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What is the Cheapest HARD SHELL Roof Top Tent? (5 Affordable Picks)

What is the Cheapest HARD SHELL Roof Top Tent? (5 Affordable Picks)

A hard shell rooftop tent is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors without the need to find a perfectly flat campsite each night. However, finding a roof top tent, particularly a hard shell model, that’s affordable is no walk in the park.

Hard shell roof top tents are known for their sleek design and ease of use. Unfortunately, they come with a price tag that’s not exactly budget-friendly.

If you’re looking to purchase a new hard shell roof top tent but don’t want to spend your life savings in the process, then we have good news: We’ve put together this list of the 5 most affordable models on the market today.

Coming up, we’ll give you the low down on the cheapest hard shell roof top tents and provide you with some top tips for choosing the best model for your needs.

The 5 Most Affordable Hard Shell Roof Top Tents:

1. Tuff Stuff Alpha II

brown hard shell rtt on silver crossover

Image via Tuff Stuff

  • Price: $2,195.00
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 141 lbs

The cheapest model on our list, the Tuff Stuff Alpha II rings up at just over $2,000 dollars. Although $2,000 is still a sizable chunk of change, it’s a far cry from the nearly $4,000 you’ll be charged for the über-popular iKamper Skycamp.

With the newly released Alpha II, you get a comfortable 2 person sleeping area that sets up in just a few minutes. The shell is made from ABS fiberglass with FRP reinforcements for durability on the road.

Meanwhile, the tent itself is made from a 280g ripstop polyester/cotton fabric and a 210D oxford polyester rainfly. The rainfly is also PU coated to 5000 mm waterproofing for added weather protection in the rain.

Inside the Alpha II, you have a spacious abode with 3 window openings to allow for plenty of airflow. There’s also a skylight with built-in mesh paneling to provide natural light during the day and great stargazing opportunities at night.

Other cool features of the Alpha II include the integrated LED lighting system, which can be set to either amber or white lighting with the flip of a switch. There are also large awnings over 2 of the windows that can be converted into rain covers if the weather decides not to cooperate.

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2. Tuff Stuff Alpha

brown roof top tent on red jeep

Image via Tuff Stuff

  • Price: $2,497.00
  • Sleeping Capacity: 4
  • Weight: 176 lbs

The big sibling to the Alpha II, the original Tuff Stuff Alpha is a 4 person sleeping system that doesn’t break the bank.

This hard stop tent comes with many of the same great features found in the Alpha, but with room for up to 4 adults. At just under $2,500, it’s also one of the best 4 person hard shell roof top tents for the money on the market today.

With this tent, you get an ABS fiberglass shell with FRP reinforcements and a heavy-duty aluminum honeycomb floor. The body of the tent is made from 280g ripstop polyester cotton fabric, which is durable enough for regular use.

To help keep you dry in the rain, Tuff Stuff gave this tent 2 large window awnings which can close up tight to seal out water in wet conditions. There’s also a burly 210D oxford polyester rainfly that’s waterproofed to 5000mm PU for extra weather protection.

Within the tent, there’s plenty of space for everyone to stretch out and relax at night. For hot summer nights, you can open up the 3 mesh windows for ventilation and the overhead skylight for views of the stars.

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3. Silverwing Hard Shell Tent

black and silver roof top tent on white and black suv

Image via Silverwing

  • Price: $2,599.99
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 154 lbs

A classic pop-up hard shell roof top tent, this model from Silverwing provides an affordable and stress-free way to enjoy a road trip.

It offers a spacious 86″x51″ footprint and 90 cubic feet of interior space for maximum livability for up to 2 campers. Moreover, due to the tent’s pop-up design, it can be set up in under 1 minute and packed up in just about 3 minutes to help you make the most of your time on the road.

The tent features an ABS fiberglass hard shell with a reinforced base for durability. Meanwhile, the body is made from a 600D oxford canvas fabric that provides a great mix of ruggedness and breathability.

Once you’re inside the tent, you can relax on the 2.3″ HDF foam mattress and enjoy a breeze through the large mesh windows. There are also a number of different gear organization pockets and hooks inside to help you keep your living space neat and tidy.

Finally, the Silverwing Roof Hard Shell Tent comes with a solar-powered LED lantern and fan built right in for added comfort on the go. 

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4. Freespirit Recreation Odyssey Series Hard Top

black rtt on a silver suv

Image via Freespirit Recreation

  • Price: $2,695.00
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 134 lbs

Freespirit Recreation’s most affordable hard shell roof top tent, the Odyssey Series Hard Top 49″ TL is a solid all-around choice for budget-conscious campers. 

This 2 person tent is designed to fit on top of anything from a mid-size SUV all the way up to a full-size truck bed. It has a 7″ profile when in transport, which makes it among the sleekest roof top tents on the market today.

Thanks to the Odyssey’s gas struts, it can be set up in just a few seconds. Within the tent, there’s a 2″ high-density foam mattress for lounging and relaxation, as well as a built-in USB-powered ultra-bright LED light strip.

The tent comes with Freespirit Recreation’s Tri-layer technology, which provides warmth on cold nights, breathability on muggy days, and year-round waterproofing. Plus, the company designed this model with oversized windows and doors, which allow you to get great views of the surrounding area and plenty of ventilation.

If that wasn’t enough, this tent also has a unique mounting system, which allows you to transport up to 250lbs of bikes, kayaks, and other gear on top of your tent’s fiberglass shell while on the road.

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5. Cascadia Vehicle Tents St. Helens

black hard shell rtt on top of a yellow truck

Image via Cascadia Vehicle Tents

  • Price: $2,695.00
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 153 lbs

Rounding off our list of the cheapest hard shell roof top tents is the Cascadia Vehicle Tents St. Helens. This 2 person hard shell model has a classic pop top roof and gas struts, which provide for a 30 second set up when you arrive at your camping location for the night.

As far as livability goes, the St. Helens has enough headroom to allow you to sit comfortably and relax on a rainy day. There’s also an overhead gear storage pocket to help you stay organized while outside.

The entire tent is outfitted with quilted liners which provide for insulation on cold nights, as well as an anti-condensation mat to prevent mugginess in the tent in the morning. Plus, the tent has a built-in foam mattress that’s comparable to a full-sized bed for added comfort.

Oh, and the tent has a durable poly/fiberglass shell with a glossy finish that looks sleek on the road. Meanwhile, the body of the tent is made from a strong 280g ripstop polyester fabric that’s highly breathable, even on warm nights.

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Options For Getting A Cheap Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

If the prices on these 5 roof top tents still are a bit out of your budget, then you’ll be happy to know that there are some alternatives to getting the hard shell roof top tent of your dreams. Here are some options for getting a tent on the cheap.

Buy Used

Like anything, you can buy a used hard shell roof top tent. There are quite a few for sale on eBay at any given time and there’s actually a Facebook group called “Used Roof Top Tents Bought & Sold – USA” that you can check out.

Of course, be sure to take all the proper precautions when purchasing a roof top tent online to ensure your personal and financial safety throughout the process.

Import via Alibaba

If you’re willing to jump through a few hoops, there are ways to buy a hard shell roof top tent on the cheap using Alibaba. With Alibaba, you’re essentially buying directly from a manufacturer (usually based in China).

You can often get a hard shell tent for less than $1,000, but keep in mind that you’ll need to arrange for shipping and customs duties to get your tent from China to your home country. It’s best to get a quote from a manufacturer first to see what they can offer for shipping costs to ensure you’re getting a fair deal before you buy.

Build Your Own

While this isn’t necessarily the easiest option, you can always opt to build your own roof top hard shell tent. Sure, you might spend a bit more in terms of labor hours, but you’ll save a whole lot on materials when you compare it to the cost of buying a new tent.

If you have the time but don’t know where to start with building your own hard shell tent, check out our article on how to make your own roof top tent for some tips and advice.

How To Choose An Affordable Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

There are dozens of hard shell roof top tents out there for you to choose from, so it’s important that you know what to look for as you shop. Here are some key things to keep in mind during the process:

  • Sleeping Capacity. Most hard shell roof top tents are designed for 2 people, but there are some options, like the Tuff Stuff Alpha that can accommodate 4 adults. Depending on your camping needs, a 2 person tent might be more than enough. If not, there are plenty of options that are compatible with annexes, which can offer you extra sleeping space.
  • Weight. Even though you don’t have to carry a roof top tent, like you do while backpacking, the weight of your tent is still very important. That’s because all cars have a maximum dynamic load that they can accommodate as you drive down the road. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see how much weight it can support to determine if a hard shell roof top tent is right for your car.
  • Vehicle Mounting. For the most part, roof top tents come with all the mounting equipment you need to install your tent on your vehicle. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll likely need a roof rack and crossbars that can support the weight of you and your tent at night.
  • Ventilation. If you plan to camp in the summer months, then a roof top tent with windows and vents is a must. Large windows and mesh screen doors provide ample breathability on hot nights, which is essential for your comfort.
  • Ladder Access. These days, many – but not all – roof top tents come with their own ladder so you can enter and exit your sleeping space at night. If not, you’ll need to get one on your own, which is an additional cost that you need to consider.


Up Next In Roof Top Tents:

What is the Largest Roof Top Tent?

The 7 Best Roof Top Tents for JEEP Owners

Are Roof Top Tents Safe from Bears?

4 Person Roof Top Tents: Our Top 10 Picks

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