Rooftop tents do more than go on the roof
You can turn almost any vehicle into an RV by adding one of the great rooftop tents available today. They are practical as well as cute and fun, like a treehouse on wheels.
They are also called cartop tents or cartoppers and they've been around since before World War 2. Most of the manufactured models have been developed since the 1950s and many are much more recent.
A tent on the roof provides a sleeping space well off the ground, away from moisture, alligators, crocodiles, rocks, ants and many other things that can take away some of the joy of camping in the wild.
Rooftop tents make it easy to setup camp and break camp
Most cartop tents set up really quickly - it's usually just a matter of:
- Park somewhere fairly level
- Undo a couple of clips,
- Turn a crank handle or pull on a couple of straps, depending on the type you have
- Pull down the folding ladder
- Climb up
- Tuck down and
- Go to sleep.
And when you want to move on, it's pretty much the reverse:
- Get out of bed
- Make the bed, if that is your style
- Climb down the ladder
- Fold the ladder up into the tent
- Crank the handle to wind the roof down or release the straps, depending on the type you have
- Do up the clips or straps
- Drive off.
And that's it, rooftop tents are pretty simple and make it really easy to enjoy the outdoors.
Some people combine a cartopper tent with an awning attached to the roof rack for an instant campsite with lots of weather protection for minimal cost and effort.
Many people have made their own cartop tents just by getting a sheet of plywood, attaching it to some strong roof racks and attaching a tent to the plywood. A suitable cover keeps the folded tent in place on the road.
Pitching such a tent just involves:
- Parking somewhere fairly level
- Removing the cover
- Inserting the poles
- Tensioning the tent with they guy ropes
- Fitting the ladder
- Climbing up
- Tucking down and
- Going to sleep.
Some of these tents have been used for many years with minimal maintenance and have provided a safe and secure sleeping space on hundreds of camping trips at a very low cost.
Some people have found other ways to use rooftop tents, such as:
- Converting a trailer that carries other gear, such as a boat, into a combined trailer and camper trailer
- Building what has to be one of the most affordable camping trailers from a flatbed trailer or a box trailer. Such a camper can be simple and light and is able to be towed by almost any car.
- Turning a pickup truck or utility into a truck camper by putting the rooftop tent over the cargo bed, over the cab or over both and keeping the load carrying area for a kitchen, a workshop etc
- Providing more room by adding an upstairs floor to a teardrop travel trailer. The rooftop tent on the teardrop trailer provides an awning over the doors for the ground floor and shelters the occupants from rain.
- Made a cartopper into a second bedroom for the kids so the parents can have the main area of the recreational vehicle to themselves.
- Put a cartop tent on a small campervan to increase the number of passengers it can sleep or to leave the lounging and cooking area below and provide a separate sleeping area away from the smells and saving the RVers from having to make up a bed every night.
Just make sure that your vehicle's roof will support the weight you plan to put on it (more if you plan to get active up there). It's no fun being woken in the night by a collapsing bed.
Once you have your cartopper installed, you will be ready to pull over almost anywhere and any time on the road or on the offroad, crank up the rooftop tent and have your bed set up in less than one minute. This is one of the key advantages to a cartop tent.