There are a lot of options on Roof Top Tents, for us the Darche Panarama 2 was the pick. It is one of the sleekest roof toppers we could find, it sits low on the roof height wise. Having 2 kids we needed to purchase the attaching annex as well.
The benefits of the roof top tent are great when moving on each day from camp site to camp site, they take about 5 mins to set up, but add another 5 to 10mins for the annex. The hard part is actually getting it on the roof, it is not a one person job at around 70kg's. Grab a couple of mates to throw it up and you are good to go.
To take off the cover, simply undo the zip that goes all the way around the base of the tent. Easier for tall people, a bit of a task for height deprived people like my Mrs when you're crawling around the outside of a lifted land cruiser.
So what is the benefit after going to all this trouble? For one, you are off the ground away from bugs and critters, that's if you are the lucky one's to be up stairs in the tent. You also get the breeze factor coming through and views of down below from 3 sides of the tent which have poled out windows. The Panarama 2 also has a zippered Sunroof in the roof lining allowing for star gazing if you like to go to sleep staring at the stars. Built tough with 340gsm proofed poly/cotton double pass ripstop canvas, a 550gsm PVC zip off bucket floor on the annex and 600gsm PVC tonneau cover. It also has a Fly over for extra protection from rain. All poles inside the tent have covers to protect the canvas as well.
The annex is a fairly simple zip around job once the tent has been folded over. You do need to lay out the annex and then line up the zip. From here you just run the zip from one side around to the other. Height deprived people will struggle if this is on a lifted truck. Once done, you will need to peg down the PVC base as there are no poles supporting the annex. If it gets windy and you have not used pegs, well, you will have some problems. Alternatively you can put heavier type bags in all the corners if the ground is to hard for pegging.
You can fit a double blow up mattress between the back wall and the ladder (access to the upper tent) leaving room to access the annex and not stepping on any bedding down below. There are also window screens which can be rolled up, but still keep the midges out. The PVC base of the annex is quiet robust, it also comes up the sides about 6 inches approx to help with rain splash etc.
When looking at Roof Top Tents, check the joints that hold the poles. Some are made from plastic while others use a metal substance. If you have a lifted vehicle you may need to consider the telescopic ladder for extra length (to reach the ground at the correct angle) The Darche RTT has a checker plate base and we did see some condensation build up on the checker plate when it was cold.
So what's the down side?
If you are a shorter person, the setting up can be a bit of a challenge. The mattress in this Roof Topper is only 50mm thick and can be uncomfortable if you are a larger person. On this model, you cannot fit any bedding inside the tent when closed which is painful. The hinges that allow the tent to fold over do not have any extra allowance,so all bedding and the annex will need to be stored in the car.
You will need to leave a little bit of space between the Roof Top Tent and any other items like roof box's or bags as you need access to the zip that holds the cover on the closed tent. It's not a one man job to attach or remove the tent from your car.
The telescopic ladders must be kept clean from dust and sand or you may risk seizing of the ladder.
Buy new heavy duty pegs, the steel pegs that come with the tent are cheap and will bend instantly when you hammer into hard surfaces. if you travel in the outback buy some big strong pegs and cut them down length wise.
Condensation builds up on the checker plate base when using the annex in cold climates.
Keep a window slightly open when in the tent, as condensation can start in the tent and leave your bedding feeling a little bit damp in the mornings.
The Panarama windows in the roof are pretty useless as you have to remove the fly sheet to open them. This is a big issue if the weather changes long after you nod off to sleep as you have to get out to pull the fly back over to keep the tent dry. (meaning you will get wet if the star gazing windows are open)
If you are buying a new roof topper ask the retailer if they can fit LED lighting and a 12 volt cigar with USB with a long extension cable to connect to your vehicles battery.
Overall, If you look after the tent, you should get good camping milage out of it without any fuss. They are great for trips where you are on the move each day and even better if you don't need to use the annex. (sorry kids)