13 Best Roof Top Tent Reviews | Tepui vs ARB vs Yakima vs Smittybilt
Welcome to Modern Camping and Roof top tents are taking the outdoor industry by storm. Offering a totally new way to enjoy camping and exploring the wild, from the comfort of your own vehicle.
Often referred to as Overlanding, where the journey servers more purpose than the destination, this activity has become evidently more popular in recent years. This is one of the catalysts for the surge of interest shown in Rooftop Tents around the globe.
There are a variety of designs and styles to choose from, which also directly relate to the type of vehicle. It’s important to get a feel for what’s available for Jeeps, Pickup Trucks and SUVs alike and be able to differentiate between them when its purchase time.
Utilizing an RTT offers a new concept to camping, doing away with traditional methods such as tent stakes, guy lines, rain flys, etc. With a Roof Top Tent, you are able to camp with a feeling of security, in an elevated position, enjoying the beautiful views and stars.
Far from creepy crawlies, morning dampness, and other larger nuisances, rooftop camping has fast become the king of glamping methods and allows total freedom in camping.
No longer will we have to be stuck to the confines of the campsite, or spend half a day to travel to and from local hotspots.
Best Roof Tents for Jeeps, Trucks and Cars Reviewed
Smittybilt Roof Tents
A well-known and respected brand among all overlanders but specifically among owners of Jeep Wranglers. Smittybilt has been in the business of servicing, improving and adapting Jeeps for over 50 years. They also have branched out into SUVs and Trucks alike, but the foundation of the brand began with Jeeps.
With a whole host of successful products on the market, ranging from Jeep Bumpers, Winches, Awnings and of course, Roof Top Tents. The Overlander Rooftop Tent is a top performing Jeep Tent with quality design features and a full 4 season protection. Additionally, with a modest price tag, they have become one of the most popular assets for a Jeep Wrangler owner.
Indeed designed initially for jeep wranglers they are not restricted to this vehicle only and can be made to fit other sized roof racks with a slight adjustment. This is even more apparent with the release of the Overlander XL model, which can easily fit larger vehicles like Trucks and SUV’s.
Related Article: Best SUV Tents for Camping
1. Smittybilt Overlander Tent Review
As mentioned before the Overlander is the pride and joy of Smittybilts Rooftop Tent lineup. With a gorgeous aesthetic, quality materials, 4 season protection, and a non-complex assembly method, it’s a must-have for all Overlanding lovers.
It’s true Smittybilt tends to focus more on jeep tents and the Jeep Wrangler vehicle to be exact, however, these tents are compatible with other models of vehicles. If you have a roof rack on your vehicle then 99% chance this will fit accordingly as it comes with a full mounting kit that can adapt to most racks. You can assist this by simply installing a standard diameter cross bar to provide necessary fixing points for the framework.
The Overlander Tent is suitable for 3 people at maximum. The beauty of roof top tents is you don’t need to take into account gear storage when choosing capacity, as you have your vehicle below for mass storage. So a 3 person tends to really sleep 3 people, as opposed to ground tents.
There is also an Annex attachment available for the Overlander Tent however it is sold separately. The annex is 84 x 60 in inches and is attached to the bottom of the jeep tent by heavy duty zippers, a useful addition for larger groups or those in need of some extra shelter while camping.
Quality materials result in great protection, the tent itself has been weather tested and has been given a 1500mm rating regards rainfall. This is substantial and enough to consider it waterproof. Likewise, it is also UV resistant and has a meshed sunroof and side windows to protect from mosquitoes and other insects. The doors and windows also provide air circulation internally, helping to keep temperatures down in hot weather and odors out. The frame, much like the ARB Simpson III, utilizes an Anodised Aluminum framework which is sturdy yet lightweight. In fact the Overlander is one of the lightest roof top tents in our list.
The base is seriously strong, employing a ‘sandwich’ style design that is 2.5cm thick. The materials used are a Polyurethane and Aluminum combination. This results in a substantial weight capacity of up to 660lbs (300kg) which can easily support 3 people plus gear and mattresses etc. Speaking of mattresses, one does come free with this tent and it’s of high quality. A large mattress that can sleep up to 3, a removable protective cover which is manufactured with a fire retardant based foam. 2 modern features that we love is the LED lighting strip that is integrated inside the tent, providing some additional lighting when it gets dark. Then also the cigarette lighter style 12v adapter, which can be very useful while vehicle camping.
- Lightweight Roof Tent
- LED Strip Lighting Integrated
- 1500mm HH rating
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2. Smittybilt 2883 Overland Tent Review
The 2883 is an enlarged, premium model of the Overlander tent. Capable of fitting 3-4 person, it’s one of the larger roof top tents on the market, if not one of the largest. Bear in mind that this XL roof tent is designed for trailer use only, so say Smittybilt. If you’re unsure if your vehicle is compatible or not you can check with them via the product page (clicking above).
Personally, I may be a bit apprehensive to get 4 in there, but the weight capacity can definitely handle it at 770lbs, 110lbs more than the Overlander. 9 times out of 10 you will not be having 4 fully grown adults in there, most likely young children or simply for extra storage and legroom, so for this purpose, it fits the bill. Measurement wise it comes to 122 x 76 x 51 in inches when fully opened up.
In traditional Smittybilt colors, the coyote tan is evident once again. This time with heavy-duty rip stop polyester, to provide a rugged and robust defense against any kind of weathering, during longer camps. Still utilizing the anodized aluminum framework, keeping it reasonably lightweight even for a bigger tent, at 168 pounds for when packed. Plus the weight cap, you obviously want to make sure your vehicle is sufficiently strong.
With stainless steel hinges, you can be sure that the usual weak points, folds, and cornering are fully reinforced, with this weatherproof and extremely tough steel. The foam mattress and cover also come with, additionally mosquito screens, telescopic ladder, and mounting brackets also, offering pretty good value when bundled together.
- Up to 4 Person Capacity
- Heavy Duty Polyester Fabric
- 770lbs Weight Capacity
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Tepui Roof Tents
Tepui is a giant in the RTT industry and they are based out of California. They have honed their skills into creating some of the best performing roof top tents on the market, resulting in Tepui Tents becoming a household name among Overlanders and Glampers alike.
Some of their most successful models are the Tepui Autana, Ayer and Kukenam Sky Tents, which are all RTT model tents. User reviews are consistently positive with Tepui and they have earned the trust of Overlanders and ourselves with these models. Let’s have a closer look at two of their more popular models.
3. Tepui Kukenam Sky Tent Review
The Kukenam is generally a bit more compact than the Autana model line. Which would serve smaller groups better who are going on a trip, overlander style. This particular rooftop tent has a variety in appearance which is honestly quite rare among other jeep tents. However, Tepui has worked on producing various color schemes for their RTT’s. It’s also one of the best 4 Season models out there due to its quality of material, design, and performance.
All Year Round
A 4 season tent that performs excellently well in all weather conditions. This is due to the high-quality materials used in the manufacturing process. Utilizing a rugged Oxford polyester, which you may be accustomed to with other top tents, this works to keep any rain, wet and damp out. Employing a 600 D cotton and poly mix which is RipStop, resistant to tears, snags and scrapes alike. Resulting in a really durable protecting shell that can withstand bumps and bruises without diminishing the protective value. The whole tent itself has been given a protectant coating in the form of DWR treatment, which stands for Durable Water Repellant.
Quality Rainfly and Base
The rainfly is equally as protective with an Oxford 420D polyester fly that has also been coated for additional defensive value. This works wonders and probably is one of the key factors in qualifying this tent to be a 4 season tent. The rainfly works to protect the tent from not only rain but snow, sleet, hail, and intense sunlight. A protective polyurethane coating will ensure moisture is kept out and the waterproof properties will ensure no water can penetrate the canvas.
Equipped with mounting brackets that will be compatible with universal roof racks and roof bars alike. Requires a simple installation onto the roof rack/bar of your vehicle then that’s the first step done. After this, the telescoping ladder can be attached with a few easy pole inserts. You may be pleased to know the ladder comes with the tent so no unnecessary extra purchases need to be made. When the ladder folds out it extends the framework outwards which completes the setup, when collapsing we just rewind the same process. When not in use and you are either en route to a destination or on the way back home, there will be a PVC cover you can use to protect the tent and framework.
Some of the cool features on this model are the quick-release ladder, the steps can slide down together offering a variation of height in the ladder. This makes it compatible for lower level vehicles up to the higher sitting ones, like pickups for example. The rainfly and roof panels are also all quick release, making it simple to detach these parts when necessary, for set up or collapsing. The Kukenam also features no-see-um mosquito netting, this consists of a very fine mesh that is too small for mosquitos or any other bugs to penetrate.
- 4 Season Certified
- Quick Release System
- Mosquito Prevention
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4. Tepui Autana Sky Tent Review
Next up is the Autana Sky model which has received equal, if not more recognition than the Kukenam. This is primarily because of the elongated design allowing for additional attachments. The Annex attachment that hands down and encapsulates the vehicle in a very unique way is an interesting feature indeed.
Drawing attention with its unique design it also has an array of features worth shouting about, resulting in high performance while out on the field. A full 4 season roof top tent with a simple set up and top quality protective material, let’s dive in deeper.
The Autana Sky has 3 different color options in Tan, Green and an awesome Siberian Camo color scheme. The Annex also comes free and matches all color schemes. The measurements are 90 x 90 in inches for the annex’s coverage and it fits directly onto the RTT and lays down the side of the vehicle creating a fully enclosed space. Built with windows that are located on the side panels, they are additionally screened, this helps to create healthy air circulation in the enclosed area. There are 2 openings located in this area also on the front and back, this helps to create an easy entry/exit plan and can help to fully ventilate the area when needed.
Again this model includes the 2.5-inch mattress with no extra charge, however, it is known to be a pretty solid surface. Perhaps better for chopping wood off than sleeping on, we exaggerate but it is quite strong. Like the Kukenam they all include some form of storage internally, again the Autana also has large storage pockets inside to store your camping things. With the elongated design, the inside of the RTT is spacious, due to the framework holding an A-shaped design. This helps to create a peak which gives a good center height, so you don’t need to be on all fours all the time, you are able to at least sit upright in a normal fashion.
The sleeping area is 56 x 96 in inches for width and length respectively, this offers a decent area to sleep on and qualifies as a 3 person tent. We would suggest this for 2 people plus gear for the most comfortable camping arrangement. Weighing around 130-150 lbs. depending on the annex being used, it keeps a relatively lightweight for a roof top tent. This is partly due to the aluminum framework and the simplistic design which focuses on speed and strength.
The canopy area is very well protected and has been coated with a UV and Mold resistant coat. The mold coating is especially useful as a roof top tent carrying moisture and wet when folded away will accumulate mold and mildew over time, this helps to alleviate this issue. Employing a polyester fabric cover that is 600D ripstop material, this is durable and water resistant and will work to protect you against the elements throughout all 4 seasons.
- 600D Ripstop Canopy
- 4 Season Roof Tent
- Free Annex Attachment
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5. Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Review
The Ayer is ideal for smaller sized vehicles, given the more compact design in comparison to the Autana and Kukenham. The only other model that compares size-wise with this one is the Baja series.
Capable of withstanding weathering in all of the 4 seasons, it makes it a very versatile roof top tent, allowing you to venture off into the wilderness whatever the weather or time of year. Winter camping with a vehicle tent combination makes perfect sense, due to the fact that you are elevated off the ground, thus avoiding the snow. Snowfall, however, will still play its part, but just make sure to clear frequently and you’re good.
Being a smaller sized tent this fits 2 people comfortably at an absolute maximum, I wouldn’t attempt pushing this model to 3. Look above to the other brands if you are wanting to have a bit more storage space or over-sized mattress etc. Speaking of mattresses, this does come with a free 2.5-inch foam mattress like the others.
It is vented which aids in air circulation, cooling and freshening up the interior. This is by meshed panels situated on the sides and roof. Ample storage space with 4 extra-large pockets integrated inside and an attachable canopy is available, however, it is sold separately. But could be nice in the summer for extra shade, and I may avoid using it in the winters as it probably can’t hold too much weight above. So the level of use will be down to the user.
All in all, not a bad compact roof tent by any means and definitely worth a closer look for 2 person roof tent campers.
- Compact 2 Person Model
- Annex and Canopy Attachments Available
- Plenty of Storage Inside
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Tuff Stuff Roof Tents
A company that has a serious variety of roof top tents is Tuff Stuff. There isn’t as much information about Tuff Stuff on the web compared to the larger marketed brands like Tepui and ARB, but their position in the market is definitely clear.
They have a really great variety of products and are based out of Santa Ana, California. With 3 different models performing equally well on the modern market, with tons of extras available, they were worth a place in our list today.
They have the Elite model which works well as a simple model for larger groups and families, this is because it is a 5 person. The price is insanely modest for a 5 man so we appreciate this model. Then there are the other 2 models, the Ranger and Delta, which both similarly use an annex attachment.
However, they are of smaller stature, the Ranger also has the size advantage, fitting up to 3 people while the Delta is a compact 2 person roof top tent. The Delta is a cool compact model for solo and couple camping adventures.
Related Article: Best Carport Canopies Reviewed
6. Tuff Stuff Ranger Overland Review
We had a go with the Ranger model and we have to say we were not disappointed. It performed extremely well on our trip and held up well in some heavy rains along the way. The Ranger is a happy medium between the 2 and had the right weight and dimensions for our vehicle. The Tuff Stuff roof top tents are fully compatible with all vehicles as long as you have a roof rack with a cross bar, they can be fitted to any dimensions. Let’s check out some more of its features and design.
For a 3 person rooftop tent, it’s pretty spacious, we were able to fit 2 big ugly men inside with room to spare. With the annex to attach, we never had an issue about space and storage. You can fit a queen size mattress into the tent so that may give you some idea as to the space available. When it’s all packed away it will be around 12x56x48 in inches for height, width, and length respectively. However, when it’s pitched and ready the base measurements are 56x96x52 in inches for width, length, and height.
The connected $200 annex is fully enclosed and comes free with the Ranger model. It has one large zippered door area which sits on the front, it’s meshed and can be rolled up and secured to allow entry to the vehicle or simply to clear out any odor and provide air circulation. The annex also has a solid base equal to the material used on the roof top tent, so you won’t be on bare ground and will prevent any condensation and rising damp, due to its thick PVC base.
The framework, for the most part, is aluminum, the poles, the floor but the hinges and brackets that get the most wear and tear are made of stainless steel. This really helps to reinforce the whole tent and give it longevity in the weak and vulnerable points.
The tent itself is made with a polyester and cotton material that withstands strong winds and rain really well. Utilizing RipStop and a protective coating that works against water penetration, UV and Mold, it’s ready to fight the elements in any weather. The polyester rainfly is of equal quality and performs well in repelling water, keeping the tent dry. Beneath sits the Ranger’s air vents, this helps in allowing hot air to escape, cooling the interior of the tent on hot days. There are 3 screened windows totally integrated into the tent, which each have their own awning, this means you can prop the windows open to ventilate the tent.
- Water/UV/Mold Protected
- Stainless Steel Hinges
- Free Queen Mattress
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7. Front Runner Roof Tent Review
Probably one of the best lightweight roof top tents on the market, next to Smittybilts Overlander model, is this 2 person model from Front Runner.
Although a seemingly compact tent, it sleeps 2 really well with ample space. The width is at 1.3 meters with enough space inside to move around, due to the 2.4-meter length. The design is aerodynamic and low profile which helps to combat wind resistance while in transit, saving fuel in the long run.
3 windows are integrated into the design and all have privacy panels and doors, with ‘noseeum’ meshed paneling. The tent fabric is tough, a 400D heavy duty poly-cotton is used in the manufacture and additionally comes very well protected. For example, due to the PVC coating, it offers mold, fire and water resistance, while retaining its breathable and malleable properties.
A fly sheet is free and can be attached during hot afternoons to provide shade and cooler internal temperatures, on a clearer day you can remove it and enjoy some stargazing in the evenings. Storage is evident in the double pockets found internally and there are also attachments to hang lights, which are made from velcro.
All in all a great little, lightweight roof tent choice.
- Oxford 400D Heavy Duty Poly
- Aerodynamic Low Profile
- Lightweight Design
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Yakima Roof Tents
Yakima originally started out as a small machine shop located in Yakima, Washington. Bought out by a cycling and kayaking duo, they later went on to set up shop in Arcata, California where they began their quest of supplying the world with quality outdoor gear.
Their first glimpse of notoriety is when their aerodynamic fairings and roof racks made an appearance in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Fast forward a bit and in 2015 they moved to Portland into a more modern set up and this is where the vehicle products came in abundance after teaming up with Toyota.
It didn’t take long for the Yakima Skyrise Roof Top Tents to arrive on the market with rave reviews and great performance. The Yakima Skyrise series currently comes in various options. The small and medium sizes, which are also known as the Skyrise 2 and Skyrise 3, as they fit 2 and 3 people.
Additionally, they have teamed with REI and Poler to create a Skyrise 3 Poler Edition but with different color themes, Green and Camo Green respectively.
8. Yakima Skyrise HD Tent Review
We are reviewing the original models made by Yakima themselves, the Yakima Skyrise 2 and the Yakima Skyrise 3. The difference lies in the measurements and dimensions of the 2 tents, however, you can rest assured that both tents utilize the same quality materials and design as each other. With the original color theme of White and Red we feel it gives a cool Pagoda like feel, perhaps the name ‘Yakima Skyrise’ is influencing my perspective, but it’s definitely a unique color theme nonetheless. These double wall roof tents have a few worthy features worth noting, so let’s check them out.
If you were curious as to whether the Skyrise has an annex attachment, it does. However, it is sold separately. The annex itself is waterproof and is manufactured with 210D polyester fabric, it is then connected to the underside of the Skyrise and creates a fully enclosed area beside the vehicle. A large meshed window is present on the sidewall which can be rolled up to allow air circulation, without the worry of mosquitoes invading you.
The Skyrise does employ a simplistic setup method and can be done in around 15 minutes. However, some prep work needs to be done for the first assembly. This is mainly regarding the roof rack and ensuring you have your mounting brackets installed correctly. After the initial period of installation is done, you can be set up pretty quickly from there onwards, enjoying a fast pitch camp while out on the road. One of the cool benefits of the mounting design is it requires minimal tools for the installation and can be done by less adept campers just as easily.
The tent is very well ventilated in a manner of ways. Firstly the whole tent is made from a waterproof coated 210D nylon, even the rainfly. Not only is this protective but it is a breathable material, which will keep air circulating throughout. Secondly, the integrated windows and the skylights also employ mesh that can be zipped open and close. The fine mesh will still allow a breeze to pass through while simultaneously blocking out any bugs and insects.
- SKS Locks Cores
- Lightweight Aluminum
- Free Mattress
9. Yakima Skyrise 3 Poler Edition Review
The Poler edition is a camouflage-patterned roof tent with a limited edition design aesthetic. The only other camo design we’ve seen in other brands is the Gobi desert model, which is slightly smaller and mounts vertically rather than across the rack like the Poler.
With 3 person capacity, much like the previous original colored model, it also has a night view feature so you can stargaze from the comfort of your tent, given a clear sky. This is also due to the fact that the panels are meshed, not only providing air circulation but also a clear view.
Waterproofed with a PU coating and the tent’s material is the same standard as backcountry tents, utilizing 210D nylon fabric in the manufacture. The mattress is 2.5 inches thick and has a removable cover, so it’s pretty easy keeping the sleeping area fresh and clean for a good night’s sleep.
- 210D Nylon Fabric
- Unique Camo Design
ARB Roof Tents
Another household name for Roof Top Tents is ARB. They have been in the industry for years, since 1975 to be exact and are based out of Australia. Specializing in Overlanding, jeep tents and equipment for traveling and camping with vehicles, ARB has created the ARB Simpson line.
The newer Simpson III will be our main focus today given its updated design which includes some new features and better all-round quality, resulting in a strong, weather-resistant and sturdy RTT. We will also include an original model which has a more economical price tag but still maintaining the high quality evident with ARB.
All of their jeep tent lines come with top quality polyester and cotton fabrics used in the tent design and any attachments such as awnings and flysheets alike. The set-up is simple after carefully designing a simplistic method to attach the ARB Simpson line to the roof rack or bars of your vehicle, in the easiest possible manner.
10. ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Review
One of the top-performing tents in ARB’s lineup is the Simpson III model. Renowned among overlanders and glampers due to the simplistic assembly that allows it to be pitched up and ready within minutes. Likewise, it’s equally easy to fold away and hit the road again. This is the newest model in the ARB Simpson series and they do indeed get better as time moves on. This particular model is also fully compatible with an Annex and it also can be set up where it pitches over the side or the rear of your vehicle. This can be useful when you’re in a tight squeeze, you can still pitch up for the night regardless. Let’s check out some of its features.
A great aspect of the ARB Simpson III is not only the fact that you sleep completely off the ground in safe elevation but after you’ve slept and are ready to hit the roads again, you can just leave all your sleeping bags and things in the compartment. Fold it up and get going, this is very resourceful and saves a lot of time in unpacking and space in your vehicle. Quite a few models of RTT’s flat-pack so you are unable to store things inside during travel. The assembly system utilizes bungee as a fast and efficient securing method, this is often found among Car Canopies and Carports as a proven method of security.
The Annex on this tent is big and actually doubles as a changing room because of this, providing a spacious area to shelter or change in full privacy. The Annex alone has great features, consisting of storage pockets, a meshed window, and a large entry door. Combined this is a practical and well-ventilated space to utilize during your camping breaks.
You may be curious as to the strength of this roof top tent. Employing an Anodised Aluminum framework it definitely holds up against strong winds, while remaining relatively lightweight in comparison to the sold steel frames. This is to reduce pressure and stress upon the vehicle below. The frame is robust with a 25mm thickness and additionally has resistance against corrosion, which is needed when out on the road all the year round. The frame can survive all weather conditions and the ARB Simpson III has proven itself to be a 4 season tent, performing well during the winter season.
It does come with a foam mattress consisting of a 65mm thickness. All ARB tents come with meshed doors and windows which alleviates the issue of mosquitoes. When you’re camping off-road you can get into areas that are absolutely riddled with bugs and insects, given that they are unfrequented by people, you will need some form of protection from this.
The telescopic ladder is also made of aluminum, so it doesn’t add much extra weight to the vehicle while remaining strong. It then folds away out of sight when not in use due to the compact design. Lastly, a PVC cover comes with the tent, you use this to wrap the unit up while on the road, this is 100% waterproof and will protect your investment throughout all those miles of traveling.
- Anodised Aluminum Framework
- Meshed Doors and Windows
- Corrosion Resistant
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11. TMB Pop Up Roof Tent Review
TMB is a great option for a hard shell roof top tent. With their fiberglass shell reinforced with an ABS core, substantial waterproof rating, and thick strong walls, they perform as some of the better hardshell tents out there.
Weight and Dimensions
55 x 84 in inches for width and length, however for height around 11-12 inches high and 36-37 inches on the inside. They can probably fit an extra child inside which makes it a bit more suitable for small size family campers, or perhaps just a larger mattress. Weight wise it’s around 160 lbs.
ABS Fiberglass Exterior
Aerodynamic in design helps to create less resistance as possible while out on the road, also when pitched. Providing a more comfortable shelter with less noise during high winds. This also works to give more miles to the gallon over long distances. The material is reinforced fiberglass on the upper shell area, on both Sparrow and Eagle models.
The lower section is equally fortified with identical materials but utilizes a slightly different design, being the base area it focuses more on strength and stability as opposed to aerodynamics. Resulting in a 650 lb. weight capacity which equals the standard of the top quality non-hard shell roof tents.
Employing a sturdy wall design that consists of a poly/cotton mix, which we are used to seeing in other top quality vehicle tents. These materials combined with the polyurethane coating results in a very respectable hydrostatic head rating of 3000mm, which is substantially higher than your average tents. Which is around 800-1500 generally speaking. However, it’s not uncommon to see Camping Tarps reach in upwards of 6000-20,000mm. Anything over 1000-2000 is considered fully waterproof and should feel comfortable camping in the rain with this.
Doors & Windows
They include front and rear windows which have been integrated with a fine mesh. This helps to keep bugs and other bothersome airborne critters out of the tent. They both consist of zippered enclosures so you have control in regards to ventilation in the tent. A neat feature is the canvas door which can be adapted at the front to create an awning. Providing a small area of shade which can be useful on those hot summer days.
- Pop Up Set Up System
- 660lbs Weight Capacity
- ABS Fiberglass Shell
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12. Gobi Desert Tent Rooftop Tent Review
Our next edition is from Gobi Desert with their sleek and stylish roof top tent that mirrors in appearance somewhat to the Freespirit model above. A high-quality roof top tent that comes in 3 different color themes, Gray, Orange, and Yellow. We prefer the Gray model so far as the other colors are a bit too funky for our liking. We believe a Coyote Tan and Green color could also be available, but you may need to contacts the supplier directly regarding this.
The tent utilizes top quality fabrics as seen in most of the jeep tents observed in this list. A poly/cotton mix is the industry standard and can be found within this model also. It’s durable, tough and fully water resistant, the tent also comes with an integrated rain fly that works to shed any rainfall landing on the tent. The base also employs a mixed material base of polyurethane and aluminum, which is incredibly strong which is evident in its 660 pounds weight capacity.
A nice feature for the Gobi Desert tent that is worth mentioning is the windows and door positioning, the windows are slightly elevated more than usual from the sleeping position. Being meshed (to repel insects) this allows for excellent visibility from the base of the tent. You can basically chill in bed and watch the stars as you fall asleep comfortably, pretty cool.
Tent and Frame
A heavy duty polyester fabric protects you from the elements and performs considerably well in all seasons. The 600D RipStop is 100% waterproof and will hold up well in anything from light showers to heavy downpours. This is also due to the polyurethane top, which is basically a reinforced area of the tent that helps to shed rainfall and repel any water penetration that may occur under heavy rainfall.
The measurements of the roof tent when set up are around 50 x 84 x 70 in inches and when packed it compacts down to 55 x 86 x 11 in inches. It’s slightly thicker when packed than other brands due to the difference in the design of the tent. However, you can benefit from a substantial difference in weight with this style of tents, this one weighing up to 99 lbs. (45kg) at max. Comparatively, the Gobi Desert roof tent has an apparent 22-inch height difference over the Freespirit model, clearly offering more head height and greater spaciousness.
- Stainless Steel Hinges
- Lightweight Under 100lbs
- Stargazing Feature
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13. Freespirit Recreation High Country Review
This ultra-cool roof top tent from Freespirit is a cool choice for small groups or even just going it solo. We love this design that is also evident in the Gobi Desert model (which we will look at next). This compact roof top tent is lightweight and has tons of storage integrated into the design, it’s also protected with high-quality coatings and material. Let’s find out more.
As mentioned it is at most, a 2 person roof tent. When open it will be around 52 x 85 x 48 in inches for width, length, and height. When packed down it is 52 x 85 x 9 in inches, as you can see at 9 inches high it packs down really tightly, so you wouldn’t be able to leave anything within the tent when folding up. Surprisingly it has a 750lbs weight capacity, for such a compact tent this is really good and shows its strength in design here. At 102 pounds in weight, it’s about level with the Yakima Skyrise 2, however, the weight capacity is superior here.
The tent is protected while camping and while on the road. When camping it benefits from double-stitched seams that have been sealed with a seam tape made of polyurethane. This has waterproof properties and is commonly used in canopies and tents across the board. The poly-cotton canvas employs RipStop and has also been treated through the manufacturing process, with a mold, mildew and UV coating. Not only this but when you are on the road traveling from A-B the tent will always be protected by the travel cover. The cover made of PVC and consists of a tough external casing which is 100% waterproof.
Frame and Storage
The frame is fully aluminum, this is where the lightweight value of the tent comes from and also the superior weight capacity. Aluminum works very well with roof top tents as you want the tent to be as light as possible, so as not to stress the suspension on the vehicle. Due to the design, the tent has a spacious main room and includes a fair amount of storage. There are built in storage pockets with hanging shoe pockets additionally.
There are 2 adjustable that make this tent quite unique. Firstly the tent is ventilated, but also the vents are adjustable. You can position them accordingly depending on the weather and the amount of circulation you want at the time. If its cold windy weather, you can close them up for minimal circulation, likewise in hot blistering heat, you can open them right up and benefit from a full breeze.
Secondly, the ladder can be set up in multiple ways, which is quite unique. The ladder is removable and can be set up on both sides of the tent, which is useful when camping in precarious positions with limited space. The telescopic ladder is made of aluminum so it’s lightweight, easy to store and it stands around 7.5 feet at its highest point. If you have an even higher point than this on your vehicle you could drill extra holes to extend it manually.
- 4 Season
- Fully Customizable
- Free Quality Travel Cover
Related Article: Best Camping Cots for Families Reviewed
Buyers Guide | How to Choose a Roof Top Tent?
The vehicle you plan to use for your adventure is a key factor and will determine many of your options for roof top tents. It is the foundation of your trip, it will hold the tent and take you from a-b. So make sure you have a vehicle worthy of hitting the outdoors such as a Jeep, SUV, 4×4 or Pickup truck for example. These are robust and reliable motor vehicles that are fully compatible with roof racks, the 2nd most important thing when considering.
You will need to make sure that your vehicle is indeed compatible with a roof rack or roof bars. If you’re looking at a roof top tent for the first time this year, then you’re in luck. Many of the companies mentioned in this list have taken measures to make their products available to substantially more models than in the past. Previously they were restricted to only specific brands and models of cars, but now they have created Customizable and versatile roof racks than can be altered and adapted to fit most vehicles that are used for Overlanding. A roof rack with a cross bar fitted is the most useful as most tents require some kind of parallel bar to latch and mount onto.
Weight and Weight Capacity
An important figure to be aware of is the cars, roof racks and tents weight capacities. A top quality roof top tent with a polyurethane base will have a weight capacity of around 500-650 pounds, supporting 2-3 people plus gear. The tents themselves usually weight between 100-160 pounds, so a roof rack that can withstand that weight is crucial. Lastly, what lies beneath all of this is your car, make sure you have a clear understanding of what kind of weight the vehicle can hold without too much pressure to the wheels and axles. The typical vehicles that are used for Overlanding like Jeeps and Pickups generally do have a substantial weight capacity already, given the nature of their use. But check on this nonetheless. Consult our FAQ below to learn about static weight vs. dynamic weight, an important formula you should be aware of when roof top tent camping.
Throughout our review process of numerous models, we have come to realize that they do mostly qualify as 4 season tents. This is excellent and proves their quality, so I would look out for whether or not the tent has been given the 4 seasons go-ahead by either the company, our review or other user reviews. The only scenario where it wouldn’t be important is if you know for a fact you will never be encountering any snowfall, in which case 3 seasons would suffice, as they are all waterproof with substantial HH ratings.
The vast majority of roof top tents are aluminum in the frame. Anodized aluminum is commonly seen in the top quality tents, this is evident when you look at our list. The hard shell tents however usually consist of a fiberglass shell to provide a lighter, more aerodynamic approach to their design. One feature that is worth keeping an eye out for is steel hinges. An aluminum framework with stainless steel hinges will give the tent much longer longevity and help to reinforce the weak and vulnerable areas of the folding mechanism. Important for extensive use and constant moving.
Materials and Base
A poly/cotton combination should generally be used on for the tent canvas and sidewalls. You may see some difference in the roof if they have some reinforced area, but generally speaking for sidewalls and surrounding areas, poly and cotton RipStop is the industry standard. As for the base, we would like to see a polyurethane base, perhaps mixed with aluminum or steel for the optimal strength. This also leads to a strong and reliable weight capacity for the tent base.
Windows and Doors
Roof top tents are not the most breathable tents out there, given they are so rugged and durable, they do falter somewhat in this department. However, we can assist the circulation with doors and windows, so this is key to try and have at least 1 window and of course, they all should have 1 door. You can look out for a larger D shaped door for optimal circulation. Additionally, a meshed door and window would be better, as this will also stop bugs and insects popping into your tent to annoy you. Most models should have an integrated mesh on all of their windows and door panels.
Not a necessity by any means and some brands have no manufactured an annex or awning to go with their tents. However, many brands indeed have and it is a very viable add on. Generally, between $200-$250 for a compatible annex, they will be designed to match and fit with their own brand and model. They are a good idea in our opinion if you have the means to use one. Consisting of the same quality as their tent, they utilize RipStop fabric, fully waterproof and offer a greater area to shelter from the elements. An awning can also be used to create that extra shaded area away from the hot summer rays.
As you can see from our list there are quite a few different styles to consider when choosing a roof top tent. The Tepui, Yakima, ARB all follow a very similar design shape, a wide, spacious tent that has attachable annexes and can fit parallel or side on to the roof rack. Whereas the Gobi Desert and Freespirit models have a compact design and fit one way on the rack, these do not overhang and do not have annex attachments.
Lastly is the hard shell version which is suitable for smaller vehicles, even cars. They mount onto the roof rack like a large rectangular box and literally pop up vertically to present a large spacious box room that is quite long. You may feel more at home with the traditional tent aesthetic of the Tepui and ARB models, or you may prefer the unique design and modern look of the other others, it comes down to personal preference.
It is important to make sure your tent comes with a protective travel cover. The tents can protect themselves once pitched, with their quality materials. However, when you are on the move and it’s packed down, it will need some help. Most models do come with a travel cover, but ideally, you would want a heavy duty PVC travel cover, to really alleviate any concern of weather damage while on the road.
A small feature and we may be pulling hairs at this point, but if you are really stuck between choosing 2 tents. Consider the aerodynamic values of the tent when it’s packed down. A tent with a better aerodynamic design will offer better miles to the gallon as opposed to a large square block sitting on the roof rack.
Shipping and Warranty
An unfortunate yet natural occurrence that happens when transporting large, engineered products is shipping damage. Given that when the tent arrives for the first time, there will be a lot of bags of nuts and bolts, parts, pieces, bars, etc. It’s imperative that you give the whole thing a once over, to check for missing parts and faulty parts. Unfortunately during the mass production of thousands of these tents, it is possible that occasionally a piece is a defect or missing. More importantly, make sure you are covered and have a warranty for shipping and at least for the first year of use, if possible. Just to give you that protection from the get-go. Remember it is a good idea to check it all through thoroughly once and set it up at home before going.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Roof Top Tents?
Roof top tents are robust, sturdy and fully waterproof camping tents that fit onto the roof rack of your vehicle. They usually come in 2-3 person sizes as the industry standard, but there are some 4-5 person models around too. 4 seasons tents that can be used in all weather conditions and be set up folded/unfolded within around 15 minutes. Utilizing a telescopic ladder to get to and from the tent, they are very convenient and offer a unique camping experience from an elevated position.
What is a Hard Shell Roof Top Tent?
It is a roof tent that employs a fiberglass exterior shell and a poly/canvas for its sidewalls and generally a polyurethane base. Unlike the standard RTT’s they don’t fold outwards, they pop directly upwards in a vertical line. Due to the design of being an elongated rectangular box, they are very unique in design and compact. The fiberglass makes them lightweight, thus suitable for smaller vehicles such as cars.
Why are Roof Top Tents so Expensive?
An understandable question and one that is commonly asked, by ourselves at one point also. When we look deeper into what is a roof top tent, it becomes clear why there is such a price tag and it is definitely not the companies to make a larger profit. These are very intricate pieces of engineering that are way more than just a tent. We should bear in mind they aren’t just tents, they are also beds. They try to provide an all-in-one experience and we also must pay for the engineering time and labor costs of construction. Lastly in an almost humorous tone, but others will know the seriousness of this scenario, how much would you pay to stay out of reach of an encroaching, hungry bear?
How does a Roof Top Tent Work?
They operate by fixing onto a roof rack or roof bar that should have already been fitted onto the top of your vehicle. After this it is mounted, it’s set and you can now begin your adventure. Regarding the use of the tent from this point onwards, it’s very simple. They utilize a folding and unfolding mechanism that beings with drawing/pulling the tent out by a handle or usually the telescopic ladder. It will all pull out and unfold in one motion, with the ladder extending downwards to the floor. Lock the catches and its set, you can snow scale the ladder and enter your home. When it’s time to go, you repeat the process in reverse and it will fold back into its compact shape, seal the case and cover the tent. Job done.
Can you put a Roof Top Tent on a Canopy?
It is possible but quite uncommon, you must make sure that the canopy itself has some sort of structural security. Relying on its legs alone may not be enough to support the weight in a roof top tent.
Can you put a Roof Top Tent on a Trailer?
Absolutely this is possible and it’s a very popular method of camping. We will be looking at this in more detail in our Roof Top Tent vs. Trailer section. Some people have reservations as to connecting a roof top tent to a low head height unit like a trailer, others prefer it saying it gives easier access.
Can my Car Support a Roof Top Tent?
A car as in a standard 4 door car can utilize a roof top tent, but maybe not one as substantial in our list above. If one would work it might be the Roofnest Hard shell models. For smaller vehicles like cars, there are other different styles of tents that are specifically made for cars.
How Much Weight can a Roof Top Tent Hold? [Static Load vs. Dynamic Load]
Generally between 500 and 660 pounds weight capacity. However, the important thing is to look at the rack and vehicle’s weight capacity.
A common misconception with roof top tents is the calculation of weight for the vehicle and roof rack. Vehicles have 2 different loads, a static load and dynamic load.
A Static Load is when the vehicle is stationary, so this will be when you are stopped, pitched up and camping. This is an important figure and this is when your vehicle will feel the full weight of the load. The Dynamic Load is when the vehicle is in motion and you are on the move.
One thing you may notice is when you are traveling you don’t feel the load as much, this is because Dynamic Loads are up to 10 times lighter than Static Loads.
This can become problematic when you load up the vehicle to the brim, hit the road and still feel light. However, once parked up and you’ve gone out and left everything sitting there, the weight can be felt up to 10 times heavier while static. Creating potential issues for the vehicle.
The main point in Lehman’s terms is to always calculate the extras, mattresses, weight and the tent’s weight to the weight capacity of the tent. Don’t assume it’s a fresh capacity. This way you can better calculate the weight you will be using vs. the weight capacity of your vehicle and roof rack and avoid overloading.
If you want to distribute more weight off the roof, consider using a camping wagon to store heavier objects, they can store up to 250lbs.
Are Roof Top Tents Waterproof?
They are not only waterproof but are around 2-3x more waterproof than backpacking tents. They utilize a very impressive hydrostatic head rating, generally between 2000-4000, which is well over the rating considered to be fully waterproof. The poly/cotton mixture used in their heavy canvas walls completely repels water and will resist any penetration from rainfall. This is one of the main reasons roof top tents qualify as 4 season tents.
How many can Sleep in a Roof Top Tent?
Generally speaking Roof Top Tents range from 2-4 person, however, we have seen a few 5-6 person models floating around. One of the only larger sized tents we have seen that caught our eye was the Elite model from Tuff Stuff, as we mentioned above. Roof Top Tents aren’t meant to be huge, they are compact tents that fix onto the roof rack of your vehicle. There are weight limits to consider and safety precautions, 4-5 max I would say, if there is more then you may need a ground tent on hand.
Can I put a Roof Top Tent on my Vehicle?
There are some Tents like the Yakima that have excellent versatility in mounting. Some of the more prestigious models are designed specifically for vehicles such as Jeep Wranglers. Jeeps were the original Overlanding vehicles, but with the growing popularity of Roof Top Tents, the mounting methods have come a long way. Now you are able to customize your roof rack to allow for a tent to be mounted.
You simply need to have a roof rack or roof bars fitted onto your vehicle with a cross bar fitted, this allows the tent to be fixed on securely. There are some industry-standard measurements for a lot of these tents, so if you aim for dimensions in that vicinity, you can easily find a suitable tent to fit your vehicle.
How to Maintain a Roof Top Tent?
Maintaining a roof top tent is a simple endeavor and is not so different than maintaining a regular tent. Keep the hinges oiled, especially during periods of heavy rain and snowfall, to keep the folding mechanism smooth.
If it had extensive use, a coating of waterproofing spray would be a good idea, to keep the foundation coating topped up. Be sure to clear any snowfall off frequently, roof top tents are generally 4 season tents and their bases can hold a lot of weight.
However, this isn’t so true for their tops, they aren’t meant to hold any weight from above, a general misconception, so clear snowfall off as it arrives.
When packing up ensure the tent is totally bone dry, especially if you’ve just suffered heavy rainfall. One of the worst things for tents, in general, is when they are packed away with condensation and wet still present on the fabric. Stuffed tightly in their carry bags with wet will quickly create mold and mildew.
Over time this will eat away at the protective properties of the fabric. In case of emergency and you can avoid the rain, pack up and move away.
At the next opportunity, open it back out again and dry it out, clearing any pools of water away that have accumulated in the storage box.
What Roof Top Tent should I Buy?
A few important factors will slightly influence your choices, such as your model of vehicle, size of roof rack and the needed capacity. Ideally, you want a 4 season tent and one that utilizes a majority of the features we mentioned in the buyer’s guide.
You also should consider the weather and if the area is susceptible to heavy downpours, then a tent with a high hydrostatic head rating is crucial. One with a warranty that covers shipping and at least 6 months to a year of use.
The weight of the roof top tent is also an important consideration, depending on what size of vehicle you use, you need to take into account its dynamic and static weight limits.
Are Roof Top Tents Worth It?
This will come down to personal preference. If we are considering price, there are a million other ways you can sink $1000-$2000 on a series of top quality gear, so this shouldn’t be our main priority when choosing.
The key aspect you want to consider before indulging in a roof top tent is answering the ‘how’, how do you like to camp? Are you a person who prefers static camping and soaking in one area for longer periods?
Or, are you a get-up and go kind of person who likes to wake up and decide they want to check out that other hotspot you’ve just remembered.
Spontaneity is encouraged with a roof top tent as you are given the freedom to travel to pretty much anywhere and always have a safe, elevated spot to lay your head.
There are a few other lesser factors but factors none the less. Yes, the elevation is perhaps safer, the quality you see in roof top tents is extremely high and the ease of the whole camping process is superior in comparison to campsite camping.
What with the vehicle storage, zero set up and unique sleeping experience it really creates an unmatched environment. It will have its drawbacks, however, which we take a look at in our 10 key factors list.
Top 10 Tips for Roof Top Tent Camping
1. Fast Set-Up/Stow
Roof top tents utilize a very smooth mechanism that allows them to fold up and down really easily and quickly, which can also be managed by 1 person. This is apparent in nearly all the models in our list, top quality roof tents will employ this mechanism to the best of their ability.
This is undoubtedly a pro and a benefit that makes camping with a roof top tent all the more pleasurable. Not so much a con, but you do need to be aware that although there is a very fast set up after you’ve finished you’re driving if the weather is hot, the tent compartment may have absorbed a lot of heat.
You could be jumping into a sauna as opposed to a roof top tent. Open it up and let it air out a bit first before jumping into your new home. Additionally, they are equally easy to stow away after use, you just push the telescopic ladder back up until it compacts down.
The tent itself will have some kind of folding mechanism that will come into play as you push the ladder back up into the tent. Folding down into its storage box tightly and neatly, then just zip up, cover with its protective travel cover and off you go.
Now as you may have noticed a lot of the Roof Top Tents are 4 season tents. The main reason for this is the quality and durability of the materials used. They are strong, tough and rugged, to withstand all elements. This is all well and good, but with this strength comes a con, breathability.
They do struggle with ventilation somewhat and you can really feel the kick of this during steaming hot days. Indeed there are windows, doors, and meshed windows to help in the fight against air circulation, however, remember these are usually fitted with a really fine mesh cover, to repel mosquitoes.
This can also create resistance against any breeze or airflow, so getting a good airflow going can be quite tricky to say the least. If you’re in a mosquito-free zone, fully roll up the mesh to air it out properly.
3. Exorbitant or Bargain?
You can expect to pay anything from $1000-$3000 for a roof top tent depending on the design, size and brand name of the tent. Generally speaking $899-$1499 is enough to net an awesome top quality tent and we provide a vast number of choices within this price range. Normally the brand new models or hard shell models will break the $2000+ marker, but the price will fall over time, so depending on your level of patience could affect the amount of money you spend. Now when we compare this to traditional ground tents, this would be considered a luxury and expensive. But what if we compare it to RV camping? It suddenly doesn’t seem so bad and is actually a more affordable option in comparison.
You may feel that owning a roof top tent allows you to drive up to somewhere, stop, camp, and then suddenly leave again. Yes, you can, however, in the case where you have an annex, awning attachment and perhaps a shower and toilet tent set up, for example, just packing up and going could become a bit of a chore. Roof Top Tent camping does allow you to explore and get deep into areas you couldn’t normally go, so make sure you position yourself in an area where you are close to desirable areas and places you want to visit.
This will make the whole experience a lot smoother giving yourself the best access to all nearby locations, without having to pack everything away every time. Of course, if you don’t have all the bells and whistles and you are camping with a simple roof tent, with a simplistic fold/unfold mechanism, you probably won’t feel the burden of moving at all. For the larger models with all the attachments, this is an important factor worth considering before you pitch up.
5. RTT Add On’s
After the previous factor, it would be convenient to bring up our next factor, the add on’s. Most companies now are pushing some additions to their roof tents, such as awnings, annexes, fans, clip on tables, telescopic ladders, mattresses, the list goes on and on. Some are useful, some not so much, however they may make you feel like you’re missing out on the experience without them.
Try to ignore this. In my experience the Annex was the best addition I made use of, they do help to create a much more homely camping experience and also a protective shelter that hangs down over the side of the vehicle. For best effect we used to check the weather, if it had the wind coming from 1 direction it was simple enough to whip the vehicle around and set up the annex on the other side, this way we had the vehicle helping to block the wind and a nice cool annex area on the other side.
Now, this can be seen as a pro as opposed to a con and it’s really down to personal preference in this case. However, it is a fact that you are absolutely protected from things like morning damp rising up in the mornings, creepy crawlies that exist at ground level and even larger predators that stalk the grounds for food. This is undoubtedly a pro in anyone’s book. Another pro is experiencing amazing views and stargazing from an elevated position is unlike no other experience, creating wonderful memories.
Moving onto cons, those who are little nervous around heights might feel a bit jittery initially, however I can assure you after a few scales of the ladder, you won’t feel it as much. The true con that is apparent for all people across the board is bathroom breaks in the evening, having to scale the ladder up and down to relieve yourself during the night can be a cumbersome task. All things have pros and cons and well, this is the roof top tents, if you can handle that, you will love them even more.
7. Size and Sleep
If you’re a large family you will struggle with a roof top tent, unless you are a small family of 3-4 people. The issue with roof top tents is they don’t really cater to large family get-togethers the way a 12 person Cabin Tent would and they never will. They have their own pros which we have discussed extensively, but this isn’t one of them.
Directly related to sleep, you won’t find a huge mattress for sleeping on either. Remember roof top tents focus primarily on compact, robust and mobile designs. With a weight restriction to protect your car, it’s implausible to cram 6-10 members in one, this will damage your vehicle.
One thing that is really great that we soon realized when using a roof top tent was the storage. When you camp with a traditional pole tent, you really focus on where you will be storing your gear IN the tent. But when you are camping with a roof top tent, your vehicle becomes the storage, as it’s so close to hand.
This is insanely convenient and worked really well for us, especially if you have a larger vehicle like an SUV or pickup. In addition, if you have the annex attachment this creates even more space as the annexes noted in the above models have very generous dimensions, commonly found in Tepui and ARB roof top tents.
9. Weight and Resistance
The weight requirements could be seen as a con but it is completely understandable. You don’t want to have a roof top tent that is already pretty heavy, then with 3 people inside it could damage your vehicle.
This is where it’s very important to use a roof top tent that utilizes a strong poly/cotton base for example, these usually have a high weight capacity and won’t affect the tent or the vehicle.
Another factor to consider is the roof rack and tent above, which will have some effect not the aerodynamics of your car while on the road.
Now the volume of effect is debatable and it’s also heavily influenced by the design of your tent. Most of the roof top tents in our list pack down pretty tight and also utilize some form of aerodynamic design.
However, with some of the thicker more robust designs, you might notice a deviation in your gas to mileage ratio, resulting in some additional costs in the long run.
Whether this accumulates enough to be considered a con is still open for debate, it’s more to get you to consider the aerodynamics of your tent before buying.
10. Quality and 4 Season
1 pro of rooftop tents is the quality of the materials used and also the design. People are often put off by the price but don’t consider what you are actually getting for the money.
The material used in these tents generally has 2-3x the waterproof protection than backpacking tents. It’s substantial and basically alleviates any concern of heavy rain. Although they aren’t strong enough to hold up tons of snow, they can definitely survive in snowy weather, absolutely.
You just need to be a bit proactive and clear the snow frequently to help your tent out a bit.
The bases in the top models utilize a polyurethane base that is generally mixed with cotton, this provides a really durable base and although they are in 2-3 person models, they have the capacity to hold 4-5 people.
Roof Top Tent vs Trailer
A common debate among roof top tent owners is where to mount it, on the roof of your vehicle mounted to a roof rack or mounted onto your trailer that you’re pulling. We are going to compare some of the pros and cons of each method which will help you decide which is better for you. As this answer to this question is 100% situational, there is no right and wrong.
People may find that you have more utility when the tent is mounted to the roof of the vehicle as opposed to the trailer. It’s more compact and if you are bringing a trailer regardless you have much more storage. Plus you have more freedom in movement if the tent is mounted on the roof.
The argument for storage could go in favor of the trailer tent, this is because with the RTT mounted on the trailer, you have the whole roof of the vehicle free to store things like kayaks, canoes or other camping equipment.
Depending on the design of the RTT, you may have better aerodynamics with the tent on the trailer. But this really depends on the dimensions of the trailer as well. As long as the trailer fits within the shadow of the vehicle, meaning it doesn’t extend the width of the vehicle or height, it shouldn’t affect wind resistance much at all. There are some other variables like the length of the trailer and the distance from the bumper to the trailer that can make a difference, but generally speaking, a trailer includes less wind resistance.
GPM (Gallons Per Mile)
Before we answer this question note that both options will affect your GPM, there’s really no avoiding this when you attach more weight to your vehicle. With that being said, it’s widely noticed that an RTT affects the mileage more than a trailer with mounted RTT. But the difference is slight and it’s not considered a deal-breaker or substantial by any means.
An RTT will allow you to camp in places that are impossible to reach with a trailer. With the tent attached directly to your vehicle, this will allow the freedom of venturing wherever your vehicle is capable of going. With a trailer you are limited, then if you detach the trailer and do venture off, you will need to leave the trailer behind. Although they do have locks, I feel it could still be a security risk, depending on where you left it.
Of course with an RTT you can maneuver better while driving as opposed to driving with a trailer. You can also benefit from easier parking and turning etc. However veteran drivers who use trailers regardless would not feel this as much as newbies venturing out for the first time.
As we mentioned RTT is better for the get-up and go style with more freedom, however, if you are intending on setting up a basecamp style of camping the trailer is better for this. They provide a better foundation and just generally easier to deal with as they aren’t so high up. RTT’s are better when you are just visiting an area for a few days then hit the roads again shortly after.
Solo, Couple, Group/Family
As you may have read already in our tips guide, roof top tents are mostly 2-4 person tents, at maximum we have seen a 5 person tent (which is more for space and gear as opposed to cramming 5 people on a roof). Generally, 2 or 3 at most is ideal for roof top tent camping. For this purpose, an RTT will win over a trailer. However, if you are camping in larger groups of over 4 people, a trailer is much more ideal. Given the option for basecamp and more storage. Also, the lower height is much more convenient for bathroom breaks and general sleeping habits, especially with children.
They both have pros and to be honest they share many of the same pros, they are both great choices. However, your specific situation will determine which is better for you.
Pros for Rooftop Tents:
- Better Utility
- Better Maneuverability
- Easier Parking
- Ideal for Smaller Groups
- Remote Camping
- Better Elevated Views
- Offroad Freedom
Pros of Trailer:
- Better for Family Camping
- Easier to Make a Basecamp
- Better Aerodynamics
- Slightly Better GPM
- Lower Elevation, for those with preference to that
- More Storage
Roof Top Tent Vs Ground Tent
The 2nd comparison that is often made is the difference between roof top tent camping vs. ground tent camping. Comparing modern methods with the traditional is a comparison made continually in all aspects of life.
With the rise of modern equipment in camping, we are often pushed to compare new methods with the more traditional roots of camping. We don’t want to lose the feel of camping but we can’t help but be intrigued by these new, flashy contraptions that supposedly make our lives a million times more convenient.
Popularity originated in Australia to avoid the dangers of poisonous snakes and spiders which are abundant there. The popularity spread to New Zealand as it’s an economical choice compared to buying an RV. The elevation is considered a huge benefit and pro for Roof Top Tents when comparing with a ground tent. Outside of Aus and NZ, in America and Canada, we have heard stories of people converting to roof top tent camping due to close encounters with bears and the like. Being in an elevated position on a large vehicle can have its benefits in these situations.
You also naturally encounter fewer bugs and insects from an elevated position. Lots of bugs hover on the surface of the ground making it easier for them to nab your ankles and legs while you’re sat in your tent or by the fire. We will all encounter these outside our tents, whoever in an RTT you evade this when it’s time to sleep and chill.
Initially, an RTT would be more demanding with the mounting process. But once mounted they outperform ground tents in terms of speed and ease of set up. Probably 2nd only to Pop up Tents, the roof top tents are super easy to set up due to the folding mechanism that allows them to open and close instantly. Instant tents and Inflatable Tents can also set up pretty quickly, however, if, for example, we ran a test of 100 or 1000 setups with a pop up tent, roof top tent and instant tent. I’m sure the mechanisms and coils on the ground tents wouldn’t be in original shape. Whereas a rooftop tent with stainless steel hinges, for example, would still be going smoothly.
One issue that may be found for hikers and people who enjoy activities like canoeing, kayaking, and biking. It is the fact that the roof top tent takes up valuable space on the roof rack. Taking up pretty much all of it, so you would need to use a rear bumper for the bikes etc, making the vehicle a little more cumbersome than usual.
The Roof Top Tent has a much smaller footprint than a ground tent. Compact in size and also can be positioned to be parallel with your vehicle, they basically take up the same space as your vehicle would. Of course, unless you attached an annex but then that’s also only a small area on the side of your vehicle.
An advantage of the RTT is the fact it can be pitched over any terrain. Wherever your vehicle can go, you can sleep. This isn’t true for the ground tents. The only way a ground tent can be used over rough and rocky terrain is by using a Camping Cot add on. However, with the RTT, you can park upon any ground, and sleep well given the elevation of the sleeping area.
Debatable but it’s been widely observed that an RTT offers a more comfortable sleep. Now, this may only be an issue for people with height issues. But for the most part, given the price of roof tents, they put a lot of effort into the sleeping areas. Integrated mattresses that are made of foam 2.5 inches thick, it’s a comfortable area. Whereas on the ground, you need pretty thick bedding or mattress to forget the feeling of the hard ground beneath you.
A pro for the ground tents is that the wind can be felt much less given the fact you are closer to the ground level. A roof top tent, elevated and with no nearby wind blockages, like trees/walls, etc., is completely open to the wind. It can be felt much more and it can additionally cause a lot of excess noise when it bashes upon some of the more loosely crafted tents.
People have said that they felt like they had more privacy when using a roof top tent. This is probably due to the fact that they aren’t easily accessed, as opposed to a ground tent where you can just waltz on in at any point. With the RTT a ladder must be climbed which gives you enough time to shout STOP!
Pro for ground tents, you will save a ton of money by using a ground tent. We will not discuss quality here, the only price and for this ground, tents win hands down. You can get a quality backpacking tent from around $200 upwards, whereas a quality roof top tent would start at least around $900 for a basic 2 person Tepui for example. Consult our buyers guide for more information on what you can expect for your money.
A pro for the RTT is the material commonly used is super waterproof with quality waterproofing properties. This gives them substantial HH ratings, usually around 2000-3000 and upwards. A standard ground tent usually has around 800-1000 for a backpacking tent. They tend to leak in heavy rain and need additional waterproofing to last in bad weather. Rooftop tents are generally 4 season tents across the board, due to the tough, durable materials used in the manufacturing.
Perhaps a con for the RTT is that when you are driving, you will definitely notice the extra load, and you will have to drive more cautiously with this on your mind while traveling. With a ground tent camping trip, it won’t be so much of an issue, allowing you to travel as you normally would with a clearer mind. There is less stability while driving with a roof top tent.
As we mentioned with the trailers vs. roof top, again the roof top tents lose to ground tents in terms of group size. Ground tents will probably always be the king for very large camping groups, given the nature of them and the simplicity of the camping method. RTT’s are meant for small groups 2-3 people usually is ideal. However, as we know, with ground tents, you can get some monster size family tents that cater for up to 12-15 people. This is impossible for an RTT.
Breakages and Repairs
Given the cost of roof top tents, you can expect much higher quality materials used in its production. Things like stainless steel hinges can really reduce breakages and the heavy walled canvas can withstand wind, rain, and snow. The chances of you having to make any repairs out in the field are significantly reduced. For the ground tents, this isn’t the case, tending to broken tent poles, torn polyester panels and leaks are something that comes with the territory of camping with a ground tent.
Ground tents are much better for longer camping trips with larger groups. If you really want to buckle down in an area for a couple of weeks, ground tents would probably offer a better experience with a large Cabin Tent for example as they have large spacious rooms, which are more homely in comparison to a roof tent. RTT’s were created for on the move camping trips where you get off-road and visit remote areas in nature.
Pros for Rooftop Tents:
- Less Breakages
- Better Protection
- Higher HH Rating
- Better Privacy
- Avoids Bugs and Ground Dangers
- Comfortable Sleep
- Pitch on Any Terrain
- Smaller Footprint
- Unique Camping Experience
- Remote Locations
Pros of Ground Tents:
- Increased Storage
- Better for Large Groups
- Better for Longer Periods of Camping
- Rooms are more Spacious
- More Economical
- Doesn’t Affect your Driving
- Less Noise During Wind
- Doesn’t take up Roof Space
- Traditional Camping Feel
By all means a luxury item, but we all like to indulge and spoil ourselves from time to time, don’t we.
The difference here is that they actually provide value and a genuinely unique experience, allowing you to connect with nature in ways you may have never felt before.
Yes indeed they are pricey and it’s a daunting decision, but hopefully, after you’ve read our extensive guide, you will know exactly what you are letting yourself in for when choosing a roof top tent. A unique, off road, nature experience.
What would you choose, 50 nights in a hotel or years of freedom on the road with your roof top tent?
The choice is ultimately yours.
We hope you found this article insightful, interesting and most importantly useful!
If you think any information here today would be useful for a fellow camper please share it with your friends, either on social media or any platform you are using, that would be awesome.
We will be following this up with some other articles on similar on the road camping methods, so stay tuned.
See you soon and…….Happy Camping!