ABOVE IT ALL
THE ORIGINS OF the rooftop tent are purported to be the African continent. It makes sense, too; think big, hungry carnivores and their potential human meals and you can see why sleeping up on the roof of your 4WD would be a commonsense option. Rooftop tents have been available in Australia now for many years and for two-up tourers – and those with a couple of little ’uns – a rooftop tent can make perfect sense – especially as it frees up valuable interior cargo space. Although there is a caveat...
As with anything roof-mounted, the weight of a rooftop tent will affect your vehicle’s handling, courtesy of the additional load up top shifting the weight distribution higher, but most rooftop tent models are relatively light. Manufacturers tend to use marineboard or ply bases, comfy mattresses, lightweight polycotton/canvas (in the main – there are some synthetic-fabric variants available) and aluminium poles to keep the weight down.
Most rooftop tents fold to the side, enabling manufacturer’s to keep the actual “footprint” (or roofprint?!) of the tent base small, allowing you to – with care – utilise the remaining roof rack space for carrying additional equipment.
The rooftop tent’s simplicity and speed of operation – park your rig, pull the top half of the folded tent over, which opens up the “tent” section with an accordion-style action, then attach, or let down, the ladder to finish – means you can be sitting up pretty, checking out your campsite’s surrounds before you know it. That is, if there is only two of you. Add in a couple of wee tackers and then you will have to add on the readily available lower-tent sections (everything from awnings to additional rooms are offered by rooftop manufacturers). This may cause some concerns to parents as the kids are now down on the ground out of your sight/care but you can soon sort out whether one parent sleeps downstairs and one upstairs with the young ones.
One thing to remember with a rooftop tent is to make sure you’ve finished driving before you set up camp – or more pertinently, before you set up your bush bedroom. If you did decide to go and view the sunset from that dune half a kilometre away – and already had the rooftop tent erected – you’d have to then re-pack the tent before driving over there. The rooftop tent being constantly attached to your roof is only a slight inhibition if you think ahead, however. And, again, the speed of setup means you can leave it all until the last minute before bed-time. The other thing to be aware of with a rooftop tent is, if the canvas gets wet overnight, whether through rain or condensation, it’s wise to have some type of waterproof cover to put over your bedding so that if you do have to pack up early with a still-wet tent, you won’t soak your bedding. Again, a simple thing to do and not necessarily a negative aspect – just something to include in your camp setup routine.
Rooftop tents are expensive but are built tough, have myriad accessories for expanding families (or those who just like lots of extra space) and offer the bonus of keeping your vehicle’s cargo area free for other gear. For long-distance tourers – in particular those travelling two-up – they are the near-perfect choice for accommodation.
Rooftop tents, such as this ARB model, are great for couples and by adding an annexe you can house the entire family.