rooftop camping tents
Camping

We Review The Best Rooftop Tents In 2018

Sometimes called “car top campers”, fans of camping and outdoors enthusiasts are more than likely familiar with these kinds of rooftop tents, which have been around for more than 80 years now.

early folding rooftop tent

Sleeping in a regular tent, but rooftop tents (sometimes called RTT’s) do have advantages that you ought to know about.

Today we wanted to provide you our thoughts on some of the best rooftop tents, from brands you may know who specialize in rugged and reliable outdoor camping gear like Tuff Stuff, Camco, ARB, and Front Runner.

These reviews will discuss the following tents:

  • The ARB 3101 Simpson III
  • The Tuff Stuff Ranger Overland
  • The Camco 51373
  • The Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent

But first, we want to provide you with some pointers on what to look for in a great rooftop tent, to help you choose the right rooftop tent for you.

Having Enough Space

A prime consideration for choosing a rooftop tent, or any tent, is to ask yourself if the tent you’re getting is going to have enough room for you and whoever you are bringing with you. 

If you’re taking a few people with you, then be sure to check the exact dimensions of the tent before you buy to ensure that you’ll have enough space for everyone.  

It’s one thing to go camping as a couple, where you can cozy up with each other at night, but then, you add a few kids into the mix, or maybe another couple, and you think you can get away with having everyone pile into the main room of the tent.

Because some people really need their space, and don’t want someone rolling into them in the night, so you, as the person getting the tent, want to be sure you consider that having enough room is a top priority. 

Or, if you need less room because you know that it’s just going to be yourself and your partner, then that’s fine too.  Just something to be aware of.

Privacy / The Annex Room

An annex room does not come with every rooftop tent, but it does come with some of them, and this is an important feature that you should definitely be aware of.

Some campers are obviously familiar with this concept, as the annex room is basically the “basement”, or the change room, or the foyer of your rooftop tent.  It also adds space to the upper part of the tent itself.

Before you go outside from the upper area of the tent, the ladder takes you to ground level, either inside the annex room, or just outside of it, where you can do whatever it is you need to do within the privacy of the annex room before heading back outside.

Reversely, if you’re coming into an annex room, you usually enter a zippered entrance made from the same material as the rest of your tent, where you’ll find the ladder, and, once you’re in the annex room, you’re effectively inside the tent.

The annex room also just provides needed privacy for some people, or simply can be another space that leads you up into the main area of your tent.  Bottom line – it’s more space.

Here is video showing a quick set-up for your average annex room.

Some people have even been known to sleep in the annex room, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except most companies don’t sell you “furnishings” for the annex room, so you’ll have to do that yourself.

Durable, Weather Proof Materials

Any good rooftop tent is obviously going to protect you and your friends and family from the elements, while also being generally durable.

Since the material our tent is made out of is basically the essence of the tent itself, the materials it is made from had better be durable, and, usually, someone with experience with tents can tell immediately if a tent is made out of something weak and thin, or strong and thick.

Usually, once you’re inside your tent, you can get a feel for the materials that you’re sitting or lying down on, and then it becomes apparent what your tent is made of.

Each of the rooftop tents on this list are made from the highest grade materials that are both great for blocking out harsh weather, colder temperatures, and this has helped these tent makers earn them the reputation that they have with these particular models.

Packing / Unpacking Quick and Easy

Most campers that we know who have rooftop tents are the kind of people who like to stop somewhere, on a whim, and whip out their rooftop tent and set up camp really quickly.

We don’t want to call these people impulsive.  Maybe adventurous is the right word.  In any case, sometimes if you’re travelling and you come across a really nice place to stop, you want to be able to set up your tent quickly and easily, and then you have more time to enjoy your surroundings.

The rooftop tents on this list are made to take up less space when packed up, and be set up quickly for the reasons we’ve discussed.

Camping, while it is nice sometimes to sit in your tent, is sometimes more about getting the tent up so you can go outside and enjoy what’s going on around the tent.

As we all know, tents that are difficult to set up are just annoying to deal with, and reflect badly on who designed the tent in question.

These tents are the opposite.  Drive down the road, stop, open up your tent, establish your campsite, have fun, fold them up quick and easy in the morning and you’re ready to go for another day!

How It LooksNamePriceCheck Price

ARB ARB3101 Simpson III$$$$

Tuff Stuff Ranger Overland$$$

Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent$$$

Camco Vehicle Roof Top Tent$$

Tuff Stuff Ranger Overland Rooftop Camping Tent (w/ Annex Room)

We may as well start off with this awesome folding rooftop tent, called the Ranger Overland from Tuff Stuff, because it it basically has everything we like to see in a rooftop tent and more.

At just over $1000 (depending where you shop), this tent definitely lives up to its name, as it is made tough and is not one of the lighter tents we’ll be looking at, at 146 lbs. 

review Tuff Stuff Overland Rooftop Camping Tent with Annex Room- Black Driving Cover

Why We Love This Rooftop Tent

Plenty of Room

The Ranger Overland fits on any roof rack, including aftermarket roof racks, and when its closed up it has the following dimensions: 12″ height X 56″ width X 48″ length. 

Open it up and it becomes: 56″ width X 96″ length X 52″ height, so there’s plenty of room in this tent for 2 people, plus you could squeeze someone else in there if you wanted.

Fast Set-up

If you’re setting this tent up, you will be well ahead of those with ground tents, as you can have this tent up in just a couple minutes and it will be functional enough for you to go inside. 

Ground tents, on the other hand, take much longer to set up unless you have the amazing ability to set them up at lightning speed, which most of us don’t. 

The same goes for closing the tent up again.  Very fast.

Comfortable and Durable

The material this tent is made from is a poly/cotton Rip Stop fabric (280 g) with a water-proof coating that is mould and UV resistant.

This tent is packed with extras and you could almost live in this tent – that’s how nice it is. 

If you have any concerns with sleeping outdoors, this tent most certainly will address them. 

Wind and rain blasting your tent?  Not a problem – the water simply drips off the tent’s thick exterior while you sit inside, cozy as can be. 

You could even call a storm “fun”, if you are inside the Tuff Stuff rooftop tent. 

inside tough stuff tent

Well Ventilated

There are nice windows you can open up if you want ventilation which come with awnings, giving it that homey feel. 

There are storage pouches around the interior of the tent, so you can toss your stuff in there and its quite convenient if you need to put your wallet somewhere or your phone. 

When you close it up for he night, the tent is still quite breathable and will keep you warm all night long. 

The mattress that comes with this tent is nice and thick, so you will love sleeping on it. 

It’s great for those people who are like the Princess & The Pea, and can feel a rock jabbing them through even the thickest mattress. 

Even those moaning groaning types of people will be hard pressed not to love this tent.

Roomy Annex Area

There is also a zip-on annex room which can act as a “downstairs” for this particular tent. 

This is great if there is more than 3 people, or two groups of people who want their own space. 

Of course, the annex room isn’t the main attraction here, but it is offered (they value it at $200) and can be quickly added to your set-up. 

Here’s a video review of the Tuff Stuff rooftop tent that can give you a guided tour of this product.

Tuff Stuff Rooftop Tent Q & A

Q: Is the ladder adjustable?

A: The ladder can be adjusted lower by re-drilling the catch holes.  If you wish to extend the ladder, Tuff Stuff offers a ladder/Annex extension that can be purchased separately. 

Ideally, 76-78″ is the perfect height for the ladder.  Anything more will require the extension.

Q: Will the Tuff Stuff Rooftop Tent mount to most aftermarket roof racks?

A: As long as the rack and your roof will support the 500+ pounds of weight, you’ll be okay.

Q: What material is the tent made from?

A: The tent is made from breathable UV and mold resistant 280g poly/cotton rip-stop fabric with a waterproof polyurethane coating

Q: Is it a hard pack during transportation or a soft pack?

A: The tent is packed and strapped on a pallet.  It folds flat and zips tight.

Q: Will it fit a 2003 Ford Escape?

A: Yes.

Q: How long is the annex that comes with it?

A: For vehicles higher than 78″ from tent to ground, there is a Tuff Stuff ladder extension & annex extension, providing an additional 21″ of height. 

There is also an extension for your annex room that zips under our tents so the ladder extension and lower annex room can be used together.

Read our full review of the Tuff Stuff Rooftop Tent


Camco 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent with Annex

Camco 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent with Annex review

Next up, we’ve got the Camco 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent, which is, in many ways (including price), very comparable to the Tuff Stuff tent.

It is, however, slightly lighter than the Tuff Stuff tent when folded up at 130 pounds and measuring 58.2″ x 48″ x 11.5″.

Why We Love This Rooftop Tent

Well Made Annex

Once again, we see the addition of a convenient add-on Annex which can go over just about what ever you want, providing an additional room for more people to stay in, or it can be used as a kitchen or bathroom. 

It depends on the vehicle you’re attaching this tent to, and which way you set it up.

Made from water resistant lightweight nylon, and with a high density foam mattress inside, this tent is designed for comfort as well as being an all-season model. 

rooftop tent camco review

Affordable

Like the Tuff Stuff folding rooftop tent, even though it is more than $1000 for the both that model and the Camco 51373, you are basically getting a deal because some of these rooftop tents have even bigger price tags with not much more in terms of improvement over what’s offered here. 

You might even call these “entry level” rooftop tents, but not in any derogatory sense.  And, because they are so well made, there is almost no reason to upgrade to a multi-thousand-dollar model unless you know for sure they have something these tents don’t.

Mounting Options and Easy Set Up

Like the Tuff Stuff, the Camco 51373 rooftop tent has several mounting configurations; you can place it on the left or the right side of your vehicle, or you can also mount it on the rear or on a trailer. 

We should once again mention aftermarket mounting racks, because yes, this rooftop tent mounts easily to most factory or aftermarket roof racks or load bars.

Once again, the easy set-up comes into play here with the Camco 51373 rooftop tent. 

This tent comes complete with universal mounting brackets and wrenches, as well as metal rods for the window awnings. 

It’s these types of things we need to look for in our rooftop tents, because they make all the difference.

Very Comfortable, Lots of Room

What kind of comfort level can you expect from sleeping in this tent? 

Fortunately, the Camco 51373 has a high density foam mattress that allows three people to sleep comfortably side by side. 

This is ideal for couples, but because there’s a bit of extra room, its also great for families with one or two small children.

camco 51373 ladder close up review folding rooftop tent

Metal Ladder

The Camco 51373 comes with a sturdy ladder, but this is one of the points that needs to be addressed with this or any rooftop tent – the ladder.

The ladder on the Camco is sturdy enough – that’s not the issue, but in regards to the ladder, you need to be careful when you climb up or down because on a dewy morning, the metal runs can get slippery.  

More than a few people have had issues with slipping on these types of metal ladders, so we wanted to mention this more as a general caution.

Good Ventilation

Another thing that most people commonly ask about is air ventilation – as in, how well does this rooftop tent allow air to circulate? 

The Camco 51373 rooftop tent here has a built in air vent that reduces condensation, while the doors and the windows are well-screened to keep insects, debris, and sand out.

If you love driving to the beach, or if you are the kind of person who just likes to take to the open road, and you don’t want to have to think about your final destination (hotel, motel, hostel, etc.) – a folding rooftop tent is one way to solve your accommodation problem (and save you money in the long run).

Here’s a quick recap of the most important features of the Camco 51373 rooftop tent:

  • Weather proof
  • Spacious interior
  • Foam mattress is dense and comfortable
  • Good ventilation
  • Secure ladder

Camco 51373 Rooftop Tent Q & A

Q: Is there a way to access the annex from an inside wall?

A: Yes, the annex has three side walls that are attached to the bottom of the tent through a track system. Very easy to do.

Technically you could access through any of the 4 openings they all unzip (I would only recommend using the front or back door). 

Just so you understand, you can install the tent so as to access the main door (the one with the ladder) from either side or from the back of your vehicle.

Read our full review of the Camco 51373 Rooftop Tent


ARB 3101 Simpson III Brown Rooftop Tent

ARB 3101 Simpson III Brown Rooftop Tent review

Now we hop over to the most expensive folding rooftop tent on this list – the ARB 3101 Simpson III. 

As you can see from some of these pictures we show here, it does look slightly different from the previous models if you look really closely, but the aesthetics are basically the same. 

So why is this rooftop tent the more expensive model? 

Why We Love This Rooftop Tent

More Expensive, More Features

Take a look at these listed features for this particular ARB rooftop tent according to its product page on Amazon:

  • Series III Tent Incorporates an Updated Design and New Materials for Better Strength, Rigidity and Water Resistance
  • Manufactured from High Quality, Poly/Cotton Fabric
  • Incorporates Oxford Polyester Flysheet, with Excellent Water Shedding Ability
  • Sturdy Aluminum Retractable Ladder
  • High Density Bonded Chip Foam Mattress with Removable Cover for Increased Comfort and Durability
  • Incorporates Pull Out Veranda and Optional Zip-On Annex
  • Insect Screened Windows and Door
  • UV Stabilized Laminated PVC Cover
  • Bungee Cord System to Assist When Closing
  • Easily Mounted to ARB’s Purpose Designed Roof Rack
  • Can be Configured to Unfold off Either the Side (Shown) or Off the Rear of the Vehicle
  • Comprehensive Instructions

There are a few extras with the ARB folding rooftop tent that set it apart from the Camco and the Tuff Stuff. 

These include the removable cover on the bonded chip foam mattress, and the bungee cord to assist when closing. 

These little details may not seem to be a big deal, but when it comes to a good night’s sleep, if they can take an already good mattress and improve upon it, for example, that should be worth something.

ARB Vs. Tuff Stuff Vs. Camco

Similar to the other models we’ve seen so far, you can put this baby pretty much anywhere. 

Like the others, the ARB easily mounts on to most factory or aftermarket roof racks or load bars. 

You will get the universal mounting brackets and wrenches and within minutes you will have your rooftop tent totally set up and you can relax, or you can be nice and go help your friends with their ground tent.

ARB3101 Simpson III Brown folding Rooftop Tent

Like the Tuff Stuff and the Camco, the importance of a quality mattress was not lost on the manufacturers here, because they have included a high density chip foam mattress where three people can sleep. 

This tent has a built in air vents that reduces condensation. 

All of this sounding familiar? 

Yes, some of these features are exactly the same as the others, but they are also good features to be found in a rooftop tent, so we’ll mention them again.

ARB rooftop tent inside

With your ARB 311, you can be sure that insects, sand, and debris will stay out of your tent thanks to the specially screened windows and doors. 

As with the others, the ARB 3101 will provide you with complete mounting hardware, wrenches, ladder, travel cover and very detailed instructions. 

Dimensions for the ARB 3101 rooftop tent are 52 x 13 x 60 inches, and the item itself weighs 175 pounds. 

With just a few little tweaks and some more heavy duty hardware, we deem this rooftop tent to be a minor upgrade from the other two, but its up to you if you want to fork out an extra bit of cash just to see if you’ll notice the difference.

You may also want to consider getting the add-on to this Rooftop Tent – the zip-on attachable annex, which makes a great “downstairs” room where the kids can sleep, or you can use it as a change room, or toilet room. 

Having this extra space makes a big difference, and its only a couple hundred extra!

Check price of zip-on annex for the ARB 3101 Simpson III


Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent

Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent front runner

Our forth and final rooftop tent is this “bedroom above the ground” by Front Runner; a combination of elegant and lightweight design with Oxford tent fabric – 400D, making this tent super breathable and wind resistant, as well as water proof with a PVC coating. 

Why We Love This Rooftop Tent

This sturdy rooftop tent that allows at least two people to sleep inside completely comfortable, safe from the cold, rain, and wind.

feather lite front runner rooftop tent review

Takes Up Less Space When Folded

According to Front Runner, this is the rooftop tent which is known to be the lightest, at 40kg (88.18 lbs), with the lowest profile when folded up at 7.87 inches to decrease wind resistance. 

Otherwise, the dimensions are 1.3m (4.3′) wide x 2.4m (7.9′) long.  

Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent opens in one motion (as advertised) that doesn’t require a lot of effort. 

Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent interior

Well Put Together Rooftop Tent

The tent comes with a mattress and all you need to provide yourself with is a sleeping bag and a pillow.

The ladder made of aluminum and quite sturdy, but the same rules we mentioned before apply of being careful if there is any moisture in the air.

The doors and the windows are well screened, so you can keep them opened or closed – no sand or debris can get in

Feather Lite wasn’t name as such without a reason – the emphasis of this tent is its light weight nature.


So concludes our look at some of 2018’s best and finest rooftop tents. 

If you didn’t know about them before, we hope this got you thinking about alternatives to normal ground tents. 

We wish you the best of luck with your adventures, whoever you are!

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