There are so many option for sleeping arrangements these day, all which have their own merits. It can be hard to make the choice of which one is right for you – and often it’ll depend on the trip you’re doing.


The venerable swag has be a dominant part of Aussie culture since the days of swagmen. A waterproof roll of bedding that’s quick and simple to setup and pack up. Over the last few years there has been some serious innovation put into the traditional swag design. Changes to make space inside swags larger, and the introduction of poles to hold the canvas away from occupants and thicker mattresses have made the modern swag a luxurious experience. The Ironman 4×4 swag range even includes a shoe bag to ensure you shoes are stored in a dry place! Swags are an ideal form of accommodation for cool climates and people who are moving camp regularly. Being easy to just roll up and throw on the roof or the back of the vehicle, swags are a convenient bit of accommodation. Swags are great in cooler climates do to the smaller air space surrounding the occupants. With less air to warm up, the swag is one of the warmest accommodations available! The major down side to swags is space, both inside and when storing for transport. Having all your bedding inside means they pack down to a fairly large size. Fortunately being waterproof they can be stored up on the roof of your vehicle, but it is something to consider – especially if you’ve got multiple swags per vehicle. Furthermore, space inside swags can be restrictive, even modern swags generally have less space than a small tent. You generally can’t sit up inside them, and entering and exiting when raining can lead to you bedding getting wet (it’s highly recommended to setup a swag under something such as an awning to avoid this).


Tents are probably the first accommodation everyone would have been introduced to when camping – and for great reasons! There is such a diverse range of tents to suit all sorts of needs, from small and light weight hiking tents, through to large 8-10 people canvas mansions. Tents are great, especially for families as they afford a lot more room. Bigger tent provide you with a large amount of sheltered space – meaning that even if it’s raining, you won’t feel cramped and can often do things like cook if they have in awning/undercover area. Tents provide a great advantage for people who use a “base camp” and drive off every day, you can leave everything setup and return without needing to worry about packing down and setting up again. Tents provide a great advantage for larger groups as well as they can generally be packed down smaller than other alternatives, and even large ones can often have parts stored separately to maximize storage flexibility. On the other hand, if you’re moving daily ground tents can be a bit of work – especially the larger more complex designs. Often there is a bit of work in setting them up, and packing them up wet can mean having a wet tent at the next camp site. Additionally the need to add bedding into the tent adds time to setup as well.

Roof Top Tents

Roof top tents have a lot of similarities to both tents and swags. Similar to a swag, you can store a small amount of bedding inside – saving you needing to find somewhere to store it in the vehicle. But like a tent, you have a lot more room internally to “live”. A roof top tent has some unique benefits. They have plenty of sleeping space, you’ll have a solid, insulated base and mattress – meaning that even on the most uneven of surfaces, so long as your vehicle is relatively level you’ll have a comfortable bed without the requisite cleaning of ground and foliage. You’ll also find that setup and pickup is quicker than a ground tent, but slower than a swag – providing a good compromise considering the additional space. And finally there is the under cover space beneath the roof top tent, which can be useful for keeping out of bad weather without needing to setup an awning when you are for example cooking (personally I love having one open up over the rear door of the vehicle so that you can access the drawer system whilst staying dry. The down side to roof top tent is that they need to be climbed up into (can be a deterrent for some – and a positive for others) and when you are operating from a base camp and driving daily, you need to setup and pack up the tent every day to drive the vehicle. Finally the other disadvantage is weight. Roof top tents are inherently heavier than alternative options and need to be stored on a roof (raising the center of gravity for a vehicle). Many of these disadvantages can be offset if they are mounted on a trailer – giving you the flexibility of leaving behind a setup base camp.

What should you choose?

There are alternatives beyond the above like hammocks and camper trailers, but for the most part they are the most common options chosen – and camper trailers have so many variances that it’s difficult to add them as a single alternative option. But the important thing to note is that every option has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and everyone will have their own style of camping that will suit a particular sleeping arrangement. It may even be that the idea setup changes on trip to trip. A weekend away with the boys might mean throwing out a swag, but touring across the Simpson Desert with your partner might be better suited to the comfort and space of a roof top tent. If you have any questions about the best setup for yourself. Contact Ironman 4×4 at and get some expert advice.