The 7 BEST Rooftop Tents for Epic Adventures (2021 Guide)

Welcome to our ultimate guide to the best rooftop tents on the market! From basic rooftop tents offering essential protection from the elements to the most comfortable and spacious tents available, our expert blog post will help you find the best rooftop tent for your adventure!

Even if you don’t have a spacious RV or campervan, you can still enjoy a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors with a rooftop tent. Rooftop tents are perfect for travelers who want the comforts of home with the flexibility of sleeping anywhere in nature.

Not only are rooftop tents more affordable than buying a full motor home, but they also have huge advantages over traditional camping tents. As they are elevated off the ground and many come with built-in mattresses for extra comfort, you can say goodbye to backaches and neck strains (while avoiding all the creepy crawlies you find down on the earth).

In addition, they’re easy to set up, with most tents only taking a few minutes to pop open, leaving you with plenty more time to go out on adventures.

When it comes to purchasing the best rooftop tent, you’ll notice that there are plenty of models, brands, and styles to choose from, which makes it difficult to pick out which kind is best for your trip.

We’ve curated a list of our top favorites, so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for when choosing the best rooftop tent for your van.

PRODUCT

WHAT WE LIKE

THINGS TO CONSIDER

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FRONT RUNNER ROOFTOP TENT

  • All-inclusive kit

  • Lightweight 

  • Durable, waterproof fabric

  • Plenty of add-on options

  • Small interior space

  • The mattress could be more comfortable

iKamper SkyCamp

IKAMPER SKYCAMP 2X HARD SHELL ROOFTOP TENT

  • High-quality materials and aluminum flooring

  • Can be set up in minutes

  • Spacious and roomy

  • Built-in skyview for stargazing

  • Lightweight for a hard shell tent

  • Expensive

  • Mount brackets and support channels are not included

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THULE TEPUI LOW-PRO 2 TENT

  • Reputable brand

  • Lightweight (105 pounds)

  • Made from durable, recyclable materials

  • Not super spacious

Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 Tent

THULE TEPUI EXPLORER AUTANA 4 TENT

  • Capacity to sleep up to four people

  • Reputable brand

  • Made from durable UV and mold-resistant materials

  • Canopy and annex extension

  • Heavy (190 pounds)

  • Might require multiple people to set up

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THULE TEPUI EXPLORER KUKENAM 3 TENT

  • Reputable brand

  • Durable and weather-resistant materials

  • Ideal for all seasons

  • Takes 10 minutes to set up

  • Does not come with a privacy annex

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ARB SIMPSON III ROOFTOP TENT AND ANNEX

  • High-quality materials

  • A reputable Australian brand with a 2-year warranty

  • Spacious and roomy

  • Easy to set up 

  • Bedding can be stored inside even when closed

  • Expensive

iKamper SkyTent

IKAMPER SKYTENT 2.0

  • Plush King size mattress

  • Easy to set up (just one minute)

  • Premium materials

  • Roomy interior (45 inches peak height)

  • Very expensive price point

The Best Rooftop Tent

Before you choose one of the best rooftop tents, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. Not only should you look for a tent that’s spacious enough for your entire group, but you’ll also want one that is made for a wide variety of weather conditions.

In addition, you might want to consider cost, weight, and how easy it is to install and set up on your roof rack.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our list of the top essentials for any road trip here!

Front Runner Rooftop Tent

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As one of the lightest roof top tents on this list, this model from Front Runner weighs in at just 93 pounds. The body itself is made from water repellent 260g poly-cotton ripstop fabric, while the attachable rainfly is constructed with waterproof, UV-resistant 400d polyester oxford material.

This guarantees a comfortable sleep without putting too much load on the rooftop of your van.

The included high-density foam mattress can comfortably sleep up to two people, so it’s a great option if you’re traveling solo or with one other person.

This easy to set up rooftop tent comes with everything you need to get started, including a sliding ladder and all mounting hardware, plates, and tracks. If you need extra shelter space, you can also purchase the annex tent add-on, which can seamlessly attach to the main part of the tent.

We also can recommend the Quick Release Tent Mount Kit, which allows you to remove the intact tent from your roof in just a few seconds. That way, you can set up or take down your tent without the hassle of climbing on top of your rooftop!

PROSCONS
* All-inclusive kit
* Lightweight (93 pounds)
* Durable, waterproof fabric
* Plenty of add-on options
* Small interior space
* The mattress could be more comfortable

iKamper Skycamp 2x Hard Shell Rooftop Tent

iKamper SkyCamp

Built for extreme campers, the iKamper Skycamp 2x Hard Shell Rooftop Tent is a lightweight alternative to many high-quality hard shell tents out there. At just 121 pounds, this tent is economically efficient while still being spacious enough to sleep two or three people.

When it’s folded up, the rooftop tent only extends 12.6 inches above your vehicle. Not only does it look great, but it’s low-profile design also saves on fuel costs without slowing down how fast you can drive.

And when it comes to construction, the Skycamp 2x is one of the most durable rooftop tents we’ve tested. The tent is made from 300gsm polycotton canvas, and the fiber-reinforced shell has an aluminum honeycomb floor for added strength. And similar to other models, it also comes with a detachable waterproof rainfly (in case you get caught in a torrential downpour.)

The biggest disadvantage of the Skycamp 2x is cost. At over $3,000, it’s definitely a big upfront investment. But if you’re looking for a quality hard shell tent that you can travel in full time, then the Skycamp 2x is one of the strongest and sturdiest rooftop tents to buy.

PROSCONS
* High-quality materials and aluminum flooring
* Can be set up in minutes
* Spacious and roomy
* Built-in skyview for stargazing
* Lightweight for a hard shell tent (121 pounds)
* Expensive
* Mount brackets and support channels are not included

Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2 Tent

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Thule is known for producing some of the best camping gear and products in the business, and the Tepui Low-Pro 2 softshell rooftop tent is no exception.

Built with 100% recyclable thermoplastic materials and 3,000mm waterproof/breathable polyester, this tent is also resistant against penetrating UV rays and mildew.

The entire thing only weighs a little over 100 pounds, so it’s a great option for small to medium-sized vans. And the profile design also means it also saves a bit on fuel consumption.

The floor area is just under 20 square feet, so it’s better suited for one or two people at the most. However, the Tepui Low-Pro 2 Tent is one of the best outdoor roof top tents for part-time or first-time campers.

PROSCONS
* Reputable brand
* Lightweight (105 pounds)
* Made from durable, recyclable materials
* Not super spacious

Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 Tent

Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 Tent

If you’re traveling with a group but your heart is set on a Thule rooftop tent, then this four-person Autana Explorer might be the best option for you.

With 48 square feet of space and a peak height of 56 inches, the Explorer Autana is a roomy softshell tent for all four seasons.

It’s made with the same high-quality materials that Thule is known for, like the UV and mildew resistant polyester/cotton blend fabric.

It comes with a high-density foam mattress as well as an extended canopy entrance for extra privacy. There are even four interior pockets (one for each person!) where you can store and organize your personal belongings or camping gear.

At 190 pounds, it’s not the lightest rooftop tent available, so you’ll need to make sure your van and roof rack can support the added weight.

PROSCONS
* Capacity to sleep up to four people
* Reputable brand
* Made from durable UV and mold-resistant materials
* Canopy and annex extension
* Heavy (190 pounds)
* Might require multiple people to set up

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 Tent

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It’s easy to see why the Tepui Explorer Kukunam 3 Tent is one of the most popular softshell options for van lifers and campers. The combination of price, headspace, ease of set-up, and durability makes it a great rooftop tent for most leisurely travelers.

This four-season tent is built to last, even if you’re traveling during torrential rainstorms or freezing temperatures.

Between the 260g polyester/cotton blend and water-resistant coated 600-denier ripstop fabric, you can sleep soundly knowing that you and your belongings will stay safe and dry.

Inside, the Explorer Kukenam is particularly roomy, with a peak height of 52 inches. It can comfortably sleep three people, although a family with two younger children might be able to squeeze by.

This rooftop tent does include a plushy foam mattress and a telescoping ladder, which justifies the somewhat high price point. However, any accessories (like the attachable privacy annex) will need to be purchased separately.

PROSCONS
* Reputable brand
* Durable and weather-resistant materials
* Ideal for all seasons
* Takes 10 minutes to set up
* Does not come with a privacy annex

ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent and Annex

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Australians know a thing or two about camping, which is why Australian-born ARB has made a big splash in the rooftop tent industry. Unlike other roof top tents on this list, the Simpson III uses a unique bungee cord system that makes set up and take down a breeze.

And more importantly, you can store all of your bedding inside, which saves on space and set up time.

When unfolded, the Simpson II has 51 inches of headspace and 94 inches of legroom, making it one of the roomiest rooftop tents available on the market.

And the cozy 2.5-inch foam mattress will have you soundly snoozing in no time.

As with most outdoor tents, the Simpson III is made from high-quality materials, like the UV stabilized laminated welded PVC cover and waterproof, poly/cotton ripstop canvas. It’s made to survive almost every weather condition.

But in case something does go wrong, you can rest easy knowing that each purchase is backed by ARB’s fantastic 2-year warranty.

We also love that the lower-level annex is included, so you won’t have to debate back and forth if you really need the extra space for changing or storage (trust us-you do!)

* PROSCONS
* High-quality materials
* A reputable Australian brand with a 2-year warranty
* Spacious and roomy
( Easy to set up thanks to bungee cord system
* Bedding can be stored inside even when closed
* Expensive

iKamper Skytent 2.0

iKamper SkyTent

While it may not be the most wallet-friendly roof top tent on this list, the iKamper Skytent is still one of the most durable models we’ve seen.

The reinforced fiber hard shell is double layered to reduce noise and moisture condensation, while the cotton-polyester canvas tent is insulated and breathable.

There are also two side windows (with see-through vinyl and mesh panels) as well as a skyview for stargazing or extra air.

The most impressive feature of this roof top tent is the King sized high-density foam mattress. It’s made from high-quality memory foam so that you can get a good night’s rest even in the middle of the woods.

The tent can sleep up to four guests (two adults and two kids) and weighs 160 pounds when mounted, which is reasonable for a tent of this size and capacity. We know it might be hard to cough up the money, but we guarantee that the iKamper will survive all those rugged outdoor journeys for years to come.

PROSCONS
* Plush King size mattress
* Easy to set up (just one minute)
* Premium materials
* Roomy interior (45 inches peak height)
* Very expensive price point

Choosing the Best Rooftop Tent

Hardshell vs Softshell

Before you settle on which roof top tent to purchase, you’ll need to decide whether you want a hardshell or a softshell tent. There are pros and cons to both models, although your final decision will likely come down to price and durability.

Softshell tents are similar to your typical hiking/camping tent. They are usually made out of canvas or nylon and attached to your vehicle roof using hinges and poles. Because they can extend longer than your roof surface, they’re often larger than hardshell tends, which is great if you need a bit of extra space.

While softshell tents are generally more affordable than hardshell ones, they do have their limitations. Without a stable hardcover, softshell tents are less wind and rain resistant, which means they can be noisy during the night. They’re also more prone to mold and water damage, which could shorten the lifespan of your tent.

On the other hand, hardshell tents have fiberglass, aluminum, or plastic covers, which makes them more durable and weather resistant. They’re also easier to set up since you don’t need to connect poles or prop up the fabric like you would with a softshell.

But because most hardshell tents “pop up” like a clamshell on hinges, they can only be as wide or long as the roof itself.

Another downside to a hardshell tent is the price. They can easily cost $1,000 or $2,000 more than a softshell tent.

Capacity

The best rooftop tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes, accommodating anywhere from one person to six guests inside.

However, keep in mind that the manufacturer’s advice on tent capacity might not be as comfortable as you may think. Most roof top tents come with their own mattress, which is only equipped to sleep a certain number of people.

Unless you’re planning on rubbing shoulders and touching toes with each of your tent mates, you should read the exact measurements to see if it’s enough to fit your desired number of travelers.

Interior space

Measuring a tent’s interior space can be tricky. The measurements listed on the box are usually for the widest and tallest points in the tent, which means they won’t necessarily be roomy enough to stand or fit in that king size mattress.

It’s always a good idea to see the tent roof top before you purchase, in order to get a good feel of how much space it has inside.

If extra space is important, then you might consider looking for a model that has an attachable annex. An annex is great if you need extra sleeping space, a room to store your belongings, or an area where you can stand up and get changed.

Views from the best rooftop tent
With a rooftop tent you can camp and have views like this virtually anywhere your vehicle can get you!

Weather resistance

As we mentioned earlier, both softshell and hardshell tents are constructed with durable materials that can withstand numerous outdoor elements. However, hardshell rooftop tents tend to have stronger structures, which reduces wind and rain noise while also making them more stable in the long run.

Softshell tents are built to keep you safe and dry, but you might have to deal with annoying flapping noises during a rough wind or rainstorm. And since they’re exposed to the elements, they tend to start deteriorating faster than hardshell roof tents.

When looking for the best rooftop model, you should check how many seasons the tent can withstand. While some tents are weather-resistant for all four seasons, some of them aren’t suited to survive rainstorms or blizzards.

Insulation

Some roof top tent models have the option to add extra insulation, which is extremely helpful if you’re traveling off the grid to colder climates. They can also be useful if you aren’t sleeping in an all-weather sleeping bag.

However, you probably won’t need an insulated roof top tent if you’ve purchased a warm sleeping bag or plan on camping during the warm summer months. But if you’re looking for an all-around tent that can withstand each season, then you’ll need proper installation to keep you warm during those chilly evenings.

Ventilation

Spend any amount of time in a tent, and you’ll soon realize that having ventilation is crucial for your comfort.

Most high-quality rooftop tents are designed to provide proper airflow with mesh panels and zippered windows. And unlike normal camping tents, rooftop tents also have the benefit of sitting off the ground, so you’ll also get airflow from underneath the bottom.

If you’re considering a soft-shell tent, look for a model that has breathable fabric and a rain fly, so you can still enjoy a fresh breeze even on a rainy evening. Hardshell tents should also have enough room between the fabric and the cover in order to reduce condensation.

Ease of Setup/Takedown

One of the biggest factors when choosing the best rooftop tent is the ease of setting it up and taking it down. Having the ability to set up your tent quickly is vital, especially if you’re moving to a new location each day.

In terms of set up, hardshell tents are the most convenient. In fact, some of them can even be propped up in just under a minute, which is perfect for on-the-go campers.

Softshell tents take a little more time since you’ll have to connect the poles and put on the awning. It does become faster the more you set it up, although the time saved is nothing compared to the ease of setting up with a hardshell tent.

Weight

Let’s face it – even the best rooftop tents will still add a significant amount of weight to your campervan or truck. And because they’re usually mounted onto your roof rack, you can’t necessarily remove them when things get too heavy. That’s why it’s important to take the weight into account when deciding which model to purchase.

Some of the lightest tents weigh around 100 pounds, while the heavy-duty hardshell models clock in above 200. You’ll also need to consider the weight of your mattress, bedding, and/or sleeping bag as well.

Rooftop Tent Camping
Rooftop tents are lightweight and spacious enough to fit most vehicles

Aerodynamics

Heavy, bulky rooftop tents can have a major impact on the performance of your vehicle. Generally speaking, the heavier the tent, the lower the gas mileage will be when driving long distances.

Besides getting a lightweight tent, you can also opt for a low-profile design that is more aerodynamic because the height of your tent can also impact gas mileage. Please take note of the tent’s closed dimensions when comparing your options, which will tell you how high the tent sits when it’s packed away.

Durability

Although most rooftop tents are built to withstand harsh elements and normal wear and tear, some models are more durable than others. These tents have thicker fabrics, sealed seams, and stronger metal components and zippers.

Hardshell tents are also more durable compared to softshell ones since the hard cover offers protection against the outdoors.

Maintenance

Regardless of which model you decide to purchase, you should take extra steps to prolong the life of your tent. After each use, it’s important to make sure the tent is thoroughly dried, or else you run the risk of mold. You can open all the windows to let it air dry or leave it to sit in a dry, shady area before packing it up.

After your trip, we also recommend cleaning your tent with water or mild soap, or laundry detergent.

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Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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