Best Rooftop Tent For Car Camping

Hitting the road and looking to save a few bucks on lodging? Adding a rooftop tent (RTT) to your ride is an innovative way to turn your car or SUV into a fully-functional traveling condo.

The best rooftop tents can be folded out in minutes, and with a fraction of the hassle involved with a traditional tent. In addition, RTT’s can be setup quickly in any conditions, even if it’s already dumping rain.

In this buyer’s guide, we’re having a look at 10 of the top-rated, best-reviewed rooftop tents on the web. Afterwards, we’ll be offering up some pointers on how to choose the rooftop tent that is best for your own vehicle.

Our Pick of the Best Rooftop Tents 

#1. Best Rooftop Tent / Cargo Box Combo:Tepui HyBox

tepui rooftop camping tentClick Latest Price on Amazon

The Tepui HyBox is part tent, part cargo box, making it one of the most versatile products on this list. Designed to work with any car with a roof rack, the HyBox has more than enough room for 2 people to sleep comfortably. Or, when it is not fully expanded, it can be a great place to stash your camping gear while you drive.

The tent lining is far more insulated that some of the other tents on this list. This will provide some much-needed heat retention for mountain excursions, without sacrificing breathability.

The HyBox includes a telescoping ladder that you can use to get in and out. There is even a dense foam mattress built into the floor of the box, making this far more comfortable than the cheap tents.

If there’s one drawback to the HyBox, it’s the price. This is by far the most expensive tent on our list. But for our money, it’s pretty much unrivalled when it comes to a.) warmth, b.) convenience, and c.) comfort. For this reason, it’s earned its spot at the top of our list.

Pros:

  • Insulated by breathable cotton construction
  • Can be used as a tent or cargo box
  • Dense foam mattress included

Cons:

  • Quite expensive rop-of-the-line rooftop tent

#2. Best Rooftop Tent with Additional Annex: ARB 803804 Simpson Tent w/ Annex

arb-803803-simpson-rooftop-camping-tentClick Latest Price on Amazon

While some of the rooftop tents we looked at are quite limited on space, that is not the case with the 803804 Simpson Tent. Not only does this one include a roof-mounted sleeping platform, but there’s also a roll-down annex that is perfect for setting up a few lawn chairs. The entire space is entirely screened in, ensuring that the mosquitos and flies aren’t going to get in while you’re snoozing.

What’s really impressive about this tent is how fast it folds out. Looking at the product pictures, you might think that it takes a half hour to setup. Nope … simply unlock, unfold, and start camping. The initial installation, on the other hand, can be a bit more complicated. It doesn’t help to look up a few YouTube videos to help out in the process.

Both the annex portion and the aluminum ladder are new editions for the 2020 addition. This makes the 803804 a far better value than it used to be, but at about 1500 bucks, it certainly isn’t the budget-friendly option.

Pros:

  • Added annex offers a lot of extra space
  • Slightly larger than the Tepui HyBox and notably cheaper

Cons:

  • Finicky zippers that can get caught in the fabric
  • Can be a complicated install for some roof racks

#3. Best 3 Person Rooftop Tent Overland Vehicle Systems – Nomadic 3 Rooftop Tent

Click Latest Price on Amazon

What we love most about the Nomadic 3 is the extended entrance canopy. This is a 2’ overhang that goes over the ladder, making it possible to stay dry while getting in and out of the tent. It also goes a long way towards keeping the interior dry even in the midst of big rainstorms.

As the name suggests, this is a tent that can sleep 3 adults, though it might be kind of tight. (Overland Vehicle Systems also makes the Nomadic 2 and the Nomadic 4 if you’re looking for a different size.

The burly diamond-plate bottom panel doesn’t seem like it’s going to take any abuse, no matter what you throw at it. On top of that is a high-density mattress, though on its own it probably won’t be enough without some extra sleeping pads.

The Nomadic 3 does not come with an annex area. However, Overland Vehicle Systems does have an annex add-on available for purchase if you visit their website.

Pros:

  • Spacious tent with room for 3 people
  • Sturdy design and easy to setup

Cons:

  • Does not include annex area, though one is available for separate purchase

#4. Best Rooftop Tent with a Sunroof: Campoint 2-3 Person Rooftop Tent

 

Click Latest Price on Amazon

The first thing you’ll notice that’s different about this Campoint tent is the addition of a sunroof. Although simple in theory, most rooftop tents forego the sunroof entirely, opting instead for a more waterproof single-layer construction. Campoint gets around this by adding a detachable rainfly, just like a real tent. So if you’re looking for a tent that will allow for stargazing, this is the one for you.

The double front-and-back entrances are a nice touch, especially when you have to climb out in the middle of the night to attend to important business. The zippers are okay, but the slightly thinner construction of the 600D fabric does encourage it to get caught up sometimes.

The product description says that this fits 2-3 people. In truth, it can most definitely fit 3 full grown adults, but don’t expect it to be a comfortable fit. It’s far more appropriately sized for just two people.

Pros:

  • Includes sunroof / moonroof
  • 2x entrances for easy access

Cons:

  • No annex is available for this model
  • 3 people is kind of a stretch for this one

#5. Best Lightweight Rooftop Tent for Car Camping: Front Runner Roof Top Tent

 

front runner roof top tentClick Latest Price on Amazon

The Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus is the best option if you plan to hike in the winter. They’re also great for walking to work or around town looking at Christmas lights. As a bonus, the Newton’s are affordable for ladies on a budget.

The Front Runner RTT is one of the lightest ones on the market, at about 130 pounds. This makes it possible for most people to be able to install it by themselves if need me. The reduced weight also comes with a reduced profile. While collapsed, the Front Runner RTT is the slimmest one we could find … a feature that is sure to cut down on some of that rooftop wind drag.

One of the ways this is all made possible is with a lightweight fabric. This RTT is made with a 400D rip-resistant tent fabric. While that’s not too thin by any means, it’s not as strong (or as insulated) as the 600D fabric that is more of the standard with RTTs.

Like a lot of the other tents on this list, the Front Runner can be mounted in just about any way. This lets you align the main door either out over the side or over the rear hatch area.

No annex or add-ons with this one … just a really well-made, lightweight car tent.

Pros:

  • Very slim and lightweight compared to the competition
  • Less expensive than the Tepui HyBox that we looked at above

Cons:

  • 400D tent fabric is slightly thinner than most models in this price range
  • No annex available

#6.Best Rooftop Tent for Jeeps: Raptor Series OFFGRID Rooftop Tent with Ladder

raptor series jeep roof top tentClick Latest Price on Amazon

The Raptor Series rooftop tent is a bit different in design than the ones we’ve looked at so far. Instead of a fold-out floor panel, the Raptor uses the length of your vehicles roof for the sleeping area. Then, the rest of the tent simply folds up and over, creating a spacious, weatherproof area. This clamshell-like design is really effective, and it certainly cuts back on the overall weight.

The door might be our favorite feature. It’s a simple roll-down mesh panel, allowing for ample airflow when you need it, while the awning keeps the rain out.

The main drawback with the Raptor series is that the ladders are more lightweight than they need to be. It’s safe to assume that the ladder will get pretty dinged up in short order, but we don’t have any concerns about its overall stability.

At 48’’ wide, the built-in mattress is somewhat narrow, so if you’ve got big shoulders, get ready to snuggle!

Pros:

  • Awesome clamshell-type design
  • Large, well-ventilated mesh door

Cons:

  • Ladder is made of lightweight aluminum
  • Mattress is a little narrow

#7.Best 4 Season Rooftop Tent:The Nomad Tents – Canvas Rooftop Tent

Here’s a RTT that is designed to get you through all four seasons, even if that means a dumping of thick Colorado snow. Made by newcomer Nomad Tents (not to be confused with the Nomadic series of tents by Overland Vehicle Systems) this is the only canvas tent on our list. That means two significant things: it’s a.) a lot heavier than average, and b.) a lot warmer than average.

The extra weight on top of your roof shouldn’t be an issue, especially considering that this tent only fits two adults. But the thick canvas really does make a difference when it comes to camping in cold temperatures.

Double windows make ventilation possible when it’s needed, as does the large mesh-panel door. But even with these wide open, this tent might get a little too toasty in the height of summer. The rain fly can be removed if it’s getting too got.

Setup is slightly more complicated than the other tents on our list. There are a number of support bars and poles that need to be put in place. But once you know how to do it, it only takes a few minutes.

Pros:

  • Thick canvas construction makes 4-season camping possible
  • Removable rainfly helps with temperature regulation

Cons:

  • Slightly more complicated setup than the competition
  • Can get warm in mid-summer months

#8.Best Heavy-Duty:Smittybuilt Overlander Car Tent

Click Latest Price on Amazon

While the Overlander by Smittybuilt is one of the best-fitting tents for Jeep Wranglers, it is certainly not limited to that make and model. This is a highly versatile, all-purpose car tent that can adapt to just about any roof rack. It comes with multiple vestibules as well as large mesh-panel windows and doors.

A few additional bonus features include an LED lighting strip, stainless steel hinges, and a fully waterproof rainfly. These aren’t exclusive to the Overlander model, but they’re nice to have nonetheless.

The only thing that we didn’t like was the 6.5’ aluminum ladder. It’s too short for Jeeps with lifted suspension, and even for some stock 4×4 vehicles. Smittybuilt does make and sell a ladder extension, but we feel like an 8’ ladder should be the standard. (We’ll be sure to let them know).

An annex is available for a separate purchase (we review that next), and some online retailers also sell the XL version, capable of sleeping up to 4 people.

Pros:

  • A great roof tent for Jeep Wranglers
  • Thick 600D fabric

Cons:

  • Ladder is only 6.5’
  • Somewhat bulky when folded up

How to Choose a Rooftop Tent for Car Camping

The eight roof top tents that we looked at here are only a small selection of what you can find with a little online searching. Not only do these manufacturers make many different sizes of car tent, but many vehicle manufacturers make tents that are specific to certain makes and models.

Here are some important considerations to help you choose the best car rooftop tent:

Size / Floor Dimensions

While car camping tents are not meant to be spacious castles, it is entirely possible to get one that is comfortably large without being to heavy or bulky on top of the car.

When shopping for rooftop tents, look for the dimensions of the mattress. This is the easiest way to tell how much actual sleeping space you have.

Floor dimensions can range from 48” wide to 70” wide, so there is a big difference in what’s available.

Annex vs. No Annex

The rooftop tent annex is a natural innovation that makes this style of tent even more convenient. These zip-on additions create a weather-protected room immediately beneath the fold-out sleeping panel. This space can be used for gear storage, as a changing room, or even as an indoor lounge for rainy afternoons in the wild.

Only a few of the tents on our list include the annex portion. Some manufacturers sell an annex separately, and others do not offer one.

Weight Limit

Each rooftop tent comes with specific weight limits, both for the fold-out sleeping paned and for the telescoping ladder. It’s essential that you don’t exceed these weight limits, or you could be looking at broken hinges.

Roof top tents FAQ

Can I install a rooftop rack on any car?
Rooftop tents are generally designed to work with all roof rack bars, but it is important to confirm this before making a purchase. In addition, you need to check the weight limit of your roof rack as well as the weight limit of the tent itself.
Are rooftop car tents waterproof?
Most rooftop tents come with a rain fly. Some models use an integrated rain fly, which is just a fancy way of saying water-resistant fabric. If rooftop tents have one weakness, it’s that their panel-style doos and windows are not designed to stand up to extreme wind.
Do rooftop tents decrease gas mileage?
Adding an RTT to your vehicle will affect the gas mileage, even if its only a very slight amount. This is because it changes the shape of your car, and will invariably increase wind drag. Hard-top rooftop tents, like the Tepui HyBox, tend to have significantly better aerodynamics.
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