- 1 Top 5 Best Rooftop Tents
- 2 Best Rooftop Tents Buying Guide
The best rooftop tents don’t sacrifice size while offering plenty of advantages of their own – and the Smittybilt Overlander is the perfect example. This durable tent is packed with features and storage, includes an extra-large ladder for access, and has enough room for three people.
Like all the best rooftop tents, the Overlander is also durable enough to weather even harsh rain, and once attached to your car’s roof rack, it’s very easy to set up and take down as needed. If you’re looking for the right tent for your vehicle adventures, make sure to check out our full list to see what innovations the other top tents offer!
Top 5 Best Rooftop Tents
#1 Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent
Award: Top Pick
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Overlander is a ruggedized tent that can do almost anything, from extra storage to LED lighting. Those looking for a reliable tent even in the worst weather will love it!
We couldn’t find a more complete roof tent that the Smittybilt Overlander, which really does have a bit of everything – including an extra-large ladder, LED light strips, heavy-duty rain PVC canopy, and large side windows with awnings and mosquito covers.
The ten also comes with sturdy anodized aluminum poles for setup, a high-density, fire-retardant 92 by 55-inch foam mattress, and an external shoe storage bag. There are also other add-ons you can get for even more functionality. It’s heavy-duty, versatile, and affordable, making it an easy top pick for anyone in the market. Now if you want a tent that is not on your vehicle, the best backpacking tent is a great choice.
#2 Raptor Series Offgrid RooftopTent
Award: Honorable Mention
WHY WE LIKE IT: It’s an aerodynamic tent that can literally be set up in seconds, with a great main window to boot. It’s great two-person tent for the wilder adventures.
This durable, Jeep-friendly tent fits two people and is one of the easiest we’ve ever seen for opening and closing up once it’s installed on the roof. If you hate setting up and tearing down tents, you’ll love how this one can unfold in seconds. It also sports a great awning and large front window for a view, as well as airflow vents and storage pockets.
It also comes with a very sturdy 78 by 48-inch mattress and a 750-pound max weight design that’s especially suited to weathering high winds, useful for all kinds of weather conditions. It’s a perfect fit for those who like the most off-road adventures. Truly one of the best tents you can buy.
#3 Tepui Explorer Ayer Rooftop Tent
Award: Best for Smaller Vehicles
WHY WE LIKE IT: This compact Tepui roof top tent is ideal for smaller vehicles, while still including important features like internal pockets, weather protection, and a thick mattress layer. Those looking for a two-person rooftop tent for all seasons will love it.
If you have a smaller SUV or similar vehicle, you may be a little worried about sized issues. This four-season, 420D Polyster Oxford Tepui tent is specifically designed for smaller vehicle racks (not compatible with all crossbars) while still giving you plenty of space for two people.
The tent also includes 2.5 inches of dense foam for support, four internal pockets for various types of storage, and 600D rip stop rain/wind canopy that can be put up or removed based on weather conditions. The A-frame design gives a surprising amount of head space while also making room for broad windows. There are a variety of Tepui kits you can purchase for more specific climate conditions, too! Speaking of camping, make sure that you bring the best water purification tablets for camping with you.
#4 Tepui Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
Award: Best Rain Resistant
WHY WE LIKE IT: With a tough 600D ripstop rating and excellent covers, this tent is ready for storms – but has excellent windows to open when the sun comes out. It’s excellent for wetter climates with mold and wind resistance.
Durable and meant for every season, this Tepui roof top tent helps protect from all types of rain conditions. The polyester and cotton blend fabrics have been given waterproof treatments to keep all types of moisture out and have a 600D rip cord rating for wind resistance. The canopy and awnings are made of very durable materials that can withstand rainstorms, snow, and anything else mother nature has in mind.
In addition to warding off rain, the tent is made to be UV and mold resistant. If the weather clears up and you want to enjoy the sunshine, there are large mesh panels that are easy to open up for light and ventilation, too. The best headlamp can take care of some lighting needs at night.
#5 Tepui Explorer Autana Rooftop Tent
Award: Best Quality
WHY WE LIKE IT: This dual-level tent offers ground and car roof options for all types of campers, providing a spacious and versatile space. It’s also durable enough for all types of weather and has great mesh window options!
While rooftop tents have many advantages, going up and down the ladder all the time can get a little aggravating: The Autana successfully has the best of both worlds with a dual-level tent that fully in closes the ladder, turning it into a sort of bunk bed situation that can fit up to three people and gives you a nice private entrance on the ground level, plus a 2.5-inch foam mattress for sleeping..
The 600D rip stop tent fabric, as with our Kukenam pick, is very durable, resistant to mold and UV light, and generally suitable for any type of weather. Under the A-frame design, there are windows you can open for air, and four large internal pockets for various types of storage. While it’s a bit bulkier than our other picks, this tent really does have the best of both worlds. Don’t forget to pack the best tactical flashlight as well.
How We Decided
The most important feature of any rooftop tent is the size: The tent should have enough support for plenty of room, at least enough to sleep two to three people without crowding. So we focused on the largest tents with the most sleeping room and storage options. Fortunately, the largest tents are also the ones that tend to have extra features like large windows.
The next key part of rooftop tents is ease of use. This includes setup, which should be easy and include firm attachment to the roof rack, as well as the ability to rapidly tie everything back down when it’s time to pack things in. It also refers to accessibility, which means the tent should be easy to climb up and down, and comfortable to move around in without too much swaying. That means big ladders and extra supports: Our top pick, for example, has a ladder that’s six extra inches wide from standard. But support also means wind and rain resistance, which means we took into account “deniers” or a measurement of fabric thickness, such as 600D, which is a great rating for tents designed to resist storms of all kinds.
Finally, there are plenty of extra features that rooftop tents can include for comfort and convenience. We awarded extra points for things like lights that can plug into your car, heavy-duty waterproof canopies that can withstand intense rain, and lots of internal pockets for storage.
Best Rooftop Tents Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
The best rooftop tents are designed to bolt onto a roof rack or similar installation on top of your vehicle. That means compatibility is important – you want to get a tent that’s compatible with your rack! However, the good news is that while setup is a little different, putting up a rooftop tent is generally a faster task than a ground tent, since you usually mount the tent onto your rack before going out, and then just raise it up and add support poles when you are ready. You will want to bring along the best sleeping bags too.
Good rooftop tents come with telescoping ladders that extend down to the ground. The quality of this ladder is important: A rickety or loose ladder will create an uncomfortable, potentially dangerous experience every time you need to climb to your tent. Imagine climbing down the ladder in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and then pick a tent that has the sort of ladder that you’d want!
- Support and Comfort
What do you sleep on in a rooftop tent? These tents come with mattress layers on the bottom for comfort. The good news is that this usually makes rooftop tents more comfortable than ground tents. The bad news is that not all these mattresses are equal in comfort. Look for durable, thick foam mattresses that come with covers.
- Extra Space and Storage
Remember, rooftop tents have their advantages, but they don’t have easy access to the ground for storage. You can just toss shoes or coats outside in the same way. So the best tents usually have lots of space and great storage options, including bags for your shoes and other handy additions.
Rooftop tents have opportunities for great views or at least access to plenty of sunlight perched on top of your car. Look for tents that take advantage of this with some handy windows. These windows should, of course, always come with mosquito netting for safety and comfort.
- Powered Features
One last advantage for a rooftop tent is its easy access to your car’s lighter plug, and the top line tents have ways to take advantage of that. This includes lighting for better visibility, which is a great feature to have. Tents will use LED lights to help save on power, but you should still be careful to run your car battery down too much.
Rooftop Tents FAQs
What Kind of Vehicle Do You Need for a Rooftop Tent ?
The most important requirements for the best rooftop tents is the right kind of rack. Most rooftop tents are designed to be installed on flat racks or cross bars. Some are designed to go on a canopy, but these might be more difficult to find. Fortunately, this is one case where interests collide - if you’re looking for a rooftop tent, chances are good you already have a vehicle with racks installed for your outdoor equipment. If not, popular rack options that work well with tents include Thule, Rhino, and Yakima.
Will a Tent Fit on My Vehicle?
Rooftop tents are designed to find the right support for a variety of vehicles. However, it’s important to consider what’s called the DWC, or Dynamic Weight Capacity, for your racks. All racks have a DWC so you know if they can handle the weight of your kayaks, bikes, etc. Going beyond the DWC can cause damage to the racks and the roof of your car. So when you get a rooftop tent, make sure you consider its full weight, plus the weight of everyone sleeping in the tent, and how that compares to the DWC of your racks.
Are Rooftop Tents Worth It?
Rooftop tents are designed for a different kind of expedition than regular tents. They are made for vehicles that can travel to unusual spots and seek out great views without the need for a campground or even a stretch of flat, dry ground. That makes them ideal for offroading adventures, exploring mountainous areas, and generally finding places that other people can’t get to. However, rooftop tents do have some other benefits, depending on your situation. They’re dryer if all the ground around you is damp, and there’s far less danger of bug problems up on the roof of your car.
Are Roof Top Tents Waterproof?
Yes. Like all outdoor tents, rooftop tents are designed to be used in the rain. Since you don’t need to worry about damp ground issues, you also don’t need to bother with laying down tarps or other protective measures, so it can save a little time. For extra protection, hard shell roof top tents can help even more. However, the best hardshell rooftop tents should still have good windows for when the skies clear up.
I’m a Little Worried About Bears. Are These Tents Safer?
Bears are primarily interested in food (and occasionally curious). Where you put your tent is rarely a factor in protection from bears. If a bear smells something good in your car or tent, the extra height won’t stop that bear from exploring, and your car will probably get damaged in the process. A truly aggressive bear, which is very rare, may try to knock your tent onto the ground. As always, the best protection against bears is to thoroughly remove traces of food from your campfire and site, and to tightly seal your remaining food away and out of reach.
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