IF YOUR VEHICLE IS TOO SMALL to sleep in comfortably, a tent can be a good idea. It would be a better idea if you didn’t always need to find a smooth patch of ground to pitch the tent on. And it would be an even better idea if you didn’t need to worry about that smooth patch of ground turning into a swamp from rain runoff. Oh, and there’s the problem of pounding stakes into rocky ground, or getting stakes to hold in soft ground.

Those are some of the reasons roof tents were invented. They take all the ground issues out of the equation. And since they pack up and travel on your roof, they leave more room inside your vehicle for other stuff.

We spoke with Ty at Cascadia Vehicle Tents in Bend, Oregon, to learn more about these shelters. (Locations also in Las Vegas NV, Kaysville UT, and Chattanooga TN)

Bob: We’re predominantly people who live in our vehicles. Would one of these be practical for us?

Ty: Yes. We do have people that live in them year round and travel with them—in other countries, all kinds of different climates, east coast, west coast, in the desert, in the mountains, in Alaska. We kind of have people everywhere.

Bob: Sometimes even families, right?

Ty: Yes. We even have some families with small kids.

The area below the overhang can be totally enclosed for extra living area. It could be used as a living room, mud room, bath, kitchen, or another bedroom—whatever works for you.

Roof tents come in several sizes: from two adults, two-plus, three-plus, up to four-plus, the “plus” being extra room for, say, a child or dog, or equipment. Of course, the larger sizes work best on larger vehicles. And whether they can be mounted on your particular vehicle depends upon whether suitable racks are made that fit your vehicle.

Bob: You’ve been in business for more than ten years, and you’ve sold enough to know your tents are durable and that you can live in them for many years?

Ty: As long as you take care of them, don’t pack them away wet, you know, keep that mold off of them, they’ll last quite some time.

Is a roof tent right for you?

Obviously, roof tents require climbing, so they aren’t a solution for those with mobility issues, or those who aren’t comfortable with heights. But if you’re fit and drive just about anything from a MINI to a Suburban, a roof tent could be just the thing.

Frankly, these tents aren’t cheap, however adding one to your small vehicle might be less costly that buying a rig large enough to sleep in. Do what makes financial sense for you.