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We thoroughly researched over 50 models and purchased 12 of the best rooftop tents available today for our expert overlanders to test side-by-side. A quality rooftop tent is a serious investment, and we put these tents through extensive field testing to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of options across a range of price points. We assessed these products based on critical criteria, such as ease of assembly and installation and their relative space and comfort. From discovering design flaws and durability issues to highlighting luxurious qualities and ease of conversion, our in-depth review identifies the best rooftop tent for your next camping adventure.
After being put through our tried and true gauntlet of evaluations, it was clear that the Roofnest Sparrow EYE is one of the best hardshell rooftop tents available. We've gotten used to spending upwards of an hour assembling other models. With the EYE, this was not the case — it was great to put this tent on the rack mere minutes after opening the box. When you arrive at your campsite, it takes about 45 seconds to convert the EYE from travel to camping mode, thanks to hydraulic pistons that help to open the tent like the hatchback of an SUV. Inside, there is a USB-powered light strip, a cargo net, several storage pockets, insulation to help battle the elements, and one of the most comfortable rooftop tent mattresses we've ever slept on. Not only is there enough room inside to leave blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags in place while you're traveling, but the EYE has a special storage area complete with a weather-resistant pouch for even more gear on top of the roof.
The main drawback we found with the Sparrow EYE is that it's bulky. Due to the pop-up nature of the design, the footprint of the tent stays the same size whether you're in camping or travel mode. When it's folded up, it's not any taller or wider than soft-top models, but it is much longer. This attribute means it won't work for those who want to keep their tent at the same height as their cab over a truck bed. If you own a smaller vehicle or SUV, you can technically still use this model as long as you have the appropriate rack, but the wind drag will most certainly affect gas mileage. The other hitter with the EYE is the price. If you're shopping for a rooftop tent with limited funds, we'd recommend reading up on some of the more budget-friendly models in our review.
When it comes to softshell models, it's going to be hard to beat the Thule Approach M. While the majority of the most popular fold-out rooftop tents use three support bars to create a house-type shape, the Approach uses four support bars which makes for a lot more space inside while maintaining the same travel size as the others. The Approach isn't quite as easy to install as a hardshell because it takes a few minutes to assemble the mounting clamps, but once they are put together, mounting or removing the tent from your rack is a cinch. We've learned the hard way that overtightening mounting nuts can damage brackets, but if they aren't tight enough, the bit of play will lead to bent bolts from off-roading. Thule has addressed this problem by including a torque wrench to twist nuts to optimal tightness. One of our favorite features of the new mounting system is that the tent locks to your rack, ensuring that your investment won't walk away if you need to leave your vehicle at a trailhead or a hotel parking lot for a night or two.
Our list of gripes with the Approach is short, but we have a few. For one, we found the rain fly was quite a pain to deploy, especially in high winds with a tall vehicle. The snaps that hold it in place are located on top of the tent's roof, so we had to crawl onto the top of the truck cab to reach one. We also weren't thrilled to discover that the travel cover gets completely removed and reinstalled for every use. We've found it easy and convenient when covers have zippers or velcro that goes three-quarters of the way around the tent base so it can get rolled up under the tent while you're camping. When you're ready to leave, you can unroll it, and it's already lined up and attached to the tent. With the Approach's design, you end up orienting, attaching, and messing with the cover for more time than you spend with traditional covers. These minor drawbacks aside, this model is by far our top recommendation for softshell rooftop tents.
Though the Smittybilt Overlander is a more moderately priced option for those on a budget, but it still comes with several included extras. It arrives with a very cool LED light system that includes 12-volt extension cords that go all the way from the tent to your 12-volt cigarette lighter or an external USB battery pack. Another added feature is the included rubber boot bag that hangs outside of the tent, which is very convenient in poor weather conditions. It also has the widest, most sturdy ladder of any tent we tested.
These perks aside, the Smittybilt does have a few weaknesses. It's cumbersome — weighing in at 144 pounds, it is substantially heavier than many of the tents we tested. You also may need to drill holes to get your ladder in the proper location, depending on the height of your vehicle's rooftop. Drilling metal isn't the easiest task to take on, even if you have the correct tools, and taking power tools to a brand-new product is a bit unnerving. Also, the cover must be removed entirely to convert the tent from travel mode to camping mode. With all of the other models in this lineup, the cover either rolled up or was able to be tucked out of the way. Still, while this tent might require a bit more effort, it will save you a sizeable amount of money and still perform at a very respectable level.
For many, looks and aerodynamics are key purchasing factors. If you want an ultra-thin rooftop tent that still houses a super comfy mattress, we recommend the Roofnest Falcon 2. At only 6" tall in travel mode, this model is about half the thickness of every other model in our review and is as easy as it gets when converting from travel to camp mode. Open a couple of latches, and let the hydraulic pistons do the rest. When it comes time to switch back to travel mode, the Falcon 2 only takes a few more seconds to fold up than the fastest models we've tested. While in camping mode, this tent has tons of storage, including several pockets around the tent, a large pocket array on the roof of the tent, and two boot bags that hang outside to keep your grubby shoes out of the sleeping area. It comes with dual USB-powered LED light strips that fully illuminate the whole tent when plugged into a power source. If you so choose, Roofnest has optional crossbars available so that you can store kayaks, paddle boards, or bicycles on top of the Falcon 2.
Because of the slim profile, there is a lack of storage space while in travel mode with the Falcon 2. The tent shell barely fits the tent and mattress, so you really cannot leave anything inside while traveling other than maybe a summer sleeping bag and a couple of books. This model doesn't even have room for its own ladder, so make sure to factor in storage for these items inside your vehicle if you plan to purchase this tent. Perhaps the biggest drawback to the Falcon 2 is the price tag. If you want a low-profile state-of-the-art rooftop tent, it will take its toll on your wallet.
With a canopy that converts from open-air to complete weather lock-down, the Thule Tepui Autana 3 has more coverage than any model we tested. The added awning above the entrance and an included annex means you'll never be climbing up and down slippery, wet steps, and the button-free ladder is handy. This tent includes some subtle yet great design features that improve user experience, like the sturdy straps that hold the cover up when you're in camping mode or the internal bungee system that assists in folding the canopy when you're converting to travel mode. We love the easy-to-use travel cover and the incredibly comfortable memory foam mattress. This is one luxurious rooftop home away from home.
The biggest drawback is easy to see here — the price is relatively high compared to many softshell models, and there are great options that cost significantly less. Besides its high price, the main downside to the Autana is that it takes a couple of extra minutes to convert to camping mode compared to other models we tested, most notably if you decide to deploy the annex. It might make more sense to go with something a little more straightforward if setup time is important to you. However, our testers found many advantages to this model that made the one to two extra minutes of setup well worth it.
The best reason to purchase the Thule Tepui Foothill is that it only takes up roughly half of the width on your rack as most rooftop tents, thanks to its long rectangular design. This model flips out to the side of the vehicle like most rooftop tents, but you sleep parallel with your vehicle rather than perpendicular. This innovation leaves extra rooftop space for cargo boxes, bikes, kayaks, or whatever else you'd like to attach to the remaining room on your rack. We were also pleased to find out that the mounting tracks come installed on the tent floor right out of the box, so you can put it straight onto your vehicle in a matter of seconds and have it attached in a matter of minutes with the included ratcheting wrench.
The slender design of the Foothill does bring a few drawbacks. For one, the ladder must be attached every time you convert the tent from travel to camping mode because it has to sit parallel on top of the tent during transport; otherwise, it would be too wide for the cover to fit. We weren't bothered by this, as Thule Tepui designed a handy quick-release system, but it's an extra step nonetheless. Also, the inner poles need to be extended while converting from travel to camping mode and collapsed when converting back. The other small flaw we found is that the mattress is a bit less comfortable than some of the top models but still vastly more comfortable than any standard camping mattress. These small caveats are still well worth it if you need to keep space free on your rack to haul extra toys and gear.
We started this project in 2019 with a genuine curiosity and interest as to what the rooftop tent (often referred to by its acronym, RTT) hype was about. What began with glancing at a few manufacturers' websites swiftly snowballed into hours of browsing current reviews, installation tutorials, and any RTT or off-road forum we could find. After studying dozens of different designs and applications, we narrowed it down to tents that stand out for specific features and price points while being similar enough to make valid side-by-side comparisons. We assembled, installed, converted, and removed these tents from our test truck for several months, camping at destinations from the foothills of California, up over the Sierra Nevada mountain range, across the Great Basin, and into Southern Utah. After several summers of research and testing, we've devised a review to help you find the best rooftop tent possible.
To fully test each rooftop tent, we created a robust test plan that spans five rating metrics:
Space and Comfort (30% of overall score weighting)
Durability (25% weighting)
Ease of Conversion (20% weighting)
Ease of Assembly and Installation (15% weighting)
Cover Convenience (10% weighting)
Testing for these beasts was taken on by Ross Patton. Ross grew up camping while living in Utah, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and California. He now travels even further afoot and has spent countless nights in tents in Canada, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean. Ross has camped by backpack, canoe, whitewater raft, bicycle, split board, and snowmobile, so he's seen about every size and type of tent imaginable. Ross has spent four summers now spearheading the rooftop tent category for GearLab, learning the ins and outs of these products and what makes one great. With a recent location change from Lake Tahoe to South Central Utah, he is closer to the wild than ever. With a love of 4x4 roads, exploring, and being an admitted gear nerd, he is a true expert on rooftop tents.
Analysis and Test Results
We are very hard on our camping gear. Sleep is essential, so when you depend on a tent to keep you warm, comfortable, and dry at night, you want to be sure that it can handle a lot. Rooftop tents are technical products, and there are many moving parts, so we were diligent in uncovering every detail when determining these products' overall value and performance.
The metric scores are meant to help you determine which tent is right for you. Some metrics, like Ease of Conversion, will encompass an average time along with other innovations or features that make this process easier. Other metrics, like Space and Comfort, combine quantitative measurements of the product, like maximum roof height, with a more qualitative description of how comfortable the mattress is.
The idea of forking over thousands for a tent can seem daunting, but rooftop tents genuinely live up to the hype for the right consumer. Sleeping on a memory foam mattress while elevated off the forest floor makes camping as comfortable as sleeping in your bed. The general rule is that hardshell models are substantially more expensive than softshell models. The main trade-off between the two types is that hardshells are very easy to install, and converting them from travel mode to camping mode is extremely quick and simple, whereas most softshells require assembly and take a few more minutes to convert. That said, unless you get a hardshell/fold-out hybrid, hardshells are generally much bulkier than the bi-fold softshell counterparts when they are in travel mode. The right model for you depends on your individual wants and needs.
If you're willing to drop the extra cash, the Roofnest Falcon 2 is as comfortable as most models we've tested but has an ultra-thin construction that reduces wind drag and looks great. Our favorite hardshell model, the Roofnest Sparrow EYE, is quite a bit cheaper than the Falcon 2 but offers ample storage room under the shell while you're traveling and extra gear storage on the roof.
If you don't mind the extra conversion time or dealing with rain flys, you may find the cheaper price tags of softshell models attractive. The Thule Approach M and Thule Tepui Foothill are both substantially less money than our favorite hardshell versions. The Approach has a very spacious sleeping area, is easy to attach and remove from your vehicle, and has a fairly easy conversion process. The "hot dog" rather than "hamburger" folding style of the Foothill allows you to fit more gear next to your tent on the same rack.
If you're shopping on a budget, the Smittybilt Overlander offers a very comfortable mattress and some great accessories, such as a rubber boot bag and LED lights. With the lower price tag, there are some downsides regarding convenience and how much effort is required for assembly and installation. That said, as long as you can deal with a few less convenient parts of the process, you'll still get a quality tent that is built to last.
The Thule Tepui Autana 3 is more expensive than many softshells, but it comes with a four-season canopy, a large entrance awning, and an included annex, which doubles the tent's size. For these reasons, we consider this a high-value option.
Space and Comfort
One of the best things about rooftop tents is their added element of comfort as opposed to sleeping on the ground. Humans tend to have the natural inclination to climb up and into bed because it makes us feel more secure from things that go bump in the night. Rooftop tents bring this luxury to your campsite, which is an added comfort within itself. But if you're going to go through the trouble of climbing up a ladder to sleep on top of your vehicle, you'll want enough space to move around and a mattress that is thick enough not to feel the floor.
Every tent we tested includes a foam mattress, which we find much more comfortable than air mattresses or other sleeping pads. To compare, we took measurements of floor space and maximum interior height to give us some hard numbers to look at to determine scores for space.
Regarding comfort, we find that the best way to gauge something that could be considered a matter of opinion is to get out into the field as much as possible. To test comfort, we did what we do best — we went camping. We slept in each tent for a minimum of five nights and were sure to pack the sleeping space with lots of gear along with our 80-pound test dog to see how comfy and spacious they truly are. Privacy is also factored into the comfort metric. In a rooftop tent, a lot of what you're doing is up in the air for everyone to see, so we scored tents that came with awnings or annexes higher.
The Tepui Autana 3 is at the top of the list for this metric. It has a very comfortable mattress, and one of our favorite features about this tent is the large entrance awning that makes the interior feel even bigger. If the mattress and the awning were not enough, Tepui also included an annex that hangs down to the ground from the entrance, adding an entire additional room.
The Tepui Kukenam lacks the added spaciousness of an annex but otherwise has the same great mattress and internal dimensions as the Autana, making it a completely comfortable option. Other models, like the Smittybilt Overlander and Yakima SkyRise Medium, offer an aftermarket annex at an additional cost. However, the ladder remains outside due to the lack of an entrance awning, while the Autana 3 ladder is within the annex itself.
If you're looking to maximize cubic footage within your tent's sleeping quarters, the Thule Approach is the way to go. This model uses four structural poles to support the canopy rather than the three that most other softshell fold-outs use. This creates tons of extra headspace on both ends of the tent, making moving around inside the tent easier, as well as entering and exiting the tent.
The two hardshell pop-up models we tested are considered two-person models, but they feel very roomy. With the sandwich wedge construction, the roof on one side of the tent is more than high enough to sit upright, but the other end hardly has any room at all. However, we found the low end to be the perfect place to stow clothing bags and gear, and we never experienced the area being too small for our feet and legs. The Roofnest Falcon 2 has an especially high maximum interior height of 60 inches.
The Roofnest Sparrow EYE has a bit of a lower maximum height, but we didn't find this to be an issue at all. Both of these tents come with interior gear nets, and the Falcon 2 has boot bags that hang from the outside of the tent. Both of the Roofnest models also include LED light strips that can be powered by the USB source of your choice.
We had heard that the Sparrow EYE had enough room inside to leave blankets, pillows, or sleeping bags inside the tent while in travel mode, and our team was pleasantly surprised to find this rumor to be true. This model has tons of room inside, a cargo area outside the tent, and an included weather-resistant bag for stashing even more gear. This area is rated to store up to 50 pounds, so it could also be a spot for water or an auxiliary gas tank.
The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini employs a hardshell fold-out design. We found it to have just as comfortable of a mattress as the others but not quite as much room as the top-scoring models for this metric because of its relatively steep A-frame design. We did, however, find this model to be exceptionally warm thanks to its thick canopy and the hard shell is lined with some snazzy insulation.
When it comes to softshell two-person models, the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 and the CVT Pioneer Series Bachelor are nearly identical in floor dimensions, headspace, and mattress thickness. Sleeping with two people in these tents feels a bit cramped, especially around the waist where the frame poles converge inside the tent. The Thule Tepui Foothill sacrifices a bit of mattress thickness to maintain its low profile design, so it isn't quite as comfy as the others, but it is still much more comfortable than other camp mattresses we've assessed. When the poles are fully extended in camp mode, there is ample headroom for changing or setting up and packing up bedding.
While the Foothill doesn't offer the most space inside the tent, it frees up room on your rack, which can often be more precious than sleeping space if you're traveling in a smaller vehicle or a truck that's packed to the gills. This model offers maximum cargo space for couples or those traveling alone to bring as much gear as possible.
When purchasing a piece of equipment with a price tag like a rooftop tent, you want to be sure that the product will last. Remember, this isn't a tent that you take out of the trunk of your car and put in your garage after a camping trip. Rooftop tents generally live on top of your vehicle for a while, which means when in travel mode, they will constantly be exposed to the elements as well as the vibration and rattling around from driving. When it's time to camp, the conversion between modes is more involved. Unlike most camping tents that get pitched on the ground, these are mechanical pieces of equipment with moving parts like ladders and hinges, so there's a lot more to consider than the canopy's durability, zippers, and poles. Because these are such bulky, massive objects, the wear and tear on the tent as a whole is amplified.
To assess durability, we applied several test methods. We went through the process of converting each model from travel mode to camping mode and back 25 times. We then completed the arduous chore of opening and closing each zipper on every tent 25 times. We were not gentle with these products.
To test the floors, we packed the tents with more than 500 pounds of humans, camping gear, and an 80-pound hound dog for at least five nights per tent. To put the mounting systems to the test, we went on some serious, rugged four-wheel-drive crawls — sometimes for many hours in remote locations.
All of the tents in this review passed our durability tests except for one. Some have features that we feel will hold up better than others. Some also have features that will reduce wear and tear on the doors and mosquito screens, like hoops and hooks to roll them out of the way. This helps to ensure they aren't getting beat up while getting in or out of the tent.
The Autana 3, Kukenam 3, Explorer Ayer 2, and Foothill have thick straps that hold the cover in place with metal D-rings and velcro sewn into the straps to ensure they don't come undone or flap around in the wind. The metal D-ring, combined with the straps, is less likely to get broken than plastic clips. The Kukenam, Autana, and Sparrow EYE are also 4-season tents, so they have thicker canopies. Also, the zipper on the Thule Tepui covers will likely hold up better in the long run than velcro, which is prone to wear out.
Another 4-season model, the Thule Approach, also uses thick ripstop for the canopy. Additionally, this model uses ripstop-coated rubber for the cover, and the cover zips all the way around the platform without the use of straps. With its weather-resistant design and super burly zipper, we don't see this cover failing any time soon.
As an added feature, many Tepui models come with the option to purchase an additional interchangeable canopy. So if you want to own something for gnarly adventures that's tougher than a light, warm weather canopy, you can have both without purchasing an entire extra tent. We noticed that the canopy on the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer is a bit thin, but this may be ideal for warmer climates.
The two hardshell pop-up versions both scored fairly well for this metric. The hard top means that they're pretty much bomb-proof while in travel mode. Still, we noticed that the material on the Roofnest Sparrow EYE and Falcon 2 are both made from a 320G polyester/cotton blend that simply can't compare to the 420D and 600D fabric offered by other models. That said, we did appreciate the large metal clips that ensure the tent stays shut while traveling. The ladders and metal slots for the ladder hooks all easily withstood our wear tests.
The lone hardshell fold-out model in our review, the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Mini, has a bomb-proof fiber-reinforced plastic shell for travel mode with a 320G polyester/cotton blend canopy that unfolds for camping. This model might be the burliest while traveling but isn't quite as tough as the top-scoring models for this portion of our review while it is in camp mode. However, it does have the strongest and best latch system out of the bunch, which also locks.
Ease of Conversion
One of the primary benefits of owning a rooftop is that once installed atop a vehicle, they are impressively quick and easy to convert from travel to camping mode. Even the models that take the longest to change over only take a few minutes to go from driving to nestling up into a warm and cozy bed. It may seem like we're splitting hairs when we say that one took a couple of minutes longer than the other, but when you're trying to set up in a storm, a few minutes can make the difference between a happy camper or a cold, wet night. For each model, it took us a bit longer to convert from camping mode to travel mode. Again, a minute or two may not seem like a big deal, but if you're breaking down camp in the rain, you're going to want this process to be as painless and simple as possible.
We converted each tent from travel to camping mode and back 25 times. We timed every conversion and took an average to gain some hard data for comparison. The main determining factor for this metric is the type of ladder each tent uses. Telescoping ladders are the fastest and easiest to deal with, except for models with telescoping ladders that must be completely detached from the tent for travel. Sliding ladders are not ideal because they only have certain settings, and sometimes you have to dig into the ground to get the ladder to a safe angle or, in extreme cases, drill holes if the shortest setting is still too long.
The Roofnest Sparrow EYE is the champion of this metric. Converting from travel to camping mode is as simple as undoing two metal clips, releasing a safety strap, and gently applying pressure to the underside of the tent roof. The hydraulic pistons lift the tent open with the same amount of effort as opening the rear door of an SUV.
You then need to extend and attach the ladder, but the whole process takes less time than getting the cover off of a softshell tent. There are two poles for the front door of the tent to be used as an awning, but this step is totally optional.
To convert the Sparrow EYE back to travel mode, you just reverse the steps. There is a large strap to help you pull the tent shut, but it doesn't require much energy because gravity is on your side.
The process for converting the Roofnest Falcon 2 is very similar to the Sparrow EYE. The main difference is that the Falcon awning is not part of the door, so it must be deployed, or it will flap around in the wind all night. Also, this model takes an extra bit of effort to tuck all of the tent's fabric under the cover while converting back to travel mode because of its super-tight low-profile construction.
The Yakima, Thule Tepui, CVT, and Roofnest models all come with telescoping ladders. They all extend using the same process, but when it comes time to fold the ladder up, the Thule Tepui and Roofnest models have an innovative self-collapsing system that only requires the user to push two buttons. The lower steps push the rest of the release buttons on their way up.
The Thule Tepui models and the Smittybilt Overlander have included bungee cords that string across the tent to keep the canopy from bunching up or bulging out of the side of the folding floor when it's time to convert from camping to travel mode. The Tepui Autana 3 includes an annex that hangs from the awning. It isn't a required part of the setup, but conversion gets a little more complicated and time-consuming if you're going to use it.
The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 takes a few more seconds to convert from travel mode to sleep mode than most pop-up hardshells because of its clamshell fold-out design. The way that it's engineered also adds a bit of time when you're ready to pack up and go home. This model's canopy is a bit harder to cram into its cover than the other hardshells and even many soft-cover models.
The Thule Tepui Foothill ladder must be detached and reattached for every use so that it can sit on the folded tent in a parallel position to maintain the slender profile of the overall folded tent with the cover on. This adds an extra step while converting between travel and camping modes and vice versa.
Ease of Assembly and Installation
Setting up a basic ground tent can quickly become a confusing nightmare until you learn the process. Rooftop tents are in a league of their own. While most come partially assembled out of the box, the last few attached parts can be quite the pain. The lightest tent we have tested weighs 93 pounds, while some can weigh more than 150 pounds. Needless to say, getting them properly assembled and installed on your vehicle is no easy feat. While it is possible to get a rooftop tent onto a vehicle by yourself, it takes some serious muscle power and a bit of ingenuity with an emphasis on personal safety. We timed each step of the installation process and noted anything extra frustrating or difficult during assembly and when attaching them to our testing rack.
How easy the product is to get out of the package affects how long it ultimately takes to mount on your vehicle. While some brands like to make their packaging as small as possible, others add extra bubble wrap or Styrofoam to ensure that your tent shows up undamaged. The Autana 3, Kukenam 3, Approach, Explorer Ayer 2, and Yakima SkyRise all come in boxes that slide off the tent sideways. The Smittybilt Overlander, iKamper Skycamp 3.0, and the Thule Tepui Foothill all come in a sandwich-style box that is easy to open and protects the tent. As an added bonus, the Foothill, Approach, and Skycamp 3.0 all come with the mounting tracks already installed on the base of the tent, removing a difficult step that many of these tents require.
When assembling your tent and attaching it to your vehicle, nearly all RTTs will include the basic tools needed. Even though we have a plethora of tools on hand, we attempted only to use the various wrenches included with each tent to conduct a true apples-to-apples comparison.
Once unboxed, the hard-shelled Roofnest Sparrow EYE, Roofnest Falcon 2, and the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 are the easiest to install because they don't require any assembly at all — you simply remove them from the box and lift them onto your rack.
Once on the rack, you complete the installation process by sliding the hardware into place and cranking it all down with the included tools. The only reason we didn't give the three hardshell models a perfect score for this metric is that they are so bulky that they require two strong and able-bodied individuals to lift them onto any vehicle, especially a truck or SUV.
The Thule Approach also comes with its mounting tracks installed, but you need to attach the ladder and assemble the mounting hardware, which takes a few minutes. The time spent assembling the bracket is well worth it because once they're put together, these brackets are the only ones we've come across that do not require you to tilt the tent on your rack to get them into place.
The Approach also includes a torque wrench — a tool that we wish the rest of the tents that use nuts and bolts to mount came with. We've learned the hard way that if you over-tighten mounting nuts, they can damage the piece of hardware that slides into the track, and they are then impossible to remove without cutting the bolt. If you don't tighten them enough, there will be vibration and movement while driving at high speeds or off-roading that can bend the bolt. Using a torque wrench means that you are cranking the nut to the manufacturer's exact recommended pressure — no more, no less.
When it comes to tents that require track assembly, we love the Yakima SkyRise system. Installing the mounting brackets only takes a couple of Allen wrenches included with the tent. Once everything is set up, everything else is tool-free. After assembly, no tools are required to get this model on and off of your rack, which is a huge bonus. With an extra set of hands, you can install the SkyRise on your rack in well under five minutes. Taking it off is just as fast or faster.
Unlike any other tent in our review, Yakima thought to have a configuration in the hole pattern on the tent floor that allows the user to set the tent up to open off the back of the vehicle instead of the side. Having the tent open to the back has many benefits in certain situations. First, your overall footprint will have a long, straight shape rather than an awkward L shape, which might work better at many campgrounds, festivals, or between tight trees. Having both options, as the Yakima SkyRise does, is nice. It's possible to modify some other models to the out-the-back configuration, but this process requires some special tools and know-how. It's always a bit unnerving taking a power tool to such a large investment.
There is a large variety of rooftop tent cover types. Some are made of thick rubber; others are made of Cordura. Some are attached by velcro and clips; others are zipped on. Some get completely removed, while others only come off on three sides and are then rolled up and strapped up out of the way. The types that are entirely removed can often require two people to reattach. Even the ones that roll up can be a pain if you are alone, while some are a breeze for one person to handle.
We removed each cover and then put them back on 25 times to assess cover convenience and gauge user-friendliness. There are three key steps to the procedure of placing the cover back on the tent when it's time to pack up camp. First, you unroll the cover and snug it back over the folded-up tent. Then you secure the cover to the outer edges of the bottom half of the tent floor using either a zipper or velcro. Finally, the whole system is secured using either straps or clips. We found that a heavy-duty zipper around the lower edge of the cover, partnered with D-ring style straps, was the easiest system to use.
We gave the Roofnest Sparrow EYE, iKamper Skycamp 3.0, and the Roofnest Falcon 2 perfect scores for this metric because they don't have covers to deal with. The way these three models are constructed, you simply undo a couple of buckles or straps, and the hardshell that covers the tent doubles as the roof of the tent or one side of the tent in the case of the iKamper.
We are big fans of the three-sided zipper cover system that the Autana 3, Kukenham 3, Explorer Ayer 2, and Foothill all use. It is great that Thule Tepui thought to sew in straps for keeping the rolled-up cover out of the way when you're in camping mode. The Yakima SkyRise cover straps aren't quite as beefy as the Tepui models, but they get the job done. The SkyRise cover system of zippers, velcro, and plastic clips is a no-brainer to take off but slightly more difficult to reattach. The Approach is the only Thule model whose cover is completely removed. Our team found this to be more of a pain to put back on than models that stay attached and roll up below the tent.
It is our mission to provide our readers with the best information possible so that you can purchase the perfect products for your needs and budget. During this review, we realized that rooftop tents are a lot more diverse and complicated than a fancy-looking box sitting on top of your vehicle. We took the time to look at the tiny intricacies that separate them from one another by carefully inspecting them and testing them repeatedly in various conditions and situations. We hope that after reading this review, you will know exactly which rooftop tent to buy. Happy camping!
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.