Jun 29, 2023
Best Rooftop Tents 2023
With the surging popularity of overlanding and off-roading, it should come as no surprise that rooftop tents (RTTs) are a popular piece of equipment nowadays. These elevated shelters offer various
With the surging popularity of overlanding and off-roading, it should come as no surprise that rooftop tents (RTTs) are a popular piece of equipment nowadays. These elevated shelters offer various benefits compared to traditional ground tents, including better temperature control for a cooler sleep in summer and warmer rest in winter. They also provide a more comfortable sleeping experience and an added sense of safety from wildlife and neighboring campsites. Today's top models come equipped with features like windows, pockets, plush fabrics and reinforced floors. However, the best rooftop tents share key attributes: They are lightweight, spacious, and, most importantly, provide the comfort needed for you, your family and even your four-legged friend.
Spend every night away from home in comfort with the best rooftop tents.
Rooftop tents, as the name suggests, pack neatly onto the roof of a car or the bed of a truck. They typically fold out or pop up for easy setup, but they will require installation onto your car’s roof, alongside your trusty cargo carrier. RTTs come with a built-in mattress, so you don’t have to pack sleeping pads, sleeping bags or other bedtime essentials when you head out on your adventure.
And the best news is that, with the explosion in RTT interest, there are more options than ever; today, a RTT exists for just about any environment, any family size and any vehicle (yes, even you out there with the Porsche 911). The following eight options represent a nice sampling of what’s available, along with our breakdown of who they’re best for and some of the basic specs to consider with each model.
Tent Style: Pop-up square | Packed Dimensions: 58 x 48 x 16.5 inches | Weight: 114.6 pounds | Sleeping Capacity: 3 people
Yakima has been making car-adjacent products for a long time, and if their success says anything, it’s that they typically do it right. With enough room for three people and four-season protection, the SkyRise HD 3 features a sturdy base, easy installation, plenty of customization options and more. Yakima outfits the exterior with ripstop polyester fabric and a waterproof PU (polyurethane) coating to keep moisture at bay through spring and winter, and a waterproof rainfly adds an additional layer of protection against nasty inclement weather.
Inside, the tent’s unique frame geometry offers plenty of usable space (over 37 square feet, to be exact) while extra-large doors, windows and mesh panels make it incredibly easy to enjoy the view from your perch. A 2.5-inch thick foam pad offers plenty of long-term comfort, and it comes in a removable cover that’s easy to clean when your adventures come to an end.
At $2,499, this isn’t the cheapest RTT on the market, but you get your money’s worth with plenty of sleeping options, improved durability and serviceability.
Tent Style: Pop-up square | Packed Dimensions: 60 x 52 x 14 inches | Weight: 141 pounds | Sleeping Capacity: 3 people
Freespirit Recreation’s High Country Series tent pops out directly over one side of the car to offer more space than many of its competitors. Although that extra space comes at the cost of more weight, it makes for a great winter RTT with the addition of wall insulation, a two-inch EPE foam floor and a 1.5-inch foam mattress, all of which improve comfort, especially in cold weather.
Unlike some RTT that pack into a rather large footprint and open up to offer little more room, the High Country 55-inch tent is quite the opposite. At 55 x 49 inches when closed, it’s small enough to throw on the roof of even smaller SUVs or right into your truck bed with room for other essentials, such an awning or bike rack. When it opens, you’re treated to a spacious mattress that’s 18 inches longer than those found in Freespirit Recreation’s hardshell tents, so there’s plenty of room for extra gear or furry friends that want to cozy up at your feet.
Tent Style: Pop-up hardshell | Packed Dimensions: 62 x 48 x 14 inches | Weight: 114.6 pounds | Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
To be clear, this RTT from 23Zero is a four-season tent that can stand up to snow, rain, hail, gusty winds and whatever else nature throws at it. So why are we recommending it for summer use? Because sunshine. Jonathan Ballesteros, founder of the camp shower brand Geyser Systems, told us: “There's two reasons why we love their roof-top tent. First, their black out tech is hands down the difference-maker. I know that may seem silly, but you will be surprised how many roof top tents miss this mark. It's crazy to me, with summer’s early, bright mornings and late bright evenings, to not have an ability to sleep in a little.” How does this tent provide that? Thanks to LST, or Light Suppression Technology, which is a UV-treated polyurethane coating that blocks up to 15% of the sun’s heat and almost all of its visible light, providing you with a tent interior that’s dark and cool.
Oh, and dry, because when it’s not sunny in summer, it can get really rainy. Ballesteros adds: “Second, these tents are really water tight ... I got to witness this myself at Overland Expo West: Everyone was crushed by a hail and rain storm—it was insane. I saw tents close up and many people went to hotels for the weekend, all their gear left behind wet. [But] a rig parked within our booth with an Armadillo [tent] was open the entire time and was dry with no holes... no issues in the midst of heavy rain, wind and hail.” You’ll pay for that sun and rain resistance, to be sure, but it’s worth it for your camping comfort.
Front Runner Outfitters
Tent Style: Pop-up square | Packed Dimensions: 52.4 x 49 x 13 inches | Weight: 93 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 2-3 people
Choosing a Front Runner tent unlocks an ecosystem of add-ons and options to let you build out your rig, which can be a definite added value. But even without the brand’s roof racks, cargo boxes and off-grid accessories, this particular setup features a mattress that doesn’t take up all the interior space, so there’s room for smaller items like shoes or a small bag of essentials. In spite of the fact that this tent weighs a mere 93 pounds, it holds up just fine to wind and rain, making it an ideal option for those looking to shave a few pounds.
However, it won’t hold up to the element of time quite as well: the overall build is not as tough as, say, a Yakima option, so factoring in longevity will be key. The tent features an aluminum frame and full-cover rainfly, but the tent’s poly-cotton ripstop construction isn’t indestructible, especially with longterm exposure to high and low temps and UV light. That said, this tent does come with a high-density foam mattress, plenty of windows, hanging pockets and all the universal mounting equipment you could ever need to install this rig on your car, truck or SUV.
Tent Style: Pop-up square with vestibule | Packed Dimensions: 48 x 56 x 12 inches | Weight: 127 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 3 people (plus dogs)
Much like Yakima, Thule is a trusted and reliable name in car gear, with a roster of excellent RTTs, including this version that adds an adjacent zip-attached vestibule to create another 50+ square feet of space for you, your gear and/or your four-legged friends. (Technically speaking, you could use the removable annex just to store equipment, at which point there’s likely enough space in the tent for your pooch, but the additional space is a welcome feature nevertheless. And sometimes, even dog lovers want to sleep sans canine.)
As far as fabrics and features go, the tent is made from a combination of polyester cotton and ripstop, so it should be able to handle casual wear and tear through four seasons. Various windows and mesh panels make it easy to enjoy the landscape from above, and they can also increase airflow when you’re camping in warm weather.
The tent comes with a comfy mattress and easy set-up process that takes mere minutes to deploy. Like so many other Thule products, the installation manual is terrible, so be prepared to head over to YouTube to learn from others who’ve installed it successfully. And while it’s a bit pricey, you can find this tent on sale every now and then and save a few hundred bucks, so check back from time to time if you’re browsing more casually.
Tent Style: Slim pop-up square | Packed Dimensions: 65 x 56 x 16 inches | Weight: 170 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 3-4 people
Smittybilt is a lesser-known name in the RTT space, but the four-wheel drive lifestyle brand makes solid tent options at a more reasonable price point than many of its competitors. Case in point, the extra-large version of the Gen2 Overlander Tent offers an astonishing amount of room with far more physical space than most rooftop tents, but it costs less than many of its counterparts—and it’s a lower price than almost any tent we know of that rivals it in size. Of course, all that space makes for a heavier, bulkier stored footprint that requires at least two people to get it on or off a vehicle, but it’s a worthwhile trade if you’re in need of a king size bed and don’t feel like going over budget. Once installed, the RTT folds in and out quite easily and it offers all of the weatherproofing you’ll need to enjoy three-season camping, or even four season adventures in many climates.
Completely self-contained, all the bedding and accessories store inside the tent when it’s not in use, freeing up critical storage space in your rig and saving time when it comes to packing the tent away. Because Smittybilt has an established history building overland equipment beyond tents, this RTT comes with durable hardware, including stainless steel hinges and steel rainfly poles, as well as an aluminum telescoping ladder that makes it easy to get in and out of the tent in seconds. For the total package, it’s a solid value with a good range of customization options within the Smittybilt ecosystem.
Tent Style: Pop-up square | Packed Dimensions: 50 x 43 x 10 inches | Weight: 98 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 2 people
Compact cars and SUVs with less real estate than would normally be required for a big, burly rooftop tent need something lighter and smaller, and that’s what makes this Thule Tepui Low Pro option such a great choice. At 10 inches tall when closed, it features a very low profile to keep you moving at reasonable highway speeds, and the 98 pound static weight is very manageable for two people to handle, or even for one rather fit and enterprising individual.
Inside, the domed canopy makes it easy to enjoy the space without hitting your head and an assortment of windows offer loads of natural light. The tent’s thermoplastic materials are both durable and 100% recyclable, and weather protection allows all manner of moisture to roll off the tent without soaking the interior.
Because this is a Thule x Tepui tent, you can expect it to be durable and capable despite the fact that it’s so compact and simple at heart.
Tent Style: Side pop-up | Packed Dimensions: 57.5 x 55 x 13 inches | Weight: 125 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 2 people
Technically speaking, all of our favorite rooftop tents can safely secure atop the roof of a pickup so long as it has rails, but pickup truck campers often want to attach a tent to the truck bed as opposed to the roof for any number of reasons. With this in mind, the Skycamp Mini 3.0 tent from iKamper is clever in that it packs away at 62 x 60 x 15 inches, ensuring there’s plenty of room in the bed for other off-grid essentials. Designed for two people, it makes use of a hardshell exterior that boosts the design’s durability, and the double-layer shell has air insulation for strength, soundproofing and resistance to condensation.
Inside, you’ll find nearly 30 square feet of space along with two zippered windows, a skylight, blinds and blackout canvas to offer a sleep-ready refuge. Quilted insulation along the interior also traps heat without letting condensation build up, so you’ll never wake in the morning to wet fabrics or suffer from long-term mildew growth as a result of extended use.
Here at Forbes Vetted, we understand the stress and anxiety that comes with purchasing pricey equipment like a rooftop tent. That’s why we strive to offer accurate, trustworthy assessments that are the result of intensive research, check-ins with experts and hands-on testing. Our writers and editors have years of experience writing about a broad range of outdoor gear and equipment and have the background and expertise to help you make the best buying decisions possible.
With decades of camping and outdoor industry experience under our belts, Vetted’s writers and contributors used firsthand experience to create a list of rooftop tents that satisfy most campers. From there, we extensively researched each of the tents in greater detail, poring over specs and features before tapping friends, experts and brand product managers for additional thoughts and feedback. We then cross-referenced that information with hundreds of online reviews from real-world customers—people like you who bought a rooftop tent with their own money and went on to share tales of the user experience.
Keep in mind that the recommendations you see here are always changing. As we test out newly released models, we update this guide regularly to reflect our findings, with the latest update coming at you August 2023.
Ready to invest in a rooftop tent of your very own? Before you do, there are several important variables you should consider to ensure you choose the one that’s right for you, from capacity and vehicle compatibility.
If a rooftop tent doesn’t fit on your vehicle, it won’t serve you for a single second. Ensure that the RTT you’re eyeing is compatible with the make and model of your vehicle, and be sure to check weight limits, roof rack compatibility and installation requirements. Most rooftop tent manufacturers allow you to plug in the year, make and model of your vehicle to determine whether or not it’s compatible with a specific tent.
The size and capacity of a rooftop tent will influence whether or not it meets your needs. Consider the tent's size in terms of sleeping capacity (number of occupants) and overall dimensions when folded and unfolded. Make sure it provides enough space for your intended use.
Read reviews and check out tents in-person whenever possible to evaluate the design’s insulation and ventilation properties. A solid rooftop tent should eliminate condensation and promote airflow to keep occupants comfortable.
If a rooftop tent is difficult to install, there’s a greater chance that you won’t want to use it. Consider how easy it is to set up and take down the tent, and make note of whether or not you need a second set of hands to help you do so.
The weight of a RTT affects not only your vehicle's handling and fuel efficiency but its support as well. You should first invest in a roof rack setup that supports the weight of a tent, and the number occupants that will be sleeping in it.
Keep an eye out for waterproof and weather-resistant materials, sturdy zippers and a rainfly to keep you dry. Some rooftop tents are designed to combat rain, sleet and snow, while others will serve you only when the sun is out. Consider when and where you intend to use your rooftop tent, as this will dictate how much weather resistance it needs.
Read user reviews and expert opinions to gauge a tent's long-term durability and performance. If reviews suggest the tent will last years or seasons to come, it’s a good sign that the tent is durable and ready for all your adventures.
Rooftop tents can get hot, especially in warm or scorching summer weather. Because they’re positioned on top of your vehicle, they’re more exposed to direct sunlight and absorb heat from the roof of your vehicle. With that said, most rooftop tents offer ventilation features such as windows, vents or mesh panels that promote airflow and temperature regulation, and seeing as they are elevated, these tents are in prime position to benefit from the breeze—that’s a factor to note when you park your vehicle and pitch your elevated dwelling.
Yes, rooftop tents are warm in winter, especially when you compare them to a traditional ground tent. Thicker insulated walls, superior ventilation and the fact that the tent is elevated off the ground all contribute to a rooftop tent’s warmth in winter. That said, if you want to make your rooftop tent a truly cozy space come winter, be sure to outfit it with other cold weather equipment, such as a cold-weather sleeping bag or camping blanket.
It comes as no surprise that a rooftop tent positioned on top of your vehicle will result in slightly higher fuel consumption when compared to not using one. The added weight and wind resistance of the tent will increase drag and reduce fuel efficiency, especially at higher speeds. And the exact amount of additional fuel consumption will depend on several factors such as the weight and design of the rooftop tent, your vehicle's aerodynamics, driving conditions and your driving habits. Some estimates suggest that using a rooftop tent can increase fuel consumption by around 10-20% on average.
With that said, the added fuel cost may be offset by the savings in accommodation expenses. If you use the rooftop tent instead of staying in hotels or rentals, there’s a good chance you’ll still wind up saving money despite the additional fuel consumption. Just be sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape before you decide to carry a rooftop tent.Best Rooftop Tent Overall:Best Rooftop Tent For Winter:Best Rooftop Tent For Summer: Best Lightweight Rooftop Tent:Best Rooftop Tent For Dogs:Best Budget Rooftop Tent:Best Low-Profile Rooftop Tent:Best Truck Tent: Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleeping Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style: Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleeping Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleeping Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Packed Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Why Trust Forbes VettedHow We Chose The Best Rooftop Tents