ABOVE IT ALL

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Outdoor Tech -

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.

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