Roof Top Tents Vs Ground Tents – What’s The Difference?

For those who have visited, but have never been in a tent with a roof and are wondering which is the best choice? In order to come to the right conclusion, there are a lot of aspects to take into consideration.

Convenience, comfort, setup time security, and cleanliness are only a few of the distinguishing factors that differentiate the two camping options. Every person will discover some elements more significant over the others.

To highlight the main advantages and distinctions of a roof top tent (RTT) and ground tents I will share my experiences with both during my time camping.

What’s The Difference Between An Open-Top Tent With A Roof and A Ground Tent?

I have experienced the two camping options I have seen the advantages and disadvantages of each type of tent. This article is my personal opinion, weighing the pros and cons of the various options!

Time To Set Up

The procedure in setting up camp and taking down the camp can be gruelling at times. I believe that many campers are concerned about the speed and ease that they can accomplish this often.

I’d say that an typical ground tent takes between 5 and 10 minutes to put up, if not longer than that, and that’s not even including the time needed to make a mattress and create the bedding for your sleeping arrangements. The process of dismantling the tent can take much longer.

Utilizing stakes, tarps and tie-downs is a total problem to the butt. There are exceptions to ground tents that let them appear in just a few seconds However, in general I think the RTT has the edge.

Based on the type of RTT you purchase A hardshell supported by gas struts may be shut and opened within less than 60 minutes with bedding already in!

A softshell that folds out RTT is a little longer, possibly five minutes as there is more steps to set an RTT. In my view, RTTs have the advantage over ground tents with the ease of setting them up.

It is possible to argue that either a ground tent or an RTT is quicker to set up and that’s the case. However, a gas strut-aided RTT with bedding inside is much easier to set up and take down than a tent on the ground in my experiences!

This is among the main differences I have observed between the two tent choices that could or might not be an issue depending on your personal preferences!

Safety and Hygiene

RTTs have been a hit throughout the world such as Australia in the past and Africa for a long time. Camping in a tent that’s high above the ground, when all around you is trying to destroy you can bring a great deal of tranquility!

If you are camping in an RTT you don’t have to be concerned about crawly crawlies invading your tent, or bothering you while you lay down to sleep.

Ground tents should have a level and flat area that can be cleared to be used as a camping site. If it’s wet or muddy, the area is essentially unusable. RTTs permit the camping wherever your vehicle can go This is fantastic, but also has its drawbacks!

If you spot a fantastic location to camp, but you can’t transport your vehicle to the location there, chances are you’re not going to be able. While a ground tent may be set up and hiked to wherever you want!

The Ability To Quit Camp

We’ve all experienced the position where we’ve been searching for hours for the ideal spot! After a lot of searching and perseverance finding your spot is a major satisfaction for many people.

For RTT users who want to explore the area by car your surroundings, you could run the chance of losing your campsite. As an example from the real world take the scenario of fishing on the lake two miles further down the road. It’s going to be necessary take your gear and tent, and then leave the campground!

If you have an outdoor tent in this situation then you can simply bring along some of your costly gear, but take the camping chairs and tent to “reserve” your coveted camping site.

If you’re someone who leaves your campsite often to explore the area or to engage in other activities that are fun be aware of this when deciding between the two different sleeping options!

Quality and Cost

There are some expensive ground tents that will cost quite a bit. In the majority of cases finding a good one for around $100 is feasible. A hundred dollars for an RTT will not even buy the ladder!

The cost of an RTT could cause many to doubt about purchasing. The cheapest price you can get an original model for is around $1,000, and it’s possible to reach the $4,000-$5,000 price bracket.

If you’re interested in learning more about how much a Roof Top Tent costs take a look at this article! I provide approximately 40 examples of most sought-after RTT prices , as along with a video that outlines an assortment of unexpected expenses you should expect when you purchase one.

Like other items, you will are paying for what you buy! If properly maintained and cared for it is possible for an RTT will last for many years, and possibly an entire decade in certain instances. The fabric used in roof tents is extremely strong and is typically constructed of high-end materials.

If you’re a casual camper investing thousands on an RTT could be difficult to justify, and I can imagine the reasons.


After spending many nights sleeping in both a tent on the ground and an roof top tent it’s hard to say the one I like!

A RTT has a fantastic mattress pad, which is 2-3.5 inches thick. However, more than that, the flat surface makes sleeping throughout the night much more comfortable!

You will need to work on leveling your vehicle if it’s situated on an uneven ground, that you can accomplish using the recovery boards, rocks or 2 4’s. However, it is better than clearing a campsite of branches and rocks and then find it to be an uneven and bumpy surface.

It is possible to purchase a comfortable mattress pad for your ground tent , which can make it more comfortable however, it’s still far from an RTT with regards to the comfort. You could even put two inches of thick mattress pad over your RTTs mattress if you’re looking for the most comfort!

Size Is Important

To this point, it’s quite even between these two choices based on the most important thing to you. The size is an important factor when it comes to ground tents.

If you’re camping with a big gathering or just want to have additional space in your tent, a ground tent can be the ideal option for this type of situation!

The largest roof top Tents can accommodate up to five people in. It could also be set up as a three-person unit, with two adults and three children. One sure-fire method to increase the area of an RTT is to build an Annex.

A lot of tent makers provide them separately, and some even bundle the two together! An annex is a part of your tent, and depending on the RTT will be able to cover the ladder, too. There are some that are huge and can accommodate 3 or 4 people in the annex by itself!

They won’t have the additional comfort of the RTT however, it’s an opportunity to stay in a big group.

Packing Light

One of the things I like with my RTT is that I do not have to think about putting a tent, bedding, or mattress pad in my car. You’ve probably noticed that once you’ve packed the vehicle to go camping, it will fill up quickly. For those who are like me, your car is left with very little room to store extra equipment.

Being able to have the RTT put on your roof can make it much simpler and can help you take it with you to travel “light”. In a humorous way, this also seems contrary to the fact that RTTs weigh anywhere between 100 and 200 pounds. Visit this page for the complete RTT Weight guide that includes more than 30 examples within an easy-to-read table.

Naturally the extra weight and dimensions of an RTT onto the top of your car can have a negative impact on the fuel efficiency you’ll obtain. From my experience, it won’t alter the way that the car handles the time, you simply observe the extra weight that it bears.

For the final part of this discussion, I’ll give an advantage of ground tents, they’re incredible light. They can be easily threw in the back of your vehicle as you depart for your trip and it’s easy!

The Process of Getting In and Out The Tent

So, let’s discuss the process of getting into and out of an RTT. In a nutshell it’s not exactly the most enjoyable task to complete and I’m always trying to reduce my climbs and descents on the ladder.

This is particularly the case especially if you own a dog which can make this task quite difficult and almost impossible for certain. Another problem I’ve had is that when you have to go to the bathroom, and using a step ladder dark will test your strength!

This shouldn’t be a surprise to you but you can walk straight into a tent that is ground level and walk around the area without having to sit excessively. With RTTs you won’t be moving around in the tent and you’ll kind of have to get inside.

If you’re taller, depending upon the RTT model you’re using the possibility of not being in a position to be completely upright in the tent, too! It’s more uncommon than normal particularly when it comes to RTT models that make it a goal to increase the top of their tents once open.

A Well-Maintained Vehicle

If you’d like to, you could put an RTT on the Prius. This isn’t recommended, but the addition of a good roof rack for the car and obtaining a lightweight and small RTT is a possibility.

This isn’t optimal for many reasons. Another issue I’d like to discuss is the need for an appropriate vehicle, and preferably one that has four-wheel drive.

This is vital because you’re relying upon your vehicle to transport there to camp spots and don’t want to get hindered by the limitations the vehicle.

Furthermore it is true that the larger the vehicle more powerful it is the RTT it is possible to increase the size! Full-sized trucks and SUVs can choose any size tent. A compact car or SUV will be restricted.

Not least, you will require a crossbar system or a permanent rack to allow the RTT to be placed on. We’ll not get too far into this right now however if you’d like to find out more on the subject, check out this article about choosing a rack system for Your RTT. There are plenty of good examples and the best practices to follow when looking for the right rack!

It is obvious that all of these additional expenses or concerns should be considered when buying ground tents. If you’re thinking of buying of an RTT the information in these articles can help you save hours of research. However, regardless you must conduct some time to study the most effective methods.

Which One Is The Best?

As I stated at the beginning, it all depends on your requirements for the tent. If you’re happy with the expense of an RTT as well as the limitations that come along with it, then you’ll love it!

I also understand the need to have an RTT particularly for casual users. Certain campers are enthralled by the ground tent whereas others love other campers who have an RTT.

I’ve been in the position when I found the ideal place, but I was unable to find my car in order to put it there. This is why the ground tent shines according to me.

Additionally, camping for several days at one place is something that everyone can do! I am apprehensive whenever I must go away from a camp site and pray that no one is will be there when I return to sleep.

These are real-life examples to help you to consider which one is better than the other! I would suggest that more than not would be happy with their RTT purchase. Those who aren’t happy tend to be the ones who only made a few camping trips.

Roundup of Roof Top Tents Vs Ground Tents

To close this piece, I’d like to stress that I don’t own an animal to compete in the race. Whether you use a ground tent or a rooftop tent doesn’t make any distinction to me!

But I do think it could be an extremely useful piece of advice for anyone interested or thinking about making the switch! This is a frequent request from my friends and is not an inexpensive choice to make.

It’s money. One thing that an RTT has provided me with is the feeling of being made to use it but in a positive manner! I feel that I have to earn the most money from it and so I’ve spent more time in the mountains, and more days near a lake. This is a surprising benefit of purchasing an RTT.

I hope that you find this informative as well as enjoyable to read. If you’d like to look at our recommended gear page, or other articles, just browse our site using the menu.

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Den Kyle

Den Kyle

I'm the founder of Dens Camp Guide. After many years of hiking and trekking worldwide, I decided to share my experiences by making my guide website! Former science teacher, Ohio State graduate, and now full-time adventurer!