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With the surge in love for outdoor activities, camping has become a favorite past-time for many.

But the old way of camping in a tent on the ground isn’t the only way. Originally used in countries like Australia and Africa to help keep you off the ground away from predators, roof top tents are more luxurious and provide a 360° panoramic view of your surroundings.

But what exactly is a roof top tent? Should you buy one? Let’s find out.

What Is a Roof Top Tent?

A roof top tent is exactly what it sounds like—a tent that goes on the roof of your car or over the bed of your pickup truck. 

They come in two variations:

  1. Hard shell roof tents, which are contained in a hard shell that also serves as a portion of the shelter when opened.
  2. Soft shell roof tents, which are basically just regular ground tents but propped up on top of your car.

Hard shell tents are more durable, easier to set up, and often more comfortable—but come at a much steeper price than soft shell variants. Usually around 3-4x more expensive, in fact.

Why Buy a Roof Top Tent?

A roof tent may sound like an unnecessary luxury, but it actually comes with a lot of benefits.

For one, a roof top tent typically comes with a built-in mattress, which is much more comfortable than sleeping on a pad on the ground.

Plus, you get panoramic views from high off the ground, which is amazing waking up to. Not to mention, if you get a hard shell variant with gas struts, they can be set up and torn down in less than two minutes once you learn how it’s done.

Overall, a roof tent is great for anyone who wants to make camping a more interesting and luxurious experience. It is an essential piece of camping gear.

Which Is the Best Roof Top Tent?

The best roof top tent for you really depends on your needs and your budget. If you want more comfort and ease of use, go with a hard shell roof top tent like the iKamper or Roofnest.

If you don’t have a big budget, a cheaper alternative like the Smittybilt Overland roof tent may be a better option.

To help you decide, check out this comparison of the best roof top tents. The guys over at Adventures On The Rock have been tent camping for decades and they’ve tried multiple roof tents, plus have gone on overlanding trips with other roof tent users. So they know their stuff!

Do I Need a Special Roof Rack to Install One?

Yes, you do need an aftermarket roof rack in order to install a tent on your vehicle. Factory cross bars won’t cut it.

There are a lot of options out there. My personal favorites are the Prinsu cab rack and the Slimline Frontrunner II. However, you can choose whichever rack fits your car.

Just make sure that the rack is rated to carry enough weight to hold your tent as well as the people sleeping in it!

Are Roof Tents Bad for Your Car?

One of the main concerns when it comes to buying a roof top tent for your vehicle is your car’s cab weight capacity. If you don’t install your tent properly or if you put more weight on your vehicle than the manufacturer calls for, you could end up damaging your suspension or your actual roof.

Before you make any purchases, check your car’s manual to see how much weight your vehicle’s roof is rated to carry. You’ll see static weight and dynamic weight.

Static weight is how much it can carry if nothing is moving and you’re sitting still. Dynamic weight is how much it can carry while driving or while the load is moving (such as you moving around in your tent). 

Make sure the dynamic weight rating is enough to hold the weight of you and your tent at the same time. Better safe than sorry!

Hit the Road

Are you convinced yet? Roof top tents are a fun luxury camping item that can improve your camping trips. You won’t regret buying one!

I’ve had my roof top tent for over a year and a half and have taken it all over the US and even into Mexico. It’s been such a fun time exploring and seeing the world from up high.

Hopefully, this article has convinced you to take the plunge and get a roof tent for your car! 

Published by HOLR Magazine.