In the summer of 2017, we undertook a family camping tour of the south west (Devon & Cornwall) in our trusty steed Bow the Beloved (a simply beautiful Land Rover Defender 110) and our new rooftop tent. Having undertaken a two-week overland expedition to Morocco and the Sahara in the same vehicle with friends back in 2014, you’d think I wouldn’t be fazed by this trip. However, this one did, of course, involve children (then aged 18 months and 4 years old).
For the purpose of this trip, I purchased a 4-man rooftop tent with the idea that it utilises the space on your vehicle’s roof allowing you to carry more junk and unnecessary items in your vehicles boot area i.e. “kids’ toys”. And most importantly, it looked seriously cool.
We started our journey to Devon complete with cantankerous children at stupid o’clock, 3am, to avoid M5 mayhem. No sooner had we set off, the engine warning light came on. Well of course it did. So, I did what any man does and ignored it whilst crossing my fingers. Thankfully nothing came of it (although it gave me a good excuse to tinker with it whilst grumpy wife was unpacking later).
We made it to Devon safely some 4-5 hours later and had stopped off to paddle in the sea first. After arriving at our campsite, I realised I had to look as if I knew what I was doing given that the whole site appeared to be watching. I felt the pressure, particularly as the wife and kids left me to it once again as they were keen to check out a local ice cream parlour.
The tent, thankfully, unfolded in seconds and was ready to use – no faffing around with poles, no pegging out groundsheets etc. although there are guide ropes and pegs provided for very windy days. A folding ladder provided access to the tent. I was feeling quite smug at this point, inwardly cheering that I would surely be considered the Bear Grylls of the place. It was then I realised that I should have tested the ladder, because it needed holes drilling prior to use, hence why I nearly chinned myself as I set foot on it. So, I turned with as much dignity as I could muster and sought a drill from the site manager.
Anyway, when we got sorted, our kids loved it. It was a den! The eldest was up and down that ladder non-stop. The youngest required a fair amount of hoisting and much anxiety from the missus but I was most satisfied. The tent was pretty spacious inside and came with a built in washable mattress and LED strip lighting. I had also purchased an attachable zip-on awning to provide a “downstairs” living space and we were able to tuck the ladder neatly away so the space wasn’t compromised.
On the first night the rain poured down…not a drop leaked in! We all settled down for the night, exhausted but happy as it was very snug. At 3 am my 4-year-old told me he needed a wee. ‘Great!’ I thought to myself as the toilet block was a 100-yard dash away in torrential rain. Now then, I can say that negotiating a ladder with a small, sleepy child in the middle of the night is tricky to say the least, (next time take a potty!) but we managed.
Technical bit – The rooftop tent folds away into two halves and opens out similar to a clam shell or book. It requires a set of at least three good quality roof bars or a roof rack and some minor DIY assembly at home if bought brand new in order for the tent to be mounted on to the vehicle. It doesn’t have to be a Land Rover or 4X4 to carry the tent, but a strong, rugged vehicle is best in my opinion. Once mounted on the vehicle, it may be left there for any length of time as it comes with a weather proof travel cover. Bear in mind these tents will add weight and height to the recipient vehicle. If the tent is mounted on a 4×4, it may be a good idea to take something to stand on as the zips for the side windows are on the outside of the tent and are pretty high up and out of reach unless you’re 7ft tall.
The holiday was great, we made some great memories and the rooftop tent will always be remembered. We will one day use it again. However, if you have young children under 6 years of age, my advice is buy a ground tent! ️
Happy camping folks,
Try these fab west country campsites: