Rooftop Tents are perfect tents for camping. You're off the ground, away from the cold mud and closer to the spots you plan to visit. If you're planning a trip to Snowdonia or Lake District or any of the other beautiful camping spots in the UK and want to upgrade to a roof tent then you're in the right place.
Before getting into the list of the best rooftop tents we thought it would be helpful to explain a few fundamentals about what is a roof tent, how does one work and what makes a good rooftop tent including the pros and cons.
If you want to jump straight into the Top 10 Roof Top Tents to purchase in the United Kingdom right now then please feel free to use the links below to jump to the section of your choice!
RoofTop Tents Buyers Guide
Buying a rooftop tent is an investment that pays great dividends years into your purchase. But there are a few things to consider before purchasing one.
In the next few sections we've included an explanation for the most frequent questions we've been asked to help those who may be new to rooftop tents or would just like to know more.
What is a Roof top tent?
Yes, it's tempting just to say that a roof top tent is a tent that you stick on a roof. But there are so many bells & whistles that come a long with roof top tents that you wouldn't get on regular tents and thinking of them simply as that would do them injustice.
The awesome roof top tents we show later have different features that set them apart from each other, e.g. sleeping capacity, ease of set-up and weather resistance to name a few.
But yes... let's get the definition out of the way:
A Rooftop Tent is a Tent specifically designed to attach on top of the roof of your vehicle.
The key feature of roof tents is that you're elevated off the ground rather than a traditional ground tent. Not worrying about the wet ground is a huge relief.
Roof top Tents come in all shapes, sizes and materials. The two main types of Roof top Tents are Hard-shell or Soft-shell Rooftop Tents.
Hard-shell roof top tent
A hardshell rooftop tent is just a rooftop tent made of a hard exterior material.
Key features of a Hard-shell roof top tent
Made out of durable fiberglass, aluminium or hard plastic
Has a pop-up or clamshell opening design
Fast & easy assembly
More aerodynamic design when closed
Typically 4-season weather rated
Soft-shell roof top tent
Whereas a Soft-shell rooftop tent resembles a traditional ground tent and does not have hard exterior material.
Key features of a soft-shell roof top tent
Made from thick durable water resistant tent fabric
Are typically lightweight
Has a fold-out open design
Overhangs over the side of the vehicle with a ladder
Has great viewing angles with large front, back and side windows
Has a skylight window for looking at the stars
As we explain the 10 best roof top tents and why, take note of the different features that are most important to you. Maybe even list them in terms of importance to help you narrow down the right roof tent for you.
How do rooftop tents work?
What can you do with them?
By using a rooftop tent you can sleep on top of your car roof anywhere you're allowed to park your car. This will usually be at campsites or in a field if you have permission from the landowner.
You can be closer to the best hotspots with the amazing views, secure your sun bed at the beach or just travel further and more efficiently than being stuck at a hotel.
How do you assemble a roof tent?
So how do you set up your roof top tent once you've reached your destination? The two options are to fold-out or pop-up, both of which are much faster than traditional ground tents.
This is the easiest whereby you just unbuckle some latches and push open the top shell. Usually, gas-assisted struts will pop open the roof tent and it's all assembled!
Most common with soft-shell roof tents. Just pull off the travel cover, pull out the ladder and unfold the tent at a secure angle until it reaches the floor.
Getting in & out
You open and assemble your roof tent, typically within minutes, and climb into the tent through a large entry window with a ladder. Usually, they come with handy shoe bags for you to store your shoes away before you get into the main body of the tent.
How to Install a RoofTop tent
You will need to pick the correct roof top tent for your vehicles weight limit (which we will get into later) as well as the correct roof rack that fits your car. Additionally, your roof rack or roof bars needs to have the sufficient weight limit capacity for your roof top tent.
Installing a roof tent is slightly different for each make and brand and you should refer to the manual provided.
However, these are the following steps & tips:
Find a large clean workspace
Make sure all the components are included with your delivery
Ensure you have all the tools provided
Inspect your roof tent to make sure everything is in order
Have you and two other people help with lifting the roof tent on top of the roof rack.
Centre the roof tent so it is equally spaced out between the roof bars and across the car roof.
Make sure that the roof tent is not positioned more to the left or right of the vehicle.
Secure your roof top tent with the bolts and mounting brackets and make sure they are firmly screwed.
Are Roof Top Tents Worth it?
This question can only be answered by how frequently you plan to camp in the future.
If you regularly camp and want to travel far and wide with your car then we absolutely think a rooftop tent is a no brainer.
Some other great benefits include:
Easy and quick set up times vs a traditional tent - No having to spend all that time pitching up a tent and nail in stakes which come undone.
They are more comfortable than regular ground tents - Better mattress comfort and the fact that you're going to be on flat surface by being your roof makes a world of difference.
You save a lot of money in the long run - What's most annoying is when you literally need a place to sleep to wake up early and go and you have to pay for a room you will barely use. The average cost of a hotel stay in the UK is £79 according to hotels-and-discounts.com. So just 7 nights at a hotel somewhere and you've paid out £553.
You're above the cold floor and away from the mud - Sleeping when the ground is wet is genuinely terrible and lets not get into the possibility of it raining and the tent flooding.
You're closer to the fantastic views by parking where you sleep! - Don't waste time having to drive to your planned destinations and get there faster before all the crowds.
Great space-saver - Save all the space you would have used for your tent and bedding inside your car.
Rain resistance - Rooftop tents come with great rain & water resistance typically with a Hydrostatic Rating of 3,000mm so don't need to worry about leaky tents!
Long lasting durable materials - Rooftop tents are generally made out of much more durable materials than regular tents, especially hardshell rooftop tents. Some are made of vehicle grade ABS with UV protective agent materials so that you can camp for years to come.
The Awesome View - When you wake up and see the view in the morning you'll get it. Elevated off the ground and being able to see the sky through skylight and looking left and right through the windows on a sunny morning just adds that bit of luxury.
Can they withstand the wind & rain?
Most roof top tents are 3-season rated meaning they are good for use for all seasons other than the winter. Some rooftop tents are 4-season rated meaning you can take them out all year round.
Most roof top tents can withstand 30+ mph winds. These are not ideal camping conditions anywhere but your roof tent will be able take blustery winds throughout the year.
For example, TentBox have their rooftop tents tested up to 39mph which is a gale force wind.
Roof top tents are excellent at resisting rain and water as the materials they are made out of are water repellent fabric. They consist of the same materials as traditional ground tents if not better.
Take note of the Hydrostatic Rating, most come with 3,000mm of HH Rating. Meaning under testing conditions the column of water reached 3m before there was any leakage into the tent.
Hard-shell vs Soft-shell rooftop tents
Hard-shell rooftop tent Pros:
+ Usually faster & easier to set up
A well designed one can be assembled in 30 seconds compared to Soft-shell rooftop tents that typically take 5 minutes. Simply unbuckle some straps and push the top of the shell and the gas-assisted struts can do the rest of the work for you allowing you to get into bed faster or pack away to get hiking as soon as possible.
This is way better than removing the cover of a soft-shell roof tent, un-folding out the tent, maybe even attaching support poles and locking out all the inner support poles inside the tent. Additionally, most hard-shell rooftop tents don't have rain flys which also need to be set up in a soft-shell roof tent.
+ Can usually store mattress & gear in the tent when closed.
Most hard-shell rooftop tents have some space between the in-built mattress and the top shell which allows you to leave some light bedding and thin pillows. Super convenient if you want to get in and out quick on an activity based holiday or simply don't want the hassle of folding everything up every time.
+ More durable as they are made from tougher material
They are typically made from harder plastic to be able to take on the rough and tumble of camping. When you're camping you're bound to scuff your tent or have branches scrape and fall on it. Plus, not to mention that it rains a lot in the UK and this will slowly wear on your roof tent.
Some hard-shel roof tents include vehicle grade ABS or aluminium with UV protective agent materials which is super useful if you plan to camp all summer or leave your rooftop tent on top of your vehicle for long periods.
+ Store your gear on top
If you love a sporty or activity based camping trip then a hard-shell rooftop tent is your best bet. Soft-shell rooftop tents as of today do not have the capability to store and carry equipment on top of your rooftop tent.
Even if you want the added convenience of carrying extra luggage with you on your trip you can place this on top of your rooftop tent.
+ Attach Solar Panels on top
If you like getting techy and being able to go off-grid to power your electrical devices, lights and even a small refrigerator or cooler then you might like the challenge of installing a solar panel on top of your roof top tent. Even when the rooftop tent is open and you've wired everything correctly you can still charge your batteries with solar.
+ Four-season rated
Hard-shell roof top tents are typically designed to be used all year round. The hardshell is able to insulate warmth better than softshell tents giving you the flexibility to go camping during the winter months.
+ Are quieter with the wind
Because they are made of harder materials and typically have less plastic material and rain flys you'll get less of that annoying wind flapping that can happen literally all night. That can easily ruin an entire nights sleep if you are a light sleeper.
+ They feel more luxurious
Simply put, hardshell rooftop tents are made of more premium materials. Not only is the outer casing made of hard durable plastic with UV coating, but usually the walls are made from better fabric which may have some insulating fabric added to them.
+ They look cool
Feel free to disagree but hard-shell rooftop tents just have that sleekness about them that looks good up close and from afar. Not to mention the rooftop tents that have an aerodynamic design when closed with a bit of shine & gloss that just makes them look so pretty.
Hard-shell roof top tent Cons:
- Expensive due to the tougher and more durable materials
Hardshell rooftop tents are typically more expensive than soft-shell rooftop tents mainly due to greater design features and the higher quality or more durable materials used to make them.
- Heavier than soft-shell rooftop tents. Typically excess of 60kg
They are typically heavier than soft-shell rooftop tents which based on the type of vehicle you have and the dynamic weight limit of your car means you can only purchase a soft-shell roof top tent.
- Vehicle performance and handling is slightly worse than soft-shell rooftop tents being heavier and bulkier in nature.
Soft-shell roof top tent Pros
+ Usually more spacious as they fold out into a larger sleeping area.
Soft-shell roof top tents typically fold out so that half of the tent hangs over the side of the vehicle with a ladder that allows you to enter the tent. This enables a much greater sleeping space in comparison to hard-shell roof top tents with some being larger than a King sized bed.
Most softshell tents allow 2-3 people to sleep in or in some cases a 4 person capacity perfect for families or pet lovers. On top of that you can attach an annex or awning to the roof rack for an absolute luxurious camping space.
+ More affordable than hard-shell rooftop tents.
Soft-shell roof top tents are much more affordable with prices ranging on average at £1,000 to £1,500. In comparison, hardshell rooftop tents range from £1,500+ with some reaching the £3,000 mark.
+ Lighter in weight & more suitable for smaller cars.
Softshell tents tend to weigh between 45-60kg which makes them much more ideal for small vehicles and cars. This is due to the fact that smaller vehicles will have a lower dynamic weight limit (the weight you can carry on your car whilst in motion) than other large cars like SUVs or 4x4s.
+ Pack down smaller as they usually fold in half when closed.
Most soft-shell roof top tents have a fold out design which overhangs the side of the vehicle. That means when it is packed away it is folded and more compact. Because of this, it also makes them easier to manoeuvre when you install or pack away your roof top tent for the winter.
+ You can attach an annex or awning
Most soft shell roof top tents have an annex or awning designed to pair with the tent which gives you more private space when creating your own camping space.
An annex is a small tent that usually covers the ladder giving you privacy to change or even have a shower. An annex acts as a thin roof to protect you from the rain or the sun during peak hours of sunlight in the summer.
+ You can stargaze
Most soft shell roof top tents come equipped with a window through the top rainfly which is awesome for stargazing at night or waking up to see the sky on a stunning summer day.
Soft-shell rooftop tent Cons
- Are harder and more time consuming to set up and pack away.
Setting up and packing away takes longer and maybe frustrating the first couple of times you do it. After a bit of practice you should be able to assemble most roof tents in under five minutes.
- May not be able to leave your bedding or mattress inside when closed
The majority of soft-shell roof top tents do not allow for your bedding and pillows to be packed away with the tent. This is because most need to be folded and compressed when packed away.
- Won't be able to carry additional equipment on top
Soft-shell rooftop tents as of today do not have the capability to store and carry equipment on top of your rooftop tent.
- Are noisier
Due to the thinner materials and particularly the rainfly, strong winds throughout the night does have the tendency to create that really annoying flapping sound. Whereas with hard shell tents there are less rain flys and the outer shell is more robust in those windy nights.
- You may need two parking spaces
Since most softshell tents have a fold out design they will take up space adjacent to the vehicle which means requiring you to purchase two parking spaces at the campsite you visit.
How much weight can I put on my car?
Understanding your Car’s Weight Limits
Some cars offer enough space for all your baggage. But when passenger space is more important, you will have to consider the roof for all the travel gear.
For loading the gear without compromising road safety and risking vehicle damage, it is important to understand the weight limits of your car.
If you are using a car roof for camping, you need to know the static weight limit of your vehicle. But if you are travelling with luggage and weight on the roof, a dynamic weight limit instead will apply.
Static Weight Limit
The static weight rating is much higher than the dynamic weight limit.
Other frequently used terms for Static Weight Limit:
Gross Vehicle Weight Restriction
Gross Vehicle Weight Limit
Total Permissible Vehicle Weight
Dynamic Roof Weight Limit
Dynamic weight limit is the weight the roof of a vehicle can safely carry while moving.
When calculating the weight of the belongings to go on the roof, don’t forget to include the weight of the cross bars and racks.
Other frequently used terms for Dynamic Roof Weight Limit:
Dynamic Roof Capacity
Permissible Roof Load
Dynamic roof weight rating
Roof Rack and Rooftop Tent Weight Limits
When looking at how much weight a car can hold, it is important to note the weight ratings of the roof rack and the rooftop tents.
At first this can be tricky to understand but once you get it, you get it.
These are the main pieces of information you'll need:
The Dynamic Roof Weight Limit of your car
The Dynamic Weight Limit of your roof bars or roof rack
The weight of your roof bars or roof racks
The weight of your Rooftop Tent
The weight of any additional car roof items
The Static Weight Limit of the car
Using the above we are going check the following weight calculations:
For your roof bars make sure the:
Rooftop Tent Weight + Additional car roof items
Dynamic Weight Limit of the Roof Rack
For your car roof load make sure the:
For your Static Weight Limit make sure the: