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With the rise camping and overlanding in the past few years, roof top tents have seen a massive surge in popularity. There’s no doubt why. These tents make your expeditions much more enjoyable. No more struggling with tent poles or attempting to stuff your tent back into a bag a third of the size of your tent.

The 4Low’s Top Picks

Best Value
Rugged Ridge Outland
Rugged Ridge Outland
  • Includes ladder and 3" foam mattress
  • Sleeps 3 people
  • Weight: 124lbs
  • Soft shell style tent
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Editors Choice
Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent with Roof Rack
Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent with Roof Rack
  • Includes ladder and interior lights
  • Sleeps 2-3 people
  • Weight: 138lbs
  • Clam style hard shell tent
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Quickest Setup
Campoint Hard Shell
Campoint Hard Shell
  • Includes ladder and roof crossbars
  • Sleeps 2-3 people
  • Weight: 165lbs
  • Hard shell popup style tent
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Largest Option
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended
Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 3 Extended
  • Includes ladder, foam pillows, foam mattress, lap table, and mini broom
  • Sleeps 2-4 people
  • Weight: 165lbs
  • Soft shell style tent
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Lightest Option
Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile
Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile
  • Includes preinstalled rails for installation and ladder
  • Sleeps 2 people
  • Weight: 108lbs
  • Soft shell style tent
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Roof Top Tent Buyer’s Guide

Overlanding has steadily been gaining popularity these past few years and so have roof top tents. Many people have realized the value of being close to nature and exploring the world around them. Some people forgo all their amenities and live off the land while some people make sure to have comfortable living arrangements while they explore the world. 

One of those living arrangements is roof top tents. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about overlanding, there’s a good chance they also mentioned their roof top tent in between. 

So, are you planning on buying a roof top tent but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry! This roof top tent buyer’s guide can help you make a decision!

What Is A Roof top Tent?

So, the next question is, what really is a roof top tent? A roof top tent or RTT is exactly what its name says it is. It’s a tent that you can mount on the roof top of your car for use when you go overlanding. You can modify it according to how many people you wish to house and how comfortable you want it to be. 

They’re very useful for frequent travelers or people who love going overlanding because it allows you to have a comfortable sleeping space no matter where you go. It’s a great investment for the future because roof top tents are very durable and will probably last you for many years.

Roof top tent on top of truck

Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Roof top Tent

Your roof top tent is going to be like your second home when you go overlanding. It’s where you’ll sleep and most likely hang out with your friends or partner when you’re not out exploring. For that reason, you need to put a lot of thought into buying one. 

Like all things, most RTTs come with their own set of specifications that you need to keep in mind before you invest in one model. So, what are they? Let’s find out.

Vehicle And Rack Compatibility

Since different vehicles have different sizes and different roof styles, you’ll need to figure out if your RTT model is compatible with your vehicle or not. Some vehicles don’t even support roof top tents because their roofs aren’t built to support a lot of weight or their shape is not compatible with them. 

However, most SUVs do and you’ll probably find out if your car does if you flip open its user manual. 

Since you attach your roof top tent where your roof rack is, you need to find out what load your roof rack and the car’s roof can bear. If your car doesn’t have a roof rack, you should probably get one. Remember to pay attention to weight capacity of the rack. Most roof top tents weight 100+lbs so be sure to total the weight of the occupants as well.

close up of roof rack on car


Roof top tents are quite heavy because they are made of durable material that doesn’t wear away after a while. However, you need to figure out if your car’s rack is compatible with the weight that you’ll be putting on it. After all,, you don’t want your tent to fly off when you’re zipping away on the highway. 

The maximum static weight of the rack is the weight your car’s roof rack can hold when the vehicle is not moving. Usually, this means the combined weights of whoever will be sleeping in the tent, their sleeping supplies, and anything else one might take to the tent. Most roof top racks support the weight of a few people along with the weight of the tent when the car is parked. However, you should still make sure the weight you’re going to add to the roof top rack doesn’t go over the maximum static weight of the rack. 

The maximum dynamic weight of any roof top rack is the load it can bear while the car is moving. That is generally the weight of the roof top tent itself or any sleeping supplies you leave inside it. Make sure the roof top rack you buy for your RTT supports this weight as well.

Soft shell vs. Hard shell

There are usually two types of roof top tents, hard shell tents and soft shell tents. Both of these tent types are widely in use because of how useful they are in different ways. 

Soft shell Pros

Soft shell roof top tents are useful because they are quite light. These light RTTs can be set up easily without exerting too much effort. The great thing about their light weight is that they also don’t put too much weight on your vehicle which would inevitably increase your car’s fuel intake. 

The soft shell RTTs are also quite affordable because of their lighter material. You can also house more people in the soft shell tents because you also have the option of adding annexes to the soft shell models.

Soft shell Cons

The soft shell roof top tents also have some cons that you need to be on the lookout for. This type of tent isn’t fun to be in when there’s heavy rain or a storm because it transmits every noise inside, which can cause you to have a very disturbed sleep. 

In addition, it’s also a little difficult to pack up once you wake up and want to be on the move again. After all, it has a lot of flappy parts that you need to take care of when you pack it all.

Softshell roof top tent next to lake

Hard shell Pros

Hard shell roof top tents are very useful for overlanding because they’re very durable and can withstand a variety of different climates and weather without getting damaged. It’s also a lot less noisy inside a hard shell RTT when there’s a storm raging outside. 

They’re also easier to pack up because of their compact setup and flexible design. You can also place a thick mattress inside because hard shell RTTs are a lot more spacious than soft shell ones.

Hard shell Cons

There are some disadvantages to the hard shell models as well. For example, they are quite heavy and will increase your car’s fuel usage which will increase your overlanding budget by a lot. In addition, they are also quite expensive and can be hard to afford for people who don’t have a lot of money to spend on camping supplies.

The hard shell RTTs are also hard to repair because they don’t have many parts made of fabric.

Hardshell roof top tent next to lake


Adequate ventilation can sometimes be an issue when buying a roof top tent. Most roof top tents come with windows, awnings and mesh panels that promote ventilation which allows its users to be able to breathe comfortably and also feel the outside air on their bodies when they’re trying to sleep. You can also pick a model that comes with solar-powered ventilating fans.

However, as long as your model has windows or mesh panels that you can open up, rest assured that your roof top tent will have adequate ventilation. Most RTTs have much better ventilation than their ground counterparts because airflow is much better at a height.

man taking picture from roof top tent with windows open

Setup And Take Down

Setting up the tent and dismantling it is another important part of having a roof top tent when you go overlanding. While it may seem like a small thing, setting up or taking down a roof top tent can set you back an hour or two if you didn’t fit it into your timetable. 

However, hard shell roof top tents are much easier to set up and also much easier to dismantle. The companies have designed these tents as such that it can take you under thirty minutes to finish setting up a hard shell roof top tent. 

On the other hand, it can take much longer to set up or take down a soft shell tent. Often, soft shell tents have awnings and annexes that might take you longer to pack. In addition, the tents are made of fabric or plastic that can take time to wrap up or fold. So, that’s another thing you should keep in mind when purchasing a roof top tent for your vehicle.

Man setting up roof top tent on trailer next to lake

Interior Space

The interior space is largely determined by your roof top rack and how big it is. However, in some cases, you can also choose to get a tent that’s bigger than your roof top rack if you want to accommodate more people in the tent. You can do this by getting a tent that has an extended platform so your tent’s floor space can be increased. Some soft shell tents can also have annexes that allow you to house an entire family within one shared space. 

So, you need to make sure you pay attention to how much interior space your roof top tent has because your choices will be very different if you’re shopping for an entire family as opposed to if you’re shopping for just one person.

Annexes And Awnings

Annexes are an excellent addition to your soft shell roof top tent because they add some extra living space to the tent. You can use that extra living space as a changing room, a separate sleeping space if more people are with you or just a sitting area. You can purchase annexes separately while some tents come with their own. If you want more space in your RTT, investing in an annex might be a good idea.

Awnings are also an excellent investment because they act as shade from the elements such as harsh sunlight, heavy rain or anything else that might be bothering you. Just make sure that if you require these things in your RTT, then the model you buy includes them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since RTTs are a relatively new addition to the market, many people have a lot of questions about their use and purchase. In this section, we will answer the most common questions that people have about roof top tents.

What Is A Roof top Tent?

A roof top tent is a wonderful invention that allows you to set up a soft shell or hard shell tent on top of your car roof. This setup allows you to have a peaceful sleep with lots of ventilation and a comfortable environment.

Is A Roof top Tent Worth It?

If you have an adventurous soul and love overlanding, then a roof top tent is a very good investment for you. It provides comfortable accommodation while you’re away from home and gives you a good night’s sleep without much effort.

Can I Put A Roof top Tent On My Car?

You can definitely put a roof top tent on your car if it is compatible with your car model. You should also make sure that your roof rack can withstand the weight of your roof top tent and an extra person or two on top of it. 

What Roof Rack Should I Get For Use With A Roof top Tent?

To get a roof rack that is compatible with your roof top tent, make sure to get one that has a maximum dynamic weight of 75-100 kg so that you can easily accommodate your roof top tent on top of it. Don’t worry, the maximum static weight of these roof racks is much higher!


Camping and overlanding are fun pastimes when you have the right supplies to keep yourself comfortable while away from home. One of those supplies is a roof top tent for your car. RTTs are an excellent investment for people who enjoy staying in the wilderness and getting close to nature. 

If you’re looking for a roof top tent for yourself or your family but don’t know what specifications to look out for, don’t worry. This roof top buyer’s guide is all you’re going to need to buy a great RTT for yourself!