Home Gear Roof Top Tent or Ground Tent?

Roof Top Tent or Ground Tent?

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You’ve seen the epic overland rig pictures out on the plains with the roof top tent providing off the ground shelter, and thought, “man, that looks awesome!” I wonder if I should spend the money and replace my ground tent? It’s a personal choice! Consider the options below and watch the video above to learn more about the experience with ours!

Ground Tent

PROS CONS
1. Inexpensive 1. Critters and Mud
2. Fast 2. Separate Bedding
3. Can be very large
4. Accessible

Roof Top Tent

PROS CONS
1. Home is where you park it 1. Takes up rack space
2. Off the ground 2. Weight up high
3. Bedding packed with it 3. Cumbersome
4. Vehicle not mobile

Summary

For us, we prefered the ground tent mainly because our vehicle is high and I always felt like a monkey crawling around the rig to open and close the tent. Try as I might, I did not get the setup time down below 15 minutes (partly because of vehicle height), and Corrie has RA, which means going up and down a ladder hurts. The RTT just wasn’t for us.

Front Runner Flip Pop Tent

There is a common misconception that RTTs are faster, but the fact of the matter is, I’ve never seen a tent go up faster than our Front Runner Flip Pop Tent. you literally just throw it and watch it unfold. You do have to be careful with the tent. The rods are not very strong, at least for this overlander.

 

 

Michael

Backwoods country bumpkin. Overland enthusiast and lover of the great outdoors.

Comment(30)

  1. Which ground tents have you used?  Is that a FiveJoy pop up tent?  If so what are your thoughts on it?

    Hey there – we have used a number of tents. Most recently the REI Habitat 4, and the Front Runner Flip Pop tent (FAST)! We keep our eyes on the OZ tents and one of those may be in our future. The Habitat is great, the Front Runner Flip Pop is fast, but you need to be careful with it, it is NOT heavy duty and we ended up breaking one of the rods. Habitat – fairly fast, good for 4. Why can't any tent manufacturers solve the crappy zipper problem?!

  2. Because both have benefits, I think it's handy to have both. You can get a decent ground tent for a decent price. RTT's are expensive but they can be pretty handy to have as well. My wife has been using ours for the past month on a trip she's been on and she loves it. It takes her longer to pack it away (approx 21 minutes) but I was able to show her a few shortcuts to help her get better. I'm able to break it down in 12 minutes. Ultimately, I'd like to either build or buy a trailer like a Turtlback Trailer to be able to bring the RTT somewhere and have amenities below and also leave camp with my vehicle. That would be ideal. Anyway, this is a great question that I don't think can be answered one way or the other.

  3. If you are looking at OZ tents, also compare with the Kodiak Canvas Flexbow tents.  I think they setup faster.  Its also two 'bags' rather than one long one that limits storage options.  It has a tent pole bag that fits across a vehicle, and the tent itself which is rolled up in whatever shape you prefer.  Has a slick canvas bag that works with some variance on how you fold it up.

  4. This question again. Ha.

    It will always come down to needs, application, and comforts. As Michael points out, there’s pros/cons to any setup. I personally have owned three RTT’s myself, and more ground tents than I can count. Current setup is a CVT Mt. Shasta Extended Summit with the Stargazer and Annex on my 4Runner, and we have a decent ground tent that my boys pack if they want their own space. I want them to see different tents, different terrain, and different camping styles, including but not limited to overlanding, backpacking, bikepacking, etc. I will admit though, I’m selling my Mt. Shasta and upgrading to a Hardshell soon, and the ultimate goal will be a teardrop+RTT combo. Because I camp sometimes solo, and sometimes with the kids, and sometimes with the whole family… my setup requires some flexibility and adaptability. I like the adaptability of a hardshell that I can easily move by myself between the 4Runner and a trailer as needed. When I’m solo, or me + 1, the hardshell will be plenty. Just pop it on the truck, grab my Plano’s and grab bags and go! When it’s more than that, I can take the whole rig. But, I also have plenty of friends that think that’s overkill. They’re fine with their 3-second malamoo and jet boil. They’re also single and/or married with no kids. They don’t understand why my trunk is full of stuff animals, RC cars, and enough food to feed an army.

  5. After spending an extended period of time exploring and hiking I have to say I really enjoy using our RTT. I know it's easy to use a ground tent, they are light and easy to pack. But I have to say if you get a chance to try one (RTT) you'll see why people like them. If your not into climbing the ladder you can always attach the RRT to a small trailer, disconnect at base camp and enjoy the best of both worlds.

  6. It will always come down to needs, application, and comforts. As Michael points out, there’s pros/cons to any setup. I personally have owned three RTT’s myself, and more ground tents than I can count. Current setup is a CVT Mt. Shasta Extended Summit with the Stargazer and Annex on my 4Runner, and we have a decent ground tent that my boys pack if they want their own space. I want them to see different tents, different terrain, and different camping styles, including but not limited to overlanding, backpacking, bikepacking, etc. I will admit though, I’m selling my Mt. Shasta and upgrading to a Hardshell soon, and the ultimate goal will be a teardrop+RTT combo. Because I camp sometimes solo, and sometimes with the kids, and sometimes with the whole family… my setup requires some flexibility and adaptability. I like the adaptability of a hardshell that I can easily move by myself between the 4Runner and a trailer as needed. When I’m solo, or me + 1, the hardshell will be plenty. Just pop it on the truck, grab my Plano’s and grab bags and go! When it’s more than that, I can take the whole rig. But, I also have plenty of friends that think that’s overkill. They’re fine with their 3-second malamoo and jet boil. They’re also single and/or married with no kids. They don’t understand why my trunk is full of stuff animals, RC cars, and enough food to feed an army.

  7. Like I said in the videos comments, I love my RTT. Yes it can be a pain if I want to put the annex on and break it down every day, but I don't have to have the annex, so it takes about 10 minutes without. I don't like scorpions and rattle snakes, so its a RTT for me.

    I do want to put together a trailer though, so if Im going on a trip and want to leave the tent in 1 place while I explore, I can.

  8. It's a Foxwing Awning and FoxWing Tagalong Tent for me. It's basically an OzTent that zips into my foxwing awning. I have a family of four and a four person RTT was going to take up my entire roof rack. I couldn't afford to lose that roof storage space.

  9. I found the same limitation with my roof tent. So I built a trailer this year and let me tell you, the combination of an RTT with trailer so that you can go exploring during the day without having to pack up your campsite is quite the luxury!

    Sent from my SM-G935W8 using OB Talk mobile app

  10. Before this, I slept in a ground tent for many years. Then moved to a tent setup on the roof of my Jeep. While I felt safer from bears and critters in general, I always found it a pain to have to pack up camp to move the vehicle. I feel like the tent/trailer combo is the best of both worlds, though it can be tricky in an off road situation to turn around or back up on a tight trail

    Sent from my SM-G935W8 using OB Talk mobile app

  11. I spent a long time researching various ground tents and roof top tents before I settled on my Free Spirit Recreation Series Medium RTT. It really depends on the type of person you are and where you live as well

    My reasoning for splurging on an RTT here in Central Oregon

    -Highly volcanic region, so there is rocks EVERYWHERE, clearing ground for a tent is both a pain and ultimately does not leave the area as you found it

    -Extremely dusty. Packing away a RTT is much more convenient when it comes to not getting completely covered in the moon dust we have here

    -Better with critters. We have snakes, cougars, fire ants, etc here and it is nice to be up off the ground and away from those things. It is also piece of mind for me and the GF as we had a cougar encounter after backpacking 5 miles into a local mountain

    -Comfort. The RTT is easily more comfortable than a sleeping bag and an air mattress

    -Weather. The RTT enables us to camp in more seasons than a ground tent, we get snow and rain, so not having to worry about those things on the ground is great as well

    Anyone looking for a more affordable RTT that still has great construction, I would recommend looking at http://www.gofsr.com/

    They are busy though as they are growing, so they might not have a certain style in stock

  12. I spent a long time researching various ground tents and roof top tents before I settled on my Free Spirit Recreation Series Medium RTT. It really depends on the type of person you are and where you live as well

    My reasoning for splurging on an RTT here in Central Oregon

    -Highly volcanic region, so there is rocks EVERYWHERE, clearing ground for a tent is both a pain and ultimately does not leave the area as you found it

    -Extremely dusty. Packing away a RTT is much more convenient when it comes to not getting completely covered in the moon dust we have here

    -Better with critters. We have snakes, cougars, fire ants, etc here and it is nice to be up off the ground and away from those things. It is also piece of mind for me and the GF as we had a cougar encounter after backpacking 5 miles into a local mountain

    -Comfort. The RTT is easily more comfortable than a sleeping bag and an air mattress

    -Weather. The RTT enables us to camp in more seasons than a ground tent, we get snow and rain, so not having to worry about those things on the ground is great as well

    Anyone looking for a more affordable RTT that still has great construction, I would recommend looking at http://www.gofsr.com/

    They are busy though as they are growing, so they might not have a certain style in stock

    I agree 100% and that is a great pic. (the second)

  13. I have never used a RTT and I have been curious about getting one. I like the idea of being up off the ground but I don't like the idea of 140-200 lbs. of weight on my roof. The lightest one I've found is 90+ lbs. In off camber situations I don't know if I'd be comfortable with so much up top. I like the hard shell variety of the RTT but they seem to be the heaviest of them. I've only ever used ground tent and I have not been overlanding long or been in scorpion, grizzly or fire ant country.  I guess it really depends on what you need. The OZ tents look pretty quick to set up and tear down but I haven't checked specs on weight and 6'6" of product is a bit cumbersome to pack. I've also been considering an off road trailer with RTT on the trailer as well, which seems like it has it's pro's and con's as well.

    Good article though, has me stroking my chin and saying Hmmm a lot.

  14. Bashing RTT's is the new thing to do. We reached peak RTT popularity. Now it's hip to be anti-RTT.

    I've been in a ground tent for awhile, and sleeping on the ground got old once I turned 30 and had kids. I have no desires to carry cots and inflatable mats. I'm not sure how that is all easier. And we looked into the OzTent RV-5 and for a quick deploy tent, it certainly takes up a lot of space. Has a RTT price tag and after watching a friend put one away, didn't look any quicker than my current ground tent setup. Actually, stuffing my ground tent was faster.

    We switched recently. Tent is out of the way now of storage. So are sleeping bags, pillows and blankets. All in the tent. This free'd up a lot of space for us. The mattress is more comfortable, and we camp a lot in bear country, and I feel a lot better now. Bears have wandered into peoples tents.

    Having a fullsize, I don't tend to suffer the off camber effects that happen to shorter wheel base vehicles. I have to be in a very precarious position to get that effect. So "tippy" isn't something that happens a lot when I wheel. We also built our rack to be not 100% at roof height. So this helps. And the 23Zero Tent comes in at 130lbs. And my truck weighs around 8000lbs, so it's not really throwing the truck anywhere.

    Overall, it suits our family. And really, at the end of the day, people should be basing their decisions on their needs and what will work for them. Not what's popular and whats not.

  15. Why can't any tent manufacturers solve the crappy zipper problem?!

    They do it on purpose. Ever notice they also prefer the fine tooth zippers over the big tooth zippers like you find on diving gear? There are easier ways. You can even get more reliability by looking in the history books.

    Buttons and/or grommets will fix what their engineers couldn't get right in the first place. They hate the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" so they came up with zippers and little rain flaps to get hung in them. lol

    Use either a third piece that covers the seam or attached to one side with an overlap. Strong magnets work very well if it is calm.

  16. I don't think it's about bashing the RTTs. They are cool, but after extensive evaluation, I can't justify the price/ usable space ratio. I can buy a good quality 4 season base camp tent like a Springbar, Cabela's guide tent, Oztent, 12 Survivors, or even some of the Artic Oven's, and it is still cheaper than all but the smallest budget RTT's. Throw in a high quality cot and mattress with the money I saved, and I am comfortable at all times of year, the dog can sleep in there, and the best part is, I don't have to take my rig, I can throw it in the car or anyone else's vehicle and travel like I'm on safari.

    23 Zero RTT's $1699-$2599 (based on their website)

    Springbar $349-$1579

    Cabela's 239- 1569

    For the record, I was spoiled while in the Serengeti a couple years ago, so this is my goal when camping now(maybe not quite this extravagant, but you get the idea). This was what our tent looked like for the weekend. Was all good until the elephant came in the middle of the night and drank the shower water. That'll wake you up!

      1. I’m from grizzly country in western Canada. The elephant in the night was certainly the most”concerned” I’ve ever been with wildlife encounters…

  17. I love my roof top tents. I have 1 on my truck and 1 on my trailer. I generally only take out the trailer when I spend more then 1 night in the same spot. The truck is great for multiple nights in multiple spots. I do believe ground tents can be easier and faster but I don't think they hold up to weather as well and aren't ideal for putting away wet or dirty. In the end I choose a RTT for a good nights sleep. I sleep in my RTT almost every weekend. Its basically our second home. People should use what works for them. There is no right or wrong answer to RTT vs ground tent.

  18. I think they both have thier merrits. I have used  alot of tents in my life. Old miltary style canvas, to light wieght Marmot, etc brands. We have been running an Oztent RV4 since 2007 and just recently decided to pass on roof top tent due to the way we travel. We tend to base camp and use the car to go and do stuff alot, so I just don't want to climb up thier 2x a day to deal with the tent. We just bought a Jet tent f25x with full porch enclosure. However I think I am going to sell or return it because I find it just to heavy to get up ontop of my lifted 80 series. I think I am ultimatley going to get a trailer with a RTT but need to rethink the ground tent in the mean time. I have looked at tents like the Nemo wagon top 8 but just really dislike single wall nylon tents. They just do not breath and really make alot of noise in the wind. Although I love thier small size and light wieght in comparison to my Oztent I just can't get over how flimsy they feel. The times I have used a RTT on a Campa trailer I loved it and feel it is the ultimate set up for our family but sadly not quite in the budget yet for a trailer like that.

  19. I think the simplicity of essentially just opening a rooftop versus the set up of a ground tent is the most appealing.  I think about arriving at a destination later than planned, trying to set up in the dark and/or elements creates a whole lot of stress.  I would much rather pull down a rooftop, go to sleep and assess in the morning.  Also, the argument that it creates high weight on your rig.  Yes, that's an issue if your rock crawling.  That's not a flavor I associate with overland exploration.  Height clearance, yes, that is a real issue, but not high weight.  My humble opinion.

  20. I found the same limitation with my roof tent. So I built a trailer this year and let me tell you, the combination of an RTT with trailer so that you can go exploring during the day without having to pack up your campsite is quite the luxury!

    Sent from my SM-G935W8 using OB Talk mobile app

    I'm seriously considering this, do you have any start up picks? Kinda looking around for some foundation ideas

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