The Ultimate Roof Top Tent Buying Guide
The Ultimate Roof Top Tent Buying Guide
While tent camping is fun, we prefer to stay far off the icy ground with the help of a rooftop tent. This practically eliminates the need to worry about finding the perfect camping spot, shoveling, or struggling with cold fingers to set up a tent while on a wheeling trip in the backcountry
Nearly 80 million people make camping a regular part of their winter routines at this point. More people are discovering the joys of vacationing in the cold every year with convenient rooftop tents.
Numerous innovations have come to light in the camping world over the years. You’ll find everything from outdoor televisions and automatic RV levelers to portable showers and campers that are small enough for a motorcycle to tow. That being said, roof top tents are among the most ingenious developments on the market right now.
At Offroad Power Products, we carry an extensive selection of roof top tents and accessories. We take the time and effort to test out the products we offer to ensure we only bring the best of the best to our customers. We also want to help our customers get the products that best meet their needs and lifestyles.
That’s why we created our essential buying guide for roof top tents. Read on to learn more about these incredible inventions and how to pick the perfect one for your upcoming camping trips.
What exactly is a Rooftop Tent?
As you might imagine based on the name, roof top tents are camping tents designed to be mounted on the roof of a vehicle. Like traditional tents, they come in numerous shapes, sizes, and styles. Some manufacturers, such as ARB, also come with optional accessories and add-on packages that can help take your camping trips to new heights.
Pros and Cons of Rooftop Tents
With any product you’re thinking of buying, there are certain benefits and drawbacks to consider. Roof top tents are no different. While they bring to the table several advantages, they also come with a few downsides.
Benefits of Rooftop Tents
Roof top tents offer several advantages. For one, they get you off the ground and away from all the possible unwelcome invaders that could detract from your enjoyment of the trip. These might include spiders, snakes, skunks, and coyotes as well as other forms of wildlife depending on where you’re camping and the creatures that are indigenous to the area. Of course, there are many other benefits to consider as well.
Truck roof tents are built with simplicity in mind. They’re fast and easy to set up and take down. You don’t have to put a great deal of time and effort into prepping your campsite with these types of tents. Some even have built-in user-assist features to further foster the setup process.
Many also come with integral mattresses and other amenities, taking even more time and effort out of getting a tent ready for its occupants. At the same time, the more built-in features a roof top tent has, the fewer items you have to pack, unpack, and repack. That’s yet another way in which car top tents help simplify the camping experience.
With a roof top tent, almost any place can become a prime campsite. If you can find enough of a level clearing to park your vehicle, you can set up camp. From designated campgrounds to remote wooded areas and beyond, the entire country is at your disposal. Keep in mind, though, some rules and regulations apply to camping in certain areas.
At the same time, high-quality roof top tents are made of sturdier materials than ground models. They’ll help keep out the elements more effectively than their counterparts. This gives you the freedom to camp comfortably even on nights when you wouldn’t consider staying outside in a regular tent.
Some roof tents, including models offered by SMRT Tents, feature tough outer shells to protect them on the go. They also have smaller profiles, so they won’t take up a great deal of space. They’ll allow you to easily camp in tight spaces as well.
Setting up camp on the roof of your vehicle also keeps you safe from flooding in low-lying areas. Summer storms are notorious for dumping heavy rainfall and causing lakes and rivers to rise a bit. If this happens in the middle of the night, you might find yourself and everything else inside a ground-based tent to be cold and wet the next morning.
That could certainly put a damper on the entire camping experience, but you don’t have to worry about water seeping in with a roof tent. You don’t have to fear being washed away during the night, either. Roof tents are made to keep out the rain, and they’re up in the air where mild flooding won’t cause problems.
Rooftop Tent Disadvantages
Although roof top tents offer several advantages, they’re not without flaws. Some disadvantages also enter the mix. These should be taken into account as well.
One of the main drawbacks of car roof tents is their cost. You can find conventional tents for as little as $40 in some cases, but roof top tents come with a steeper price tag. That’s generally because of the sturdier materials and additional hardware needed to make them safe and functional.
They Stay on the Vehicle
Another downside of vehicle top tents is that they stay on top of the vehicle even when they’re not in use. This could detract from the vehicle’s fuel efficiency and make it a little more difficult to handle in windy weather. While you can take the tents off and put them in storage when you’re not planning to go camping, doing so takes a bit of time and energy. Then, you’ll have to put them back into place when you decide to go camping again.
Most roof top tent owners feel the extra drag on the vehicle is an acceptable compromise in comparison to the hassles of constantly removing and replacing them. This is especially true when you factor in all the benefits of always having the truck top tent in place just in case you get a sudden urge to take off on a camping adventure.
Fitting a Rooftop Tent to Your Car or Truck
Buying a tent that goes on top of a car isn’t quite the same as purchasing one that’s meant to stay on the ground. When you’re looking for a regular tent, all you really have to consider is the number of people who’ll be sleeping in it and how much space you want to be able to move around. Other figures factor into the equation for rack tents.
First of all, your vehicle needs to have a roof rack to accommodate a rack tent. If your vehicle didn’t come equipped with a roof rack, you may be able to find an aftermarket one. Have it mounted professionally before looking into all the roof top tents that are available.
Secondly, you’ll need to know the dimensions of the roof the pop-up car tent will be mounted on. Measure the length and the width of the roof. Take those measurements a couple of times just to be sure you’re getting them right. Then, check the dimensions of the pop-up car tents you’re looking at to be sure they match.
Truck rooftop tents come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one that fits your vehicle. One that’ll cover the entire top of a Suburban just won’t work for a Mini Cooper. On the other hand, if you have a Suburban or another large vehicle, buying a tiny car top tent that’s meant for a smaller car would mean you’re sacrificing extra space that might come in handy during a camping trip.
Extension platforms are available that give you more space than the roof itself would allow. Still, there are limits to the amount of extra room you can squeeze out of an arrangement like this. Consider the tent size, the size of your roof, and any extensions that might be available along with the following additional factors to decide which roof top tent will best meet your needs.
From there, it’s important to know the weight capacity of your vehicle’s roof, or how much of a load it can handle. The fact that your vehicle has a factory roof rack or is marketed as an SUV doesn’t necessarily mean it can handle the added weight of an SUV top tent complete with bedding and occupants.
You may be able to find the vehicle’s maximum roof weight capacity in the owner’s manual or the sticker inside the driver’s-side door. If not, you can contact the manufacturer to find out how much of a load it can bear. This is essential for any type of vehicle, but it’s especially crucial if you’re planning to mount a roof rack and car rooftop camping tent on a vehicle that wasn’t initially equipped with a roof rack.
Your Camping Preferences
Your distinct camping requirements should be part of the mix as well. Think about how many people usually join your camping party. If you camp alone or as a couple, a small tent, like those available from Front Runner should suffice. If camping is usually a group event, you may need to purchase a large tent with an extension. In truth, you may need to upgrade to a larger vehicle to accommodate your needs.
Don’t forget about the full range of car camper tents on the market, either. Brands like 23ZERO offer several sizes and designs. No matter what type of vehicle you drive or what your expectations for a camping trip may be, you’ll most likely be able to find one that fills the bill.
Roof Top Tents vs. Regular Tents
We’ve already mentioned some of the benefits of roof top tents over regular tents, but the two have several differences. Conventional tents are definitely a great deal lighter than truck roof tents. This is particularly true when it comes to hard shell rooftop tents. They’re meant to be carried around by vehicles rather than people. Tents that go on top of a car are also sturdier, made of thicker materials, and need to be mounted on a roof rack.
If you have a vehicle that can’t support the added weight of a rack tent and occupants, a regular tent would be your best bet. For those who plan to hike long distances on trails where vehicles can’t go and simply set up camp along those trails, a standard tent would be the right choice as well. In the event you don’t plan on sleeping very far from your vehicle, though, a roof top tent is the way to go.
Roof Top Tents vs. Trailers
Both trailers and roof top tents offer the immeasurable convenience of being able to take your sleeping quarters along with you on trips. In some cases, both also allow you to set up camp as needed on long journeys. That’s where the similarities end, though.
Obviously, larger pull-behind campers give you more room to move around. They also feature more amenities. There’s no way you could fit multiple bedrooms, ample cabinet space, a stove, refrigerator, dining area, and full bathroom into a tent of any type. If you like the idea of camping but want all the comforts of home, a trailer would probably be the best option for you.
From another angle, let’s look at the drawbacks of campers. Hitching them to the back of a vehicle can be difficult to begin with. From there, navigating them along narrow roadways, through heavy traffic, and around parking lots further complicates the situation.
If you’ve ever struggled to back a truck and camper into a small campsite, you know how much time and hassle that can take. On top of that, you have to get the camper straight and close enough to the water and power hookups to be able to tap into the utilities. That alone can require numerous attempts. Leveling the camper and getting the stabilizers in just the right places is yet another struggle to deal with. Then, when the time comes to go home, you have to do all that in reverse.
With a roof top tent, you won’t have to deal with all those hurdles. Simply drive to where you’d like to camp, deploy the tent, and enjoy yourself. If you add a portable shower, extension platform, awnings, and other accessories to the mix, setup is bound to take more time and effort. Still, camping with a truck roof tent is much less complicated and stressful than with a camper.
Rooftop Tents for Overlanding
Overlanding is a unique type of experience. It gives you a chance to veer as far off the beaten path as you’d like to go and see places the general public will never know. It’s one of those adventures in which the journey is just as important as the destination if not more so. SUV top tents are perfect for this type of trip.
If overlanding is the type of camping you have in mind, you need to be well prepared. These types of trips can take a toll on a vehicle as well as anything mounted on the roof rack. That means hard top roof top tents, like those available from Tepui and certain other companies, are best suited for off-roading and overlanding. They’ll hold up better against all the challenges and hazards often involved in overlanding.
Rooftop Tents for Camping
Standard camping trips aren’t usually quite as perilous as overlanding. That means car top tents for camping the traditional way don’t need to be quite as rugged and overly durable as those for seeking out strange new worlds well away from civilization.
Still, all high-quality truck top tents from trusted brands will hold up to more threats than regular camping tents. If you plan on doing a great deal of off-roading in search of prime camping spots, though, it’s definitely best to choose hard-shell off-road tents.
Roof Top Tents FAQs
No doubt, you probably still have a number of questions on your mind. After all, rack tents aren’t quite as common as standard varieties, and they work a bit differently. There are also more factors to consider when buying these types of tents. We’re here to answer any questions you may have before choosing the best tent for your camping trips.
Can Rooftop Tents Fit on Any Car?
Roof top tents are available to fit almost any car as long as it either has a roof rack or the capacity to support one. It’s also essential to be sure your vehicle’s roof can handle the extra weight of the tent, anyone who will be sleeping in it, and any belongings the occupants bring inside with them.
How Do Roof Top Tents Attach?
Roof top tents attach to roof racks using special hardware. Most come with their own hardware, but some require you to purchase it separately. When you buy a rack tent, be sure to find out whether the hardware is included.
Are Roof Top Tents Safe?
Yes, roof top tents are safe. They’re designed to withstand wind, and they’re securely affixed to the vehicle. You won’t have to worry about blowing away while you’re sleeping or falling off the top of your truck during the night.
Are Roof Top Tents Waterproof?
Roof top tents are waterproof. In fact, they keep out the rain even more effectively than most standard tents.
Are Roof Top Tents Warm?
Roof top tents are naturally warmer than standard tents. They’re designed to keep out the wind, rain, and cold better as well.
How Do I Heat My Truck Tent?
You can use any type of tent-safe heater to keep warm in a van top tent. Some can be plugged into your vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet. You can also bring along a portable generator on particularly cold outings.
How Do Roof Top Tents Stay Warm?
Roof top tents stay warm because they’re made of thicker materials than standard tents. This helps keep wind and cold air outside while keeping heat inside. You can also purchase insulated weatherproof covers for added protection against the cold.
How Much Can a Roof Top Tent Hold?
How much a roof top tent can hold depends on its length, width, and height. Some can only hold one or two people and a couple of sleeping bags whereas others can sleep several people and their basic camping gear.
How Much Weight Can a Roof Top Tent Hold?
Some truck roof tents can support up to 200 pounds. Others are built to hold as much as 900 pounds. This varies by tent as well as the amount of weight your vehicle’s roof can support.
Does A Roof Top Tent Change the Way My Vehicle Drives?
Roof top tents don’t drastically change the way vehicles drive. Because of the weight of the tent and reduced aerodynamics, you may notice a slight difference in gas mileage or the way the vehicle handles at high speeds or on especially windy days.
Do Rooftop Tents Come with Lights?
Car top tents typically don’t come with built-in lighting. You can purchase any number of lighting options to use with your tent, though, from battery-powered lanterns to strings of outdoor lights.
What Is the Best Roof Top Tent to Buy?
Several great brands and models of car top tents are on the market, and we carry the best. That said, the best one for you depends on the types of camping trips you take, the vehicle you drive, your personal camping style, and many other factors.
How Much Are Roof Top Tents?
Prices for roof top tents vary widely depending on the brand, type, size, and integral features they offer among other aspects.
How Much Do Roof Top Tents Cost?
Rack tents typically cost more than standard camping tents. You can find them for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Do I Need a Roof Rach for a Roof Top Tent?
Yes, your vehicle needs to have a roof rack for a roof top tent. These tents mount to the roof rack itself, so without one, you’ll have no way to mount them.
Where Do You Store a Roof Top Tent?
Most people simply leave their roof tents mounted to their vehicles when they’re not using them. If you prefer to take it off, store it in a relatively dry place, such as your garage or a climate-controlled storage building.
Get the Most out of Your Camping Trips with Roof Top Tents
Roof tents are great alternatives to traditional tents and pull-behind campers. At Offroad Power Products, we offer an extensive selection of truck top tents and accessories to help ramp up your camping trips. Browse our selection to see what catches your eye. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or for help with choosing the perfect rack tent to suit your camping needs.
List of Best Rooftop Tents 2021
These are our hand-selected list of Roof Top Tentst that we recommend. Some of these truck tents have actually been used in the Inland Northwest with our rigs and our staff has direct experience with them.
Welcome to the top – this is a rooftop tent that peaks like no other. The Summit Suite is the most innovative rooftop tent in our line up – it’s sturdy, easy to access, and incredibly quick to use.
Its design has a host of thought out features that have optimized every inch of this already tiny rooftop tent, making it both the slimmest and most feature rich tent yet. The Summit Suite makes tenting SMRT, so you can camp smart!
Full Aluminum Shell Construction
Keep your investment looking good with the Summit Suite’s full aluminum shell construction. This shell is robust and hard to puncture for ultimate tent protection.
Easy to Use
Our quickest access yet! The Summit Suite features an elastic chord that pulls in fabric as you close for easy, seamless packup.
Tepui leads the pack with some of the nicest roof top tents on the market. They specialize in rooftop tents and it shows. The Kukenam is spacious for 2 adults but can accommodate and is rated for 3 people.
All Tepui tents have mold-resistant liners and are built with durability in mind. The Kukenam comes with a rain fly to protect against harsh weather conditions.
This tent is a great all around 2-3 person tent that’s reasonably priced and well built from a brand we trust.
Matching annex sold separately.
- Spacious A-frame design offers excellent head room to fully sit up and relax in the tent and take in the views from the large screened side windows
- Made from high quality 600D rip-stop ventilate coated poly-cotton material so you will be protected from even the heaviest rain and winds
- Tight no-see-um mosquito netting in all windows and doors
- 4 large internal pockets for storing gear and camping accessories
- 2-1/2″ high density foam mattress makes it seem like you are sleeping at home
- Includes a stock 8ft-6in telescoping ladder eliminating the need to purchase extensions for large or lifted vehicles.
- Includes universal mounting brackets that allow easy mounting to most roof racks or after-market roof bars
- Be sure to watch the Setup Video and Installation Video for more details.
Tepui’s Low-Pro sets a new bar for the most aerodynamic and streamlined rooftop tent profile. The Low-Pro is Tepui’s lowest profile and lightest weight rooftop tent. The Low-Pro also introduces all-new innovative canopy and state-of-the-art base materials. The Tepui TEC* composite base is constructed using cellulized thermoplastic materials that are more durable yet 100% recyclable. Utilizing our patented ZipperGimp, the Low-Pro model is available with a new selection of canopy options.
- Lowest Profile The lowest profile softshell rooftop tent on the market, at 7″.
- Tepui TEC Composite Base Lightweight meets indestructible.
- Reengineered Design A sleek, curved canopy top provides all the benefits of the spacious A-frame design, now with a new look.
- Canopy All-new material providing lighweight, all-season protection.
*Thermoplastic Engineered Construction
This is a great all-weather tent and accommodates two adults. It’s got a spacious double bed 56″x96″ and features a heavy-duty tough canvas skin for all-season camping or Overlanding.
The included mattress is very comfortable made from high-density foam with a waterproof base. Annex and other accessories available.
- 2 + Person Sleeping Capacity
- Double Bed – 56” x 96” Sleeping Area
- 260/280GSM Ripstop canvas
- 4 Season Comfort
- 3” Thick Sleep Comfort high density foam cotton top mattress with a waterproof base, eliminating the need for an Anti-Condensation mat
- Weight: 130lb
- Fits larger size vehicle with the appropriate roof rack
- Annex and Accessories shown are optional extras and not included with tent
- 2 Year Warranty
- Mounts to the top of your Front Runner Roof Rack for quick, convenient, and comfortable shelter wherever you roam.
- Sleeps 2+ comfortably.
- Opens in one smooth motion for an instant bedroom.
- Lighter than all the other comparable rooftop sleeping solutions on the market today, weighing only 43kg.
- Tent body constructed of water-repellent, durable 260g poly-cotton ripstop fabric.
- Full-coverage rainfly constructed of waterproof, UV-resistant 400d polyester oxford fabric. Remove or install quickly as needed with handy side-release buckles.
- Durable base with an aluminum frame, sheeting, and dense foam core provide a sturdy, insulated foundation.
- Comfortable high-density foam mattress (6cm / 2.25″ thick) with washable moisture & mildew-resistant polyester oxford fabric cover.
- Skylight vent windows in the roof can be unzipped for fresh air, sunlight, or starlight views or sealed to trap heat and seal out the elements.
- The side window privacy panels zip upwards to close so that the size of the opening can be adjusted according to privacy needs or weather conditions.
- 2 hanging pockets provide plenty of storage for personal items (34cm x 22cm / 13.5″ x 8.5″).
- Durable, heavy-duty PVC coated 650g nylon tent cover protects your tent while stowed and in transit.
- Mounting tracks (included) can be mounted front-to-back or side-to-side depending on your needs.
- Universal mounting plates and all necessary hardware included.
- Upgrade for easier mounting and dismounting using our Quick Release Tent Mount Kit.
Add convenient shelter underneath with our Roof Top Tent Annex which slides easily into the channel of the tent base.
- Includes sliding aluminum ladder.
- Ladder Weight limit: 180kg/400Lbs.