Roof tents have exploded in popularity for their ability to turn your car into a mini campervan. But are they good for families? Read our Tentbox Lite review to find out.
I’d never even heard of a roof tent until last summer, but now it feels like every campsite we pull into I spot another one. Essentially they’re pop-up tents that attach to the top of your car like a roof box, with the main advantage that they take just a matter of minutes to set up.
I’ve always been intrigued but a little bit dubious about roof tents. This summer we were sent the Tentbox Lite to review and here’s what we thought of it…
Why get a roof tent?
There are some immediately obvious advantages to camping with a roof tent. The first is their simple convenience. There are a few different styles of roof tent made by different brands including Tentbox, Dometic, Tuff-Tent and Land Rover; but mostly they operate in the same way. You park up, open a few clips and it either pops up or folds out instantly. The Tentbox Lite comes with an integrated double mattress, which is a common feature in roof tents, so once you reach your destination they’re ready to sleep in just a few minutes later.
Do roof tents fit any car?
Tentbox sell three roof tents: Tentbox Lite (50kg), Tentbox Classic (64.5kg) and Tentbox Cargo (64kg). In theory all of them are perfectly safe to use on top of your car. We opted for the Tentbox Lite purely for ease of use in terms of lifting it into place, and because I still didn’t quite trust that it wouldn’t damage my car! I’m now fully confident, however, that any standard car can handle a roof tent. In terms of driving with the tent attached, I hardly even noticed it was there.
How hard are roof tents to fit?
I can only speak from my experience with the Tentbox Lite, which was very simple and straightforward. Essentially you attach it to your roof bars (you can’t fit it without them) on top of your car by lifting it into place, then screwing in four brackets from below that loop around the roof bars. The first time probably took me about an hour, but it got much simpler and quicker once I’d used it more than once. It took two adults to lift the Tentbox Lite into place safely. So all in all, harder than pitching a simple tent, but not too complicated if you know how to use a spanner.
What are roof tents like to sleep in?
Very enjoyable! Once you fold the Tentbox Lite open, you climb up the telescopic ladder that comes attached to it, and you’re straight into a spacious and comfortable double bedroom. Being so high up gives you a nice viewpoint if you’re camping somewhere picturesque, and once you’re zipped inside it feels just like any normal tent. Except this one has the advantage of not being attached to the muddy ground and has a far more comfortable mattress. I’ve spent three nights in it now, and the only drawback is that you have to climb down the ladder if you need to sneak out to the toilet in the night!
How hard are roof tents to pack up?
They’re just as easy to take down as they are to set up. We even leave our sleeping bags laid out in ours before we close it, so they’re ready to go next time. Once you’ve taken all of your stuff out, you simply fold the roof tent back down, clip it all back together securely, then you’re ready to drive away. It took us less than 10 minutes to break camp and drive away on our most recent trip.
Are roof tents good for families?
I would say yes because if your kids are anything like mine they’ll think it’s the coolest thing ever. Plus, anything that reduces the faff-factor and cuts time in terms of setting up and breaking camp when you’ve got kids charging around is a big bonus for family camping. There are a couple of downsides though. Firstly, most roof tents are quite small and really only suitable for two adults, or one adult and two small kids. And secondly, if you have really young kids (my youngest is 2) then climbing up and down a ladder to access the tent isn’t safe.
Advantages of roof tents
- Turns your car into a mini motorhome
- Incredibly easy to pitch and take down
- Allows you to camp anywhere you can park your car
- Comes with a comfy mattress, so no air beds
- Your kids will think it’s the coolest thing ever
- Tentbox Lite has nice features like internal storage pockets and a skylight for stargazing
Disvantages of roof tents
- Far more expensive than standard tents. The Tentbox Lite is near the bottom of the scale at £995
- If you want to drive your car away from your campsite during your holiday, you have to pack up the tent and take the roof tent with you
- The extra weight it adds to your car will impact fuel consumption
- It takes at least two adults to lift it safely on and off your car
- Unless you keep it on your car all year round, you need a garage or a big shed to store it in
Verdict: Tentbox Lite Review
Roof tents are great fun, take just a few minutes to pitch, and bring a whole new experience to family camping. They allow you to turn your car into a mini campervan, so you can use it anywhere at any time. Perfect for road trips or quick and simple weekend getaways. But they are expensive!