Camping. American culture romanticized it long before it looked macho in John Wayne westerns. But laying on the floor and sleeping on a thin pillow isn’t everyone’s cup of bucolic brew; it can be inconvenient and setting up and tearing down almost always takes longer than expected.
Therefore, rooftop tents — boxes that live above the car and can be easily deployed to create a home that you clamber into via a fold-out ladder — offer a more convenient solution to many potential, semi-in-earth types (aka your significant other who isn’t as fond of pine-scented goodness as you are).
Think of the best rooftop tents as relatively expensive gateways to the great outdoors. Sure, they’ll give you four digits back – but once bought, you’ll always have an instant AirBnB with you. And it’s cheaper and more convenient than buying a custom RV or rugged off-road trailer.
What should you pay attention to when buying a roof tent?
- Make sure your tent fits your vehicle. Compact cars with shorter roofs can’t distribute the weight of a heavy shelter over 100 pounds the way a longer SUV can.
- How easy is the tent to install. Tool-less is better than tool-intensive. You may need a friend or partner to help with the initial assembly.
- How easy is the tent to set up and pack. The purpose of a rooftop tent is to make camping faster and easier.
- How aerodynamic the tent is. Fuel is not cheap at the moment. Lower profile tents have less impact on fuel economy.
- Whether it makes sense to level up. Softshell tents are generally lighter and cheaper. But they also need a cover when packed — and often a rainfly for bad weather.
The best rooftop tents you can buy
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The best all-round roof tent
Thule x Tepui Low Pro 3
- Low profile design for minimal drag
- Foam mattress included
- Spacious compartment accommodates up to three sleepers
With a closed height of only 8.5 inches, the Low-Pro is low profile when it comes to rooftop tents. That will help you save fuel while minimizing the lift-off effect a rooftop tent can have on a small car rolling down the highway.
Like Yakima’s Skyrise, Tepui’s tent is also relatively light at 105 pounds, and uses the same mechanism to convert the clamshell design into a fully unfolded shelter – you pry it open using the telescoping ladder. As for differences, it’s a little less finicky to work with the rainfly, but the mattress is a thinner five inches.
The best rooftop tent you can buy
Roof nest Condor
- Easy installation – appears in less than a minute
- Water resistant
- Hardshell top accommodates additional gear
- Can be fitted with a solar panel
The ultra-smart trick the Condor pulls up is how it unfolds its “wings”. Like most hardshell designs, it pops up, but the lid forms one wall (much like the iKamper Skycamp Mini). From that position, the tent is unfolds like a soft clamshell design. This makes the Condor and Condor XL absolutely huge inside – over two meters wide when open.
The interior height is also up to 50 inches, and the weight is reasonable too: 135 pounds for the smaller unit and 160 pounds for the XL. There is also a zip open skylight for stargazing. Another bonus is a hardshell lid that allows you to place other gear on top, such as kayaks, bicycles or skis.
The best rooftop tent on a budget
Front Runner Rooftop Tent
- Lightweight design
- Integrated memory foam mattress
- Low profile design to reduce wind resistance
- Opens in a single swipe
- Side buckles allow for easy installation
Front Runner Outfitters makes some of the best roof racks around, providing sturdy, lightweight loading solutions for a wide variety of SUVs and trucks, from the new Land Rover Defender to the Toyota Land Cruiser to… well, the old Land Rover Defender. . But those roof racks also form an excellent basis for the roof tent of the brand.
The tent is only 13 inches high when folded for travel, but expands to almost six feet wide when it’s time to sleep – and yet it weighs just 95 pounds. It’s waterproof and incredibly durable, as well as comfortable thanks to an integrated memory foam mattress. And if you want to easily take it off to do other things with your roof rack, well, they make a quick-release tent mounting kit too.
Thule x Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 + Attachment
- Made from durable, weather-resistant 600D ripstop fabric
- Telescopic ladder for easy access
- Removable attachment for privacy and/or stuff storage
- Comfortable High Density Foam Mattress
Even the largest rooftop tent may not have enough space for everything you want to do privately while camping. For those circumstances you want a sturdy tent with an extension like this Tepui. Both the tent and outhouse that surrounds the telescoping ladder are made from tough, weatherproof 600D ripstop blend fabric, giving you a nice wind and watertight space to get dressed, make food or use the, uh , facilities.
Yakima Skyrise Rooftop Tent – 3-Person 3-Season
- Low profile for reduced wind resistance
- Includes two skylights for stargazing
- Mesh windows for extra ventilation
- Tool-free mounting
Bee only 101 pounds, the double Yakima Skyrise HD is light for this breed and is the most “tent-like” roof unit in this guide – by which we mean it has a dome shape that allows you to sit up comfortably once inside.
The clever opening system – you use the ladder as a giant crowbar to unfold the unit and let it set – is the same as several other clamshell designs in this guide. It’s a small job to anchor the rainfly, but ultimately not that challenging. However, if you want to use the top window of the tent to look at the stars or stand through it (which is handy for getting dressed), you’ll have to remove the rainfly and gamble there won’t be any thunderheads at night. roll in.
- Newly designed for 2022
- Accessory channels on all four sides for additional features
- Aerodynamic top shell
- Easy installation and breakdown
We loved testing the Falcon on a weekend camping trip. Both set up and take down take seconds and the durable construction means it can handle whatever the weather throws at it. Accessory channels are available on all four sides to add features such as awnings and it can support a set of crossbars for additional equipment.
The new Falcon 2 adds major upgrades, including an additional 150 pounds of gear storage, a smoother and more aerodynamic upper shell, and a redesigned rain zipper that can quickly cover all three entrances if you run into inclement weather.
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