Truck Bed Tent VS. Roof Top Tent (Why I chose Mine)
Roof top tents are the hot trend today with campers, overlanders, and mall crawlers alike. Although this is a new trend here in the United States these have been around for some time. The first examples of roof tents appeared in Western Europe in the 1930’s. In 1958 an Italian company invented “Magggiolina” and “Air Camping” which seems to be the basis for the modern-day roof top tents. Although these have been seen in the U.S. since the patent was issued in 1959, they were a rare sight.
Today it would seem that they are sold at every corner market with the amount on the road today. Seems like everywhere you look you see another car or truck with a tent on the roof. Just go to any National Park or recreation area and you will see many different colors, styles, and accessories. You can customize your rig with the roof top tent as the focus for just about any purpose or look you could imagine. They are amazing! They are awesome to see! All the cool kids have one!
So, then why did we decide to go with a truck bed tent (TBT)as opposed to a roof top tent (RTT)?
First, I must describe the truck bed tent (TBT). This is a tent that pops up on the bed of your truck allowing you to sleep in the bed of your truck while still having protection from the weather and allowing you to sleep off the ground. The tent may or may not have a bottom. The tent will be attached to the outer rails of the truck bed and utilize the side walls of your truck to secure into position.
Pros & Cons Explained
RTT– Heavy- from our research we found that the average weight of an RTT is about 100 lbs. which is a lot of weight for a tent.
TBT– fits in a 23 x 7 x 7-inch bag, and weights about 8 lbs.
Set up time
RTT– about 5 mins.
TBT– about 10 mins. (Check out this Camp setup Video)
RTT– Needs a rack to mount to. We looked at several bed racks by different manufactures, cost is about $1000.
TBT– a good floor mat to cover the bed of the truck. (the floor of the truck bed is hard)
RTT– most seem to suggest upgrading the rear leaf springs or upgrading the suspension system to accommodate the additional weight of the RTT, bed rack, and accessories. If you perform this work yourself, you possibly could do this for as cheap as a couple hundred bucks but upgraded suspension systems can go into the several thousands of dollars depending on how elaborate of a system you want to install. I am all for a beefy upgraded suspension system, however, I can’t justify it for a tent. Off-road capabilities and better travel are much better reasons than just the justification of a tent.
TBT– It weights 8 LBS! Stock suspension can carry it…
RTT– I have heard from several people that RTT can easily pinch your fingers while setting up or taking down. I know that if you follow all directions this may not happen, but well, in a hurry we will be the people that lose a finger…
TBT– Up and down many, many times. Never had any issues of this sort.
Ladder (Of Death)
RTT– The very first conversation we had about an RTT went something like this: “at 2am when I get up and have to pee, I will break my f***ing neck climbing down that ladder!” I am sure that we are not the only people to ever sit around the campfire and entertain a cocktail or two in the evening. Well ladders, cocktails, sleepy people, oh, and a dog, just don’t mix…
TBT– If I fall off the tailgate of the truck getting out, chances are that will make for a great campfire story the next night. I would assume this sort of fall wouldn’t require an air lift.
RTT– Everything that I have read seems to indicate that the RTT cuts mileage by as much as 2 MPG. The additional weight and the bulkiness of a big box on the top of your truck seems to really effect mileage. I would assume that at high speeds this impact is increased.
TBT– The truck is as streamlined as a truck can be. No impact is seen or expected.
Off The Ground
RTT– You are off the ground. Rooftop tents have their origins in the African bush and Australian outback, where they gave people a safe place to sleep and to avoid entanglements with everything from lions and tigers to poisonous snakes and spiders. However, in North America we seldom see those kinds of dangers while camping. Bears seem to be the largest concern in the USA. Most of us that have camping experience know the right way to deal with that sort of predator. We don’t really need the height of the roof. Not too many packs of man-eating lions running around.
TBT– You are still off the ground. Most creepy crawlies become a non-issue.
RTT– The price can range from $1000 to $5000. However, you must also include the cost of the roof or bed rack system and any suspension upgrades that you will want to accommodate the RTT. The total cost is up to you depending on the set up you want.
TBT– The one that we are using cost us less than $200. We have used it many times without issues or concerns. It is a well-built tent and we can see getting several more years of use before we need to replace it. I must remind myself that at $200 if anything does go wrong with the tent, I can just buy a new one and save myself the headache of repair.
With all that said, I think it is reasonably clear as to why we chose to go with the truck bed tent. Plus, with the amount of RTTs I see on the road these days, I am even more encouraged not to have one. The rigs look cool, but we have never been trendy people. We don’t ever want to be like every other camper out there. So go with the alternative that is different than the masses. We are comfortable and what we have suits our needs.
Let’s talk comfort. We actual have a couple ways that we set up the sleeping area depending on the type of travel, how long we are gone, and the amount of room we have while traveling.
First, we have the Toyota OEM bed mat. This eliminates the “ripples” of the truck bed giving you a flat cushioned surface as a base. This is also nice, because after off-roading you can slide the mat out and shake off any dirt or debris that may be in the bed of the truck.
We have two options for a sleeping pad:
- I purchased a 4-inch memory foam pad and cut it to fit the bed. This is so comfortable to sleep on. However, it is so bulky. When we roll it up for travel it takes a large portion of the truck bed. This is great for “short-drive-couple-night-long-don’t-want- to-be uncomfortable” trips where we want to have amazing sleep.
- We have blow up backpacking style sleeping pads. These are very small, take about 10 breaths to blow up, and two of them fit just perfect between the wheel wells in the truck bed. Believe it or not, they are very comfortable. With how little space they take we can pack them behind the back seat of the truck full time with the tent and forget about them until we just have to pull over and camp.
Bedding (yes we have options):
- I have a large tub that can hold multiple pillows and heavy blankets. We also keep in the tubs our backpacking sized mummy bags “just in case” it gets really cold.
- If we want to operate on minimal space while traveling. We have inflatable pillows that match our inflatable sleeping pads, and we only bring our small mummy bags.
In any case, I must be comfortable while sleeping. The term roughing it only goes so far with us. The entire point of both the RTT and the TBT is to get off the ground. Sleeping with a stray rock in your back isn’t fun for anyone. I am always a better camper, hiker, and explorer if I get a good night sleep.
I must point out something about the truck tents. They are sold by basic sizes to fit multiple truck beds and configurations. You must keep in mind that they are not specifically designed to fit your truck bed perfectly. You will need to play with the tent the first time you install in order to achieve the best fit possible. Even to this day we see the possibility for improvements that we may even implement ourselves to achieve the fit that we are truly looking for. As long as you are aware of this, you won’t be disappointed.
My tent size is a “Mid-Size Short Truck Bed Tent 5’”. The TBT extends to the end of the tailgate while open. This allows us to utilize the additional length of the tailgate while sleeping so that I can fully stretch out. This was we can keep our short bed truck which we prefer for off-roading.
Overall, we love it! The best part was that we purchased it and used it right away, with minimal effort and expense.
Have an RTT or TBT that you love?
Leave us your rig pics & why you love what you got in the comments below.
Rightline Gear (this is our Tent)
Foam Factory (memory foam pad)
Outdoor Vitals (sleeping Bags)
X-Lounger (inflatable sleeping pad)