Lets’s start from the top - in case you didn't know, hi-top roof and pop-top roof are two types of roof conversions for campervans and mid-sized motorhomes. Pop-top caravans are popular amongst the caravan community, but for now, we’ll keep it to RV related roof conversions.
They are both designed to provide the same basic and essential function - more headroom!
Although, it’s obviously useful when cooking, getting changed or just basic movements around your van in general.
Members of the Vanlife community can attest to the fact that the discussion between High top roofs and Pop top roofs is by far one of the most debated topics.
We often find that many newcomers and even some veterans of the lifestyle don’t yet know the difference between the two different styles of roof conversion.
People give reasons why one is more preferred to the other, only to be based on their preferences and what they are used to personally, but generally, they’ve only had one type of roof conversion done and sometimes the travels which took place were not best suited for that type of conversion at all.
So we’ve gone and put together the ultimate pros & cons checklist to help you along with your van fit-out.
Read on to know more about each roof type, including their pros and cons.
Campervan Hi-Top Roof - An Overview
Some of the best campervan conversions start with a Hitop. Hitop vans, also known as High Top or Hi-roof vans have their original roof cut out and replaced with a fixed position roof. It's a type of custom van, but in the converted camper vans world, this is completely normal.
Generally made of fibreglass for its easy workability and durability, it is this Hitop section that allows for more headroom.
The height of a HiTop Roof van conversion can range anywhere from 200mm - 800mm increase from the original roof height.
The roof of a high-top is not adjustable, meaning that there would always be a permanent increase in the height of the vehicle once the conversion has been done and removing the Hitop roof component at a later date is generally not possible, as it was installed to last the life of the vehicle!
If you're going down the path of building a DIY camper, it’s not often advised to attempt to install through DIY methods as one cut in the wrong place and your vehicle could be ruined.
Each roof conversion must be certified by an engineer to legalise the changes to the vehicle, as a roof conversion is a very big change to your vehicle from the original roof design.
With the help of a professional conversion company, the roof conversion can be done simply and without concern.
Hi-Top Roof Pros
- You can always stand at full height without bending in your van
- No need to set it up every time you want to have more headroom
- No moving parts that could need to be replaced after a few years
- Less risk of leaking
- Permanent space for other fixtures like a shower, cabinets and storage
- Easy to heat the whole van when in winter
- Ability to install an air-conditioner, larger solar panels or just some larger carry racks - perfect for van living
- Hail damage? No worries, simply replace the damaged roof with a Hitop
- Less likely to get spot rust as the whole roof is fibreglass
High Top Roof Cons
- Limited car park access, especially a standard garage at home
- Some high tops are not well designed, they’re simply stuck on top for more space and to fit a bed. This will increase your wind resistance, which will, in turn, make your vehicle less fuel-efficient and drive poorly.
- They can look like a block of flats on wheels. Again, this really comes down to design.
How much does a Toyota Hiace SLWB HiTop cost? Read on to find out.
Campervan Pop Top Roof - An Overview
Pop-top vans are more adaptable in the sense that their roof style is adjustable in height.
A camper van conversion with a pop-top roof has the ability to be elevated when in use and also flattened when not in use. As it can be flattened (or lowered), there will be less noticeable changes to the handling of the vehicle whether it be on the highway, winding hills or even offroad compared to some high top roof conversions available on the market.
As well as allowing for more headroom, they provide you with a magnificent touring experience. They usually have four openable windows, which will enable you to see, hear and smell nature around you as you’re on your travels.
They are straightforward to use as you simply pop them up and have more headroom space in under a minute after arriving.
A pop-top roof will generally provide 600mm additional headroom, making it very spacious in an instant.
A pop-top roof can be used for many vehicles and caravans; they generally have a fibreglass roof component, a canvas sleeve and then a fibreglass base which secures and seals to the existing roof.
As it’s much the same install process as the HiTop, (in fact, it’s more complex) again it's not advised to try to take on this kind of conversion as a DIY project. You’re dealing with the risk of cutting the wrong area; a roof structure support bow which you shouldn’t, a miscalculation of a single measurement and you’re in a world of trouble.
Then there is the hurdle of trying to fit the scissor lifters, attach the canvas...it goes on. Leave it to the experts and have a professional do the hard work on this one.
After all, one day when you go to sell your beloved home-away-from-home and tell the buyer you installed the pop-top yourself, you’d better be standing in a pretty impressive looking workshop...
Some of the best vans to convert to campers are semi-compact ones such as the Toyota Hiace Campervan pictured above which easily can be converted to include a pop-top fairly easily.
Pop Top Roof Pros
- It is super fast to set up, about 10-15secs to pop up and 20 to pop down.
- You can have a van bed set up in the roof once it’s open
- The canvas of the pop-top can be in a wide range of colours allowing you to add a personal touch and customize your vehicle to your taste
- They fit in nearly all standard car parks, with a closed height increase of around 140mm
- Less wind resistance while driving
- You can store your van in a standard home garage
- It is easier to wash the roof
- Increased ventilation as you've got big windows the whole way around it.
We're able to adapt and modify our Pop Tops in house to suit just about any vehicle CLICK HERE to take a look.
Pop Top Roof Cons
- Some can be more prone to leaking over time
- It is not insulated when it's open - not ideal for cold winter nights
- You have to set it up every time you want to have more room
- You have less security due to the canvas
- The canvas can deteriorate or get mouldy in a humid environment when stored incorrectly
In the world on campervan conversion, roof conversions are a great way to increase the headroom of your van, whichever way you go about it.
Based on the content given above, it is clear why people would base their preferences on personal reasons.
The selection of any roof type would be based on how these characteristic features identify and suit your needs.
Both roof types are excellent and highly effective in their use case; they both have a lot more benefits compared to their cons.
Both roofs have their uniqueness; as one gives you constant upright movement through your van and the ability to utilize the space better for your fit-out, the other provides you with a more convenient setup and can be great for a daily driver still.
As I stated earlier, roof conversions are not particularly recommended as a DIY installation.
So if you're looking to convert a van, we've designed, manufactured and installed our very own range for the last 15 years!
Take a look now at all the different options we can offer for your next campervan or motorhome roof conversion.