History repeats itself! Did you know that in the 1920s one of America’s favorite pastimes was known as “autocamping”?
That was you hit the road in your car with a tent and some of your home comforts and made a home away from home somewhere out in the great American wilds.
Well, thanks to the coronavirus, camping is coming back into style and for the next decade or so, autocamping is going to be the preserve of the cool kids once more.
The rooftop tent is a direct descendant of the 1920s autocamping concept and it enjoyed a brief surge in popularity in the 1960s when the now defunct Camp’otel Corporation made the first ever commercial rooftop tents.
Other names have been and gone since and we remember the Camping Lab rooftop tent range with real fondness in our hearts but today, there is plenty of choice for your camping comforts and we’ve got our 10 best rooftop tents right here for you.
Best Rooftop Tents
Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent
Very light and ideal for a single person or a couple, the SkyRise Yakima Rooftop Tent is an excellent quality model which has nice mesh panels which can be used to keep you cool or to watch the stars through.
You can add a waterproof layer when you need it or leave it off when the weather’s too hot and you want a minimum amount of insulation against the elements.
A nice feature of this tent is that it’s tool-free when you need to attach it to your vehicle.
You can find the Yakima Skyrise Rooftop Tent on the Yakima website online.
iKamper Skycamp 2.0
When you want a premium tent with all the bells and whistles, look no farther than the iKamper rooftop tent.
This is super-fast to set up and people liked the idea so much that they backed it to the tune of $2.2 million on Kickstarter despite the company only looking to raise $100,000.
You can comfortably fit a family of four inside and you can even put a king-sized bed in it.
The only thing that you’re not going to like about the Skycamp 2.0 is the substantial price tag but as with all things in life – you get what you pay for.
You can find the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 on the iKamper website online.
Tuff Stuff® StealthTM Aluminum Side Open Tent
This is a serious camper’s tent.
You don’t buy this for weekends, you buy it for life as it’s built to last just about forever.
It can be easily put together on any terrain and in any weather.
Though, you must have a vehicle that’s capable of carrying it – it’s not a light tent.
You can get three people inside and they’ll get a great night’s sleep. You can also purchase an optional annex room if you need a little more space.
You can find the Tuff Stuff® StealthTM Aluminum Side Open Tent on the TuffStuff4x4 website online.
Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3
This is one of our favorite roof top tents.
It’s a softshell model that is perfect for weekend camping in.
You get a solid construction quality and a very easy set up. The fabric is mold and weather resistant and it will keep you warm and dry.
It’s very reasonably priced but be warned this comes at the expensive of memory foam mattresses, and USC charging points and similar features of more premium rooftop tents.
You can find the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 on the Backcountry website online.
Smittybilt Overland Rooftop Tent
This is a gorgeous softshell tent which does an excellent job for the price point which is superb value for money level.
However, the price comes at the expense of the ease of use (it’s not easy to construct this tent when you arrive though you will get the hang of it) and durability – it won’t last forever.
However, you can get three people inside without too much problem and it will keep you warm and dry.
For the money, you really can’t ask for more than the Smittybilt Rooftop Tent.
You can find the Smittybilt Overland Rooftop Tent at 4WD online.
Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mount Denali Pioneer
This is a huge tent, and you need a big vehicle to get it around on – your inner city Mini won’t cut the mustard here.
However, if you have the horsepower to shift it around, then you get plenty of room inside – you can easily get 4 (and quite possibly more) people inside.
You can customize this tent to a huge degree and we really liked the range of options.
It’s quite expensive, mind you, but frankly you get a lot of tent in return for the money.
You can find the Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mount Denali Pioneer at Cascadia Tents online.
This is the tent you opt for when you want to reduce the drag coefficient on the roof and keep your fuel efficiency up.
It’s only 6.5” tall when you have it sealed up and that makes it far slimmer than any other model in our tests.
You can even attach a rack to the top – and use it to carry bikes or surfboards as well.
The downside? You travel with the tent empty, so your bags, bedding, etc. will need to go in the trunk or the main part of the car.
You can find the Roofnest Falcon at Roofnest online.
23 Zero Walkabout 56
It might not be pretty, but we defy you to find another rooftop tent that can sleep 5 or more at this price point.
It’s very rugged and can handle all weather conditions too.
The mattresses are included in the price and you get a very comfy night’s sleep.
It’s a definite step up on the Smittybilt budget model and if your fund can stretch to it, the 23 Zero Walkabout 56 will give you a much better night’s sleep.
You can find the 23 Zero Walkabout 56 at 23Zero online.
James Baroud Evasion Roof Top Tent
If money is no object, and seriously it has to be no object, then you might want to consider this incredible offering from James Baroud.
You’ll find this is near bombproof in its ability to keep the elements at bay.
It has lovely extra features like a solar-powered extraction fan and it guarantees a great night’s sleep and easy set up.
You can find the James Baroud Evasion Roof Top Tent at Rhino Adventure Gear online.
Camp King Industries Camp King Aluminum Roof Top Tent
Another premium tent option but this aluminum system is going to bring you a total comfort under the stars.
It is a low-profile model too and that means you can add a rack over the top of the tent when it’s mounted to the roof of your vehicle.
It was made in Australia which is a guarantee of high-quality workmanship and a tent that’s made to last for the years to come.
We just wish it came in at a little less money, this is definitely a tent for experienced campers because of the price tag.
You can find the Camp King Industries Camp King Aluminum Roof Top Tent at Rhino Adventure Gear online.
DIY Rooftop Tents?
You can always make your own rooftop tent if there’s nothing on our list that catches your fancy.
In fact, one blogger claims that you can do so without ever leaving the Home Depot premises.
We don’t know if your local store will go for that but it’s a neat project and won’t set you back more than $100. We’re not sure how road legal it is, mind you, but it is very cool.
We’ve also got this great YouTube clip of a vlogger building their own rooftop tent for next to no money and they say you won’t even need to sew anything to finish threir project!
In short, while the 10 best rooftop tents are, indeed, listed above, there’s no doubt that a determined soul with very little cash available could make something that would get them through until such a point as they could afford to buy a more substantial (and much more comfortable) model.
Last Word on Rooftop Tents
We hope that you found your ideal rooftop tent in our 10 best rooftop tents but if not, then we may we suggest a few alternative options for camping?
We’ve got the greatest glamping tent options here, the coolest camper van brands here, the best pop up campers here and if none of them are to your taste we’ve recently done a feature on the awesome droplet trailer for camping too!
Camping is coming back and while history may repeat itself, that’s not always a bad thing.
America has a wealth of natural beauty to explore and live in harmony with. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the country in a way that you might not have considered before. Why not check out some of the National Parks this summer?