A little while ago, we looked at some of the best hard shell roof top tents. While these are often the most preferred, soft shell roof top tents also hold a special place and will offer you good value for your money. We have decided to have a closer look at some of the best soft shell roof top tents on the market today.
There are plenty of soft shell roof top tents available, but only a few of them are worth buying. To ensure that you find one you can use and will be comfortable with, this list will give you some unique insight into these RTTs. The buyer’s guide at the end of the article will give you a reference into how we went about selecting them and will hopefully help you choose the best softshell rooftop tent for your next adventure.
Best Soft Shell Rooftop Tents Comparison
|Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2||105 lbs||2-Person||Nylon / Aluminum||$$||5/5|
|Smittybilt Overlander||118 lbs||2/3-Person||Polyester / Aluminum||$$||4/5|
|iKamper X-Cover||120 lbs||3/4-Person||Polyester / Aluminum||$$$$||5/5|
|Eezi-Awn Series 3||149 lbs||3/4-Person||Ripstop Nylon / Aluminum||$$$||4/5|
|Thule Tepui Foothill||108 lbs||2-Person||Nylon / Aluminum||$$$||N/A|
The Best Softshell Roof Top Tents
Before we look at the features that have helped us in selecting these tents, we must look at some of the best soft shell options. The following roof top tents are highly regarded and are bound to make your outdoor adventures more enjoyable. Here are five of the best softshell rooftop tents you can find on the market today:
Top Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2
When thinking of the outdoors, Thule is one of the top brands that come to mind. In 2019, the Swedish company acquired the formerly family-owned roof top tent company, Tepui. With Tepui’s unique designs and Thule’s expertise in car & adventure accessories, there are few brands that we recommend above this one. As one of the more reasonably priced soft shell roof top tents, the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 is perfect for couples or solo travelers.
The Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 can fit on most vehicles with roof racks. According to Thule, it is also an all-year, all-season tent. (Yay, winter camping!) Thanks to its lightweight design (approx. 105 lbs), the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer rooftop tent is perfect for smaller vehicles, like mid-size SUVs and hatchbacks.
Constructed from coated 600 deniers and a 260g poly-cotton blend, this tent is extremely durable. The nylon construction fabric is both UV- and mold-resistant to withstand the harshest elements of any season. The mesh windows offer plenty of ventilation and allow for extra airflow when they are open. This soft shell roof top tent also comes with a canopy and rainfly to protect you from the elements. Tepui’s patented ZipperGimp system also allows you to easily remove the rainfly when you don’t need it.
Enough Space for 2 People
With an 84 x 48-inch sleeping footprint, the Thule x Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 tent can comfortably sleep two people. The integrated 2-1/2″ high-density foam mattress provides a plush sleeping surface. You won’t feel more like you’re sleeping at home, but you’ll be much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.
As with most RTTs, this tent comes with a telescopic ladder that will help you scale the sides of your SUV. Like many other soft shell roof top tents, the ladder is attached to the tent. This makes life a lot easier. #1) You don’t need to find extra space to store the ladder. #2) You won’t forget the ladder when you’re packing for your trip. #3) The ladder gives you more leverage, making it easier to open and close the tent when you’re alone.
Opening and closing are not as easy as a hard shell roof top tent, but at a little over $1k ($1,299.99 to be exact), it’s worth the minor inconvenience. If you’re looking for a lightweight, reliable soft shell roof top tent, the Thule x Tepui Explorer Ayer might be the tent for you.
Pros & Cons of the Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Roof Top Tent
- Fits most vehicles (Subaru overlander anyone!?)
- Resistant to the elements, all-season
- Reputable brand that offers great warranty & accessories
- Bulky when closed (not aerodynamic)
- A little small – perfect for sleeping 2 people, but not so much to hang out in
- Mattress is a bit thin
Best Value Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: Smittybilt Overlander
The Smittybilt Overlander Tent is one of the best soft shell roof top tents to consider if you’re on a budget. This tent includes many of the features that more expensive tents offer (like screened windows, a heavy-duty rain fly, integrated mattress, and a telescoping ladder), without the hefty price tag. With included extra features like a shoe storage bag for your muddy boots and a built-in interior LED light strip, Smittybilt has considered even the smallest details when designing this tent.
As a leader in off-road accessories for more than 50 years, Smittybilt is known to produce strong products. However, in terms of durability, the Smittybilt Overlander could use some reinforcement. The outer canvas is made of polyester. This material provides cover from the elements but isn’t as strong as we would expect. We’ve found that the 600 D polyurethane canopy offers enough protection from a light storm, but not heavy rainfall. The tent frame poles are made from lightweight, anodized aluminum, while the hinges are constructed from stainless steel.
Large Interior Capacity
Inside, the Smittybilt Overlander is one of the most spacious soft shell roof top tents. With a 92 x 55-inch sleeping area and 661 lb. maximum load, this tent is perfect for 2-3 people. Its 51-inch interior height provides enough space to easily sit up inside the tent to hang out or change clothes. Although this tent includes a foam mattress, it is not the same quality as other tents. If you’re planning to sleep in it for extended periods of time, we recommend using a sleeping pad or adding a foam topper to avoid hip and shoulder pain.
Tent Cover & Accessories
This tent has a heavy-duty PVC cover that protects the tent when not in use. Although the cover keeps the tent dry and protects it from the sun, it’s a somewhat awkward design. With velcro on all four sides, the cover is difficult to get on/off properly and may irritate your hands if you have sensitive skin. The PVC cover can also be removed, which is nice in theory but can potentially make it easier to lose it. We’ve also found that it’s hard to pu on the cover when you’ve completely removed it.
One of the coolest features of the Smittybilt Overlander is the included LED light strip. The LED light strip attaches to the inside of the tent using velcro and can be powered by the 12-volt outlet in your vehicle or a USB battery pack. Having a light inside the tent makes setting up your bed in the dark much easier.
Overall, the Overlander isn’t the lightest, most comfortable tent, but if you’re looking to get a rooftop tent without spending thousands of dollars, the could be the tent for you.
Pros & Cons of the Smittybilt Overland Roof Top Tent
- Spacious interior
- LED strip included
- Not great in the rain
- Thin mattress
- Average quality
Best “Coverless” Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: iKamper X-Cover
If you prefer a soft shell roof top tent because of its unique features, and not its lower price tag, look no further than the iKamper X-Cover. At around the same price as a hard shell roof top tent (approx. $3,200), the X-Cover is one of the most expensive softshell tents on the market.
Don’t let the premium price deter you. Although the brand is certainly high-end, most owners (including us – we used to own an iKamper SkyCamp) say it’s worth the price! The South Korean brand is known for its quality- both in its design and materials. What’s more, iKamper has partnered with Affirm to offer affordable, longer-term payment options.
Lightweight & Spacious
The iKamper X-Cover is both spacious and light. This 4-person roof top tent offers a 90 x 69-inch sleeping area, while still only weighing 120 lbs. Unlike traditional soft shell RTTs, iKamper eliminated the bulky PVC cover which significantly reduces the tent’s weight and gets you better fuel efficiency. Its lightweight design is perfect for easy, cozy adventures without compromising on comfort.
Like other iKamper models, the X-Cover’s innovative design is what makes it stand out against other brands. The iKamper X-Cover combines the benefits of a soft shell roof top tent with that of a roof rack. When closed for driving mode, the top of the tent holds a crossbar system for your bikes, skis, kayaks, boards, and other adventure gear. The X-Cover comes with two built-in powder-coated aluminum crossbars, but you have to purchase additional rack systems (for bikes, kayaks, etc.) separately.
As if those features weren’t enough to get you on the iKamper bandwagon, the X-Cover’s setup time is just as mesmerizing. It is always more enjoyable to go camping when setup and takedown of your tent are easy. The iKamper X-Cover allows you to pitch your tent in just 3 minutes! It features a low-profile design and no cover, making it easy for campers and non-campers to use.
One of the main reasons for including the X-Cover on this list is the interior. Inside, you will be treated to a king-size polyfoam mattress, double Skyview windows, and iKamper’s signature world map design. The interior of this tent is a sanctuary with quality and attention to detail.
Update (June 2021): iKamper is currently upgrading the X-Cover and will release the new version in early 2022!
Pros & Cons of the iKamper X-Cover Roof Top Tent
- Lightweight, yet spacious
- No bulky PVC cover
- Takes three minutes to set up
- Top-mounted crossbar/rack system to carry bikes, kayaks, etc.
- Ladder is not attached to the tent
- Sold out until 2022 😔
Most Reliable Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: Eezi-Awn Series 3
Eezi-Awn is one of the top rooftop tent manufacturers in the world. All of their tents are made in South Africa. They are also sewn by hand out of local materials. The Eezi-Awn Series 3 soft shell roof top tent is one of their most popular models because it comes in five different sizes. You can get all the features of an Eezi-Awn Series 3 in the size you prefer– twin, double, queen, king, and two-twin. You can literally choose if you want a RTT to travel solo, as a couple, or with the entire family. Not many (if any) roof top tent manufacturers offer this option!
Reliability also plays a big part when selecting a tent and you should always have complete faith and trust in the tent you select. The Eezi-Awn Series 3 roof top tent is the industry benchmark. It continues to be the standard by which all other RTTs are measured. Eezi-Awn has decades of experience on every major continent, and their tents have withstood the most extreme elements– from -50F of the Arctic Ocean to +120F of the Sahara and Central America.
The Eezi-Awn Series 3 comes with a comfortable 2.5″ thick mattress, a durable ripstop nylon shell to withstand even the heaviest rains and an insulated base for year-round camping. The interior is mostly heavy-duty anodized aluminum, which keeps the weight to a minimum. The integrated bungee system is something you don’t see often, but works similarly to the pop-up tents and will allow you to easily take down the tent when you are done.
Inside, the high-density foam mattress is covered in African-Printed fabric. It’s a pretty unique design element that reminds you of the tent’s African origin and craftsmanship. Like many other tents, it features 4 large doors and windows with mesh netting for added privacy and mosquito protection. Each window has a convenient pocket underneath for easy to reach storage space.
Comes in Various Sizes
Where this tent shines is its ability to scale up or down to the perfect size. Below is a description of each tent variation.
- The 1200 is the smallest and lightest tent in the line, perfect for the roof of smaller SUVs, wagons, or trailers.
- The 1400 is the most popular size in the line.
- The 1600 is very spacious. It requires the support of at least 3 load bars.
- The 1800 is the largest single ladder tent in the line. It requires the support of at least 3 load bars.
- The 2200 is the largest tent in the line. It requires the support of at least 4 load bars.
Pros & Cons of the Eezi-Awn Series 3 Roof Top Tent
- Durable aluminum frame
- Made from ripstop nylon
- Easy to break down
- Numerous ventilation points
- Larger retailers do not carry this tent
Best NEW Soft Shell Roof Top Tent For 2021: Thule Tepui Foothill
To finish off the list, we have another reliable tent from the Thule brand — the Thule Tepui Foothill. This newcomer soft shell roof top tent has all the features you will need to have a great camping trip. It has a low-profile symmetrical design, which makes the setup easy, but also allows you to easily store the tent when it is not in use.
With a weight of 108 lbs. and capacity of 400 lbs., it is one of the best options for avid campers. It has a large internal space (84 x 47 in sleeping area). Although it is marketed for only 2 people, we think there’s enough space for 2 adults and 1 child inside the tent. It is very easy to pitch and the price is not as expensive as many of the others.
Since this tent is so new, we haven’t had a chance to try it out in the field. Once we do, we will update this article and write a review!
Pros & Cons of the Thule Tepui Foothill Roof Top Tent
- Revolutionary 2021 design
- Durable materials
- Easy to set up and store
- Allows space for you to use your roof rack
- No cons as of yet
Key Features To Consider When Buying The Best Soft Shell Roof Top Tent
No matter which tent or outdoor gear item you buy, it is always important to understand the key features to look for. With the best soft shell rooftop tents, we have isolated some of these important features. If you are serious about these tents, you might want to consider looking at these features to understand some of the features that make them special:
One of the first things to look at is the materials of the tent. You will have to choose either nylon or polyester for the outer shell. Polyester is the best for weather resistance, but if you want ultimate durability, we would suggest ripstop nylon. Having aluminum for the frame will give you strength and keep it as light as possible.
Some of these tents can take ages to set up, but if you find the right one, you can set it up in under 5-minutes. You must look for a tent that is easy to set up and will not cost you too much time. Additionally, it also needs to be easy to break down once you are done with adequate storage available.
The tent you select will often also depend on the weight. Many SUVs and cars can only handle a certain weight and you need to find out what the capacity of your vehicle is. Keep in mind that the weight capacity of the tent also needs to be accounted for. It is of no use if the tent is too heavy and you cannot sufficiently use it.
Weight Capacity & Size
Finally, the internal dimensions will give you an indication of the weight that your tent can withstand. If the tent is too weak, it might not be able to hold the weight that you desire and need. It is important to look at how much weight your tent can take. For a two-person tent, we would recommend a minimum weight of 400pounds.
Is a Soft Shell Roof Top Tent For You?
If you love camping with your truck and you want to optimize the space you have available, you must look at some of the soft shell roof top tents we selected. All of them are great, but they might not suit your needs.
If you’re looking for a sturdier, higher quality tent, check out our Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Buyer’s Guide >
Have you tried any of these soft shell roof top tents? Did we miss any of your favorite RTTs? Let us know in the comments section below!