The Best Rooftop Tents and Buying Guide [2019]

 

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.

Quick Overview

Most Roomy
TEPUI Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
Best Value
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent, 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Light Grey
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent-M
TEPUI Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent, 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Light Grey
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent-M
Footprint (Open)
56"x96"
55"x92"
48"x83"
56"x96"
Footprint (Closed)
56"x48"
55"x46"
48"x41"
56"x48"
Weight
132 lbs
144 lbs
96 lbs
115 lbs
Max Capacity
3
3
2
3
Mattress Thickness
2.5"
2.36"
2.25"
2.5"
Most Roomy
TEPUI Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
TEPUI Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
Footprint (Open)
56"x96"
Footprint (Closed)
56"x48"
Weight
132 lbs
Max Capacity
3
Mattress Thickness
2.5"
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, 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Light Grey
Offroading Gear Rooftop Tent, 48" x 84" x 50", Fits 2 People, for Truck/SUV/Car/Etc. - Light Grey
Footprint (Open)
48"x83"
Footprint (Closed)
48"x41"
Weight
96 lbs
Max Capacity
2
Mattress Thickness
2.25"
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent-M
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent-M
Footprint (Open)
56"x96"
Footprint (Closed)
56"x48"
Weight
115 lbs
Max Capacity
3
Mattress Thickness
2.5"

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

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 10 Things to Consider When Buying a Rooftop Tent

1. 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.

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

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.

3.  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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Available 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.

TEPUI Kukenam Roof Top Tent

Ascending to and descending from your go-to abode is easy with TEPUI EXPLORER SERIES KUKENAM 3 Roof Top Tent.

This roof top tent interestingly includes an eight-foot ladder to help you conveniently move in and out of the tent. With it, you have a quick access to your valuables, without having to worry about the dangers of slipping and falling. Plus, its A frame construction makes it spacious enough for you to avoid accidentally bumping your head.

When fully open, this roof top tent measures 96 inches long, 56 inches wide, and 52 inches tall. It has a 260-gram polyester cotton canopy fabric for proper ventilation, too. It comes in four assorted colors.

Pros:

  • Lightweight relative to other 3-person tents
  • Has a special screen that protects you against mosquitos.
  • Stylish

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Main zipper has a tendency to get stuck.

Buy the Tepui Kukenam on Amazon

Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent

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.

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.

https://www.4wheelparts.com/p/smittybilt-overlander-roof-top-tent-2783/_/R-DSBP-2783 

Offroading Gear Granville II Roof Top Tent

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.

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.

Buy the Offroading Gear Granville II on Amazon 

Yakima Skyrise (Medium)

yakima rooftop tent

Yes, Yakima makes Roof Top Tents too.

The Yakima Skyrise is a very comparable tent to the Tepui, albeit with a slightly higher price. Those debating between between the Tepui and the Yakima will likely select one or the other based on style preference, price, and possibly allegiance to Yakima (for instance, if you have a Yakima roof rack).

Much like the Tepui, this is a 3-man tent that’s roomy inside with a cushy mattress.

Pros:

  • From one of the most respected brands in roof-top accessories
  • Roomy inside
  • Thick mattress

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Polarizing ‘red’ color

Buy the Yakima Skyrise on Amazon

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.

Releated

Best Off-road Fire Extinguishers

Wary of an engine overheat or accidentally burning your tires during the trail? Taking an off-road fire extinguisher on a 4×4 expedition may be the least of your priorities but it’s a necessary step to ensuring your vehicles remain useful and you’re still alive. In this article, we help you pick which off-road fire extinguishers […]

Best Tire Deflators

Worried your tires are too rigid for some off-road fun? What if changes in weather condition prevent your tires from running smoothly? In this article, we give you the 5 highly-recommended tire deflators to help you properly air down your tires, when the going gets tougher than expected. Overview What Is a Tire Deflator? A […]