Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents

Ever thought about buying a rooftop tent? What they would be like to sleep in? Are they easy to set-up? How much do they cost? Do I need roof racks?

Each time I go camping I see fellow campers with their rooftop tent and ask myself those questions

I have researched to understand everything you need to know about rooftop tents. Here is what I found;

Are roof tents any good?

Yes, the certainly is good! Rooftop tents allow you to sleep anywhere. It is just a matter of piling some food, sleeping gear into the back of the vehicle and driving off.

More nimble than having to drive an RV or tow a campervan (and less expensive).

Unlike tents that require time and effort putting up and down, rooftop tents can easily be collapsed or erected without much effort or fuss.

If you’re the type that likes to travel around exploring a different place, enjoy off-road camping then a rooftop tent might be for you.

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents
photo courtesy of tepui.com

Are rooftop tents safe from bears?

Yes, since Rooftop tents are raised off the ground provide protection from bears, flash flooding, wild animals such as crocodiles, and drunk campers.

Just be careful when venturing out to the toilet at night. One of the advantages is the height of rooftop tents provides visibility of your surroundings that helps to spot bears and other creatures

Are rooftop tents comfortable to sleep in?

Generally yes, the ones I trialed were comfortable with most coming with a built-in mattress.

I found it more comfortable than lying on the ground with a mattress in a tent. The benefit of being perch-up on the roof is it provides a view of the surroundings, which can be spectacular if you’re camped in an attractive environment.

Making Roof Top Tents more comfortable to sleep in?

Yes, they can. If you want additional cushioning and comfort place your camping mattress inside the tent with your favorite doona/duvet and pillow/s for comfort ensuring a decent night’s sleep.

Photo Courtesy of smittybitt.com

Do you need a roof rack for any rooftop tent?

Yes, you will. Most roof racks will support rooftop tents. Rooftop tents can be installed on crossbars or canopy. However, it’s not recommended to install on racks that attach to door frames. 

Rooftop tents can weigh over 100 pounds so ensure your roof racks can handle the weight of the rooftop tent you are considering buying.

How do I prevent condensation inside the Roof Top Tent?

The simplest way to prevent condensation is to encourage airflow as much as possible. Open windows, doors, and vents open as wide as possible.

Airing out the tent will prevent mold from forming.  

Remove any wet gear like socks and jackets, keep them outside. When cooking, don’t let the steam or cooking fumes raise up into the tent.

Regularly airing out the tent and wiping down any moisture on the inside of the tent will reduce condensation and mold from building up.  

Photo courtesy of tepui.com

How much does a rooftop tent cost?

Most well recognized branded rooftop tents cost between $1,500 to $3,500.

There are cheaper options (less than $1000) that can be purchased through eBay and Amazon, just need to check the quality of materials being used.

How many people can sleep in a rooftop tent?

That depends on the size of the tent. The largest style of the tent would handle 4 occupants.

The standard style would handle 2-3 people (depending on their width). Fewer people more room. Two people can comfortably sleep in a rooftop tent.

Don’t forget to consider how much weight is placed on the roof. See point below on “Can my car handle the weight of a rooftop tent”?

What’s the difference between Soft Shell and Hard Roof Top Tents?

Hardshell as the name suggests is made from hard material. Either fiberglass or aluminum attached to fabric joining hard floor and hard roof making it like an open mouth or box-like shape.

Built with strong material hard-shells will have a longer life span than soft shells.

Typically hard shells provide better wind and rain protection than soft. This is due to canvas and protective shell. 

With regards to Hard Roof Top Tents, Is there a difference between fiberglass or aluminum? No much really, both materials are strong and robust and will last a long time. However, aluminum is heavy and will consume more gas. 

Because of the fiberglass and aluminum, hard rooftop tents are more expensive than soft.

Hardtops normally start at $3000 and likely to last longer because the material is much stronger than soft shells.  

Softshells will set you back around $1000. Soft tops materials are similar to a tent. They don’t withstand storms as well as Hard Top Tents.

Hardtops are usually easier to set-up than soft tops. Hardtops either have lifting mechanisms either manual or automatic that sets-up and folds the tent out using the push of a button. 

How long does it take to set-up a Roof Top Tent?

Before you purchase a tent you test out how easy or difficult it is to set-up, right?  Before you purchase the pop-up tent, test how long it takes to set-up. It should not take you any longer than 5 minutes.

Also check for poor quality zips, hinges, material tears, how well the ladder connects to the base.

If the model you’re looking at comes with fly or annex check the poles and how well they stand up. 

What’s the difference between Wedge Style and Roof Top Tents?

The Wedge Style is hinged at the font (foot) from root to base. The benefit of the design allows for greater headroom, useful for taller occupants.

Another design benefit by facing the vehicle in the direction of strong wind the gale will pass right over the top.

Another notable benefit is if there is heavy snow or ice, it will slide off the roof on the ground. 

The Roof Top Tent style lifts up to create a box-like shape with equal sides.. Inside is like a small room.

The benefit of this design is it provides a more usable space.  I have a preference for this style of Roof 

Can my car handle Roof Top Tent weight?

You do not want a tent that your roof cannot handle. Look at your vehicle’s manual and weight of the tent you are putting onto it.

Also factor in the weight of people sleeping in the tent (typically 200 lbs). Two people sleeping in the tent would be 400 lbs. The weight of tents on the market ranges from 100 lbs to 250lbs.

Each vehicle manufacturer has a weight limit on how much weight the roof can handle.  Obviously it’s important to get this one right. 

This is known as Static Weight Capacity (SWC), where the vehicle is sitting idle. 

You will also need to check the roof racks manufacturers manual on how much weight it can handle. If you through out the manual months ago, call the manufacturer or check out manufacturers’ specifications on the internet.

You will need to understand how much Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC) which is simply the weight that the rack can physically carry whilst the vehicle is in motion. 

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents
photo courtesy of tepui.com

Does the rooftop tent damage my vehicle?

If installed correctly, a rooftop tent should provide many years of happy, hassle-free camping. Just need to ensure the rooftop tent is properly installed according to manufacturers’ instructions. 

Also, try to avoid underground basements, the last thing you want is to get wedged or drive of your roof.

Do rooftop tents get stolen?

Yes, unfortunately like anything that isn’t secure they can be stolen. Depending on how many thieves are involved and how heavy the tent is, removing a rooftop tent can be performed within minutes.

Which is not a long time when you have gone out hiking for a few hours or parked outside a shopping strip or out the front of the home.

To overcome this, the best way is to purchase a robust lock that attaches the rooftop tent to the vehicle. 

Some of the manufacturers come will locking mechanism are built into their product. For peace of mind add additional lock/s or tooling locks as a back-up.

Thieves can always break locks, so it’s worthwhile checking your auto insurance policy to check if covered in case of theft.

If your insurance does not cover theft might be worth adding, just check to see if there is an additional cost.

Ensuring products also come down to how expensive the rooftop tent is and cost to replace it.

How easy is installing a rooftop tent?

This depends on the weight of the rooftop tent and how many people available to help.

Generally speaking, two able body people should be able to raise the tent onto the roof, positioning it and bolting it down on the roof racks.

Some manufacturers will fit the rooftop tent free of charge when you first purchase the unit. 

Take this opportunity to see how the installers install the unit on your vehicle.  

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents
Photo courtesy of tepui.com

Are rooftop tents waterproof?

Yes, from what I have researched rooftops tents are waterproof. However, before you buy check specifications ensuring the rooftop tent is waterproof. 

Hardtop rooftop tents are more resilient making them less likely to leak compared to soft rooftop tents made from ground tent material. 

How much does a rooftop tent affect gas mileage?

Yes, the additional weight on your roof will make your vehicle work harder, therefore, consuming more gas. How much depends on the weight of the tent and type of vehicle. 

What are the Best Roof Top Tents?

Originally used in Australia by adventurers who liked the safety of being perch-up high from critters and ability simply set-up and set-down have gain popularity in recent years.

We have reviewed many testimonials across from review sites and also feedback in forums to come up with the best rooftop tents.

Tepui Autana 3


The Tepui Autana comfortably sleeps 3 people that comes with Large built-in mattress large sky windows and a 2.5″ foam mattress 3 people

The Explorer Series Autana 3 offers an extended private canopy entrance and includes a removable annex with PVC floor, side screened windows, and a rear door for easy access into your vehicle.

The extended private canopy can be used to get changed or a small room that you can eat dinner, play cards if the weather turns.

Yakima SkyRise Medium

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents


Easy to set-up Yakima SkyRise Medium fits up to 3 people with thick wall-to-wall foam sleeping pad provides cushy, all-night comfort (64 mm thick foam mattress).

For excellent ventilation and fantastic star, gazing comes with large windows and doors.

Setting up is a breeze with tool-free and lockable vehicle mounts – easy to put on, quick to take off.

For peace of mind and security included are 2 SKS locks for security, which stands for SKS stands for “same key system”.

These 2 cores enable you to lock all of your Yakima products with just one key.

Smittybilt Overlander

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents


Online reviews online for the Smittybilt Overlander are positive around the quality and durability of materials.

The built-in thick mattress is comfortable and will send you off into a night’s deep sleep, large enough to fit 2 people.

When designing this they considered details such as boot bag for hanging muddy footwear and LED light strip.

A rooftop tent that comfortably fits 2 people with queen mattresses built-in.

Tepui Kukenam 3

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents


Marketed as the 4×4 off-road rooftop tent of choice, the Tepui Kukenam 3 has built-in screened roof panels which allow for a great view of the stars and surrounding trees when the rainfly is removed.

The Tepui Kukenam 3 is comfortable with 3 people with a mattress built-in.

There is matching annex sold separately.

Front Runner Roof Top Tent

Everything you need to know about Roof Top Tents


A comfortable high-density foam mattress will provide a restful night sleep for 2 people.

Front Runner Roof Top Tent features skylight vent windows in the roof can be unzipped for fresh air, sunlight, or starlight views or sealed to trap heat and seal out the elements.

Summary of Best Roof Top Tent

Below are the Best Roof Top Tents in the market

Name Price Weight
Floor Area
(Sq Ft)
Tepui Autana 3 $2000 138 38 52
Yakima SkyRise Medium $1600 138 38 52
Smittybilt Overlander $925 144 38 51
Tepui Kukenam 3 $1200 130 38 55
Front Runner Roof Top Tent $1,263 130 38 55

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to like about Roof Top Tents. Relatively inexpensive, comfortable, and practical.

The purchasing considerations are how much you’re willing to spend (budget), the number of occupants, and lastly, ensure your vehicle can handle the weight of the tent.

More Information

If you have enjoyed this review, you will enjoy our other reviews. Below are some of our other gear reviews and popular resources;

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

How to choose Backpacking Sleeping Bag

Best Women’s Backpacking Backpacks

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