New Heights

by | Mar 2021

Camping with a rooftop camper

Photos: Chris Emeott & Kate Becker

Couple takes the high view when it comes to camping.

There’s tent camping. Then there’s camper camping. How about a friend’s couch camping? Or is that surfing? Regardless, have you heard of rooftop camping? Me neither—that is until photographer and avid traveler Kate Becker of Corcoran started posting some rooftop camping exploits on Instagram.

Becker’s photos offer stunning views, all from an elevated vista, that provide a fresh take on some of nature’s best work.

Kate Becker with her camper

MGM: What is rooftop camping?

KB: Rooftop camping is definitely a trend that we are seeing more and more as we [her husband, Tony] travel to more national parks across the U.S. We love visiting national parks, and it’s not uncommon these days to see several other people driving around with rooftop campers—a tent that is mounted on top of your vehicle, that (literally) elevates the car camping experience. Our idea for purchasing a rooftop camper stemmed from wanting to buy a camper van for when we travel. Camper vans can be expensive when they are built out to accommodate the needs of a typical RV … we looked into other options, which brought us to rooftop campers … It frees up space in our vehicle since we aren’t packing a traditional tent, and the setup is much faster than a traditional ground tent. With being elevated off the ground, we also have better views when we camp, and it’s overall a more comfortable experience being off the ground.

When did you start?

We started rooftop camping in May of 2019. Our first trip with our iKamper was to Colorado and Utah to visit seven national parks in seven days. We had so much fun with this experience. We’ve also taken it to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Gooseberry Falls and a few other parks in Minnesota. We planned to bring it to Colorado this last fall to see the leaves change in the mountains.

What is the advantage over on-the-ground camping?

You’re able to set up camp in under three minutes with the camper system we have. We love rooftop camping because we typically stay out hiking and sightseeing until sunset, so it was necessary for us to purchase a tent that was easy to set up in the dark … Once you unlock the top, the hydraulics pop it open, then you pull the ladder down to unfold it, and it’s set up.

Kate Becker's camper in a desert

Does it provide better safety?

[It] does provide a little more safety than a traditional ground setup. Since you’re sleeping off the ground, there is less of a chance that smaller predatory animals, like coyotes or mountain lions, [will disturb the site]. While they aren’t necessarily bear proof, they definitely make you feel safer sleeping off the ground.

Let’s talk space …

When opened up, it has the same measurements as a king-sized bed, so [it’s] much bigger than a traditional two-person tent would be. My husband and I sleep up there comfortably with both of our English Setter dogs.

Kate Becker's camper in a desert

… and what about wind? 

We have a wind deflector on the front of our Jeep that helps cut the wind when we are driving. When the tent is all set up, it’s actually a lot more stable than a traditional tent since one side is the hard exterior shell.

Does your car need special equipment?

You do need a roof rack to attach the camper to the vehicle. The roof rack has to be approved to hold the weight of the camper since it’s quite heavy … We purchased our roof rack right off Amazon and installed it to our Jeep Wrangler ourselves. Some vehicles come with roof racks on them, so when looking for a rooftop camper, be sure that you know the specs of your own vehicle’s roof rack to see if it can hold the weight.

Camper at Night

What else should readers know?

  when installing it to your vehicle, you will want to have a couple people helping out or a pulley system in your garage to lift it for you … Another note is that the rooftop camper is something that you likely won’t keep on your vehicle at all times. We do take it off after big trips if we don’t have another trip coming up soon, and we do take it off during the winter, as well.

Are they worth the cost? 

It is definitely an investment compared to a traditional ground set up because of its hard shell exterior and its ability to wear the wind and weather while driving. But when compared to a camper van or RV, it’s much more cost effective. There are so many benefits to the rooftop camper that we are happy we made the investment.


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