Roof or Ground?

Editor’s Note: We’re testing out a new series of Guest Articles—featuring articles from both up-and-coming and established adventure authors. Here’s a different take on the roof top tent debate from our friends at Overlanding USA. Like what you’re reading? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to visit OUSA’s social and give them some love (links in the author bio below). Have an article you’d like us to feature? Get in touch!

With the Roof Top Tent craze hitting an all time high, we made the conscious decision to leave our roof and firmly plant our feet back on solid ground. “Why would you do such a thing, don’t you know all true overlander’s use Roof Top Tents?”

Let me explain: while Roof Top Tents (or RTT as we will refer to it from now on) are great in concept, they sometimes don’t live up to their high held glory.

Let me explain further: yes it is true RTT’s get you off the ground, away from animals, the dirt, and unleveled ground. But you also get: poor MPG on your adventure rig, top heaviness, limited space, the inability to stand up in your tent, and most of all the ability to leave camp without breaking down your sleeping accommodations.

Now, taking all of these into consideration, we decided to give the humble ground tent a try. What we found was a much more fulfilling camp experience. Currently we are running a double awning system: one 270-degree Manta awing, one standard 8-foot awning, and our all important awning tent. This setup gives us maximum coverage while still giving us a quick and simple set up and break down.

This kept our already top heavy 4Runner from being even more top heavy. Oh, and we regained 3 MPG the RTT had taken away, adding almost 60 miles to our total vehicle range per tank of gas.

At the end of the day one of the biggest advantages is for our dogs. We are like many overlanders and outdoors individuals—we love taking our dogs with us on trips, and they love to go! The old routine would be the same every night: I would throw the dogs over my shoulder and carry them up the ladder, only to have them take up most of the room in the cramped tent. And don’t get me started on if they have to pee in the middle of the night. With our new set up, not only do they not have to be carried over the shoulder, but, they have their own beds in the tent. Why? Because we now have so much more room!

At the end of the day, you will always have those that say the RTT is the best way to go. But for us and so many others remember: there is always another option, you just have to step back and look at them all.

Ten Lessons Overlanding has Taught Us

1. Experience over build.

With all overlanders, the thing that allows us to pursue our endeavors and dreams is our rig. Some are simple, and some are lavish, beautiful, and built to the nines. One thing overlanding has taught us is that those spending their time and money on the rig tend to have less of both for the adventure itself. Overlanding has taught us that, when building an overland rig, never lose sight of what is important; something functional that will support the adventure ahead.

2. Appreciate the moment.

Sometimes in the rush of life we lose sight of the moment. We tend to not be able to separate work and play. This can sometimes let us lose focus of enjoying the moment, enjoying the journey. Take your time, take a breath, and stop to enjoy the scenery.

3. Patience.

You may have heard the phrase “Slow is steady, steady is key.” We have learned to not only apply this to driving trails—so we do not damage our equipment—but to life as well. Taking our time and enjoying the subtle nuances we encounter every day is something I have learned to do over the years. Stop and enjoy that sunset outside of your office or home. It may be that bit of beauty that makes your day.


4. Roll with the punches.

Things don’t always go as planned. We learned this lesson the hard way on a trip to South Dakota in 2015—after spending the most miserable night of our lives in the backcountry next to our stuck rig. We failed to “roll with the punches” and enjoy the amazing scenery we were totally immersed in. Never let a less than ideal situation dictate your attitude.

5. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Sometimes the fear of planning a trip or getting out into the wild can cause you to scale down or not venture into the unknown. Allowing fear to infect you is counterproductive to the adventurist mindset. Now, don’t go blindly and unprepared into the middle of a situation you are uncomfortable with “in the name of adventure,” but simply push yourself out of your comfort zone and experience something new.

6. Preparation is key.

Always be prepared. Being prepared will allow you to relax and enjoy your time on your adventure. Whether it be emergency meals for when your stove stops working, extra fuel for when you get a “little turned around,” or recovery gear for when you inevitably get stuck—having the ability to adapt to each situation will allow you to enjoy yourself no matter what happens.


7. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Let each place you have the privilege of visiting only be compared to itself. Each place is going to be totally different. Don’t allow past experiences with other destinations to cloud your opinion of a new place. Once you start doing that you will lose sight of what is important—enjoying the moment.

8. Be passionate!

Allow your passion to be seen in everything you do. Get involved in the community! Don’t let people tell you what you are doing is dumb or a waste of time. Apply this logic to every aspect of your life! Live with passion and share that passion with everyone you meet. You never know when someone may be influenced to try something new due to infectious passion.

9. The greatest adventures are the ones close to home.

We all know of the trips around the world or to a far off destination. This can sometimes overwhelm the adventure seeker, thinking that they have to visit some amazingly lavish destination for some absurd amount of time. You don’t have to travel around the world to have an adventure. Some of the best trips can be within your own state or right out your back door.


10. Respect your destination like your home.

Always respect the destination you choose to visit as if it were your home. After all it is someone or something’s home. It’s the oldest idea in the game and one of the most preached—pack in what you pack out. While I agree with that statement, what life and overlanding has shown me is that not everyone follows these lessons. My philosophy is simply this, “leave every place you visit better because you were there.” This directly translates into everyday life. If we all left the places we visit every day better off than when we got there this world would be a better place.