A while back we published a list of our top ten hard shell roof top tents (RTTs), and now we want to highlight their counterparts: soft shell roof top tents. Both types of RTTS have their own unique advantages, so first we will explore some of these differences and then we’ll break down our ten favorite soft shell roof top tents.
Some general benefits of RTTs are that they are much more durable and strong than ground tents, they are designed for quick setup and takedown, and they usually come with built-in mattresses that allow you to store your bedding in place even when the tent is packed away. RTTs also keep you up out of mud and rain puddles, out of reach of critters and creepy crawlies, and off the hard uneven ground.
While hard shell RTTs are generally (but not always) more rugged and sturdy than soft shell RTTs, soft shells have several appealing advantages, including:
- They are generally cheaper than hard shell RTTs.
- They are lighter per square foot of floor space than hard shell RTTs.
- Lighter RTT means better gas mileage.
- Soft shell RTTs are often much bigger than hard shell RTTs, so you can sleep the whole family. Some can even sleep six people.
In no particular order, including a variety of styles and price points…
Here’s our 10 favorite soft shell roof top tents:
1. Eezi-Awn Series 3
Eezi-Awn is a South African company that is among the OGs of modern RTTs. They built their first Series 1 tent, the predecessor of the Series 3, in 1988 and have been producing high-quality tents every since.
The Series 3 tent is constructed of double-stitched rip-stop canvas over aluminum bows, with a base of marine plywood and reinforced beams. It also has a PVC rain fly that is easily deployed or removed. The tent comes with a fully retractable 7.5-foot aluminum ladder and a ratchet-assisted travel cover as well. Eezi-Awn implemented a bungee system to assist with closing the tent as you pack it up.
All of the doors and windows have privacy panels as well as a layer of mosquito netting so you can enjoy a breeze without getting eaten alive. A 2.5-inch-thick mattress keeps you comfortable and large storage pockets on both sides of the tent help keep you organized.
Although the Series 3 is relatively expensive, it’s made with extremely high-quality materials and Eezi-Awn has a proven track record of excellence.
2. Smittybilt Overlander
Smittybilt has established themselves as one of the best budget-friendly options with their Overlander RTT. This soft shell tent comes in both a standard size and an XL option, and each size has a corresponding annex (sold separately) that provides extra living or sleeping space.
The Overlander comes with a high-density foam mattress that’s just over two inches thick. The standard size features a full-size bed that can sleep two or three people while the XL tent has a king-size bed and can sleep three or four people. The standard tent weighs 132 pounds and the XL is 148 pounds.
Both sizes of the Overlander are constructed with heavy-duty rip-stop polyester that has been impregnated with polyurethane to make it waterproof, anodized aluminum frame poles with steel hinges, and built-in mosquito nets. The Overlander comes with a 6.5-foot extendable aluminum ladder that’s rated for up to 265 pounds.
The Overlander also includes convenient features like an interior LED light strip, a cigarette lighter adapter so you can charge devices, a rain fly for stormy days, and an external shoe storage bag so you don’t have muddy shoes sitting around in your sleeping space. Both the tent and the optional annex come with one-year warranties.
Price: Starts at $869.99
3. Tepui Ruggedized Series Kukenam 4
California-based Tepui Tents makes some of the most rugged and tough RTTs in the world. While they also make some ultralight and warm-season RTTs, their Ruggedized Series Kukenam 4 tent offers extreme toughness even in the face of inclement weather and gnarly offroading.
This beefy tent weighs in at 210 pounds but it can sleep four people in a mattress footprint of 72 by 96 inches, which is about 830 square inches larger than a king mattress. This RTT features a half-inch-thick anti-condensation mat underneath a 2.5-inch-thick high-density foam mattress to keep you comfortable and dry even in the most challenging weather situations.
Two screened Sky panels allow you to stargaze when the rainfly isn’t in use.
This Ruggedized Kukenam RTT features added raw aluminum diamond plate panels on the underside to protect your tent from branches, rocks, and other offroad trail hazards. Other features unique to the Ruggedized Series include beefed-up hinges, heavier-duty internal frame elements, dual rods to support the rainfly, and 40% heavier canvas for the canopy.
An 8.5-foot telescoping ladder is included with this RTT, and Tepui also offers some upgrades like a separately sold annex as well as a quilted tent insulator which will keep you extra warm for winter camping.
Due to the heavy weight of this RTT, be sure to check the weight rating of your vehicle before mounting it on your roof rack – most vehicles can only handle 165 on the roof while they are in motion.
4. Tuff Stuff Ranger
The Ranger RTT from Tuff Stuff can sleep two adults in the sleeping area, and the included annex can accommodate a second queen-sized mattress. The Ranger weighs just 135 pounds so it can be mounted on virtually any vehicle that has cross bars.
This tent comes with a 2.75-inch-thick mattress, an outdoor shoe bag, a rain fly, a telescoping ladder, and a storage hammock that can be used either inside or underneath the main tent. The annex room can be used as an additional sleeping space or as a cooking, dining, or hangout space.
The Ranger is constructed from high-quality rip-stop canvas and the rain fly is designed to shed water instantly as well as block about 50% of overhead light. The tent has three windows with awnings as well as no-see-um mesh, and vents near the top for warm air discharge.
While it’s not quite as budget-friendly as the Smittybilt Overlander, the Ranger does come with the annex already included and is still very reasonably priced for a tent that can sleep four people.
5. Treeline Outdoors Tamarack Constellation 4 Season
Treeline Outdoors is a small Canadian company that was founded in 2013 by a group of outdoorsmen after they were trapped in a ground tent overnight by a determined grizzly bear. Not eager to find themselves in that situation again, they began making and selling RTTs.
The Tamarack tent sleeps two or three people and comes in a variety of colors. It weighs 153 pounds which means it can be mounted on essentially any type of vehicle. All of Treeline Outdoors’ fourth-generation tents are designed in collaboration with Goal Zero so they are solar ready and can incorporate any number of solar power components based on your needs.
This RTT also features double skylights, an extremely rugged and lightweight aluminum base, oversized windows with awnings, rubber latches for storing gear like fishing rods or boat paddles, and a utility net on the underside of the tent.
The mattress is 2.5 inches thick and is waterproof so it won’t get damp or moldy. The number of windows and skylights on this RTT makes it feel like you are sleeping under the stars, yet you are on a comfortable mattress and protected from bugs and critters.
6. James Baroud USA Nomad 160
This RTT is a bit of a beast in terms of size. It folds open to be quite large and also includes a massive (although floorless) vestibule area. Depending on how you orient the RTT on your vehicle, you can have the vestibule in the back of your vehicle to allow you to access the back of your SUV or a truck bed, which makes grabbing gear easy and can allow for extra sleeping space.
The Nomad 160 is unique in that it does not require a rain fly, since the aluminized fabric of the tent is already waterproof, UV-resistant, and breathable. It also has a zipperless travel cover that uses an elastic cord, which saves time when you are setting up or packing away the tent.
Finally, it has two telescoping legs that support the tent when it is deployed, so no weight is resting on the ladder, allowing you to detach the ladder and bring it inside the tent to prevent anyone from getting in while you sleep.
Despite its massive size, the Nomad 160 only weighs in at 95 pounds, so it can be mounted on any vehicle and won’t be a major detriment to gas mileage.
7. iKamper X-Cover
iKamper is a newer company based out of South Korea, and they have been making waves in the RTT industry. They make several hard shell RTTs, with the X-Cover their only current soft shell RTT for sale.
The X-Cover can sleep up to four people on the king-size mattress and can be set up in just three minutes. It has a double skylight for prime stargazing at night and plenty of breathability and light during the day. This RTT also comes with aluminum cross bars on top of the closed tent, upon which you can mount racks for things like bikes, paddleboards, and so on.
The racks for these items are not included, and obviously gear needs to be removed in order to deploy the tent. However, this design is helpful if you need to bring lots of big and bulky gear with you.
All of the windows and doors have awnings to keep rain and direct sunlight out in case of extreme weather. The tent can also be used with a separately sold vehicle awning which provides a large shaded and dry space on the ground around your vehicle.
8. Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mt. Shasta
CVT’s Mt. Shasta tent is designed to sleep two people plus a dog or a small child, or you can use the extra room to store gear. It comes in both standard and extended size options, with the standard size weighing in at 98 pounds and the extended version weighing 118 pounds. Either of the sizes can be mounted on nearly any vehicle since they are both lightweight.
This RTT features a 2.5-inch-thick high-density foam mattress with a removable cover, a sliding telescoping aluminum ladder, four internal storage and organizational pockets, shaded windows, and mesh on all the windows and doors. A rain fly is included as well.
This tent is fairly basic but is high quality and perfect for two people who camp casually and don’t have tons of gear. It does not come with an annex, although some of CVT’s larger tents do.
9. ARB Simpson III with Annex
ARB has long been a leader in the overlanding industry. Their Simpson III RTT is no-frills, but it serves the purpose for a relatively low price. It has all the necessary features, including a rain fly, heavy-duty telescoping ladder, high-density foam mattress, a pull-out veranda and attachable annex, insect mesh over all the windows and doors, and internal storage pockets.
This RTT has a bungee-assisted closure system and is designed to mount on ARB’s Roof Rack or an equally load rated set of cross bars, and although it’s rather heavy at 154 pounds, this is still within the load-bearing capability of most vehicles. The Series III of this tent specifically features an updated design with newer and more effective materials that provide better rigidity and water resistance.
The annex that comes with this kit is quite large, providing changing space, additional sleeping capacity, or a small dining area. Shoe bags are also provided to keep mud and dirt out of your sleeping space.
10. 23 Zero Walkabout 87
This RTT is absolutely massive and can sleep five or more people, depending on how cozy you’re willing to get. The sleeping area measures 87 by 96 inches and features a 3-inch-thick mattress with a built-in waterproof base layer. This tent is designed for four-season use, and comes with a snow pole included.
Since this tent is so huge, it weighs in at a hefty 198 pounds, so it’s not recommended to actually mount this on a vehicle’s roof unless it has been substantially reinforced and fitted with a heavy-duty rack. Rather, this type of tent is more suitable for truck bed mounting or on a utility trailer. Considering the size and features of this RTT, it really can’t be beaten for this price point.
The Walkabout 87 is constructed with rip-stop canvas that has light suppression technology, which blocks over 90% of sunlight. This means that you can sleep in late if you want without being woken up by the sun, and it also reduces the interior temperature by about 20% even in full sun.
You can choose to upgrade your RTT by adding an annex or other accessories which are sold separately.
Up Next In Adventure Vehicles: