The introduction of the hard shell roof top tent significantly changed the way we see camping. You can set up your tent on top of your car instead of pitching it on the ground. Hard shell rooftop tents are notorious for being easy to set up. Once you have the best rooftop tent, your camping trip will be significantly enhanced.
Since the advent of these tents, there have been numerous versions that have hit the market. However, you will probably need to do some research to ensure you find the right one for your needs. This is where we come in. The following article is centered around helping you find the best hard shell roof top tent to improve your camping experience.
Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Comparison
|Roofnest Falcon||140 lbs||2-Person||Online||$$$||5/5|
|iKamper Skycamp 2.0||160 lbs||4-Person||Online||$$$$||5/5|
|Roofnest Sparrow Eye||130 lbs||1-2 Person||Online||$$||4/5|
|Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 Expedition||172 lbs||2-Person||Dealer Only||$$$$||5/5|
|James Baroud Explorer||145 lbs||2-Person||Dealer Only||$$$$||4/5|
The Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents
Before we dive into some of the intricate features, we must consider which tents make the cut. Let’s get started by looking at the best hard shell roof top tents on the market today.
At the end of this article, you’ll find a short guide to show you which features are most important when choosing a roof top tent.
Best Low-Profile Hard Shell Roof Top Tent: Roofnest Falcon
The first one to make it onto our list is the Roofnest Falcon Rooftop Tent. It is one of the largest hard shell roof top tents on this list. Surprisingly though, it has an efficient low-profile design when it is closed. The clamshell setup is effective for all types of vehicles. It has an internal capacity that will support two camping individuals. Honeycomb aluminum is used for the frame, adding a sense of durability.
Internally, the size is around 88 x 48-inches. That means the sleeping area is between the size of a full and queen-size mattress. With 60 inches of headroom, there’s enough space inside to sit up and read a book, change, or hang out. Like other hard shell roof top tents, the Falcon also includes a 7.5-foot ladder, making it easy to climb inside.
Accessories & Rack System
The Roofnest Falcon RTT also has channels along all four sides so you can attach accessories like an awning. Roofnest also offers optional crossbars that attach to the top of the tent. This makes carrying bikes, kayaks, skis, or anything else very easy. Roofnest’s latest Falcon model has integrated LED lighting, so you won’t have to haul your lantern inside when it’s time for bed.
One of the downsides, though, is the price. It is one of the more expensive options offered by Roofnest. (We think it’s well worth it, though!)
Pros & Cons of the Roofnest Falcon Rooftop Tent
- Low-profile design
- Durable honeycomb aluminum (holds up in 30-40 mph winds)
- Easy to set up
- Comfortable mattress
- Cannot close tent with bedding inside
- Hard to close the tent the first few uses (stiff hinges)
Best 4-Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent: iKamper Skycamp 2.0
If you have a family, it is often more fun to take your family camping with you. The iKamper Skycamp 2.0 is one of the most versatile hard shell rooftop tents, and it can hold 4 people! This tent is made from a combination of polyester and canvas. Despite its large size, it only takes 1 minute to set up when you need some form of shelter.
Internally, the tent has a size of 85 x 83-inches. To put that into perspective, a California King mattress is 84 x 72 inches. That means, that the sleeping space inside the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 is BIGGER THAN A CALIFORNIA KING! 😮
The good thing though, is that the tent will reduce to 85 x 55-inches once it’s closed. Thanks to the spacious interior, you’ll have enough room for 3 adults and up to 2 children. However, we don’t recommend sleeping more than 4 people due to weight limitations.
Colors & Canvas Material
Unlike its competition, iKamper offers the Skycamp 2.0 in 3 colors- glossy black, white, and “rocky” matte black. So, you’ll be able to choose the color that best matches your vehicle and style. Since the tent is part canvas, it comes with a waterproof rainfly to protect you from the elements. The rainfly attaches to the hard shell with a zipper and a few bungees.
The windows are double-layered, so you can still see outside even if it’s raining. The outer layer turns into a canopy and the clear layer mimics a traditional window (except it’s plastic). Because of the extra canvas material, you can purchase accessories that easily attach with zippers and bungees. Some popular accessories are the awning or the annex room that increases your outdoor living space.
Like the Roofnest Falcon, though, the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 is one of the most expensive hard shell rooftop tents on the market today. Keep this in mind as you’re shopping for tents. If you have a big family and have the dough to spend, we recommend the Skycamp 2.0!
Pros & Cons of the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 Rooftop Tent
- Easy to set up
- Expandable setup sleeps up to 4
- Durable polyester and canvas materials
- Includes 2 side windows and a stargazing window
- Rainfly is annoying to zip on/off
- Cannot close tent with bedding inside
Best 1-Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent: Roofnest Sparrow Eye
You don’t always need friends and family to tag along when camping. Sometimes solo camping is just what you need. And Roofnest’s Sparrow Eye is the perfect 1-person roof top tent.
Compact, Yet Comfortable Interior
The Roofnest Sparrow Eye pop-ups up from just one side, making it extremely easy to use. Because of its smaller size, it is supported by almost every vehicle (Jeep Renegades, Subarus, crossovers, etc.). Internally, it is 83 x 49-inches, which is about the size of a full-size bed. The smaller interior space makes it the ideal tent for one person (or a small couple).
The Roofnest Sparrow is made of fiberglass vs. honeycomb aluminum. Fiberglass is used in newer, higher-end tents, and shows Roofnest’s dedication to quality. Although fiberglass may be less durable, it significantly cuts the frame’s weight. This allows this small roof top tent to weigh only 130 lbs!
Roofnest redesigned the Sparrow Eye in 2020. Its new design includes a built-in gear storage area and a solar panel mounting space on the roof. Roofnest also added ladder mounts to the side windows, so you can now enter the tent from all three sides. This is a game-changer for people with vehicles with a roof spoiler above the trunk (Toyota 4Runners, Jeep Renegades, etc.). Roofnest’s previous design (which only had an entry point at the back) made it nearly impossible to attach a ladder because the spoiler was in the way. Now, customers can attach the ladder to the tent sides and use that as an entry point.
We recommend this tent for solo travelers or occasional campers. If you’re traveling with a partner, though, you’ll definitely have enough space inside the Roofnest Sparrow. Just make sure you like the person you’re traveling with! You’ll be cozy inside the tent.
Pros & Cons of the Roofnest Sparrow Eye Rooftop Tent
- Lightweight fiberglass frame
- One of the easiest tents to open & close
- Can close tent with bedding inside
- A bit tight for two larger people
- Some customers have experienced peeling on the fiberglass
Best Expedition Hard Shell Roof Top Tent: Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 Expedition
The name Alu-Cab should say it all– it is one of the best and most well-known overlanding brands. Made of aluminum, the Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 Expedition is one of the most durable tents out there. It’s also a very popular hardshell model. That’s why it’s now on its 3rd Generation design. Despite its clamshell design, it measures 90.55 x 55-inches, making it extremely spacious and comfortable.
Attention to Detail
The Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 Expedition has 3 entry points, a gas-strut-assisted pop-up design, and a generous 75 mm high-density foam mattress inside. It also boasts some of the best interior accessories, with a reading light, USB charging ports, a 12V power socket, and a series of storage pockets.
Recognizing that their tents are used by extreme adventure travelers across the world, Alu-Cab built a hard shell roof top tent with closed-cell foam lining insulation. They say their tents can withstand extreme heat and sub-zero temperatures. Like other tents, the Gen 3.1 Expedition also includes an awning cover over the tent’s rear door, which helps to keep rain, snow, and frost off the rear opening.
Pros & Cons for the Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 Rooftop Tent
- Extremely durable
- Dual-layer insulation
- Can close the tent with your bedding inside
- Reading light, USB charging ports, a 12V power socket included
- Hard to purchase (must go through an authorized dealer)
Best Ventilated Hard Shell Roof Top Tent: James Baroud Explorer
Last but certainly not least, we have one of the most expensive rooftops tents. Like many hard shell roof top tents, the James Baroud Explorer can be set up in less than 30-seconds. Similarly, it will only take around 90-seconds for you to close the tent and have it back in a low-profile position.
The James Baroud Explorer rooftop tent opens via a full pop-up mechanism to maximize the living area inside the tent. Once opened, the tent features numerous windows with protective mesh, giving you the feeling of being outdoors in nature. The mesh doubles down as mosquito and bug nets to ensure you are not plagued at night. A solar-powered ventilation system has also been included for days when the conditions are at their worst. The ventilation fan is waterproof and can run for 24 hours on a single charge.
Cargo Space & Accessories
Similar to the Roofnest Sparrow Eye, this hard shell roof top tent also features a storage cutout on the outside of the tent which is useful for stowing lightweight items. This integrated storage tray can secure an additional 65 lbs of cargo and includes tie-down points. The included LED rechargeable flashlight provides light when the sun goes down. The light can also be removed to be used as a lantern around your campsite.
Like the iKamper Skycamp 2.0, this hard shell roof top tent comes in 3 colors (white, black, and grey). Or, you can also opt for a custom OEM paint job which will increase the price to a whopping $5,000! (Not sure that’s worth it, but it’s a pretty cool feature other manufacturers don’t offer!)
Pros & Cons for the James Baroud Explorer Rooftop Tent
- Offers a full 360-degree view
- Plenty of ventilation
- Custom colors available
- Hard to purchase (must go through an authorized dealer)
- Some customers mention that the exterior latches rust easily
Key Features To Consider Before Buying a Hard Shell Rooftop Tent
If none of these hard shell roof top tents appeal to you, that’s ok. You’ll need to understand how to choose the right roof top tent when you’re ready. We’ve done some research, and have found the right features that many experts believe are the most important. The following features are what you should keep in mind before buying your next rooftop tent.
Hardshell Vs. Softshell
Softshell roof top tents are more traditional and closest design to a ground tent. However, they don’t offer as much stability as a hard shell roof top tent. Alternatively, hard shell roof top tents are more stable and heavier. Keep in mind that the hard shell rooftop tents also tend to be more expensive.
If you are still undecided whether a hard shell or soft shell roof top tent is right for you, check out our guide Hard Shell Vs. Soft Shell Roof Top Tents: Pros & Cons >
Since you are buying a rooftop tent for shelter, you need to keep in mind how many people will be sleeping inside. To find the right tent, you need to look at the size. Generally, rooftop tents have an indication that will show you how many people can be housed. However, some of them are tight and you might need to look for one size bigger.
Weight & Weight Capacity
Not every car is the same and you need to understand how strong your car is. The rooftop tent you choose should fit comfortably on top of your car without causing damage. This is where the weight comes in and finding something under 200-pounds is crucial.
If the tent is larger than the top of your car, a small part of it might hang from the roof. If this is the case, the weight capacity can also be important. You don’t want to break part of the tent due to being a bit too heavy. However, these hard shell roof top tents tend to have tons of durability for the most part.
Almost every rooftop tent you buy will have something called an HH rating. The HH or Hydrostatic Head rating refers to how durable the tent will be in wet weather conditions. For the most part, you should not consider buying a roof top tent with an HH rating that is lower than 2000mm, if possible.
Finally, there are a few minor things to look at. These features include the ladder if you don’t have steps leading to the tent. You will also want to have a closer look at the windows, points of entry, rack systems, awnings, and other accessories. If you have extras like solar-powered systems, these can be a big bonus as well.
Is a Hard Shell Roof Top Tent For You?
It is not that hard to find the best rooftop tents, but keep in mind that the best options tend to be expensive. Hard shell roof top tents offer great value for your money and you only have to put in minimal effort to get them set up. But we understand they are not for everyone.
If you’re looking for a less expensive and more spacious option, you might want to consider a softshell rooftop tent. Read our buyer’s guide to the best softshell rooftop tents of 2021 >
Hopefully, this guide has helped you find the perfect hard shell roof top tent for your next adventure! Which of these RTTs you like? Have we missed any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below!