“My tent doesn’t look like much but, as an estate agent might say, ‘It is air-conditioned and has exceptional location’.” ~Fennel Hudson
This is part 2 of a 2-series story about rooftop tents.
In this post, I will focus on our rooftop tent:
- Why did we buy the one we did?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of our RTT, as it’s also called?
- What adaptions did we make?
Here is the story.
In 2003, we expected to be traveling for two or three years with the idea of driving to Asia. What kind of bed did we want? We settled for a construction that would give us two options:
- To be able to sleep in the car (which is a topic for another blog post).
- To buy a rooftop tent.
Read More: The Journey
The Search for a Rooftop Tent
As part of our preparation for the journey, we headed to several stores and compared Eezi Awns, Howling Moons, Hannibals and a couple of other soft-shell rooftop tents.
As I climbed in one after the other, I concluded that the differences among them weren’t big (Note that in 2003 there weren’t that many RTTs as today). We didn’t particularly favor one over the other. Prices were all in the same range – around $1500 US if I remember correctly – so money wasn’t a deciding factor either.
Well, actually, it was. The reason to buy an Eezi Awn was that we were offered a new tent for $900 US from an overlander who had shipped a couple of them with his vehicle in a container from South Africa (where the Eezi Awn roof tent is produced) after a six-month road trip.
Read More: DIY Awning – How To Build an Inexpensive Rear-door Car Awning
How Much Have we Used the Rooftop Tent?
It’s a bit of a guess:
- From the Netherlands to Southeast Asia, 3.5 years: about 80%. In Vietnam the tent started to leak, probably a result of having folded it too often wet due to the monsoon.
- In South America, 9 years, covering all countries: maybe 20 or 30% even though we had stunning rough camp options in many countries. But the tent leaked and in Patagonia there often was so much wind that the tent buffeted too much, keeping us awake.
- Northeast Asia, 2 years (Japan and Korea): maybe 40 or 50%. We have a new tent (Carpas Anaconda), waterproof, which is great but the material is so light that it buffets very quickly. We have also grown used to sleeping in the car. We’ve gotten a bit lazy about it, I guess. We plan to be using the tent more into Russia.
What we Like About Both Rooftop Tents
The sense of freedom!
There is something immensely gratifying, beautiful, liberating, inspiring about finding a mind-blowing rough camp, to climb up that ladder, and sleep on top of your rig in a rooftop tent. While that sense of freedom also exists when sleeping in a ground tent, the sleeping pads are never as comfortable as the mattress in our rooftop tent.
Read More: Accommodation & Camping
- The comfort and particularly the breeze in warm climates because the tents have mesh panels on all sides.
- When camping for a longer period of time I don’t have to clean up the mess inside the car every day because I need to make the bed.
- The chances of ants, scorpions, snakes or other creepy-crawlers entering the tent are zero (this compared to a ground tent).
- The rooftop tent offers a great spot for viewing wildlife. We particularly experienced this in the wetlands of the Pantanal (Brazil) where we woke up before sunrise and watched birds and other animals from a much closer range than had we sat outside.
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#1 The Eezi Awn Rooftop Tent
Here are some issues related specifically to the first rooftop tent. For our second, a Carpas Anaconda tent, see below. As said before, we used the Eezi Awn from 2003 to 2015; initially very intensely, in the end hardly at all.
What we didn’t like about the Eezi Awn:
- We were not impressed with the durability of the mattress (we replaced in Vietnam after 3 years with one that’s still fine 10+ years later, see below).
- The mosquito netting, which came with straight zippers instead of a round one, didn’t properly close in corners (we stuffed them with old T-shirts).
- Serious leakage problems after 3 or 4 years.
While we loved sleeping in that tent, frankly, we were not impressed with the price-quality ration.
Read More: 11 Ultimate Rough Camps for Overlanders in Argentina
Improvements on the Eezi-Awn
Improvement #1 – Extending the Ladder
For our farewell party in the Netherlands, I wanted to have the roof tent up to show it to people. Fortunately so, because only then (a week before departure) we discovered that the ladder was too short!
Because of the extra 25-centimeter aluminum (dark-brown) layer to heighten the Land Cruiser’s roof, the ladder was too short. A neighbor of mine welded an extension, which has worked perfectly.
Improvement #2 – Impregnating the Leaking Canvas
The outer layer of the tent, the canvas that covers the entrances on both sides, tended to curl up. This was a problem with slanting rain which then entered the tent. I glued velcro on the wooden sidebar of the floor and sewed Velcro on that layer. Problem solved.
We emailed Eezi Awn when the leaking problems started, which couldn’t be solved with any first-quality impregnation liquid I bought in the Netherlands. We had to admit: Eezi Awn did know about after-sales service.
They sent impregnation liquid to South America twice, free of charge, even though by then we had used the tent for more than four years. The waterproofing liquid helped for a while but the tent became a good-weather option only.
Read More: Gear & Equipment
Improvement #3 – Replacing the Mattress
In Vietnam, after 3 years of intensive use the mattress needed to be replaced (well, much earlier but we never got around to doing that). We were in a region known for rubber plantations and we found a tiny shop that sold pure latex mattresses for a reasonable price. It was way heavier than the original, but boy did this enhance our sleeping experience.
Depending on the climate you’re camping in, you may find that your mattress gets humid because it doesn’t get aired properly on the wood/aluminum bottom. To prevent this we have a woolen blanket under the mattress, making sure it sticks out on all sides for a few centimeters. The wool wicks the humid away.
Read More: 3 Super Convenient Shades for Your Overland Vehicle
Improvement #4 – Maximizing Comfort in Hot Climates
When the weather is hot, we take the small oscillating fan to the tent, which normally hangs above the driver’s seat. With an extension cord, this works perfectly in the Eezi Awn; the Carpas Anaconda comes with an electrical plug inside the tent so that’s even easier.
#2 The Carpas Anaconda Rooftop Tent
As said before, despite all the impregnation liquid, the Eezi Awn tent kept leaking and it was time to look out for a new one. By that time we had left Brazil, which would have been a good country to buy one. There are a couple of local suppliers. Your best chances are in São Paulo.
However, we were in Venezuela. Like Brazil, this is a country full of off-road and overlanding aficionados and in Venezuela are a couple of rooftop tent designers and builders. The off-road community connected us with Carpas Anacondas, situated in Maracay. Inspired by our travels, the owner Robespierre Bataille was so generous to give us one!
He currently produces and sells in Venezuela and Colombia, but plans to expand to the United States as well.
Read More: Accommodation & Camping in Colombia
Likes & Dislikes of the Carpas Anaconda Rooftop Tent
- It is made of a much lighter material than the Eezi Awn, and any minimizing of weight on the roof is a good thing.
- However, the lighter material makes the tent buffet very quickly, the noise at high winds keeping us awake.
- Like the Eezi Awn, the zippers are straight. These simply don’t close as well as round zippers, like many ground tents. Thus, as we did with the Eezi Awn, we stuff the corners with old t-shirts.
- The rungs of the ladder are solid and wide, maybe a bit too wide, making the ladder is a bit bulky.
- We really like the cover, which closes with velcro all around. This is way better than the strap we had on the Eezi Awn.
- Inside is a 12-volt hookup, meaning we can connect the oscillating fan (or lamp) in a plug inside the tent.
- The tent came with LED lights on the outside (attached underneath the unfolded floor section), which is nice.
- The foam mattress is way too thin. We immediately replaced it with our latex mattress from Vietnam which is still going strong.
- For us a ridiculous notion but for those who want aircon: the tent has openings on both side to install one! If not used as such, you can still insert a tray for your breakfast on bed 🙂 (see photo).
#3 Other Soft-shell Rooftop Tents
These are just our experiences. To get you started in the labyrinth of the rooftop-tent world to find which one is best for you, check out the legwork Expedition Portal did on the subject (March 2016).
Originally published in 2013 / updated in October 2017
Read More: Accommodation & Camping in Japan
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13 thoughts on “Why we Love our Rooftop Tent – Our Pros and Cons with 2 RTTs”
For the moister problem under the matras of the rooftop tent you can buy a special matras of 2/3 cm thickness and it works well I have to say! here’s one example in the Netherlands: https://www.esvocampingshop.com/nl/tentaccessoires/akwamat/
We had the same problem and it makes no difference where you are or where you sleep, this moister problem always occurs… it’s just your own body heat… check it out. the nice thing is that it also gives extra comfort to your matras.
probably you can buy these things also in other countries…
Hi Ronald, yes we know of this. Thanks for sharing, it’s a good tip because not everybody has a woolen blanket (who uses them these days).
In fact, before our journey we were in a shop looking for such a mattress, but low-low-low budget as we were then, it was quite an expenditure. The salesman, in fact, was the one who then asked if we still had grandparents with the traditional woolen blankets. My parents still use them, so that’s where I got one.
And yes, it’s just body heat and if you stay camped and it can dry during the day, it’s no problem. But when you pack up early in the morning with the mattress wet and for some reason don’t unfold the tent for a while, well then it can get mouldy and yucky.
I have to say, the tent had a wooden floorboard, the current an aluminum; I ‘think’ wood helps better for ventilation.
Perfecte timing, we zijn net onze zoektocht begonnen. Een busje met binnen slapen of een cruiser met een rooftoptent. De keuze is reuze. Nog 3 jaar voordat we gaan, dus we hebben nog even de tijd. Groetjes Bart en Renate (die 2 uit Peru op de motor)
Hey, wat leuk van jullie te horen! We zijn uiteindelijk in Cajamarca uitgekomen, 3 maanden later nadat de brug gemaakt was, maar toen we vlak in de buurt waren stortte die weer in (of het was een andere) – konden weer de loop niet maken en met een giga omweg toch naar Cajamarca gegaan. Je weet, dat Nederlandse ijs daar he? 🙂
Wat betreft de tent: wij vinden het nog altijd een pre om de keus te hebben om zowel IN als BUITEN de auto te kunnen slapen. IN de auto geeft je meer mogelijkheden in de stad, BUITEN de auto is fijner als je in buitengebieden bent. Laat maar horen als je vragen hebt!
Hele aardige mensen zijn jullie. Heb jullie ontmoet tijdens de Staatsolie savanna rally 2012 in Suriname dacht ik. Ik deed ook mee met de rally. Misschien kunt u zich heugen wij waren een stel die de rally voor de fun reden en hielden van dansen.
Wij willen in Mei 2019 vanuit Suriname de rest van Zuid Amerika overlanden. Daarna ziet we wel hoe wij verder gaat. Enig probleem om de rest van de wereld te reizen is dat mijn partner de Surinaamse nationaliteit heeft. Voor heel veel landen is er een visum nodig. Zuid America en Midden Amerika meeste landen geen visum nodig.
Voertuig waarmee wij de reis willen ondernemen is een Land Cruiser 79 double cab. 2018, 4.5l v8 diesel. Daar het om een common rail diesel gaat wordt het vinden van schone diesel een uitdaging.
Jullie internet site heeft heel veel bruikbare informatie voor ons. En tevens motiveert het ons om alvast te starten met onze droom; reizen met een 4×4 voertuig door vele landen.
Ik wens jullie heel veel reisplezier en misschien ontmoeten we elkaar nog eens.
P.s. Wij zijn van 20 juli t/m 9 september in Nederland.
De groeten van,
Sunil en Marion
+597 8109837 (app)
Heya Sunil en Marion, wat gaaf om van jullie te horen. Wij hebben zeer goede herinneringen aan de SU en de Savanne Rally. En wat een avontuur gaan jullie tegemoet. Geweldig. Zuid Amerika is groot en er is veel te zien, dus nog niet teveel aan de rest van de wereld denken en geniet van Zuid Amerika. Over jullie voertuig. Tja, ik weet niet zoveel van de hele moderne jongens, maar gezien dit model specifiek gemaakt wordt voor buiten Europa en de US, zou ik denken dat de mensen bij Toyota dat wel goed onder de knie hebben en ik verwacht niet echt problemen. Als er een apart waterfilter op zit al helemaal niet. Ik hoop dat we elkaar onderweg inderdaad ergens tegenkomen, wij zitten op het ogenblik in Siberië en zijn op weg naar Mongolië. Brassa
Haben Euch entdeckt. Einfach toll, die Reisen und die Erlebnisse. Die Welt ist weit und macht neugierig. Solche Erfahrungen kann man nur machen, wenn man ein Overlander sein kann. Wir sind mit Land Rover Discovery 2, Dachzelt und Küchenbox unterwegs. Leider haben wir derzeit Covid 19, aber wir hoffen, daß sich doch noch einiges machen läßt. Ohne Impfstoff wird es schwer. Wir sind in der Alters-Risikogruppe.
Wir wünschen Euch alles Gute, Gesundheit und Freude an dem, was Ihr tut.
Thank you Anja & Peter, we hope to meet you somewhere on the road!
A very helpful site about roof top tents advantages and its uses… much needed for those who love travelling and staying anywhere they want too
Did you ever have issues with wind? I have a Gordigear roof top tent mounted on a Citroen Berlingo and, while generally happy with the rig, I´ve been in a situation where it was simply not possible to arm it due to the wind, so we had to close the tent as well as we could and drive to a more secluded spot. Luckily there was a campsite in a nearby forest, otherwhise it would have been impossible to find somewhere to stay that night.
We have mixed experiences. With the Eezi Awn (our first tent) we have experienced some very hard storms. Albeit the tent was already up and we saw the storm coming. We closed all hatches and put heavy stones on the ladder. Some ground tents disappeared into the air. The Eezi Awn had no problem with that storm or consequent storms. The Carpas Anaconda (second tent) however is made of much lighter fabric and tends to flutter much easier. I wouldn’t want that tent up in storms we had endured with the Eezi Awn. We have the fortunate opportunity to sleep in the car. So when we arrive at a location and a storm is up. We just sleep inside the car 😉 I also think that if you have your tent open up sideways, you should try and change the tent, so that it opens up lengthwise. Keep the front of the car into the wind and keep the front of the tent closed.
Hi LandCruisers, thanks for good advise and travel stories.
I used Eezi Awn for the first time in Namibia recently on a rental car. Worked fine as a tent, seems rugged, but very cumbersome to pack down in the morning. I previously used a Maggiolina China-copy for years. Has been functioning excellent, also in strong wind and rain. Packs up and down in a few minutes. For mattress we use a regular Ikea mattress that has been cut down to fit. Sleeps well on that.
But a year ago we changed to a LC78 with pop-up roof. Will not go back to RTT. It is so easy to climb up and down inside the car. Rain has no effect, and it feels safer to be able to stay inside the car and pop off if necessary.
Thanks for sharing your experiences!