Roof-Top Tents vs. Ground Tents: Pros and Cons for Your Overlanding Rig

Roof-Top Tents vs. Ground Tents Pros and Cons for Your Overlanding Rig

Overlanding is an exhilarating activity that combines the thrill of road trips and the joy of camping. And when it comes to this adventurous blend of the great outdoors, the right camping gear is key — specifically, an optimum tent for your overlanding rig. Two popular categories dominate the overlanding world — roof-top tents and ground tents. As a passionate overlander, you might find yourself at a crossroads about which tent to pick for your next trip. 

This comprehensive guide will delve into the benefits and drawbacks of both roof-top tents and ground tents, enabling you to make a more informed decision. The battle between being high and dry vs. grounded and spacious begins right here. Continue reading to learn more.

Roof-Top Tents

Roof-top tents are a popular choice among modern overlanders for their convenience and off-the-ground advantage. These sturdy structures mount on the roof racks of your vehicle, which can be SUVs, trucks, or even smaller cars, turning them into a mobile sanctuary in a matter of minutes. 

Pros of Roof-Top Tents

Quick Setup

Within a matter of minutes, you can transform your overlanding rig into a cozy shelter, ready for a restful night’s sleep. Unlike traditional ground tents that involve a series of stakes and guylines, roof-top tents eliminate the need for such time-consuming and often frustrating tasks. With just a few simple steps, you can have your RTT ready for use, allowing you to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time struggling with tent poles and pegs.


Roof-top tents often come equipped with built-in foam mattresses that provide a comfortable sleeping surface. Unlike sleeping on the uneven and sometimes rocky ground in traditional ground tents, they offer a more ergonomic and supportive sleeping experience. Also, you’re elevated off the ground, which means you’re less likely to feel the cold or dampness commonly associated with sleeping on the earth. 


When you’re perched on top of your vehicle, you’re less vulnerable to some of the challenges that ground-level camping can present. Roof-top tents provide a higher vantage point, which can enhance your security by offering a better view of your surroundings. This elevated position can also keep you safer from potential wildlife encounters, as many animals are less likely to approach an elevated tent. 

These tents are also generally more secure from theft and tampering, offering peace of mind when camping in remote or unfamiliar locations. 

Cons of Roof-top Tents


Roof-top tents tend to be more expensive than their ground tent counterparts. The initial investment includes not only the tent itself but also any additional accessories or mounting equipment needed for installation. While the durability and convenience of these tents can justify their higher price tag for avid campers and overlanders, budget-conscious individuals might find the upfront cost prohibitive.


Roof-top tents, with their sturdy construction and added features, can be quite heavy. Its weight can affect your vehicle’s overall load capacity, potentially limiting the gear and supplies you can bring along on your adventures. The added weight can also impact your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and handling, especially when driving off-road or on rough terrain. It’s crucial to consider your vehicle’s specifications and load capacity before installing a roof-top tent to ensure it doesn’t exceed safety limits. 

Height Limitations

While the elevated position of a roof-top tent provides advantages like better views and increased safety, it also comes with limitations. The added height can restrict access to certain areas, such as low-clearance parking structures or narrow trails with overhanging branches. This limitation can be particularly challenging for overlanders who enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path locations. Its height can even affect the aerodynamics of your vehicle, potentially leading to reduced fuel efficiency and wind resistance.

Ground Tents

Ground tents are the classic camping option, evoking a sense of traditional outdoor charm for many enthusiasts. Offering ample variety in size, design, and price, ground tents cater to a plethora of overlanding preferences and budgets. And for those desiring a cost-effective, flexible, and no-frills camping experience, ground tents are often the go-to choice.

Pros of Ground Tents

Variety of Sizes

Ground tents offer a significant advantage in terms of variety of sizes. Whether you’re camping solo, with a partner, or as part of a larger group, there’s a ground tent size that suits your needs. From compact one-person tents that are easy to carry on backpacking trips to spacious family-sized tents with multiple rooms, ground tents come in a wide range of sizes and configurations. This flexibility allows you to choose a tent that matches your specific camping requirements, ensuring everyone has a comfortable and enjoyable experience in the great outdoors.


When it comes to budget-friendly camping options, ground tents consistently offer a more economical choice compared to roof-top tents or other specialized camping setups. There’s a wide range of ground tents available at various price points, making it accessible to campers with varying budgets. Whether you’re a beginner looking to try camping for the first time or a seasoned camper looking to save on gear expenses, ground tents provide a cost-effective way to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the bank.


Ground tents are incredibly adaptable and suitable for a wide range of camping scenarios, as they come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, allowing you to choose the perfect one for your specific needs — whether it’s backpacking, car camping, or even setting up a basecamp for an extended stay. They can be easily moved and set up in different locations, providing the flexibility to explore various camping destinations. Ground tents even offer more layout options and room for customization, allowing campers to create a comfortable and personalized camping experience.

Cons of Ground Tents

Setup Time

Compared to the quick and hassle-free setup of roof-top tents, ground tents often require more time and effort to assemble. Erecting poles, staking out guy lines, and securing rainflies can be a time-consuming process, especially for those less experienced with tent setup. This added setup time can be less than ideal, especially when you’re arriving at your campsite late in the day or dealing with inclement weather. 

Less Comfort

Ground tents place you directly on the ground, which can lead to a less comfortable sleeping experience. The ground may be uneven, rocky, or damp, which can affect your quality of sleep. Ground tents even often require campers to use sleeping pads or air mattresses for insulation and cushioning, which may not be as comfortable as the built-in mattresses found in many roof-top tents. 

Potential for Moisture

Camping directly on the ground means you’re more exposed to dampness, condensation, and groundwater seepage, especially in wet or rainy conditions. Even with the best rainfly and ground tarp setup, there’s always the risk of moisture making its way into your tent. This can result in discomfort, wet gear, and a less enjoyable camping experience. 

Key Takeaway

In the realm of overlanding and outdoor adventures, the choice between roof-top tents and ground tents for your overlanding rig presents a compelling dichotomy. And the decision between the two comes down to personal preferences, budget considerations, and the type of overlanding experience you seek. Regardless of your choice, both options provide unique opportunities to connect with nature and create lasting memories on your outdoor adventures. So, whether you’re gazing at the stars from a roof-top tent or nestled in a ground tent among the wilderness, remember that the journey itself is what truly matters.

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