Rooftop tents are a new and exciting addition to North American camping, and enthusiasts are going crazy for them!
However, not all traditional campers can adjust to rooftop tent camping, so it is important to know your limits before deciding to jump in and buy one.
There are a lot of reasons not to get a rooftop tent camper, and we’ve listed them here:
1. You Are Not a Rustic Camper
Rustic camping isn’t for everyone.
Even regular tent camping can be pretty luxurious if you do it right (what you would normally call glamping). Still, rustic camping usually means the bare essentials to survive and be comfortable for the duration of your trip.
This means you don’t really have a lot of storage, cooking utensils, space, or amenities. You may end up with one pot and pan, materials to start a fire, some clothes, and some biodegradable toilet paper as the only tools that you bring with you.
Add a few warm and soft clothes, and you’re set to go (not including all the first aid equipment and other materials that most campers have on hand).
Basically, rooftop tent camping is a rustic experience, and only what you can fit in your car is what you will take with you.
You could say the same about regular tent camping, but you can fit an air mattress in a regular tent, as well as several lanterns, luggage, a cooler or two, etc.
Rooftop tents are built for one or two people, and generally, the only thing you keep in there is a sleeping bag.
2. You Require Amenities at All Times
Some rooftop tent campers will take their vehicle and rooftop tent to a regular campground with bathrooms, showers, even community halls, and pools.
However, the major reason that users go rooftop tent camping in the first place is to camp in the more remote and beautiful parts of nature.
If you aren’t someone who likes to rough it in the outdoors far away from people, showers, laundry facilities, or recreational activities, you might as well go regular tent camping or invest in an RV.
Rooftop tent campers are the ones who are willing to sleep in a cramped space with very few supplies to wake up and see beautiful mountains, ocean shores, or deep forests.
If you’d rather have a more luxurious camping experience, rooftop tent camping isn’t really for you.
3. Putting the Tent Up and Down
One of the biggest complaints that rooftop tent campers have is that the process of putting up and taking apart their rooftop tent is a time-consuming endeavor every time they stop in a new location or have to pack up.
A rooftop tent is not very easy to maneuver in and out of position, as it is highly elevated and clunky in most cases. While some brands are straightforward to manage, most rooftop tents are a hassle at the best of times.
Most campers will say that this is worth it for the flexibility and variety of camping adventures they get out of them, but others will say that it is too much effort.
If you are in a hurry to get from place to place, or you don’t like to put your tent away every time you need to head back out on the road, you might want to choose another method of camping and travel.
Finally, if you do set up your tent but remember that you need something from the store, and you only have one vehicle, then you will need to put your tent down again to drive a few minutes away.
This is frustrating for most users, so you should consider if you decide to get one.
4. You Don’t Like Climbing
If you are a user of an elevated age or have issues with your joints, you may not want to sleep in a rooftop camper.
Getting in and out of your tent to sleep, eat, use the restroom, or even change your clothes in privacy will require climbing either up your tailgate and into the tent or up a ladder.
This can be difficult for anyone at night or when you are tired. Still, if you have physical restrictions, it will make it even more difficult or uncomfortable to use a rooftop tent as your sleeping situation of choice.
5. You’re Not a Planner
Camping off the grid or in rustic conditions requires a lot of planning and sacrificing certain things you would normally consider essential.
This means that you need to know exactly what you can fit, what you can spare, and what you will need to take with you to make sure you are fed, healthy and happy during your camping trip.
Most rooftop tent campers will include basic amenities, like cooking equipment, firestarters, and ways to transport a lot of water at a time. They also make sure they are warm enough in the tent with plenty of sleeping bags and even small space heaters.
If you are not a planner when you go camping, if you like to take a spur of the moment trip without any foresight, rooftop tent camping isn’t a great choice.
6. You Prefer Easy Camping
“Easy” camping is the kind of camping when you have everything at your disposal, and you don’t have to make a lot of effort to have a meal, get clean, get warm or find a safe place to sleep.
This is usually done at traditional campgrounds with water and electricity hookups and bathroom and shower amenities. Sometimes these locations will have community locations to eat or gather for events, and others will have playgrounds and recreational areas.
You might even have a place to do your laundry.
Rooftop tent camping can be like that, too, but you may find that the way to camp best with them is to go off-road, to see the sights truly, and to take an all-terrain vehicle somewhere beautiful even for just the night.
7. You Have a Smaller Vehicle
A strong roof rack and a sturdy vehicle are what really make a rooftop tent work.
If you have a smaller car that doesn’t include an excellent system for setting up your tent, you may end up with something unstable and a little worrisome for sleeping in.
Furthermore, your equipment needs to last for a long journey, so even if you aren’t sleeping in the tent, it will have to be stored on top of your vehicle for the entirety of the trip.
If you really want to rooftop camp, you will need to either have a great car or truck for it or borrow one from a friend.
8. Privacy & Small Spaces
Rooftop tent camping comes with giving up a lot of things.
If you need to change your clothes or sleep, you’ll be doing both in a small space, whether that be the tent or your car.
It is easy for someone to look in through car windows, and even if you zip up your tent as tight as it can go, people walking around outside your tent can feel very invasive or close to you.
This is unsettling for many campers who prefer to have a designated campsite that other people stay out of. Still, in a parking lot or other densely populated area that you could be resting during your trip, it can feel like you are on display for the whole world to see.
9. Rooftop Tents are Very Dark
These tents don’t have a lot of natural light like your average ground tent, which can cause many campers discomfort during the day when they are using the tent, or during the night when it can feel very crowded or oppressive.
While some prefer the quiet, cozy feeling of a rooftop tent, others prefer a lot of light and airflow.
Most users will combat this by buying more lanterns or flashlights, but if you like a lot of light, consider a regular ground tent.
Rooftop tent camping is great for getting out and seeing the world one day at a time.
With a sturdy, off-road vehicle, you could take your tent on numerous adventures to more remote places than just a traditional campground.
However, you also have to deal with small spaces, fewer amenities, less privacy, and a lot of planning to have a good experience with a rooftop tent.
If you aren’t an experienced camper, traditional camping may be a preferable method for you.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.