Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Rooftop Tents of 2022

We bought and tested the top rooftop tents from Thule Tepui, Roofnest, CVT, Yakima, Smittybilt, and more to find the best fit for your investment
Best Rooftop Tents of 2022
Credit: Ross Patton
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday July 28, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

We thoroughly researched over 40 models and purchased 10 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.

If setting up a heavy tent on the roof of your car is more than you care to deal with, consider a spacious car camping tent instead. Whichever route you take, our comprehensive reviews on other camping essentials can help you get kitted out with everything from the best pillow to a stove fit for gourmet meals.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on July 28, 2002, to add in 3 new tents, including the addition of hardshell models, which our review had not previously covered.

Top 10 Product Ratings

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Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award 
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Overall Score
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76
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Pros Very comfortable, durable, has entrance awning, great weather protection, included annexWide and sturdy ladder, boot bag, LED light strip, spaciousEffortless conversion, no assembly, tons of cargo spaceAerodynamic design, effortless setup, lots of included accessories and optionsDurable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversion
Cons Longest conversion time (though not by much), side window awnings don't roll up, priceyLadder may require drilling, velcro cover not the most efficient cover system, heavyBig while in travel mode, expensiveNo room for ladder or additional bedding while in transport mode, expensive, considerable weightNo entrance awning, no added extras
Bottom Line A versatile rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to doWith a durable design and many handy features, this model competes with the top models while costing significantly lessA high-end hardshell rooftop tent that is comfy, spacious, and incredibly easy to install and set upThe best option for those that want a top-tier rooftop tent with minimal wind dragOur top soft-top recommendation for most people provides excellent quality and comfort across all four seasons
Rating Categories Thule Tepui Autana 3 Smittybilt Overlander Roofnest Sparrow EYE Roofnest Falcon 2 Thule Tepui Kukenam 3
Space and Comfort (30%) Sort Icon
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (25%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Ease of Conversion (20%)
7.0
6.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
Ease of Assembly and Installation (15%)
7.0
5.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Cover Convenience (10%)
8.0
6.0
10.0
10.0
8.0
Specs Thule Tepui Autana 3 Smittybilt Overlander Roofnest Sparrow EYE Roofnest Falcon 2 Thule Tepui Kukenam 3
Seasons 4 3 4 3 4
Weight 130 lbs 144 lbs 130 lbs 160 lbs 130 lbs
Max Inside Height 52 in 51 in 44 in 60 in 52 in
Pockets 4 5 1 detachable 2 detachable, gear grid with 5 pockets 4
Windows 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 2 side 2 side 3 side, 2 roof
Floor Dimensions 56 in x 96 in 56 in x 96 in 83 in x 49 in 86 in x 48 in 56 in x 96 in
Floor Area 38 sq ft 38 sq ft 28 sq ft 29 sq ft 38 sq ft
Room Divider No No No No No
Vestibules Yes No No No No
Vestibule Area Dimensions 26 in x 56 in n/a n/a n/a n/a
Packed Size 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 6 in x 50 in x 88 in 11 in x 50 in x 85 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in
Floor Materials Aluminum Aluminum Fiberglass-reinforced ASA/ABS Honeycomb aluminum Aluminum
Main Tent Materials 420 D 420 D Polyurethane-coated polyester and cotton blend 320g poly-cotton 420 D
Rainfly Materials 600 D 600 D n/a n/a 600 D
Number of Poles 6 8 2 2 8
Pole Material Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel
Pole Diameter 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in
Design Type Fold-out Fold-out Clamshell Clamshell Fold-out
Extras Awning over ladder Interior LED, extension cords, boot bag Matress, LED light, privacy tent, ground mat, anti-condensation mat Matress, 8.5' ladder, anti-condensation mat, dual detachable pockets, privacy tent, and LED lights n/a


Best Hardshell Rooftop Tent


Roofnest Sparrow EYE


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Ease of Conversion 10.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 9.0
  • Cover Convenience 10.0
Weight: 130 lbs | Max Internal Height: 44"
REASONS TO BUY
Conversion takes seconds
Easy to install
Ample storage inside and out
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky
Large footprint in travel mode
Pricey

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.

Read review: Roofnest Sparrow EYE

best hardshell rooftop tent
The Sparrow EYE is our favorite hardshell model and one of our favorite RTTs of all time.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best Overall Softshell Rooftop Tent


Thule Tepui Kukenam 3


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 7.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Ease of Conversion 8.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 7.0
  • Cover Convenience 8.0
Weight: 130 lbs | Max Internal Height: 52"
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile, four-season utility
Telescoping ladder
Built with quality and longevity in mind
REASONS TO AVOID
Slower conversion time than a hardshell model
Pricey for this type

Throughout testing, the Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 is the model that stood out as the best option for the biggest audience. Thule Tepui has a strong reputation for producing high-quality rooftop tents, and the Kukenam is no exception. The 600-denier cover and 420-denier rain fly (with taped seams) provide reliable waterproofing layers when packed up or deployed and this tent has survived every beating we gave it during testing unscathed. It is made for handling four-season use, and we found no reason to doubt that claim. The Kukenam nails the details, too, the ones that can help make the difference between liking and loving your tent. The memory foam mattress is top-notch, and the interior dimensions are among the most spacious. The attached telescoping ladder makes deployment easy, and the internal bungees are incredibly convenient when breaking camp, keeping the canopy tucked inside the frame nicely. Tepui also includes a ratcheting wrench with each Kukenam for installation atop your vehicle.

We have no major grievances with this model. Being 130 pounds, though, it might require up to three people to install this model on a rooftop. It also has no extras like a boot bag, lights, or an included annex, but these options can be purchased after-market. And while this isn't the most expensive option in our line-up, it does cost more than many. In our opinion, though, Tepui gets the details that most people will care about right. If a friend asks us which softshell rooftop tent to purchase, the Tepui Kukenam is almost always our first recommendation.

Read review: Thule Tepui Kukenam 3

best overall softshell rooftop tent
The Kukenam mattress comfort and interior space are legit. We also love the star-gazing capabilities of this model.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best Bang for the Buck


Smittybilt Overlander


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Ease of Conversion 6.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 5.0
  • Cover Convenience 6.0
Weight: 144 lbs | Max Internal Height: 51"
REASONS TO BUY
Great ladder
LED lights
Included boot bag
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
May need to drill ladder

Though the Smittybilt Overlander is a more moderaly 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, 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.

Read review: Smittybilt Overlander

rooftop tent - best bang for the buck
The Smittybilt model is more laborious to install and convert, but for many folks, the cost savings are well worth a little extra effort. Don't let the price fool you - this is a high-quality rooftop tent.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best Low-Profile Hardtop Rooftop Tent


Roofnest Falcon 2


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Ease of Conversion 9.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 9.0
  • Cover Convenience 10.0
Weight: 160 lbs | Max Internal Height: 60"
REASONS TO BUY
Super thin construction
Effortless conversion
LED lights
Tons of pockets
Optional crossbars
REASONS TO AVOID
No room for ladder or bedding inside
Expensive
Heavy

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 consider where you're going to haul these things if you decide to go with 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 pocketbook.

Read review: Roofnest Falcon 2

best low-profile hardtop rooftop tent
The Roofnest Falcon 2 has plenty of room for two people and lots of gear as long as it's in camping mode.
Credit: Ross Patton

Most Coverage


Thule Tepui Autana 3


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Ease of Conversion 7.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 7.0
  • Cover Convenience 8.0
Weight: 130 lbs | Max Internal Height: 52"
REASONS TO BUY
Fantastic comfort
Durable
Includes an awning and an annex
REASONS TO AVOID
Longest conversion time
Expensive for a softshell model

Tepui has proven to hold the crown in innovation and design. 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 makes it so you'll never be climbing up and down slippery, wet steps, and the button-free ladder is handy. This tent includes some subtleties that make a ton of difference, such as the sturdy straps that hold the cover up when you're in camping mode or the internal bungee system that helps the canopy fold while you're converting to travel mode. Add an easy-to-use travel cover and an incredibly comfortable memory foam mattress, and you have one luxurious rooftop home away from home.

The biggest drawback is easy to see here — the price is high, 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.

Read review: Thule Tepui Autana 3

rooftop tent - most coverage
The annex that comes included with the Autana 3 adds a lot of extra living space and keeps your ladder completely dry from any rain.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best for Fitting More Gear


Thule Tepui Foothill


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Space and Comfort 7.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Ease of Conversion 6.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation 8.0
  • Cover Convenience 9.0
Weight: 122 lbs | Max Internal Height: 47"
REASONS TO BUY
Only takes up a portion of the roof rack
No assembly required
Cover easy to take off and put on
REASONS TO AVOID
Thinner mattress
Added conversion time
Long

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. This is not a big deal — Thule Tepui designed a handy quick-release system — but it is 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're looking to haul extra toys and gear on your rack.

Read review: Thule Tepui Foothill

rooftop tent - the number one reason to purchase the foothill is to leave extra...
The number one reason to purchase the Foothill is to leave extra space on your rack for other toys.
Credit: Ross Patton

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
82
$3,195
Editors' Choice Award
Our number one suggestion for those in the market for a hardshell model because of its ease of use, storage space, and overall enjoyment
80
$2,500
Top Pick Award
An impressively comfortable rooftop tent that can handle any type of weather
80
$3,595
Top Pick Award
A hardshell rooftop tent with a tiny thickness, luxurious comfort, and accessories
76
$2,000
Editors' Choice Award
In the world of rooftop tents, this durable and versatile model is the standard
74
$2,200
Top Pick Award
If you want a rooftop tent that won’t take up your entire rack, this is the one
71
$1,900
An easy to install tent that requires minimal knowledge or use of tools
69
$1,500
The breathable canopy on this tent is ideal for warmer climates
68
$1,575
A two-person model with mostly standard features and some added assembly steps
67
$1,300
Best Buy Award
A reasonably priced rooftop tent that offers outstanding performance
43
$1,169
The lightest tent out there, but at a sacrifice in durability

owning a rooftop tent will most certainly give you an excuse to...
Owning a rooftop tent will most certainly give you an excuse to venture out into the great unknown.
Credit: Ross Patton

Why You Should Trust Us


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, splitboard, and snowmobile, so he's seen about every size and type of tent imaginable. This is Ross's fourth summer in a row spearheading this category for GearLab. 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.

We converted each tent dozens of times to understand which models...
We converted each tent dozens of times to understand which models have the most user-friendly features.
Easy to install, security locks, quality craftmanship, quick to...
Easy to install, security locks, quality craftmanship, quick to convert...Lots of positives surrounding the SkyRise from Yakima.
With an RTT you&#039;ll have a comfortable bed wherever you can get your...
With an RTT you'll have a comfortable bed wherever you can get your vehicle. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

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. Like Ease of Conversion, some metrics 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.


Value


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 between 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, because most hardshells don't fold, they 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.

rooftop tent - setting up a hardshell tent is as easy as opening the trunk of a...
Setting up a hardshell tent is as easy as opening the trunk of a Subaru.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

it&#039;s amazing how fast you can set up camp with a hardshell rooftop...
It's amazing how fast you can set up camp with a hardshell rooftop tent.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 Tepui Kukenham 3 and Thule Tepui Foothill are both substantially less money than our favorite hardshell versions. The Kukenham offers commendable comfort, excellent durability, and 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 overlander competes well with the top-tier of rooftop tents...
The Overlander competes well with the top-tier of rooftop tents, despite costing significantly less.
Credit: Ross Patton

The Thule Tepui Autana 3 is quite pricey, 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 if it's accessible to you.

get out there and get lost.
Get out there and get lost.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

softshell versions such as the thule tepui explorer ayer 2 don&#039;t...
Softshell versions such as the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 don't take up much room while traveling, but the overall footprint is much larger while camping.
Credit: Ross Patton

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. Another part of comfort is privacy. 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 autana 3 offers superior space and comfort for your friends...
The Autana 3 offers superior space and comfort for your friends, family, or animals.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 have the option to purchase an 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.

the autana 3 has a large entrance awning that keeps the ladder dry...
The Autana 3 has a large entrance awning that keeps the ladder dry and adds to space and privacy.
Credit: Ross Patton

The two hardshell 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 boot bags included with the Roofnest Falcon 2 allow you to store...
The boot bags included with the Roofnest Falcon 2 allow you to store dirty shoes and other items outside of your sleeping space.
The Roofnest Falcon 2 has two LED light strips that very efficiently...
The Roofnest Falcon 2 has two LED light strips that very efficiently illuminate the tent at night.
This model has a massive array of cargo pockets for keeping your...
This model has a massive array of cargo pockets for keeping your gear organized while you camp.

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.

the roofnest sparrow eye has plenty of headroom.
The Roofnest Sparrow EYE has plenty of headroom.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 roofnest sparrow eye has a storage area and included rubber bag...
The Roofnest Sparrow EYE has a storage area and included rubber bag on top of the shell for extra gear.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

the cvt bachelor is designed for two people but we wouldn&#039;t exactly...
The CVT Bachelor is designed for two people but we wouldn't exactly call it roomy.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

the thule tepui foothill does not have the most space inside the...
The Thule Tepui Foothill does not have the most space inside the tent but its size and shape allow for so much room for activities.
Credit: Ross Patton

Durability


When you're 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 isn't exactly a delicate process. 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.

all of the thule tepui rooftop tents have condensation vents. these...
All of the Thule Tepui rooftop tents have condensation vents. These aid in the risk of mold or mildew and will ultimately add to the lifespan of your canopy.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

there was no parking lot testing done by our team - we took these...
There was no parking lot testing done by our team - we took these tents to remote and rugged locations in the American West.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 hoop and hook systems that many models offer will reduce the...
The hoop and hook systems that many models offer will reduce the wear and tear on your mosquito screens by keeping them out of the way when they aren't needed.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 three-sided zipper on the Thule Tepui covers will likely hold up better in the long run than velcro, which is prone to wear out.

the tepui model cover straps are secured with large metal d-rings...
The Tepui model cover straps are secured with large metal D-rings. This is the strongest system we tested.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

most tepui models come with the option to buy an additional canopy...
Most Tepui models come with the option to buy an additional canopy that attaches using a thick, durable zipper.
Credit: Ross Patton

The two hardshell versions both scored fairly well for this metric. The hard top means that they're pretty much bombproof 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 sparrow eye ladder can be hooked to any one of the three sets of...
The Sparrow EYE ladder can be hooked to any one of the three sets of metal hooks around the sides of the tent.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

once the red buttons on the bottom rung of the thule tepui models...
Once the red buttons on the bottom rung of the Thule Tepui models are pressed, rubber tabs on the top of the rungs press the remaining release buttons as the ladder is collapsed.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

To convert the Sparrow EYE to camping mode, you open two clips...
To convert the Sparrow EYE to camping mode, you open two clips, release one strap, then gently lift.
Once the lifting process is set in motion, the hydraulic pistons do...
Once the lifting process is set in motion, the hydraulic pistons do the rest of the work.
Lastly, you put two awning poles in place and attach the ladder and...
Lastly, you put two awning poles in place and attach the ladder and you're good to go!

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.

the sparrow eye ladder stores in a pouch inside the tent while not...
The Sparrow EYE ladder stores in a pouch inside the tent while not in use.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

to close the tent, you pull on a large strap while tucking the...
To close the tent, you pull on a large strap while tucking the fabric back under the shell.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

Deploying and removing the awning poles is a necessary step for...
Deploying and removing the awning poles is a necessary step for converting the Falcon between travel and camping modes.
Converting the Falcon 2 from camping to travel mode takes a few...
Converting the Falcon 2 from camping to travel mode takes a few seconds longer to fold up than its cousin the Sparrow EYE, but it's still much faster to fold up than any softshell tent.

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 telescoping ladder design is the easiest to use and adjust to...
The telescoping ladder design is the easiest to use and adjust to the safest height.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

if you decide to use the annex on the tepui autana 3, be prepared to...
If you decide to use the annex on the Tepui Autana 3, be prepared to spend an extra few minutes setting up or tearing down your camp.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

the ladder on the thule tepui foothill has to be detached and stowed...
The ladder on the Thule Tepui Foothill has to be detached and stowed during transport because of its slender design.
Credit: Ross Patton

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 of them come most of the way 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, Explorer Ayer 2, and Yakima SkyRise all come in boxes that slide off the tent sideways. The Smittybilt Overlander and the Thule Tepui Foothill both come in a sandwich-style box that is easy to open and protects the tent. As an added bonus, the Foothill comes with the mounting tracks already installed on the base of the tent, making it one of the easiest to install.

the smittybilt overlander came in an easy to use, sandwich-style box...
The Smittybilt Overlander came in an easy to use, sandwich-style box and was completely surrounded in Styrofoam for protection during shipping.
Credit: Ross Patton

When assembling your tent and attaching it to your vehicle, all RTTs in this review include the required tools. 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. In a few instances, we had no choice but to use extra tools — and even power tools — to modify non-telescoping ladders to the appropriate height.

every model we&#039;ve tested includes the tools needed to install the...
Every model we've tested includes the tools needed to install the tent on your rack.
Credit: Ross Patton

The Roofnest Sparrow EYE, Roofnest Falcon 2, and the Yakima SkyRise were the easiest tents to assemble and install. The two Roofnest models do not 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 ratcheting wrench. The only reason we didn't give the two 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 roofnest models come fully assembled and ready to install.
The Roofnest models come fully assembled and ready to install.
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

the skyrise uses allen wrenches rather than metric wrenches for most...
The Skyrise uses Allen wrenches rather than metric wrenches for most of the assembly of the mounting system.
Credit: Ross Patton

Unlike any other tent in our review, Yakima thought to have a configuration in the hole pattern on the tent floor, allowing the user to set the tent up to open off the back of the vehicle instead of the side. Most other models require a bit of customization if you want to rotate the entrance 90 degrees. 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.

for many models you are required to cut the mounting tracks to mount...
For many models you are required to cut the mounting tracks to mount your tent out the back because they are made to match the length of the tent floor, not the width.
Credit: Ross Patton

The hardest part of owning a rooftop tent is mounting it to your vehicle. This process is made more difficult if the tent is heavier. Tool-free systems are easier than those that require socket wrenches. We weren't very pleased to find out that we would need to drill into the Front Runner ladder to get it to the proper angle for our test vehicle. If you need to drill into your ladder and don't have your own drill, you may need to go out and buy one, which adds to the tent's overall cost. And, unless you are a seasoned machinist, it is never a good feeling to drill holes into a brand new product that you just spent a good chunk of change on. Just a reminder: it's always a good idea to check with the manufacturer before modifying your rooftop tent, vehicle, or rack.

Mounting your tent so that it unfolds off the side is great, as long...
Mounting your tent so that it unfolds off the side is great, as long as you have a wide enough parking spot.
Mounting your tent off the back can make your footprint smaller...
Mounting your tent off the back can make your footprint smaller depending on your rack and vehicle.

Cover Convenience


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 how much of a pain they are to deal with. 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 of all, 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.

the travel covers on the the tepui and yakima models have straps...
The travel covers on the the Tepui and Yakima models have straps that allow you to roll the cover up and have it be out of your way while camping.
Credit: Ross Patton

We gave the Roofnest Sparrow EYE and the Roofnest Falcon 2 perfect scores for this metric because they don't have covers to deal with. The way these two models are constructed, all you do is undo a couple of buckles or straps, and the hardshell that covers the tent doubles as the roof of the tent.

no need to worry about a cover for the hardshell models because they...
No need to worry about a cover for the hardshell models because they don't have covers!
Credit: Ross Patton

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.

with a rooftop tent on your vehicle, the campsite opportunities are...
With a rooftop tent on your vehicle, the campsite opportunities are endless.
Credit: Ross Patton

Conclusion


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 having read this review, you will know exactly which rooftop tent to buy. Happy camping!

Ross Patton


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