A roof tent or a van experience? The question before making that road trip we have been dreaming of
After so many of you asked about our experiences of our road trip and a lot of you wanting to do something similar we thought it would be very interesting to write this blog article. It is about one questions you probably don’t think about before you start.
Will you be traveling in a camper luxury, a van lifestyle or a roof tent experience?
Before you start your road trip adventure, it is one of the most important parts to make a decisions about: will you be traveling with a camper (read traveling with a small apartment), a van (read sleeping inside) or with a roof tent (read sleeping on top of your car). We actually never really thought about this question or the pros and cons befor we started. For us it was just very clear. It was our dream life experience to travel with a Land Rover Defender and a roof tent, but now experiencing it there are definitely some pros and cons.
Pros & cons of our roof tent road trip
Finding a spot to stay - the app park4night (an app developed for and maintained by all people who are living on the road) is the essential to have! In most countries in Europe camping in the wild is prohibited, but staying for only the night is allowed. There are even a lot of places that are specifically dedicated to stay the night and some even with services. But nothing romantic, most of them are not so inspiring and very plain parking lots. In most of the places it is not allowed to set up a tent_ in some countries there are certain appointed places where it is allowed - but we haven’t found them yet.
With a van or camper parking for the night it is very clear that it isn’t camping. This changes when you are making a camping place and you stay there longer than the night (you can finish your breakfast) and you are making a whole cosy place of the parking lot or place where you are at (we do see a lot of vans and campers with a hammock and table and chairs - this seems to be generally accepted in most countries). With a roof tent it shouldn’t be much different, it isn’t setting up a tent on the ground or making a camping spot, but in the end for us it does feel different. It feels more like camping, we feel more exposed and always have to work before we can sleep or leave.
We actually always stay at natural public places and not at the parking lots - we tried it once in southern parts of Germany….but for us it was just terrible we even folded the tent back in and left that same evening to drive to Austria in the middle of the night (must admit the weather wasn’t helping either - a lot of rain). Definitely not the dream life experience ;)
Note: You can find these beautiful natural places via the app park4night (see the tree indicated and Off Road places) or just looking at satellite images and find that secluded dirt road.
Oh and to make clear in most countries in Europe it isn’t explicitly allowed to stay the night on public ground, there are some who discuss if it isn’t just the same as camping. Based on our experience if you treat the people and the surroundings well and you don’t make a real camping spot everything will be fine. Try to arrive in the evening just before sunset and leave just after sunrise - most of the time nobody will even have noticed you were there.
Comfort - the comfort level is totally different: with all the road trip styles you have to set up your spot but the amount of time and the efforts are very different. With a roof tent and our set up almost with everything you have to build things up and put them away again - think about not only the tent, but also your kitchen, clothes, plates, actually basically everything you need during the day. And to be honest we have reorganized our Land Rover I think more than 10 times and still haven’t found the most effective way to pack her up.
With a van and especially with a camper this is totally different. Maybe you have to set up your bed, but for the rest everything is more accessible and has it own specific spot, a fixed kitchen, table/bed, etc. So if it comes to comfort....don’t go for a roof tent.
We actually enjoyed our new routines most of the times, al though there were those moments......
Safety - we feel that sleeping in a van or camper is more safe than in a roof tent. You are far more exposed and you can’t just start driving when something is wrong, You first have to fold the tent back in.
But most of the times it is perfectly fine, just make sure you are on a safe spot, avoid areas around borders or places that are known to be more criminal. We found out that avoiding the refugees route is also better to do (most of the people are good and don’t have any bad intention, but there are a few that do). There are some main routes in Europe we couldn’t find a more recent map, but we took this one into account.
Feeling of freedom - sleeping in the tent, with a 360 view on secluded and magical places gives an ultimate sense of freedom. And with our Land Rover Defender we can almost travel anywhere. It is a magical feeling to be able to choose a place to stay the night, it is almost as free as sailing, where you can drop your anchor where ever you want. I believe with a van and camper you probably will experience the same feeling of freedom except for accessing those dirt roads.
Off Road - with most vans and campers it is very challenging to take a dirt road let alone go off road. To be honest we found the most secluded and magical places by traveling down those dirt roads or going off road. So if you don’t want to spend a night on a parking lot, then consider to rent or buy a 4X4.
Leave a place more beautiful than it was when you arrived
We have the intention to leave every places more beautiful than it was when we arrived. We have a structural habit of picking up all the plastics and trash on a place where we stayed and we always make sure that there are no traces of us left behind. This is actually something we try to do where ever we are and isn't just isolated to picking up trash ;)
We think these are the essentials in short If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us!
And of course we can tell so much more about our adventures, but we safe them for another time.
Much love & Feel the Breeze
Rianne, Gerben & Benjamin
PS: We need to make clear that we only have experienced the roof tent lifestyle on our Land Rover Defender 110.