Soft Shell Roof Tent Thoughts – Our Single Years Worth of Experience.

We joined the band wagon of roof tents a year ago as we thought they would be the best thing since sliced bread. We could have been right if the set up was different however our experience led us to finally moving on from our soft shell tent, here’s why…

So just over a year ago we bought our first ever Roof Top Tent. We decided to go with a soft shell tent from Front Runner for a few reasons.

  • Light Weight – At 43kg it is pretty light, with a few modifications it can be lighter.
  • Compact – Compared to a hardshell tent which takes up an entire roof.
  • Relatively Cheap – Compared to other tents on the market.
  • Relatively Well Made – Front Runner do make good products, even if at times they are not well thought out.
  • Attractive – Yes, roof tents are attractive… Or at least we think the Front Runner ones are.

We chose to treat ourselves to a roof tent as we would always look at others on instagram and think ‘wow they look so cool’ and having watched people on YouTube using them, we thought they looked very convenient. So after a lot of consideration, we bit the bullet and bought the roof tent.

Please also bare in mind these are our thoughts and they are all based on our experiences, yours may be completely different.

Deep Dive into the Pro’s!

Convenience was a very big factor that played part in our decision towards getting a roof tent. Being able to keep our tent on the roof at all times but also being able to store 2 self inflating mats, 2 sleeping bags and 2 pillows was very convenient for us. We didn’t need to keep any bedding in the Jimny. It was also easier finding level ground as it is easier to level a car with rocks than it is to find a flat spot on a campsite for a ground tent.

Also you don’t need to stress about the surface of the ground. Pitching a ground tent on sharp rocks or wet mud is not going to be very pleasant however, with a roof tent you don’t need to worry about that as you can park your car in a river and sleep in the roof tent without a worry. (please don’t sleep in a roof tent in the middle of a river, you may not be in the same place in the morning!!).

When we found a spot to stay and unfolded the tent we didn’t have to then empty the Jimny of bedding, it’s already in the tent, so one of us would climb up and sort all the bedding out and then climb back down without having to get in and out the tent multiple times.

Being able to leave your bedding in the tent and not have to worry about storing it else where does allow you to move onto your next destination a little quicker than if you had a ground tent as you would have to constantly pack everything away into designated areas of your car.

You do also get good views out of a roof tent, though that’s not a massive Pro when you live in cloudy rainy England!

No guy ropes! Though this could actually be a Con!? Either way, let’s move onto the Cons.

Deeper Dive into the Con’s!

As you read on you might think we are very much against roof tents now, this may be the case with soft shell roof tents. However, we can not comment about hardshell tents. We would love to try one but we don’t think the Jimny would cope with a hardshell tent on its roof due to most of them being rather heavy and large.

Recently the biggest nuisance we have found is getting the tent on and off the Jimny, this can be a nightmare but also then storing it somewhere can be quite a challenge. With the tent weighing around 40kg empty, it’s quite a lump to reach above your head to pick it up. You will always need someone to give you a hand. Once the tent is off, finding somewhere to store it is a bit of a pain. It’s quite a big tent when not fitted to the roof of a car and it’s difficult to find space to store it.

Even though we say that the roof tent is convenient it can sometimes be a little inconvenient. Once it’s fully set up, we couldn’t just drive away to visit a local attraction compared to being able to leave a ground tent at the campsite. It’s also not actually a million times faster to set up compared to a ground tent like a lot of people will say. You still need to take the main cover off, fold it up and store it somewhere. Unfold the tent and make sure the ladder is supporting the tent safely. Then place all the poles (6 in total) into each hole and attach the rainfly to them, to then finally get inside to sort the bedding out.

Something we have encountered a few times is, wind. Even the slightest bit of wind makes the soft shell tent unenjoyable. The rainfly is not exactly that taught with the 6 provided poles. In the slightest bit of wind the rainfly will rattle like mad and it’s very loud! The sides of the tent are also not very taught, so they will flap about quite a bit. With our Jimny being so light, the tent has moved the Jimny side to side and that is not a great feeling!

It may be a pro to not have guy ropes, however maybe a set of guy ropes could help. If you tried attaching guy ropes to the rainfly it could then maybe be a little more taught and not flap about in the wind as much. Sadly we never tried this out.

The weight of the tent itself is rather heavy. For the small bonus of being able to sleep on the roof of your car, carrying 40kg of roof tent compared to 2-3kg of ground tent is a bit crazy. It is a lot of weight to be carrying if you really don’t need a roof tent. That extra weight your carrying could be replaced with extra food and water that can make a trip last longer.

By far the most annoying part of a soft shell roof tent is packing it away. Every single time when folding the tent away all the material falls out the sides and becomes a pain to have to shove it back into the tent. See photo below.

All that material needs to be shoved back in between each pole to be able to get the cover on = nightmare.

Is It Really That Bad?

No, it’s not the end of the world. The Front Runner tent was a great experience that we did enjoy time to time however over a year of using it we just started to wonder if we really needed it and if we would actually just be better of with a ground tent for normal use and if the weather turned bad on us we could just spend the night in the Jimny which we have experienced before.

If the Jimny was a little more capable of safely carrying more weight on the roof then we would happily try out a hard shell tent. We once watched someone setup their hard shell tent up and were extremely impressed with the ease of this! However, we do wonder what they would be like in the wind and if they would potentially rock the Jimny even more.

Advice to you

If you think you really want a roof tent then make sure you do plenty of research into different options as there are now so many options out there to choose from. Make sure you check the carrying capacity of your car as carrying such a heavy weight on your roof will affect handling. Consider if you really need a roof tent as prices of tents can soon get out of hand. Will owning a roof tent actually make your camping experience better or will it actually hinder your experience, sometimes less is more?

We hope this blog may have helped you out with deciding if you should purchase a roof tent. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or message us on Instagram.

4 Replies to “Soft Shell Roof Tent Thoughts – Our Single Years Worth of Experience.”

  1. I agree with the cons mate. It’s just a case of accepting them or not but I don’t blame you for selling it if it’s not working out. The rainfly is a pain in the winter when it’s wet.

    I tend to camp in woodland areas or at least non exposed areas. When I camp in places with no shelter from the wind the tent is difficult to sleep in. Even with ear plugs, so yeah totally agree with that point. Not certain any other roof tent would be much better stuck up on a roof exposed to winds. Even if the car wasn’t as wobbly as our Jimnys.

    The weight is and always will be what I dislike the most about running a roof tent on the jimny.

    For short trips I think the roof tent is great but it’s not 1k-3k’s worth better than the many other sleeping options. Works for me but it’s definitely not the be all and end all.

    Frankly if I were into proper travelling and not just an occasional 1-2 night camper I’d buy an off-road teardrop trailer or something more fit for purpose. I could happily do a week but reckon I’d be keen to get home of the weather was really bad the whole time. No sense pretending to be Ray Mears, it’s supposed to be fun right!? Big props to the folks who do any serious travelling with their jimny living out of it for long periods of time.

    If I could I’d have a wedge style pop up roof tent, super light, no frills, no windows, no poles, no mattress, no accessories. Just a hardshell waterproof, ventilated space to throw my mattress and sleeping bags in and get some sleep. I’ve hardly ever sat up there unless going to sleep or having a nana nap (coz I’m half the man I used to be ha).

    I loved where go fast campers were going with their 80lb super lite tent but they’re not making them anymore it seems. Shame!

    I’ll shut up now that I’ve hopefully broken the record for the longest comment on your blog!

    Cheers for sharing man.

    1. Great comment Paul and much appreciated for sharing your views on the topic! A small light weight teardrop camper trailer certainly would suit the European weather better than any tent would!😛

  2. Your rationale makes perfect sense tbh. One thing I’ve found when travelling off the beaten track is kit faff can get super annoying. There is no ‘ideal’ set up imo that will do everything, but for me I’m very much with you on the cons of the roof tent. Good blog guys.

    1. Yes that another way to say it ‘kit faff’. Eventually it becomes a little too much and annoying. Also 100% agree there is no ideal set up, every set up has its pros and cons. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment 🙂

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