HomeAutomotive9 Best Roof Top Tent Reviews 2019 | Tepui vs ARB vs Yakima vs Smittybilt
March 13, 2019
9 Best Roof Top Tent Reviews 2019 | Tepui vs ARB vs Yakima vs Smittybilt
Welcome to Camping in 2019 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 Roof Top 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 SUV’s alike and be able to differentiate between them when its purchase time.
Utilizing a 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, roof top 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 Top Tent Reviews
Tepui Roof Top Tent Reviews
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.
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 roof top tent has a variety in appearance which is honestly quite rare among other jeep tents. However, Tepui have worked on producing various color schemes for their RTT’s. It’s also one of the best 4 Season Roof Top Tents out there due to its quality of material, design and performance.
All Year Round
It is indeed a 4 season roof top tent and 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 which 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 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 is 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
It’s a compact RTT so attachments like awnings and side panels aren’t an option here, unlike the Autana for example
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 a 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 RTT
Free Annex Attachment
The mattress that comes with the RTT is pretty hard. You may need to find another option of mattress for a more comfortable sleep
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 of 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. Snow fall 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 cant hold too much weight above. So the level of usefulness 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.
2 Color Options
Compact 2 Person Model
Annex and Canopy Attachments available
Lots of Storage Space Inside
Annex and Canopy Sold Separately
Smittybilt Jeep Tent Review
A well-known and respected brand among all overlanders but specifically among owners of Jeep Wranglers. Smittybilt have been in the business of servicing, improving and adapting Jeeps for over 50 years. They also have branched out into SUV’s 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. Update: There is also now a 3-4 man model which is reviewed below.
The 2883 is an enlarged, premium model of the over lander 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 leg room, 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.
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 tend 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 the 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.
LED Lighting Strip
660lbs weight Capacity
1500mm HH Rating
Any attachment or addition to this tent is sold separately, that includes awnings and annexes.
For larger vehicles like Pickup Trucks that sit higher than jeep wranglers, you may need to drill 2 extra holes in the ladder as it may fall short. The other option is to buy the ladder extension kit from Smittybilt, however this is sold separately.
Yakima Roof Top Tent Reviews
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 knows 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.
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 set up 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.
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 Elitemodel which works well as a simple and basic roof top tent for larger groups and families, this is because it is a 5 person roof top tent. The price is insanely modest for a 5 man so we appreciate this model. Then there is 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 being a cool compact model for solo and couple camping adventures.
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 roof top 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 in total integrated into the tent, which each have their own awning, this means you can prop the windows open to ventilate the tent.
Very Well Priced
Stainless Steel Hinges
Free Queen Mattress
You will need your own roof rack
Set up can be challenging for first timers
ARB Roof Top Tent Reviews
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 have created a special line of roof top tents in the form of 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. Let’s check out a few of their roof top tents.
One of the top performing roof top tents in ARB’s lineup is the Simpson III model. Renowned among overlanders and glampers due to its 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, so this is an advantage of using an ARB tent. 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 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 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
4 Season Tent
Annex sold separately
TMB Motorsports Roof Top Tent Reviews
Next is another roof pop up tent with a difference. Referred to as Hard Shell or Hard Top roof top tent, these work in a slightly different way to the traditional style roof tents we see above. Pop up hard shell tent consist of fiberglass which is insanely light, so it makes it suitable for smaller vehicles and cars.
Additionally they are very versatile and can be customized to fit all manner of roof rack dimensions. There 2 models are in brown and beige, they are identical in nature and features, so lets check them out.
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 hard shell 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 families, or perhaps just a larger mattress. Weight wise it’s around 160 lbs.
ABS Fiberglass Exterior
Aerodynamic in design it 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 a 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 Feature
660lbs Weight Capacity
ABS Fiberglass Shell
Hard Shell tents are generally more expensive than traditional Roof Top Tent designs.
Now we will dip into some lesser known brands that have top quality roof top tents on the current market. We will also take a look at the ‘Hard Shell’ style roof top tents.
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. Let’s take a closer look at the Gobi Deserts roof top tent.
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 which 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 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 is 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 design of the tent. However you can benefit from a substantial difference in weight with these 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
Multiple Color Choices
Reinforced Polyurethane Top
Often low in stocks, perhaps not many are manufactured per time.
Not as much product information as we would like, we hope for more updates regarding the newer models improvements.
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 light weight and has tons of storage integrated in 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 has 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 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.
Superior Weight Capacity
Quality Travel Cover
Focusing on a fast set up we usually see a vulnerability in strength, much like pop up designs.
Be careful when unfolding/folding the tent and fold it with care, or you may find the hinges weakening and eventually breaking in time.
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. Originally designed for specific models of vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler for example, they have since come along way, becoming widely available for a variety of different Jeeps, SUV’s, Pickup trucks and even some small cars. Becoming the prized possession of all glamping and overlanding enthusiasts and pushing a huge following on social media.
What is a Hard Shell Roof Top Tent?
It is a roof top 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, its set and you can now begin your adventure. Regarding 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 utilizes 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 style 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 vehicles 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. There is an interesting discussion of this principle on Quora.
The main point in Lehman’s terms is always calculate the extras, mattresses, your weight and the tents 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.
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 to tent to fit your vehicle. Of course if you are driving a Mini Cooper you might want to forget the idea, larger vehicles likes Jeeps, SUV’s and Pickups are the most common vehicles used for roof top tent camping.
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 choice, 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 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 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. You need to think if these are a big issue for you personally or not, any deal breakers? Then don’t do it. If the allure of roof top tent camping is still strong after reading this, then it’s time to hit the road in style.
To conclude Roof Top Tents are 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!
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We will be following this up with some other articles on similar on the road camping methods, so stay tuned.