Roof Top Tent vs Ground Tent Ultimate Comparison

Wondering, if you should you go with a roof top tent or ground tent?

Well, thats what this post is about,

So, follow along and, find out some of the pros, and cons of both in this comparison

Of a,

Ground tent vs Roof top tent

To help you decide which one is best for you


So, let’s dive into the

Roof Top Tent Pros vs Ground Tent Cons



So, to start off with an advantage, of a roof-top-tent (RTT)


Over, a ground-tent (GT), is that it

Takes up, less space at base camp


Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

Because, an RTT is on the top of your vehicle

And, you’re basically using the vehicle as base camp

So, you’re generally, taking up a smaller area (foot print) overall

By not having everything sprawled out, all over the place, camping

With everything being on, or close to the vehicle with a n RTT.



Ground Tent (GT) CON

If, you were to set up a ground tent, away from the vehicle your taking up more real estate at base camp.



And, I guess the most obvious benefit of a roof top tent is that it

Keeps you off the ground

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

So you don’t have to lay in the elements, or on rugged ground

Like the

Snow, mud, rain run off, and camping on rough terrain like rocks and roots.

Or, even helps, to keep you up, and away.

From the animals that prowl around on the ground



Ground Tent (GT) CON

Because, of course, if you’re on the ground exposed to those things more often.

And, therefore

If, being up higher, in a RTT, gives you better peace of mind.

Allowing you to get a quality nights rest.  I guess it could be worth it’s extra weight.


But, there are some people, who use ground tents, without problems.

Using common sense, and safe camping practices helping, to minimize, encounters with wildlife.

But, this totally depends, on the type of wildlife, and where you plan to travel.

So, therefore, the RTT may be the only safe option for some.



Which can in some cases increase the

Sleeping Comfort Level

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO (but could be a tie?)

Typically with an RTT things can be pretty nice and cushy right out of the gate

But sometimes you may have to add a a bit of pad to get it just how you like it




Ground Tent (GT) CON

Because, it may or may not give you as good of comfort

But, this ultimately depends on the the overall setup you have

And, how big the tent is for your needs, or the sleeping pads you put down

You probably could, comfortably fix either one up to fit your needs.

So, really the pros and cons could equal out and be a tie on this one



Also, an RTT makes it

Easy To find a place to camp (Site Selection)



So, this is a

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

Selecting a spot to setup a RTT is usually pretty easy

Because, with an RTT all you have to do is just level the truck off by riding up on a block, rock, ramp etc.

Don’t have to level the ground and prepare a place to put it up



Vs, a

Ground Tent (GT) CON

As it can be more difficult, to actually find a level comfortable place to put it.

Free from roots, rocks, and puddles, mud etc

So, with the time consuming task it takes to find a decent level high ground spot.

Mixed with rough, and or muddy terrain not allowing you to stake a tent down.

Which is needed to hold the tent down in the wind

Making things more difficult to setup and to settle in quick and have quality nap.

Depending where you’re at.



Also, speaking in general an RTT is

Quicker To Set up

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

But, also keep in mind, there’s some fold out type RTTs.  That can typically take more time, and harder to set up.

So, you have to keep an eye on that, when looking around.

But, the hard shell, and clam shell, RTTs are generally faster to set up.

Which can help make quick easy work.

When it comes to pitching it and putting it away, in different weather conditions wind/rain.




Ground Tent (GT) CON

Which it will typically, take more time to prepare, and put up, over an RTT.

Because, like mentioned above, from preparing the ground, putting down a ground cover tarp, staking it down,

Or, it could be more difficult to deal with when loose fabric is blowing around.

When trying to set it up, and stake it down in wind and rain.

And then putting all your sleeping bags, and gear in it.

Although there are some ground tents that can be quick to setup like a gazelle tent. and others.



Also, on top of that a roof top tent takes less to

Clean up, and drying

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

Because, for the most part

You will typically only have water on it and not a bunch of grime on it.

But, keep in mind you can sometimes, get a bit dirtier with the fold out type RTTs

As you have to handle the fabric more, deploying, and closing them up.

The quick set up, hard shell, clam shell type, you can typically stay cleaner.

Also, the big benefit of an RTT, is your blankets sleeping bags, and mattress typically stay dry, and cleaner

And also, being that you’re higher up,

A roof top tent, can possibly dry off quicker, with a breeze than a ground tent, in some cases.

Because the RTT will typically stay dry inside

So, you only have the outside exterior walls to dry off.




Ground Tent (GT) CON

As a ground tent, could be more prone, to water getting inside of it

From wet ground, causing water to come up from underneath.

Or, even from rain run off,

Coming in your tent, from a bad site selection.

(Make sure you have a good ground cover, and on high ground right)



Now, you have to dry the tent, inside, and out taking more time.

Along with it being wet, the tent could be a mess



It very well, could be covered in mud, sand, small pebbles/rocks etc.

From whatever ground, the tent was sitting on, or what the rain splashed on it.

So this means more time, to clean it up as well.

Before you can put it away




A little extra tip

But, of course any tent RTT or ground tent

If, you have to put it away wet, in the rain you will need to open it back up, ASAP.

To let it dry out, so it don’t mildew.

However, always try to wait and let the sun and wind dry it off

Before you put it away.

Whether it’s a ground tent, or RTT.


Also, I should mention, that sometimes if you don’t have enough airflow, in cold temps, with hot breath, and body heat

You can get some moisture build up, in an RTT.

So you might need to open it up a bit.





Something else nice about an RTT, is that you can usually

Make more room in the vehicle



And, this could be a big

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

Because you can typically leave the mattress blankets and some other gear in it

And still be able to close it down and hit the road

Reducing setup time as you don’t have to put stuff in out all the time.

And a big benefit because your freeing up precious space in the vehicle.




Ground Tent (GT) CON

You will have the vehicle packed with all the sleeping pads, sleeping bags, blankets, can start to take up, quite a bit of room in the ride.




Now, something else to keep in mind, .


Overhang can serve as an awning


Depending on how high the tent would be on the vehicle.

Along with, how far the RTT folds out past the vehicle




With some of the fold out style RTTs this can be an

Roof Top Tent (RTT) PRO

Also, with the addition of an adjacent awning, on the vehicle

You can help increase the awning/shade area at camp

And, some of the fold out style RTTs,

that have a separate enclosed awning structure available.

So, you can add, what is called an annex room onto them as well.

This is to make an enclosure all the way to the ground, if you need to do that.

But, main point here is in general you’re taking up less space.

So, it’s giving the ability to have more shade area, or even the option for an enclosure (annex area) on some types of RTT tents




Ground Tent (GT) CON

With most small ground tent you not going to able to do this unless you have a big cabin style tent with an add on porch area


Like mention above you’re taking up more real estate around camp

Though some people do use ground tent off the side of there RTT as well,

If you want to get that elaborate with your camp setup and if you have the room, and just need extra space under cover at camp.

But your using more ground



Keep in mind though

With the hard shell quick set up style tents.  Since they typically don’t fold out

You could pair it with a  270˚ poleless awning to keep it a quick setup



Something else to consider if you have a truck or SUV with a fold down tailgate

You could use it as a bench, which is nice.



Now lets cover some of the

Roof top tent Cons vs Ground tent Pros


When it comes to roof top tents a con can be the



Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Because they can be expensive for a good one

And the RTTs that are easy to setup and put away usually come with a price but they can be convenient for time.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

A ground tent you can usually get good one pretty reasonable priced.

Even though there are some ground tents that can climb up in price but there are still usually cheaper than a good quality RTT.



Also, when it comes to the



Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Roof top tents, can roughly average in weight.

Somewhere around the 110 to 120 lbs ballpark mark.  With some weighing less and some more.

So, can your vehicle’s roof handle the weight of the tent you choose?

This could be a problem if not.  Because, they have weight limits for the roof.



Depending on the vehicle the RTT would be going on

And, the gear you plan on piling in it on your adventure.

You need to make sure, you’re not pushing out, over the vehicle payload.

Staying below the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)

Or, also known as the GVM (gross vehicle mass)

Some vehicles don’t have very big payloads keep that in mind




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Is that ground tent weighs a whole lot less,

Roughly, the average weight of a 2 to 4 person tent is about 4.5 pounds. to 8.5 pounds (less or more),

Now, some of the bigger tents can start to go up over 20lbs

But most of them generally stay under 30lbs

So, you won’t have as much issue.

With it pushing you over the vehicles payload as easy, and plus it leaves you more cushion to carry extra gear if needed.




It’s always best, to keep the weight load as light as you can.

Without losing durability of course

And. keep the weight as low as possible, on any build, for a lower center of gravity.


Try to find setups to help you do that, the best you can.

Like a low profile RTT, mounting brackets or roof rack etc.



Overall Packed Size 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

An RTT is going to take up a bunch a real estate, on the roof, and it won’t be as easy to store away if you take it off.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Now, when it comes to the overall pack size when it’s put away in or on the vehicle for traveling and storage.

And if the overall space savings is the desired result

Than the ground tent is the best option

Because you can fit some in backpacks or duffle bags



Don’t forget think about the added

Vehicle accessories/Extra Costs 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Because, to be able to hold an RTT properly you would typically need a high quality heavy-duty roof rack

Because, the rack needs to be able to support the dynamic weight of the tent

Which is just another additional expense.



Ground Tent (GT) PRO

A ground tent is much lighter, and the fact you can tuck away somewhere in the vehicle.

As, long as you don’t get a ground tent too big and bulky of course.

So, with a ground tent, you won’t need a heavy duty expensive roof rack.

Well, assuming you don’t need a roof rack to carrying bunch of other gear.




Dynamic weight rating: is weight in motion. Which is the moving weight riding down the road or trail swaying

Which is more than the

Static weight: which is the weight when sitting still


Keep in mind most of the time a quality roof rack brand will make this weight rating part of the rating already.

Although it’s always a good idea to do your homework, and make sure the rack can handle the dynamic weight, of whatever tent you choose.

So, it will hold up over time, riding down the bumpy roads, and rough trails


Going off road will shift, and stress a rack out

So, try to buy a strong reputable brand, roof rack made for the job.




Consider the

Fuel Economy 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Because now you have extra weight and wind drag this could get pricey for a daily driver

Even though there is very low profile RTT on the market they will still will have more of an effect on the fuel economy




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

A ground tent can be packed away in the vehicle somewhere.

But maybe for some, the benefits of the RTT justify the extra cost of fuel.



Plus along with reduced fuel economy with a roof top tent

It adds more

Wear, and tear on the vehicle 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

With the extra wind drag, weight, and swaying when driving down the road, or trail you’re putting a little extra torque load, on the the tires.

While also adding, a little extra strain, on the driveline, and suspension.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

The ground tent stored away in the vehicle you don’t have these negative effects

Because, you’re not adding as much  extra weight to the vehicle.

And, you don’t have the wind drag.



What about

A place to store it 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

If you would decide to take it off to help improve fuel economy,

And reduce some wear and tear on a daily driver

Which can be a problem as well, if you don’t have any extra room to keep the thing.

You might want to hoist it off when you’re not using it.  So you need a place to take it off and have a hoist

Or, you might possibly need some extra help taking it off as well.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Using a ground tent, you probably can handle moving that around by yourself.

As they’re usually pretty easy to manage.

And, you’re probably going take it out of the vehicle anyhow

Once you’re done using it for the adventure.

And storing a ground tent away shouldn’t be a problem,

But, with a bigger bulky RTT it can be for some.





Something to mention is extra

Room to accommodate people

Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

A RTT usually only fits about 2 adults, and 2 kids, and that’s for some of the bigger ones

Some of the hard shell clam shell quick set up style maybe only 2 people




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

You can usually get some pretty big ground tents that can fit the whole family.

Four to six, and maybe even find one that can fit more



Keep in mind the overall

Vehicle Height 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Which can hinder (restrict) you getting into places with low clearance

Like even your garage at home if the door isn’t high enough.

Or you can even clip low branches, or drag stuff going down the trail etc.


Because, now you’re raising the overall height of the vehicle.  You can be very limited on where you actually camp at




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

A ground tent you wont have that problem if it’s stored inside the vehicle

Because, it won’t raise the height of the vehicle.

As long as it’s not stored way high up, on a roof rack, of a lifted 4×4.




Also, when it comes setting up and closing down RTTs

You need to think about the

Reach Height  


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Especially if your 4×4 is lifted and high off the ground

Then you have to climb up or all over you rig on tires bumper etc to be able to open and close it

Which can be a in convenience

But, I guess if you have a low vehicle you might be ok.  As you could reach it from the ground easily


Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Because the ground tent can be stored in the vehicle at height that you can easily grab it

Which keeps you from having to climb all over the rig to set up.


Or, maybe if you have a pick up truck

You could get low profile bed rack mounts that let the roof top tent sit down low behind the cab.

For a lower center of gravity.

They do have bed racks that are higher but then you put the tent right back up to a higher center of gravity


Sometimes to keep the tent lower some people put it on a off road trailer

But there are pros and cons towing vs not towing check more on that here

While others that have pick up trucks may prefer a off road capable truck camper.



Of course the pro about using a ground tent is you’re on the ground

You just have to pull it in and out of the vehicle to set it up



What happens if, maybe your

Vehicle is In-op at a Bad Angle 

Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

And, Have a situation where you can’t use it

Because if you get your rig stuck at a steep bad angle (on a lean)

It’s possible that you may not be able to sleep properly or safely in the RTT

Or say the vehicle is stuck and maybe leaning against something, and you’re not able to open the RTT up.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Having a quality ground tent as back up is always a good idea anyhow.

For those un for seen situations.

You can take it out, and set it up where you want to, away from the vehicle, if need be.

Even if you were to go with a RTT.

You have some form of back up shelter on hand.


Vehicle steering, and handling


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

With the added weight of an RTT giving you a higher center of gravity,

It has an effect on steering, and handling going down the road

Causing it to sway more, as it catches the wind.

In some cases you may even need to modify suspension on some vehicles

To help improve the steering performance from the added weight

An RTT can also cause you problems in off camber situation on the trail

So, may not be the best option for some, if your off road, in uneven terrain all the time.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Ground tents which typically have very little effect on the steering handle on a vehicle going down the road or trail

Because they are more compact light weight and you can store them at a lower center of gravity in the vehicle.



With and RTT (roof top tent)

You have to climb a ladder

Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

So. it may not be possible for some people,

If, you would have trouble climbing up and down a ladder.

Also, if you have to get out of it in the middle of the night, to use the restroom,

It can be cumbersome.

Another thing to keep in mind it can be hard to get pets up in there like a large dog.

And, you add a risk of potential injury out on the trail climbing up and down ladders as well.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

The tent is on the ground so nothing to climb up, or down on

So, something to think about.





Big con of, a roof top tent, is that you have to

Pack up to drive around


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Since you’re using your rig as base camp, when you pack up, and drive off

Not only, could lose your camping spot, because, people think you left

But in general it’s just a hassle if you have to setup everything.

And, then have to close everything back down to go somewhere.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Having a ground tent, your vehicle is free to move if need be.

And, you also hear of people leaving a ground tent, or something set up.

To occupy space at a campsite when they’re gone if they would need to briefly move their vehicle.  (Hopefully their stuff stays secure when gone)

Also, using a ground tent can be very versatile so it’s easily moved around, from one vehicle to another,

Or, even a ultra light weight ground tents could be used for hiking.

And can be setup away from the vehicle if you need to




How does it handle the weather 

Of course, the build of the tent, will determine how it handles wind/weather.

Now, there are some of the RTTs set ups that can handle higher winds,

And there are some quality ground tents that can as well.

The main point here is the quality of the build, will determine how it holds up.

Having an RTT can give a slight advantage

Like mentioned above getting you off the muddy, mucky, wet ground.

But, you’re also higher up, and this can be a con at times to.

Because, once you raise the RTT it’s going to catch more wind like a kite/sail

Which now can move the vehicle around.


However, sleeping in, or even packing/unpacking any tent.

Ground, or roof top, can be tough in inclement weather,



Also, keep in mind,

When it comes to a soft shell style, roof top tents, or a ground tents.

Make sure, the tent has a good rain fly, that goes out past all walls of the tent.

To help guide water off, out, and away, from the tent


And, to reduce wind pressure on your tent.

Try not to be in wide open areas, ( beaches, fields, hill tops) and position yourself down wind of a wind break.




What about a

Deteriorating investment 


Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

If, you don’t whined up using an RTT as much as you thought

It could be an expensive loss watching it wither away.

Because, if you just leave it up on the roof all the time the sun (elements) can start to deteriorate it after a while.

Or even if you take it off, and don’t have a proper place to store it out of the weather.

It will, start to degrade it away quicker.  Of, course like anything would naturally.

So, hopefully you plan on using it plenty enough to justify the purchase.




Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Since they’re typically more reasonable to purchase.

And, say you don’t use as much as you thought, it wouldn’t be as much of a loss.

But, some tents will hold up better than others depending on the build quality.


So, just some fruit for thought, none the less



A roof top tent, usually won’t have

Standing, and livable Room



Which would be a

Roof Top Tent (RTT) CON

Because, if, you need to be able to stand up, and change your clothes

You typically can’t do that in most RTTs.

Because, for the most part, an RTT is made for sleeping only.

Unless, you have a fold out style roof top tent, with an overhang, with the addition of an inclosed annex, (ground-level-floor) option.



So, this one is a

Ground Tent (GT) PRO

Because, with a big enough ground tent.

It could give you more standing room, allowing you to stretch out, to do what you need to do

And, this could be really handy if for some reason.  You were to get tent bound, for a while out on your adventure.

The extra room inside, of a large ground tent, would be nice, as you can spread out a bit.

Allowing you to setup shop, with tables, chairs, and cots.



But, of course, you’re not going to be able, to stand in a small ground tent either.



Ok, so lets

Sum it up

If, you’re planning on using an RTT often, on overland adventures (touring)

And, the ladder, weight, some reduced handling, fuel economy, of the RTT, don’t bother you much.


The overall conveniences, of the RTT outweigh the cons.  Like, most of the time, it’s quicker to set up,

Keeping you off the ground, from some of the wildlife.

And, so you don’t have to sleep in mud, muck, and rain run off.

While, also having the RTT hold some gear, freeing up space inside the vehicle.

Than a roof top tent would make sense, and could be worth the investment.



If, you tend to explore, difficult off road terrain often, and get off camber.

You might want to think about a ground tent.

To keep the weight off the roof of your rig, for a lower center of gravity.



A ground tent, is lighter, more compact to carry,

Allowing you to carry, multiple tents along.  And, still could weigh less overall, than an RTT would.

Allowing you, to have some extra sleeping space for others. When you’re traveling in a group.

Or, if you carry a larger ground tent, it has the ability to house more people.

And they allow you to leave base camp set up, and ride around.

Plus, they’re cheaper to get a hold of.


So, hopefully this helps you have a little better insight on which option might be best for you.

But, remember, there really is no right, or wrong decision, either way.

You just have to find what works best for you, your rig, and your budget.

And, not one method works for all, and sometimes you might have to do a little of each.