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The Best Rooftop Tent Guide of 2024

Rooftop Tents 101: Car Tents for Outdoor Adventure

Rooftop tents have emerged as a game-changer in the realm of camping and adventure. These innovative shelters offer a convenience, comfort, and versatility that have captivated the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts around the globe. If you're new to the concept of rooftop tents, this beginner's guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to embark on your own rooftop tent adventure. Below we will cover:

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  • Why You Should Invest in a Rooftop Tent
  • Hardshell VS. Softshell RTTs
  • The Pros/Cons of Different Rooftop Tent Styles
  • Can Your Vehicle Support a Rooftop Tent?
  • Rooftop Tent Recommendations

Royal Rooftop Tents

Rooftop Tents Get You The Best Camping Experience

Like anything worth doing, traditional camping requires a fair amount of planning and a whole lot of packing. You have to pack a small home into your vehicle. Your mobile kitchen includes pots, pans, and ingredients, the folding chairs and coolers are your living room, your giant 10 piece ground tent plus the inflatable mattress is your bedroom, etc. It can get to be a lot to keep track of, but that is the old way of camping. Rooftop Tent owners will tell you how their RTT improved their camping experience by: 

  1. Saving space inside the vehicle for other essential gear and equipment.
  2. Making packing quick and easy.
  3. Enhancing safety by keeping them off the ground away from potential wildlife.
  4. Reducing setup and teardown time to 3 minutes or less.
  5. Adding a sense of adventure and uniqueness to their camping trips.

A high-quality rooftop tent is an investment for the offroad explorer or family who loves camping road trips. We understand roof top tents are not cheap, however the multitude of options on the market today means we can help you find the perfect tent for your needs. Tents we tested on our store range from affordable to luxurious, family sized to compact, pop up to clam shell. If you look hard enough and ask the experts enough questions (Call us at 469-809-1663 we love to help!) your purchase will be a sound investment for years to come. 

Hard Shell  VS. Soft Shell Rooftop Tents

The most common way to categorize Rooftop Tents is by the shell that the tent is packaged in: Softshell or Hardshell tents. There are fantastic tents in both categories and both have unique advantages that suit a certain preference.  

Hard Shell Rtts:


    1. Quick Setup: Hardshell RTTs are quick and easy to set up and take down with the release of a few latches.
    2. Durability: They are often more durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions, including heavy rain and snow.
    3. Better Insulation: Hardshell RTTs tend to offer better insulation, keeping you warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather.
    4. Security: They provide added security since they are difficult for animals or potential thieves to access when closed.
    5. Aerodynamic: When closed, hard-shell RTTs are aerodynamic and have minimal impact on vehicle fuel efficiency.


    1. Heavier: They are usually heavier than soft-shell RTTs, which can affect your vehicle's weight distribution and fuel efficiency.
    2. Cost: Hardshell RTTs tend to be more expensive upfront than soft-shell models.
    3. Less Interior Space: The interior space may be slightly smaller compared to soft-shell RTTs due to the hard-shell design.

Soft Shell Rtts:


    1. Lightweight: Soft shell RTTs are generally lighter than hard-shell models, making them suitable for a wider range of vehicles.
    2. Lower Cost: They are often more budget-friendly compared to hard-shell RTTs.
    3. Spacious: Soft shell tents often offer more interior space and headroom.
    4. Customization: Many soft-shell RTTs allow you to add accessories or annexes, providing more versatility.
    5. Compact When Closed: When closed, soft-shell RTTs maintain a lower profile, which can be beneficial for off-roading and wind resistance.


    1. Setup/Takedown Time: Typically takes longer (3-5 minutes) due to folding, stuffing, and packing tent material back into its case on top of your vehicle. 
    2. Weather Sensitivity: Soft-shell RTTs may not provide as much insulation or weather resistance as hardshell models, making them less suitable for extreme weather conditions.
    3. Security: They can be easier to access for both wildlife and potential theft when compared to hardshell RTTs.
    4. Long-Term Durability: Soft-shell RTTs may not be as durable over extended use, especially in harsh conditions.


Choosing The Style of your Roof Top Tent

Like any popular trend new styles arise adding a certain new twist to the original. Rooftop tents are no different. Each style at its core provides the same basic amenities with a splash of aesthetic difference and a slight improvement to function in a particular aspect. While shopping for a rooftop tent consider the following styles of car tents: 

  • Clamshell (aka "Wedge"): Known for their quick setup and durability. When closed, they have a sleek and aerodynamic profile. As the clam opens three sides offer fully unobstructed views. Also known as an "A-frame" or "Wedge" this style's tent shell is always hard and opens upwards using gas struts. 
  • Folding:The majority style of soft shell rtts. Feature a hinged base that folds open and creates a sleeping platform when unfolded. They are typically easy to set up and provide a comfortable sleeping area. Lift the tent open and enjoy!
  • Pop-up:Essentially a rectangle box offering a full 360 degree panoramic view. When deployed, the roof of these overlander tents rises (or pops!) directly up with the help of gas struts. Often have floor to ceiling windows on all sides.f
  • Dual Action:Best of both worlds. Opens partially for clamshell style with the added option to open fully as Pop-Up style. 
  • Hybrid:Combined hard-shell and soft-shell roof-top tent. Stored as hard-shell on top of your car with the benefit of extra head room and space of a soft shell.
  • Inflatable: Designed with a focus on quick setup and lightweight. These tents require electricity to inflate air-filled beams todeploy in under a minute. Require a pump or other inflation mechanism.

Can your vehicle support a rooftop tent?

Chances are - Yes. You can safely mount a rooftop tent on any vehicle with an adequate rack system or cross bars. Two key points to remember:

  1. Make sure your roof and roof rack's Dynamic Weight Capacity (Load Rating) is always greater than or equal tothe weight of your rooftop tent. 
  2. Factory installed cross bars are not recommended to support a rooftop tent.
  3. Need help? Call us at 469-809-1663 or chat with us below! We are happy to help.

Large Vehicles

Larger vehicles such as trucks and SUV will have no problem supporting a rooftop tent granted they have an adequate rack system. We recommend Go Rhino, Putco, Overland Vehicle Systems, Tuff Stuff Overland, Thule, Fab Fours, Yakima, and more. Truck bed racks, platform racks, and cross bars are all great options for supporting a rooftop tent. Make sure to confirm vehicle fitment/compatibility with your specific truck or SUV on all accessories you plan on purchasing.

Compact Vehicles

Smaller vehicles require more consideration but definitely can support a rooftop tent when done correctly! Rooftop tents are heavy. A smaller vehicle has less surface area for weight distribution, thus weight on the roof has a more concentrated effect. First, You want to make sure the roof rack or cross bars you choose are up to par.

When mounting on a smaller vehicle, once again ensure that the roof and rack system load rating is at least equal to that of the rooftop tent. Understand that a heavier rooftop tent equal to your vehicle's dynamic weight capacity can affect your vehicle maneuverability while driving. Consider the position of the tent so that it does not affect visibility. Remove the tent when not in use to reduce ware and tare on your car. Be sure to mount your crossbars 32"-48" apart on your vehicle, factory crossbars do not adhere to this rule.

Overlanders with smaller vehicles have been embarking on outdoor adventures with rooftop tents for years, just be sure to cross your Ts and dot your Is! We recommend a number of lightweight rooftop tents below that are great candidates for smaller cars.

Best Rooftop Tents of 2023

Lightweight Rooftop Tents

Even the smallest vehicles typically have a Dynamic Weight Capacity of at least 125LBS. The following roof camping tents can be supported by the vast majority of car's roofs (with a valid roof rack!).

  1. 108 LBS - Body Armor 4x4 Sky Ridge Pike Rooftop Tent - 2 Person - Soft Shell 
  2. 110 LBS - goFSR Aspen Lite Rooftop Tent - 2 Person
  3. 123.5 LBS - ARB Esperance Compact Rooftop Tent - 3 Person - Hard Shell 
  4. 78LBS - TentBox Go 

8 Best Rooftop Tents of 2023

While there are over one hundred options of quality rooftop tents on the market, a few stand out from the crowd. Many of the below are the latest iteration of a series where the teams working on them listened to the improvements customers asked for. Certain features such as a built-in mattress, gas struts, telescoping ladder can be found in most rooftop tents. The tents below go above and beyond your average rooftop tent and the quality is reflected in customer reviews. Read on for some RTT recommendations for your next outdoor adventure: 

Tuff Stuff Alpine SixtyOne - 3 Person

  • Dual Action styled for pop-up or clamshell deployment.
  • Blackout coated fabric - Like sleeping in your personal, comfortable cave in the wilderness.
  • Built-in roof rails on top of the tent - for transporting kayaks, bikes, etc
Tuff Stuff Alpine 61 Hard Shell Rooftop Tent

OVS Sidewinder - 3 Person

  • Side-Opening, high quality,  overlanding home for the roof of your vehicle.
  • Increased headroom and, unique for a hard-shell rooftop tent, consistent throughout the tent.
  • Built-in roof rails on tent roof - for transporting kayaks, bikes, etc
Overland Vehicle Systems Sidewinder Aluminum Shell Rooftop Tent

Thule Basin Wedge - 2 Person

  • Doubles as a cargo carrier inside closed tent while in travel mode.
  • Built-in roof rails on roof of the tent - for transporting kayaks, bikes, etc.
  • Bedding store inside the tent.
Thule Basin Wedge Clamshell Rooftop Tent

IKamper Skycamp 3.0 - 4 Person

  • 4-Season Tent
  • Spacious, 2.5" thick, King size, foam mattress
  • Soundproofing and resistant to condensation
IKamper Skycamp 3.0

Tuff Stuff Elite Overland Roof Top Tent & Annex Room - 5 Person

  • One of the largest tents on the market
  • Annex is included with the tent.
    • Optional Awning
  • Inside the tent is a built-in, massive, 96 x 77-inch foam mattress - bigger than a California King.
Tuff Stuff Elite Overland Roof Top Tent Soft Shell Rooftop Tent

Tuff Stuff Alpha - 4 Person

  • Hybrid style - Stored as hard-shell on top of your car with the benefit of extra head room and space of a soft shell.
  • Foam Mattress is 87"x71" (roughly the size of a California King bed) inside of the tent.
  • Available with Grey or Black shell
Tuff Stuff Alpha Hybrid Shell Rooftop Tent

Roofnest Condor 2 XL - 4 Person

  • Ability to mount optional crossbars attached to the tent.
  • Dedicated Interior duffel for sleeping bags.
  • 2 HVAC ports for a heater or A/C as additional upgrades.
Roofnest Condor 2 XL


Tuff Stuff Alpine Fiftyone - 2 Person

  • Smaller version of the Alpine Sixtyone.
  • Dual Action styled for Pop-up or Clamshell deployment.
  • Blackout coated fabric - Like sleeping in your personal, comfortable cave in the wilderness.
  • Built-in roof rack on top of the shell - for transporting kayaks, bikes, etc
Tuff Stuff Alpine Fiftyone Aluminum Shell Rooftop Tent

Honorable Mentions 

  1. Roofnest Falcon 2 - 2 Person
  2. Ikamper Skycamp Mini 3.0 Tent - 2 Person
  3. Yakima Skyrise - 3 Person
  4. Thule Tepui Foothill - 2 Person
  5. Thule Tepui Autana 3 - 3 Person

To Summarize: When Shopping for a Rooftop Tent...

  1. View your rooftop tent as an investment that may earn you memories for years. It's an investment in convenience, elevated experience, and safety (bears are no joke!). Countless customers have made the switch to Overlanding and fervently state they can't go back to traditional tent camping. The freedom a RTT provides to explore deep back country with no worry of hunting for soft soil or a safe campground is unmatched. Simply park your vehicle, open the sides of the tent, and enjoy your tent and mattress in minutes. It If you enjoy camping or glamping you will be happy you made the switch.
  2. Ensure your vehicle has a rack system that can support a rooftop tent system. 
    1. Determine your vehicle's Dynamic weight capacity can support equal to or more than the combined weight of your rooftop tent and rack system.
    2. Install an aftermarket rack system. Make sure its dynamic weight capacity can also support more than the weight of a rooftop tent (110-250LBS).
  3. Determine what style of rooftop tent suits you best.Hard-shell VS. Soft-shell, clamshell or fold out, which brand gets you excited? For most of our customers this is the hard part. "All the brands have their special pros/cons how can I commit to one?". Give us a call, we've done this before and are happy to help you decide. 
  4. Install using all included instructions and parts. Installation is typically as simple as placing the base of the tent onto your rack system, centering the tent, and bolting crossbar clams to the underside of the tent. Installations do vary by brand and in a pinch most local mechanics will provide a quick installation service.


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