Are you on the road often with your car as you like to explore different places and nature’s treasures?
If you are a true adventurer who loves to camp and loves adrenalin and activities then I have something special for you. Camping in a tent is a wonderful way to spend an outdoor adventure alone or with someone else.
However, pitching a ground tent can be demanding, time-consuming, not to mention that sleeping in one can be a real challenge. Are you ready to elevate your camping experience?
Rooftop tents (RTTs) are an innovative way to camp without having to worry about the setup process, weather, and animals. With plenty of options and features, you can get one to spend your best vacation ever.
Take a look at the best rooftop tents that are highlighted as the most valuable on the market, and see the guide to understand why are these shelters worthy to have.
Best vehicle rooftop tents
Camping with this tent type is much fun as you are sleeping in an elevated shelter that sets up pretty quickly while already being installed on the vehicle.
If you are scared of snakes and other animals that can reach you on the ground while sleeping you should consider getting one.
Sleeping in one is more comfortable than in a traditional tent as you won’t experience the cold and wet feeling from the ground.
There are two categories of these units – soft shell and hard shell. In the next lines, you will get to know both options and which is a better solution for you. Let’s get to know them!
Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
This is a 3-season RTT from Thule, a company that is well-known for making soft shell units. The Kukenam Explorer model is a softshell unit that can accommodate up to 3 people inside.
This best rooftop tent for a small family measures 96 x 56 x 52 inches and weighs 131 pounds. A static weight capacity is 600 pounds. The 8 feet and a 6-inch telescoping ladder is included for you to climb on.
The Explorer is made of coated 600 deniers and a 260g poly-cotton blend with water-resistant ventilate coating to provide weather protection. It is mold and UV-resistant.
The internal frame of this Thule rooftop tent is manufactured by 5/8″ (16mm) wrapped aluminum with an insulated fiberglass sheet.
The tent features a standard 2-inch high-density foam mattress that is built-in to provide you a more comfortable sleep.
Mesh windows with awnings are great to let the air in and have a shade and rain-protected interior. You will be able to store small things in 4 large internal pockets.
The company included a built-in rain fly cover to stay weather-protected. The cover has 3 adjusters so your model will be secured in high winds.
They included a travel cover to protect the shelter from the precipitation while driving. It can be rolled up while you camp so it won’t bother you.
Get an annex
It comes with an annex that provides storage, changing room, or additional sleeping space.
It has one door and 2 windows with panels that can be rolled up to have more light and air inside. It easily zips onto the bottom of an open tent.
Its space is customizable as you can add or remove the floor, close or open the windows and door. A zippered rear panel provides convenient access to a vehicle.
There are 4 ground stakes to stabilize corners at the ground to stay protected in the bad weather.
Haige Car Roof Tent
- Easy to Use: Release latches on both ends to open the pop-up rooftop tent. Skip having to set up...
- Includes a telescoping ladder that attaches to either side for easy access
- Enhanced Ventilation: Canopy features no-see-um mesh on all 4 openings (2 doors and 2 windows) to...
- Awning Available: Canopy doors, when used with the provided pole, act as an awning to provide...
- Interior is lined with reinforced insulation to help control the temperature inside the tent and...
This is a roof tent with a hard shell from the Haige company. Its dimensions are 85.8 x 50.4 x 41.3 inches and it weighs 198 pounds.
The maximum load capacity is 661 pounds. It offers space for 2-3 people. The product includes 90.5 inches aluminum telescoping ladder.
This four-season rooftop tent is manufactured with reinforced ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) shell, coated polyester canopy, and a wooden board.
An ABS material is very structurally sturdy and inexpensive, strong, stiff plastic that holds up well to external impacts.
This pop-up roof tent has 2 no-see-um mesh door entrances (one on each side) where you can enter the shelter with the help of the provided ladder.
Each canopy door can be turned into an awning as you can install poles to have shade and rain protection at the same time. It has 2 no-see-um mesh windows on the sides.
The shelter has reinforced insulation to help control the interior temperature and reduce noise.
The hard shell is made of sturdy plastic that will protect your investment from the elements while you are driving. This cold weather rooftop tent has a canopy awning to have air inside no matter if it’s raining.
The body is made of waterproof polyester to prevent elements to enter. This is an insulated rooftop tent to keep you warm so it is appropriate to use in winter also.
All these features make it one of the best roof top tents for winter camping.
Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2
- Can accommodate up to two people
- Ultra low profile design folds down to 7" / 18 cm for better aerodynamics and vehicle fit
- Tent base is constructed of thermoplastic materials that are both durable and 100% recyclable
- Dome canopy is lightweight while still providing all-season protection
- Patented ZipperGimp easily attaches the canopy to the base of the tent
The Low-Pro Thule Tepui model is perfect if you intend to go traveling with someone else. It measures 84 x 50 x 44 inches, while it weighs 105 pounds.
The static weight capacity is 400 pounds. The ultra low profile design folds down to 7 inches for better aerodynamics and vehicle fit.
Patented ZipperGimp easily attaches the canopy to the base. A detachable 8 feet and 6 inches telescoping ladder is included.
The structure is manufactured with 3000WP breathable ripstop polyester that is UV and mildew resistant and flame retardant.
The thermoplastic materials are both durable and 100% recyclable. The internal frame features 5/8″ (16mm) wrapped aluminum.
The Low Pro 2 has 4 big mesh windows with panels (3 at the sides and one on the roof) that are closed with toggles and rollable if you want to have a fresh breeze inside.
You can set up the awnings of the fly with the provided poles and have shade and protection from the rain on opened windows.
There is a small pouch on the opposite side of the leather where you can store the rain fly poles when not in use.
This model has a small opening aside at the bottom so you can place an electrical cable through. You will store small essentials in four pockets easily.
Tepui rooftop tent includes a 2-inch medium-density foam to sleep on soft padding. It has to be removed when you fold the tent for storage.
Protection from the weather
When you are traveling and the shelter is folded, a waterproof cover will protect the product from the sun and rain. It is easy to store it away with the provided straps.
It comes with a rain fly that is detachable when you want more air inside.
KingCamp Rooftop Tent
- 【Hard shell roof tent】 The rooftop tent is made of durable ABS hard shell and special Oxford...
- 【1 Minute Setup】Less than 60 seconds fully automatic setup. Park your vehicle and setup your...
- 【Sleeps 2 People】Opened size 82.7” x 50.8” x 45.3”. Standard size roof tent (sleeps 2)...
- 【Lightweight Design】116 lbs weight. 880 lbs max load. To mount a roof top tent to your roof, it...
- 【Dry and Comfortable Shelter】This is the perfect tent for any on-the-road or off-the-road...
This is a pop-up RTT from KingCamp that has the capacity space for 2 people. Its dimensions are 82.7 x 50.8 x 45.3 inches.
The product’s weight is 116.8 pounds. A static load capacity is 441 pounds. The modes include a retractable stainless steel ladder that measures 7.6 feet when fully extended.
A low streamline design (only 10 inches in height) will make less wind resistance and lower fuel consumption.
The top is made of hard aluminum ABS shell and the canopy of 280g T/C that is fire-retardant and coated with a 3000 mm waterproof PU coating. Aluminum alloy ladder included.
The model has 2 doors with mesh and 2 mesh windows for views and airflow. The entrances can be lifted to install awnings with poles.
You will be sleeping on a thick (2.40D) and soft highly elastic environmentally friendly cotton pad. There is a storage wall organizer to have the essentials at hand.
The hard shell is resistant to elements and you won’t have to worry about the tear, leaks, and oxidation.
The canopy is made of waterproof material that has a 3000 mm HH which is enough to spend dry vacations in normal rain conditions. The door awnings will keep the rain out.
This is one of my favorite RTTs as its assembly is straightforward, simple, and fast (3 seconds) due to the hydraulic support rod aluminum alloy. Just release the clasp, push it upwards and it will be ready for your adventure in seconds.
This model is a versatile unit as you can set it on the car roof or on the ground.
LEER Gear rooftop tent
- ROOF TOP – Stay dry and protect yourself from animals by being up off the ground.
- DIMENSIONS – Open dimensions are 96” x 56” x 52” to easily accommodate up to 3 people with a...
- SKY PANELS - Enjoy the view both day and night. The LEER Roof Top Tent features 2 operational sky...
- FOAM MATTRESS – Includes a 2.5” high density foam mattress with a machine washable cotton cover.
- LADDER INCLUDED – Contains an 8’6” telescoping ladder, making it easy to get in and get out.
Make your camping adventure more pleasurable with a Leer Gear rooftop tent that can accommodate up to 3 people. It measures 96 x 56 x 52 inches.
The weight of the product is 131 pounds. The maximum static weight capacity is 600 pounds. The 8’6” telescoping ladder is included.
The canopy is made of 260g 65% polyester and 35% cotton rip-stop with water-resistant ventilated coating. The frame is constructed of aluminum with a fiberglass sheet.
The unit is UV and mold-resistant. The travel cover features 1000g heavy-duty waterproof PVC. The cover attaches to the canopy with clips.
You will be able to enter the shelter through 2 doors that have an awning to protect you from the sun and rain. You set the awnings with provided poles.
Two big windows take care of airflow to built as little condensation as possible. There are mosquito screens on all windows and doors for a bug-free outdoor trip.
The model also has 2 operational sky panels on the roof so you can stargaze at night. A high-density 2.5 inches foam mattress with a machine washable cover will make your sleeping experience better.
Quality YKK zippers included. What about storage? You will be able to store your gadgets and accessories in 4 storage pockets.
Protection from the elements
The waterproof and heavy-duty PVC cover with the possibility of awnings above the doors provides good weather protection. You can also close the panels if you want.
What is a rooftop tent?
A roof tent is a unit that is placed on the top of your motor vehicle to provide shelter. A rooftop tent rack or aftermarket roof bars are used to stabilize it while you drive and sleep in it.
You don’t need to use guy ropes to anchor it so it is one of the most stable shelters on the market for sure. It is pretty easy to set up and use as you just open the shell completely and use a letter to climb up.
Is RTT worth it?
If you like to sleep on elevated dry ground, don’t like to set up your tent, and love to travel then it is worth thinking about getting a rooftop model. They are expensive but if you consider all their benefits then you might opt for one.
Can any car handle this type of tent?
This is good to know before even thinking of getting it. If your car roof can handle a load limit of over 165 pounds then you have a green light.
You will see most of these shelters on the bigger cars as some of the smaller ones can’t handle a rack, tent, and campers on the roof.
Why are they so expensive?
They are expensive especially because of their complicated construction and added accessories. The manufacturers have to make a shell that includes a shelter that opens when you open the shell.
The lifespan of these structures is longer than in ordinary ground tents as they feature quality material and a more precise manufacturing process.
What are the advantages of a rooftop tent?
There are some of the advantages if you are thinking of getting one. I will explain each of them so you can understand how they work.
The first pro to mention is the sleeping experience. It offers an elevated sleeping experience and this means that you won’t stress over wet and hard ground.
Some of them have mattresses integrated into the product so you won’t need to buy one along with a tent itself.
Easy and quick setup
It is easy to set it up as you just park the car and open the shell to extend it. The setup doesn’t need any stakes or guy lines to secure the shelter as it is placed on the roof racks or roof bars.
If your model has them use them to stabilize the structure on the ground. You should be able to have your shelter ready in 5-10 minutes; the setup time depends on the model.
Great for adventurers
If you are an adventurer who loves to travel and explore different locations you don’t like to pitch your shelter over and over again.
Instead of assembling the traditional shelter you can get the rooftop tent and have a shelter ready in no time. This will give you more free time to enjoy the adventure that you have been waiting for.
Quality and long life
These outdoor products are made of quality and heavy-duty waterproof materials and seams are stitched more times than in ordinary units.
The brands use durable and strong materials to provide you a shelter that you will be using year after year.
What is another pro of the elevated tent besides avoiding the wet ground? You will sleep more peacefully if you know that no animal (bear, snake, etc.) can enter the interior.
What happens when you go to the hill or elevating in the open? You will have good ventilation because the more you are elevated the more air will come inside.
More space in the vehicle
As your model will stay on the roof you will have more space to store the gear and other stuff in the vehicle’s trunk.
Some family tents are stored in a big storage bag and take a lot of space in the vehicle but with this unit, you will have extra space for storage of other camping equipment as stoves, chair, and other necessities.
What are its disadvantages?
You must also know the disadvantages to decide if this sort of camping tent is okay for you or not. Next are few of them that you must take under consideration.
These camping units are much pricier than traditional camping ones that set on the ground. As I mention before, they have a high price because the manufacturers use mechanisms and other features that make this tent type so special.
However, for the price, you won’t need to assemble it (just unfold it) and it will be ready in a minute or two.
Installation on the vehicle
If you want to make your model livable you will have to install/mount it on the roof of your vehicle. You will need a roof rack installed on the roof to place it securely on.
It is a more technical setup than in ordinary ground models so you will also need some skills and maybe a helping hand to lift it up as it is heavy (100 lbs approx.).
RTTs weigh much more than polyester camping tents that campers use on the ground. How come?
Well, they have mechanisms that lift and unfold the product and also include an integrated ladder that opens when you unfold the shelter and gives stability to it.
Hardshell ones are even heavier due to the aluminum frames and heavy synthetic canvas.
Aerodynamic drag and increased fuel consumption
Roof tents make a drag and it’s increasing when you speed up. More drag means increased fuel consumption or battery use. You will spend more money on the fuel if you travel with the shelter on the roof.
An attraction for the vandals
As this camping gear is pricey and worth having, some vandals use the opportunity of an unprotected product and steal it right off from the roof.
Did you saw or hear that someone stole an ordinary dome tent? Well, I think there are not many such cases but if you are an owner of an expensive RTT then you must consider getting a lock for it.
Why are RTTs so popular?
The popularity of these shelters is rising as they offer a sleeping shelter almost everywhere you go with a car. Their setup is quick which is good if you need to have a shelter fast due to the inclement weather situation.
They don’t occupy a lot of camping space since they are positioned on the top of the vehicle roof. You also have an entire vehicle to store the camping gear.
How does it work?
It is installed on the roof of your car’s or a truck’s rack system with secure mounting hardware.
Due to the hardware, they can stay on the roof while you travel and are easily removed off the roof when you want to end your travel adventures.
The whole point is to extend it so you will have a fully-opened shelter to spend the night in. You will also have to pull the telescopic leather down to climb up to the fully opened interior.
How heavy is the rooftop tent?
Rooftop tents can have approx. 100 pounds but many products weigh even more (especially hard shell ones).
On this point, it is smart to mention that you must know what load capacity your roof racks and vehicle can handle to buy the appropriate weighted model.
How heavy is a tepui tent?
Well, the company sells their models which are soft and hard-shelled but they specialize in softshell rooftop tents. Softshell ones are lighter than hard-shell ones. Let me give you an example of some of the models.
Thule Tepui Foothill is a softshell unit that can occupy 2 people and weighs 108 pounds. The Thule Tepui for 3 people weighs 131 pounds.
They are selling Thule Tapui Hybox which is a hard shell model that can accommodate 2 people and weighs 155 pounds + 20-pound ladder.
How waterproof are they?
Every RTT should be waterproof and is build of waterproof material (polyester and cotton blend). They have a thick waterproof cover that will make your sleeping comfortable and dry.
If you want to know how much is your structure waterproof then check the waterproof rating that every tent should have stated. A unit should have at least 1000 mm HH to be labeled as waterproof.
You can expect leakage if a rainstorm strikes your area, there is no shelter that can hold all weather conditions, especially if it is worn down or damaged.
No groundwater inside!
There is one more good thing when it comes to their waterproofness. Roof tents are not positioned on the ground where the rainwater can get inside a unit that sets on the soil or grass.
Are they cold?
They are not insulated additionally so these units aren’t appropriate for cold weather camping unless you insulate them yourself.
However, some come with an integrated sleeping mat that will make your stay more comfortable and warm.
If you think of a ground unit, it is pitched on the soil. So, if you are camping in wintertime, you won’t be able to sleep without some kind of padding due to the cold grounds.
You won’t experience the same issue in an RTT as it is elevated from the ground as a cot tent.
Do RTTs get stolen?
Unfortunately yes, they get stolen sometimes. However, you can protect your pricey equipment by buying a rooftop tent lock that will prevent stealers from criminal activity.
I recommend getting one so you will be worry-free. If you want to know more about securing your investment read the article about how to secure, protect and insure your roof tent, written by Roof Tent Camp.
Are they safe from bears?
People are scared of bears, that’s for sure. I have respect for them too and avoid them while staying in the bear country if possible.
Bears are curious animals that are looking for food all the time. They have a good smell and can smell you miles away.
So, are you safe from the bear in this kind of tent?
One thing is for sure, you will be safer in an elevated model than in a ground one where the bear can just enter the shelter easily. Bears are good climbers but I don’t think he can climb that small ladder.
The encouraging fact is that RTTs were invented for Overlanding across the African desserts to have a shelter and to stay protected from hyenas and lions.
I recommend that you don’t eat inside the shelter as the food will attract the animal close to you. In general, bear in mind that bears are scared of humans and retreat when they see you.
You can also get a bear spray if you still feel unsecured.
Do you need a roof rack for a rooftop tent?
Yes, you need it to secure the unit on the vehicle roof. Without it, you won’t be able to use it. A roof rack with crossbars will help you to securely mount the model on the roof.
When buying a roof rack system consider the weight capacity that a rack can hold, and how much weight can a vehicle hold.
How much does RTT affect gas mileage?
The more weight you add to a vehicle, the more gas you will spend. Fuel consumption depends on the type of tent, the car model you are driving, and how fast you are driving.
For more information and fuel consumption statistics check the article about fuel consumption impact and auto roof racks written by Chen and Meier.
How can I make it more aerodynamic?
The shelter will create some drag, this is what you must accept. However, you can make it more aerodynamic. What should you do?
The best thing is to get a hardshell rooftop model that you will mount on the top of the aerodynamic roof rack, install a fairing, and position it on the vehicle.
How fast can you drive with it?
In general, you can drive at the same speed you would drive as if you don’t have anything on the roof. However, I recommend that you read the manual of the roof rack manufacturer and not exceed the 110 mph speed.
How do you put a rooftop tent on yourself?
These units are quite heavy so if you are wondering how to lift one up by yourself I have a few solutions. Using a hoist is the most common and simple way to do it. You can still choose sliding tracks to put it on securely instead of a hoist.
How do you secure one?
You can secure this type of shelter on the rack with the nuts and bolts by manufacturer. These are good for fastening and securing the shelter on the roof racks.
How do you attach it to a roof rack?
Ask someone to help you lift the unit up on the roof or use a hoist or tracks to do it on your own. What tools, hardware, and accessories will you need to install it on the racks? Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do it step by step.
How far apart should crossbars be for roof top tent?
The crossbars should be at least 30 inches apart. The weight rating should be equal or grater than a roof nest weight.
What is the cheapest roof top tent?
This BZTANG rooftop tent is one of the cheapest models that you can use for your overland trip. It’s a softshell unit that is okay to use throughout the year.
The cheap rooftop tent is aerodynamically engineered and has a heavy-duty cover to protect you from precipitation. This is a budget rooftop tent that has convenient access due to zippered rear panel.
What is the lightest RTT?
The lightest of all is the GFC SuperLite 50 that comes with a hard shell. Surprised? The weight of this product is only 80 pounds.
It has dimensions of 90 x 50 x 40 inches. It is selling at a reasonable price no matter that it is one of the best hardshell rooftop tents.
Which rooftop tent is best?
The best model that you can choose for yourself is the one that will fit on your car, car racks and serve you well regarding outdoor needs.
You can choose between soft and hard shell units. First are cheaper than hard shell ones that can be even 2-3 times more expensive.
Also consider its size, space capacity, setup, waterproofness, annexes, extra storage, and other features to pick the best one out.
How do you pick one?
Before getting your best rooftop tent for a car you should consider few things so you won’t have problems on the road or at the camping site. These are the basics that you need to consider:
- How much weight your car can handle (shelter + racks + campers)
- How much weight your car roof rack can handle
- Rack compatibility
- Tent features (waterproofness, soft/hard shell, setup, space, weight capacity, etc.)
- Your needs
Elevate your camping experience
If you want to stay safe from the ground animals, stay in a more waterproof tent and experience the most beautiful mornings while Overlanding you should get one of the best rooftop tents for camping.
Till now you already know that RTTs are easy to pitch while already being installed on the vehicle, are made to last, provide a dry camping experience and protect from wild animals like bears and coyotes.
These are some of the advantages in the comparison with traditional ground tents.
So, if you are interested in buying one, go ahead and check my list of products and guide that will help you to pick your winner that will serve you well for years and make your outdoor trips more excited.