Roof Top Tents
Now there's nothing wrong with heading off on a roadie with a tent in the back of the wagon. We enjoyed a fantastic half lap around Australia with just that. Near the end of the trip we took great pride in timing our expertise clock in at just 15 minutes from the time we pulled up to having the tent up, mattress inflated, bed made and a bottle of wine and dips on our fold up table, ready to enjoy.
But if we stay within the definition of a 4WD camper, we'll have to start with a tent mounted on the top or back of a four wheel drive. The most common setup is the rood top tent mounted on roof racks above the cab. This leaves the back of the sedan or ute free to carry all the camping needs including the fridge.
If the idea of the tent being a long way up, a less imposing option is to have the tent mounted on the ute tub. It may only be two ladder rungs lower, but it can feel like a big difference in live-ability getting in and out… especially at night.
The other benefit with your tent mounted close to cab height, is your vehicle has a lower centre of gravity. Bringing that extra 60kg of load lower can make a big difference to cornering and maneuvering on sloping ground. Plus being behind the cab also means less wind resistance and therefore better fuel efficiency.
Off the shelf racks that mount on the tub provide a sturdy platform for the tent. The gap around the rack can be custom fitted with a canvas top to provide weather and dust proofing. You may not think a canvas cover will provide a dust free interior, however from experience, because of the airflow through the front of the canopy, the consequent build-up of inside pressure, amazingly keeps the dust out... even all that fine outback red dust.
A slide out tray mounted on the tub floor between the wheel arches, allows convenient access to camping items such as the fridge, from within the tub. Lidded plastic tubs allow you to organise all your camping needs, such as food and various camping items. Canvas flaps on either side also provides additional access to inside the tub. For a basic level of security, I fitted marine ply under the canvas with lockable doors under the canvas flaps. It does offer that added peace of mind where you might park the vehicle in an insecure parking area, such an overnight stay in a pub or street parking.
But overall, it's a great set up. I have never warmed to the idea of a roof top tent, but we absolutely loved it. Even on some scorcher of days, provided there's a slight breeze, its been quite pleasant... though on one instance we did cast an extra shade cloth over the tent. And they are roomier than you may expect.
One of the biggest benefits of the rood top tent is you are off the ground, away from any creepy crawlies passing by at night. I remember an instance camping in a tent, the shock in the morning seeing these huge animal hoof marks that went right past our tent. Being off the ground would certainly eliminate that fear.
As with any outdoor experience, weather and bug problems can be countered by fixing the awning walls or erecting a standalone quick setup gazebo style tent.
Pros: Very cost effective camping with the full flexibility and accessibility of your four wheel drive.
Cons: Need to pack down the tent and camping items each time you move. Need to fix awning walls or erect gazebo style tent to counter adverse outdoor conditions. While the tent setup is almost as quick as throwing up an instant tent, packing it up takes a bit longer with the need to make sure all the canvas is stuffed back in.