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

No more sleeping on lumpy ground with creepy critters thanks to these ingenious roof top tents

byLisa Conant| UPDATED Jul 28, 2022 5:45 AM
Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents: Fun and Comfortable Outdoor Lodging

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BYLisa Conant/ LAST UPDATED ON July 28, 2022
Best Overall
Smittybilt Overlander Hard Shell Tent

Smittybilt Overlander Hard Shell Tent

Summary
This tent is the ideal combination of lightweight, durable construction, ease of use, functionality, and price point, setting up in minutes.
Pros
  • Super lightweight
  • Relatively affordable compared to many other options
  • Includes a comfortable mattress with your purchase
Cons
  • Difficult to pack away and requires two people
  • No instructions included with purchase
Best Value

Badass Tents Packout MOLLE Tent

Summary
This is a well-made, smartly designed, yet affordable choice that’s made in the USA, is a tactically styled, lightweight, and slim choice that’s great for more compact vehicles.
Pros
  • More affordable than many other options
  • Constructed from rugged and heavy-duty waterproof 420D nylon oxford
  • Compatible with most MOLLE and tactical gear
Cons
  • Flimsy mattress pad
  • Doesn’t come with an access ladder
Honorable Mention

Nomad 1300 Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Summary
The Nomad 1300 Hard Shell Roof Top Tent effortlessly combines spaciousness with a clever, sleek design that fits well with almost any vehicle you want to pair it with.
Pros
  • Spacious and roomy
  • Features a fun skylight option and awnings over windows and entryway
  • Includes collapsible aluminum ladder
Cons
  • Mattress pad is thin 
  • This model is heavier than many others on the market

For those outdoor enthusiasts who truly enjoy “roughing it,” you know that tent camping is a double-edged sword. What you gain in an affordable and compact setup can often be trumped by waking up in a soaking sleeping bag surrounded by puddles, contending with lumpy, rocky ground that would prevent a dead body from sleeping soundly, and dealing with all manner of dirt, grass, and debris being tracked in and out on a daily basis. 

Enter the hard shell roof top tent. Relatively new to the camping scene, these high-tech, cleverly designed tents make roughing it a breeze. Mounted off the ground on smooth, solid surfaces, these durable and weather-resistant options are making happy campers out of many outdoor lovers. The speed at which the market is becoming flooded with choices of hard shell roof top tents is not surprising. To help you weed through the myriad of possibilities, I’ve come up with my list of top choices along with a handy buying guide to get you out and under the stars quickly.

Our Methodology

When it comes to choosing the best hard shell roof top tents available, I wanted to provide you with a well-rounded list that features a solid variety of reputable manufacturers with a history of providing high-quality, long-lasting products. I wanted to include a wide range of price points to suit any budget. Lastly, I wanted to feature hard shell roof top tents that use the latest in construction technology and innovative materials that are durable, high-tech, and functional. There’s literally something for everyone. For more info on our selection criteria, go to The Drive’s Gear About page, which explains our methodology further.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Summary List

Best Premium: iKamper Skycamp 3.0

Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents Reviews & Recommendations

Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Overall
Smittybilt Overlander Hard Shell Tent
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Specs

  • Brand: Smittybilt
  • Dimensions: 55 in W x 85 in L x 37 in H
  • Weight: 94 pounds

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Relatively affordable compared to many other options
  • Includes a comfortable mattress with your purchase

Cons

  • Difficult to pack away and requires two people
  • No instructions included with purchase

For the ideal combination of lightweight, durable construction, ease of use, functionality, and price point, my top pick has to be the Smittybilt Overlander Hard Shell Tent. This tent mounts and sets up in minutes, giving you quick access to spacious, above-ground sleeping quarters. The understated black cover and gray tent material match almost any vehicle and won’t go out of style. It features an aerodynamic nine-inch, slim ABS body with a rugged and lightweight aluminum frame. Weighing only 94 pounds, it’s one of the more lightweight tents on the list. It offers an impressive max load rating of 661 pounds. The tent itself is constructed from long-lasting, waterproof, ripstop oxford polyester. It features a polyurethane coating for added protection and UV resistance. It also comes equipped with a high-density two-inch thick padded foam mattress and an insulated fabric-lined roof for comfort. Backed by a five-year limited warranty, there’s not much to dislike about this tent. One drawback is that it takes more than one person a while to close up the tent. The lack of instructions is also pretty frustrating.

Specs

  • Brand: Badass Tents
  • Dimensions: 45 in W x 78 in L x 59 in H
  • Weight: 90 pounds

Pros

  • More affordable than many other options
  • Constructed from rugged and heavy-duty waterproof 420D nylon oxford
  • Compatible with most MOLLE and tactical gear

Cons

  • Flimsy mattress pad
  • Doesn’t come with an access ladder

One of the biggest drawbacks to purchasing a hard shell roof top tent can be its prohibitive price tag. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case thanks to the Badass Tents Packout MOLLE Tent. This is a well-made, smartly designed, yet affordable choice. Made in the USA, this tent is a tactically styled, lightweight, and slim choice that’s great for more compact vehicles. It weighs only 90 pounds and is a slim three inches when packed down, making it one of the less cumbersome and more portable choices on the list. With a plethora of MOLLE straps and D-rings throughout, you can quickly and easily add bags or other compatible items to the tent. This tent offers a maximum weight capacity of 500 pounds, which is significantly less than lots of other competing options, but with a two-person capacity, it’s still sufficient for most needs. The waterproof 420D nylon oxford fabric is super rugged and features three doors and four large zippered windows. Gas shock strut arms allow for a quick and easy single-person set-up. The mattress pad leaves a little to be desired in terms of thickness and durability. This tent also doesn’t come with an access ladder; you need to purchase that separately.

Specs

  • Brand: IronMan 4X4 America
  • Dimensions: 62 in W x 80 in L x 46 in H
  • Weight: 150 pounds

Pros

  • Spacious and roomy
  • Features a fun skylight option and awnings over windows and entryway
  • Includes collapsible aluminum ladder

Cons

  • Mattress pad is thin
  • This model is heavier than many others on the market

The Nomad 1300 Hard Shell Roof Top Tent effortlessly combines spaciousness with a clever, sleek design that fits well with almost any vehicle you want to pair it with. This model even features a skylight window for added viewing capabilities. It’s constructed from ultra-durable and rugged 280gsm ripstop poly-cotton that’s both highly breathable and water resistant. A large entryway is made from fine mesh and features a hooded awning for added protection from the elements. This hard shell roof top tent is equipped with a universal mounting setup that’s compatible with a wide variety of crossbars. The frame is constructed from rust-resistant stainless steel and lightweight aluminum. Set-up and take-down are a breeze and can be handled by one person with ease. This tent also comes with a high-density, anti-condensation queen-sized mattress pad. However, it’s pretty thin and flimsy compared to some other choices on the market. This tent is also a little on the heavy side compared to some others. Initial installation is definitely a two-person job. It does include a collapsible aluminum ladder and a one-year warranty as added bonuses.

Specs

  • Brand: iKamper
  • Dimensions: 77 in W x 83 in L x 48 in H
  • Weight: 165 pounds

Pros

  • Comfortably sleeps four people
  • Super easy setup in one minute
  • Includes large, comfy nine-zone insulated mattress

Cons

  • Crazy price tag
  • Heavy and cumbersome compared to some other options

If you want the ultimate in hard shell roof top tent luxury, look no further than the iKamper Skycamp 3.0. This model features plenty of improvements and modifications to the already popular previous models. It features a signature fold-out extension panel that offers extra legroom. Set-up and take down is super easy and can be accomplished in about a minute. A larger, aerodynamic hard shell allows you to store bedding inside it so that you can rock up with the bed already made. This tent is also one of the more spacious choices, able to sleep two children and two adults or three adults with ease. It’s equipped with a thick, comfortable, 9-zone, insulated mattress that ensures a restful sleep. Constructed from thick, breathable, blackout canvas, you’ll be able to sleep past the crack of dawn if you choose. It also includes high-performance honeycomb floor panels that are literally strong enough to hold a car. The drawback? The jaw-dropping price tag. This tent is also quite heavy and cumbersome compared to many others.

Specs

  • Brand: Freespirit
  • Dimensions: 48 in W x 83 in L x 43 in H
  • Weight: 134 pounds

Pros

  • Equipped with an integrated light strip
  • Compatible with a large variety of vehicles
  • Insulated tent body

Cons

  • Less durable and thick mattress than others
  • Somewhat pricey

Specs

  • Brand: Roofnest
  • Dimensions: 74 in W x 93 in L x 55 in H
  • Weight: 160 pounds

Pros

  • Very spacious
  • Installation is quick and easy
  • Fully waterproof, breathable fabric

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a foam mattress
  • Thicker and less aerodynamic when closed than many others

If you’re hoping to house your whole brood in one hard shell roof top tent, consider the Roofnest Condor XL Hard Shell Tent. Measuring 74 x 93 x 55 inches when opened, this is one of the roomiest tents on the market. It can easily accommodate three to four people. It also features an easy-to-install, universal-fit mounting system that’s compatible with most vehicles. It’s also compatible with several fun accessories, like the Condor Awning and the Condor Annex for added versatility. This tent can even accommodate a solar panel and features added storage. It’s constructed from fully waterproof, yet breathable polyurethane coated polyester/cotton blend fabric. It comes equipped with detachable interior LED lights that are fully rechargeable. Your initial purchase also includes a collapsible 8.5-foot ladder, a 4x4 ground mat, and two detachable pockets. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include a high-density foam mattress, which is surprising, considering its relatively high price point.

Specs

  • Brand: Trustmade
  • Dimensions: 49.2 in W x 83 in L x 35 in H
  • Weight: 165 pounds

Pros

  • Large, uniform space when opened
  • Affordable
  • Includes a handy LED lantern with purchase

Cons

  • Ladder is shorter than on most other models
  • Construction seems less durable and rugged than some other pricier choices

The Trustmade Hard Shell Roof Top Tent is an affordable, straightforward option that pops fully up to give you a large, uniform space when opened, unlike most other models on the market. It’s equipped with handy bungee net roof storage and side pouches for maximum gear storage when opened. This is great for accommodating plenty of blankets, pillows, and overnight bags. It’s constructed from 100 percent waterproof 280g, 2,000 mm polyurethane canvas material and features large windows and an entryway for maximum airflow. This model does take a little longer to set up and take down than others, but can still be done by two people in about two minutes. The outer shell is constructed from durable ABS plastic with a heavy-duty steel frame. Unfortunately, it only comes equipped with a five-inch foam mattress, which is pretty thin compared to some others. The synthetic floor boards also don’t seem as durable as some of the more expensive competition, but the tent does feature a max load capacity of 700 pounds. This model comes with a ladder, but at only 7.5 feet, it might not be tall enough to reach higher truck roofs.

Our Verdict on Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

For the ideal combination of lightweight, durable construction, ease-of-use, functionality, and price point, my top pick has to be the Smittybilt Overlander Hard Shell Tent. This tent mounts and sets up in minutes, giving you quick access to spacious, above-ground sleeping quarters.

For a more budget-conscious, but durable and well-designed choice, check out the Badass Tents Packout MOLLE Tent. Made in the USA, this tent is a tactically styled, lightweight, and slim choice that’s great for more compact vehicles.

What to Consider When Buying Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

Buying a hard shell roof top tent involves a few more choices than just picking out your favorite color or price point. While options aren’t as numerous as car tires, there’s still plenty to consider in order to make sure you’re getting the ideal tent to suit your particular needs and fit well with not only your lifestyle, but your vehicle setup as well. 

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Key Features 

Ease of Installation

Installing your hard shell roof top tent shouldn’t take an entire afternoon or require a team of experts. Most high-quality roof top tents will come with a comprehensive instruction manual and all necessary hardware to safely and securely mount the tent on your vehicle’s rack or crossbars. Be sure to check your vehicle’s compatibility with any included mounting hardware prior to purchase. Some of the best hard shell roof top tents also include handy video tutorials for added benefit. 

Capacity

Sleeping capacity is always a major consideration with any tent purchase. However, with most roof top tents, the largest you can expect to reasonably be supported by your vehicle’s roof will still only accommodate three to four people. If you have a compact vehicle, you’re likely going to be looking at a one to two person tent, greatly limiting your options. It’s a great practice in minimalist travel.

Construction Materials

Most hard shell roof top tents are composed of ultra-durable, yet lightweight materials like ABS plastic, rust-resistant aluminum, and waterproof, ripstop oxford, nylon, polyurethane-coated canvas, or a combination of these. It’s also important to make sure that your tent has spacious mesh-covered windows to promote good visibility and breathability. Ladders should be constructed from rugged and lightweight aluminum. Mounting hardware should be made from heavy-duty, rust-proof stainless steel with an optional powder coating for added longevity.

Weight

The overall weight of your tent is important when considering whether it can be safely supported by your vehicle’s crossbars or mounting hardware. Take into account how much the tent will weigh with all your gear and people inside it as well. 

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Pricing 

While most hard shell roof top tents are a solid financial investment, you can pick up a well-constructed and long-lasting tent for between $1,600 and $2,000. If you’re looking for top-of-the-line construction, spaciousness, and high-quality accessories like included lighting, ladders, and high-density memory foam mattresses, plan to spend anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000, depending on the size of the tent you want.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: How fast can you drive with a roof top tent?

A: While most hard shell roof top tents are designed to be streamlined and aerodynamic, they’re still going to create some drag on your vehicle while underway. While you can certainly try to go your “normal” driving speed, it’s best to limit yourself to 65 mph or below for safety reasons and so as not to totally trash your gas mileage.

Q: Do roof racks and roof top tents affect gas mileage?

A: Yes. Roof racks and roof top tents will diminish your gas mileage by creating drag on your vehicle while underway. While data is a little limited on the exact number, there are some sources that estimate that your fuel economy can drop down to as little as 17 percent with a roof top tent.

Q: Can my roof rack support a tent?

A: Most roof racks can support a roof top tent. If your car came equipped with a factory-installed rack, check your manual prior to purchasing a tent to see what your rack is rated for. Since most tents weigh between 100 and 200 pounds, it shouldn’t be a problem. Third-party roof racks, like Thule and Yakima, are built to support heavier weight capacities. The main concern is: can your roof rack support a tent when it’s full of people and gear? Check your rack’s max weight load before climbing up into your tent for what might not be such a restful night’s sleep.

Q: What is the lightest hard shell roof top tent?

A: The SuperLite 50 is the world’s lightest hard shell roof top tent, weighing in at a mere 80 pounds. Most other hard shell roof top tents on the market weigh between 130 and 200 pounds. 

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

A: Most hard-shell roof top tents can handle rain, sun, and snow with ease. As far as wind speeds go, most can safely withstand speeds of up to 40 mph.

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