Rooftop campers: The pros and cons
Hauling toys won’t be a problem for the active sportsman.
Another camper style that’s grown in popularity in the past five years or so is the rooftop camper trailer. They’ve traditionally been a basic, DIY-modified box trailer fitted with a rooftop tent, but these days more are available from the manufacturer, too.
They’re not for everyone, so let’s start with the basics. To set up a rooftop tent you simply unzip the cover zip and flip off the cover, before swinging the tent over and adjusting the ladder. Sounds easy right? Well, it is if you’re mobile and happy to climb on to the wheel arches to reach the covers properly. In fact, you’ll want to be fairly mobile just to climb up the ladder to get in, let alone navigate your way back down backwards.
For the adventurous person or couple, this type of camper ticks a whole lot of boxes, but the one feature it offers against all others is storage space. You’ve basically got the entire box trailer at your disposal, so if you’ve got a motorbike, canoe or just want to pile a heap of gear in for all your mates, this is the one for you! All that room doesn’t have to be left for the motorbike, either: you can use the space to fit extra upgrades like a full length slide out kitchen or a hot water system. The best part is, the available storage isn’t limited to the tub either as you can deck it out right up to the bottom of the roof topper if you want!
A TENT ON WHEELS
The tent itself is basically nothing more than a double bed. Being basically a bed on wheels leaves you with precious little internal living space, just a place to crash for night, which is fine when the weather is good, but it gets a bit cosy when it’s bucketing down. However, there are options for zip on rooms to give you that bit of extra room to get changed or at least stand up properly.
One other benefit that comes in handy is you can actually move the trailer around camp while the tent is set up by tying the ladder up off the ground. It means you can move the tent into the early morning sunshine to dry the morning dew off the canvas before you leave for an early start.
- Quick and easy setup
- Off-the-ground accommodation
- Excellent storage facilities
- Can have clearance issues
- Minimal living space
- Can be awkward to access the tent via a ladder
AVERAGE SETUP TIMES
PRODUCT TESTER: Justin Bardin
Long-term traveller: "it gets you up and out of the sand, and gives you a bit of extra security away from crocodiles".
Why did you choose this setup?
I needed space to transport my quad bike but, being on the road for months at a time, I didn’t want too much weight, either. Plus, I typically get itchy feet and change campsites every few days so I wanted something that’s easy to set up as well.
Have you dicovered any extra benefits of this type of camper over the years?
Being up nice and high, catching the cooler breeze is pretty awesome when you’re camping in the heat. It’s unreal for beach camping, too, as it gets you up and out of the sand, and gives you a bit of extra security away from crocodiles and other wild animals up north. Plus, you’ve got plenty of options on where to camp as it doesn’t takes up much space.
Any experiences where you were glad you owned a rooftop camper?
Up at the Cape, we got lost on a track and ended up camping in a field of grass about 6ft tall. Any other camper trailer would have really struggled to find a suitable spot, but being up nice and high it made things a heap easier.
Any advice for somebody looking at buying a rooftop camper trailer?
Roof-toppers are definitely a basic way of camping, so make sure you’re happy to rough it. The height of the tent mounting position plays a big part as to how user-friendly it is – the lower it is, the easier it is to reach the zips, cover and straps. Also, make sure the trailer itself is nice and sturdy as you’ll probably end up crawling all over it if the tents zipper sticks at some stage.
Check out the full feature in issue #92 September 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.