Choosing a roof top tent

April 2020 | Words by Daniel

Since picking up our roof top tent about 18 months ago, we’ve noticed so many more around on the tops of vehicles which is awesome! As you know, we’re big fans of roof top tents - we’ve used our Feldon all over the country, from the beaches in the Far North to mountainous campsites down south.

A roof top tent suits our style of travel perfectly. When we’re travelling we’re on the road everyday, and once at camp, we’re done driving for the day. We have stayed at campsites where pitching a normal tent would be impossible and being able to have everything setup in a couple of minutes is hard to beat.

With more and more options popping up it can be tricky deciding which one to purchase, so I thought I’d do a quick run through of things to keep in mind when picking a tent, given it’s the sort of thing you only want to buy once.

Body construction

This is probably the thing that varies the most between the different tents, and the price is normally an indication of what the tent body is made from. Many cheaper tents on the market (roof top or ground tents) are polyester. If you’re hiking, a polyester tent makes sense as they’re light and you need to carry it on your back. When it comes to roof top tents polyester is a lot louder in the wind, won’t last as long and won’t insulate as well - all pretty important things in the harsh New Zealand weather.

Instead we recommend looking for a tent that’s made from a decent grade/weight polycotton canvas, this will give you the best of all worlds. The extra weight of the canvas stops it flapping in the wind, keeps more heat in/out depending on the weather and will last a long time if you look after it properly. They also look and feel nicer.

Local support

Buying from a local company that specialises in roof top tents ensures you can get support if anything goes wrong or you need repairs later down the line, as well as supporting the local economy. Being able to pickup the phone and have a chat is far easier than chasing a seller from an auction who may not exist anymore.

We had an issue with the zipper on our travel cover a while back - a quick message to Feldon and a new one was on its way the same day. Local support is pretty hard to beat! They even took the old one back to figure out what went wrong, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also worth pointing out here - and this goes for anything you buy - before jumping on social media complaining about a product, get in touch with the company first, give them a chance to sort it out, chances are they’ll be more than happy to fix your problem. Toxic social media posts don’t really help anyone.

The small touches

One of the biggest differences that I noticed when looking at tents on the market was the difference in the ‘small touches’ each tent has. Two tents can look very similar from a few photos online but when you see them in person and start digging you can see where the differences are. Plastic where it shouldn’t be, cheaply powder coated metal fixings, cheap zips and velcro - all those things that will cause long term issues, even if it looks pretty good when new.

Something as simple as being able to put your shoes in a pouch by the door seems minor but is really useful when it’s raining and you want to keep your shoes dry overnight. Internal storage that hangs off the roof vs sitting on the floor. Nice wide windows to enjoy the amazing views. All small things that add up to the experience of using and owning a roof top tent.

Hopefully this helps you narrow down your choices a little! We were lucky enough to see a few before purchasing which I know most people can’t. We picked the Feldon Shelter as the team are amazing, they’re camping nuts too and developed the tent over years of testing in New Zealand - all of which shows in the finished product. I’ve lost count how many nights we’ve spent in ours, it’s the best “mod” we’ve made to the truck so far.