Nov 19, 2023
The 8 Best Rooftop Tents of 2023
These are the top rooftop tents, from budget picks to the best hard and softside options to the most spacious and easiest to assemble. Jump to a Section We independently evaluate all recommended
These are the top rooftop tents, from budget picks to the best hard and softside options to the most spacious and easiest to assemble.
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Travel + Leisure / Alli Waataja
Getting a rooftop tent levels up your car camping game — quite literally. The advantages of a tent that sits on your vehicle are myriad: They get you off the ground (improving your climate protection and air circulation), add a layer of safety against wildlife, afford better views, and can support a much more plush mattress than your typical camping pad. The best ones excel at all things: ample space for a handful of campers, a comfortable mattress, and plenty of viewing options via windows and skylights. But we’ve got the top picks for all types of campers, from hard shell to soft shell, for vehicles large and small, and for those who want to haul their bike or kayak along with their tent.
In evaluating our top picks, we took note of each tent’s key characteristics: how easily it is to install onto a sport rack, how quickly it pitches, and what sort of features it includes to improve your camping experience — everything from spacious windows to easy-entry doors to internal and external storage options. We also talked with Austin Tucker, Brand Manager at Yakima, for tips and advice.
On dry nights, you can leave off the rainfly for ample breathability and killer views, but the fly also has two skylights integrated so you can always gaze at the sky.
Given that the floor is entirely covered with a foam mattress, you have to take care storing gear that could potentially damage the material.
With ample internal space for three campers and a plush 2.5-inch-thick wall-to-wall foam mattress for cushy comfort, the Yakima SkyRise Medium rooftop tent assembles quickly and requires no tools to attach it to your roof rack. The tent design mirrors backcountry models, which makes it lightweight and durable, with 210D, PU-coated nylon; pre-set, strong aluminum poles; and plenty of mesh panels to avoid overheating. It comes with a telescoping ladder, SKS lock cores to secure the tent to the rack, and compatibility with Yakima’s line of tent accessories.
Designed to work with a variety of vehicle types, the tent can be used with an SUV, truck, or sedan, extending over the side of the car to provide the maximum footprint. The doorway is refreshingly large, making it easy to enter and exit. And once inside, you can roll down the solid panels to cover the mesh windows and zip them closed to seal in the heat on colder nights. Bonus: the cover of the mattress can be removed for easy machine-wash cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $1,899
The Details: Open dimensions: 56 x 96 x 48 inches | Closed dimensions: 58 x 48 x 16.5 inches | 115 pounds | 3-person
Quick to pitch and spacious for two campers, the Front Runner Rooftop Tent comes with heavy-duty fabrics for three-season camping and remains one of the lightest options on the market.
The tent is specifically designed to be used with Front Runner’s roof racks.
Don’t let the Front Runner Rooftop Tent’s price dissuade you — the two-person tent is made with high-quality materials, including a 260-gram poly/cotton ripstop tent as well as a fully-covering 400D poly oxford, UV-resistant rainfly. It opens in one smooth motion, which pops up the tent. Then you climb up the sliding aluminum ladder to access the tent interior, which boasts a 2.25-inch high-density foam mattress covered in a washable, moisture- and mildew-resistant poly oxford fabric cover. At only 95 pounds, it’s one of the lighter rooftop tents available, and when it’s closed, the tent only measures 13 inches in height, which helps reduce drag while driving. Skylight vent windows integrated into the roof can be sealed on colder nights, and the side windows also zip closed to provide privacy. Mounting the tent can take some effort, though they do sell a four-piece quick-released tent mount kit if you plan on removing it often — either way, the tent itself is protected by a heavy-duty PVC-coated 650-gram nylon cover, a smart detail that’ll extend the life of the product.
Price at time of publish: $1,209
The Details: Open dimensions: 131 x 90 x 52.4 inches | Closed dimensions: 52.4 x 49 x 13 inches | 93 pounds | 2-person
The simple setup and quick pitching makes the Trustmade a reliable four-season rooftop tent, and it also can double as a cargo box.
There’s no foam mattress on the floor, and it’s quite heavy.
Architecturally, the Camping World Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent couldn't be simpler. When pitched it’s a spacious 82 x 50 x 13-inch rectangle — ample space for two campers, which collapses to a slim, 13-inch profile when not in use. It goes up in less than two minutes and comes with a 7.5-foot extendable aluminum ladder that's tall enough for most vehicles. The 100 percent waterproof construction employs a hard top and a ABS bottom with a stainless steel frame, a felt lining, and honeycomb panels for reinforcement, with insulation to cut noise and regulate the internal temperature; it’s a great option for four-season camping. A wide door and two windows with mesh panels amp circulation when camping in hotter weather, and internal straps at the roof can accommodate accessories like a lantern. Unlike most models, it doesn’t come with a mattress, so you’ll need sleeping pads, but this also allows the Trustmade to double as a cargo box.
Price at time of publish: $1,649
The Details: Open dimensions: 82 x 50 x 36 inches | Closed dimensions: 82 x 50 x 13 inches | 205 pounds | 2-person
The robust fabrics in the Smittybilt Gen2 Overlander Tent are durable and easy to pitch, and it includes an internal LED light strip.
It’s rated to fit three campers, but some may find it a bit tight, and attaching the tent to the roof rack requires tightening several bolts to make it secure.
Outfitted with a full-sized bed, the Smittybilt Gen2 Overlander Tent will accommodate up to three campers and fit any vehicle type. It pitches quickly and comes with a heavy-duty 600D ripstop polyester/polyurethane-impregnated roof to block out wind, which pairs with the 420D Oxford rainfly for truly bomber protection from the elements. No-see-um mosquito screens help regulate the temperature, and a mixture of spring steel fly poles and aluminum tent frame poles make it robust even in strong winds. Packed down, it measures only 11 inches high, making it one of the more svelte options available, and includes a cover crafted from heavy-duty 1040-gram 200D PVC with waterproof, UV-resistant velcro straps. It even comes with an LED strip inside, providing ambient light to supplement your other camping accessories.
Price at time of publish: $1,300
The Details: Open dimensions: 95 x 56 x51 inches | Closed dimensions: 47 x 56 x 11 Inches | 118 pounds | 3-person
The minimalist design of the Thule Foothill frees up space to carry other items on your roof rack, and though it packs down small, the pitched interior is generous and lined with huge windows and skylights.
The mattress is thin compared to some other options, and some campers may want extra padding beyond the 4-centimeter bed that’s included.
Unlike most rooftop tents, which typically sit on the entire roof of your vehicle (and often extend outward as well), the Thule Foothill takes only half the width of your rack, which frees up space to carry a bike or other equipment. Designed for two campers and smaller vehicles like sedans, it folds down into a compact 9.5-inch rectangle to reduce drag, and setup is a breeze — just unfold the tent and deploy the telescoping poles. Enter the wide door and you’ll find panoramic windows that stretch the length of the tent, along with two huge skylights that improve airflow and allow for impressive stargazing; the window configuration is some of the most generous found in rooftop tents. The floor is lined with a low-profile 4-centimeter mattress with a machine-washable cover, mesh internal pockets keep at-hand items within reach, and exterior attachment points let you latch on gear.
Price at time of publish: $2,000
The Details: Open dimensions: 84 x 47 x 37 inches | Closed dimensions: 83 x 24 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 122 pounds | 2-person
The massive Bushveld can easily house up to four campers, with a large footprint, loads of smart add-ons and accessories, and ample four-season protection from the elements.
This large-capacity tent comes at a higher-than-average price point.
Ready to house up a family of campers, the spacious Overland Vehicle Systems Bushveld rooftop tent uses a hardside roof (when closed) that folds out when pitching the tent, making for solid weatherproof protection when paired with the 420D oxford ripstop rainfly. The massive tent pitches easily thanks to two nitrogen-charged 35.5 x 1-inch struts that support the three-piece cantilever design — simply release the tent by unlatching the roof at four points and then fold out the bottom. Windows can be rolled up to improve airflow, and the ceiling boasts a 39 x 25.5-inch skylight. In addition to the included quilted memory foam mattress, which sits in the insulated base with a built-in anti-condensation layer, the Bushveld really packs in the add-ons, including two external shoe pouches, an LED light strip, a blanket, memory foam pillows, two internal storage pouches, a storage loft with size outside pockets, and a large pocket to store your bedding.
Price at time of publish: $2,200
The Details: Open dimensions: 81 x 84 x 43 inches | Closed dimensions: 81 x 47 x1 0 inches | 180 pounds | 4-person
Loaded with features that experienced and first-time campers alike will love, the newly redesigned Condor 2 pitches quickly and provides three-season protection for up to three campers.
It’s more expensive than some larger tents.
The hardshell Roofnest Condor 2 uses standard bolts and clasps to secure itself to your roof rack, but once it’s in place, pitching the tent itself is a quick process: unlatch the roof, pull out the extendable ladder, and then raise the tent via levers on either side. Then you can make quick micro-adjustments to the side windows, which can be closed, rolled up, or deployed into window awnings that offer some protection from light rain without having to seal everything off. Inside, an ample skylight allows for stargazing, and they’ve integrated a smart sequence of mesh pockets on the hardsided part of the tent for gear storage as well as storage space for up to three sleeping bags. You’ll also find a 2-inch-thick queen-size memory foam mattress, which is enough room for up to three campers to sleep comfortably. The newly redesigned Condor 2 also comes with two HVAC ports for a heater or portable A/C, three dimmable LEDs, and heavy-duty locking latches.
Price at time of publish: $3,395
The Details: Open dimensions: 81 x 53 x 40 inches | Closed dimensions: 60 x 49 x 14 inches | 155 pounds | 3-person
The Skycamp 2.0 houses a king-sized mattress with space for four campers, loads of smart storage integration, and a very quick setup.
All that extra space comes at a price.
Whether you need to house four tall campers or simply want more space, the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 will accommodate. The hardsided tent includes a king-sized high-density polyfoam mattress, quilted insulation to afford four-season camping, and two canopy windows with three layers: inner see-through vinyl, a mesh window for breathability, and an outer poly panel that works with the 300-gram polycotton canvas tent body to block out the light. Or, opt to open up the massive skylight to view the stars and let ambient light wake you in the morning. Setup is a breeze, typically taking less than three minutes, and the tent is designed to also store your sleeping bags and pillows when closed to make assembly even easier. And patented, universal mounting hardware works with all roof rack types and installs more quickly than bolt/latch designs.
Price at time of publish: $3,119
The Details: Open dimensions: 83 x 77 x 48 inches | Closed dimensions: 83x77x13 inches | 160 pounds | 4-person
Hard shell rooftop tents come with a hard, durable plastic lid that, when closed, looks cleaner and typically provides better aerodynamics than soft-top tents, which can slightly improve your vehicle’s gas mileage. Hard shell tents use that hard lid either as the tent roof or a sidewall once the rest of the fabric tent is pitched. This typically provides better insulation and weather protection, but you do sacrifice a 360-degree view (or a skyline window). Soft-bodied tents utilize the same construction and configuration of a typical camping tent, nestling into themselves and then pitched with a series of aluminum poles. Most soft shell rooftop tents also come with a cover that’s more impervious to the elements when it’s packed down for transport. Soft shell tents can take a bit more time to pitch. Hard shell tents are typically rated to handle bad weather in all seasons, while most soft-sided tents are best used in the spring, summer, and fall. Price points and overall weight is roughly the same, though hard-sided tents can be a bit heavier and more expensive. But that hard-sided protection also means they can last longer.
If you’re a fair-weather camper who can tolerate rain but don’t have ambitions to camp in the winter, go with a three-season rooftop tent. All rooftop tents are sufficiently weatherproof, utilizing durable rain flies and sometimes hard plastic materials to combat rain and wind–and since you’re sleeping off the ground, you don’t have to worry about water run-off. If you do plan on camping in the winter, go with a more robust four-season tent; rooftop tents are already warmer than on-the-ground models simply because they’re off the ground and often come with a bit of insulation and a thicker mattress than you’d get with a typical camping sleeping pad. When evaluating your rooftop tent, also take note of the overall height — the height of both the roof rack upon which the tent sits and the height of the tent when closed — to make sure you have sufficient clearance for your garage or any overpasses you may encounter. Otherwise, the limits of where you can take your rooftop tent are limited only by the kinds of roads your vehicle can handle.
First, you need a roof rack to support your rooftop tent, so if you don’t have one, start there. Then, Austin Tucker, Brand Manager at Yakima, advises that you should start by “checking your specific vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations on the max weight your roof can support.” Be sure to check the make, model, and year. Most tents require a 165-pound load or more. Consult the tent maker’s website, which typically has tools to help you understand which products fit which vehicles. “We have a pretty nifty tool that allows you to plug in the exact year, make, and model of your vehicle,” Tucker says.
Also be sure that the extendable ladder is tall enough to reach the max height of your vehicle when it’s set at an angle; ladders are always included with the tent, but taller vehicles may require a ladder extension, which most brands sell separately.
Specific installation will vary based on your vehicle type, but in general the tent base is designed to sit and attach to a parallel-bar-style roof rack, clamping into place in four areas so that the tent is secure. Some use Allen wrench screws, while other manufacturers use two nut-and-bolt attachment points at the four connection points to secure the clamp to the tent, sandwiched between the rack itself. But a few brands win points for no-tool installation that makes getting the tent secured much easier. Keep in mind, most tents weigh at least 100 pounds, and installation is a two-person job (though pitching the tent can be done solo once it’s secured).
While a closed rooftop tent adds height to the vehicle, which adds drag to the vehicle when it’s driving, Austin says it’s not a huge deal. “It depends on a lot of factors, but in general we don’t see a massive difference,” he said, based on internal research and studies. But if you’re seriously concerned about excess drag, go with one that packs down into a lower profile.
“There aren’t any specific limitations,” says Austin. “We recommend driving the speed limit and taking into account all conditions such as the state of the road, the surface of the road, traffic, wind, etc. Vehicle cornering, braking, and sensitivity to side winds can change with rooftop loads.” Before heading out on a long-distance road trip, it’s wise to conduct a few test drives to get used to how the tent might impact your vehicle’s performance.
For the soft-sided materials (typically made of nylon or polyester) use a mild detergent and water to wash any dirt or grime off, and for hard-sided materials, any cleaning agent rated for cleaning plastic will work. And always be sure to dry your tent fully before closing it up — and if you can’t do it when you break camp, pitch the tent when you get home to let it dry thoroughly to avoid mildew. Most tents that come with mattresses also have a machine-wash-friendly mattress cover to clean that material.
For this story, Nathan Borchelt conducted extensive research and interviewed experts to find the best rooftop tents for all camping scenarios. He’s been writing, rating, and reviewing outdoor and travel products for decades and is actively involved in the outdoors. He also spoke to Austin Tucker, Brand Manager at Yakima.
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