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Any camper knows that shelter is one of the most important things to get right in the woods. Most people stick to the classics: RVs, trailers, and tents. But a growing number of outdoorsy folks are choosing to sleep a little higher off the ground.
I’m talking about rooftop tents. Mounted to the bed of a truck or on top of an SUV, this piece of gear can make the gnarliest, dirtiest off-roader look like the poshest glamper in the park. But not every rooftop tent package is equal.
Rooftop tents can go for anywhere between $900 to $3,500 apiece. With such a wide price range, which one should you get? Well, a product test from YouTube channel Donut Media might give a better idea of what to look for.
Donut Media’s rooftop tent product test: the results
In Donut Media’s “HiLow” video series, hosts James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes test the most and least expensive four-wheeling and camping gear on two Toyota Tacomas. As Pumphrey puts it in the video, “One gets all the expensive parts while the other gets a bunch of the cheap stuff.”
For the rooftop tent test, Sykes and his team mounted a Smittybilt Overlander Tent they found on sale for $900 to the “cheap stuff” pickup. For the fancy Tacoma, Pumphrey and co. secured an iKamper Skycamp 2.0 with a top Clamshell to cover the cabin and box for $3,500.
The group headed out for a camping trip in Colorado to compare each tent’s materials, layout, comfort, mounting, and set up. While the iKamper won in three of the five categories, both the “Hi” and the “Low” teams agreed that it wasn’t worth twice as much as the Smittybilt, which regularly goes for $1,200.
A short history of the rooftop tent
Many converts to the rooftop tent were likely inspired by their envy of camper van owners propping up their built-in sleeping quarters, but Hemmings says the concept has actually been around since the ‘30s.
Factory-option tents from manufacturers reached the peak of their popularity in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when American automakers offered camping packages for everything from Chrysler Voyager minivans to Chevy Novas.
Automakers are still offering their overland camping packages, but most people mounting tents to their vehicles are choosing aftermarket products like the ones highlighted in the episode of “HiLow” discussed above.
Do I need to tell my insurer about my rooftop tent?
MORE: Car Camping Essentials
Aftermarket parts like rooftop tents increase the value of your vehicle. Because of this, you should inform your car insurance provider if you install one onto your vehicle.
Your rates might rise a little, but if you don’t notify them of modifications like this and something bad happens, you might not be covered under your policy.
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