Roof top tent

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 18:12
ThreadID: 133474 Views:8449 Replies:13 FollowUps:8
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Seen some roof top tents in parks, just out of curiosity do they really work?

It seems to me there are a lot merits for this type of outdoor dwelling, spending a night in a safe warm tent on top of roof rack seems a cozy option.

But I'd like to get some reviews. Has anybody tried this tent? Compared with setting up the tent/swag on a firm ground, I am a little worried if the set-up would collapse due to vibration.

Also, is there any ladders or the only way to access the roof top tent is to climb up? I guess the wind blowing even badly up the top during night.

Any ideas would be appreciated!
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Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 19:01

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 19:01
Chaz, if you do a search through the forum for 'Roof top tent' you will find plenty of thereads where the pro's and con's have been covered. However, given I have travelled with both Open Sky (canvas) and Maggiolina (hard top) tents I'll attempt to give you a quick response. In summary:

* no need to tow a trailer - compact
* most are very comfortable
* off the ground and away from wildlife and water
* better airflow & breezes higher up
* not as difficult to set up and stow as they used to be
* more suitable for one or two night stays
* some do come with enclosed rooms for under the tent base

* probably the biggie - need to pack away if you need to move the vehicle - so less amenable if you're staying in one place for a time and doing day trips
* the ladder - ok if you're fit and mobile, but probably a no-no for the less mobile
* pit stops at night are a p.i.t.a - though I know some people (male) take a bottle up for no. 1's...
* not good if you suffer from vertigo
* can get buffeted in winds, however I'll cover that below vvvvv
* do require you to try and level the vehicle as best as possible - any slope gets increased the higher you go..

All commercial roof top tents come with ladders attached or supplied - how you best make this work will depend on the type of tent and the orientation - rear / side etc.

Current roof top tents are very robust - I've had both the Open Sky & Maggi up exceedingly strong winds and neither showed any inclination to break or collapse. They can tend to rock (or more specificaly the vehicle) in strong winds, however both Camper trailers and Caravans will do this to some or a fair degree as well. I found the rocking motion rather soothing, however others may see this differently.

Hope this helps,,,,
AnswerID: 604534

Follow Up By: chaz r - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 17:58

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 17:58
Thanks mate!
FollowupID: 874341

Reply By: Hoyks - Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 19:28

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 19:28
I have one and love it.

Mine is on a box on the back of the ute and access to zip on the cover is good. If it was on the roof of a wagon, then things might be a bit different. Climbing onto a tall wagon to do up the zip around the sides and front would be a bit of a pain, of course a roof rack with a bit of room to climb around on the roof would make the job easier.

Propping out the windows with the spreader bars can also be a bit difficult for the vertically challenged, but you can do it from the inside if you cant reach. But, that said, I saw a single Mum that would be lucky to be 5' turn up in a camping spot and was up on the roof unzipping and setting up solo.

Once set up they are very solid. They generally have metal tube of the bows and webbing straps that run from each end and up and over the bows, so the ladder end is supported by the ladder and the straps that run from the end secured to the roof rack.

I bought mine as I'd take the kids camping with a dome tent, so Dad gets to set everything up and pack it away, either that or everyone has a lousy time with Dad ranting and grumping.
Sleeping bags stay in the tent and just get folded in 1/2, set up takes around 10 minutes, less if you aren't propping out the windows. Pack up is a bit more.

I have used swags, 1 man tents, various dome tents, tarps and a sleeping bag on a ground sheet. All have their place and some are more convenient than others. We have 2 in the RRT and one in a swag most trips. It is much easier getting dressed in the Roof topper than a swag.

Ladders are the only way up, unless you are particularly athletic. They are also used for folding the tent up and down.

I've been in some reasonable winds and it doesn't blow or rattle much, the tent has 130kg in it and 2800kg under it, so I don't think it will blow away in a hurry. I also don't choose camps that are too exposed.

What you get depends on how much you want to spend. I would have loved a flash one with heavy canvas, but the amount I use it couldn't be justified.
Cheaper ones have a aluminium floor made out of 2 thin layers with a Z shaped bracket separating the 2 skins. I have one like this, it is OK, but tends to get dents and if you crank the roof rack attaching bolts down, then it can crush.
Better ones have a floor made out of marine ply, but they are a lot heavier. There may be someone making them with a composite (carbon/glass/honeycomb/foam) floor, but I don't know who.
Canvas thickness varies too.

I got a 1.4m deluxe and it is good for 2 people. Bigger would be better, but it is also heavier and I struggle to lift it onto the roof as it is.
AnswerID: 604537

Reply By: Michael H9 - Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 20:50

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 20:50
I've got a roof tent that I no longer use. The big advantage in my view is they set up quick complete with bedding in place. The only big disadvantage is having to pack up if you want to use your car and you are staying in the one spot for any length of time. But even that becomes a non event if it's a Maggiolina or James Baroud type. Carrying a lot of weight up top on a daily driver is a bit tedious too. I just use a stretcher and swag under an awning now. Climbing around on monkey bars was great when I didn't have so many miles on my clock. I see cars go by now with massive tents up top and think "no thanks" to myself.

The first reply pretty well nailed it.
AnswerID: 604541

Follow Up By: sweetwill - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 07:27

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 07:27
I have owned a rtt for about 10 years and wouldnt be without it, the brand is "Dingo Doza" it is the size of a double bed 2400 x 1200 and it is the canvas type, no extra piece over the top to flap in the night, no extention arms to put on the windows and it has the marine ply floor, yes it does sway a little in really heavy wind but nothing to worry about, I must admit that I get a better nights sleep in the rtt than my bed at home it has a ladder attached to the base that is pulled to open the top "after you lift the front corners just enough to get it started everything is inside in the way of bedding, Hope this helps.
FollowupID: 874322

Reply By: Camping Around OZ - Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 21:46

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016 at 21:46
We have a drifta dot off road tourer which has a Hannibal rtt, its a big tent 2m×2.4 which can sleep all 4 of us comfortably. Great quality and very comfy mattress. Takes 5 min to setup and pack up. We love it
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Reply By: Crusier 91 - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 07:01

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 07:01
I have all the accommodation for camping, double swag, roof tent and camper.
The RTT is an ARB Simpson 3. Only use it when I go fishing on beaches and staying for a few days or more in one spot which keeps me up off the sand.
It allows more covered ground room.
If you're camped on the sand when the wind picks up, the RTT wins hands down over the swag.
For me, I would not use it to tour in.
AnswerID: 604549

Reply By: Latitude30 - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 08:16

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 08:16
Hi there,

I just picked up a 1.8m x 2.4m RTT from eBay for $899. Went to the warehouse in Brisbane and inspected one he had set up before handing over the cash. I've set it up a few times but yet to sleep in it. But from what I can see here are some things to check:

- If the foam mattress is <60mm thick you will need an eggshell topper to make it more comfortable when sleeping on your side
- If you can afford it, get a RTT that is 1.8m or wider. The 1.4m are comfortable for 1 person but 2 people in the heat would be a stretch
- If you mount it on a trailer you can leave it behind when you day trip
- Theres a place at Ipswich that makes Emu campers, the guy there is making RTT motorbike trailers for $5k. Have a look at his site (or my recent thread) to see what you can do with them

Of course RTT aren't for everyone. They add to your fuel economy (wind drag + heavy), they can be hard to access when set up high and thery are much more expensive than say the RV4 tents. But if you ever camp near sand, snakes, ants, crocs etc then they are a pretty good option.

Hope this helps.
AnswerID: 604551

Reply By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 09:11

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 09:11
For what it's worth one more for you

We have a 1.6 x 1.2 Hannibal roof top tent. It opens up over the rear of the car and comes with a good sized annex that when fitted encloses the whole of the rear of the car as a room, kitchen etc. Yes It does have an opening that matches very nicely the rear door of the 100 series. That's where the tailgate becones the kitchen table. The bed area is a slightly larger than a double bed. We sometimes take up to three grandchildren with us, two up top with us (smalles ones) and another in the annex on a stretcher etc.

Weather isn't a problem with the Hannibal being made from quite thick and strong canvas. A side not: One made from a nylon material was ripped to shreds at Coward Springs. Also it tends to be somewhat warmer in the cold alpine areas. Our's is now about 6 years old and no damages at all. All zippers in good nick and easy to use. I have been known, once or twice, to spray them in the desert with a dry nylon zipper spray.

It still annoys me having to pack up if you want to go and check out something local. But saying that, it has only happened once in Tassie as we normally travel each day to a new spot checking out stuff on the way.

We do carry a small pop up tent which we leave in situe for day return drives, so that we don't lose our camping spot when coming back to it. And we take a pop up ensuite for toilet (portable one) and shower uses when the kids are along. The portable goes in the annex when we are solo.

It can be a bit difficult getting up and down if you are elderly but not having to tow anything or set up tents etc far outweighs that issue. I am 71 and still prefer the roof top. The ladder is not the problem. It's bending the ageing and sometimes stiff joints when first getting "over the edge" and onto the ladder. Going up is simple.

We have an annex on the side of the car and have only used it a couple of times in recent years. I should take it off.

If you do intend to get an RTT then I would advise getting one where the entry or door to the tent is under cover. Notjhing worse than getting into a wet bed. They also tend to turn into mould if packed up with the bedding wet or damp. Also get a good canvas so the it is somewhat protected at being packed up wet and not dried out until you get fine weather or back home and open it under cover. This is the same for most tents and canvas thinbgs like swags as well. Ours is "inside". I would not have an "outside" entry for quids. Snow, rain and wind stays outside where it belongs. See pick below.


AnswerID: 604552

Follow Up By: Latitude30 - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 19:53

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 19:53
Great set up!
FollowupID: 874345

Reply By: steved58 - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 11:53

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 11:53
I have had an arb simpson 3 rtt for some time the biggest problem most people seem to have is getting them on and off a large 4by Some thought to how you can put on and take off the rtt is a must unless of course you dont mind driving around with it on the roof all the time I have a boat winch running up on my roof of garage to remove rooftop but have a very high ceiling in there most people dont

Cheers Steve
AnswerID: 604554

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 12:26

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 12:26
I have four coach hooks in the underside of the front verandah. I have two lengths of 4x2 with a short length of chain at each end. I slip the 4x2's under the RTT and then lift each corner with one hand and hook the chain over the coach hooks. Ten minutes and I am done. I also store the roof rack in a similar manner but without the length of wood. There's a knack to it but it's not hard.

We stored a cattle crate on four empty 44 gallon drums with a couple of lengths of wood between then that supported the cattle crate when not on the truck

See composite photo below showing a front and side on view.


FollowupID: 874338

Reply By: Michaeljp - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 13:28

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 13:28
I once bought an ARB RTT and sold it within a week, to much fiddling around to set up. I recently bought a hard shell hannibal RTT sets up in 30 seconds no ladder i just climb onto the spare wheel open the 2 latches push the roof up climb in tighten the 2 roof supports and I'm set.

AnswerID: 604556

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 16:31

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 16:31
Do you mind giving us an idea of your age?

I find it difficult to climb onto the spare wheel so I, personally, wouldn't go that way.

The op may also be closer to my age than yours. This is why I mentioned my age in my post.



PS (edit): My wife said that no way would she even think about it. Age mate!
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Follow Up By: Michaeljp - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 12:37

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 12:37
Im 51, with bad arthritis in ankle.
FollowupID: 874368

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 13:08

Friday, Sep 23, 2016 at 13:08
As fit as a mallee bull right!!! I have a few issues but no arthritis.


FollowupID: 874370

Reply By: Member - eighty matey - Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 18:16

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 at 18:16
G'day chaz r,

we travel with a roof top tent on our 80 series Land Cruiser.

Both my wife and I really like travelling with the roof top tent. It's a Shipp Shape and it was made in 1988.

Our Shipp Shape is 1300 mm x 2100 mm and the tent is about 1500 mm high inside when it's set up.

We like to travel with our roof top tent for a few reasons:
- If we don't have to tow that's two more tyres we don't have to worry about.
- If we had a trailer we would carry more stuff.
- A roof top tent gets up off the ground, so we don't have to set up on hot ground, or wet ground.
- We've had all sorts of animals pass through our camps. A roof top tent keeps us up away from the Dingoes, Snakes and Pigs.
- Our bed is made and ready to go.
- We can have the tent set up in 15 minutes and it takes about 20 minutes to pack up.

Many people point to the fact that if you want to head out for the day the tent has to be packed up but we can pack up in 20 minutes. It's easy and we usually leave one of our mats on the ground or something else, depending on where our campsite is.

They are certainly worth considering. We really love travelling with ours.
We've been to so many special parts of the country. So many times the convenience of having our camp with us wherever we are has been invaluable.

Have fun,

AnswerID: 604558

Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:29

Saturday, Sep 24, 2016 at 14:29

I thought I should add a few photos to share our little set up.


FollowupID: 874401

Reply By: Member - Young Nomads - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:42

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 20:42
Hi there.
We have had a RTT for many years and only used it for remote travel, where we were moving almost every day..or didn't need to drive anywhere when we were in a small town (aka Birdsville).
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We bought an original ARB (howling moon) RTT in 2006...

If you are planning to go with a RTT..don't skimp on quality if you can..

We have been tent bound for 24 hours..yes that's right..on the roof..when we got rained in for 6 days in the desert..very comfortable and kept dry.

We have been in it in gale force winds on the side of the Strzlecki track (don't open any window canvas)

The only reason we sold it as we were upgrading our accommodation, to a TVan...also I'm not as agile as I used to be LOL....not old though..

Having the RTT with the larger canvas extension over the tent opening, is a must..means you can get dressed in privacy, whilst still having room to wiggle when you are entering and exiting the tent.
We didn't always tie the canvas extension down..only if it was windy.

The aluminium ladder(part of the tent package) is VERY cold first thing in the morning, so stick your shoes on before you go for that quick morning dash.

The best thing about a RTT as opposed to ground dwelling, is you stay so much warmer, as you aren't near the cold ground. The set up for the quick overnight stop in bad weather is 5 mins max(with practice)..packing up a little longer. As you perfect your technique, it'll become easier and easier

Never had any issues with the mounting brackets, canvas, structure or build quality of the tent an annex.

The best time to zip it up ( or easiest) is when the vinyl cover is warmed by the morning sun. Good quality zips most important!

AnswerID: 604570

Reply By: Member - abqaiq - Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:33

Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:33
I suggest you look at the Gordigear website if nothing else than the what to look for in RTTs video.

We have a Gordigear and I agree with the previous general notes. One thing to consider is all around access to get to the cover zipper. On the Troopy we have, I made sure to have a full width roof rack (Greg at so I have a walkway along the "rear" side of the tent (opens to side opposite the Ostrich Wing Awning) so I can be up on top and access the zipper all the way around. That also allows me to tuck in the canvas as the tent folds up. Trying to get to the zip on a Troopy can be difficult. We usually only do up the front of the zip and the two straps for good weather travel. I put a strip of red LEDs on the base so illumination if needed for climbing down at night and LED strip lights in the tent for reading if we get socked in for awhile (never used).
AnswerID: 604739

Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:57

Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:57
Like the models of 4WD vehicles available, dwellings for outback travel are just as numbered and varied.

And like anything else, as a general rule, if you buy quality you will usually get hassle-free use, whatever it is, whether car, equipment or somewhere to shelter.

I think when it comes to Roof-top tents the question goes to how you travel, where you travel, and the level of comfort that you are looking for.

Usually RTTs are no quicker, or less so, to erect than most tents – so it comes down to preferences like being above the ground. Noting, unless you have an awning, an RTT is little-more than a bed, not a living space like most touring tents…

For what it is worth, we had an RTT, but these days use one of either our TVAN, swag, or Southern Cross Safari tent, or a combination of them on our trips…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
AnswerID: 604741

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