Jun 17, 2023
Best Rooftop Tents 2023
Given the increased popularity of overlanding and all things off-roading, it should come as no surprise that more people are gravitating towards rooftop tents (RTTs). These off-the-ground sleeping
Given the increased popularity of overlanding and all things off-roading, it should come as no surprise that more people are gravitating towards rooftop tents (RTTs). These off-the-ground sleeping habitats have distinct advantages, including cooler sleeping in the summer, warmer sleeping in the winter and a generally more comfortable slumber experience compared to their traditional camping tent counterparts. While today’s rooftop models feature any number of windows, pockets and plush fabrics, the best rooftop tents should be lightweight, spacious and most importantly, comfortable enough to support you, your family and even a furry companion.
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 require installation onto your car’s roof rack beforehand). Many RTTs come with a built-in mattress so you don’t have to pack sleeping pads along with your sleeping bags or quilt when you head out on your adventure.
The good news is, with the explosion in RTT interest, there are more options than ever and a RTT exists for just about any vehicle, need and environment (yes, even you out there with the Porsche 911). The following seven 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 | 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 | 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 your roof or 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.
Front Runner Outfitters
Tent Style: Pop-up square | Dimensions: 52.4 x 49 x 13 inches | Weight: 93 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 2-3 people
Investing in a Front Runner tent unlocks an ecosystem of add-ons and options to build out your rig, which some will consider an added value. But even beyond 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. What’s more, the unique material and shape of the tent also hold up well to wind resistance, and that’s in spite of the fact that this tent weighs a mere 93 pounds, making it an ideal option for those looking to shave a few pounds.
However, the overall build is not as tough as, say, a Yakima option, so factoring in longevity will be key. The tent still features an aluminum frame and full-cover rainfly, but the tent’s poly-cotton ripstop construction isn’t indestructible. 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 | Dimensions: 48 x 56 x 12 inches | Weight: 127 pounds | Sleep Capacity: 3 people
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 and your four-legged friends. Technically speaking, you could use the removable annex 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.
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, but they 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. While it’s already a solid value, you can find this tent on sale every now and then to save a few hundred bucks.
Tent Style: Slim pop-up square | 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, but it costs less than many of its counterparts. 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 car, 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 with all of the weatherproofing you’ll need to enjoy three-season camping.
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, this tent comes with really 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 | 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 will 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.
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 | 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 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 used firsthand experience to conjure up a list of rooftop tents that would make the cut. From there, we extensively researched each of the products, poring over specs and features before tapping friends and the 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.
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 March 2023.
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. It's also worth noting that the temperature inside your rooftop tent will depend on several factors that include the tent material, insulation and ambient temperature outside.
Most rooftop tents weigh more than 100 pounds and require bolting to your car’s roof rack, so it’s not as simple as quickly removing the tent from your roof as soon as you get home. Most people leave their rooftop tent attached to their roof throughout the camping season, but if it’s going to be awhile before you head out again, you’ll probably want to remove the tent and store it in your garage or home. Doing so will not only extend the life of the tent, but also save money on fuel by eliminating the aerodynamic drag on the roof of your car.
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, the 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 Lightweight Rooftop Tent:Best Rooftop Tent For Dogs:Best Budget Rooftop Tent:Best Low-Profile Rooftop Tent:Best Truck Tent: Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleeping Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style: Dimensions:Weight:Sleeping Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Tent Style:Dimensions:Weight:Sleep Capacity:Pros:Cons:Why Trust Forbes VettedHow We Chose The Best Rooftop Tents