One of the biggest regrets I have is never making my truck into a livable space and tooling around North America, chasing the fall migration of ducks and geese. I know several folks who have sold their homes, bought a Roof Top Tent (RTT) or camper, and pocketed the profits, using the extra cash to hunt and fish where they please. It’s a much more simple, and freeing, way to live. And since their house rides around on four wheels, just about anywhere on this continent can be called home.
It’s a cool concept, and you can still do this (to a degree) even if you have a spouse and kids. Hell, some of these models are big enough for a small family, so you can bring everyone along—they can experience a part of your life they may never have seen otherwise. In the long run, no matter how expensive some of these rigs are, they will still save you money down the road. Think about all the cash you’ve blown on dingy motel rooms, the beds so gross you slept in your sleeping bag anyway. If you’re going to spend the night in your own fleece-lined sack, might as well do it on a clean foam mattress in the bed of a Ford pickup or the roof of your Tacoma.
If you want to turn your truck into a mobile hunting camp, here are some of the best tents, toppers, and campers to buy. Another alternative, depending on the size of your truck bed, would be to simply put a tent cot or backpacking tent cot in it.
1. Napier Sportz Truck Tent
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to start overland hunting is to buy a tent, and the 57 Series was made to fit in the bed of your truck. This gets you off the ground and also gives you a bit more security from bugs, snakes, and varmints, like raccoons or coyotes. The entire tent stores in a bag the size of a big duffle, and the tent can be set up in 15 minutes thanks to color-coded poles that correspond to the appropriate sleeves. Two adults can sleep in the tent, and the fully-taped and seamed floor keeps you dry. Plus there are three windows, an entrance door, and two ceiling vents for better air circulation. A 4×4-foot adjustable awning allows you and a friend to sit on a shaded tailgate. There’s also an included rainfly, though you might want to hop in the cab of the truck in heavy/violent downpours just to be safe. MSRP: $230
2. ARE Overland
Just about any truck topper will do if you need a place to crash for the night, but ARE has tailored its Overland cap specifically to those of us who spend our time on the river or in the woods. This topper has a spray-on protective coating in high-wear areas for added durability, plus the roof racks allow for gear storage so there’s more room in the truck bed to sleep comfortably. The sliding screen side doors are not ideal access points (a flip-top design is better for grabbing gear quickly) but they do offer ventilation on warm nights while keeping mosquitoes and other annoying bugs at bay. You can also buy optional pet screens (which I highly suggest) if you have a dog, so they can’t escape or destroy your screens. The Overland also has optional fishing racks for rod storage, and I would also suggest installing strip lights under the top rail of the bed. They will save your ass before dawn and at night when you need to locate essentials. Pads and air mattresses with a sleeping bag and pillow are your best bet for a comfortable night’s sleep. MSRP: Starts at $2,229.
3. LEER 180CC
This is LEER’s toughest fiberglass topper. The 180CC truck cap was built to stand up to the daily abuse electricians, construction workers, and other laborers can dole out, but it also makes for an excellent camper shell when you’re in remote locales. Outfit the topper with a rack and you will have more storage space, or you could also mount a LEER Rooftop Tent to the rack, giving you and a buddy separate sleeping quarters (just know the cap is rated for 220 pounds, so big boys will have to slumber in the truck bed). There’s a telescoping ladder included with the tent to make it easier to climb into. The side panels of the cap are solid, but you can have them outfitted with sliding windows and screens or fiberglass doors that lift up for easy access. A mid-height design gives you 3 inches of extra height inside than a standard topper. It also has double-locking handles, so you can keep any valuables safe when you’re away. MSRP: Starts at $2,000.
4. ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent
Chris Collard, the former editor of Overland Journal, has probably driven more miles in trucks and Jeeps than just about anyone in the world. During those trips he has to stop and rest or just have a base camp chill out in. His go-to for those journeys is most often a rooftop tent for its convenience and comfort. “Once you’re up off the ground, it’s tough to go back to a standard tent,” he says. ARB’s Simpson III has all the luxuries you can ask for in an RTT. It unfolds and stows in a matter of minutes on a roof rack, plus it comes with a waterproof cover, so wherever you stop, it’s dry and ready to sleep in. The tent is made from canvas and is a roomy 55 (W) x 94 (L) x 51 (H) inches, weighing around 170 pounds (so you will probably need a hand securing it to the roof racks. Screened windows keep insects out. There is also an included 2.5-inch foam mattress with a removable cover that can be stored inside the tent when it’s folded back up. An anodized retractable ladder allows you to enter and exit the RTT with ease. MSRP: $1,537.
5. Front Runner RTT
A very simple, and relatively light RTT, this model weighs only 95 pounds and deploys easily so you and a companion can sleep comfortably. The RTT mounts to a Front Runner roof rack, and comes with a rainfly, as the tent body is only moderately water-repellent. You also get a mattress, sliding ladder, rod kit, a mounting studs kit, and roof top tent cover. The mildew/mold-resistant mattress is a washable polyester oxford fabric, and the tent base is made of aluminum sheeting with slide rails that have a foam core for more cushion while you take afternoon siestas. Skylight vent windows will bring in fresh air so your RTT doesn’t smell like feet, and the side panels can be zipped up or down depending on the weather conditions. It’s a very low-profile rig when folded down, so it won’t kill your gas mileage like some other more bulky RTTs. And speaking of weight, the load rating is 600 pounds, so you can almost sleep two Midworstern deer hunters in this RTT. MSRP $1,099.
6. Thule Tepui Hybox Wedge
The cool thing about the Hybox Wedge is that you can use the bed of your truck for what it was intended—hauling hunting and fishing gear around—and still have a place to lay your head after a long day in the wild. Of course, the clearance isn’t what it would be without the RTT attached, but there’s plenty of room to store items below in waterproof containers or coolers. To open the Wedge, you just have to unzip it. The canopy fabric is a cotton/polyester blend with a 3,000mm waterproof coating. There are no-seam mesh screens on all three sides of the Wedge, plus it’s spacious on the inside 80 (L) x 52 (W) inches, enough room for two. The foam mattress is 2.5 inches thick (custom fitted to the tent base) and comes with a removable cotton cover. MSRP: $3,000.
7. Magnolia AirLand Plus
An all-weather hard shell RTT, the AirLand Plus is deployed with a hand crank, which also adds tension to the tent walls so it will stand up to 50 mph winds. You can sleep in the AirLand in cold and snow as long as you bring proper clothing and sleeping bag (some folks use a 12v electric blanket or propane heater to stay warm, but exercise extreme caution with both). The bottom shell is made of double fiberglass and a 3.5-inch closed cell foam mattress. It can accommodate one person to a small family of four depending on what size you purchase (it’s available in five sizes), and there are now 80-inch models so taller folks can be more comfortable. Regular models are 72 to 75 inches long. When you’re ready to leave, just crank the hardtop down and go. MSRP: $3,099-3,598
8. James Baroud Discovery XXL
Built for the big fellas, the Discovery XXL is almost 90 inches long and 64 inches wide on the interior (though it comes in a smaller standard model as well). Clamshell hardtop RTTs are some of the easiest to manage because of their simplicity, and this one offers superb extras, like a gas strut-assist opening mechanism that makes set up fast (less than 30 seconds). It also has a solar-powered ventilation fan that can run for 24 hours on a single charge. The tent fabric is waterproof, breathable, UV-resistant, and solar-reflective, plus all windows are covered with insect-proof netting. A 3-inch foam mattress adds comfort (a removable cover is included for washing). Each James Baroud tent comes with interior/removable storage pockets, and an additional ceiling storage net, where you could keep anything from a water bottle to a 9mm, is handy. The outer shell is comprised of fiberglass-fortified polyester, and the tents are put through the ringer by rally drivers in testing, during which they have stood up against 60 mph winds. MSRP: $3,315-$3,560.
9. ATO Overland Atlas
If you’re thinking about turning your truck into a home and living wherever you please, then consider the Atlas. It’s spendy, but if you’re minimizing your footprint and want to live comfortably, this is a hell of a rig. A vertical pop-up style camper, the Atlas can be deployed with up to 100 pounds on its roof thanks to gas-operated springs. It’s made to easily sleep two in the integrated 48 (W) x 80 (L)-inch bed. Also, the Atlas has a clearance of nearly seven feet, so you can stand up inside. It’s made from aluminum, but does weigh 360 pounds, so it’s no lightweight. The tent material is canvas, which is breathable (to some degree) and waterproof. If you’re going to be living or hunting in cold weather, there is an optional Thinsulate liner with matching window openings. MSRP: $9,600.
10. GFC Platform Camper
There are so many variables that make travel stressful, but the Platform Camper was built so that you never have to worry about living out of. If the weather is gorgeous, you can open up the side panels of the lower housing. When it turns nasty, close them up, and enjoy the warmth and solitude of the camper. The Trans-Form-A-Floor design allows you to configure the interior the way you want, for maximum living space. It can accommodate two people, and the windows in the tent zip down or up for better air flow or to retain more heat. Built for the rugged places a 4×4 truck will take you, the Platform is 275 pounds—not bad when you consider how roomy and functional it is. Engineers kept the weight down using a steel tubular frame and honeycomb composite roof and floorboards. One of the biggest sticking points with truck caps and campers is they no longer allow you to haul items in the bed of your truck. GFC tried to mitigate that compromise, not just with the panels, but also t-slots for mounting a roof rack that can carry up to 500 pounds. MSRP: Starts at $6,450.