Gear

10 Best Hard-Shell Rooftop Tents for Overlanding

by Arthur McMahon

best hard shell roof top tents
Photo: Adrian Hodge

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Make road trips more fun with the comfort and convenience of a hard-shell rooftop tent.

Hard-shell rooftop tents are a relatively new piece of gear on the North American overlanding (remote road-tripping) scene, but adventurous vehicular explorers have been using them for decades in other parts of the world.

As a result, many of the top brands come from overseas. However, a few notable local brands are making a name for themselves in the states, too.

Most vehicles are perfectly capable of carrying most rooftop tents. Some heavy-duty models require extensive hardware and big trucks to carry them, but there are plenty that fit well on modern crossovers and sedans.

The best adventure vehicle is the one you already have, and there’s certainly a hard-shell rooftop tent on the list below to perfectly fit your car.

Those considering upgrading to a new overlanding vehicle will want to check out the 13 best adventure vehicles for hikers and backpackers.

Best Hard-shell Rooftop Tents

When shopping for a hard-shell rooftop tent, there are a few technical details to consider.

Be sure to choose a rooftop tent that will fit your vehicle. Different vehicles have different load (weight) ratings for how much cargo they can carry on their roofs.

Likewise, different factory-made and aftermarket roof racks and crossbars have their own weight limits; even if your car holds 1,000 pounds, you can’t load that much if your crossbars are only rated to 500 pounds.

Next, consider how many people you’ll need to comfortably sleep in the tent. Most rooftop tents fit two people, but some can accommodate three or four with relative comfort

Below, you’ll find essential technical specifications for each tent to help you make an informed decision.

The best hard-shell rooftop tents:

1. Best Two-Person Rooftop Tent: Eezi-Awn Stealth

Eezi-Awn Stealth

What you’ll dig: The patented mechanisms make setup a breeze and create a spacious sleeping area.

Dollar for dollar, there’s no better rooftop tent for couples than the Eezi-Awn Stealth. The powder-coated aluminum outer shell is both durable and lightweight, and the interior is nearly as inviting as your bedroom at home.

Even if you’re not quite ready to sacrifice your home bed just yet, you’ll likely agree that the Eezi-Awn Stealth’s comfort goes above and beyond any ground tent. It provides the best sleeping experience of any rooftop tent on this list.

Stainless steel latches lock the tent down tight while your vehicle is in motion and its slim, aerodynamic shape is ideal for travel at highway speeds. When you’re ready to set up camp, all you have to do is flip the four latches and give it a push. The gas struts and scissor mechanism will do the rest.

At 87 inches long (including the raised footwell provided by the scissor lift) there’s plenty of room for even the tallest campers to stretch out. At 57 inches wide, you can fit three people side-by-side, but it’s more comfortably sleeping two with room to spare.

The two side entryways feature privacy panels and mosquito netting with a third entryway in the rear you can open as a sun-blocking awning.

One of the best features is the built-in collapsible aluminum ladder that conveniently stores away underneath the tent. Other awesome features include integrated USB ports, LED interior lighting, and a quilted mattress with piped edging.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 220 pounds
  • Mattress: 3.5″ thick quilt-top high-density foam
  • Person capacity: 3 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 87″ x 57″ x 12″
  • Dimensions opened: 87″ x 57″ x 56″

2. Best Four-Person Rooftop Tent: iKamper Skycamp 2.0

IKamper Skybox 2.0

What you’ll dig: The folding storage design means this tent is compact while driving but expansive when at camp.

Best for family camping trips and group outings, the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 features a fold-out king-size mattress that can comfortably accommodate up to four people. The double-layered and fiber-reinforced shell is insulated with air to keep your crew comfy during the night.

A quilted interior layer of insulation adds to the coziness and the two insulating layers protect campers not just from extreme temperatures, but from sound as well. it’ll mute the sounds of rain, hail, and wind so you can sleep peacefully.

Improved in many ways over the original Skycamp, this 2.0 model is a marvel of rooftop tent engineering. It is exceptionally lightweight for its size. This tent can be carried by any vehicle and works with most of the common factory and aftermarket roof crossbars.

The tent’s fold-out design means it’s compact during road travel, keeping it within an acceptable width for even the smallest cars to haul. When unfolded, though, the Skycamp 2.0 expands into a backcountry palace.

Setup and tear down both take less than a minute, and the tent has a sturdy fold-out telescoping ladder plus a fold-out honeycomb aluminum floor panel. The fold-out floor panel expands the overall floor space to make room to sleep four people.

You can buy a variety of additional accessories to enhance this tent’s capabilities and comfort. You can expand your tent with an additional annex, reduce wind noise and increase your mpg with a wind deflector, or create an organized space for dirty hiking boots with a shoe rack.

If you really like the features of the iKamper Skycamp 2.0, but don’t quite need enough space to sleep four people, check out the two-person iKamper Skycamp Mini.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 160 pounds
  • Mattress: 1.8” thick memory foam
  • Person capacity: 4 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 86″ x 54.5″ x 12.5″
  • Dimensions opened: 86″ x 82.5″ x 43.5″

3. Most Versatile Rooftop Tent: Tepui Tents Hybox

Tepui Hybox 2

What you’ll dig: Not only is this a fantastic rooftop tent, but it pulls double duty as a rooftop storage container.

Tepui Tents markets the Hybox as the first hybrid rooftop tent and cargo box. It sleeps two people can hold 23 cubic feet of gear, clothes, or whatever else you need to store when collapsed during travel.

When used as storage, the Hybox conveniently opens at the front or the back for easy access to your gear. The fact that it works well as a gear container is great, but the tent’s performance is what lands it on this list. Tepui makes the shell with durable and abrasion-resistant ABS plastic and a welded aluminum substructure. It has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Inside, quilted padding on the ceiling provides insulation and sound deadening while a 3-inch-thick foam mattress fills the entire floor space. The mattress comes wrapped in a removable cotton cover.

The waterproof canopy has two windows and two entryways, all of which are lined with no-see-um mesh bug protection. The entryway doors can convert into canopy awnings with the provided window spring rods.

To use the Hybox for storage, pull out the bedding and unzip the canopy, then reverse the process to turn it back into a tent. The transformation between the two modes is as simple as that.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 155 pounds
  • Mattress: 3” thick cotton-covered foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 84″ x 55″ x 13″
  • Dimensions opened: 84″ x 55″ x 43″

4. Best Value Rooftop Tent: Danchell Outdoor Rooftop Tent

Danchell Outdoor

What you’ll dig: The budget-friendly price and quality construction will put this tent on top of any coin-conscious consumer’s shopping list.

An affordable tent that shares many of the features found on more premium models, the Danchell Outdoor Rooftop Tent provides the best value of any tent on this list. The price is about as low as you’ll find for a hard-shell rooftop tent, and the craftsmanship is top-notch.

The ABS plastic exterior shell is as durable and aerodynamic as any of its competitors, and the floor is strong synthetic wood paneling. The canvas tent has quality stitched seams, weatherproofing seals, and robust zippers.

There are two doorways with awnings and two windows, all with optional no-see-um mesh liners that provide ventilation while keeping bugs out. The tent comes with a comfortable 3-inch-foam mattress and there’s enough room to add an additional mattress topper.

At 150 pounds, this tent won’t exceed the load limits of most common roof racks and crossbars. Set up is quick and easy, but there are no gas or electric struts to help you lift the tent into place. A little bit of muscle is required, though it shouldn’t be difficult for an average-sized adult to erect the tent in a matter of seconds.

included with the tent are interior gear pockets, a gear loft, and storage hooks to help you keep your space tidy, and an aluminum telescoping ladder makes entry and exit a breeze.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 150 pounds
  • Mattress: 3.15” thick foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 83″ x 50″ x 11″
  • Dimensions opened: 83″ x 50″ x 35″

5. Best Luxury Rooftop Tent: Bundutec BunduTop Super King

Bundutec BunduTop Super King

What you’ll dig: An electric motor raises and lowers the tent at a push of a button, and it’s pre-wired for solar panels.

Built to survive the harsh conditions of overlanding in Africa while also providing extreme comfort at camp, the Bundutec BunduTop Super King is a lavish and hard-wearing rooftop tent. If you compared it to an off-road vehicle, this tent would be akin to a Mercedes-Benz G-Class. It’s the ultimate combination of luxury and capability.

The outer shell is raw aluminum. It’s heavy, but it’s also durable and provides the best heat-reflection available in a rooftop tent. But you won’t need to worry about the weight as the tent is raised and lowered with an electric pulley system with the push of a button. And because the tent already has a battery for the motor, Bundutec went ahead and equipped its interior with a 12-volt outlet and LED lighting.

Additionally, the roof is pre-wired for solar paneling. Bundutec couldn’t have made it any easier for campers to power their devices and keep the party going into the night at camp.

They also tested the Riptech ripstop canvas and rubber-coated mesh materials to withstand all sorts of foul weather, including 50 mph winds and heavy snowfall. The foam-backed roof lining helps reduce condensation and a 360-degree rain and shade awning protects the windows and doors from the elements.

The BunduTop comes in the three different sizes, and the Super King, detailed here, is the largest and most expensive. The smaller King and Standard models are more affordable.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 176 pounds
  • Mattress: 4” thick high-density foam
  • Person capacity: 4 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 118″ x 63″ x 12″
  • Dimensions opened: 118″ x 63″ x 40″

The Best of the Rest

The following hard-shell rooftop tents are also noteworthy options. Though they didn’t get a “best of” label, they’re still worth your consideration.

6. Alu-Cab Expedition 3

Alu-Cab Expedition 3

The Alu-Cab Expedition 3 is constructed of aerodynamic, durable aluminum capable of carrying heavy loads. It’s equipped with handy features such as internal USB ports, a 12-volt power socket, a reading light, and an assortment of storage pockets.

This tent will hold up well against extreme temperatures and foul weather. Closed-cell polyethylene foam insulates the roof and floor to keep you cozy, and the waterproofed ripstop fabric walls will keep you dry.

Multiple accessories like rain covers, a roof rack tray, solar panels, and other awesome goodies are available to kit out your tent to meet your specific needs.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 194 pounds
  • Mattress: 3” thick memory foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults, 1 child
  • Dimensions closed: 90.5″ x 55″ x 11″
  • Dimensions opened: 90.5″ x 55″ x 78.5″

7. Autohome AirTop

Autohome Air Top

Priced competitively and loaded with luxury touches, the Autohome AirTop is the right choice for those who want plush comfort without the premium price tag. The fiberglass shell is ultralight but well insulated, and there are multiple color options available.

The acrylic tent fabric is waterproof and exceptionally breathable, featuring entryway rain covers, mosquito nets at every opening, and five windows, three of which can open.

The AirTop comes with a comfortable rubber sponge mattress and plush pillows. There are small, medium, and large sizes available; the tech specs below are for the large.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 170 pounds
  • Mattress: 3” thick high-density rubber sponge
  • Person capacity: 2 adults, 2 children
  • Dimensions closed: 84.5″ x 65″ x 13″
  • Dimensions opened: 84.5″ x 65″ x 33″

8. James Baroud Discovery

James Baroud Discovery

Visibility, ventilation, and versatility are the three Vs of the James Baroud Discovery, though a bonus fourth “V” is apparent in the tent’s triangle-shaped clamshell opening. This is James Baroud’s most compact rooftop tent model and is a very practical choice for most campers.

When erected, this tent provides a sweeping 270-degree view from your pillow. The tent walls are solar-reflective and waterproof aluminized-polyester. Tested to withstand winds of up to 72 mph, this tent is one of the truest all-weather rooftop tents on the market.

Unique to James Baroud tents is a built-in solar-powered electric ventilation fan. When fully charged, the fan can run continuously for up to 24 hours. Additional air vents with inboard dust filters are positioned on the sides of the tent to ensure maximum ventilation.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 145 pounds
  • Mattress: 3” thick high-density foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 79″ x 55″ x 13″
  • Dimensions opened: 79″ x 55″ x 44″

9. Roofnest Sparrow

Roofnest Sparrow

A lightweight rooftop tent, the Roofnest Sparrow is easy to install and won’t dramatically affect your vehicle’s fuel economy. This tent can secure onto standard or aftermarket crossbars on any vehicle.

To make the Sparrow rigidly strong but lighter in weight than much of its competition, Roofnest uses lightweight  plastic to build the exterior shell and reinforces it with fiberglass by hand in high-stress areas.

The exterior features mountain for solar panels and a storage bag mounting platform. Inside, you’ll find a comfortable mattress and an anti-condensation mat. There’s a ceiling gear loft and removable storage pockets that attach to the interior or exterior.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 130 pounds
  • Mattress: 3” thick memory foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 85″ x 50″ x 11″
  • Dimensions opened: 85″ x 50″ x 40″

10. TentBox Hard-Shell Roof Tent

Tentbox Hardshell

Designed to fit nearly any vehicle and accommodate two adults, the TentBox Hard-Shell Roof Tent is ideal for adventurous couples. Its classic design is simple, functional, and reliable.

The durable ABS shell erects easily with the help of air-assisted struts. Setting up the tent takes only 30 seconds, and taking it down is just as quick.

The tent walls are tough ripstop canvas lined with a waterproof membrane. Sealed seams provide for weather protection, the zippers are waterproof, and the tent can withstand winds up to 38 mph.

Tech specs:

  • Weight: 144 pounds
  • Mattress: 2.5” thick memory foam
  • Person capacity: 2 adults
  • Dimensions closed: 85.5″ x 49″ x 11″
  • Dimensions opened: 85.5″ x 49″ x 39″

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