Born out of the harsh conditions of the African bush and Australian Outback, rooftop tents have grown in popularity thanks to their unique and convenient design. For those who can’t afford a travel trailer, these sleeping arrangements are great for the road.
Once you’ve mounted it to the roof of your car (rooftop tents may need an aftermarket set of racks), just fold it open and prepare for sleep. When it’s time to go to the next road trip, leave all your bedding inside, flip or lower the tent closed, and you’re ready to roll. They’re not cheap, but what’s a lifetime of adventure worth? Here are five of the best rooftop tents you can buy today, and our guide to buying them.
Tepui Low-Pro 3
Tepui, now owned by Thule, havs made a name for itself making bombproof rooftop tents. The brand’s ruggedized versions can survive any kind of weather you throw at them. The latest versions are cutting the weight to make them easier to mount, drive with, and set up.
The Tepui Low-Pro 3 has a composite base which is lightweight yet strong, keeping the total weight at 120 pounds. Curved aluminum poles inside raise the headroom while keeping the footprint the same. The two-inch thick foam mattress inside is super comfortable and comes with the tent. The 8-foot, 6-inch ladder telescopes to any length you need depending on the height of your vehicle. One side is a super slim 7 inches tall while the other is a touch bigger. The low profile hardly creates any noise on the highway and affects gas mileage far less than other 12- or 14-inch tall tent kits.
Each window awning can be strapped down or pinned up depending on the weather. Four large pockets inside hold all your accessories. Included bungees clip to d-rings and pull the sides of the tent in during take-down. The rings also make great points to hang lights or more storage.
- Closed Dimensions: 48” x 56” x 7”
- Open Dimensions: 95” x 56” x 49”
- Weight: 120 pounds
Smittybilt Overlander (2783)
Rooftop tents are fantastic for overlanding and camping with friends but their price tags can put some people off. Good car camping tents are only a few hundred dollars. The Smittybilt Overlander 2783 isn’t quite that price, but for a roof tent it’s a steal at $1,035 and is often on sale for even less.
Included is a 2.3 inch foam, 2 piece sliding ladder, cigarette lighter USB extensions and a LED light strip inside. Each window is covered by no-see-um mesh with canvas covers on the outside you can pin up with the included spring poles. A worthy upgrade is a telescoping ladder to make setup easier but for the price the Smittybilt Overlander is hard to beat.
- Closed Dimensions: 49” x 58” x 13”
- Open Dimensions: 95” x 56” x 51”
- Weight: 116 pounds
iKamper Skycamp 2.0
For a ton of space in a rooftop tent, check out the iKamper Skycamp 2.0. Inside is a 1.8-inch king size foam. The unique design unfolds from the hardshell inside so you don’t have to deal with clipping on a waterproof cover. The top hardshell is double-layer for increased insulation when you’re outside cold-weather camping. To help lift the large hardshell for setup, gas struts inside lift the lid with minimal assistance.
Windows on both sides and the roof have 3 layers each: solid fabric, clear waterproof vinyl and no-see-um mesh. With the vinyl closed, you get the light in but the weather out. Closed, the hardshell is 12 inches tall and has locking stainless steel clips.
- Closed Dimensions: 85.5” x 54.3” x 12”
- Open Dimensions: 85.5” x 82.6” x 43.3”
- Weight: 160 pounds
Freespirit Recreation Adventure Automatic 49-inch Soft-top
For the ultimate in convenience, the Adventure Automatic roof tent from Freespirit Recreation comes with a remote. No need for massive arms to open this tent. Once the waterproof cover is off, press the button, and small motors in the tent lift the top, no humans necessary. There is a manual version available to reduce the cost a bit. For even less work, the hardshell version even skips the waterproof cover. Unlatch, press the button.
The base of the Adventure series doesn’t fold out so you can squeeze into tight spots. A 2-inch EPE foam mattress inside gives a great night’s sleep. Shoe bags hang on the outside next to the ladder so you don’t get your brand-new roof tent dirty inside.
- Closed Dimensions: 85” x 52” x 9”
- Open Dimensions: 80” x 48” x 45”
- Weight: 123 pounds
Roofnest has taken a different approach to its tents. The company uses a hard shell on top and the tent pops straight up with gas struts inside. The Sandpiper takes it a step further and includes a gear rack with two poles on top to replace the poles you lose by mounting a roof tent. The rack can hold 100 pounds when it’s closed and 50 when it’s open. Mount your bike and boats on top even when you have a roof tent up there.
The 3-inch foam mattress, anti-condensation matt, tent, and telescoping ladder all come in at about 145 pounds. Provided your roof rack does, too, the Sandpiper can hold 600 pounds inside. Waterproof pockets on the outside can store shoes and other gear while two pockets and a mesh gear attic inside keep things organized. For take-down just leave your bedding inside, close and go.
- Closed Dimensions: 50” x 85” x 11.8”
- Open Dimensions: 50” x 85” x 49”
- Weight: 145 pounds
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