Are Rooftop Tents Worth It (Pros vs Cons)

When you spot a well-kitted 4WD, fully equipped with chunky off-road tires, aftermarket bumpers, LED lights, and a Rooftop Tent, one has to admit, it looks pretty impressive and ready to conquer just about anything from mother nature to the apocalypse. So what advantages does a rooftop tent offer over a traditional ground tent? Today we will cover the pros and cons of owning a rooftop tent vs a ground tent and which one is best for your application.

Rooftop tents are worth the expense because it offers convenience, safety, and faster setup times. They prevent ground-dwelling critters and small game from entering your tent at night. Rooftop sets up within a short few minutes and saves you the hassle of packing in mattresses, sleeping bags, and pillows since bedding can be left inside when it is closed. RTT’s also free up valuable space inside your vehicle for other essential items. They are also durable and weather-proof!

ILets now look at the differences between canvas and hard-shell rooftop tents and some technical aspects of each.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages Of A Roof Top Tent?

Rooftop tents hold a few advantages over conventional ground tents. There are, however, a few disadvantages to consider and I will discuss both options in a bit more detail as I am experienced in both and the owner of many different ground tents and as well as a canvas rooftop tent.

That’s my rooftop tent setup while camping with family and friends last summer
AdvantagesDisadvantages
1. Safety – Even if this is a
perceived safety, the RTT
does offer a level of safety
from small game, snakes, scorpions, and other ground-dwelling insects. Don’t forget petty thieves.
Weight – Rooftop tents weigh anything up from 132 LBS (60 Kg) to over 220LBS (100 kg) and can be difficult or near impossible to mount on your vehicle by yourself. The weight raises your vehicle’s center of gravity making it more top-heavy.
Comfort – The high-density mattress commonly found in RTT’s are fairly comfortable and will do just fine for a few days. No need to lug your stretcher beds, mattresses, and bedding along every time. All bedding can be stored inside the RTT. Storage – They can be bulky and can take up valuable storage space in your garage. A garage-mounted hoist would help a lot.
View – Waking up in a rooftop tent affords you a beautiful elevated view of the lake, sunrise, ocean, game, and the mountain range you are camping at. Mounting – This requires special brackets, bars, and roof mounting kits to secure to your vehicle.
Convenience – Setting up the RTT once you reach your destination is literally a matter of minutes. It can easily be done alone. The ground surface is not a concern. Home is where you park your vehicle. Just make sure it’s level.Closing – I found closing my rooftop tent in cold conditions to be a bit difficult after a few days as the canvas covers are a very tight fit which makes the folding up process a bit tricky. At times it can end up being a real struggle to fit everything back. Sometimes you pick up a few cuts and bruises in the process.
Weather-proof – They offer 100% protection from the elements and include an additional rain cover for those stormy nights on winter trips. No worry about your tent blowing away on windy days either. Decreased MPG – Your vehicle’s MPG will definitely decrease due to the extra bulk mounted above the roof of your vehicle. Also being bulky and high up allows crosswinds to play around with the stability of your vehicle while driving.
Space-saver – Frees up valuable space in the trunk of your vehicle for other essential items. Size – Most rooftop tents are designed for 2 adults and larger ones can accommodate 2 small kids, however, it can get a bit claustrophobic in there on warm summer nights.
Durable – Most modern RTT’s are made of a combination of water-proof rip-stop canvas and plastic covers. Pricey– Clamshell rooftop tents can cost a pretty penny. You will also need special mounting brackets and mounting bars to be installed by a professional before you can mount them.
Aesthetics– I am just going to leave this one here since we all know how awesome a RTT looks on a 4×4. Inconvenience – You have to pack up your rooftop tent if you want to leave base camp to explore the outdoors with your 4×4. This can be a hassle if you have a soft canvas-type RTT. Clam-shell ones are much quicker.

So there clearly are as many advantages as there are disadvantages. I might not have listed all of them and I’m pretty sure you can add a few points either way to build a case.

Rooftop tents are designed to provide you with the ultimate comfort, ease, and convenience. This makes traveling to the most secluded camping locations a lot more convenient.

RTT’s will mount to almost any vehicle. If the vehicle does not have crossbars, those can be installed on most vehicles to mount your RTT on securely.

All rooftop tents include a thick high-density foam mattress pre-installed inside. There is more than enough sleeping space for 2 full-sized adults.

Most RTT’s have the option of purchasing add-on rooms for extra sleeping and dressing space. The annex room can also accommodate a large mattress, mat, folding cot or a small dining table or chairs. The retractable ladder can also be folded away for increased space inside of the annex room.

How Much Weight Can A Roof Top Tent Hold?

The maximum weight capacity of 3 popular rooftop tent brands are the following:

Rooftop Tent BrandMaximum Capacity
Ranger Roof Top Tent (3) 685 Lbs. (310 kg)
Smittybilt XL Overlander (3-4) 770 Lbs. (349 kg)
CVT Mount Ranier (3)750 Lbs. (340 kg)

The weight of the FrontRunner rooftop tent is 132 pounds (45 kg), Tepui 125 LBS (56 kg) and the TuffStuff 187 LBS (84 kg) however all of them can safely hold substantially more weight. The risk is not with the tent breaking under load but with the mounting brackets or bars failing under too much weight. The Rooftop tent can take a lot of weight as it is spread across a large surface area. This is not proven but my guess is that you will be able to fit enough bodies inside a rooftop tent to make it fail.

How Much Does A Roof Top Tent Weigh?

Below is a list of some popular rooftop tent brands and their weights.
Please bear in mind they are not all the same size (2+ and 3-person) but it should give you a good idea of what the average weight of a rooftop tent is.

Roof top Tent BrandWeight
Ranger Roof Top Tent 135 Lbs. (61 kg)
Smittybilt XL Overlander 148 Lbs. (67 kg)
CVT Mount Ranier 166 Lbs. (75.2 kg)
ARB Series III 154 Lbs. (69.8 kg)
Tepui Explorer Series Autana 3 150 Lbs. (68kg)
FrontRunner Featherlite 2+ 132 pounds (45 kg)

What Is The Best Roof Top Tent?

It’s hard to specifically say which brand of a rooftop tent is the best since they all have their drawbacks and merits, however, you can identify a good rooftop tent by looking at build quality, weight, size, and durability. Depending on what your application is, you will determine which of those factors are the most important and list them in the correct order.

However, below is a guide to some of the popular rooftop tent brands available on the market and what makes each one so special.

1 Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent
If saving weight is what you are after then look no further. This is the lightest RTT available and the low-profile rooftop tent weighs less than 100 pounds. This lightweight tent will not impact your gas mileage as much during those long treks. constructed from Oxford 400D tent fabric that is strong, breathable, mold-resistant, and waterproof.
2 Tepui Baja Series Kukenam Mesh Tent
The perfect option for all-year-round camp fanatics. This tent has a weather-proof canopy that connects the tent base. This allows you to interchange the canopy depending on the conditions: a mesh shade canopy for hot, humid weather, a lightweight nylon rip-stop canopy for springtime, or an aluminum canopy for inclement weather.
3 Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent
The durable tent made from 210D nylon which is light and breathable and includes mesh panels for ventilation and star gazing.
4 Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Smittybilt’s Overlander sleeps two and weighs only 118 pounds, which makes it ideal for cars and racks with lower weight capacities.
5 ARB Simpson Tent
A well known and established brand. The new ARB Simpson rooftop tent is easy to set up and provides maximum ventilation when needed, as well as a lighter high-density mattress which makes it easier to fold when packing up

So there you have it. Whatever your needs are there is a rooftop tent to suit your application and your budget.

Roof Top Tent Reviews and Feedback

Rooftop tents are costly so you want to be 100% sure of your purchase. Do yourself a huge favor and go into discussion forums and ask people what their opinions are on a specific brand. Ask what their recommendations would be if they were to purchase one again and why. Go to 4×4 and camping stores and ask the sales assistant if they can set up the tent for you to inspect. Go to Google and review what people have commented on particular brands of RTT’s. Visit online discussion forums and search through older threads and posts. Feel free to stop a stranger with a hard shell and ask them if they would recommend it and which brands to consider etc. Do your research properly because once you take the plunge it’s a long-term investment and you want to be 100% happy with your purchase.

Hard Shell Roof Top Tents vs Canvas RTT

Rooftop tents have been around for years now and are becoming increasingly popular. However more and more hard shell RTTs are being spotted these days. They have been on the market for a while now but they are definitively becoming more popular. If you are considering purchasing a Rooftop tent and are torn between the canvas or the hard shell, you will want to read further as we delve into the pros and cons of each.

Soft-Shell PROS

  • Relatively simple to set up once you reach your destination as the tent unfolds withing seconds.
  • Has a larger sleeping area than most clam-shell hard top RTT’s as space is doubled once opened and allows 2 adults and 2 kids to sleep quite comfortably
  • Light in weight when compared to hardtop RTT’s
  • Cheaper than hardtop RTT’s

Soft Shell CONS

  • Longer take-down times since it is slightly trickier to close and pack away – sometimes 2 people are needed to compress the tent while the other zips it closes.
  • Bulky and not very aerodynamic
  • Negatively affects your MPG with its large square bulky structure on your vehicle roof
  • Increased wind noise due to its square shape and size

Hard-shell PROS

  • Much neater looking so more aesthetically pleasing
  • Runs with the contours of your vehicle so MPG is not affected as much
  • Decreased wind noise
  • More storage space inside for bedding and pillows which can be left inside when closed
  • More weather-resistant and water-proof with its plastic and fiberglass design
  • More comfortable and can house thicker mattresses since it doesn’t need to fold over to close.
  • Most include built-in 12-volt charging ports and LED lights inside
  • Certain models have brackets to mount solar panels on top

Hard-shell CONS

  • Expensive
  • Tricky to near impossible to mount on your own
  • Smaller sizes and more cramped inside than canvas soft-shell RTT’s

Conclusion

Rooftop tents are a fantastic addition to your camping arsenal and can make the difference between a good camping experience and a great one. When deciding on a rooftop tent always look at it from your application perspective and not at what the best RTT is. If you have a young family that camps 2-3 times a year then space and weight should be your number one criteria. Trust me, I have 2 young kids aged 7 & 5, and space is a scarce commodity when we go camping, and i pack light!

If you are an all-year camper that goes away perhaps once a month then you want to look at convenience, ease of use and setup, and take-down times. You will get tired of struggling to pack away a stubborn canvas tent that did not fold incorrectly

You might be planning a multi-week extended expedition through inclement weather conditions so your priority might be durability, ease-of-use, and weight combined.

Whatever your needs are, the ideal rooftop tent is there, waiting for you. As long as you get out there and enjoy the beauty of our wonderful planet!

Happy 4 Wheeling and Rooftop tenting and remember, Safety first!!!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

Recent Content

link to What Size Tires Can I Put On My Truck W/Without Levelling Kit

What Size Tires Can I Put On My Truck W/Without Levelling Kit

Big tire upgrades are the most effective way of increasing ground clearance. This is especially important for overcoming obstacles in an off-road situation since your axles will be higher off the ground. There are however a few limitations, especially when it comes to IFS (Independent Front Suspension) 4WD trucks. SFA (Solid Front Axle) trucks suspension […]