Should I Buy A Rooftop Tent?


This is a general rooftop tent review. I spent about two and a half weeks camping (full disclosure: the trip included a couple of hotel breaks) with a Yakima Skyrise 3 rooftop tent.

My experience was mostly good, but there are some definite pitfalls of rooftop tent camping as well. If you’re asking yourself, “Should I buy a rooftop tent?” here are some things to think about before you invest your hard-earned dollars in a RTT.

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[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ooftop tents seem to be a popular camping trend currently. Curiosity and the desire to camp in a way that was more comfortable for my aging joints led me to consider taking the plunge and buying one. I’d love an RPod but my HOA would frown on permanently parking a teardrop camper on the street.

However, rooftop tents can be expensive. So, initially, I talked myself out of this purchase. Then I talked myself right back into it after finding a like-new Yakima Skyrise 3 tent for a deep discount at the REI garage sale. Oh REI! I know the man stating next to me whispering “Just buy it!” in my ear was your plant, but buy the tent I did!

Rooftop Tent Road Trip

After some hitting some snags with initial installation because of the way the previous owners had set it up, I finally hit the road on a solo rooftop tent camping road trip. This was a boot-camp course in rooftop tent use, starting with difficulty and ending with proficiency at setting this thing up. I was joined later by my daughter and her friend. They also spent a couple of night sleeping in the Skyrise.

I’m not reviewing the Yakima Skyrise 3 tent here or offering a tutorial or setup tips. I may do that later. Instead, here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of buying a rooftop tent and some pros and cons of rooftop tents in general.

Rooftop Tent Choices

Many types of rooftop tent choices exist — Tepui makes more rugged multi-season tents, and I might invest in one if I ever really get into off-season rooftop tent camping (though I see Yakima has come out with a rugged tent now as well), and hard-sided rooftop tents available. I have no experience with these.

So the Big Question First: Did I Like It?

Traveling with the rooftop tent attracted quite a bit of attention. Campers told me I looked like a Subaru ad (Not true! To be a Subaru ad you need to be in your 30s and have a big dog.) and asked plenty of questions (including “What would you do if a bear decided to climb up in there at night?”).

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Number one question? “Do you like it?” Usual answer: “Kind of.”

My daughter pointed out to me near the end of the trip that I rarely say I absolutely love or hate anything. It’s just that most everything comes with pros and cons, and rooftop tents are no exception. The rooftop tent falls more toward the “love it” end of the spectrum, so my nutshell answer is:

Yes. I liked it.

I liked climbing up the ladder at night, sleeping off the ground hanging my little lantern in the tent (I was glad I went ahead and bought the Noctlight accessory for my Petzel Actik headlamp, it made the perfect little rooftop tent lantern), and being able to keep my bedding in the tent, fold it up, and have it ready for the next stop. However, I’m not letting go of my standard tent, as rooftop tent camping has its limitations.


Rooftop Tent Pros and Cons

To summarize, rooftop tents can be a good camping investment, depending on your camping style and frequency, but they come with a few potential pitfalls to consider before you invest your hard-earned bucks in one.

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Cheryl writes this blog and many others. She's working on getting this website back in order, currently.

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