Three Things I Hate About My Roof Top Tent

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Embark With Mark

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At the start of this year, we decided to give a Roof Top Tent mounted on top my Jeep a shot to see if we would like it. We have had a Roof Top Tent mounted on a trailer before, but this time we felt like a trailer would limit us. So after a few months of using this tent on the roof of a Jeep, TJ here are three things that I hate about having a Roof Top Tent mounted to the roof of my vehicle. What do you think about Roof Top Tents mounted on top of vehicles, what negatives do you see? Do you agree with my frustrations?

 
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Sunbum

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I had a similar experience with my RTT, loved the tent, didn’t like being 6’ up in the air. I did get rid of my tent , but now I’m thinking a trailer would be great, base camp, extra storage, off the ground but manageable.
 

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I had a similar experience with my RTT, loved the tent, didn’t like being 6’ up in the air. I did get rid of my tent , but now I’m thinking a trailer would be great, base camp, extra storage, off the ground but manageable.
I agree with you, the trailer is a much more pleasant experience.
 

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For those reasons, this is why my RTT didn't go on top of my TJ or my Cruiser. I saw how much of a pain it was going to be so I put it on my M-100.
The trailer is way easier to level .
That said, you should have brought up three positive points also.
1. Keeps you away from large predators.
2. You get great nature pictures of the large predators who will wait for you to climb down.
3. You can pretend your in a tree house.

You mentioned the ladder issues. I have the older design, squarish, click lock ladder. My first trip out, not enough adjustment points, It kept sliding back and forth some when I climbed in and out and I slipped off it a few times.
The bottom of the tent sits about four and a half feet off the ground on the trailer
Next trip out, had drilled a bunch of new holes and made it fully adjustable to any length, added skid tape to the rungs and staked the bottom of the ladder. I had been looking at the design yours has but needed to see one in person before I bought one. I wasn't sure how it locked to different lengths. It looks way sturdier than mine but also from your video will have the same issue of not adjustable enough.
 
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Lol. I know YMMV, but I had it on a M416 and like it better on my truck, yes I cant drive anywhere with it deployed but its much more stable, I'd also hate to come back and find some one has taken off with it. In anycase, I do DREAD setting it up (+100x if you have the annex, which my wife likes), and taking it down, and even then if you have to open it up to dry things out or clean it which isn't getting easier when I get older. In my ever expanding list of *would likes*, I'm short term almost thinking of selling my Autana 4 XL Rugged, for a hard top tent like a James Baroud or going back to ground tents, stretching down further when I look forward to just overlanding more with just the wife when the kids grow up, im leaning toward a 4x4 Merc Sprintervan or something similar. Don't get me wrong, I also love the tent, but damn its a PITA sometimes to deal with. Also a folding step stool helps.
 
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Wallygator

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Your First problem - I modified my suspension to compensate for the weight being on top of the vehicle and it handled better than stock even off road. Maybe you need slightly stiffer springs?
For your second problem, it looks like you only had to move over about two feet and that slope would not have been an issue. An wow your tent is up high.
Your Third problem - I didn't have these issues when my tent was on top of my 4Runner which is now sold, but I have a hard shell tent that literally sets up and takes down in 15 seconds from the back of the vehicle. It's a clam shell. I chose this tent specifically because I realized how much of a pain it would be to set up a fold out RTT that is high on the roof. I still feel the way I have my setup that the RTT is the way to go for ease of use, quick setup and take down, and comfort.
 

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It was a good video, nice clear expression of the issues you found.

Interesting, I can see some possible issues with instability on significant off camber, but that is only a 100 lb tent, you should be able compensate. Of course your jeep is pretty light so it maybe it is not a ideal setup if you want do stuff like rock crawling.

I have the same tent on top of my Discovery II, as you noted no issues on -road, but clearance will be interesting on a few trails.

As to setup it took me about 20 minutes so that is pretty valid.

The ladders were something I thought about myself you get in a odd spot or softer ground then they could be annoying, a piece of plywood and a couple of 2x4 chunks can help with that. And I have them as a jack base anyway
The steps in the rain, slippery I am sure. Anti skid tape will help in my case being the in the PNW wet is going to happen.

The gymnast yes I get that, I have a hockey stick I use to pull the zipper across the front as well as other tough spots, and tuck the front in when folding. The hockey stick works pretty well as a can the tent open in the space measure too. But I have a metal steps and space to stand on the rear of my Disco, not a mudder or rock crawler so different setup

Other that I not found it to be all the terrible so far, but limited use due to the whole COVID thing.

Night lighting for the ladder is my next thing, getting up to pee is going to happen and a nice rechargeable not too bright red light would be nice
 
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Wallygator

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It was a good video, nice clear expression of the issues you found.

Interesting, I can see some possible issues with instability on significant off camber, but that is only a 100 lb tent, you should be able compensate. Of course your jeep is pretty light so it maybe it is not a ideal setup if you want do stuff like rock crawling.

I have the same tent on top of my Discovery II, as you noted no issues on -road, but clearance will be interesting on a few trails.

As to setup it took me about 20 minutes so that is pretty valid.

The ladders were something I thought about myself you get in a odd spot or softer ground then they could be annoying, a piece of plywood and a couple of 2x4 chunks can help with that. And I have them as a jack base anyway
The steps in the rain, slippery I am sure. Anti skid tape will help in my case being the in the PNW wet is going to happen.

The gymnast yes I get that, I have a hockey stick I use to pull the zipper across the front as well as other tough spots, and tuck the front in when folding. The hockey stick works pretty well as a can the tent open in the space measure too. But I have a metal steps and space to stand on the rear of my Disco, not a mudder or rock crawler so different setup

Other that I not found it to be all the terrible so far, but limited use due to the whole COVID thing.

Night lighting for the ladder is my next thing, getting up to pee is going to happen and a nice rechargeable not too bright red light would be nice
I have a dedicated Nalgene bottle for the night bladder calls. Empty it and wash it out every morning. Works great.
 

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Given the issues--and there are certainly more that could be articulated--I just don't get why they are popular. I have a small aluminum trailer and sometimes just go with a ground tent. Either are preferable for me.
 

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For those reasons, this is why my RTT didn't go on top of my TJ or my Cruiser. I saw how much of a pain it was going to be so I put it on my M-100.
The trailer is way easier to level .
That said, you should have brought up three positive points also.
1. Keeps you away from large predators.
2. You get great nature pictures of the large predators who will wait for you to climb down.
3. You can pretend your in a tree house.

You mentioned the ladder issues. I have the older design, squarish, click lock ladder. My first trip out, not enough adjustment points, It kept sliding back and forth some when I climbed in and out and I slipped off it a few times.
The bottom of the tent sits about four and a half feet off the ground on the trailer
Next trip out, had drilled a bunch of new holes and made it fully adjustable to any length, added skid tape to the rungs and staked the bottom of the ladder. I had been looking at the design yours has but needed to see one in person before I bought one. I wasn't sure how it locked to different lengths. It looks way sturdier than mine but also from your video will have the same issue of not adjustable enough.
I have a separate video titled "Three reasons I bought A Roof Top Tent" which highlights the positives. However, I agree with your trailer statement. To the point of the ladder, I did have a smittybuilt RTT at one point with the same ladder as you. While my current ladder has more adjustment points, it's also more gimmicky. Also, with the ladder on my tent, there is no ability to customize the height locks. I prefer that older square style ladder even if I have to drill a few holes in it.
 

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Your First problem - I modified my suspension to compensate for the weight being on top of the vehicle and it handled better than stock even off road. Maybe you need slightly stiffer springs?
For your second problem, it looks like you only had to move over about two feet and that slope would not have been an issue. An wow your tent is up high.
Your Third problem - I didn't have these issues when my tent was on top of my 4Runner which is now sold, but I have a hard shell tent that literally sets up and takes down in 15 seconds from the back of the vehicle. It's a clam shell. I chose this tent specifically because I realized how much of a pain it would be to set up a fold out RTT that is high on the roof. I still feel the way I have my setup that the RTT is the way to go for ease of use, quick setup and take down, and comfort.
Good ideas!
Firstly, I do have modified suspension to handle the extra weight. My springs are stiffer, I have an adjustable swaybar, and I have one ton steering gear on the jeep. This thing is far from stock.
Secondly, it was an example of issues I run into with this specific ladder. I prefer the older style square ladder where one can drill holes for customized locking points.
Third, I am sure a hard shell tent is a totally different animal! Maybe one day I will be able to try one out.

I do agree that the RTT is very comfortable and does have some nice benefits, like a level and dry platform, but the negatives are pretty glaring for me personally.
 
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It was a good video, nice clear expression of the issues you found.

Interesting, I can see some possible issues with instability on significant off camber, but that is only a 100 lb tent, you should be able compensate. Of course your jeep is pretty light so it maybe it is not a ideal setup if you want do stuff like rock crawling.

I have the same tent on top of my Discovery II, as you noted no issues on -road, but clearance will be interesting on a few trails.

As to setup it took me about 20 minutes so that is pretty valid.

The ladders were something I thought about myself you get in a odd spot or softer ground then they could be annoying, a piece of plywood and a couple of 2x4 chunks can help with that. And I have them as a jack base anyway
The steps in the rain, slippery I am sure. Anti skid tape will help in my case being the in the PNW wet is going to happen.

The gymnast yes I get that, I have a hockey stick I use to pull the zipper across the front as well as other tough spots, and tuck the front in when folding. The hockey stick works pretty well as a can the tent open in the space measure too. But I have a metal steps and space to stand on the rear of my Disco, not a mudder or rock crawler so different setup

Other that I not found it to be all the terrible so far, but limited use due to the whole COVID thing.

Night lighting for the ladder is my next thing, getting up to pee is going to happen and a nice rechargeable not too bright red light would be nice
The reason the 100lbs up high on a TJ is an issue is not only due to the weight of the vehicle but also because it is such a short wheelbase.

Agreed on your points for the setup time and ladder. I just have such a tight vehicle I dont like to carry extra gear if I don't have to. But I agree that some 2x4s would most likely fix the ladder issue. I kind of like the older square style ladders better where you can drill your own latching holes.

I love the hockey stick idea! Lighting for the ladder at night is a must!
 
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Given the issues--and there are certainly more that could be articulated--I just don't get why they are popular. I have a small aluminum trailer and sometimes just go with a ground tent. Either are preferable for me.
I have camped in ground tents my entire life. I thought I would give a Roof Top Tent on the vehicle a shot and see how it goes. Honestly, I can see for some people why they are popular. However, I think the roof top tent really is for a specific kind of camping. I really enjoy pointing the noise of my jeep down any trail and working my way through it. Its hard to run a lot of really cool trails with so much weight up high. John Bull in Big bear would not be fun with weight on the roof, neither would the Dusy Ershim. However, things like Mojave road are perfectly suited for RTTs. I think it's finding a balance for your personal style of off roading and camping.
 

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Regarding the above comment on folding during high winds, I have been in mine during some very high winds. One of my Death Valley trips was reported to be gusting over 50mph. Because I'm afraid of the wind going under the platform, I always position my trailer so the wind blows on the other side. My tent is on my trailer and sitting about for feet off the ground with stabilizer legs, the trailer felt like it was tipping. I went and slept in my Cruiser that night.That was the first and only time I had that high of winds. With lesser wind, mounted on a Jeep with no stabilizing jacks, that would be scary.
Out here the wind blows in the desert often. This is the main reason I'm going to a small hard side trailer. The RTT has held up to the wind amazingly but its still noisy just like any tent would be.

Modifying the suspension to handle the weight is something you should be doing. What you should not be doing is adding 150# of weight that high over the vehicles roll center. This is the pivot point where your weight and suspension fight the ground. This is mostly felt side to side but also effects front to rear. The longer the distance above this point, the more leverage working against the suspension. Modifying the suspension only modify's the weight carry. The only way to properly do this would be to lengthen and widen the stance or lower the vehicle. Anything we put on our roof will act the same. Next add in tire/suspension lift and the ground point on this equation changes also. Jeeps are short and narrow. My Cruiser is much longer, slightly wider and much heavier. I wont feel the effect as much if I put something on mine compared to a TJ.

People do these things all the time with no knowledge of what they create. Thousands of people run things on their roof without any issues. As long as you don't get too technical or get into a high cross wind, you never notice. AS the OP pointed out, sidehill's can be scary with an RTT.