The 7 Best Rooftop Tents for Your Car
Your next camping trip doesn't have to involve sleeping on the hard, cold ground. Try the best rooftop tent instead.
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Camping is in tents to begin with (sorry, we had to), but it can also be uncomfortable if your spot is wet, rigid or otherwise unpleasant. That’s where the best rooftop tents succeed over traditional camping tents—these boxes live on the top of your vehicle, similar to a roof rack, offering a unique camping experience that keeps you off the ground, provides extra airflow and makes setting up a breeze.
Think of them as a bunk bed, with your tent being the top bunk and your vehicle being the bottom. The only difference is, you don’t need to fight with your sibling to call dibs on the top.
As with anything else, not every rooftop tent will be the perfect pick for every camper or cross-country traveler. That’s why we’ve tracked down the best rooftop tents for different car sizes, camping needs, budgets and more.
Best Overall Rooftop Tent
Thule Basin Tent
The Thule Basin Tent has everything you’d want in a rooftop tent and more: auto-deploying technology, waterproof canvas, a built-in foam camping mattress big enough for two adults, a limited lifetime warranty and an insulated roof that keeps warmth inside and noise outside. If you plan to use this while traveling for extended periods, you’ll be happy to know that it doubles as a cargo carrier (leaving more room in your vehicle for other camping gadgets).
Customers love the easy installation and rave about how well it holds up in the rain. You can also keep all your sleeping gear inside the tent’s mesh pockets, even while it’s closed. The included telescoping ladder allows you to get in and out of the tent in seconds.
- Quick to open and close
- Simple to install
- Built-in foam mattress
- No skylight
Best Budget Rooftop Tent
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Rooftop tents are an investment, but if you’re a beginner camper, or looking for a reliable portable abode that won’t completely break the bank, you can’t go wrong with the Smittybilt Overlander Tent. This three-person, four-season tent is an exceptional value since it’s accessible from both the driver and passenger sides, comes with an extra-wide ladder (18 inches, compared to the standard 12-inch width), interior LED lighting and a 12-volt cigarette lighter power adapter.
Customers say the included mattress is very comfortable, and most agree that opening and closing the tent is simple. Plus, at 116.5 pounds, it won’t weigh your car down too much, which is notable for those worried about gas mileage.
- Relatively inexpensive for a rooftop tent
- Comfortable mattress
- Interior LED lighting
- Some customers say the ladder isn’t the best quality
Most Coverage Rooftop Tent
Roam Vagabond Rooftop Tent + Annex
Whether you’re traveling with friends or just looking for some privacy from your camping partners, the Roam Vagabond Tent gives you all the space you need. This large tent sleeps up to three people, and the annex, which customers say is surprisingly comfortable, fits an additional two.
Every inch of this tent is insulated, and the aluminum frame keeps strong gusts of wind from getting inside while also reducing any noise that dares to disrupt your sleep. If you’re looking for a little airflow or want to look up at the night sky, the Vagabond Rooftop Tent comes with mesh windows and a skylight.
- Very spacious
- Mesh windows
- Protects you from most weather conditions
- Heavier than most rooftop tents
Most Compact Rooftop Tent
Thule x Tepui Foothill Tent
Don’t be thrown off by our use of “compact” here. The Foothill Tent is still quite roomy with high ceilings that allow taller campers to move around with ease. Thanks to its symmetrical design, where you end up saving space is on your roof rack. This allows the tent to be placed on the driver or passenger side, leaving room on your roof rack for an off-road bike or other gear you wish to take on your trip.
Customers agree that installing and setting up the tent takes a while, but that the end product is worth the effort. Reviewers also rave about the all-weather versatility, with some saying they slept inside while temperatures were in the negatives and they still felt cozy.
- Saves room on your roof rack
- Folds up small to limit effects on gas mileage
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Built-in mattress
- Installation takes some time
Best Hardshell Rooftop Tent
Trustmade Scout Rooftop Tent
Durability is the name of the game when it comes to the Trustmade Scout Tent. The integrated hardshell cover provides excellent coverage from all the elements and keeps the tent in tip-top condition for many years to come. But it’s still breathable thanks to the insect-proof netting.
And when we say this family-friendly camping tent protects you from all the elements, we mean all the elements. Not only is it waterproof but it’s also fire-proof, which is a feature we hope you never have to take advantage of, but is nice for peace of mind. Best of all, opening and closing the tent only takes about a minute, which means you’ll get back on the road quicker than ever.
- Very durable
- Waterproof and fire-proof
- Quick setup
- Mattress is on the thinner side
Best Softshell Rooftop Tent
Crua Maxx Rooftop Tent
Softshell rooftop tents are more spacious and lightweight than their hardshell counterparts, and the Crua Maxx Rooftop Tent is the best of the bunch. Although it weighs a little less than 200 pounds, it has a nearly 900-pound weight capacity and sleeps up to five campers. In other words, you get plenty of space without making your vehicle too top-heavy and negatively impacting your gas mileage.
There are two large skylights so all of your guests can enjoy stargazing, and the multiple vents ensures everyone remains cool and comfortable throughout the night. Once you’ve secured the tent, level up your outdoor adventures with these camping hacks you’ll wish you knew earlier.
- Lightweight yet durable
- Very spacious
- Blocks wind noise
- Quick 60 second set-up
- Not the best for cold weather
Easiest to Install Rooftop Tent
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent
No tools, no problem. That’s our one-sentence synopsis of the Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent, which comes with a tool-free vehicle mount to get this three-person, three-season tent installed on your vehicle in a matter of minutes. Plus, it comes with included locks so you can be assured that it will stay put no matter what.
It attaches to most crossbars so long as they can withstand the weight of you and your fellow campers. You’ll lounge in comfort on the built-in plush foam mattresses (which eliminates the need to purchase extra camping furniture) that sit below two large skylights. It’s made from the same nylon as backcountry tents, and many customers attest to its waterproof capabilities.
- Quick, tool-free setup
- Extremely waterproof
- Comfortable mattress
- Not suitable for extreme cold
What to Consider When Buying a Rooftop Tent
When looking for a rooftop tent you’ll want to consider a few things. Most importantly: the number of people you plan to fit in the tent. You’ll also want to consider your budget, weather conditions, ease of setup, breathability and activities you’re planning.
Types of Rooftop Tents
- Hardshell rooftop tents: As their name suggests, these rooftop tents have a hard shell that’s better suited for keeping out the elements and ensuring prolonged durability. They do, however, make the tents heavier.
- Softshell rooftop tents: Softshell rooftop tents are more lightweight and often more spacious, though they’re not as durable and are not always suitable for all weather conditions.
How We Found the Best Rooftop Tent
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
Do rooftop tents damage the roof?
Rooftop tents shouldn’t damage your vehicle’s roof. Just make sure your vehicle and its crossbars can withstand the weight of your rooftop tent, your gear and the campers sleeping inside (some tents have higher weight capacities than others).
How fast can you drive with a rooftop tent?
You can drive as fast as you want, as long as you’re following the legal speed limit. But keep in mind, the rooftop tent will add some weight to your car and slow it down a little. Just how much it slows it down depends on your vehicle and the tent’s weight.
Can you sleep in a rooftop tent anywhere?
That depends. Some rooftop tents aren’t made for all terrains, though some are made for all seasons. Some camping grounds may have rules against rooftop tents, so be sure to check ahead and secure any necessary permits if needed. And before you embark on any outdoor adventure, check out these other common camping mistakes to guarantee the best trip.
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