I regularly see this question on Facebook and forums. They certainly aren’t for everyone, but I have close to 140 nights in mine over the last 5½ years. That’s more time than I’ve spent in all other scenarios combined: regular tents, sleeping in the car, sleeping in cabins, and even staying in hotels.
Pros: You have a 4-season tent with a 3″ thick mattress. They’re typically full of windows and doors, so you can get as much ventilation as you want. Only the feet of the ladder touch the ground, so everything stays very clean. Your tent and all your sleeping gear get stored outside of the vehicle, saving a ton of room inside. Being up off the ground, you are less susceptible to camp pests. It is trivial to level a vehicle, so you don’t waste time trying to find a flat spot like you would with a ground tent. Setup is quick and simple on most tents. Some you pull a cover, undo a couple straps, and unfold the floor. Others you undo a couple buckles and let gas struts lift the wedge hardshell up. You can pull into camp and be in your tent in a matter of minutes.
Cons: You will have to navigate a ladder in the dark from time to time. You may have to climb around the vehicle a bit to open and close the tent, especially with the conventional softshell folding tents. The cover can be a pain in the ass, especially when it’s raining or cold. Certain components like the straps and cover do wear some over time. If you buy from a reputable vendor, replacement parts are easy to order, but can be expensive and right now are taking a while to get a hold of.
Before we entered the current broken-world dystopia, prices were falling on the standard tents. You could find them on sale as low as $650. I’m seeing prices start around $1,000 now, but if you actually use it, it’s very affordable. I use amortization to understand the cost. In 2015, the first night I spent in mine was $915. Now, including replacement parts, it has averaged out to $9 a night. That’s a superb value for a good night’s sleep. What are your thoughts?