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The Best Rooftop Tents and Buying Guide [2019]

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Do you prefer a quick-to-setup roof top tent, so you could immediately cruise the uncharted territories of the Grand Canyon? Or would you like your valuables to be available instantly, the moment you need them?

Whatever your concern is, we’ll help you pick an ideal roof top tent that won’t get in the way of your next outdoor adventure. Not feeling the rooftop tents? Go for truck tents instead!

Quick Overview

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
Best Value
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent (RTT), 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Tan
Thickest Mattress
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent RTT - Dark Gray Base with Green Rain Fly & Black Travel Cover Universal
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent (RTT), 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Tan
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent RTT - Dark Gray Base with Green Rain Fly & Black Travel Cover Universal
-
-
-
-
Footprint (Open)
84"x48"
55"x92"
48"x83"
122"x51"
Footprint (Closed)
Not specified.
55"x46"
48"x41"
47"x14"
Weight
165 lbs
144 lbs
96 lbs
165 lbs
Max Capacity
2
3
2
3
Mattress Thickness
Not specified.
2.36"
2.25"
3"
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
-
Footprint (Open)
84"x48"
Footprint (Closed)
Not specified.
Weight
165 lbs
Max Capacity
2
Mattress Thickness
Not specified.
Best Value
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
-
Footprint (Open)
55"x92"
Footprint (Closed)
55"x46"
Weight
144 lbs
Max Capacity
3
Mattress Thickness
2.36"
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent (RTT), 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Tan
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent (RTT), 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Tan
-
Footprint (Open)
48"x83"
Footprint (Closed)
48"x41"
Weight
96 lbs
Max Capacity
2
Mattress Thickness
2.25"
Thickest Mattress
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent RTT - Dark Gray Base with Green Rain Fly & Black Travel Cover Universal
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended Rooftop Tent RTT - Dark Gray Base with Green Rain Fly & Black Travel Cover Universal
-
Footprint (Open)
122"x51"
Footprint (Closed)
47"x14"
Weight
165 lbs
Max Capacity
3
Mattress Thickness
3"

Rooftop Tents vs Ground Tents – Pros and Cons

The big disadvantage of rooftop tents is the cost (most are around $1000 or more) and that you need to get it mounted on the roof of your vehicle. If you can live with both of those things, a roof top tent is the closest you’ll get to RVing without an RV.

 

Rooftop Tents

Pros
  • You’re safe against wild, creepy crawlers.
  • You don’t have to look for a vacant land slot to setup your tent.
  • It will only take you a minute or less to set it up.
  • It usually comes with a comfortable mattress.
Cons
    • It’s basically heavy and affects fuel efficiency.
    • Placing and removing it on your 4×4’s roof rack can be tiring.
    • It’s not completely invincible against harsh weather conditions.
    • It’s more expensive than a ground tent.

Ground Tents

Pros
  • It can be easily transferred from one vehicle to the next.
  • It’s very compact in size.
  • You can comfortably move in and out of it.
  • It can be detached from your vehicle.
  • It’s less expensive than a roof top tent.
Cons
    • Setting it up takes more time.
    • You have to look for a big land slot to set it up.
    • Setting it up every now and then can be tiring.

Roof Top Tents Have Been Around for a Long Time

history of rooftop tents

Roof top tents have been very popular on the market these days. But before they’ve reached their height of greatness for more than a decade, they’ve been widely used in Africa and Australia.

This is mainly due to the countries’ geographical location that are inhabited by many animal species. Which is why, their elevation on the ground offers a huge advantage against harmful insects and beasts.

The oldest ground tents were made by the early humans 40,000 years ago, which is obviously the foundation of their modern-day variants. In fact, they continuously evolve where more features are being added to further improve camp life.

Today, they’ve remained to be very useful in traveling because of their compact size that instantly gives you the privilege to settle down, in any suitable place you prefer.

How Rooftop Tents Install

Roof top tents generally install on to your roof rack rails although they can also install in other situations such as on truck rails. Can you install a roof top tent on your car or SUV without a roof rack? Probably not, unless you’re really handy.

roof top tent mounting brackets
Roof top tents typically install with 4 brackets like this which are installed on roof rack rails

Most roof top tents are around 100-150 lbs so this means that you will need two people (or more) to help you install it. Installation is quite easy and can be done in well under 30 minutes and no mechanical expertise is needed.

The Top 6 Things to Consider When Buying a Rooftop Tent

Sleeping Capacity & Size

Size matters.

The biggest difference between rooftop tents often comes down to the size of the open footprint (the size of the tent when it is open). The largest tent we reviewed measured 56″W x 96″L when open. The smallest measured 48″W x 83″L. That’s a difference of nearly an entire foot in length.

Most tents will have a 1-3 person capacity (it’s very rare to find a 4 man tent or larger) and this will obviously be an important buying decision for you.

Roof Top Tent Type: Pop-up vs Fold-out

roof top tent types

Next is considering the roof top tent type.  There are two common types of a roof top tent; the pop-up and the fold-out.

The pop-ups are usually made from hard, clamp shells which sets itself up automatically. Whereas, the fold-outs typically require a bit of effort. Moreover, pop-ups have a small footprint (sleeping area). This means that if you’re only traveling alone or with a couple, pop-ups are a practical choice. But if you’re a family of three or more, opt for fold-outs.

Mattress Thickness

roof top tent mattress
Rooftop tent mattresses are typically 1.5″-2.75″ thick.

Most rooftop tents will include a mattress with them. Mattresses typically range from a 1.5″ thickness to 2.5″ thickness with a 1.5″ being relatively less comfortable and a 2.5″ thick mattress being relatively more comfortable.

Price

rooftop tent price

One thing you should always remember is that a rooftop tent is more expensive than a ground tent. Most rooftop tents will be around $1000-$2000. A ground tent is around $100-200. Big price difference.

Installation Hardware

When selecting your roof top tents, make sure that it includes the necessary mounting hardware to mount it to your 4×4. Does it come with brackets that you can adjust to make them fit into your roof racks?

This is arguably one of the most important things to look at as it can be difficult to change mattresses down the road due.

Available Accessories

rooftop tent accessories

One of the great things about a rooftop tent are the number of (potential) accessories and add-ons you can get. One of the most popular add-ons is an annex extension.

If these are important to you, pick a rooftop tent from a reputable company that offers these accessories as most are not compatible with other models.

Our Favorite Rooftop Tents

We reviewed a number of rooftop tents in a variety of price ranges and sizes. Here is a summary of favorite tents.

Thule Tepui Explorer Roof Top Tent

thule tepui explorer ayer 2

buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/B0858VP2NN

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Roof Top Tent has comfort written all over it.

With its mesh panels, it lets a huge amount of air to pass through to help you feel comfortable inside. Its fabric is even heat and mold resistant so it doesn’t easily crumble against nature’s forces.

When fully open, this roof top tent measures 84 inches long, 49 inches wide, and 39 inches tall.

Thule Tepui Explorer Roof Top Tent Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Has sufficient elemental protection.
  • Mesh panels help with breathability.
  • With internal pockets for extra items.
Cons
    • Expensive.
    • Only for 2 people.
    • Available only in 2 colors.

Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent

smittybilt overlander rooftop tent

buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/B00KCFKPX0

This Roof Top Tent is one of the most affordable tents and comes from the brand off-roaders either love or hate, Smitty Bilt.

This roof top tent is made from a waterproof material that effectively protects itself and you from the annoying leaks, as well as the possibility of getting drenched. Furthermore, it’s an excellent option if you’re a couple or a family of three because of its spacious design. In fact, it has a maximum weight capacity of 661 Pounds.

Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Reliable warranty and service from established brand
Cons
    • The ladder isn’t as sturdy as other tents
    • Heavy
    • Needs a one-year warranty extension to be safe on other possible defects.

Offroading Gear Granville II Roof Top Tent

offroading gear roof top tent

buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/B07FH83D5Z

Offroading Gear’s Roof Top Tent makes sleeping in the comfort of your own bed possible, no matter where you are.

This roof top tent consists of a 2.25-inch mattress that conveniently supports your back for a restful slumber, especially when you need it the most. With it, you’ll feel energized and ready to take on new, challenging feats. Moreover, its durable waterproof rip-stop polyester fabric ensures it doesn’t literally rain on your parade.

This roof top tent is 83 inches long, 48 inches wide, and 49 inches tall, in its fully-open form. It comes with a 6.5-foot aluminum ladder to let you easily move in and out of the tent as well.

Offroading Gear Granville II Roof Top Tent Pros & Cons
Pros
  • You don’t have to be a mechanical genius, as far as installation is concern.
  • Lightweight yet surprisingly durable.
  • Comes with a travel cover for easy storage and protection from damage.
  • You can properly sleep regardless of where you are.
Cons
    • Can only accommodate up to two people.
    • Included instructions can be confusing.
    • Limited color selection.

Overland Vehicle Systems Roof Top Tent

overland vehicle systems nomadic 3

buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/B07PKDRD8Q

Yes, Overland Vehicle Systems makes Roof Top Tents too.

One of the things that make Overland Vehicle Systems’ Nomadic Roof Top Tent a stand out is it’s fold-and-go design. If you’re in a hurry, you can just pop it up in 1 minute and and is also easy to take down.

It includes memory foam pillows and other accessories to make you feel instantly right at home.

Overland Vehicle Systems Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easily installs to almost any roof rack.
  • Has minor accessories like tables and pillows.
  • Easy-setup design.
  • Quite spacious.
  • For 3 people.
Cons
    • Expensive.
    • Available only in 1 color.

Conclusion

Roof top tents should make your next camping trip more enjoyable. It shouldn’t be the other way around. When you buy a roof top tent with its setup time, fabric, and ladder in mind, you’ll be spending more thrilling adventures with your friends and loved-ones, without sacrificing time and safety.

 

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