How about folding the cozy bedroom with mattress, window and lighting into a compact package, attaching it to the car roof in no time at all and still being able to go out onto the street today?
Do you love to drive your car through deserted areas and not think of a way back? How about simply stopping somewhere after a day’s hike, putting up a comfortable bed and being able to move on the next day? Rooftop tent manufacturers have been working since 1958 to give this feeling of freedom a comfortable and uncomplicated home – regardless of time and place.
A roof top tent is sturdy, a roof top tent is waterproof and a roof top tent is windproof. Overall, it offers protection and an almost homely feeling of home even under harsh weather conditions – whether on the beach or in the desert. We want to clarify here what exactly this invention is all about and how you can recognize a good model.
The roof top tent – weatherproof overnight anywhere
What exactly is a roof top tent?
We all know the classic pyramid-shaped tents made of thin plastic walls that are attached to the ground with pegs. You will probably remember that setting up conventional models can be very annoying, especially after strenuous day trips. With a roof top tent or “Autohome” the annoying aspect is almost completely eliminated. They are permanently on the car roof in a solid cover, where it only has to be set up quickly – without any components such as pegs and tent poles. The roof top tent is particularly waterproof, spacious and comfortable. The only drawback compared to ground tents: In most cases, the roof top tent can only be reached via a ladder.
In contrast to ground tents, a roof top tent with a ladder is erected in seconds, more mobile, more stable, more spacious and more waterproof, or in short: more comfortable. Although they can also function independently of the car, due to their fixed roof they can only be transported with a car, SUV, or Truck. They are clearly not an option for hikers and cyclists.
But if you prefer to travel by car, the roof top tent is the easiest way to get a free place to sleep anywhere. Anyone who has ever spent a night in the car knows that uncomfortable sleeping in recessed seats is definitely not a permanent solution. A roof top tent, on the other hand, is unusually spacious for a tent and offers a level of comfort that is guaranteed to surprise you. The main reason for this is the spaciousness and the solid, level roof, which gives the impression of a cozy cabin. In addition, there is the integrated mattress, a few windows and other extras that can be found in the most modern roof top tents: from lighting to heating, almost everything is now possible in a roof top tent.
What exactly does the roof load indicate?
The specified roof load includes the greatest possible load that the car can take when it is moving. If you are in the roof top tent, the roof load is generally exceeded. But don’t worry: when it is stationary, significantly more load can act on the car without causing any damage. However, since the manufacturer only has to specify the maximum roof load when the vehicle is moving, this will not be responsible for any damage.
Who is a roof tent suitable for?
The good news first: The roof top tent, whether small or large, can be mounted on almost any vehicle. The only requirement: the roof load must be at least 110 lbs. 154 lbs must not be exceeded. In addition, the car roof and the tent must be the same width so that the closed roof tent can be securely attached to the cross member. When closed, the roof tent must not be too big, which means that it must never exceed the width or length of the roof of the car. Larger cars (e.g. an SUV or truck), which generally have a larger roof area and load capacity, are therefore particularly suitable.
Apart from the technical aspects, a roof top tent is suitable for all outdoor fans who prefer to explore the world (or just their surroundings) by car. Not only full-time nomads, but also occasional adventurers, thrifty vacationers and families with older children will get their money’s worth with a roof tent. Since the roof tent on the car can only be reached with an aluminum ladder, everyone involved should be physically fit and also be able to enjoy a cooler night from time to time. Because: As advantageous as the roof tent is – camping is and remains camping. You don’t always enjoy getting out of the car and climbing a ladder into the cool bedchamber.
Tip: Would you like to go on a tent roof tour as a group or family? Then you should make sure that it is a roof top tent for 4 people, not a tent roof for 2 people. In terms of safety and comfort, however, a roof tent is best suited as a two-person tent.
Advantages and disadvantages of roof top tents
How is a roof top tent set up?
When you hear “tent on car roof”, you think of complicated tinkering. In fact, setting up a roof top tent is even easier and faster than that of a ground tent. In the case of hard shell roof top tents, there are only a few steps that must be followed: first remove the protective hood, then pull out the ladder, just bring the tent into position and it is ready for use. Only in the case of a top roof tent with an awning, the awning has to be erected and fastened with pegs.
How is a roof tent attached?
So that the roof top tent does not cause any problems while driving or sleeping, it must be attached to the car “rock solid” when it is closed. A suitable roof rack is required for this. These basically depend on the type of vehicle – so unfortunately you are not allowed to buy just any roof rack. There is often a recommendation from the manufacturer in this regard, which you can use with a clear conscience. Car manufacturers are also happy to provide information on this.
Tip: Do you want to venture into colder latitudes with your roof top tent? Then you should definitely choose a roof top tent with a hard shell. If you don’t want to be afraid of freezing at all, you can also rely on the latest addition, a roof top tent with heating
How to stay warm in a roof top tent?
To stay warm even in cold nights, we recommend that you buy a special camping heater. These heaters are operated with gas. The gas consumption is very low. A full gas cylinder lasts for at least a whole week.
But always watch out for the risk of fire. It is best not to put the gas heater directly in the roof top tent, but buy a roof top tent with annex directly, so you can place the heater on the floor and the warm air flows upwards and is through the annex into the roof top tent directed.
We recommend buying a branded device. We have had very good experiences with the “Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater” from rei.com.
Now we would like to show you the best roof top tent, which is also suitable for camping in winter, as it has very good insulation and is even supplied with the matching tent annex.
There you have the possibility to place a heater on colder days or nights, which then heats up your roof top tent.
You can also use the annex as a shower room or something similar. Your privacy is therefore optimally protected.
Roof top tent for the car – all types listed
|Roof top tent type||Features|
|Fabric folding tent||– Wooden floor and fabric-covered frame|
– fastened across or lengthways on the roof
– is unfolded to the side or back (protrudes beyond the car roof when set up)
– Pro: Space-saving on the roof, some with awning, light and inexpensive
– Cons: Assembly and dismantling is more time-consuming, tarpaulin is sensitive, fast aging, less easy to care for
|Hard shell folding tent||– made of two plastic or carbon fiber shells (connected on the front with hinges)|
– When opened, a V-shape is created surrounded by fabric
– Pro: Easy to open and close, sometimes also possible from the rear, low weight
– Cons: More sensitive to wind, making awnings and the like more difficult
|Pop-up shell tent||– made of two plastic shells (connected to each other via a scissor rod with spindle and chain)|
– Upper shell can be raised parallel to the lower shell (using a crank or gas pressure damper)
– Pro: Lighter items can be transported on a hard shell, special stability, easy attachment of awnings etc.
– Cons: higher price, higher weight
Frequently asked questions answered
When looking for the right equipment, consumers often ask the following questions before looking to buy a roof top tent:
What are the most important purchase criteria that should be considered?
- Suitable for how many people? (Roof tent for 2 people / roof tent for 4 people)
- Material properties
By the way: A roof top tent with awning or annex is suitable for everyone who stays a little longer in one place and wants to set up a bit more at home. Even if the roof tent itself is weatherproof, it offers additional storage space for the equipment without the night rain being able to harm it.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to read more infos about roof top tents, take a look at our other articles, you will definitely find interesting articles there!
Download Our Roof Top Tent Overview (PDF)
In this pdf file, we give you an overview of the most popular rooftop tents. You can download this PDF file for free and use it freely!