Hard and Soft Shell Roof Rack Tents – Options for Your Vehicle

roof top tentsPictured: iKamper Road Trip Roof Top Tent

One of the latest camping trends you may have recently started seeing is a roof rack tent.  If you haven’t yet seen one, they’re a bit inconspicuous when packed away. Folded up, they’re about the size of a square mattress sitting on a roof rack. When opened up they’re unmistakable, with a ladder ascending to a spacious tent, most commonly seen atop 4-wheel drives and SUVs. Roof top tents are also now commonly used in the latest off road camping trailer applications.

The primary purpose of a rooftop tent is to enable sleeping off the ground, improving protection from the elements. Here in North America, rooftop tents are relatively new, but became popular in the dangerous Outback of Australia, with tons of nasty critters you don’t want in your tent.

There are a couple different styles:

  1. Hard Shell
  2. Soft Shell

The main setup for both tents involves anchoring them to a heavy duty roof rack.


iKamper Road Trip Roof Rack Tent (pictured above)

Type: Soft Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 2 – 3+ (3 different size tents)

The very handsome Road Trip roof top tent by iKamper is definitely a looker as much as it is in function.  Some of the unique features include:

  • A panorama sky view roof with windows that is 100% waterproof, rain or shine.
  • The cover is built in.
  • The floor is made of 100% ultra-lightweight aluminum honeycomb panel that is very strong, but lightweight.
  • Tents are handmade in South Korea
  • Available accessories include an Annex Room and wind deflector (for improved fuel efficiency)

iKamper Skycamp

ikcamper roof tent

Pictured: iKamper Skycamp

Type: Expandable, Hard Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 3+

With a very unique looks, even amongst roof top tents, the Skycamp’s hard shell is aerodynamically shaped, improving fuel efficiency. As you can clearly see, the shell opens like a clam, and the tent ‘expands’ out. The Skycamp is currently not yet in production, but check the iKamper Skycamp website for more information.


Overlander Roof Rack Tent by Smittybilt

roof rack tent smittybilt

Pictured: Overlander 2783 Tent

Type: Folding Soft Shell
Sleeping Capacity: Tent Model #2783: Sleeps 2-3 | Tent Model #2883 Sleeps 3-4 

The Overlander comes in two models, the #2783 Tent which weighs 132 lbs and the XL 2883 which weighs 148 lbs. Designed for overland vehicles like Jeeps and other 4-wheel drives, some of the features include:

  • Anodized aluminum sliding ladder which holds up to 265 lbs.
  • 60 mm high density foam mattress with removable cover
  • Interior LED and lighter adapter
  • Optional Tent Annex

Cascadia’s Mt. Rainier Roof Rack Tent

Type: Soft Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 3+

The Mt. Rainer by Cascadia includes a annex/changing room standard with the tent. At it’s sleeping size, the tent is 72” wide and 92” long.  Empty weight is 150 lbs, and capacity weight is 750 lbs.  Price range is $1,595.00 – $1,845.00


Tepui White Lightning Tent

tepui white lightning hard shell tent

Pictured: Tepui White Lightning

Type: Hard Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 2

The White Lightning has a low profile of only 8 inches, improving fuel efficiency compared to other rooftop tents.  Another cool feature is an integrated rack in the top shell, allowing you to bring bikes, a kayak or other gear. The shell is fiberglass composite construction. The tent includes an annex and an 8’6” telescoping aluminum ladder.  Total weight (including the annex) is 150 lbs.  Price is $3250.00


Front Runner Feather-Lite

front runner car top tent

Pictured: Front Runner Tent

Type: Soft Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 2+

The Front Runner, by Oregon-based Columbia Overland is a great option for smaller vehicles, as it’s touted as the lowest profile roof tent when in transit at 7.87 inches tall. The tent weighs only 88 lbs. When folded out, the Front Runner sleeps 2+ comfortably with a width of 4.3 feet and 7.9 feet length. The tent is made with Oxford tent fabric and comes with a retractable, aluminum ladder, a mattress and a flysheet.  Pricing for the Front Runner starts at $1095.00

Tepui Ayer Tent

tepui ayer roof rack tent

Pictured: Tepui Ayer

Type: Soft Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 2

The Tepui Ayer roof top tent looks almost cute on top a small vehicle or SUV. This 2-person tent packs up smaller than it’s bigger cousins, with a closed footprint of 42×48 inches. The tent weighs 95 lbs and comes with a 2 1/2″ density foam mattress, telescoping ladder and can handle heavy rain and wind. Accessories include option of an awning.  Price is more affordable at $925


James Baroud Explorer

explorer roof rack tent

Pictured: James Baroud Explorer

Type: Hard Shell
Sleeping Capacity: 2+

James Baroud offers about 10 models of hard shell roof rack tents that are obviously well-made and offer some great features.  One model, is the Explorer hard shell that has enough room to sleep 2 adults and a child. What’s really cool about these tents is they offer a ventilation system, as exposure to the sun can cause roof top tents to warm up quite a bit. Mattress is made of 3″ high density foam and comes with a zipper cover.

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6 Comments on "Hard and Soft Shell Roof Rack Tents – Options for Your Vehicle"

  1. Where can you purchase one and have installed in Southwestern Ontario?

    • Hi Julie,
      I attempted to search for a roof rack tent dealer in Ontario, but was unable to located any. There appears to be a couple in Quebec.

  2. Please let me know location of dealer near by Tacoma, WA. or Olympia, WA.
    I looking for Roof rack tents fit to my van(Toyota Sienna, 2009.

  3. It seems like the iKamper is very interesting, price wise.

    What would you recommend?

  4. All good info on vehicle roof top tents.

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