It is quite difficult to decide which is best: a rooftop tent or a ground tent. The truth is that both have advantages and disadvantages and there are a few factors that will determine which one will work best for YOU.
A rooftop tent is the easiest way to sleep off the ground. This is helpful when your campsite is uneven, overgrown or water-logged or the soil too soft to anchor a tent. In these circumstances a ground tent would be less than ideal.
In wilderness areas people tend to prefer rooftop tents for putting some distance between themselves and wild animals lurking around at night. However, this is a false sense of security and you will be just as safe in a ground tent that is properly zipped up.
Being fitted to the vehicle, rooftop tents can withstand wind speeds for which ground tents might need to be anchored.
Rooftop tents are quick and easy to open. However, you need to close your rooftop tent every time you want to use your vehicle. Ground tents can be left behind in your campsite.
Big ground tents may be comfortable to live in but they are bulky to store in your vehicle and can be time consuming to put up. Non-pop-up tents do for sure take much longer to erect than rooftop tents and are not ideal if you tour and move camp regularly.
Ground tents come in a greater variety of sizes for larger groups while most rooftop tents cater for only two people. Very few cater for up to four, and those tend to become heavy and bulky.
There can be a significant cost difference between entry-level ground tents and rooftop tents – a budget two person dome tent is far cheaper than the cheapest rooftop tent. If your vehicle doesn’t yet have a roof-rack or luggage bars, it will add to the cost of fitting a rooftop tent.
Together with a roof-rack, a rooftop tent can increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 10%. However, much the same applies to a bulky ground tent transported on the roof-rack.
Lastly there is one very important factor which might rule out a rooftop tent for you: your mobility. It is possible to stand up comfortably in the bigger ground tents whereas you can’t in a rooftop tent. If you invest into a proper sized ground tent you can sleep comfortably on a stretcher and don’t need to crawl in and out of your ‘bedroom’. Getting up and down the stepladder of a rooftop tent can be uneasy, especially if nature calls at night.
Bear in mind that a rooftop tent is not as safe as a ground tent. Tripping and falling when you walk out of your ground tent is one thing but falling off a 2m high ladder when getting out of your rooftop tent is something totally different. You can injure yourself quite badly and spoil your long-awaited trip.
Think carefully about your needs, abilities and the places that you want to travel and consider all the pro’s and con’s of ground tents and rooftop tents before you invest in a tent.