Reviews

Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents: Fun and Comfortable Outdoor Lodging

Hard-shell rooftop tents make your outdoor adventures comfortable and a little bit more fun

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BY Andrew Gichaga , Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON April 3, 2020

If you’re a diehard lover of the outdoors, you probably do a lot of tent camping. Tent camping can be fun, but it can also be an exercise in frustration. Waking up in puddles and soaking wet sleeping bags after a rainstorm, getting aching joints and backs from sleeping on lumpy, rocky ground, and tracking all kinds of dirt, sand, and debris inside the tent really detract from the enjoyment of your camping experience.

Enter the hard shell roof top tent. This marvel of modern engineering has the ability to change the way you view tent camping forever. It's easy to set up and stays high off the ground by mounting to the roof of your vehicle. It’s like sleeping in a tree fort.

Roof top tents are also much more durable and weather-resistant than regular tents. Some roof top tents can also double as cargo carriers, making them even more versatile. Check out our top picks for the best roof top tents on the market. Then be sure to familiarize yourself with our in-depth buying guide so you can make a confident choice and get the tent that best suits your needs.

Best Overall
KingCamp Rooftop Tent
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Summary
Summary

This ruggedly built and attractively designed tent will keep you elevated and protected from the elements. It will also keep you comfortable and clean.

Pros
Pros
  • Measuring 82.7 x 50.8 x 45.3 inches, this tent is ideally suited for two people
  • This tent sets up in about three seconds, thanks to its instant-up configuration
  • Hard shell top is constructed from 100 percent aluminum, which is both waterproof and rust-resistant
Cons
Cons
  • Ladder to access the tent needs to be sturdier and a little wider
Best Overall
KingCamp Rooftop Tent
Best Value
TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland Tent
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Summary
Summary

A quality tent crafted with precision and care that’s comfortable and serves you for a long time. It is versatile and comfortable. It is adequate for two adults.

Pros
Pros
  • It is easy to install and use
  • Ideal for a variety of outdoor activities such as camping and hiking
  • The material is waterproof, windproof, and durable.
  • Comes with all the needed accessories
Cons
Cons
  • There are some complaints from users who say that the mattress is a bit thin. 
  • Not the lightest to carry.
Best Value
TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland Tent
Honorable Mention
DUTUI Car Tent
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Summary
Summary

This tent is superiorly constructed with a super tough and waterproof ABS plastic top. It stores compactly and aerodynamically so as not to create a ton of added wind noise while driving.

Pros
Pros
  • This tent is a sleek-looking, and ultra compact tent when stowed, and it won’t detract too much from your car’s fuel economy
  • Quick and easy to set up in minutes
  • Hard shell is made from super durable, bulletproof ABS plastic that will last for years
Cons
Cons
  • This tent is a little on the small side compared to some other
  • One of the priciest tents on the market
Honorable Mention
DUTUI Car Tent

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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

  • Stay off the ground. With a high-quality hard shell roof top tent, you are off the ground and away from outdoor problems such as critters and flooding. This means less mud and dirt, which can affect your comfort.
  • Improve air circulation and the view. Other benefits of a rooftop tent are you get a better view of the sunset and improved ventilation. Everyone enjoys more airflow, and you can feel very alive as you connect with nature.
  • Easy to set up. Apart from the fact that rooftop tents are more durable than most traditional outdoor tents, they are easier to set up. Most of them include a built-in mattress that you don't have to mess around trying to inflate.
  • More comfort. Compared to traditional tents, heavy-duty rooftop tents are much more insulated and, therefore, have a more comfortable sleeping area. They are also much quieter, especially if you're camping in windy areas, thanks to the tiny amount of fabric involved.  

Types of Roof Top Tents

Hard Shell

Unlike a soft-shell tent, a hard shell one is a bit heavier and more durable. The robust shell adds more protection against the elements, such as strong winds and thunderstorms and when you’re transporting the tent. For those unfamiliar with hard-shell rooftop tents, they may seem a bit challenging to handle, but they really aren’t. They typically feature a mechanism that makes them easy to handle and use.

Soft Shell

Soft-shell tents are similar to standard tents. The roof and walls are canvas, ripstop fabric, or other soft materials with a rainfly. They are lightweight and easy to handle. In terms of protection, soft-shell tents cannot handle inclement weather as much as hard-shell tents can. They are easy to fold, but hard-shell tents can be more manageable in terms of putting them up and taking them down.

Top Brands

TEPUI

Based out of Santa Cruz, and founded in 2007, TEPUI is an outdoor adventure firm that makes high-quality rooftop tents for a variety of outdoor adventures. The company is part of the Sweden-based Thule Group and has more than 50 outlets and 2000 employees. Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 is one of its top products.

TMB Motorsports

TMB Motorsports specializes in motoring equipment. It was founded in 2014 and has its headquarters in San Dimas, California. Its aim is to provide customers with the best products and services on the market. The founders of the company have a passion for cars and ensure a sense of excellence in everything that they do. One of its popular products is the TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland Tent

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Pricing

  • $1,500 to $2,500: The hard-shell roof tents in this price range have all the essential features such as a rainfly, roof rails, and crossbars to make the camping adventure convenient and comfortable. The tents are waterproof and windproof to provide adequate protection from the elements.
  • Over $2,500: The units in this price range have a versatile design and can sometimes fit more than two adults. Most of them have a high-density foam mattress, and the reinforced insulation, as well as the ABS base, is better. 

Key Features

Capacity

The capacity of the rooftop tent depends on various factors, such as the number of people that will be camping and your budget. The majority of the hard shell rooftop tents on the market can accommodate two or three people. However, you can also find tents with enough capacity for four or even five people.

Materials

Make sure that the materials are both durable and comfortable. Fiberglass is a common material in these tents and is quite robust. The exterior must have a high level of waterproofing capability and weather resistance to overcome inclement weather. It is also vital if the tent has good breathable qualities to be comfortable in all conditions. The material of other accessories, such as a telescoping ladder, should be robust and lightweight. Aviation aluminum is a good option.

Ease of Installation

Rooftop tent installation should not be rocket science. It should be easy and similar to a ground tent. Nobody fancies the idea of standing on a ladder over an hour setting up the tent. Go over the installation guide before you proceed. Of course, it will take some time to set up. However, the best hard-shell rooftop tent comes with a mechanism to make the process effortless.

Weight

The weight of the tent should not be more than that of your SUV for safety. Mainly, determine the average weight of the people that will be using the tent and add it to the weight of the tent. The total should tell you whether it is suitable for the vehicle or not. Consider this total before you purchase the rooftop tent. 

Other Considerations

  • Extension Room: The space below the tent is vital to some people. Typically, these extension rooms can be quite useful, but they can be a headache to set up. They provide additional room for equipment and a place to sleep. The extra space is available in a variety of setups with windows, doors, and access to the vehicle. 
  • Accessories: There are a few other items that come with a rooftop tent, and they should also be protected like the main tent. For example, the annex should be waterproof and well insulated so it’s comfortable for occupants and to protect the other tools inside. It is always good if other accessories, such as a telescoping ladder, are part of the package.

Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
KingCamp Rooftop Tent

When it comes to the best overall choice for a hard shell roof top tent, our hands-down pick has to be the KingCamp Rooftop Tent. This ruggedly built and attractively designed tent will keep you elevated and protected from the elements. It will also keep you comfortable and clean. 


This tent is ideally suited to two people, measuring 82.7 x 50.8 x 45.3 inches. One of our favorite things about this tent is that it’s super easy to set up. In about three seconds, this instant-up tent is fully open and just needs to be anchored to your car. The hard shell top is constructed from 100 percent aluminum, which is both waterproof and rust-resistant. 


When stowed, this tent measures just 10 inches high, making it relatively easy to stow. Two large doors and windows give you plenty of ventilation and easy access. We also like the thick and soft cotton floor pad that adds another level of comfort to your sleep. What we don’t love is the ladder; it could definitely be sturdier and a little wider.

Best Value
TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland Tent

The TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland is designed with care and precision for optimal comfort when you’re outdoors or on an off-road adventure. The tent fits a wide variety of vehicles and comes with the necessary roof rails and crossbars for effortless installation. It is an ideal choice for hikers and campers. The rooftop tent comes along with a storage bag, mattress, and ladder. The pre-installed high-quality memory foam mattress accommodates two adults.


To keep you protected from the weather, the material is robust, waterproof, and windproof. The shock-assisted arms make it effortless to open. Other essential features include the inner and outer zippers, which keep the openings secure. Also, the rooftop tent has a unique fold-out design that directs away from the roof rack.


On the downside, some users say the mattress is a bit thin and uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. It is also not very light to carry, but that is common with hardshell rooftop tents.

Premium Pick
DUTUI Car Tent

For the ultimate luxury rooftop camping experience, consider the DUTUI Car Tent. This tent is superiorly constructed with a super tough and waterproof ABS plastic top. It stores compactly and aerodynamically so as not to create a ton of added wind noise while driving. It mounts securely to your vehicle's roof-mounted cross bars and sets up in seconds.


This model is suitable for use on cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, making it a versatile option. It can fit one person very spaciously or two people snugly. The tent comes well-designed with two large doors and windows with attached mosquito netting for maximum ventilation and bug protection.


We love the sleek and easy design of this tent. What we don’t love is the price tag. This is one of the most expensive hard shell rooftop tents on the market. There are also some concerns over customer service and responsiveness when issues do arise.

Honorable Mention
N/C Pop Up Roof Tent

The N/C Pop Up Roof Tent is designed to be used with cars, trucks, and SUVs. We like this option because it's available in a variety of colors, including white-shell gray, black-shell khaki, and white-shell green, so you can find a shade that best matches your vehicle. This tent can accommodate two adults and one child with additional space for camping equipment.


The tent measures 74 by 50 by 41 inches when open and 74 by 50 by 8.6 inches when closed. It includes a 7.54-foot aluminum extendable ladder and has a load capacity of over 600 pounds. The tent also comes with a breathable mattress and is made of 280G durable canvas.


One of the tent's best features is that it's waterproof, so you will stay dry in rainy conditions. It also includes UV 50 protection, so it won't fade and look worn down. The tent has automatic hydraulic levers that are easy to open and stay firmly in place. Overall, it's a great choice for overlanding.

Tips

  • You can use a stiff bristle brush or vacuum to remove any dirt and dust on the rooftop tent. For deep cleaning, use a sponge and a mixture of water and soap on the canvas and other parts of the tent. You can then leave the tent in the sun to dry.
  • Other maintenance tips include keeping the hinges oiled, especially during the wet and cold months. A coat of waterproofing spray will come in handy if you are using the tent extensively at a campsite.
  • Even though the bottom part of the overlanding tent can hold a significant amount of weight, it is a bit different for the roof. The roof may not have the strength to hold off a lot of weight from the snow, so you should keep clearing it. 

FAQs

Q: How many people can fit in a hard-shell rooftop tent?

A: The capacity of the tent depends on the brand and model. Mostly, the tent can comfortably accommodate two or three people. But you will find some hard shell tents with a capacity to hold four or more people.

Q: What weather can a hard-shell roof top tent withstand?

A: Unlike a soft shell tent, hard-shell models are quite comfortable in inclement weather. They are waterproof, and the quality of the insulation is better.

Q: Can I put a hard-shell rooftop tent on my car?

A: The best hard-shell rooftop tents on the market have excellent versatility. You can install them on any vehicle. Some of the more prestigious tents are designed specifically for cars. The good news is that mounting methods have come a long way, and you can customize the roof rack to accommodate your chosen hard shell rooftop tent.

Final Thoughts

For the best overall choice when it comes to a stylish, easy-to-use, and durable hard shell rooftop tent, our top pick is the KingCamp Rooftop Tent. This ruggedly built and attractively designed tent will keep you elevated and protected from the elements. It will also keep you comfortable and clean. 

If you want a more budget-friendly model, check out the TMB Green Pop Up Roof Overland Tent. It’s sturdy and roomy and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.