Roof top tents (RTT), for good reason, are increasingly popular. With a tent built on the top of your truck, you have the opportunity to stay off the ground so that your tent is not as vulnerable to flooding or scrubbing. It also ensures less dirt and debris will be brought into the tent and more airflow will be needed to improve ventilation.
Roof top tents are more sturdy than ground tents and are typically faster and easier to set up. Furthermore, RTTs often contain an integrated mattress so that you don’t have to smear uncomfortable air columns that are difficult to inflate.
Hard shell RTTs have certain benefits over soft shells. Here are a few more reasons why we love them:
- They’re much better insulated than soft shell tents, so they stay more comfortable throughout the year and are therefore a lot quieter to sleep in, especially in windy conditions due to the smaller number of fabrics involved.
- Matresses are often heavier and simpler in hard shell RTTs than in soft shell tents.
- The setup and storing of a hard shell tent is much easier and faster and even in bad weather for a single person.
- Sometimes they last longer than soft shells because of the rougher construction.
- Finally, you have the opportunity to add storage on top of a tent, with many hard shell tents, that can still be used even when the tent is deployed.
Our 10 Favorite Hard Shell Roof Top Tents Ready to hit the list of top hard shell tents?
A list of our favorites has been compiled, which includes various styles and price ranges. This list is not in a specific order, as all 10 of these options are excellent!
1. Alu-Cab Expedition
Alu-Cab is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa and since 2002 it has been equipping expedition vehicles and manufacturing high quality products for aluminum vehicles. Almost every big safari company in Africa uses Alu-Cab vehicles, which provides a good idea of their products ‘ durability and quality.
Expedition 3 Roof Top Tent is fully made of aluminum, so a large load can be borne on the integrated crossbars and can be set up easily. This wedge-like tent features gas-pressure fountains and three mosquito net entrances.
The tent is also designed to maintain the heat, as the upper shell is thicker than the tabernacle, and all openings are slightly angled so that the rain does not drop in. The tent can also be secured with padlocks. Both tent seams are reinforced and waterproofed.
The floor and roof panels have a closed-cell polyethylene foam insulation, which prevents condensation, regulates extreme temperatures and minimizes wind and rain noise. The tent has a high-density foam mattress and several pockets are integrated into the storage roof and two LED reading lights. The tent weighs approximately 170 pounds.
2. Autohome Maggiolina
The Maggiolina Extreme has an elegant and aerodynamic profile and two adjustable load bars on the top which can be supplied with additional gear. This pop-up tent features a crank-operated elevator that enables the tent to be opened with minimal effort.
This tent’s floor panel is a double fiber glass sheet sandwiching a foam layer that makes it extremely solid, durable and easy to insulate against harsh temperatures. For easy cleaning, a 3.5-inch closed-cell foam mattress is removable. The Extreme is 72 centimeters long but two widths are available: small (48 centimeters wide) and medium (54 centimeters wide).
One of the major complaints with RTTs is that the wind will make you sleep altered, but with the crank design, the Maggiolina Extreme guarantees peaceful night’s sleep to reduce flapping and stress at the sides of the tent.
You can withstand more than 50 miles of wind per hour! Thermal and acoustic protection in the roof panel also ensures that rain noise will not bother you, even in the coldest of camper locations, and you will stay warm.
3. Go Fast Camper RTT
This is your tent if you want a super sleek RTT. It is the thinnest RTT ever made when it is closed at 6 inches. In 5th Generation 4Runner, GFC also produces a special assembly kit which allows you to remove the sharkfin antenna and fit the tent just half an inch above the sheet metal factory. Speak of a low profile!
The wedge-style tent opens up to an incredible height of 4 feet and only weighs 150 pounds. It can hold 75 pounds more storage weight on the top rack and comes equipped with a universal assembly kit that works on the market with virtually any crossbar as long as it is 56 inches broad. There is a 2-inch multi-density foam mattress with a flexible cover, although there is no ladder.
Go Fast Camping is constructed in Montana, Bozeman, with all components coming from the United States and most of them produced in-house or manufactured by the GFC team.
4. Roost Explorer
The Roost Explorer is another RTT wedge-style, but an interesting option is to remove the mattress and tent material so it can serve as a cargo carrier on the ceiling instead of being 13 centimeters high at the back and 5 centimeters high at the front. This is a great way to transport skis and other unmanageable equipment.
This RTT is rather large and has an inner height of 59 inches and a length of 90.5 inches and a width of 57 inches. It can sleep three adults or two adults very comfortably, if necessary. The standard mattress is high-density2-inch foam although for additional comfort, you can upgrade to a 3-inch mattress.
Each of the three doors has a layer of a screen door. It comes with an 8.5-foot aluminum telescoping ladder which is only 27 inches long. The tent has heavy-duty lockable rear latches that secure the shell tightly together so that vibration noise is minimized. Gas lifter shocks open the lid quickly.
5. RoofNest Sparrow
This RTT-style 130-pound pop-up is a perfect choice for medium to small cars, with a universal mounting system and only a 38-inch crossbar. This tent can comfortably fit two adults, comprising a 3-inch spray colour, an anti-capsulation mat, and an 8.5-foot telescopic ladder.
The tent has stainless steel gas stretchers which only reach the tent. The sturdy construction of the tent floor allows it to hold up to 650 pounds.
The ABS-fiberglass shell is internally covered with an isolating layer and covered with quilt fabric, giving it an intimate and homely look. The tent has two windows and two doors, all of which have canvas and mesh layers so you can get in a storm or make the warm nights feel a cool breeze. The doors can also be transformed into shade markers with the included poles.
6. BunduTec BunduTop
BunduTec was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and its United States branch was launched in 2013. These RTTs are made of designs and materials which have withstanded South Africa and Botswana’s tough conditions. The BunduTop is a pop-up tent in three dimensions: standard, king and king. Alternatively, a custom tent of any size up to 63 inches wide and 118 inches long can be ordered.
The construction of this tent allows you to reach anywhere and gives you a 360-degree view of your surroundings. It features two pockets for holding small items, an LED light and a light cigarette plug so that devices can be loaded. In case you choose to add a panel, solar cables are included.
The roof is a crude aluminum plate that reflects heat extremely efficiently, keeping you cool and convenient even in direct sunlight. Using a rope and squash, a 2000-pound winch motor raises and lowers the tent. The tent has been designed to withstand winds of 50 miles an hour and even in snow.
7. Eezi-Awn Stealth
This RTT aluminum is another South African tente and is unique in combining wedge-style and pop-up tents. When used it has the traditional wedge shape, but there is a patented scissor mechanism at the front of the tent, which lifts the roof panel by almost a foot, giving extra foot space for that reason.
You can open the tent with a touch of gas. The integrated marquee at the rear entrance provides protection against the direct rain and sunshine as you enter and leave your tent. A aluminum telescopic ladder is included. The tent features a 12-volt socket and USB port on either side of the tent, plus an LED light.
8. iKamper Skycamp 2.0
The Skycamp 2.0 is another unique RTT: it combines hard shell elements with soft shell tents. If this tent is turned off, it is identical to any other hard RTT shell with two coated FRP top and bottom sides. This opens however, with the hinge on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Like a soft shell tent, it then folds on the other side of the car, essentially doubling the floor space and giving four easy beds. By strategically parking, the rigid ceiling panel may take the brunt of all wind or adverse weather, although this tent is exposed to the elements of the list more than the other hard shell RTTs.
Nevertheless, the gas stretchers have a locking feature, so if the wind catches up you don’t have to worry about the tent collapsing around you.
The tent is made out of a poly-cotton canvas, but you can also switch to a lighter airflow summer tent (which is sold separately), if the canvas tent warms up too hot. This South Korean business promises that in less than 60 seconds you can set up this elaborate RTT!
9. Tepui HyBox
The dual function of the HyBox consists of a pop-up RTT and a freight box: simply zip off or on the tent section to suit your needs. It offers a considerable 23 cubic feet of space when used as a cargo box. You should open both ends so that you can easily access your entire storage or simply pop one end (so it opens like a wedge) to grab it quickly.
The tent has a universal mounting system so that virtually any vehicle can run. For improved quilted insulation, the inside of the insulated shell minimizes vibrations and extreme temperatures. The tent comes with a 6.6-foot aluminum telescopic ladder and a 3-inch foam mattress with an easy to wash clear cover. You can also remove the entire mattress for additional load space.
10. Cascadia Vehicle Tents
This luxury pop-up RTT is fitted with hydraulic gas or electric actuators. It is available as both a regular and an extended alternative. This tent can be placed on a variety of vehicles and features built-in tents across both doors and windows.
The Mt. St. Helens is also very adaptable from the shell’s color to the tent’s fabric. It has a 3-inch foam mattress and a telescopic ladder.
Soft Shell Vs. Roof Top Hard Shell Tents
Two main types of RTTs are available: hard shell and soft shell. Let’s look at the similarities and some advantages and disadvantages.
Hard Shell RTTs–Hard shell tents have rigid top and bottom pieces (usually aluminum or fiberglass) that are sandwiched to form a protective barrier, when the tents are closed, to any soft part (temperatur walls, mattress, bedding etc.).
The advantages of this design are that they are generally smaller and more aerodynamic than soft RTT shells. This also means that they have less adverse effects on gas miles and do not change the center of gravity of your car as much.
Two basic hard shell designs are available: the wedge style and the pop-up style. The wedge style has a hinge at the end of a tent that’ll be nearest to the front of your car (where your feet go), and you have plenty of headroom at the back of the tent.
Because these types of RTTs need a smaller, less complicated opening mechanism, they are often longer and more spacious than pop-ups. Therefore, wedge-style tents tend to do better in miserable conditions, because they can attract more wind and rain or snow.
Pop-up RTTs have an equal roof section, making a box shaped tent. These appear to be shorter because at one end there is no unusable space, just like the wedge type. However, pop-up tents often feel wider, particularly if you have two people camping in one.
Soft Shell RTT–The main advantage of soft RTT shells is that they can extend their original size to double or even triple because of platforms that fold out and optional additional lobbies. They are also less expensive than hard-shell RTTs. Most soft tents need to be unfolded manually, so they take somewhat longer to set up than hard shell tents.
Unlike hard coats, two main types of soft shell RTTs are available: bi-folded and pull-up tents. The two-fold configuration is more common and operates by sandwiching the entire packed tent between the two floorboards. Thus, when deployed, the footprint of the enclosed tent is half the size.
Nonetheless, these can be very difficult to pack up, as a lot of fabric can be folded and placed between the two covers.
The pull-up style of the soft shell tent looks more like a ground tent, but functions like a hard shell of a wedge, with the support pole simply pulled up, extending the walls taught in the fabric. These are easier to set up and easier to store than the twice options.