Continuing the previous post on cheap roof top tents in the UK (2020 update here: TOP 10 Cheap Roof Tent 2020 UK), I though it would be interesting to see the middle section of the market. It is much more saturated, with brands like Arb or Roofnest on our shopping list. In general – as you would expect – these roof tents offer bigger space, more features and/or a better-known brand name. But finding a good deal mid-season is getting more difficult. I omitted the ones of dubious brands, Chinese retailers or retailers with no proven track record of selling / making roof box tents.
No matter which type of roof tents interests you better, I hope that this post displays some options that you can go with if you are looking for cheap roof top tents. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. If you are looking to buy a roof tent I strongly advise you checking ebay and amazon regularly for the latest deals. There are a lot of price drops all the time. But please be careful about the too cheap roof top tents, if something is too nice to be true, it probably is. The specs may be the same for a cheap roof top tent but the materials used would probably be of poorer quality Chinese replicas that would cause more headache than pleasure. They would mildew more easily, most likely they are less durable and don’t insulate as well as a high quality fabric.
As I said in my previous post, try to aim for products from reputable, established retailers who offer warranty on top of the ebay / amazon 30 day refund policy.
Arb Simpson 3 DA8981 Roof Top Tent
- Price: £1395 incl. Annex (check current price)
- Max. Person: 2 adults + kid / dog
- Unfolded: 240 x 140 x 130 cm
- Packed: no information
- Where to buy: Ebay
The first cheap roof top tent I found is the Arb Simpson. Its normal retail price is from £1400 but it is currently on sale on eBay, so you can have it for £1400 including the annex.
The Simpson 3 has an updated design and new materials for better strength, rigidity and water resistance compared to its predecessor. The Arb name is guarantee for high quality manufacturing and the quality of the materials used. Having said that, the information on the materials is somewhat limited (ie thickness). It comes with a sturdy aluminium retractable ladder and an HDF mattress with removable cover (the mattress can be stored within the tent when travelling). All aluminium components feature an anodised finish for improved corrosion resistance and appearance. It comes complete with mounting hardware, wrenches, ladder, travel cover and comprehensive instructions.
Mounting and unfolding is easy, but you will need an SUV with a roof rack. Once you have that sorted, the Simpson 3 can be configured to unfold off either the side or off the rear of the vehicle
What you also need to be vary of is that it is pretty high when folded. I could not find the exact dimensions but you should expect considerate amount of wind drag, noise, and increased fuel consumption.
TT-02 Canvas Roof Tent by Tuff-Trek
- Price: £1440 + £65 for shipping (check current price)
- Max. Person: 2 adults +
- Unfolded: 320 x 140 x 125 cm
- Packed: 140 x 120 x 35 cm
- Where to buy: Ebay
The TT-02 canvas model is much bigger than the Compass Auto for a very similar price, and it comes with the annex too. The mattress inside is 240 x 140 cm that should be more than comfortable for 2 adults (plus 80 cms sideroom adds up to the 320 cms total length of the tent). There is 125 cms headroom inside at the middle. The unit weighs only 59 kgs and it is quite compact when folded.
The TT-02 features 320 gsm canvas which is very thick, providing good insulation for our cooler UK nights.
There is a 180 cm and a 220 cm wide variant as well, but as opposed to the smallest sibling that can be mounted on almost any vehicle, the bigger versions need bigger cars.
Parthfinder II Solar Power Remote Controlled Hardshell Roof Tent
- Price: £1850 (Free Shipping) (check price, last time I checked it was going for £1450)
- Max. Person: 2 adults
- Open: 225 x 135 x 130 cm
- Closed: 225 x 130 x 30 cm
- Where to buy: Direct 4×4
The Pathfinder II roof tent seems pretty interesting with a remote control that operates the opening and closing mechanism. It seems a bit of an overkill to me, we’ll see how popular it will become over time. It also comes with a solar panel (which primarily supports the opening mechanism), plus it feeds the built-in USB charger inside the tent.
As a tent, the Pathfinder II seems extremely solid and sturdy. The upper case functions as a small awning when opened (must sound great when the rain patters on it), the rest of the tent is 210D rip-stop Oxford polyester fabric.
Size-wise it is comfortable for two adults, and thanks to its design there is plenty of headroom: 130 cms at its highest point. Unfortunately the mattress is only 5 cms thick, so you may want to look for a 2-3 cm mattress topper
Sturdiness comes at a price: the Pathfinder II roof top tent is very heavy, 77 kg, so installation can be a struggle, even for 2 people. You also need to make sure that your car (or truck) has a dynamic load bearing capacity of at least 85 kg. Due to weight distribution it is recommended to have at least 3 cross bars fitted on the roof.
Once on the roof, it has a pretty low profile (only 30 cm) so wind-noise is kept to minimal. On the other hand, the opening mechanism and the canvas takes up a lot of space, so fitting a thicker mattress and/or keeping the bedding inside may be an issue.
Where to buy: Direct 4×4
- Price: £1845 + £100 for shipping
- Max. Person: 2 adults +
- Unfolded: 210 x 140 x 100 cm
- Packed: 145 x 210 x 29 cm
- Where to buy: roofnest.co.uk
I have reviewed the Eagle before (detailed review here) and I put it on the list because in my opinion the Eagle has the most competitive price for the space and features it offers. There are other hard shell roof top tents in this price range, like the TentBox (review here), but the Roofnest Eagle is the largest of all.
It encapsulates a full size double mattress (200×135 cms), it has gas-assisted struts for opening / closing under a minute and comes with a 1 year warranty.
It is also the slickest hard-shell tent (if mpg and road noise matters), all the materials are thick and durable. Sadly, the awning is not included in the price.
If you need a smaller hard shell tent there is the Sparrow and the Sparrow Eye too.
Still under £2000, there are a plenty of options, if you are looking for a cheap roof top tent. Whether it is a soft shell canvas tent, or a hard shell one it is easy to get lost among all the specifics and features of each one. I really hope that this list could help you in finding the one that will give the most pleasure on your trips.
Personally I love the design of the Pathfinder 2, as it maximises the headroom on a given footprint, but that’s me.
Tuff-Trek’s canvas tent, the TT-02 is a pretty decent quality roof tent, but if you like the TT-02 you should check out the Ventura Deluxe 1.4 (or the 1.8) featured in TOP 10 Cheap Roof Tent 2020 UK. As always, I would love to hear which one is your favourite, so please feel free to leave a comment!
Although not mentioned in this post, you may find my review on the TentBox Hard Shell or the iKamper 2X interesting too.
Find out if a roof tent would fit your car! Roof load capacity of 200+ makes: Roof Top Tent Weight Limits