Best Rooftop Tents
If you’re like us, you love camping. But you might not love sleeping on the ground. A tent is great to keep you out of the elements, but it is also, well, a bit of a pain. Finding the right site takes work, avoiding rocks, worrying about water pooling, and then there’s the setup itself. A rooftop tent takes all of that work out of the equation.
A rooftop tent is exactly what it sounds like. A tent that is permanently mounted to the roof of your vehicle. The tent pops up quickly when you park for the day and folds flat when you’re ready to move on. And crucially, you’re always up and off of the cold, hard, wet ground.
With designs for cars, SUVs, and full-size pickups, there is a rooftop tent option for everyone. We help you find the best rooftop tent for your vehicle, with our list of the best rooftop tents.
Table of contents
- Smittybilt Overlander Generation 2
- Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile Rooftop Tent
- Autofield Rooftop Tent
- Yakima Skyrise
- Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4
- Rough Country Roof Top Tent 99050
- Why are rooftop tents so expensive?
- What Rooftop Tent is Best for My Vehicle?
- Hardshell or Softshell?
- Do Rooftop Tents Damage My Roof?
Smittybilt Overlander Generation 2
The Smittybilt Overlander Generation 2 is an absolutely massive tent, and that's part of what makes it so great. The tent is 122 inches by 76 inches when it's unfolded and that gives you plenty of room to sleep four adults in comfort. Or have two adults and a sizeable living room. It comes with a king-sized mattress, giving you comfort and space unheard of in the rooftop market.
An aluminum frame and poles help keep the weight down to a rack-friendly 148 pounds. It has a waterproof rainfly, ripstop polyester inner tent, and built-in LED light strips to help you see at night.
The best part? It's a great value, too. There is some assembly required, but that lets Smittybilt bring this rooftop tent in at a solid price and showing that there are cheap rooftop tents that are still good.
Price, Size, Weight
Some assembly required, more work to set up, some complaints of loose hardware
Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile Rooftop Tent
The Thule Tepui Foothill rooftop tent is a great tent for smaller vehicles. Why? Because it is just 108 pounds, making it one of the lighter choices on the market. Thule has taken some interesting steps to help keep it this light, but the tent also has some cool features.
A telescoping internal frame makes sure one person can set up and collapse the tent in a hurry. Then there is a wide entry, a large rear window, and a pair of skylights for ventilation. When it rains, there is a large rainfly that makes sure the rain stays far away from you and your tent walls. That fly is removable, another great option.
The folded rooftop tent is only 9.5 inches tall and 24 inches wide. If it's on a lower vehicle, that means you can fit in most parking garages. Does that make it the best rooftop tent for a Crosstrek? Maybe. The Thule Tepui also fits on just one side of your racks, leaving room up there for a bike, canoe, or just more storage.
Compact design, lightweight, doesn't use your whole rack-friendly
Smaller than other tents, expensive considering the size
Autofield Rooftop Tent
If you're tall, you know you need a tent with a big footprint to make sure you have enough room to lie down. But what about when it's time to stand up? There aren't any rooftop tents that will let a six-footer walk around, but this Autofield is the closes we could find. It is 86 inches long to give you a large mattress space and it is 65 inches tall when you want to stand up.
While that maximum height is only at the peak, the corner design (instead of the more typical triangle) means that your max headroom is not up against the side wall.
The tent is waterproof, windproof, and UV protected to keep you cozy and dry in almost all sorts of weather. The tent can hold up to three people, and it has an aluminum top to help protect the inside of the tent when you're headed down the road.
tall ceiling, hard cover, air-strut assembly
Max height is in one small spot, no side of car overhang
akima is another big name in roof racks and storage, and the company has one heck of a tent, too. The Skyrise expands to nearly double the size of your vehicle's roof, giving you more space for storage, for getting dressed, and for anything else you want to do in your tent.
A wall-to-wall 2.5-inch thick mattress provides comfort when you're in the tent, and it has a removable cover for easy cleaning. Three is a removable rainfly as well, to let you balance protection and airflow.
The tent is made from light and breathable 201D nylon and there are mesh panels to let you see out. The rainfly's polyurethane coating helps make sure that the water stays out when it is in place.
Washable mattress cover, removable rain fly
Small size, low weight capacity.
Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4
It's like a rooftop tent that's a walk-up. A tent with an annex like the Tepuio Explorer Autana 4 gives you an enclosed room at ground level. Especially with a tall vehicle, like a lifted Jeep or pickup, this gives you a full-height room. A place to change clothes or comfortably get cleaned up while staying out of the rain, wind, and other elements.
An annex tent also gives you dry ground-level storage for the gear that you don't want to leave in your vehicle and don't want to lift into the tent.
The Thule Tepui Explorer Autana can sleep up to four people. It uses UV-resistant fabric and a poly-cotton blend that is designed to withstand the elements in all four seasons. There is a removable rainfly and mesh panels that open for maximum airflow.
More enclosed space, room for four, four-season comfort
More rooms means more complicated setup, annex door needs to open to access ladder
Rough Country Roof Top Tent 99050
Rough Country is known for its off-road suspension upgrades, and that's what makes this a great roof tent for your Jeep Grand Cherokee or a great rooftop tent for a 4Runner. It is designed to be rugged and to stand up to off-road abuse.
It is 95 inches wide when open and 64 inches long, leaving loads of room for two or three occupants on a high-density foam mattress. That mattress is fire retardant for campfire safety and has a removable cover to help keep it clean.
The tent itself is made from 600D Oxford ripstop fabric with UV protection. The fabric is also mold free for those long wet camping trips. The tent offers three large openings with coverable and removable mosquito screens, a removable rainfly, and it has LED strip lighting so you can see in the nighttime.
It comes in at a rack-friendly 120 pounds, and there is a ladder extension offered for buyers with lifted off-roaders. Best of all, this tent has a two-year warranty.
Rugged design and construction, two-year warranty
Access is from the outside, soft cover can inflate when driving
Why are rooftop tents so expensive?
A simple camping tent can be found for under $100 if you know where to look and don't mind some compromises. A rooftop tent will run you at least $1000. Why are rooftop tents so expensive?
Because they're a lot more complicated. In a regular tent, all of your weight is on the ground. All the tent needs to do is to not get blown over in a light breeze. Easy.
When you're six feet off the ground, things are more complicated. These tents need to be able to support two or more people. Most can support over 600 pounds. The tents also need to stay attached to your vehicle at highway speeds and have ladders that you can climb. All of these needs add materials, engineering, and cost. But think of the hours of time spent on setup and finding the perfect campsite and you might find rooftop tents a real bargain.
What Rooftop Tent is Best for My Vehicle?
There's no such thing as the best rooftop tent for 4Runner or best rooftop tent for Crosstrek. Instead, you need to find the tent that meets your specific combination of needs.
If you're tall, then a larger tent is your priority. If you have a small car, you may want a smaller and lighter tent so that your car's roof can support the weight. You should always check your roof's maximum capacity, it should be in your owner's manual. If you carry bikes and boats with you, then maybe a half-width tent is best.
The long and short is that there's no best rooftop tent. There's what's best for your needs and that's why we've given you so many choices. Along with what's good and what's bad for each one.
Hardshell or Softshell?
Hardshell RTTs (what the cool kids call rooftop tents) look cooler when they're folded. They're probably also better if you're going to leave the tent on the roof all the time because the shell protects the fabric.
But hardshells are usually triangular when opened, and that can really cramp your headroom at one end. They won't have any windows or ventilation in the roof, eighter.
Softshell tents can billow and boom, on the highway, but they tend to give you more room and more airflow when they're set up.
Do Rooftop Tents Damage My Roof?
We won't say they can't, but when used properly they shouldn't. A rooftop tent attaches to a roof rack's cross bars, not the roof directly. If you run from side to side or smash your foot through the floor, then yes, you could damage your vehicle's roof.
When used properly, though, an RTT is perfectly safe to use on nearly all cars, trucks, or SUVs with a hard roof. Convertibles can not be used with an RTT, with few exceptions
Evan moved from engineering to automotive journalism 10 years ago (it turns out cars are more interesting than fibreglass pipes), but has been following the auto industry for his entire life. Evan is an award-winning automotive writer and photographer and is the current President of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. You'll find him behind his keyboard, behind the wheel, or complaining that tiny sports cars are too small for his XXXL frame.
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