With both domestic and international border closures racking the nation; strict lockdown rules in many of our biggest cities and most Aussies feeling a general need to get away from it all, camping – as well as associated activities such as bushwalking, road trips and off-roading – has become the #1 way to holiday. We’ve been exploring our own backyard like never before.
This newfound love of adventuring has also added fuel to the fire that is the Australian car market. There’s currently a pronounced shortage of new cars in dealerships and second-hand car prices are hotter than a vinyl singlet, whether you’re looking for a minivan or a muscle car, but bush-bashing 4x4s like the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Ford Ranger and Land Rover Defender have seen exceptionally sharp price rises.
Camping supply stores have also been having a field day, naturally – now that you’ve got a rig, you need to load it up! But there’s one car-related camping accessory that seems to be popping up around Australia more than any other… Quite literally.
Car rooftop tents – sometimes called ‘pop tops’, in reference to how many are transported in roof pods you can mount to roof racks – are dominating Australian roads and campsites in 2021.
Image: iKamper Australia
While they might not be the prettiest thing in the world, there’s a good reason why pop tops have become so popular, beyond a simple correlation between a spike in car ownership.
Firstly, rooftop tents avoid everyone’s least favourite aspect of camping: having to pitch a tent. Messing around with tentpoles, fudging all the knots you learnt during your Scouting days, having to clear a spot… It’s a pain in the arse. Pop tops are a far simpler proposition, with many literally just popping up, no assembly required.
There’s also a strong safety benefit to a rooftop tent. Being off the ground, you’re less likely to be harassed by wildlife, whether that’s caterpillars or crocodiles. On top of that (or should I say under that), being off the ground aids ventilation – perfect during a hot Aussie summer. Having a flat base also makes them more comfortable than a tent pitched on uneven ground.
Finally, they’re a great space saver. It’s become very cool to live the #vanlife and sleep in your car lately, but a rooftop tent means you’ve got more room for passengers and luggage in your vehicle. It’s also somewhat more socially acceptable… Although we wouldn’t recommend setting your tent up in the middle of a parking lot.
The thing that’s really interesting is the sheer variety of size and setups on offer. Tent manufacturers are offering solutions for everything from the popular pint-sized Suzuki Jimny (really, seeing one of these little 4x4s with a roof tent is actually kind of hilarious) to full canopy modifications for Land Cruiser ‘troopies’ that replace the actual roof of the car as opposed to simply securing a pop top on top.
What we haven’t seen too much of yet Down Under (but would very much like to) is campers running rooftop tents on cars that aren’t big four-wheel drives. This is something Americans have pretty good form in, like the Porsche 911 build above.
We’re pretty sure you could fit a pop top on top of an HSV Maloo. Just saying.