If you’re new to the camping world, and purchased (or going to buy) a tent for the top of your truck, car, or trailer; congratulations and welcome! You’ve made a great choice. The camping world has diverse options when it comes to choosing how to experience the outdoors. Tent camping is great, but putting a tent on top of your vehicle is a whole new level…. Literally!
Here're some tips Outer Limit Supply team members have learned after years of camping out of roof-top-tents (RTTs).
Everything Has A Place: Organize
If you’re planning on taking a long trip in a vehicle, get ready for what can be the best time of your life, but also can be a real pain if you don’t properly prepare. Let’s face it, a weekend trip to the mountains is totally different from a trip down to Baja California with no return date in mind.
Everything gets harder when living out of a roof-top-tent once you're past “days” and into weeks. For example, cooking will be a chore if it’s not managed appropriately. Want to get ahead of the game?
Pro Tip: Organize your utensil/cooking setup in a place that is quick and easy to access regardless of the present weather conditions; sandstorms, sideways rainstorms, or any other way Mother Nature shows off her naughty side.
Always look at unpleasant opportunities as a way to improve your game. Be willing to admit that if it’s inconvenient to get the items you need, it’ll cause you to waste a lot of time and make simple tasks much harder.
Pro Tip: Schedule a “repack/reorganize day” at the end of the first week. Use this time to get everyone’s input and cut items not being used every day (extra cups, plates, cookware, etc). With a family of four, our setup has two 95L Roam cases to make organization easier.
In general, one case has cooking/utensils and the other is the support case (water purifier, cooking stove, napkins, items not used every day). Everything has a place, everyone knows where to look, and if you're in for a long haul, make sure camp setup/tear-down is quick and easy!
Pro Tip: Make items that need to be retrieved in an emergency, in a known, accessible, and convenient position. For example, mounting a FAK (First Aid Kit) outside a vehicle without a lock. If an emergency occurs, the right equipment to treat the problem must be accessible.
Be Wise When You Choose Your Fridge
Let’s face it, you’ve got to eat or you’ll expire. Ice, even dry ice, is both absurd long term and has limits on the temperature control. A fridge is crucial to happiness, but which fridge to choose?
Dometic is our choice since it keeps your veggies (and other food) as cold as you’d like - you can actually freeze items if you want (meal prepping).
Pro Tip: A reliable fridge is the best investment you can make. Raw lentils will keep you alive but don't make camping enjoyable. Dometic refrigerators come with features that have come in handy while searching for the perfect campsite. The ability to check your battery power and refrigerator temperature via the Dometic App offers peace of mind when your fridge is in the truck bed, in direct sunlight, and it's over 100 degrees outside.
Pro-tip: To conserve battery power… turn the temperature of the refrigerator down to zero 30-60 minutes before going to bed. When you are about to close your eyes, turn the refrigerator off until morning.
Have A Backup Power Source, Other Than Your Car’s Starting Battery
Here’s the thing, power and electricity is a constant challenge for everyone. We've seen and been a part of campfire arguments with experts from all over the world. To build a great power system for your vehicle, you need ways of maintaining flow that don't draw power from your starting battery. We have found two “fool-proof” choices that can be used either individually or together: solar or a dual battery setup.
Use The Power of The Sun
Sun power is incredible. Most places we go have plenty of sun. The amount of electricity you can harness from a couple solar panels surprises everyone. On a recent trip, the two 100w solar panels never failed in maintaining our second battery while powering the fridge, my cell phone, a digital camera, hot water shower, LED lights, and even the drone battery (a power hog).
The truth: sun power can allow you to live comfortably when you’re off the grid.
Check Your Power, And Check It Again
The funny thing with power, even with massive and the most expensive batteries on the market, it’s still limited and not like being at home. You have to get in the habit of checking the amount of power you have left, and then checking it again, and again, and again. Here’s why, it takes minutes to drain the battery - especially if you forget to unplug or turn something off.
Once I packed the roof top tent and left one of the interior lights on. I noticed my power supply was dropping, and searched for the draw. On a bright sunny day this wasn’t a problem, but had it been overcast skies, I would’ve had a hard time getting the footage I needed.
At the end of the day, if you want to have a great experience camping, no matter what vehicle or living situation you choose, the more preparation you do, the better.