Generally speaking, rooftop tents are much warmer than ground ones. However, many components factor into this, which include materials of the tent and exposure to the elements along with the general weather conditions. There are times when a rooftop tent will be better than a ground one and vice versa.
In those instances where you are in a rooftop tent and it’s cold, you’ll have to employ some techniques and resourcefulness to stay warm. That said, if you can afford it and have the room, you could take both types of tents with you. This way you’ll be ready for any eventuality.
Rooftop Tent Material and Warmth
Tents comprising fabric like canvas and polyester will be less warm than those with a hard shell. Fiberglass, plastic and silicone materials help trap in heat from the sun all day long. This will keep things warm inside the tent for most of the night. But, you have to expect some of it to escape as time passes
While fabrics will also absorb warmth, they will escape as the night rolls on. The airflow inside a fabric tent is excellent for staying dry but not warm. In these cases, you will have to devise a plan to keep cozy.
Weather, Seasons & Outdoor Temperatures
Weather, temperature and the season will influence how warm a tent will be. Colder temperatures and higher winds will make sleeping in a roof top tent much cooler than a ground one. In these situations, the ground tends to trap light and heat for longer periods, which make them better in this regard.
Warm Daytime versus Cool Nighttime Temperatures
The warmth will continually release into the tent throughout the night. While it won’t be “hot,” you won’t get terribly cold either. This is especially ideal for warm daytime temperatures with swift drops at nighttime, like in the desert during autumn or mid-spring.
However, in the heat of summer, it’s better to use a roof top tent. Not only will you stay cozy warm, even if there is a drop in temperature at nighttime, but you will also avoid the insects and critters crawling about.
Springtime camping adventures will benefit best from a rooftop tent. The moist ground and propensity for rain will help you stay dry and warm. But, if the wind is high or the temperatures drop severely at night, such as in the case with early spring, then both ground and rooftop tents will be cold.
Keeping Warm in a Rooftop Tent
There are several techniques and safety measures you can try to keep warm in a rooftop tent. Aside from the obvious things, like dressing warm, wearing socks and using a thick sleeping bag, make sure you park your vehicle out of the direction of wind and other potential inclement weather.
Consider Wind Direction
This may mean settling near a tree line. But if the wind direction mostly comes toward that tree line, you will have to devise another plan of action. The idea is to reduce the amount of potential wind that can make your roof top tent cold and uncomfortable.
Sun Warm Your Tent
Another thing you can do is leave your tent out in the sunlight all day long. Allow the tent’s materials to absorb the warmth. This will retain the heat so you can sleep comfortably. Ensure you don’t open the door too much at nighttime so the heat doesn’t escape too quickly.
You could also get a small, portable space heater. This will come in handy when you camp in conditions that get down to near freezing, such as early spring or late autumn. However, there are several problems with this.
The most important of these is the potential for a fire hazard. Therefore, the heater should be small, rechargeable and has safety features that include things like automatic shut off. You should always be awake and monitoring the heater during use. Make sure it stays three feet away from anything that has the potential to catch fire.
Use Heating Packs
There’s also the option of stocking up on heat packs. They have salts or gel inside of them that you gentle work around in your hands until it becomes hot. You can stick these into your sleeping bag or socks to keep yourself warm. What’s great about these is that some are reusable and there’s no fire risk with them.
Survival Skills in Freezing Temperatures
In the event you end up in freezing temperatures, neither a rooftop or ground tent will be warm. Hopefully you will have another person with you and you won’t be alone, because something like this can be incredibly dangerous. But, here’s a survival tip straight from the US Marines that can help you in this situation.
There are three factors you must remember when camping in freezing temperatures. You lose the most amount of heat through the top of your head, you absorb the most amount of heat through your feet and your stomach puts out the highest amount of heat.
With Another Person
If you have another person with you, put your bare feet onto each other’s stomachs and keep this central part covered with a blanket or unzipped sleeping bag. Ensure to cover both your heads with hats, blankets or some other fabric. You will stay cozy warm for the duration of the evening, even if it gets to below zero temperatures.
If you are camping solo in this situation, you will have to curl up in a ball in such a way so that your feet at least touch your abdomen. Cocoon yourself inside the sleeping bag in the fetal position. This should help keep you warm until morning.
While you will stay warmer in a rooftop tent than one on the ground, there are certain situations where a ground tent is more advisable. In the case you don’t have the luxury of keeping both, you will have to get innovative about warmth.