Rooftop Tents – 9 Things To Consider Before Buying

If you did not know…

Although rooftop tents have been around for decades and have been used on all sorts of vehicles. They are becoming popular day by day with the rise of social media, laptop lifestyle, digital nomads and so on… And of course regular campers and those who just always up for an adventure and cannot keep their wanderlust at bay. No wonder, rooftop tents provide a sophisticated (and trendy) alternative to the ‘traditional’ way of camping. You are up high in a  (most of the time) weather-proof, sturdy yet eye-catching little tree house (minus the tree). You are an overlander. But even those who love camping in the wilderness sometimes wish they did not sleep that close to the ground. Wish there be more quiet.

Hard-shell rooftop tents are just about that. Can be perfect for those who need a bit more distance from the surroundings while asleep and only long for a sleeping pod that is quiet and completely water-proof after an exhausting day of hiking.

So Seriously, Why Do You Need A Rooftop Tent?

Many articles and blogposts tell you about what it is like to have a soft shell or a hard-shell rooftop tent, what it is like to live with one (like this or this or this)

The most obvious reason is that you are off the ground, so you can camp in areas where otherwise camping would be a very painful experience such as rocky or rough surfaces. You can literally set your camp anywhere your car is capable of travelling.

Since you are on the top of your car you are also away from bugs, grazing cattle, roaming wildlife and you can rest assured that you won’t be woken up in the middle of the night by a puddle on the bottom of your tent after a heavy rainfall.

Roof top tents fit on the roof bar of your vehicle and have a built-in foam mattress. As setup is a piece of cake, you can enjoy your large sleeping space within minutes.

It Is All Nice…

  • You are off the ground, away from the dirt, the wet and other things that may ‘bug’ you.
  • You can literally camp anywhere your car can go
  • It is super-easy and fast to put them up. Well…most are
  • Many comes with built-in mattress and bedding that frees the space up in the boot of your car
  • Especially the hard-shell rooftop tents: the slim-lined aerodynamic design reduces wind-noise and handling issues, returns better fuel economy.
  • Can attract people who have never considered camping before
  • The WOW factor

On the flipside though…

  • Rooftop tents are quite expensive compared to the traditional tents.
  • You can carry more equipment on the top of your roof tent,, but if you want to set up the tent you need to remove these first.
  • Not all vehicles are suitable for carrying a roof tent
  • Having one on the top of your car or SUV may limit you speed on the motorway; however, most roof tents have a speed limit of 70mph (110 km/h) that should be fast enough for most motorists.
  • The weight on the top of your car affects the stability. Offroading ability can be seriously reduced…
  • Certain models may not be easy to put away properly, especially the ones that need hand-folding. It is on the top of a car after all!

Is It Going To Fit Onto Your Car?

Rooftop tents will fit most vehicles from larger estate cars upwards, however most of the tent models have a minimum requirement of 165lbs/75kg minimum dynamic load-baring capacity of the roof rack. Most vehicles meet this requirement, however there are some that can only be used with certain (aftermarket) cross-bars that were designed to reduce the dynamic drag on the fixing points. Check your vehicle’s roof load capacity before buying your roof to tent!

Find out if a roof top tent would fit your car: Roof Top Tent Weight Limits

Important! The dynamic load limits the maximum load on the roofbars while the vehicle is moving. A stationary vehicle can hold much more weight! The weight of the people inside doesn’t count, as there will only be people inside the roof tent when a vehicle is not in move.

Soft-shell vs Hard-shell Rooftop Tents

If you are considering hard-shell rooftop tents you probably have noticed that these are a bit pricier than the traditional fabric design tents. (Although, there are some hard-top models that are actually cheaper than their all-fabric peers.)

However, there are some distinct advantages that may make the little extra investment worthwhile. So consider these before buying one:

  1. The provide more space on the same footprint, especially headspace and storage space. That little extra can make a huge difference in your personal comfort and the quality of rest.
  2. Although they generally have a smaller footprint, some unfolds up to 210x218x110cms (like this)
  3. Hard shell cases are made of aluminium or fibre-glass: they are more resistant to UV rays and weather conditions
  4. As mentioned previously, thanks to the the slim-lined design they are less noisy during travel
  5. Thicker material, sturdier than the soft-shell siblings. They come with reinforced fibreglass outer shell and most of them are equipped with aluminium frame and fittings for extra durability, strength and stability
  6. Completely water-proof. Rainwater runs straight off the fibre-glass top.
  7. Hard shell rooftop tents are quieter
  8. Power assisted set up. It has been said that they are easy to erect: some models come with a gas assisted system that makes the setting up quick (30 seconds) and literally effortless.
  9. They are heavier than the soft shell roof tents making it a bit more difficult to put them on the top of you vehicle. Their weight may also affect the stability of your car or the type of car they fit onto.

So Which One Is For Me?

If these are not THAT important to you but you would like to enjoy looking at world from the top (of your car) than you would probably better off with a soft shell rooftop tent.

Check out the Reviews on this website, I hope you will find them useful and help you picking the rooftop top tent that is right for you. I post updates regularly so make sure you subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media!

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