We've been watching roof-top tents (RTTs) make their way into mainstream camping, and become available through major US retailers like REI. More glamp-y than ground tents and much cheaper and simpler than full RVs, roof-top tents are an interesting solution for those that camp out of their vehicles. But if you'd prefer the roof-top tent without the roof, a new hitch mount called the Hitch 'n Pitch may be just the thing, letting you haul the tent on the back of your vehicle and camp behind the rear bumper.
The Hitch 'n Pitch roof-top tent vehicle mount pulls the RTT off the roof and secures it to the 2-in receiver hitch of the vehicle. The roof-top tent bolts to the mounting system and is carried upright during the ride. At camp, the system folds the tent down and uses a set of extendable legs to level things out, creating a slightly elevated sleeping platform. The tent can be removed and left at camp so you can drop some weight and head out in the vehicle during the day.
It might seem kind of strange to use a roof-top tent anywhere but the roof, but Hitch 'n Pitch's designers reckon there are several advantages to doing it this way. They explain that owners can expect fuel economy benefits, which makes sense given that the tent is now behind the vehicle instead of smashing into oncoming air like a big roof brick. By bringing the tent lower, the design also makes it easier to remove the zippered cover and set the tent up, with no need to stand on the door sills or running boards. Also, there's no ladder to deal with, something that should add some safety on late-night nature calls.
The Hitch 'n Pitch system is also more geared toward removing and reinstalling the tent as needed, meaning you can secure it to the vehicle for camping trips, then remove it for everyday vehicle use. It's certainly possible to do the same with a roof-mounted tent, with a few twists of the bolts around the cross bars, but the hitch mount is designed to make it easier, and you won't have to muscle a 100+ lb (45+ kg) tent on and off the roof every time.
While the Hitch 'n Pitch is interesting, it could be argued it's a little too much like a ground tent for many times the price. Roof-top tents generally cost close to or over US$1,000, while a good family ground tent can be had for more like $100 or $200. Add in the cost of the Hitch 'n Pitch and you're paying a whole lot more to camp right back on the ground – or close to it, anyway. A roof-top tent does have a bit more integrated comfort than a standard ground tent, thanks to its level floor and integrated foam mattress, but you could add a mattress to a ground tent and still walk away a thousand or two richer.
We're not sure that there's a niche to be carved between the roof-top tent and the ground tent, but we guess that will depend in part on the price of the Hitch 'n Pitch system, which is not yet listed. The company plans to manufacture in the US with the "finest quality materials and techniques," so it doesn't sound like it's going to be particularly cheap.
The Hitch 'n Pitch is still being finalized. The mount will be compatible with a variety of soft-sided roof-top tent models, including the Tepui Ayer and Kukenam and the CVT Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Shasta, and the Hitch 'n Pitch website says that while the only vehicle requirement is the 2-in receiver hitch that can handle a hitch tongue weight of 300+ lb (136+ kg), the system will work best with vehicles that have an upright rear profile, such as SUVs and vans.
Those that are looking for a more permanent non-roof roof-tent mounting solution might want to consider the recently announced SkyCamp from the roof-top tent pros at Tepui. The SkyCamp is a semi-permanent wooden structure that raises the RTT off the ground. It includes a picnic table below the tent top, providing a weather-sheltered dining option.
While the SkyCamp could be used in the backyard by any roof-top tent owner, Tepui is marketing it more toward businesses and organizations like ski resorts, summer camps, resorts and campgrounds. Tepui offers SkyCamps with several of its tent models for prices between $2,650 and $3,250.