Three common problems with rooftop tents, and how to fix them
Rooftop tents could just be the answer to the comfort woes of off-road adventurers who refuse to rough it out by sleeping on the ground. Inside the tent is a pleasant and welcoming queen-size foam mattress. In addition, you’ll appreciate the privacy it offers when it comes to everyday activities like taking a shower, changing your underwear, or fleeing from South Africa’s infamous thunderstorms.
Yet it’s all fun and games until it comes to setting up and taking down your rooftop tent. Like all things in life, the comfort that comes with this makeshift accommodation solution comes with a trade-off or two. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to figuring out the downsides of rooftop tents, so that we could devise a few solutions to make your journey that much more comfortable. So, let’s take a look at the top three problems with rooftop tents, and how we have addressed them:
#1 Putting it up and taking it down is a pain, but you can make it easier on yourself
An average rooftop tent weighs between 45 and 80 kg, and its size and shape adds to the challenge. But there is a way to put it up and take it down without a helping hand. Yes, it can become a one-person job. And we’re serious when we say it’s pretty easy, too. There are two parts to putting the tent up and taking it down with ease:
• Make a “skateboard” for the tent. You’ll probably spend about R400 on strong caster wheels, and another R300 for a sheet of plywood;
• Roll the tent onto the tailgate. If your 4×4 vehicle doesn’t have a tailgate, a chair could work well instead.
The skateboard not only makes it easier to manoeuver the tent on the ground, but also makes it easier to get just right before you hoist it onto the tailgate. When it’s time to get the tent on your vehicle, simply roll it on out and position it. Keep the tent on the end of the makeshift skateboard, tip it toward the tailgate and keep going. Lift it up on the ground end until it is standing on the tail gate, tip it onto the roof bars, and the slide the tent into place. Congratulations, you just did it all by yourself.
#2 The tent’s rain fly collects rainwater
It should be stated that not all rooftop tents suffer this fate, but if yours does, here’s what you can do about it. While the tent’s bed portion is on top of the 4×4 vehicle, there is a lower room too. Most of the time, it’s rather rectangular. The roof may slope down, but it’s flat, and when it rains, the roof over the lower room can pool up with water. There are two problems with this: the pooling water puts strain on the structure, and it could lead to the water leaking through the tent to the inside. Our solution is to buy an extendible pole and place it inside the tent so that it pushes against the roof slightly. The sloped roof allows the rain to run off, effectively eliminating this problem altogether.
#3 Rooftop tents are on the dark side, Luke
Depending on your perspective, a dark tent is no problem. For those who prefer a little more light, a battery-operated LED lantern can help you out. But with a bit of forethought, you can find something better. A roof-top tent is attached to the vehicle, which means you can fashion a more sophisticated light solution. LED strips are a nice option, as they’re very small and require an insignificant amount of battery power, leaving you with soft light that won’t drain your battery quickly.