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Just wondered if there were strong pros and cons re roof tents. Destination north africa, Landcruiser circa 1994... I understand the idea/logic of roof tents but also worry about additional weight on the rack and the shift of the c of g. I would prefer to keep roof rack load to a minimum but would welcome opinions/experiences on conventional ground tents re safety etc.
We have used an Easi-Awn canvas roof tent in Southern Africa and Morocco.
The additional weight isn't huge. We just made sure to keep the largest weight -- fuel and water -- as low as possible rather than on the roof.
Roof tent pros: easy to put up and down. You can leave your bedding inside. None of the problems associated with tent pegs in sand. You're away from creepy-crawlies. You can unzip the flap and stick your heads out the back to look at the stars.
Roof tent cons: you can't leave your tent behind to mark your camping spot while you go off on an outing. Canvas models can be cold if you're not in a hot place. Climbing down the ladder if you have to get up in the night for a wee can be tricky.
Still undecided but there may be other factors that sway me. i also like to use the roof as a photographic platform but it has to be rock steady for a tripod, medium format camera and long exposures. A roof tent may not leave me with enough room. But I may be able to sit in it and use the spare wheel as a platform...
What kind of terrain will you be driving on? If you’re going to drive at extreme angles like crossing steep dunes or on side slopes then a tent would be problematic. The swaying of the weight, even if not much, at the top end of the vehicle will increase the center of gravity dramatically which is obviously not what you want. Since that’s the kind of driving I mostly do, I don’t even have a roof rack and keep heavy stuff as low as possible like Safetyfox suggested in his post.
Regarding photography, I found out that setting your rig on a vehicle isn’t that ideal for sharp long exposures (dusk shots and star trail using 200+ mm lens). I use a 35 mm and used to setup my camera rig on the hood for long exposure and surprisingly the car didn’t turn out to be that stable. Since the car is on springs, a gust of wind or even a careful movement inside the car made the pictures blurry. I imagine being on top of the vehicle will make the situation worse especially since you’ll be on top with it. I now dig an old beat-up tripod in the sand and if possible block the wind with the car.
Regarding dune driving I agree completetly with A.B. above, our borrowed roof tent- a "technitop" (45kg - it was mounted in a heavy plastic clamshell casing plus roof rack - another 44kg) caused us to sway all over the place in our LR 110, especially steep side slopes which we sometimes had to drop down into to avoid tipping over. The c of g was badly affrected. Maybe not so bad with a wider vehicle like a 80 series LC. I think you can buy much lighter roof tents, preferably use with maybe 3 roof bars and a flat plywood base. You could even use a cheap self supporting (or nearly so) normal tent on a simple roof platform, thus avoiding the typically huge amounts of money for dedicated roof tents. The extra weight of metal rack and tent no doubt helped us get stuck in soft sand in flat areas too. Personally I prefer to sleep in the back of the LR - cramped but out of the wind and quieter at campsites.
Photographing from the roof was ok but there's not much space for tripods once you've got everything else that you find a home for up there.
[This message has been edited by Andrew Baker (edited 19 November 2004).]
I use a Pentax 6x7 and Hasselblad X-pan - yes maybe this should be in another forum, but with exposures up to 10 secs on a tripod, on the roof, I've had stunning results. Often at dawn and sunset there is little if any wind and i take very few pictures in the middle of a Sahara day. But then again I only get on the roof as a last resort, and previously with a goo drack and plywood boards.
I'm also interested in the amount of space in a roof tent compared to tents like MSR Superfusion or Fusion 3 and the MacPac Citadel.
I plan at the moment to get an Eazi-awn. I am not primarliy looking to travel the roughest terrain but think weight on the roof I a real issue.
The reason I think eazi-awn might be a good bet is the number of people who say how much they like sleeping in them.
I figure I will spend hundreds of hours sleeping, reading and messing around in a tent and only a few at 40 degrees on a sand dune. The choice depends on what is most important to you, comfort and convenience or mobility.
I'm not sure how much room there is to mess around in a roof tent - they're not that spacious particularly if you are tall. Everything else you say makes good sense so for me the jury is still out. There is also storage to think about between now and going away and in between trips...
I'm 6ft 4" and I have loads of space in my Eazi Awn. Does of course depend on what you were thinking of doing up there. As to weight on roof rack, haven't noticed to much of a difference, Used to be into really extreme offroading in Aus but on tour you don't tend to do extreme boulder climbing and I have no problem with it. All the rest of the weight is low down, I have heavy duty OME suspension that stops the 110 swaying around to much and the roof tent / roof rack is mounted on to a full roll cage so it sits well. My only real problem with it is as I have spots mounted on to the front of the roofrack and raised lights on the back, I haven't got round to getting a solution to get the roof tent lower, so at present it sits on top of the roof rack bars giving quite a high wind profile. Doesn't help with the fuel consumption especially at motorway speeds but its a good piece of kit.
[This message has been edited by Toby2 (edited 22 November 2004).]
[This message has been edited by Toby2 (edited 22 November 2004).]
Length is`nt the problem unless your over 2mts tall, but width is, I`d recommend getting one at least 1.4m wide, as the 1.2 is a bit cramped, the thing about them is you will have a great nights sleep up there, they are pretty hard to beat for comfort. I like sleeping on the ground in a swag, if I was`nt married thats where I stay and just carry a small tent for bad weather, but if you want to do it in comfort, the roof tents are hard to beat.
The point about not being able to drive off and leave the tent is a biggie - but the flipside is it also means your kit is always with you and secure. It can be a faff though.
TLCs have a higher centre of gravity than LRs anyway but I havent had too many issues with lean on side slopes (I have a 110). This may be because a) I have a lighter roof tent than an Eezi-Awn (A MyWay) and b) I have stiffer HD springs. Worth considering?
I suppose it comes down to preference. I like my rooftent - its a hell of a lot easier just to unfold and hop in at the end of a long day, than to muck about with poles etc. Its very roomy (I am 6') and the mattress is very comfy. In harsh weather it can flap and rattle like mad (girlfriend wore earplugs in the Pyrenees this autumn, but maybe Im just boring...) and if it gets wet you have to then store it wet. In wild British winter weather Id use a ground tent - Scotland would tear a rooftent to bits.
There's a big discussion on this elsewhere on the site - in the Saharan forum? Cant remember.
The thing that sways me in favour is the ease of pitching at the end of a day, when you're knackered.
Mind you they are ridiculously pricey for what they are.....
I'm not sure that TLCs have a higher c of g than LRs. Just looking at the width of my series 80 TLC against a narrow LR that parks round the corner from me is enough to suggest to me that I would be happier with the balance, weight and strength of my car. But all that is by the by. There seems to be a ringing endorsement of roof tents. For n. africa. But they are pricey.
Have used an Eezi Awn roof tent on a Hi Lux- on the back of a modified back body of a crew cab. Havent done serious off road with it but found it stable with what we did- Picos trails etc.
Liked the speed to put up and down, but in europe found losing our pitch and the general curisity it created a hassle. Also found it not too good for wanting to 'free camp' due to how conspicuos you are. Not that a normal tent would be any good... Have opted to getting a van and sleeping inside. Have travelled in Aus and we modified a roof rack to put a dome tent on but hassle with poles etc...cheap though.
Its all personal preference and what travelling you are doing.Would think the roof tent in Africa on an overland trip where you are constantly on the move would be good. I did find it very comfy and roomy to sleep in...Its for sale if you are intersted...
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