5 Best Rooftop Tents in 2022

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The last few years have seen an explosion in the variety and availability of roof top tents, between their convenience and comfort it’s easy to see the appeal for things like road trips or frequent weekend getaways.

RTTs have been around since maybe the mid 1950’s, though they didn’t develop much of a following until they caught the attention of the Overlanding communities. These nomads needed protection through vast barren tracts of land and a considerable buffer zone between the venomous, slithering, and otherwise prickly denizens of their respective outbacks.

Rooftop tents have since expanded their customer base, marketing themselves as a luxury alternative for frequent glampers. RTTs provide a mobile basecamp backcountry adventure or an affordable alternative to buying and renovating a van.

For a closer look at what’s beneath the lid of these tents, and how to choose the right one for you, take a look at our buyer’s guide below.

The Top 5 Rooftop Tents in 2022

All the Rooftop Tents We've tested

ikamper-skycamp-mini-tent-featured
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iKamper is perhaps the fastest growing brand of tent currently on the market. The Skycamp Mini is special for fitting on the roofs of smaller cars.

We’ve chosen their Skycamp Mini as our top overall pick due to its quality, easy set-up, and compatibility with a wide range of vehicles. Though it only sleeps two, it does so admirably and with more honest dimensions than many of the high-capacity alternatives on the market.

What we appreciate most about the Skycamp Mini is how much it broadens RTT accessibility to people who don’t have a dedicated overlander or full-sized SUV.

Compact and light enough to fit on top of a Mini Cooper or just a truck bed, with enough space to comfortably sleep two, the Skycamp Mini is the answer to the limited space roadtrip dilemma.

It does all this without perceptibly diminishing any of the benefits that you’d get from a more traditionally sized roof top tent, though admittedly sparse on included features without some additional aftermarket purchases.

Specs & Features

  • One minute setup in a gas-strut powered hardshell
  • 4-season sleeper with a durable canvas body and dependable rainfly
  • 1.6” polyfoam mattress big enough to comfortably fit two adults
  • Locking closure system for highway and trailhead security
  • 3-layer windows including a Skyview window

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.3

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Luxury tent that is compatible with many different vehicles
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    As effortless and fast as setup gets
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    Easy mounting and wide rack compatibility
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    Relatively light for a hardshell RTT

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markPretty sparse on included accessories
  • check-markLimited interior and overhead space
Read full review

Where to buy:

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iKamper Skycamp Mini-Tent

thule-tepui-foothill-featured
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Thule has a longstanding reputation for their roof top storage containers, so trusted and common that you probably wouldn’t notice them unless you were looking. They’ve since shifted their focus to include the occasional roof top storage of humans.

Their Foothill RTT is notable for its compact build and relative affordability. It also has the major bonus of only occupying half the horizontal space of the typical rack, meaning you have room for other storage components like a skirack, bike rack, or storage container.

Released at the start of 2021, the Tepui Foothill has already turned quite a few heads. Most RTTs carry significant bulk, and while the Foothill isn’t inordinately more lightweight than the rest of the tents in its more modest category, it does manage to shave off the odd twenty pounds or so.

Far more impressive is it’s compact profile, alleviating overhead clearance concerns while freeing up rack space for other gear. It’s the way to go if your roof top tent concerns involve having a place to sleep in your car during extended skiing, biking, and surfing trips.

Specs & Features

  • Streamlined build for versatile and easy mounting
  • Canvas softshell
  • Single person setup with telescoping internal poles
  • Suitable for 3-season use
  • Pole-tensioned rainfly

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Simple, lightweight, and affordable
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    Allows for simultaneous use of additional storage devices on your roof rack
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    Much more affordable than hard shell tents

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markNot for winter or heavy precipitation
  • check-markPretty small internal space when you have two people in there
  • check-markMajor durability hit compared to hard shell tents
  • check-markSetting up the rainfly takes time
Read full review

Where to buy:

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Thule Tepui Foothill

Heavy-Duty & Waterproof

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Hailing from Compton, CA, Smittybilt is a well regarded name in the 4×4 and overlanding community. With a wide array of winches, roof racks, and aftermarket Jeep equipment, the Smittybilt brand is associated with the kinds of utilitarian products people depend on far from any paved road.

Their Overlander tent boasts everything we like in a budget outdoor gear- simplicity, toughness, and staunch practicality. In addition, it comes with a few fun features not included in most other premium tents.

Smittybilt’s practiced hand in manufacture of overlanding equipment makes them an easy pick for rough and tumble travelers in need of a roof top roost. If you’re looking to maximize your real estate, they also have an XL version of the tent for a couple hundred bucks more, and make it easy to include accessories like a garage and awning to turn your 4×4 into a veritable mobile fortress.

Otherwise, it’s affordability and availability make it a great way to test the waters and see if the RTT lifestyle is right for you.

Specs & Features

  • 600D Ripstop Polyester canvas body
  • Sleeps 2-3
  • Foldout setup with pole-tensioned rainfly
  • 60mm high-density foam mattress
  • Aluminium sliding ladder

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Reasons to buy:

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    At the lower end of the price spectrum for any RTT
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    Fast shipping and dependable customer service
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    Large margin of rack compatibility
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    Great entry point to the RTT world if you don’t want to commit to a big investment

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markLess streamlined setup and teardown than other soft tops
  • check-markDurability concerns if exposed to prolonged sunlight or snags
  • check-markNot for cold weather camping
  • check-markFor the most part, only retailed online
Read full review

Where to buy:

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Smittybilt Overlander

ikamper-skycamp-2-0-featured
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Where we loved the Sycamp Mini for it’s compact size and practicality, the Skycamp 2.0 is captivating for delivering the same quick setup and comfort in high volume. This roof top tent provides this for 4 people.

Between it’s fast setup, easy installation, and ventilation versatility that will keep you comfortable and dry regardless of the weather, it’s an easily justifiable choice for hitting the road with the kids or the dogs.

The Skycamp 2.0 brings everything to the table that we loved about the Mini version. As near effortless deployment as you can get with a tent of this size, a comfortable mattress, and the insulation and durability that you need to sleep anywhere, anytime.

Just as the Skycamp mini extends RTT options to smaller vehicles, the 2.0 is at heart what the founders of iKamper had in mind when they founded the company- a serviceable means to sleep a family of four in a car.

The only thing that we don’t like about it is the weight. With that much tent and four bodies loaded on top, you’re going to want to be sure that your car and rack are equipped to handle the load.

It’s also worth noting that to sleep four, you’ll have to be relatively comfortable with each other.

Specs & Features

  • Quick deploy popup hardshell
  • 4 season and 4 person
  • Adaptable mounting system with wide compatibility
  • 1.6in thick memory foam mattress
  • Two side windows and iKamper’s signature skylight

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    It’s a luxurious and comfortable tent that goes up faster than any other 4 person
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    The king sized memory foam mattress rivals what many people have at home
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    Flexible use between different conditions, between cold and wet and summer sun
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    Durable hardtop to protect your investment

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markIt’s heavy- and you need to double check the capacities of both your car and rack
  • check-markNot the most low profile large tent so expect some impact on mileage
  • check-markEven though it can technically fit four- it’s a very close fit
  • check-markNot the best ventilation when you have the whole family in there
Read full review

Where to buy:

ikamper-skycamp-2.0.jpg

iKamper Skycamp 2.0

Aerodynamic Shape

autohome-air-top-featured
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Autohome claims to be the progenitors of the very concept of roof top tents. They’ve been distributing tents across Western Europe since 1958.

Autohome’s Air Top wins the title of our most comfortable tent because of its massive mattress, 360 degree view, and lofty overhead capacity.

While there are more expensive and excessively luxurious tents that have a similar look and feel to the Air Top (see James Baroud), we like the Air Top because of how well it balances comfort with simplicity.

While there are plenty of other options out there that are more versatile and affordable than the Air Top, there aren’t a lot of options out there that can make you feel like you’re sitting on top of the world in the same way that the Air Top does.

Sure there are some convenience and practicality limitations, but it’s still a fine-crafted tent that can handle any weather conditions you should choose to throw at it. Ultimately, the Air Top feels more like having an indestructible pillow fort on top of your car than it does a tent.

Specs & Features

  • Gas ramp lift popup hardshell
  • 80-in long and 3.5-in thick mattress
  • 3 feel of consistent overhead space
  • 360 degree panoramic view
  • 4-season sleeper, the medium fits 2.5 people

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.3

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Panoramic view with the complement of wide side windows and doors
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    Long mattress give you some room to move around and hang out
  • check-mark
    Consistent overhead space makes it feel more livable
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    Easy latch-based gas lift deployment
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    Available in two different widths for extra room

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markLadder doesn’t store inside of the collapsed tent, taking up space in your car
  • check-markA little light on features and expensive
  • check-markWindows don’t close at the bottom, and don’t have pre-installed bug screens
Read full review

Where to buy:

autohome-air-top.jpg

Autohome Air Top

Related Reviews

Roof top Tent Buyer’s Guide

Why a Roof Top Tent?

It’s easy to see why so many are enamored with the idea of a roof top tent. They offer all of the same benefits as a tent, a teardrop trailer, and van build-out with seemingly none of the drawbacks.

Though the concept has only been around just shy of a half-century, the modern RTT is as diverse and specialized as any other product in the outdoor industry.

Contemporary RTTs, for the most part, carry the original luxury camping intentions of their European inception, combined with convenience and practicality improvements made through the overlanding industry.

Though comfort and performance benefits vary from model to model, roof top tents are a convenient workaround to many of the problems presented by glamping and life on the road.

Why a Roof Top Tent

  • Allows you to turn any car into a camper (provided it has the appropriate load tolerance)
  • Faster and easier setup than a traditional tent of comparable size
  • More comfortable than a tent
  • Much less expensive than a trailer or a van conversion
  • Frees up space for storage in your planning on sleeping in your car
  • Many portable showers hang off of the overhang

Drawbacks of a Roof Top Tent

  • You need to be able to get up a ladder in order to use them
  • Impacts the mileage and performance of your car
  • Much more expensive than a tent
  • You need to pack up camp if you want to move your car

Only you can decide if a roof top tent is right for you as opposed to the classic tent and sleeping bag approach. Bike touring is the likely option for the less mechanized tripping. But distance and time are obvious constraints.

If you value the convenience and kingly lodgings that come along with the commitment, a roof top tent might be just the thing that you’re looking for.

Hardshell versus Softshell

The main determinant factor between the types of RTT are the materials that they’re made of. Generally speaking, you can choose to opt either for a fold out softshell tent, or a popup hardshell.

With models like the iKamper Skycamp mini you’re getting a hardshell that’s ultralight, but also small. On the other hand, the Smittybilt Overlander is a bigger softshell that won’t withstand as much wind.

Though there is the exception of the occasional hybrid and some slight variations in hardshell design, all tents will be able to fit more-or-less snugly into one of these categories.

Between hardshell and softshell roof top tents, the biggest question is one of budget. As a whole, hardshell tents outperform their canvas counterparts in regard to durability, ease of setup, ventilation, and wind-resistance.

Hardshells

Outside of some niche applications, hardshells are the superior option for most casual campers and recreationalists in every sense aside from price. There’s a loose trend of softshells being a little lighter as well, but considering that you ideally won’t be carrying your tent very far, this isn’t a very significant benefit.

There are a ton of minor benefits like less flapping on windy nights, more dependable anti-condensation measures, and resistance to mold- the biggest reasons that hardshells take the cake are durability and a significantly reduced setup time. The rigid materials of hardshells resist long term exposure to UV radiation much better than canvas, and are more resilient snags from stray tree-branches.

In regard to set up, hardshells usually open up of their own accord via some sort of latch-release, spring-loaded system. All that’s left to do after the fact is tension out the rainfly with the included pole set if you’re expecting any precipitation or want a little extra warmth.

Softshells

We’ll cover the details of setup later, but it’s worth touching on the fact that where hardshells can be set up in a matter of seconds, softshells usually take a few minutes.

This is a massive drawback if you want to move your car anywhere during the course of your trip, a quick breakdown and some freedom to keep bedding installed inside of the tent frees up a lot of time that would be spent packing up camp.

As mentioned above, softshell tents tend to weigh a bit less than their more rigid counterparts. While this isn’t going to take your total weight below 100lbs, dedicated overlanders sometimes favor the reduced weight to save room for other gear like we see from the Thule Tepui Foothill.

Weatherproofing and Breathability

Roof top tents have more in common with canvas style tents (in line with teepee tents) than they do traditional camping and backpacking tents. I like to think of the kinds of gear that would be available to you on a desert caravan or wagon train- you’re opting for protection and comfort because the burden of these conveniences isn’t on your back.

Where the thickest parts of backpacking tents (the floor) tends to be around 40D, the walls of your average roof top tent will be at least 10x as thick. Similar to dry bags, by comparison.

In addition to the canvas body, models feature a zip-on or pole-tensioned rainfly to keep moisture off of the body of the tent and allow for ventilation over the course of the night. This comes coupled with zippered windows that can be rolled up in more acclimate weather for more of a “screen porch” experience.

Most RTTs worth their mettle will be pretty sound as far as moisture goes, so the only thing to keep in mind is the outside temperature. A rainfly can do a bit to add extra heat, but there’s no substitute for a 4 season tent when temperatures start to fall, like we see from the Skycamp Mini. Those who choose a hardshell have additional protection from the wind with some strategic parking.

Comfort and Volume

One of the biggest benefits of a roof top tent is being able to forgo an inflatable camping mattress or hammock in favor of much more plush and cushy alternatives. Even the most spartan RTT mattress is likely to be a good deal more comfortable than the average sleeping pad.

Premium RTT setups tend to be more comfortable than the average bed, with a few inches of memory foam mattress, no alarm clock and unbeatable views. Different brands emphasize different aspects, some favoring the hard and fast overlander approach, like Smittybilt, while others try to be as comfortable and plush as possible, Thule.

Internal space is the one place where roof top tents start to flag compared to the comically large frontside family camping tents we could compare them to. The vast majority of them (excepting the Autohome Air Top) will have an apex that descends rather steeply to a low point.

We also need to address mattress size, as tent brands tend to have pretty liberal expectations for how many adults can reasonably fit inside their products. Be wary that even for four person family tents like the Skycamp 2.0, it would be difficult for four adults to be comfortable unless they were exceptionally comfortable with each other.

Price

There’s no arguing that a roof top tent is one of the more significant investments that you can make in non-motorized outdoor gear, but some are more of an investment than others.

At the low end of the spectrum around $1000 will land you in a serviceable softshell tent- not including an appropriate roof rack or crossbar. A hardtop tent has the potential to run you a few times more than even a top-line softshell.

Beyond this, what you’re paying for is the size, the quality, and the features included in the tent. Hydraulically powered, spring-up clamshell models tend to run the most- but none is going to cost you more than the signature pill-shaped models from James Baroud.

Setup

One of the benefits of a roof top tent is having some distance between the ground and where you’re sleeping. This makes setup on rocky or uneven terrain as easy as finding a relatively level place to park, without the hassle of groundsheets or clearing away twigs and rocks.

The time it takes to set up a tent varies between make and model, but hardshells are usually require far less time and effort to deploy than softshells.

That’s not to say that soft tops are overly-difficult to set up, with a bit of practice they should go up in about the same amount of time it takes you to stake out a simple tent, and the majority of the work is unfolding their base and getting the fabric tensioned out.

Most hardshell models employ some sort of latchable gas hydraulic system, so they spring open suit-case like when their clasps are undone. Seldom you’ll see the old-school hand crank used, but it’s not totally unheard of.

Sometimes it’s necessary to remove the ladder and the mattress from the tent before you pack it up. In the case of most hard tops, the ladder folds up inside of the shell along with some extra room for the mattress pad and even some bedding, simplifying the packing process even further.

Considerations for your Car

Aside from the inconveniences of having to pack up when you want to leave camp, the biggest drawback of a roof top tent is the performance impacts it will inevitably have on your car.

As is the case with any roof rack or storage, having something on top of your car increases drag and has a significant impact on your mileage. When you consider the weight and bulk of something like a roof top tent, it starts to impact handling as well.

This is a serious consideration if you plan on leaving your tent on top of your car full-time. Fortunately, hardtop tents tend to be notably more compact, and can cut down on drag and unwanted flapping.

It’s perhaps even more important to ensure your vehicle can actually handle the additional weight of a tent and roof rack. Be sure that you factor the weight of all of the people who plan on sleeping in the tent into this equation as well.

It’s never worth maxing out your suspension or surpassing the load limit on your roof, be sure to check the static weight capacity.

Assembly and Mounting

RTTs require a little more up front investment in effort to get them mounted on your car, some more so than others. While the vast majority of manufacturers do everything in their power to make the process as painless as possible (nothing beyond cranking down on some oversized allen bolts), some models necessitate breaking out the power tools to make some fabrication alterations in order to safely mount them on your vehicle.

When you first receive your tent, it should for the most part be in one piece. There may be some minor adjustments to make like installing the mattress and making sure that the rails are properly aligned.

Another key factor in this process is having a roof rack that is compatible with your tent. Thankfully information regarding compatibility isn’t hard to come by, and most manufacturers have a full scale chart or list to help you parse out the issue. From there, it’s usually as easy as finding the proper mounting kit to match your rack, and following installation instructions.

Some camping showers will also mount directly onto a roof top tent adding to the easy lifestyle of the home on the road.

With the right model, and the open road ahead, an RTT can make getting around to any terrain easy. For camping, it’s freedom.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What are the best roof top tents?

Roof top tents- like anything else -are a matter of optimization. What aspects or qualities are you looking to highlight? Durability, comfort, capacity, cost and style are all worthy considerations you should make before making any serious commitments. Balancing these factors- here’s a quick list of some of our favorites across different purposes.

Best roof top tents

  • iKamper Skycamp Mini
  • Thule Tepui Foothill
  • Smittybilt Overlander
  • iKamper Skycamp 2.0
  • Autohome Air Top

Each of these models bring something unique to the table, be it a no stress setup or unmatched value. For a closer look at these models, and to get a better idea of what exactly you should look for in your next rooftop tent, take a look at our best of page and buyer’s guide.

What do you need to install a roof top tent?

Even though there seems to be a big disconnect between receiving your roof top tent and getting it mounted on your vehicle, most manufacturers take measures to ensure that the process is as painless as possible. What it essentially boils down to are 4 components: a car rated to accommodate the weight, a compatible roof rack, and the tent of your choice. The process itself is a little more involved, so here are some tips and tricks to help you along your way.Tips for mounting a roof top tent

  • Some tents don’t need a full rack, and you can get by with just a set of crossbars
  • It’s essential to have at least one more person to help you out with the process
  • Retailers like REI will often help you install your tent for a nominal service fee
  • RTT manufacturers usually have a guide for which racks are compatible with their tents
  • Take your tent out for a test drive and make sure nothing has moved before your first trip

There are few hard and fast rules for the best RTT configuration, the door is wide open for personal and stylistic choices. For a better idea of what’s out there, our buyer’s guide has a comprehensive overview of essential styles and features across the industry.

Are roof top tents bad for your car?

Any aftermarket addition or modification to your vehicle has the potential to cause damage- if you don’t follow both the vehicle’s and manufacturer’s specifications for install and use. Roof top tents are no exception, if you don’t exceed the load limits of your car and rack, the worst you’ll likely see is a little less efficiency due to increased drag.

To learn more about roof top tents and how to choose the right one for your purposes take a look at our buyer’s guide to help narrow down the search and make an informed decision.

Why buy a roof top tent?

Roof top tents are a hefty investment, but the wide array of undeniable drawbacks are feeding the flames of what is now a full blown frenzy. For the curious, our best of page features some of our favorites across different categories as well as some more information about what to look for in your next tent. If you’re still skeptical, here are just a few of the many benefits a roof top tent can offer you.Benefits of a roof top tent

  • Carried weight isn’t an issue, meaning your setup is potentially much more comfortable
  • Heavier grade materials tend to be more durable and weather-resistant than those used in camping or backpacking tents
  • Saves much of the stress that comes with setup, any surface-level enough to park is level enough to camp
  • Frees up storage space if you’re planning on camping in your car anyway
  • Much less expensive than a trailer or camper conversion, and works with cars as small as a hatchback on up
What is the best rack for a roof top tent?

This question largely concerns compatibility. You need to have a roof rack that will work with your vehicle’s rails and the tent that you intend on purchasing. Most tent manufacturers have comprehensive lists regarding vehicle and roof rack compatibility, but beyond that here are some additional considerations you should make regarding your selection of roof rack.

How to choose a roof rack for a RTT

  • How much tent do you want? Not all racks are made to the same load specifications, bigger and heavier tents need more support than others.
  • Some racks have different profiles that will impact mileage and your car’s drivability, look toward low-profile options to limit performance impacts
  • If you ski, bike, or do other equipment heavy activities, it’s prudent to find a rack that will be compatible with your carriers to get the most for your money
  • If you don’t want to invest in an entire rack, look to see if your RTT will mount on a pair of cross bars for a less intrusive, and less expensive approach

As enjoyable as it is to decide on a new rack, finding a tent worthy of mounting on said rack is where the real fun begins. For our favorites and a complete guide to all things roof top tent, head over to our best of page and take the next step towards completing your kit.

If you already have a Roof Top Tent or you just bought one, leave a comment in the comment section below and share your experience with it.

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