There are two main theories of the origins of roof tents. One of them is that they were invented in the Australian Outback as a way of camping while avoiding all the poisonous snakes and spiders from paying people an unwanted visit in the night! While the other is that they were invented in Europe simply as a cheaper alternative to campervans- Much like how they also are now. Whichever theory you believe though, it’s fair to say they’ve come a long way since their origins and are now becoming more popular than ever with campers, travellers and overlanders around the world!
Roof tents have many benefits over tents and campers such as them being faster/easier to pack up and away than tents and being cheaper than campervans, which is why they’re becoming so popular that it would take a whole separate article to explain them all. This is why we’ve written one and outlined the main ones in this article!: 8 Reasons Why Roof Top Tents Are So Popular.
There are two main types of roof top tents with the first one being referred to as either soft shell or soft top roof tents. These typically look very similar in design to a regular tent with an internal pole structure, triangular shape and with a heavier canvas material on top and over the whole body when compared to normal ground tents. The second type are called either hard shell or hard top roof tents. These have a cuboid box like design and pop up and down using gas struts to aid these processes. They then usually have a fibreglass or ABS material shell on top that makes them look more like large roof boxes when folded down on your vehicle’s roof. Both of these types of roof top tent designs attach onto roof bars on your vehicle and go on pretty much any vehicle as long as it’s not exceptionally small. The general advantage of hard shell designs when compared to soft shells is that they are faster/easier to pack up and down, which for some people can justify their higher price tag. There are also other pros and cons to both for you to consider when deciding which design is right for you that we’ve written about in more detail in this article: Hard Shell Or Soft Shell Roof Top Tent? - A Side By Side Comparison.
So there it is! That’s your basic overview of what a roof top tent is. Feel free to browse our other articles on roof tents for more information or get our "Roof Tents 101" guide below that will hopefully help you gain the knowledge you need to make the right decision of what to buy for you!