quarters off the ground, you're making it much harder for snakes, spiders and the like to wander in looking for a shady spot to bunker down.
In certain situations, a low ground tent or swag can also be at risk of being run over by other campers - especially if they're arriving to camp during the night. While this is a very uncommon occurrence, you'll sleep a lot better knowing you're safe and secure up off the ground when you hear another 4X4 roll into camp during the night.
Provided it fits in with your lifestyle and camping preferences, an Anaconda rooftop tent can offer a level of freedom unmatched by a ground tent. It enables you to camp just about anywhere and in all kinds of weather and environments.
While a good rooftop tent will cost you more than a ground tent, if you care for it properly, it will provide you comfortable camping for many years. Anaconda's range of rooftop tents offers both soft top and hardtop options and features affordable, high-quality models. Once you find the right rooftop tent for you, all that's left to do is choose your destination, pack the back of the car, and hit the road. Happy adventuring!