When you’re looking for an easy and efficient way to set up camp on the go, it doesn’t get much better than a rooftop tent. Over the last few years, these tents have become increasingly popular, and it is not hard to see why.
One of the most awkward and cumbersome aspects of camping has always been the often-infuriating process of setting up your tent. All of that pain and annoyance is taken away with the rooftop options, and a hard shell gives you much more protection from the wind and rain, but how much is one of these tents likely to set you back?
You can expect to pay somewhere between $3000 and $4000 for a new, high-quality hard shell rooftop tent. There are cheaper options on the market that are more in the region of $2500, but the quality is significantly less. Soft shell rooftop tents are usually even cheaper, selling for $1200 to $1500, though they are often trickier to set up and offer you less protection overall.
When it comes to buying a hard shell rooftop tent, the price will obviously be a factor, but there is a reason why some are more expensive than others. What is right for you and your vehicle is not necessarily going to be the cheapest option, and this is definitely an expense worth putting a few extra dollars into.
Is a Rooftop Tent Worth the Price?
If you don’t want to be setting yourself up on the floor every night while you’re out in the world, the rooftop tent is one of the best solutions out there. It’s less expensive than an RV and much more comfortable than sleeping in the backseat, but it does still cost a decent amount of money. The question is, does the benefit match the price?
Most rooftop tents are significantly quicker and easier to set up than their ground-dwelling cousins, with the majority needing little more than to be popped open and propped up. This is especially true for hard shell models as their plastic exterior forms the roof. You can usually keep all of your bedding inside as well, so it is ready to be slept in as soon as it is open.
Having your tent attached to the roof of your vehicle also removes the challenge of finding an appropriate spot alongside your car to set up in. It’s a great option for people who love to be on the road but don’t want to spend hours searching for the perfect plot of soft, flat ground to camp on.
Being off the ground also means that these tents do not suffer when the grass is wet, or the rain starts coming down heavily – you are not going to wake up with a stream running through the middle of your bed. It gives you a sense of security as well because, being risen off the ground, you are free from creepy crawlies and other unwanted night-time intruders.
Disadvantages of Having a Rooftop Tent
The two main disadvantages of using a rooftop tent are the cost and the weight. Even the cheapest rooftop tents are going to be noticeably more expensive than a traditional ground tent, and they do add a significant amount of weight to your car. The average hard shell weighs between 130 lbs and 180 lbs, and even soft shell versions usually weigh between 100 lbs and 150 lbs.
Your sleeping quarters are tied to your vehicle with a rooftop tent as well, so every time you want to take a drive you will need to break camp, and you can’t take it with you on a hike. It is much less of a hassle than putting away a ground tent every day, but it can still take up a bit of time.
Additionally, there is always going to be a bit of climbing involved with a rooftop tent, so they are not ideal for people who have difficulty ascending and descending ladders.
Hard Shell vs Softshell Rooftop Tent
Though the hardshell options are almost always more expensive than softshell versions, they do offer significantly more protection against the elements, and they are usually easier to set up as well. In general, hardshell rooftop tents are more sturdy and secure, and they definitely feel like it when you are inside.
The plastic roofing element of a hardshell rooftop tent changes the way that your tent reacts to the weather. There is much less shaking, buffeting and wobbling with these pieces of kit, and they hold up better in strong wind conditions.
If you are looking for a budget option, softshell rooftop tents offer a lot of the same benefits, but they will never be quite as robust and weatherproof.
Softshell rooftop tents do, however, sometimes come in larger sizes, because they can expand more as they open up, but this makes them trickier to set up and put away again.
There is also the option of a hybrid style like the iKamper Skycamp 2.0
Can My Car Support a Hard Shell Rooftop Tent?
If you’re worried about whether your car can handle a rooftop tent, the short answer is yes. There are many rooftop tents that are designed to fit onto practically any make and model of vehicle, from jeeps to SUVs, although not every tent fits every car.
Almost any vehicle with a standard roof can handle a rooftop tent, except for completely bare roofs that have no tracks or rails, meaning they can’t have a roof rack attached. You can even fit one over a car with a sunroof.
One of the main considerations to have in mind when you are buying a rooftop tent is the weight capacity of your car. Each vehicle will have a dynamic weight capacity, which is how much it can handle on the move, and a static weight capacity, which is how much can be on top when it is stationary.
Almost all rooftop tents are attached to the roof rack of your car, and you may choose to buy an aftermarket option that can carry extra weight. Your tent should also have specialized mounting hardware to ensure that it is securely fastened.
Your rooftop tent will also have bars on the base which can’t be too wide apart for your car, and this distance will be listed in the tent’s manual. It’s worth checking the width of your roof rack before you start browsing.