If you’re an experienced overlander, or simply a person who likes to camp in style, you’ve probably given some consideration to a roof top tent. While roof top tents obviously keep you off of the ground and out of reach of creepy crawlies, it’s not always the most comfortable place to sleep.
How do you make a roof top tent comfortable? There are several steps you can take to make a Roof Top Tent more comfortable. Increase padding, using a heater or fan to make change the temperature, and adding basic creature comforts will all make your roof top tent more comfortable.
The one significant drawback to rooftop tents is the ladder, which will always make them slightly less convenient than ground tents. However, when carefully planned around, you can build quite the self-contained fortress on top of your car that might make you never want to leave your roof top tent.
Table of Contents
- Are Roof Top Tents Comfortable Out Of The Box?
- 13 Ways to Make a Roof Top Tent More Comfortable
- 1. Get the Vehicle Level
- 2. Add More Padding to the Base
- 3. Use a Pad Sleeve for Insulation
- 4. Add a Condensation Mat
- 5. Invest in Cooling Sheets
- 6. Use a Camping Blanket Instead of a Sleeping Bag
- 7. Bring Quality Pillows
- 8. Add Lighting Inside the Roof Top Tent
- 9. Understand Vehicle Orientation
- 10. Use a Hot Water Bottle and Insulated Throw Blanket in Cold Weather
- 11. Set up the Annex and Awning
- 12. Use A Portable Fan
- 13. Use a Shoe Bag
Are Roof Top Tents Comfortable Out Of The Box?
Yes, roof top tents are comfortable. Compared to traditional ground tents, they offer several key characteristics that enhance their comfort levels:
- Padded Floor – Once opened up, the floor of roof top tents folds out to reveal a padded base. This differs from ground tents whose floors are just a piece of canvas on top of the unforgiving ground.
- Weather Protection – While roof top tents may be susceptible to catching more wind than a traditional ground tent, being on top of your car ensures that you’re not directly against the cold ground. You’ll also avoid any flooding or runoff that might soak your sleeping arrangement.
- Peace of Mind – You can sleep comfortably in your tent knowing that a bear won’t be paying you an unexpected nighttime visit.
As mentioned, the significant drawback of roof top tents is the ladder. Not only does this make entering and exiting a challenge for those with limited physical capacities, but it can be a pain in the neck when you need to go to the bathroom or simply need to get out of the tent to run a quick errand.
13 Ways to Make a Roof Top Tent More Comfortable
While it’s generally established that roof top tents are comfortable, there are many ways to enhance their comfortability, providing countless nights of luxury sleeping in the great outdoors.
1. Get the Vehicle Level
This is an important step that needs to be taken before setting up the tent. While the incline of the ground may not be noticeable or even considered significant from the driver’s seat, even the smallest slopes can be acutely felt in your roof top tent. If up want the full details on keeping your roof top tent level check out our guide on how to level a roof top tent.
Make sure your vehicle is entirely level, or your sleeping experience might not be as pleasant:
- Sliding during sleep – While this may not be a major inconvenience if you are sleeping alone, you’re sure to wake up multiple times during the night if your partner keeps rolling on top of you in the middle of the night.
- Blood rushes – Even the slightest grades can cause the blood to rush to your head if you wind up sleeping with your head lower than your feet.
- Clumpage – Roof top tents set up on slopes will not be able to use all of the tent’s space effectively, as blankets, pillows, and other accessories are likely to clump up in the lowest point of the tent.
- Harder to enter and exit – Roof top tents are already more difficult to enter and exit, but an incline or decline at the tent’s opening can make it even more harder and even potentially dangerous to get in and out.
When searching for a place to set up your roof top tent, look for a flat space where you can park your car, preferably on a firm, consistent surface that’s not likely to degrade in the event of inclement weather.
Most modern vehicles come equipped with features in the navigation system that tell you the grade of the ground on which your vehicle rests. If you have an older vehicle, you can place a ball or water bottle on the floor to see if it rolls in a particular direction.
While this may seem like an overly simple step, getting your vehicle on level ground will make your roof top tent much more comfortable.
2. Add More Padding to the Base
One of the major perks of a roof top tent is the padding on the floor. Although this pad is more comfortable than sleeping directly on the ground, it’s far from a luxury mattress.
Most roof top tents floors have a stock padding that’s about two inches thick. While it might be padding, it still might be possible to feel the bars of your vehicle’s roof rack as you toss and turn at night.
Enhance this layer of foam with an additional pad to the tent floor. While it may be difficult to get a pre-inflated mattress or comforter into a tent on top of your vehicle, many inflatable options can be blown up once you get inside.
The nice thing is that these pads don’t have to be overly elaborate. Even a little extra buffer will do wonders to make your roof top tent more comfortable.
3. Use a Pad Sleeve for Insulation
If you decide to use an additional pad on the tent floor, wrap it in a fitted pad sleeve to provide an extra layer from the elements. This sleeve looks like a combination of a fitted sheet and a sleeping bag for blow-up mattresses.
If you’re going with just the embedded stock padding, be sure to line it with a similarly styled liner. You don’t want to sleep directly against the tent’s padding. Not only does a liner provide insulation from the cold, but it adds a little additional softness as well.
4. Add a Condensation Mat
Nothing can ruin the cozy vibe in your roof top tent like condensation. After adding a pad sleeve or liner for additional insulation, you’ll want to add a condensation mat to your sleeping arrangement. Waking up in the morning to find out your whole tent is wet inside doesn’t make for a comfortable experience.
In addition to being uncomfortable and unsightly, condensation can undermine your roof top tent’s structural integrity over time. Moisture can lead to mold, rot, and decay that can expedite your tent’s deterioration.
Condensation mats absorb moisture overnight and create a more breathable environment inside the tent. Not only does this rid your tent of unwanted moisture, but it improves your sleep quality in the process.
Besides adding a condensation mat to your setup, always have at least one window of the tent open slightly. Even when it is cold outside, the flow of fresh air will prevent condensation buildup.
5. Invest in Cooling Sheets
High-quality sheets enhance the sleeping environment. Bamboo sheets are not only known to be super soft, but they are extremely breathable and have anti-sweating properties. This is an important consideration because sweat can make you get really cold, really fast, especially if a draft comes through your tent.
Cooling sheets can also help keep your sleeping environment fresh as well as help fight against condensation buildup.
6. Use a Camping Blanket Instead of a Sleeping Bag
While sleeping bags are a traditional camping staple, think about this: Do you ever sleep in a sleeping bag around the house? Probably not.
Sleeping bags do provide a nice layer of insulation and can keep sleepers protected from the elements, but they’re also highly restrictive and not a comfortable choice for sleeping in favorable environments.
To enhance comfortability in your roof top tent, try to make your sleeping arrangement as much like home as possible.
A puffy camping blanket is similar to a down comforter, but made specifically for camping. They are usually filled with down feathers or a synthetic fiber that is made for cold weather. It unparalleled warmth on your camping expedition, while maintaining the comfort and feel of sleeping in your own bed at home.
Most down camping blankets will come with basic storage. You may want to get a compression sack if you need to save space.
7. Bring Quality Pillows
To save space, some overlanders use inflatable pillows on camping trips. While this is convenient, it’s also not very comfortable.
Good pillows are essential for a comfortable night’s sleep. Pillows that are awkwardly shaped, don’t form to the contours of your head and neck and can even deflate in the middle of the night. Not only does this lead to an uncomfortable night’s sleep, but it can also cause neck pain or headaches.
Again, if storage is an issue—as it always is—throw your pillows into the vacuum storage bags with your duvet.
8. Add Lighting Inside the Roof Top Tent
You’ll probably want to use your roof top tent for activities other than sleeping. If you want to hang out and unwind after the sun goes down, you’ll need some light. Holding up a flashlight for hours isn’t going to cut it.
To create a more convenient and homey environment, there are a few ways you can easily add some light to your roof top tent. Your choice will depend on what type of roof top tent you have and the power sources you have access to:
- Lamps and lanterns – This is the most straightforward option and will work with any roof top tent design regardless of available power outlets. While they will provide light, lamps and lanterns will limit the “floor” space you have in your tent and may not provide consistent lighting across the entire tent.
- Hanging lights – Depending on the type of roof top tent you have, you may be able to hang lights from the top. This would distribute light more evenly, but make sure the roof of the tent can safely support the weight.
- Light strips – This is probably the best way to light up your tent space as long as you have a way to power them. Simply connect some LED strips to your tent poles to provide instant illumination.
There are many cool camping lights on the market that use either batteries or external power sources. You may like a few different types of lighting for your tent. I stick with a basic hanging led lantern.
9. Understand Vehicle Orientation
Getting your vehicle on level ground is the first place to start when trying to attain roof top tent comfortability. However, having your tent properly oriented is another important aspect of creating a pleasant camping environment. Consider the following factors:
- Which direction does it face? If you’re the type of person who likes to sleep in, you probably won’t want your tent to have an unobstructed view of the east. You’re going to wake up at sunrise every morning, guaranteed.
- Are there trees? Shade can be either desirable or undesirable, depending on what you’re looking for and the climate you’re camping in. Obviously, shade will make your tent much cooler. Park accordingly. Plus, parking under a tree might mean branches or melting snow could fall on your tent and upset the camping experience.
- What are the surrounding areas like? The roof top tent is only a portion of your camping experience. Make sure it’s set up in an area that makes for convenient cooking, lounging, and entertainment in the hours when you’re out and about.
10. Use a Hot Water Bottle and Insulated Throw Blanket in Cold Weather
In addition to the insulated padding and heavy duvet, consider tucking in next to some hot water bottles and an insulated throw blanket during cold weather.
These items not only make it warmer under the covers, but they provide for a consistent distribution of heat throughout the night. This is a great low budget option to stay warm at night.
We have a great article here with different ways to keep a roof top tent warm.
11. Set up the Annex and Awning
Some roof top tents come with an annex: a separate addition that encloses the ladder and provides protection on the ground leading up to the tent. This creates a more homey, comfortable camping experience.
If your tent doesn’t have an annex, add an awning so that you have an area to hang out close to the tent that offers protection from the afternoon sun.
An annex is also a great place to put a propane heater on those cold nights.
12. Use A Portable Fan
We’ve all been there. Going summer camping and not being able to sleep because your tent is too hot.
Sure, you can open up the tent to let the air in, but on those hot summer days there may not be enough of a breeze to keep you cool throughout the night. Having a portable fan will make all the difference in the world on hot summer nights.
13. Use a Shoe Bag
As mentioned, one of the more inconvenient aspects of a roof top tent is the requirement of using a ladder. Not only does it add a physical effort to getting in your tent, it also means you can’t take your shoes off before going inside.
With a traditional ground tent, you can simply take off your shoes before entering the tent and leave them sitting outside the door. As this is not an option with roof top tents, the tent floor can get very dirty from tracking shoes into the tent after climbing the ladder.
Have a shoe bag ready inside the tent to store your shoes so you don’t get dirt all over your sleeping area. Dirt and grime around your feet all night is certainly not comfortable.
Roof Top Tents are pretty comfortable right out of the box. If you want to get the most comfort out of your next trip there are quite a few ways to make that happen.
If you’re going to be overlanding in cold weather you definitely want to make sure you’re bringing a warm camping blanked at minimum. If you’re going out on hot summer night, cooling sheets and a fan are the way to go.
Things like additional padding and making sure your vehicle is level could be game changers for you. Keep them in mind when you’re prepping for your next adventure.