The Rooftop Tent Buying Guide. Camping has evolved from traditional to high-tech in recent years. Several individuals no longer use the term “camping” because “glamping” has taken over. Since more individuals have begun to camp and experience the outdoors, a new rooftop tent industry has emerged. They were quite uncommon just a few years ago, but they are now found at practically every camping location.
This post will look at the best rooftop tents on the market right now. We’ll go over their benefits and drawbacks before recommending the top 5 finest rooftop tents for 2023. You’ll find a FAQ at the bottom that will address all of your queries. We’ll try to provide a recommendation based on your vehicle and the type of camping you’re planning.
Rooftop Tent Benefits and Drawbacks
The following are the primary advantages of rooftop tents:
- Creating more space within the car
- You are not required to sleep on the ground.
- They are more at ease.
- Constructed to last
- It is supposed to be quick and simple to set up.
The most obvious benefit of a rooftop tent is that you don’t have to sleep on the ground. This is advantageous since it not only keeps most little critters out of harm’s way, but it is also more comfy. It will not prevent all bugs, insects, or animals from entering your tent, but it will significantly reduce their number. Furthermore, if you are exposed to inclement weather such as rain or snow, sleeping in the air keeps you from waking up in a puddle or encased in snow.
It is also excellent for preserving space. You can keep your tent, raincover, and sleeping items in the tent instead of taking up space in your vehicle. Most tents include beds, and you can keep all of your sleeping gear inside while driving. This frees up a lot of room, which you may put to better use. Furthermore, the built-in mattress is typically far more comfortable than an air mattress or sleeping pad.
Rooftop tents are built to last. There are softshell and hardshell designs, with hardshells being the most durable. They can easily survive adverse weather conditions like as sleet, hail, and snow. They also last a long time because even the softshells are made of sturdy, weather-resistant materials.
Finally, the ease of putting up and taking down the tent is the main selling factor. While it appears to be a fine idea in theory, actual real-world experience with them has been mixed. They can be faster than ground tents, but only if you learn how to use them, which takes time.
The following are the primary disadvantages of rooftop tents
- In comparison to ground tents, it is rather pricey.
- Gained weight
- Initial setup is difficult.
- Must remain with vehicle
- It is impossible to keep the tent up throughout the day.
While purchasing a rooftop tent has its benefits, there are also some substantial drawbacks. By far the most significant drawback will be the cost. Rooftop tents are far more expensive than ground tents, by far. A decent ground tent may cost $100-$200, but an entry-level rooftop tent will cost at least $1,000. Hardshells are more expensive than softshells, and some can cost more than $4,000. This is not a tent you should buy as your first.
Also, they are much heavier than ground tents. While you are not required to transport them, doing so increases the burden on your vehicle. Not only does hauling an extra couple hundred pounds reduce gas consumption and increase drag, but it also puts a lot of weight on your vehicle’s center of gravity. This makes it more prone to toppling over in tighter corners or during off-roading. The extra height on top of the automobile also makes driving in regions with a lot of low-hanging tree branches more dangerous.
They are also difficult to put up at first because they are heavier than typical and many people have difficulty lifting them into larger trucks and SUVs. They are also more difficult to set up than a standard tent because you must ensure that it is attached to your vehicle.
Our final rooftop tent complaints
The final disadvantage is primarily one of convenience. You must sleep on your automobile because your tent is attached to your roof. That means no dumping the car for a trek and overnight camping; if you want to use your tent, you must return. You also can’t leave your tent up throughout the day while driving around in your automobile. While they are meant to be simple to set up, many individuals find it laborious and frustrating to do so on a daily basis.
The Top 5 Rooftop Tents
The top five best roof top tents are as follows:
- Kukenam 3 Thule Tepui Explorer
- Condor Roofnest XL
- The Overlander Smittybilt
- Skycamp 3.0 Small Tent by iKamper
- Roof Top Tent Front Runner
Let’s take a look at the top five best roof top tents on the market in 2023. We provide a variety of hardshell and softshell tents, as well as tents of various sizes. There are dozens of rooftop tents on the market today, but we believe these are the best.
1) Roof Top Tent Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3
3 campers are allowed.
Tent material: softshell
The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Roof Top Tent is first on our list. Thule purchased Tepui in 2018 and has been selling its tents under the joint branding since then. They have a sizable market share in the business, and their tents are extremely popular.
One of their most popular midsize tents is the Explorer Kukenam 3. It comfortably accommodates 2-3 campers and comes with a 2.4-inch high density foam mattress for sleeping. Tepui designed it with panoramic windows and skylights for the best astronomy and nature viewing. They also help to ventilate the tent, which helps to keep temperatures down. The 52-inch ceiling height makes it feel incredibly spacious.
It won’t provide the same level of protection as a hardshell, but the cover is composed of coated 600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend. It weighs just under 120 pounds, making it light by rooftop tent standards. Because of its reasonable pricing, most consumers will be content camping with a Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3.
2) Condor XL Rooftop Tent by Roofnest
3-4 campers are allowed.
Tent type: hardshell
The Roofnest Condor XL roof top tent is ranked second on our list. The XL in the name denotes that it is the largest of the Condor variants, and it can sleep up to four people. It’s over a foot longer than a conventional Condor, but it also weights more, at 160 pounds.
The tent offers a 2.5-inch foam mattress for comfort and a maximum inside headroom of 50 inches. It also comes with a privacy cover, 44 ground mat, and an inside LED light. The tent measures 93′′L x 74′′W on the inside and 74′′L x 55′′W on the outside. When fully closed, it compacts to about 13 inches, which is ideal for decreasing drag.
The Condor XL is a hardshell tent, which means it is designed to withstand the elements. It is quite strong and can absolutely withstand adverse weather. It is, however, rather pricey at just under $3,400, but you are getting a sturdy piece of equipment. It’s certainly overkill for single campers or couples, but it’s ideal for groups of 3-4. The Condors are among the best Jeep rooftop tents.
3) Rooftop Tent Smittybilt Overlander
Price: $1,325.99 – $1,529.99
2-4 campers are allowed.
Tent material: softshell
The Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent is the next item on our list. The Overlander is available in two sizes from Smittybilt: normal and XL. The normal is intended for 2-3 people, while the XL is intended for up to 4 campers. The XL is much larger than the normal, measuring 122″W x 76″L x 51″ H. The usual dimensions are 95″W x 56″L x 51″H. The XL additionally has a greater load capacity (770 lbs versus 661 lbs).
It comes with a 2.36-inch foam mattress with a removable cover for your comfort. There is also an LED strip interior light and a 51-inch internal height for both versions, making them quite spacious. They also contain a sliding ladder and mosquito screens, albeit the ladder’s reliability has been questioned.
Because the Smittybilt Overlanders are softshell tents, they will not last as long as hardshell tents. They do, however, come with rain coverings and provide good ventilation for temperature regulation. On clear nights, the roof panels open for superb stargazing, which is one of the Overlander’s main selling advantages. The Overlander is a sturdy rooftop tent, albeit a little costly.
4) Skycamp 3.0 Small Tent by iKamper
1-2 campers are allowed.
Tent type: hardshell
Following that is our smallest recommendation, the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Small Tent. IKamper was one of the earliest manufacturers of rooftop tents, and their Skycamp model is now in its third version. This tent, as the name suggests, is on the little side. It’s designed for a single or couple camper, yet it saves a lot of space. This is one of the few tents that can be put on cars other than trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs.
Because the Skycamp 3.0 is a hardshell tent, it will stand up to the elements and extreme weather. Even though it’s a minivan, it’s still quite spacious for two people. It weights 125 pounds and measures 82 23″W x 51″L x 48″H. At only 2.25″ thick, the mattress is the thinnest on our list, although it is insulated. It also has iKamper’s trademark skyview window for stargazing and nature viewing.
While the iKamper Skycamp isn’t inexpensive, it is our most expensive tent while being the smallest. But, it is a highly sturdy device. The hardshell adds weight, but also strength. Because of its cost, the Skycamp is probably better for couples rather than solitary campers, and it is absolutely preferable for those who will use it frequently.
5) Roof Top Tent Front Runner
2-3 campers are allowed.
Tent material: softshell
The Front Runner Roof Top Tent is the list’s final entry. Because of its low profile and attractive design, the Front Runner is popular among many campers. It can sleep two people comfortably, but a third camper can also fit if necessary. It weighs less than 100 pounds and has a robust aluminum frame.
Because the Front Runner is a softshell, it lacks the protection and durability of a hardshell. It does, however, include a rain cover made of thick PVC for protection. The interior is 96″L x 51″W x 46″H. It lacks the height of others due to its low profile, yet it is still reasonably spacious.
The Front Runner is one of the best rooftop tents for stargazing since it features large windows. It is also intended to be simple to install and roll out, with the ability to unravel in a single quick and easy foldout. Because of its size, the Front Runner, like the iKamper, is probably best suited for a couple or single camper. It is also less than a third the price of the Skycamper, despite the fact that it is a softshell rather than a hardshell.
Rooftop Tent Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a rooftop tent?
A rooftop tent is a tent that is attached to the roof of your automobile or truck bed. They usually have a tiny mattress and sit half on and half off the roof of the vehicle. As you need to climb on top of the automobile, tents have ladders to get in and out of.
Rooftop tents are they expensive?
Yes. Rooftop tents start at $1,000 and can go up to $4,000 or more. They are far more complicated and long-lasting than ground tents.
Which is preferable, a rooftop tent or a ground tent?
It depends on the type of camping you undertake. A ground tent will generally adequate if you plan on performing light or occasional camping at largely campgrounds or established spots. But, if you frequently camp in off-road or off-trail areas where there aren’t always flat locations suited for camping, a rooftop tent might be something to consider.
Can rooftop tents withstand severe weather?
Yes. There are hardshell and softshell tents available. While hardshell tents are obviously preferable in heavy rain and snow, most softshell tents are nonetheless all-weather capable with rain coverings.
What is the weight of rooftop tents?
The majority of rooftop tents weigh between 100 and 160 pounds. Most vehicles can only carry a maximum of 160 pounds on their roof, thus most tents stay under that weight limit. Hardshells are almost always heavier than softshells.
What size are rooftop tents?
Rooftops can have virtually any size. The smallest are intended for 1-2 campers, while the largest may accommodate up to 4-5 people. These are not as large as large family ground tents or camper vans, but they are enough for most small camping vacations.
What are the many varieties of rooftop tents?
Rooftop tents come in both hardshell and softshell varieties. Hardshells are heavier, more expensive, and designed for more extreme weather conditions such as hail, snow, and sleet. Softshells are lighter, less expensive, and better suited for summer camping. These can still withstand rain and some extreme weather, but not as well as hardshells and will not keep you as warm.
Rooftop tents are they comfortable?
Although this is subjective, most people perceive rooftop tents to be more comfortable than ground tents. The built-in mattresses surely aid in sleeping, and most are designed with windows or vents for viewing nature or stargazing. Views are also improved by being on a higher platform.
Rooftop tents are they safe?
Rooftop tents are indeed safe. The hardshells are designed to survive extreme weather, and being elevated off the ground provides additional protection from bugs and animals. You’re tied to your car as an anchor, so even high winds won’t blow you away.
Are rooftop tents simple to erect?
Both yes and no. While they are simple to set up and dismantle once you get the hang of it, there is a learning curve that takes time to master. Also, because they are very heavy to load onto a car, you will most likely require assistance with the initial setup. After you’ve installed them, they’re designed to be rapidly folded and unfolded, though this takes some practice.
When driving, where do rooftop tents go?
Rooftop tents roll and fold into themselves and sit on top of the vehicle when traveling. This adds weight and drag to the car, as well as lowering the center of gravity. Most of the time, the only problem it causes is decreased fuel economy.