Car and SUV camping is one of the best ways of seeing the country. There’s no heavy hauling on your back or limiting the distances you travel.
However, unless you have a large van, your sleeping accommodations are limited.
Fortunately, with the advent of rooftop tents, car and SUV camping is becoming much easier. These tents are designed to sit over your car, bringing you closer to the stars and off the cold and wet ground.
If you’re in a hurry, the overall best rooftop tent is the iKamper Skycamp.
Otherwise, here’s the full list of the best rooftop tents:
- iKamper Skycamp – Best Rooftop Tent
- Yakima Skyrise – Best Rooftop Tent for the Money
- Roofnest Falcon – Best Hard Shell Rooftop Tent
- Smittybilt Overlander – Best Soft Shell Rooftop Tent
- Tepui Hybox – Honorable Mention
The iKamper Skycamp is a four-person, three-season tent. It has a floor space of 85.8 by 82.6 inches with a peak height of 45 inches. When packed, it measures 85.8 by 54.3 by 12.5 inches and weighs roughly 160 pounds.
It comes with a honeycomb aluminum floor panel as well as a king-size memory foam mattress. Additionally, it includes a ladder and hardware.
The tent has one large door, a Skyview window in the ceiling and two side windows that second as ventilation points. It also comes with two inner mesh pockets and Mounting Brackets 2.0, which are compatible with most vehicles. Lastly, iKamper Skycamp includes a 150-denier rainfly. ($$$$$)
The iKamper Skycamp is the best rooftop tent on my list. It’s fantastic for friends or families traveling in most conditions—it’s suitable for three seasons due to its fiber-reinforced hard shell.
The double-layered shell is air insulating while providing soundproofing, strength and resistance to condensation. The material won’t rustle in the wind as traditional polyester fabric would. Instead, the mixture of cotton canvas and polyester makes it breathable and super quiet.
During a starry night, you can remove the rainfly to look at the stars. This also provides superb ventilation on a warm evening. Additionally, the two side windows include inner see-through vinyl with mesh panels and outer polyester panels. You can roll them up during the day or close them when it’s raining.
If the weather should turn, the 150-denier polyester rainfly should keep you dry. It comes with a thick polyurethane coating as well as taped seams for an impressive waterproof performance.
Around the entrance are durable zippers—these offer additional waterproofing. And, you have two mesh pockets inside; however, it would’ve been nice with more storage options, considering the price.
The tent is quite comfortable, though. Included is a king-size mattress, made of high-density memory foam, which is about 2.5 inches thick.
That said, the tent is quite heavy due to the added features. At 160 pounds, it adds some significant cargo weight.
The iKamper Skycamp tent is a heavy-duty three-season tent suitable for most vehicles. It provides ample floor space, approximately 49 square feet, and is excellent for two adults and two children, or three adults.
It provides the best of both worlds in terms of weatherproofing and ventilation. With a mesh ceiling and two side windows, you can keep it airy and comfortable. But, when the weather turns, open the thick, water-repellent rainfly.
However, it’s good to note that it’s considerably heavy. But, if you have a big vehicle, it should be fine.
The Yakima Skyrise is a three-season tent suitable for up to three people. It weighs approximately 115 pounds and provides a floor space of 96 by 56 inches. When wrapped up, it measures 56 by 48 by 12 inches. At its peak height, it provides 48 inches.
It comes with one door and three windows that can open to double as ventilation points. At the ceiling, there’s another mesh panel, acting as a sky view.
Included with the tent is a 210-denier nylon rainfly and a 2.5-inch wall-to-wall mattress. For extra features, it comes with inner mesh pockets, a ladder and hardware. ($$$$)
If you’re searching for a durable, easy-to-pitch rooftop tent, the Yakima Skyrise is worth a look. It’s compact yet offers ample indoor space for two adults and a child, or two adults.
The tent comes with several comfort features. This includes its thick wall-to-wall mattress that’s both firm and plush—all you really need to bring is a sleeping bag. In addition to this, the 210-denier nylon body provides a lightweight, airy feeling. Also, the see-through mesh windows offer fantastic ventilation and stargazing.
If you prefer privacy, the mesh panels include zippers, creating a cozy cocoon. This also provides insulation on windy nights.
You’ll remain well-shielded on rainy days, too. The 210-denier nylon rainfly keeps water out. It’s effortless to set up in a hurry and has a polyurethane coating, inhibiting moisture from seeping through.
If you like a quick and easy set-up tent, this is an excellent choice. Yakima states that it’s a tool-free process. It comes with lightweight aluminum poles that are strong and pre-set for effortless pitching. The tent locks onto the roof rack using its SKS Lock Cores.
With that said, the door seems to have no bottom zipper. Whether this is intentional or a manufacturing error, I don’t know, but some campers may find it inconvenient. However, for the price, it’s still worth it.
The Yakima Skyrise rooftop tent has a lot to offer for the price, making it a great candidate for the best rooftop tent.
It’s suitable for three people and three seasons while being light and airy thanks to the mesh panel windows and mesh ceiling. The windows can easily close up using the zippers when you need more privacy or on a windy night.
The Skyrise tent is also great for car camping newbies. It’s easy to pitch, and Yakima includes everything you need for the setup.
The Roofnest Falcon is a two-person clamshell-style tent. It has a floor space of 88 by 48 inches with the highest point of 60 inches when open or 6.5 inches when closed.
It weighs approximately 140 pounds and is suitable for all vehicles. Included is an 8.5-foot ladder, a detachable pocket, bungee net and an anti-condensation foam mat. For the flooring, it offers a honeycomb aluminum construction.
Note that it has three doors—one at the back and two on the side—that also double as ventilation points and windows. ($$$$$)
The Roofnest Falcon tent is a convenient and aerodynamic clamshell-style. It’s a hard shell tent, designed to remain attached on your rooftop during your trip.
While you’re on the road, it collapses, measuring only 6.5 inches tall. This doesn’t significantly impact aerodynamics, meaning it doesn’t draw on your car’s gas mileage.
For the floor space, you’ll have just enough for two adults. The interior is snug and only 88 inches long—a little over 7 feet. This may make the tent less comfortable for tall campers since you lose a few inches due to pillows and other gear.
Luckily, at the tallest point, you’ll have ample headspace. It measures an impressive 60 inches at the peak, which is more than enough to sit comfortably upright.
I particularly recommend the Falcon if you’re traveling during the summer. The three large doors/windows come with mesh covers with an additional layer of tent canvas. When you need ventilation, you can either open the canvas and leave the mesh or open it fully. However, the mesh keeps pesky insects from entering.
Roofnest doesn’t include a rainfly, but the canvas provides ample waterproofing for mild rain. However, you might consider purchasing a compatible tarp if you’re expecting a torrential downpour.
Also, there’s an aluminum 8.5-foot collapsible ladder. You can move this around, attaching it to each door, depending on where you want to exit or enter.
As for storage, Roofnest includes two options: a detachable pocket and a bungee net. The pouch is sufficient for small items, like a flashlight or phone, whereas the net is ample for small blankets or pillows.
Besides this, you don’t have a lot of storage options. And, because of the limited floor space, you may need to use your car for larger items.
For summer campers, I recommend the Falcon tent by Roofnest. As a two-person tent, you don’t have a lot of interior space, but thanks to the three large doors, it feels open and airy.
The clamshell design folds down into a compact, aerodynamic bundle that you simply leave attached to the roof. With a weight of 140 pounds, it isn’t too heavy, either.
The Smittybilt Overlander is an all-season, soft shell rooftop tent. The floor measures 95 by 56 inches, and its highest point is 51 inches. It weighs approximately 116.5 pounds and, when packed, measures 58 by 49 by 13 inches.
The tent includes a 600-denier heavy-duty rainfly, a sunroof, side windows and a large side entrance door. On the inside, it also offers LED strips for interior lighting and a 2-volt cigarette lighter-power adapter.
It includes a heavy-duty PVC cover for additional weatherproofing and UV protection when not in use. Additionally, it comes with a ladder and mounting brackets and a high-density foam mattress, while being suitable for two to three people. ($$$$)
Note: The tent is also available in size XL, suitable for three to four people.
For Jeep Wrangler owners, I highly suggest having a look at the Smittybilt Overlander. This is a heavy-duty all-season tent, constructed with a waterproof rip-stop polyester canvas with a polyurethane finish.
Keeping the tent up are anodized aluminum poles and stainless steel hinges, making it especially suitable for any weather.
Also, if you value your headspace while camping, this tent is worth it. It has a 51-inch ceiling, which should be ample.
Note that it offers several windows fitted with mosquito netting that you can remove as needed. This keeps the indoor atmosphere ventilated and comfortable on warm days.
What makes this a good candidate for the best rooftop tent is that it’s been severely weather-tested. Smittybilt tested the water column at 1,500 millimeters, proving it can easily withstand heavy rain.
Getting into the tent is easy, too. Included is a compatible ladder that you can attach to either the driver’s or passenger’s side.
The Smittybilt is also not short of extra features. You’ll receive an LED strip light, a heavy-duty travel bag, a shoe storage bag and a 2-volt cigarette lighter adapter.
However, setting it up might be a bit of a challenge. I recommend that you watch Smittybilt’s video on how to assemble it.
Also, please note that it isn’t compatible with all vehicles.
If you own a Jeep, the Smittybilt Overlander is an excellent choice. It’s a rugged, all-season tent with a tested canvas and included rainfly.
Still, it’s well-ventilated thanks to its many mesh-covered windows and ceiling. It also offers a lot of extra features.
The Tepui Hybox is a four-season two-person tent. It has an interior floor space of 52 by 80 inches with a height of 37 inches. When closed, it measures only 7 inches in height.
The tent includes a cotton and polyester canvas with a waterproof coating rated at 3,000 millimeters. It comes with two doors and two windows, seconding as ventilation. These also have compatible mesh screens and awnings.
It also has a custom-fitted foam mattress with cotton cover and a 6 to 8-foot telescoping aluminum ladder. The tent weighs approximately 155 pounds, excluding the ladder. ($$$$)
The Tepui Hybox hard shell tent functions as both a tent and a cargo box. While you’re traveling, you can use it to store all your luggage and extra gear. When closed, it provides you with 23 cubic feet of storage.
The Hybox features a patented zipper system, allowing for quick conversions between uses. Once you’re ready to camp, simply release the latches, and the tent will pop open.
It has reinforced quilted insulation on the inside for sound damping as well as padding on colder days. Another weatherproofing feature is the canopy, which has a waterproof rating of 3,000 millimeters—ample to keep you dry during a heavy downpour.
To prevent insects from breaking and entering, all doors and windows come with no-see-um mesh. For the canopy doors, you have window spring rods that provide an awning, keeping the entrance dry.
However, there seems to be an issue with the adhesion securing the fabric liner to the roof. It may droop down prematurely, requiring a fix.
The Tepui Hybox is a great choice for traveling couples. It has a sturdy construction, working as either a tent or storage compartment.
It also comes with several good-to-have features, like a soft mattress, telescoping ladder and door awnings. However, it seems some quality control issues may require a fix down the road.
Things to Consider
Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell
With rooftop tents, you generally have two types to choose from: hard or soft shell.
- Hard shell tents: These are becoming the norm for car and SUV campers. They consist of a hard shell that you leave on the roof and simply ‘pop up’ when needed. This type is usually sturdier but also pricier.
- Soft shell tents: This type is more traditional. They often look like general ground tents, and you may have to remove it from the roof while driving. This also means a longer set-up time at the campground. However, they’re usually comfortable and quite affordable.
Even the best rooftop tent is considerably heavy. As we saw earlier, all the tents on my list are over 100 pounds. Of course, there are lighter options in the market, but you’ll rarely find something weighing under 90 pounds.
Weight is essential to consider for several reasons.
For starters, due to their sheer heft and bulk, it can be a tedious task installing and taking them down again. The job usually requires more than one person.
Another point is your vehicle.
All vehicles have a roof load-bearing limit. If you’re exceeding that limit, it might affect your car’s center of balance. This, in turn, overloads the suspension, which can have long-term implications.
Another reason is fuel efficiency. More weight means higher fuel consumption. You may notice that you’re filling the tank more often than usual.
So, to avoid these issues, check the recommended max load for your vehicle, and don’t forget to include all extras—like mounting brackets, bedding and ladder—into the equation.
Similarly to traditional tents, rooftop options come in different sizes and capacities. You can find anything from a small two-person to a massive six-person tent.
A good place to start is with the manufacturer’s recommendation. This usually indicates for how many people the tent is suitable.
That said, these suggestions are often quite generous. For example, many four-person rooftop tents are better suited for two adults and two kids, or three adults. Moving down to two-person models, and you’ll be snug inside.
Families or couples might be comfortable sharing a snug space. Otherwise, many opt for a larger version, which I’ll say is well worth the price bump. You’ll have extra elbow room to switch sides during the night and space for storage.
Rooftop tents generally run at higher price points than traditional ones, especially if you want quality.
If you’re on a budget, I recommend a soft shell tent. These are more affordable, running between $1,000 and $2,000. Hard shell tents, however, go well north of $3,000.
The price also differs between sizes. If you’re a family traveling, be ready to spend some more.
You may also look at additional features, such as storage options, ladders and mattresses. However, every quality tent includes the basics.
What Cars Can Fit a Rooftop Tent
Investing in the best rooftop tent would be a waste if your car isn’t compatible. This is probably where we’ll notice some restrictions as to who can use rooftops tents.
For trucks and SUVs, rooftop camping shouldn’t be an issue.
For other cars with a low roof-load limit—sedans and hatchbacks—rooftop camping may be a no-go. You have to consider the dynamic and static weight limits:
- Dynamic weight limit: How much your car can carry while moving without affecting performance.
- Static limit: How much it can bear while stationary, which is always higher than the dynamic.
Next, ensure that the roof racks can carry the weight. Again, check your manual. For vehicles with a bare roof, you can purchase separate racks that attach to the roof. However, make sure they’re compatible.
Awnings are small, extendable roofs that prop up using poles.
If you’re used to a traditional tent, you know that awnings often add additional living space and protection.
Although, with your rooftop tent, an awning can’t increase the living space, it can protect you from rain, wind and sun. It allows you to keep the door or window open even though the weather isn’t optimal.
Some models provide you with a small place to remove your shoes and perhaps even store them. This keeps them dry without having to place them inside the tent.
Awnings are usually door features, but some tents also include them with the windows.
Either way, I highly recommend looking for more than one awning. They don’t add weight, and you can easily take them down when not needed.
Rooftop tents are awesome because they allow you to camp in your car. This makes them perfect for traveling long distances and always having your sleeping accommodation to hand.
You also have a broad selection to choose from—whether it’s a hard shell or soft, four-person or two.
My winner today for the best rooftop tent is the iKamper Skycamp. It’s a four-person, hard shell tent suitable for three seasons. It comes with a durable shell that’s weather-resistant yet breathable to prevent condensation.
Also included are a king-size mattress and a honeycomb aluminum floor panel. In addition, it’s easy to set up and take down and provides ample elbow room.