This Rooftop Tent Makes Camping Road Trips Easy Even With a Small Car

This Rooftop Tent Makes Camping Road Trips Easy Even With a Small Car

This Rooftop Tent Makes Camping Road Trips Easy Even With a Small Car

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This Rooftop Tent Makes Camping Road Trips Easy Even With a Small Car

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When you own a small car, your camping options are limited. You can’t use a camper and there’s no way you can pull a trailer. While traditional tent camping can be fun, some aspects aren’t for everyone — namely setting up, uncomfortable sleep, the cold, and being vulnerable to all creatures large and small.

A more comfortable and easy car camping option is the rooftop tent. These come in various shapes and sizes, but all follow the same concept: a tent that folds flat on top of the car for driving that pops up for sleeping when you get to your destination. While rooftop tents have been around since the late 1950s, they have become a lot more popular since the pandemic. And there are plenty of reasons why it’s attractive: You don’t need a big vehicle to use one, it’s easy to erect, you’re off the ground, and if you choose the right brand, it’s extremely cozy.

I recently took the Meadowlark Roofnest tent on a camping trip in British Columbia, Canada, and I’ve been totally converted to this way of sleeping outdoors.

Setting up the Meadowlark Roofnest tent

I had my Meadowlark Roofnest tent sitting in a box at home since the end of March, waiting for the weather to finally clear up so my partner and I could set up it on top of our 2005 Subaru Impreza. Life being what it is, we set up the tent on the morning of the first Saturday of May, which was also the day we were scheduled to go camping. Being the organized one in this relationship, I had insisted that we take care of it much earlier in case we ran into any issues while installing it, but it turned that my nagging was unnecessary. It took only two hours from opening up the box to having the tent ready for camping.

The Meadowlark and its ladder in boxes.What the Meadowlark looks like upon opening the box.You’ll find the instructions manual and the mounting kit inside the tent. You need to remove the cover and open up the tent to get at it.Installing the ladder is the first step in setting up the Meadowlark.

While installing the Meadowlark was fast and relatively easy, it is easier to get the job done with two people. The tent weighs 90 pounds and needs to be lifted up on the roof of a vehicle, and having two people looking at the instructions is the best way to avoid confusion and errors.

Roofnest tent Meadowlark installation, setup, and testing.

It’s not easy to tighten the locknuts when you have low crossbars. Photo: Morgane Croissant

Ninety-five percent of the process of installing the Meadowlark on our small and short vehicle was extremely straightforward. The few tools and materials needed were provided by Roofnest, and the instructions were mostly easy to follow. There were only a few complications.

The mounting kit is located inside the tent in a little pouch meant to store campers’ shoes. It took us a minute or two to figure out where it was considering its location was not on the instructions. We nearly panicked at the idea that it was missing.

Depending on your car, there may be a varying level of difficulty with the crossbars. The crossbars on our vehicle are low, so there is very little space between the roof of our small car and the bars. This makes tightening the locknuts a very finicky affair. It was probably the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. Also, while placing the mounting rail end caps on each end of the mountain rails is the last step (step eight), it should be moved to step six. Placing them when the locknuts are tightened is very difficult.

Then, after the installation, we were left with a bag of washers that are not in the manual. It’s always a little unnerving to have leftovers in the mounting kit.

Roofnest tent Meadowlark installation, setup, and testing.

Opening up the tent at home before hitting the road. Photo: Morgane Croissant

Once we completed the installation, we opened the tent to take a peek inside before hitting the road. The ground where we parked the car on our property is very uneven, making the ladder, which supports the cantilevered part of the rooftop tent, unstable. We decided against trying out the tent in those conditions, so we took a quick look inside before folding it up, setting up the cover, and departing on our camping trip. To say we cut this one short is an understatement.

Testing the Meadowlark Roofnest tent in the outdoors

As we drove to the beautiful and serene Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the tent creates drag. A rooftop tent has an impact on a car’s fuel economy, as a heavy square structure on the roof of a car certainly isn’t very aerodynamic.

Photo: Morgane CroissantThe beach at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Photo: Morgane CroissantBlack bear along the creek at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Photo: Morgane Croissant

In early May, the park is quiet so we were able to book a large and lovely camp site. We planned to light up a fire later during the day so we parked the car well away from the fire pit — flying embers can burn holes in your softshell tent.

In the space of just one minute, my partner took the cover off the rooftop tent and deployed it according to the simple instructions. The process is incredibly easy and effortless. We immediately put our sleeping bags and pillows in the tent, zipped it up, and went for a long hike. Setting up a tent has never been this painless.

This rooftop tent makes camping road trips easy even with a small car

Photo: Morgane Croissant

When we got back to our camp site, I went up the ladder to lay in the tent for the first time. Because the tent is cantilevered, I had some apprehension about the whole structure collapsing under my weight as I stretched out on the comfy 2.5-inch-thick foam mattress included in the setup. Of course, none of this happened — this Roofnest tent is made of a very sturdy aluminum alloy and meant to accommodate two adults. I opened up the tent windows and admired the view from up in my perch where I felt secluded and safe.

Inside the Meadowlark rooftop tent.Photo: Morgane Croissant

After a quick dinner and some time spent reading by the light of the fire, we headed up to the tent for an elevated good night’s sleep. We put our shoes in the tent’s shoe pouches, slipped into our sleeping bags, and listened to the noise of the forest. Earlier in the day, one of the park employees had mentioned that a friendly black bear was roaming the park, and I felt grateful to be up in a rooftop tent rather than at ground level. Jesse, my six-foot-two partner, fit perfectly in the tent and there was enough space for the two of us to rest in comfort, which we did for about seven hours until a chorus of hundreds of birds reminded us it was time for breakfast.

Photo: Morgane CroissantFolding up the Meadowlark. Photo: Morgane Croissant

After a few hours spent eating baked goods around our morning fire and a long walk in the park during which we encountered the aforementioned bear, we packed up our things, folded the aerated and dry tent, and buckled the cover. Similar to the set up, it took less than five minutes for the whole process to be completed. There was no dirt to sweep off, no canvas to roll tight into a tiny bag, and no foldable tent poles to deal with.

The best features of the Meadowlark Roofnest tent and what could be improved

After my experience with the Meadowlark Roofnest tent, I’m happy to say that the product is nearly faultless. Everything in this rooftop tent has been carefully thought out to make camping as easy, uncomplicated, and as comfortable as possible for the modern traveler (there’s even a USB-powered light strip) without losing one of the most important aspects of camping: Being immersed in nature.

There are two small issues with the Meadowlark Roofnest tent that could potentially be improved upon, but I am nitpicking at this point:

  • Climbing the very solid telescopic ladder in bare feet or socked feet is very painful. Wear shoes and take advantage of the shoe pouches, and keep in mind that if you just want to go up or down the ladder fast without having to lace up, you will suffer.
  • Once the rooftop tent is installed on top of your car, you’ll want to leave it there for a while. While removing it is not difficult, having to loosen all the locknuts again is time consuming and tedious, especially if you have low crossbars like we do.

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.

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