Roof Top Tenting It: The 2020 Trends

Hi folks! It’s been a while! While we’ve been busy building and settling in to our new abode in Alaska, Two If Overland has taken a bit of a back seat for us lately. But that’s about to change — and to start, we’ve got a special guest post from our friends at North Outdoors. They’ve been testing the latest and greatest in the roof top tent scene, and they have some advice for those of you who are in to multi-day adventure travel, but may be on a different program from the big-truck overland platforms that we typically write about here at Two If Overland. Enjoy!

Roof Top Tenting It: The 2020 Trends

Written By: Paul Johnson, Founder of North Outdoors

An age-old question for anyone in exploration mode is a simple one:  “Where do I sleep?” For some, the answer is on the ground, perhaps covered by a tent or net.  For others, the answer is a little more luxurious, a cabin or even a hotel room. For folks like Martin and Bethany, the solution is a van or a truck, outfitted for spending the night.  

Not everyone has the budget for a purpose-built camping vehicle, and in some cases sleeping outside isn’t feasible or safe.  And as we all know, renting cabins or hotel rooms can really add up over time. That is where vehicle-based and rooftop camping can come in; something that has been popular in Europe and Australia for years, and has really caught on in North America over the past decade.

As we enter 2020, what are the trends we are seeing for the roof top tent (RTT) market?  Here are a few notable ones.

Hardshells are Making a Comeback.  There are two types of RTTs, hard-sided and soft-sided (more on the differences here).  For several years, the market seemed to be moving in the direction of soft-sided tents, as makers opted for the lighter and often less-expensive models that probably sold better. But many of the newer products we are seeing on the market are hard-sided tents.  While they can be heavier and more expensive, they have a couple distinct advantages. First, they tend to set-up and take-down much faster, in part because so much of the setup is built in to the act of opening up the shell. Second, they can withstand more of a beating on the road, as well as in a storm while camping.  

Integration With Other Outdoor Gear Will Increase.  The popularity of roof top camping has caught the attention of major automobile manufacturers as well as equipment makers.  More RTTs can be used with relatively small cars, such as Subaru Outbacks and small SUVs — as long as they have a roof rack.  This is a positive step away from the image of RTTs only being compatible with Jeeps and trucks. We also think the trend of consolidation might continue, such as Thule’s acquisition of Tepui last year.  No doubt, these acquisitions will allow those companies to refine their product integration. For example, we should expect that a Tepui RTT will fit even better (and more seamlessly) on to any Thule roof rack in the future.

Manufacturers are Not Forgetting About the Mattresses.  It used to be that a RTT had little to no mattress engineering.  If there was one at all, it was a thin piece of foam. Increasingly, we are seeing quality mattresses included as part of the package.  2 ½ and 3-inch mattresses, or more, can now be found on RTTs, and they often have higher-quality memory foam. This makes the tent a place where you might actually look forward to sleeping, versus a spot where you need your blow-up camping mattress pad just to be comfortable.

European Brands Will Find the USA.  Overlanding has been a thing in Europe for a long time, and as it becomes more of a focus in North America, we would expect the brands to follow.  There are actually a number of brands — probably a dozen or so — of RTTs that are Europe-based and that you don’t see in the US. Think about a European car — it is smaller, so these brands cater to smaller vehicles.  The idea of some of these brands being marketed in North America is exciting and might open up roof top camping to more people with smaller vehicles.

Options for Overlanders Will Continue to Increase.  This is great news for anyone reading this blog.  Because this is considered a “growth market,” the whole arena of adventure camping and overlanding can expect more entrants to the market and more products from the existing manufacturers.  More choice is a good thing, and we are confident that the best products on the market will stand the test of time and become trusted, go-to names for overlanders across the world. We really hope that this ultimately translates to more affordable products across the board as choice increases — The question is when.

Whether you are dabbling in the world of roof top camping and overlanding, or are one of the early pioneers who has been at it for a while, the prospects for being able to get the right gear in the future and enjoy the hobby even more are very bright.

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