The Best Rooftop Tents For SUV Car Camping (2024)

Ready to take your outdoor adventures up another level? Whether you’re an avid adventurer, a weekend warrior, or someone just looking to elevate their camping experience, rooftop tents are a game-changer.

Rooftop tents transform your vehicle, offering a unique and comfortable way to connect with nature. However, it can be confusing to know which rooftop tents are best for you if you have an SUV or crossover car. That’s because many reviews are done with trucks in mind which can carry heavier mounts. Hence, we will focus on rooftop tents that are lighter than 170 pounds to suit cars with lower dynamic load capacity.

Let’s delve into the world of rooftop tents, exploring the best options for different needs and car camping styles. I’ll also explain the features chosen for assessing these rooftop tents, and provide tips on additional things you might need to prepare.

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What are the best rooftop tents for car camping?

iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini

Best overall rooftop tent for small cars

If you drive a smaller vehicle with lower dynamic load capacity but still crave the rooftop camping experience, the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini is the best choice for you. It’s proof that good things come in small packages, and is a popular choice for mini-SUVs or crossover cars, such as Subaru Forester.

The foldout design of this hard shell tent helps to extend the sleeping space while keeping the footprint to a minimum. There have been various iterations of this model through the years, and the iKamper Skycamp Mini remains one of the most popular roof top tents on the market for its high quality build. Since it’s easy to set up, you’ll might end up wanting to plan a camping trip whenever you can!

iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini

iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini - overall best rooftop tents

Type: Hard shell foldout

Number of people: 2

Weight: 125 lbs

Height when closed: 13.5″

Maximum headroom when open: 48″

Interior length x width: 82″ x 51″

Mattress: 2.25″ polyfoam mattress

Tent material: 300 GSM polycotton

Retail price: $3,698.95

Pros

  • Spacious headroom
  • Quick set-up process

Cons

  • Pricey for a 2-person tent

Smittybilt Overlander

Best rooftop tent for affordability

Adventure shouldn’t break the bank, and the Smittybilt Overlander proves just that. It’s the go-to option for budget-conscious campers who seek reliability without compromising on quality. This is also a popular choice for those who want to try out rooftop tents without committing too much at the start.

It also provides a very spacious interior for you to enjoy your camping experience. After you get the hang of setting up the Smittybilt Overlander rooftop tent, those weekend trips will feel just like glamping.

Smittybilt Overlander

Type: Soft shell

Number of people: 2-3

Weight: 116 lbs

Height when closed: 13″

Maximum headroom when open: 51″

Interior length x width: 95″ x 56″

Mattress: 2.4″ high density foam mattress

Tent material: 600D heavy-duty ripstop polyester

Retail price: $939.87 (sale price)

Pros

  • Budget-friendly option
  • Durable construction
  • Spacious sleeping area

Cons

  • Can be cumbersome to set up

Roofnest Falcon 2

Best for low profile

I’ve never imagined that a rooftop tent can be this sleek and low-profile, but the Roofnest Falcon 2 definitely exceeds expectations. Its aerodynamic shape not only reduces the drag on fuel efficiency but also adds a touch of style to your vehicle.

This is the rooftop tent for those who appreciate a minimalist and streamlined aesthetic. It is also easy to set up and you’ll get to enjoy the spacious feeling that comes with the tall roof. However, it does come with a little more weight, so you’ll need to check if it is compatible with your vehicle.

Roofnest Falcon 2

Roofnest Falcon - best rooftop tent for low profile

Type: Hard shell wedge

Number of people: 2

Weight: 160 lbs

Height when closed: 6.5″

Maximum headroom when open: 60″

Interior length x width: 86″ x 48″

Mattress: 2″ memory foam with anti-condensation mat

Tent material: 320 GSM coated Polycotton with 3000mm waterproof rating

Retail price: $2,345 (sale price)

Pros

  • Aerodynamic design because of its low profile when closed
  • Quick set-up and straightforward installation process
  • Tall maximum height for spaciousness

Cons

  • No storage space for the ladder inside the hardshell while it’s closed
  • On the heavy side

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam

Best rooftop tent for families

If your camping adventures involve young kids, the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam is the ideal choice. It offers ample space and comfort, ensuring everyone has a cozy spot to call their own. On camping days without the rain, you can remove the rainfly and enjoy the view through the tent’s skylight windows.

For a 3-person rooftop tent, this is indeed a value-for-money option to consider. It is incredibly spacious and uses durable material so that it can last you through many camping seasons.

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam - best for families

Type: Soft shell

Number of people: 3

Weight: 119 lbs

Height when closed: 12″

Maximum headroom when open: 52″

Interior length x width: 96″ x 56″

Mattress: 2.5″ high density foam mattress

Tent material: 260g polyester cotton, 600D polyester ripstop

Retail price: $1,999.95

Pros

  • Panoramic skylights
  • Very spacious interior in both length and width
  • Budget-friendly for 3 people

Cons

  • Despite durable material, still lacks some level of protection compared to a hard shell

Thule Tepui Foothill

Best for allowing other roof mounts

Sometimes, it’s not just about the rooftop tent; it’s also about the versatility it brings to your entire setup. The Thule Tepui Foothill earns its place by seamlessly allowing additional roof mounts for those extra gear essentials, by taking up just about half of the roof rack.

The simplistic design is also visually appealing, and you get to enjoy nature through the panoramic rear windows. This is an excellent choice for those days when you want to bring a bicycle, kayak, or surfboard along for your camping trip.

Thule Tepui Foothill

Thule Tepui Foothill - best rooftop tents for allowing other rood mounts

Type: Soft shell

Number of people: 2

Weight: 122 lbs

Height when closed: 9.5″

Maximum headroom when open: 37″

Interior length x width: 84″ x 47″

Mattress: 1.6″ mattress

Tent material: 600D polyester ripstop

Retail price: $1,699.95

Pros

  • Wide entryway to the tent
  • Panoramic rear windows and dual skylights for more visibility
  • Does not take up the entire roof rack space

Cons

  • Thinner mattress
  • Longer set up time

Roofnest Meadowlark

Best lightweight rooftop tent

When hitting the road, every pound counts. The Roofnest Meadowlark earns its spot as the go-to choice for those prioritizing a lightweight rooftop tent without compromising on essential features. As Roofnest’s first soft shell rooftop tent, they take pride in implementing a design that is easy to set up.

Although it is relatively compact, it’s perfect for those who don’t need that much space and prefer something light and simple. You only need to put up a support pole to prop up the rainfly at the front, and the set up is done.

Roofnest Meadowlark

Roofnest Meadowlark - best lightweight rooftop tent

Type: Soft shell

Number of people: 2

Weight: 90 lbs

Height when closed: 12″

Maximum headroom when open: 36″

Interior length x width: 80″ x 43″

Mattress: 2″ foam

Tent material: 190 GSM coated Polycotton with 2000mm waterproof rating

Retail price: $1,595

Pros

  • Most lightweight option
  • Rainfly is relatively straightforward to set up compared to other soft shell tents
  • Compact enough for smaller cars

Cons

  • Low headroom
  • Slightly cramped interior due to compact design

Roofnest Sparrow 2

Best pop-up hardshell

Setting up camp should be a breeze, and the Roofnest Sparrow 2 ensures just that. This rooftop tent boasts a user-friendly design, making it a top choice for those who want a hassle-free experience.

The pop-up style is also the best for a 360-degree view of your surroundings, and you get a spacious feeling all around the tent. The hard shell also helps to provide more protection against the elements and you can sleep soundly.

Roofnest Sparrow 2

Type: Hard shell pop-up

Number of people: 2

Weight: 130 lbs

Height when closed: 12″

Maximum headroom when open: 40″

Interior length x width: 84″ x 48″

Mattress: 2.8″ foam with anti-condensation mat

Tent material: 320 GSM coated Polycotton

Retail price: $2,995

Pros

  • 360-degree views
  • Plenty of headroom all around
  • Spacious interior to store bedding when closed

Cons

  • Slightly heavy because of its features

Thule Approach M

Best for durability

When durability is non-negotiable, the Thule Approach M takes center stage. Its robust construction ensures it can withstand the elements, making it a reliable companion for your outdoor escapades. With its all-season suitability, all you need to do is to bring along some warm sleeping bags and enjoy more outdoor adventures year-round.

It also has one of the longest lengths, so that even tall campers will feel comfortable here. On drier days, remove the rainfly to enjoy the large windows and skylights.

Thule Approach M

Thule Approach M - best for durable rooftop tents

Type: Soft shell

Number of people: 2-3

Weight: 128 lbs

Height when closed: 11″

Maximum headroom when open: 40″

Interior length x width: 95″ x 56″

Mattress: dual-layer foam mattress

Tent material: 600D polyester ripstop

Retail price: $2,499.95

Pros

  • Large windows and skylights
  • Very spacious

Cons

  • Less convenient to set up

Roofnest Sparrow EYE

Best hard shell wedge for bedding storage

The Roofnest Sparrow EYE combines functionality with a unique and eye-catching design that opens up as a hard shell wedge. You’ll have a 270 degree view through the large windows, which also provides ample ventilation.

This is a variation of the Roofnest Sparrow, which means it’s spacious enough to store blankets and pillows. Although the maximum height of the tent will not be as high as the Roofnest Falcon, the extra spaciousness of the Roofnest Sparrow EYE provides a care-free camping experience. Simply leave your things in the tent and close it up, leaving more room in your car for other equipment.

Roofnest Sparrow EYE

Type: Hard shell wedge

Number of people: 2

Weight: 135 lbs

Height when closed: 12″

Maximum headroom when open: 40″

Interior length x width: 84″ x 48″

Mattress: 2.8” foam mattress

Tent material: 320 GSM coated Polycotton

Retail price: $2,995

Pros

  • Good for bedding storage even in a wedge design
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Lower headroom given the wedge shape

Roofnest Condor 2

Best spacious hardshell rooftop tent

For those who value spaciousness and the rugged durability of a hard shell, the Roofnest Condor 2 is the best option for those who prioritize spaciousness without compromising the convenience of a hardshell design.

Although the foldout feature might take a slightly longer time than to set up compared to simple wedge or pop-up designs like the Roofnest Falcon or Roofnest Sparrow, it definitely makes up for it with the extra spaciousness. Overall, it is still a more user-friendly choice over regular soft shell tents.

Roofnest Condor 2

Type: Hard shell foldout

Number of people: 2-3

Weight: 155 lbs

Height when closed: 14″

Maximum headroom when open: 40″

Interior length x width: 81″ x 53″

Mattress: 2″ memory foam mattress

Tent material: 320 GSM coated Polycotton

Retail price: $3,545

Pros

  • Spacious for a hard shell tent

Cons

  • Relatively heavy
  • Bulky even when closed

How to evaluate the features of the best rooftop tents for car camping

Now that we’ve explored some of the top contenders in the rooftop tent arena, it’s essential to understand how to evaluate them based on key features.

Types of tents

Wedge

Wedge tents, like the Roofnest Falcon 2, are known for their simplicity and ease of setup. They typically have a triangular shape when opened and are a popular choice for those who prioritize quick installation.

Strengths:

  • Quick and easy setup
  • Compact design ideal for smaller vehicles

Weaknesses:

  • Limited interior space compared to some other types

Soft shell

Soft shell tents, such as the Thule Approach M, are characterized by their fabric construction. They are often lighter and more compact than hardshell tents, making them a popular choice for those who value portability.

Strengths:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Versatile for various vehicle types

Weaknesses:

  • Not as easy to set up compared to hard shell tents

Hard shell

Hard shell tents, like the iKamper Skycamp series, provide durability and protection. They also often include premium features for a more comfortable camping experience.

Strengths:

  • Enhanced durability and protection
  • Premium features such as integrated windows and ventilation

Weaknesses:

  • Can be heavier compared to soft shell tents

Ease of set up

A rooftop tent’s setup can significantly impact your camping experience. Options like the Roofnest Sparrow EYE prioritize quick and intuitive setups. This is perfect for those who want to spend less time assembling their campsite and more time enjoying the great outdoors. Consider factors such as pop-up designs, gas strut assistance, and solo-friendly installations.

Weight

The weight of a rooftop tent is a crucial consideration, especially for smaller vehicles with limited load capacity. The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini, perfect for smaller cars, showcases how compact tents can offer comfort without adding unnecessary weight. With that said, how much weight can you car carry? Make sure to check and ensure that the selected rooftop tent aligns with your vehicle’s weight restrictions.

Material

Durable materials are key to a rooftop tent’s longevity. The Thule Approach M, known for its durability, features heavy-duty construction that can withstand various weather conditions, ensuring a reliable camping experience. Look for rooftop tents constructed from high-quality, weather-resistant materials. A rainfly with good waterproofing also helps a lot.

Spaciousness

For families with young kids or those who value ample space, options like the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam offer roomy interiors. Consider the size of the tent based on your camping companions and the level of comfort you desire.

Closed height

The closed height of a rooftop tent affects your vehicle’s overall profile. Low-profile options like the Roofnest Falcon 2 maintain a sleek appearance on the road, while others that don’t pack down as compactly may offer more interior space and storage.

Things to prepare for rooftop tent car camping

Check your vehicle’s dynamic load capacity

Before embarking on your rooftop tent adventure, it’s paramount to understand and respect your vehicle’s dynamic load capacity. This refers to the maximum weight your vehicle can handle while in motion. Exceeding this capacity can compromise safety and affect your vehicle’s performance.

Refer to your vehicle’s manual for specific information on load capacity. Manufacturers provide guidelines to help you determine the safe weight limit for your vehicle.

Do also consider the weight of any roof racks and other roof mounts you’re planning to use.

Get reliable and appropriate roof racks

The foundation for a secure rooftop tent setup lies in robust and dependable roof racks. These racks serve as the platform for your rooftop tent, providing stability and ensuring stability during transportation.

What to look for in roof racks:

  • Weight Capacity: Choose roof racks with a weight capacity that exceeds the combined weight of your rooftop tent and any additional gear. This ensures a safety margin and prevents overloading.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the roof racks are compatible with your specific vehicle make and model. Manufacturers often design racks tailored to different vehicles.
  • Installation Ease: Opt for roof racks that are user-friendly and can be easily installed. Some racks offer quick and tool-free installation, simplifying the setup process.
  • Durability: Invest in durable materials that can withstand various weather conditions and off-road adventures.
  • Versatility: Consider roof racks that allow for the attachment of accessories such as crossbars, bike racks, or cargo carriers. Versatility enhances the functionality of your setup.

Popular roof rack brands:

  1. Thule: Renowned for their quality and innovation, Thule offers a range of roof rack systems designed for different vehicles and purposes.
  2. Yakima: Yakima provides durable and versatile roof rack options, known for their ease of use and compatibility with various accessories.
  3. Rhino-Rack: With a focus on durability and functionality, Rhino-Rack offers a variety of roof rack systems suitable for different vehicle types.

Conclusion: Finding the best rooftop tents

In conclusion, choosing the best rooftop tent involves considering your unique preferences, vehicle type, and camping style. Whether you’re seeking a low-profile option like the Roofnest Falcon 2 or a spacious soft shell retreat like the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam, each tent offers a distinctive camping experience.

Remember to evaluate factors such as ease of setup, weight, material durability, and spaciousness to find the rooftop tent that aligns with your outdoor aspirations. With the right rooftop tent, your car becomes more than just a mode of transportation—it transforms into a mobile sanctuary, ready to take you on countless adventures.

Happy camping!

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