8 Best Rooftop Tents in 2023 – Reviews & Top Picks
Whether you’re going cross-country or a few miles out for the weekend, rooftop tents are a more convenient alternative to shelling out for a full RV or camper. They take a little work to set up but save invaluable space in your vehicle for camping equipment and other gear. Let’s check out what the best rooftop tents are, and what they can offer you with a few of our top reviews.
A Glance at Our Top Picks (2023 Update)
|Best Overall||TrustMade Hardshell Tent||
|Best Value||Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3||
|Premium Choice||Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4||
|Smittybilt Overlander Tent||
|Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent||
The 8 Best Rooftop Tents
1. TrustMade Hardshell Tent – Best Overall
|Peak Height:||49 inches|
If you’re looking for a premium option, the TrustMade hardshell tent is the way to go. With enough space to sleep four people and a tough exterior shell, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more heavy-duty. Each tent has a unique lock, patented 1-minute setup, and an integrated LED light strip so you can even set up in the dark. This might be a bit much for anyone who is traveling solo, as it is quite expensive. However, it is well worth the investment. All in all, this is our choice for the best overall rooftop tent this year.
- Sleeps up to 4 people comfortably
- Convenient sky view window
- Hardshell design
- Easy 1-minute setup
- Might be overkill for solo travelers or couples
2. Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 – Best Value
|Peak Height:||52 inches|
The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 is a bargain compared to how much hardshell tents cost, yet the construction is still made of high-quality materials. With that said, this is our choice for the best rooftop tent for the money. With enough room to sleep three people, the Kukenam 3 also offers sky-view windows and several color options. This tent will never approach the durability of hardshell tents, but that means it isn’t as heavy. However, the setup is a little more challenging. If you’re interested in the best bang for your buck for occasional camping trips, you can’t go wrong with this one.
- High-quality materials & construction
- Spacious interior
- Sky-view windows
- Comfortable mattress
- Setup is more difficult than a pop-up or hardshell tents
- Not very weather-resistant
3. Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 – Premium Choice
|Peak Height:||56 inches|
If you need space, this tent has you covered with an impressive 48-square-foot area and a higher peak height than most other tents. There’s a removable annex, mold and UV-resistant fabric, four spacious pockets for gear, and mesh ventilation panels. It’s a bit irritating to put together and take down like most softshell tents, but the ample interior space makes it the ultimate rooftop tent for family outings.
- Spatial floor plan
- 4 large pockets for gear, snacks, etc.
- Removable annex for additional privacy
- Mesh ventilation panels allow air in and keeps bugs out
- Tedious to put up and take down
- Annex isn’t waterproof and may leak
4. Smittybilt Overlander Tent
|Peak Height:||51 inches|
If you’re interested in getting into rooftop camping but can’t justify buying the more expensive entries on this list, the Smittybilt Overlander is a great entry point. It sleeps two to three people and features a heavy-duty polyester exterior and robust construction. The LED lighting strip makes lighting a non-issue, and the rubber boot bag outside is a handy way to keep the interior clean. A few design choices make it hard to work with, but the price justifies it.
- Integrated LED light strip
- Durable construction
- Ladder isn’t intuitive and is hard to work with
- Storage cover attaches with Velcro instead of a zipper
5. Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent
|Peak Height:||44 inches|
While the Kukenam tent detailed above is a more comprehensive package, the Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent is a more affordable and lightweight option for weekend travelers and quick trips. The tent isn’t anything fancy, but it has a reliable build quality and simplicity that makes it a great grab-and-go tent. Although it ostensibly sleeps three people, two people would have more space. The tent is relatively easy to set up, weighing much less than other entries on our list.
- Compact size
- Can withstand winter conditions
- Less sleeping space than comparable tents
6. Danchel Outdoor Rooftop Hardshell Rooftop Tent
|Peak Height:||36 inches|
The Danchel Outdoor tent is a good choice for a budget hardshell tent, with a large, thick mattress and enough space to sleep two adults and a child. The canvas exterior is thick and durable plus UV-resistant for those long trips. The tent’s aerodynamic design makes it lightweight on most vehicles, and multiple mesh windows make this one of the most well-ventilated tents on the list. Some customers report that the packaging quality is lacking. On top of that, this tent is heavier than others.
- Aerodynamic design when packed
- Canvas exterior
- Roll-up mesh windows
- Inconsistency with packaging quality
7. Smittybilt Overlander Tent XL Rooftop Tent
|Peak Height:||51 inches|
If you need to sleep three or four people, the Smittybilt Overlander XL offers a huge floor plan with an included king-sized bed. The ladders and poles are light and easy to work with, and the integrated LED light strip makes night setup a cinch. Although the material quality isn’t super-premium, there are few other tents that include a king-sized bed. The setup takes longer than a lot of other tents, and it won’t be as sturdy either.
- Large floor plan
- Included king-sized bed
- LED light strip
- Requires more setup than other tents
- Not very sturdy
8. Thule Tepui Foothill
|Peak Height:||38 inches|
For solo travelers or couples, the Thule Tepui Foothill offers a minimal footprint while remaining light when packed. For maximum sights, you have a panoramic rear-view window and dual sky-view windows. While it’s a bit cramped, there’s plenty of room for determined travelers who don’t want to lug a huge tent around the country. However, it is fairly expensive, especially when you consider its size.
- Large mesh panoramic window
- Dual sky-view windows
- Only sleeps 2 people
Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Rooftop Tents
When looking at rooftop tents, there are a few major variables you’ll be dealing with. Hardshell and softshell construction are a big factor, but less obvious factors include space, weight, and other variables.
Hardshell vs. Softshell
- Withstands all types of adverse weather, including wind, rain, snow, etc.
- Lasts longer than softshell tents
- More aerodynamic when packed up
- Can usually fit gear and other items inside when packed
- Typically more comfortable
- Commonly have insulation in the shell
- More expensive than softshell tents
- Usually smaller than softshell tents
- Heavier and may not fit every vehicle
- Usually don’t have sky-view windows
- Most designs aren’t compatible with annexes
- Tend to be more spacious than hardshell tents
- More affordable
- Many offer awnings
- Sky-view windows are common
- Usually compatible with annexes to add privacy
- Not as durable
- Don’t last as long
- Usually can’t fit bedding or other items inside tent when it’s packed
- Larger footprint makes compact camping problematic
Space vs. Weight
The more space you have, the heavier your tent will be. Heavier tents are usually harder to set up and may require more people to set up comfortably. Bigger tents with larger mattresses will add more weight and slow your vehicle down, possibly even affecting fuel economy. If you want a big, spacious tent, the unfortunate truth is that you’ll be weighing yourself down.
What Fits Your Vehicle?
Not all rooftop tents are compatible with all vehicles. Before committing to a specific tent, you should check out if it’s compatible with your vehicle. Bigger tents will require larger vehicles to haul around and set up, and not all tents fit the factory rails installed on all SUVs or cars.
Rooftop tents are a sleek new way to experience the wilderness without breaking the bank, although some pricey models exist. To find the perfect tent, you should first ask how many people you’re sleeping and figure out what your budget is. There’s a rooftop tent to suit all budgets and lifestyles. Our choice for the best overall rooftop tent is the Trustmade Hardshell Tent. For those who are on a budget, try out the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Tent. All of these tent reviews come with an investment, but they are well worth it if you’re an avid traveler.
Featured Image Credit: Michael Aleo, Unsplash
- 1 A Glance at Our Top Picks (2023 Update)
- 2 The 8 Best Rooftop Tents
- 2.1 1. TrustMade Hardshell Tent – Best Overall
- 2.2 2. Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 – Best Value
- 2.3 3. Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 – Premium Choice
- 2.4 4. Smittybilt Overlander Tent
- 2.5 5. Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent
- 2.6 6. Danchel Outdoor Rooftop Hardshell Rooftop Tent
- 2.7 7. Smittybilt Overlander Tent XL Rooftop Tent
- 2.8 8. Thule Tepui Foothill
- 3 Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Rooftop Tents
- 4 Conclusion