Is A Rooftop Tent Worth It?


Rooftop tents are becoming more and more popular. But you might wonder if a rooftop tent is worth it?

A Rooftop tent is worth it when you want to go camping and travel in your own car. Rooftop tents are the in-between option next to a regular tent and an RV. Traveling with a Rooftop tent has a lot of advantages. Rooftop tents are much cheaper than an RV, easy to set up and have a comfortable sleeping option a few feet above the ground. 

After a year of traveling with a rooftop tent, I can definitely answer, Yes! To that question. Let me explain why. 

We travel around with a hard shell pop-up rooftop tent on our small Toyota Yaris. Last year we did a complete tour through Europe and Morocco. We’ve even been to the Sahara in Morrocco with our small car! (RTT’s For The Win! – Yes, we’re enthusiasts!)

There are many advantages of traveling around with a rooftop tent on top of your car. In this article, I’ll tell you much more why a rooftop tent is worth your investment for your next camping and travel adventure. I’ll also give you an insight into the disadvantages of traveling with a rooftop tent (surprisingly, there are a few). Are you ready to find out more? Let’s dig in! 

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Rooftop tent worth it

Different Kind Of Rooftop Tents

There are many Rooftop Tents available on the market, so it can be overwhelming picking that one rooftop tent that fits most to your wishes. When you start learning more about rooftop tents, you quickly find out that there are basically two kinds of rooftop tents. 

Rooftop tents with a hard-top that opens like a pop-up, and rooftop tents with a soft shell, that often opens like a canopy (sideways). Within those two basic tents, you’ll find hundreds, maybe thousands of different models. 

Hard-Top Rooftop Tents

Hard-top rooftop tents are often opening via a pop-up system with gas springs. The biggest advantage of this system is that when you open the tent, it pops-up in seconds. Setting up a tent was never that easy! 

We’re using a hard-top rooftop tent, and it is perfect! I really love the easy way of setting up the tent. Also, we can use the tent as an extra storage box while being on the road. When we close the tent, we can leave our bedding inside, and it even fits our foldable camping chairs and table. 

Many hard-top pop-up tents have this opportunity. It is perfect when you’re driving a smaller car (like we do with our Toyota Yaris) and can use some extra storage space while being on the road. Putting the stuff, you don’t use on the road inside the tent creates a lot of space inside the car! 

The only downside of a hard-top rooftop tent is that most tent only fits 2 persons. Because it opens with a pop-up mechanism, the tent is almost always over the full length of the car. And therefore, the sleeping area is relatively small. 

There are hard-top tents that open like a canopy and fit more persons. However, the measurements and weight of these models are different. Thus they’re not suitable to fit on top of every car. 

The maximum dynamic weight limit is different for each car. It is the most essential factor to know to decide if a rooftop tent fits on the roof of your car. I’ll explain more about the maximum dynamic weight limit in this article

Soft Shell Rooftop Tents

When you first think of a rooftop tent on top of a car, you probably have that image in mind of a four-wheel-drive with a soft shell rooftop tent on the roof. It’s basically how it all started. Today rooftop tents became popular for every traveler, and you’ll have many soft shell roof top tents that easily fit on top of a regular car. 

I never used a softshell rooftop tent while camping, but probably soon, I’ll buy a new rooftop tent. Not sure it’s going to be a soft shell yet, but most softshell tents are bigger tents. Thus they have extra space for more people, and because our family is getting bigger in a few months, we’re looking for a tent with more space. So we can keep traveling in the way we love most. 

Softshell rooftop tents are known to be a larger tent, and they’re often lighter in weight. Which means they can fit on many cars. Most softshell tent open like a canopy (sideways), which creates that extra sleeping space inside. 

Setting up a soft shell roof top tent is not that quick as with a pop-up rooftop tent. However, with most softshell rooftop tents, setting up the tent is still a matter of minutes. 

So, you can sleep with more people in a softshell rooftop tent. Still, the most significant disadvantage is that you can’t use it as an extra storage box while being on the road. In many soft shell tents, it is possible leaving your bedding while folding the tent. But any other extra stuff, like a foldable chair or a camping table, won’t fit. Simply because of the canopy system, there isn’t a lot of extra space left while closing the tent. 

The biggest difference with rooftop tents is the case and the way the rooftop tent opens. Of course, there are also many differences in size (how many people fit), weight (does it fit on every car). Level of comfort (what kind of mattress), and tent material (weatherproof). Those factors are too much in detail for known. Still, important things to know when comparing different rooftop tents before buying. 

Average Costs Of A Rooftop Tent

There are a lot of different models available on the market, prices for a new tent vary between 900 and 4000 US Dollars. On average, you’ll pay around 2000 US Dollars for a new rooftop tent. This is without the necessary roof rack or roof bars, which you need to mount the rooftop tent on top of your car. 

Also, when you buy extra accessories like an awning, a shoe rack, or a thicker mattress, the total cost will be higher. 

The most expensive rooftop tents available on the market are the rooftop tents from Ikamper. Rooftop tents from Ikamper comes in different models, and costs around 4000 US Dollars. Ikamper might be one of the most expensive in the market at the moment. However, they’re also known as having the best quality. We never used an Ikamper rooftop tent ourselves, but when you search for their customer reviews, you’ll find a lot of positives reactions. People that are using Ikamper rooftop tents are particularly positive about the weather resistance, easy to set up, and sleeping comfort of the rooftop tent. 

Thule, the Scandinavian brand known for their quality roof racks, also makes rooftop tents. Their brand, which is known as Thule Tepui Explorer, is much cheaper. Around 900 US Dollars. These tents are also known for their good quality but are a bit smaller, and less easy setting up. 

Buying a rooftop tent doesn’t have to be expensive. You must know what you want to do with the rooftop tent. Where you want to go camping, which kind of weather, and for how long your trip is going to be. When known these details, it gets much easier to select a rooftop tent.

Recommended Rooftop Tents

There are many brands and variations in rooftop tents available on the market. So it can be overwhelming choosing that one rooftop tent that fits your wishes the most. 

We made a selection of different rooftop tents, which makes it easier for you to choose the right one. 

Yakima SkyRise 

This Soft Top Rooftop Tent is lightweight, around 115 pounds (51 kilograms), and fits up to 3 persons! 

Smittybilt Rooftop Tent

An all-weather tent, often used for offroading camper experiences. Not very lightweight, 143 pounds (65 kilograms), so it won’t fit on top of every car. Ideal tent when you’re driving an SUV or larger car. 

Tepui LoPro Rooftop Tent

When it comes to lightweight, soft top rooftop tents, the Tepui Rooftop Tents are one of the best in the market. The tent only weighs 120 pounds (55 kilograms), and therefore ideal to fit on top of almost every car. 

Rooftop Tent Accessories

Annex Tent

An extra tent that connects to your rooftop tent is ideal when traveling for a longer time. The annex can function as a small living room where you can relax, enjoy your diner, and you can use it as a changing room. 

Tent Lamps

Rooftop Tents doesn’t have standard lighting inside, so you need to make sure to arrange that for yourself. However, when camping, you don’t want to bring that much stuff, so I would recommend using these batteries powered LED lights. Ideal when you want to read a book in your tent. 

Travel Hammock

This lightweight travel hammock from La Siesta is the best hammock you can bring on your travels. It’s very small, made of parachute fiber, and easy to mount. The perfect lounge accessory every traveler needs!

There are a lot of things you can do to make your rooftop tent more comfortable during traveling. Find out more in our article How Can I Make My Rooftop Tent More Comfortable.

Renting A Rooftop Tent

When you don’t want to but a Rooftop tent, the other option is renting one. Maybe for a short camping trip, so you can try it out. And learn if rooftop tent camping is something that you like. You can always buy a rooftop tent later. 

Renting a rooftop tent costs between 125 and 200 US Dollars a week. This is not including a rental car. A massively cheap option, when you compare it with renting an RV. 

I love this option when we’re visiting a country on another continent. We chose this option when we traveled throughout Australia. It was our first experience traveling with a rooftop tent, and we fell in love right away. It is our favorite way of traveling ever since! 

Another great option, when you’re eagerly buying a cheaper rooftop tent, is looking for a used one. There are actually many to find. Most of the rooftop tents are older rental tents, often still in perfect quality, and available for a much lower price compared with a new one. It can save you sometimes 40% in price! 

Does A Rooftop Tent Fit On A Regular Car?

It is a question that many people ask, does a rooftop tent fits on top of a regular car? Most rooftop tents fit perfectly on regular cars! However, you must make sure that you don’t exceed the maximum dynamic weight limit. 

The exact maximum dynamic weight limit varies per car and can be found in the driver’s manual. On average, the dynamic weight limit for regular cars is 75 kilograms. 

Most rooftop tents weigh much lower than that, so don’t worry. The weight limit is often not a deal-breaker when deciding to buy a rooftop tent. There’s also a difference between dynamic weight and static weight. 

The dynamic weight limit is the maximum weight you can load on top of the car while driving. The static weight limit is the weight limit while standing in park mode (on the campsite, for example). The static weight limit is, on average, 4x the dynamic weight limit. These limits differ because when you’re not driving, the weight is more evenly divided over the whole car, and thus the roof can hold more. 

I explain more about the weight limits, and other facts in our article Can You Put A Rooftop Tent On Any Car?

Camping With A Rooftop Tent

One might ask, is camping with a rooftop tent on top of your car really so much different than camping with a regular tent? It is a fair question, and actually camping with a rooftop tent is not that much different. Then again, each form of camping is still camping. Whether you’re camping in an RV, with a tent, a rooftop tent, or something else. But there are some differences in convenience, luxury, and also the form of traveling. 

Traveling with a rooftop tent is more convenient, that’s for sure. When you go camping with a rooftop tent, you have a more comfortable place to sleep. Not only because most rooftop tents have a very comfortable mattress. Also because you sleep a few feet of the ground. High and dry, no snakes or other small animals sneaking into your tent. And no uncomfortable cold or wet floor where you need to put your tent. Everything is on top of your car. A Mobile Penthouse is a regular nickname of rooftop tents! 

I feel that there are a lot of advantages to camping with a rooftop tent when you camp it with a regular tent. A rooftop tent is easier to set up. You have a lot more space in most tents. And often you can leave your bedding and other luggage in the rooftop tent while driving, which frees up a lot of space in the car! 

Rooftop tent traveling changed my whole perspective on camping. I was actually not a fan at all of the camping. I really hate sleeping on the ground. It’s always cold, or wet, or bumpy. It’s just not my thing. But I love being outside and staying in nature. Rooftop Tents are for us the perfect solution because I feel that an RV is a bit too expensive. And I like that we can drive everywhere we want with our rooftop tent on top of our car. 

Rooftop Tent vs. RV

Camping with an RV is much more luxurious when you compare it with a rooftop tent. There’s simply more space in an RV. But RV’s are also much more expensive, both to purchase, and with maintenance. 

Another big advantage of traveling with a rooftop tent is that you’re much more mobile than traveling with an RV. The mobility is, for many people, an important factor in choosing a rooftop tent. It’s much easier to drive around cities or small towns. You can find a parking spot almost everywhere, simply because you drive around in a regular car, and are not limited to designated RV spots. 

And then there are the costs. An average RV costs around 15000 US Dollars, and that’s cheap! Even the most expensive rooftop tent from Ikamper is less expensive, with a price of 4000 US Dollars. 

The fact that an RV is more luxurious than a rooftop tent is undeniable. When traveling with an RV, you have a lot more living space. Many people like the fact that an RV feels like ‘a home on wheels.’ I completely understand that. Sometimes an RV is even more luxurious than a standard home! Many RV’s have a large kitchen, a big television screen, and a large lounge area. 

But we all have those things while traveling with a rooftop tent as well! 

Rooftop Tents and Luxury

Maybe I’m a typical camper fanatic, after all. Camping with a large RV feels a bit too luxurious for me, but then again. When someone would give me a luxury RV, I won’t refuse it! 😉

However, we have a lot of ‘luxury items’ with us while traveling with our rooftop tent and our Toyota Yaris. 

We have our own ‘kitchen,’ a one-pit camping stove, but I can make delicious fresh pasta and other meals in our kitchen! 

Our lounge area is our lightweight travel hammock that fits 2-persons. And we also have a Lamzac Original from Fatboy, which is an inflatable lounge seat. And our TV? Well, there’s Wi-Fi in most camping places, so we can use our laptops as a television. And otherwise, we’re just offline, playing board games, and enjoying the place without the internet distractions. 

However, it is not always picture-perfect while traveling with a rooftop tent. There are, in fact, a few disadvantages which you need to know about. 

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Disadvantages Of A Rooftop Tent

Well, when the weather is bad, like with a lot of rain and wind, it is not ideal to camp with a rooftop tent. You don’t have a good place to relax. Of course, you can sit under an awning if you have one, but I think, in this case, an RV is more convenient. But then again, it’s also a bit of the charm traveling with a rooftop tent. It can’t always be perfect, right? 

While traveling with a rooftop tent in a regular car, you don’t have your own toilet with you. Which can be a hassle in some countries when you want to stay overnight at free camping spots. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, at many free places, you need to be a self-contained ‘camper’ to stay overnight. Meaning you need to have your own toilet. If not, you’re obliged to camp at an official campsite. Of course, you can always try and camp overnight at quiet places, but there’s a risk you can get a fine. 

The positive side is that it’s much easier to get to really remote places (unless you need a four-wheel-drive). Thus it’s easier to find unique and secluded camping spots. 

You can’t bring a lot of stuff while traveling with a rooftop tent and a regular car. I’m not actually sure if that’s I real disadvantage, but maybe that’s because I like the more minimalistic approach. However, the storage space in a regular car is limited, so that’s something you need to deal with. 

I actually can’t think of any other disadvantages of traveling with a rooftop tent at the moment. To come to a conclusion, I feel traveling with a rooftop tent is a unique way of getting around. A rooftop tent is absolutely worth it! We actually wrote the article Top 10 advantages Of A Rooftop Tentwhich you might find interesting. 

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Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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