Choosing an overlanding roof top tent setup is a process! We know because we’ve been through it.
There are a ton of things to factor in when making your decision. Combined with the fact there are many reputable manufacturers with solid product lineups, and it really doesn’t make the process any easier.
This article will not be a comparison of overlanding roof top tent setups, but rather an honest breakdown of how and why we landed on our roof top tent configuration.
The process applies to anyone considering an overlanding roof top tent.
(Cover Photo Credit: Marc Terrien)
Step 1: List Your Requirements
We knew what we envisioned. But we didn’t know which product would suit our goals. We started by making a list of our personal requirements for an overlanding roof top tent setup.
Our list included the following 10 requirements:
- Deployment time
- Stowage time
- Sleeping capacity
- Suitability for off-roading
- Available accessories
- Shipping and installation
Armed with this information, we were able to narrow down which setups would and wouldn’t work for us. You may have additional requirements. Maybe you have a pet or a specific need. Make sure to tailor your own list.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Requirements
Once we had a list of requirements specific to our needs, we decided to prioritize our most important requirements.
When you prioritize your requirements, make sure you only list the factors that are absolutely essential to you. No overlanding roof top tent is going to meet all of the “requirements” you listed in step 1. So narrow your focus and focus on what is important.
Out of our 10 requirements, four of them were critical for us. By critical, I mean if an overlanding roof top tent didn’t meet these requirements, then it was a no-go.
I’ll elaborate on these four make-or-break requirements a little, in order of importance to us:
Sleeping capacity – There are three of us and one is a toddler. We needed to be able to sleep at least three comfortably, preferably four since a little extra space would be welcome for long-term overlanding. If the tent couldn’t sleep at least three, then it was a deal breaker.
Stowage time – This is more important than you may realize. If you aren’t traveling with a trailer, then you’ll need to move your vehicle frequently. The time it takes to stow your overlanding roof top tent is critical. Think about it. You’re at your campsite, everything is out, and you have to run into town for diapers or something you need immediately. At that moment, you’ll be thankful you considered stowage time when selecting your tent.
Deployment time – Traveling with a toddler presents an extra challenge. We knew once we got to our campsite, one of us was going to need to keep an eye on the little guy, while the other set up camp. The faster we could do this, the better.
Suitability for off roading – We’re off-roaders. We don’t want our overlanding roof top tent setup to hinder us from being able to go off the grid to remote, Instagram-worthy areas.
Keep in mind, these were our critical requirements. Yours may be different. That’s okay; you do you.
Step 3: Start Your Search
Until you’ve completed the two steps above, you’re wasting your time. If you haven’t done them yet, go back now. Then continue onto our step 3.
Honesty: we didn’t follow our own advice. We started by scouring the Internet. It seems we were on every forum out there, watching YouTube videos until our eyes bled.
We did it all wrong.
Having not started with steps 1 and 2 above we were grasping at straws. Do yourself a favor and do the first two steps. You’ll thank me later.
It wasn’t until we made our list and prioritized our requirements that we were able to narrow down our search to the few overlanding roof top tents on the market that were suitable for us.
List in hand, we began doing very specific searches on the Internet, which helped us quickly get to our final list of overlanding roof top tents to consider. We began searching with phrases like:
- 4 person roof top tent
- off-road roof top tent
- fast deployment roof top tent
You get the picture. Those specific searches netted us a shortlist of tents that would potentially meet our needs.
Step 4: Create and Scrutinize Shortlist
Once you’ve started finding tents that may meet your needs, it’s time to create a shortlist.
This is where the process gets fun. It’s getting real now, as you’ve taken the time to hone in on what you’re really looking for.
We narrowed our list down to three overlanding roof top tents:
Ursa Minor Vehicles – This tent was on the top of our list. It’s actually a roof top replacement rather than a roof top tent. Extremely fast deployment and stowage time, very low profile on the vehicle. Super expensive. We found one on sale at a great price. After making a point of seeing one in person, we found it wouldn’t sleep three comfortably. This was a deal breaker for us. If this tent slept four, then it would’ve been a done deal.
James Baroud Grand Raid XXL – This is a super nice tent! Very large, with fast deployment and stowage. Also sleeps three easily. However, the profile wasn’t everything we hoped for when it came to off-road use, which was one of our critical factors. Folks who have this James Baroud say they can feel it on top of the Jeep, and the footprint is rather large. Also, there have been issues with wind noise and reduced MPG for those with this unit. Even with these concerns, this tent was still a consideration for us.
iKamper Skycamp – For those who follow our blog, you know we landed on this tent. More on that in a moment. However, it should be noted that the iKamper checked ALL of our critical requirements, as well as many of our general requirements.
Getting all of your critical requirements and many of your general requirements checked off is the goal. Once you’ve reached that point, it’s time to get serious about whether you are dreaming or doing.
Get Your Overlanding Roof Top Tent Setup
I once told my father-in-law there are two types of people in this world. People who talk about doing things, and people who do them. I added that he’d always find me in the latter group.
We landed on the Rocky Black edition iKamper Skycamp.
As far as our critical requirements, the Skycamp met or exceeded all of them:
- Sleeping capacity – The Skycamp sleeps two adults and two children easily. It has a king-size mattress.
- Stowage time – From full deployment, it takes one person less than two minutes to stow the Skycamp.
- Deployment time – From completely stowed to ready to sleep, the Skycamp takes less than 45 seconds to set up.
- Suitability for off roading – The Rocky Black edition features a hardshell with a textured matte black finish. This finish holds up to branches and rocks a little better than pretty much any other overlanding roof top tent we looked at.
As far as our general requirements, the Skycamp met most of them with ease:
- Price – The Skycamp was a bit pricey, but not more so than the others on our shortlist.
- Durability – This remains to be seen. However, the Rocky Black edition should hold up fairly well, and we’ve heard great things from other owners who have been using theirs extensively.
- Comfort – I’m a side sleeper. The 3rd generation mattress in the Skycamp left me with no soreness in my shoulders after the nights we’ve camped in it.
- Weight – The Rocky Black edition texture adds a little weight to the 161-pound Skycamp. We’re probably sitting at around 170 pounds, well dispersed across the roof rack.
- Available accessories – iKamper makes a bunch of accessories for the Skycamp. So there are options for us down the road.
- Shipping and installation – Installation was included and there were no shipping costs. We had our tent installed at Altitude Industries in Colorado, an official installer and distributor of iKamper.
Have You Made Your Choice?
I’d love to hear from any fellow overlanding enthusiasts who have landed on a roof top tent.
The truth is that the perfect overlanding roof top tent is the one that meets your needs. I don’t care if you choose what I chose, or if you went with something completely different. I’d just love to hear what you chose and why.
More importantly, I’d love to hear about all of the amazing places you’ve found to use your overlanding roof top tent. We genuinely enjoy meeting others in the Jeeping and overlanding community. So don’t be shy to leave us a comment below.
I hope this article has been helpful to you. Please share it with any friends who are considering getting an overlanding roof top tent.
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