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Which roofnest is best?

It's perfect for small and medium-sized cars, such as our Crosstrek. It has 4 latches in total and the top opens directly onto the gas springs. The roof sparrow has 4 large windows and has plenty of space for 2 adults to sit, relax and enjoy the views. If you're looking for a high-end roof tent that's built to last, you're likely going for a rigid design.

Compared to softshell tents, hard shells are more durable, offer better weather protection, and are easier to install (we cover more of the differences in our buying advice below). They also give you the versatility of adding a solar panel or roof rack on top, which is well worth the extra investment for many. Most hardstanding tents have fold-out or clam designs that limit the bed to footprint size, but premium foldable designs such as the Condor XL increase sleeping space considerably with an extended platform and mattress (for reference, interior dimensions measure 93 x 74 inches. All in all, the Condor XL is a stellar combination of performance, interior space and value, making it our favorite roof top tent of the year.

Many rooftop tents claim to sleep four, but the Denali CVT is one of the few models with the flat to back it up. With generous 59 square foot padding spread between two mattresses, you get the equivalent of two double beds, which is enough for two adults and two (or even three) small children. In addition, the Denali comes with a room divider, two separate entrances (each has its own staircase), and a generous four-door annex. CVT also offers a range of customizations including an insulating cover for cold weather, LED light strips and three different color combinations.

All in all, for families looking to get out and about without sacrificing comfort, the Denali is a very cool and spacious rooftop tent. The Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 is a spacious, full-featured softshell tent, but for quick trips, smaller cars and solo travelers, the Low-Pro 2 is a viable and cheaper alternative. The Low-Pro differs from other softshell models with a remarkably low profile and an aerodynamic shape (the version we tested measured only 7 inches). Tall when packed), and its 105-pound construction makes it quite easy for two people to maneuver.

Add Thule Tepui's reliable build quality, lightweight yet durable materials that can withstand winter conditions, and a reasonable price, and the Low-Pro 2 is a good choice for those looking to sleep comfortably on the roof without the headaches of bad gas mileage or a heavy car. While modern rooftop tents from iKamper, Roofnest and Thule Tepui appeal to casual campers, brands like 23ZERO and Smittybilt earlier are popular with the overland public and prioritize affordability and functionality over comfort and looks. The Walkabout is 23ZERO's top-of-the-line series and comes in four different sizes, ranging from a double bed (here the 56) to a colossal 87-inch wide model for larger groups. All models feature comfortable mattresses, light-suppression technology that blocks sunlight (this level of protection is usually only found in hard housings), and weighted doors to reduce flapping in the wind.

In short, the Walkabout 56 is a reliable, 4-season ready roof top tent that's built to handle just about anything you (or Mother Nature) throw. The Skycamp 3.0 above is iKamper's tried and true rigid design, but the X-Cover 2.0 combines the performance benefits of a hardtop (including additional durability and load carrying capabilities) with the lightweight construction and spacious mattress typical of softshells. To achieve this, the X-Cover forgoes the fabric cover found in traditional softshell models and instead uses its own floor panel to serve as a hard cover, which folds over the tent and protects it when stored. The result is a versatile, easy-to-assemble design that can accommodate three or four people (also available in a “Mini” version for 2 people).

And it doesn't hurt that iKamper has one of the best customer services out there after a malfunction, one of our testers received a replacement ladder in the express mail, and iKamper included a free awning just in case. A problem with most rooftop tents is that they are quite limiting for campers who pack large loads, such as bicycles, surfboards, or a kayak. New last year, the Thule Tepui Foothill offers a fantastic solution, with a two-person design that packs up to 24 inches wide, which is about half the size of a typical 2P model. Other tents here, such as the iKamper X-Cover, the Falcon roof and the AutoHome Maggiolina, accommodate the load on their hard shell (in most cases, you'll have to remove it when setting up the tent), but the Foothill is the first model we know of that leaves room for your standard mounting racks.

The end result is a much more sustainable arrangement for those who always have more fun on their rooftop. Recently redesigned, the Sparrow is a true testament to Roofnest's great attention to detail. On the outside, the ABS and fiberglass housing is strong, lightweight and aerodynamic, and unlike a soft shell, it can accommodate a waterproof storage bag (included with the store purchase) and a solar panel. Inside, you get an incredibly comfortable 3-inch thick mattress (our reviewers agree) and three full-size doors with awnings and stair accessories that offer great livability.

The sparrow is easy to open (one person can do it in less than a minute), and you can even store your bedding inside when you pack the tent (a notable disadvantage of the Falcon above). In short, Roofnest's two-person pop-up is one of our favorite stores for couples or solo travelers looking to minimize hassle and maximize comfort. Yakima is best known for its extensive collection of high-quality roof bars and car accessories, and its SkyRise HD harnesses that provide expertise in manufacturing a well-executed rooftop tent design. The SkyRise can comfortably accommodate two people (or goes up to the middle for three) and offers more headroom than most softshells with a wide roof and steep side walls.

Other benefits include durable, PU-coated fabrics (including a 600D polyester body and 210D fly), D-rings and tensioning ropes to hold equipment or secure the tent in a storm, and a clear vinyl skylight on the go, which is a nice touch to let in light when conditions hit a tour. Thule's Basin is a hybrid design that is part roof tent and part cargo box. With the tent awning installed, raise the roof and you'll have a comfortable sleeping area for two, complete with a 3-inch foam mattress and well-ventilated but waterproof walls. When you need additional storage space, unzip the awning, pull out the mattress, and use the sink as a sturdy rooftop gear bag to store your skis or camping gear (in this configuration, it opens in a clamshell shape and has 23 cubic feet of storage).

If you're considering a rooftop tent but also value cargo space, the Cuenca is a good compromise. If you are looking for the Mercedes Benz of roof tents, James Baroud is your answer. For more than 30 years, this Portugal-based company has designed and produced roof tents that top the charts in terms of comfort, stability and weather protection, bomb-proof and quality design. With standard features including a solar-powered ventilation fan, gas-strut assisted opening (setup takes 30 seconds) and LED lighting, even the entry-level James Baroud models are above the rest.

The James Baroud Evasion is a fold-out hardshell helmet, similar to models such as the Roofnest Sparrow above and Maggiolina AirLand below. You'll pay a dime for this tent, but it's better suited to the rigors of ground landing than most James Baroud models are made with the highest quality materials and are tested in 60 mph winds (unlike most hardshell tents, they also support a closed awning). Most rooftop campers can get away with a cheaper tent (or pay a similar price for a more spacious model), but for the right to brag about a brand and the fanciest store on the block, you just can't beat James Baroud. These tents can be hard to find (James Baroud sells through his website and through a few other retailers), but it doesn't hurt that they all come with a reliable 5-year warranty.

See James Baroud Evasion Rigid Tents Instead of using a soft cover, hardshell tents consist of fiberglass, plastic or aluminum housing that houses the tent's fabric canopy inside. Most open on a hinge (clam) or open on all sides (like a box). Most hard housings keep their footprint on the roof area of the vehicle, but some (such as the Roofnest Condor XL) fold down, increasing the floor area and allowing you to add extras such as an awning. Rigid tents are significantly more expensive and heavier than soft ones, and many have smaller floor plans.

However, its longer lifespan, greater comfort and superior protection are worthwhile for many. During transport, rigid tents are also more aerodynamic, completely waterproof (mold is less of a concern) and protect against low branches and flying debris. In addition, their shell-like design means that they can often place additional items such as bedding inside, and some (such as the iKamper X-Cover 2.0) can even accommodate a bicycle, skis, kayak, surfboard, or solar panel on top. When open, they are much more windproof, usually have more headroom and are known for their plush mattresses.

And one of the biggest draws of rigid tents is the ease of installation, which can often be done by one person in less than a minute. For campers who pack their bags and move camp every day, this is a big plus. Rooftop tents are built to withstand the elements, with thick, water resistant fabrics (usually a polyester/cotton blend) and fully waterproof rain. If you plan to use your tent in harsh conditions, be sure to look for full coverage awnings on all windows and doors so that you can maintain airflow without allowing moisture to enter.

Pop-top and clamshell models like James Baroud Evasion and CVT Mt. Hoods use their shells as roofs, with clams providing the strongest structure (provided you park with the shell facing the wind) and a quieter sleep in stormy conditions. In fact, one of our testers upgraded to a hardshell because he had grown tired of his softshell flapping in the wind. In addition to wind and rain protection, some roof tents come with the option to add additional insulation, such as the iKamper inner insulation tent and Thule Tepui insulation.

If you're used to sleeping outdoors, have a warm sleeping bag, or plan to camp only in the summer months, you probably don't need additional insulation. But for those who go outdoors all year round or often sleep at a high altitude, these inserts can add a good dose of warmth on chilly nights. Overall, rooftop tents are great for breathing. First, because underbody air flows between the tent and the vehicle, they are naturally better ventilated than standard tents.

Secondly, most models come with generous windows and mesh panels, many of which can be fully opened or closed with just an insect net and are protected by waterproof awnings. In addition, manufacturers often add anti-condensation mats under the hardtop or under the mattress, minimizing annoying drops in the middle of the night and mold buildup (this also adds another layer of insulation). In general, rooftop tents are much more convenient to set up than setting up a standard dirt tent. However, there are some key differences between the models.

Rigid tents are the quickest to set up, often as simple as unhooking the housing, hooking up the hinges and watching the roof lift. Even a more complex hard shell like the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 can be set up in a minute. On the other hand, softshell tents require a little more time to remove the soft cover and insert poles to prop up the fly and awnings. Taking it apart is just a matter of reversing the steps, although you'll want to be careful to make sure that all of the tent fabric is secure inside the housing or cover.

Packaged sizes of rooftop tents vary widely, but it's a good rule of thumb to keep your tent footprint within the dimensions of your roof and those with small cars or trucks should take extra care before making a purchase. Compact height is also a highly variable factor and can have a big impact on fuel consumption and driving noise (and remember to consider the extra height when passing under bridges, entering parking lots, etc.). If you're worried about this and want a low-profile design, we recommend choosing a model like the sleek and streamlined Falcon 2 roof, which measures only 6.5 inches high when closed. The good news is that most manufacturers list the enclosed dimensions of each tent on their product page, and it's worth digging into before buying.

Without a doubt, rooftop tents are heavy and bulky pieces. In our list above, the weight ranges from 93 pounds for the “minimalist” Front Runner roof tent to a whopping 225 pounds for the gigantic Denali Pioneer CVT (with extended flight). Due to their weight and volume, these tents are not easy to install or remove and generally require at least two people to assemble or remove them from your vehicle. Most rooftop tents come with a fairly standard feature set that includes an aluminum ladder (sliding or telescopic), awnings for windows, and a hammock for hanging equipment.

But the premium models don't stop there. For example, the Cascadia Vehicle Tents Summit Series has LED lighting, USB ports and shoe bags. On the verge of luxury, James Baroud offerings include a solar-powered ventilation fan complete with ventilation grilles and dust filters. If you stick with the basic models, you still have the option to add additional items to your purchase.

Roof tent brands like Thule Tepui and iKamper, for example, sell accessories such as shoe racks, sheet sets, anti-condensation mats, insulated tents and even canopy windows. In general, rooftop tents are constructed of sturdy materials that can withstand frequent use and abuse. Rarely are compromises made to save weight and expect to find ultra-thick fabrics and sturdy zippers (for example, the Explorer Kukenam 3 from Thule Tepui has 600 denier walls compared to the 75D fly screen of a popular tent such as the REI Co-op Kingdom). In addition to fabrics, metal components are designed to last and floors are designed to support heavy weight.

Despite the impressive overall build quality, the biggest threat to roof tents is exposure. Unless you remove your tent from the roof of your vehicle between each trip, it is likely to suffer damage from sun and moisture over time. Hard housings perform much better, with secure, waterproof housings that last longer and resist the elements more than the canvas or nylon cover of soft housings. That said, not all softshells are created equal.

The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam, for example, uses UV and mildew resistant fabrics to increase its lifespan, and Thule Tepui also has a dedicated line of “reinforced” tents that are made with thicker fabrics (360 vs. But if your softshell needs to be replaced, most models use zippers to secure the tent canopy to the frame, so you can replace the awning without buying a completely new configuration. Regardless of the model you choose, there are steps you can take to extend the life of your tent. Most importantly, you'll want to make sure the tent is completely dry after each trip and store it in a dry, shaded area, just like you would with a standard tent.

We also recommend supporting the mattress regularly so that the base of the tent has a chance to air out. If dirt gets on fabrics or zippers, it can degrade them quickly, so it's a good idea to routinely clean them with mild dish detergent and warm water. Finally, if your tent walls stop repelling water and you need to revive the waterproofing, we've found that a marine-grade spray protector such as Star Brite's waterproofing spray works best. Once you've made sure your roof tent is compatible with both your vehicle and your roof rack, you're ready to load it on top (again, we recommend at least two people for the job).

In our experience, the easiest to use tents are those manufactured by shelving companies (Thule and Yakima in particular) that are compatible with specific shelving; you can buy the shelf and the store at the same time and know that you are going to buy a pair that works together. Other designs will require a little more DIY knowledge to install (YouTube videos are very useful), and probably a few trips to the hardware store. Again, shopping at a local equipment store will generally ease some of the headaches, as many tents will be able to help you load your tent into your vehicle. Meet legendary outdoor enthusiast Tim Nickles, founder of & Roofnest, and see how Roofnest came to be.

The interior space at Roofnest Sparrow is 83 in length and 49 in width, for a total of 28 square feet. The roof sparrow eye is one of those tents, as in addition to a solid construction, the hardtop tent is constructed with a layer of insulation inside the housing. For example, the Roofnest Sparrow is 5 inches narrower than a double mattress, and the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 mattress, indicated as suitable for four people, is slightly larger than a standard king-size mattress. The Falcon 2 also includes the foam mattress for added comfort and a high-quality canvas that makes every Roofnest store worth buying.

Skycamp, the first foldable hardtop tent to hit the scene (a design now widely replicated by models like the Roofnest Condor above), became known for its durable construction, large floor plan and patented 1-minute configuration (unheard of for a softshell tent). Roofnest's Falcon 2 tent is one of the most aerodynamic models available, breaking down into a flat, hard sandwich shape when not in use. Satisfied customers recommend it based on the convenience it offers, the ease of setup and the customer service provided by the Roofnest team. In addition, Roofnest's awnings and full-zip doors offer a big boost in protection from the elements (the Maggiolina doesn't come with awnings and its doors only have zippers on the sides).

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Ebony Degeare
Ebony Degeare

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