Best Hardshell Rooftop Tent Guide

Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents Review

The following guide will feature a collection of information on the best hard shell roof top tents for sale in the market. We will go through a set of different features about the tents, so that by the end of this read you’ll know which hard shell roof top tent is best suited for you.

The first section will focus on the size or person capacity. Essentially, they can be 4 person, 3 person, 2 person and well, even for one person. Then we’ll focus on the most luxurious and premium hard shell rooftop tent compared to the most affordable model. Then we’ll move onto the materials that the shells of these tents are made of, so you understand pros and cons as well as why one might be better for you than another. Finally, we’ll look at the three types or shapes of hard shell roof top tent models out there.

Feel free to click on the jump links section so you can skip and go directly to the section or model that interests you. However, we highly recommend you read through this whole guide, so you can make the most informed decision when you are ready to buy your hard shell rooftop tent. Also, click if you want to see all the hard shell roof top tent models we have for sale.

 

 
Quick Links
 
(Click on each section to “jump” ahead)

 

 

4 Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

iKamper Skycamp 3.0 Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

ikamper skycamp 3.0 best hard shell roof top tent 2022

The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 hard shell rooftop tent is one of the best if not the highest quality model in the whole world. You read that right, the world. Manufactured in South Korea, at their own headquarters and factory, iKamper makes sure all their tents undergo a strict quality control. They were also the first company to ever design the side opening hard shell roof top tent, even winning the Red Dot award for the smart and ergonomic design.

Most hard shell roof top tents have the problem or limitation of not being able to leave much bedding inside of them. Well, the Skycamp 3.0 hardshell roof top tent solves that issue. It allows you to fully remove or detach the canvas, leaving a 9” space inside the shells when closed, which is more than enough to leave bedding inside of it, such as blankets or sleeping bags.

As to the improved features for sleeping, we have a new thicker and far more comfortable mattress. The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 hard shell rooftop tent comes with a king size mattress that can comfortably accommodate 4 people. The mattress offers 9-zone comfort design, with 2.55 inches of thickness, which sit on top of an insulated aluminum floor panel. Not only is the mattress comfortable, but the sleeping thought process behind the tent is excellent, you’ll be insulated from the cold at all times.

Finally, we have the other great features, such as the fact that this hardshell roof top tent opens and closes in less than one minute. It also comes with a really thick yet breathable canvas, with windows on all sides as well as the top, in case you need airflow or want to see the bright stars at night. As to the shells, made of double-layered fiber-reinforced plastic with 1” air insulation, they are nearly indestructible and perfect for all weather conditions. This is a fantastic choice for a family hard shell roof top tent.

Pros: 

  • Opens and closes in less than 60 seconds
  • High quality 9-layer technology mattress, best in the industry
  • Highest quality canvas and shell materials for superior durability
  • Works with an annex!

Cons:

  • Thicker canvas can be slightly warmer during summer

 

 

OVS Bushveld 4 Person Hardshell Roof Top Tent 

ovs bushveld hard shell roof top tent

Much like the first tent on this list, the Overland Vehicle Systems Bushveld Hard Shell Roof Top Tent is a side opening tent, that has enough space to comfortably sleep four people. Thanks to it being a hardshell, it only takes 60 seconds to open or close it. It comes with four latches that can be easily removed or reattached to further simplify the deployment process.

OVS was smart and decided to focus mainly on the design so the Bushveld would stand out. Let’s begin with the two nylon straps with grab handles n the sides of the tent, which make it far easier to open and close it. Then, inside you’ll find a skylight or roof support bar, which pushes upwards the canvas on the far top of the tent adding more height inside it. It’ll be easier for you to move inside of it. 

Other features include a telescoping ladder, as well as two boot bags or shoe bags to leave the shoes outside, but at arm’s reach when you need to climb up and down the ladder. The tent also has the option of adding an annex to it, which not all hard shells tents have it.

Needless to say, quality is excellent. The mattress is 3” thick made of hi-density foam, the canvas is made 600D rip stop polycotton which is one of the thickest possible materials. The rainfly, which is waterproof, is made of 420D poly-oxford ripstop, ideal against wind and rain as well as UV rays. The base is made of diamond plate aluminum and black, which can better hide scratches or dents, as well as offering better insulation. Basically, the OVS Bushveld hard shell roof top tent is built to camp during the 4 seasons and withstand any weather condition.

Pros: 

  • Excellent price
  • Opens and closes in 60 seconds
  • Includes a bunch of accessories such as boot bags, LED light strips and more
  • Smart design and extra straps help opening and closing the tent faster
  • High quality materials
  • 4 year warranty

Cons:

  • The thick canvas can cause condensation during warmer months
  • Slightly heavier than other tents

 

Tuff Stuff Alpha 4 Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tent With Annex

tuff stuff 4 person hard shell roof top tent

When it comes to side opening hard shell roof top tents, the Tuff Stuff Alpha 4 is the last one in the menu. You can read more about side opening tents in the section below dedicated to them. Now, let’s get to the point: the Tuff Stuff Alpha 4 hard shell roof top tent.

With an elegant and outdoorsy green color, the canvas of the Alpha is made of a quite breathable 280g poly-cotton ripstop, and the rainfly is 210D poly-oxford PU coated for 5000mm. To explain this better, it’s not as thick as the two predecessors mentioned above (canvas wise or rainfly wise), but the perk is it’s more breathable which can be better for warmer months. Plus it’s still as waterproof as it can get. 

Worried about winter? Don’t be. The shells are made of ABS plastic with an FRP reinforcement which adds insulation. The floor is in the exterior made of honeycomb heavy duty aluminum, once again protecting against dents and scratches and adding extra insulation. Therefore, this is a 4 season roof top tent.

The Tuff Stuff Alpha 4 hard shell roof top tent opens only towards the passenger side of your vehicle, it weighs 175 lbs, which is on par with the other tents in this class. As to some of the extra accessories, it includes one large shoe bag to have them hanging right next to the telescoping ladder. It also comes with one large and handy storage bag, that can also hang next to the ladder for storing other items or gear. It includes LED light strips both for the interior and exterior of the tent, keeping your campsite illuminated when needed. Also, it’s lockable, as it comes with two steel cable locks with keys.

Finally, the Alpha 4 has more space for cargo and bedding when closed. Oh, and you can also use an annex with this hard shell roof top tent.

Pros:

  • The annex allows a lot of additional space to fit even 2 more adults
  • Comfortably fits 4 people
  • Includes extra accessories such as boot bag, storage bag, LED light strips and lockable latches
  • Excellent price
  • Higher profile when closed to allow you to leave bedding inside of it

Cons:

  • Canvas is not as thick as other models, which may not be as warm during winter

 

3 Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent 

Mamba Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

ovs mamba 3 person hard shell roof top tent

“Another” Overland Vehicle Systems hard shell roof top tent: the Mamba 3. Yeah, it’s not just “another” tent, this is one of the most complete roof top tents in the market, which comes with all the bells and whistles and all the perks you need in a tent.

The first thing is the ease of setup, in just 15 seconds this clamshell hard shell roof top tent can be opened up and closed down. The gas struts which open the tent up are top notch, and unlikely to fail over time, not for nothing is the warranty of 4 years.

Then we go onto the outer shells, both made of aluminum, great against all weather conditions. The Mamba is in fact a 4 season roof top tent. As to the outer upper shell, it has gutters on the sides to easily install the included crossbars, which by the way are compatible with numerous different car accessory brands such as Thule or Yakima. Basically, you can now carry from kayaks, to boards, fishing rods, or any other accessory you want right over your tent. These included crossbars have a weight capacity of 250 lbs, which is pretty impressive.

Moving onto the space and comfort. The OVS Mamba hard shell roof top tent can fit two adults and one child for a total of three people. It is 50 inches wide and comes with a 2” thick mattress, as well as convenient anti-condensation mat beneath it. It’s important to say it does come with two built in storage bags inside the tent, however, the ladder will not fit in the tent, so it must be removed, stored in an included ladder bag and then inside the vehicle or somewhere else.

Finally, the materials are top quality. As mentioned before, this OVS hard shell roof top tent has a 4 year warranty, the aluminum shells are made of 6061 aircraft grade aluminum, the canvas is made of a thick and premium 600D poly-cotton ripstop. It has a built-in rainfly that covers the ladder made from the same exact poly-cotton canvas. Top, top quality.

Pros:

  • Crossbars included for extra carrying capacity
  • Extremely high quality materials make this tent really durable
  • 4 year warranty
  • Opens and closes easily in less than 30 seconds
  • Comfortably fits 2 adults and one child or pet
  • Really low profile, very aerodynamic

Cons:

  • Tent is heavy at 250 lbs
  • Cannot store the ladder inside the tent, but in a ladder bag and out of it

 

 

Tuff Stuff Stealth Aluminum Hard Top Roof Top Tent

tuff stuff stealth aluminum roof top tent

We love the Tuff Stuff Stealth hard shell roof top tent ever since we saw it for the first time at the Overland Expo. Why? Well, it’s as rugged and tough as a tent can ever get. The Stealth is literally indestructible. The honeycomb aluminum shells make this tent reliable against branches, rocks, debris, wind, rain, and anything. It’s a side opening hard shell roof top tent capable of fitting three people in it comfortably. 

The Tuff Stuff Stealth comes with a few additional perks: it includes two crossbars to mount from kayaks, to boards, other gear or even solar panels. These crossbars have a 110 lbs weight rating. You can attach an annex to it (not included), and as per most Tuff Stuff tents, it comes with YKK zippers (top quality), LED light strips inside and outside the tent, as well as a telescoping ladder.

The quality of the canvas is great, made of 280G poly-cotton ripstop, and a rainfly of 210D poly-oxford PU coated and waterproof. It’s a tent ideal for 4 season camping. As to the mattress, we’re looking at a 2.5” thick hi density foam mattress, quite comfortable.

An important thing to note is that this is a heavy tent, the rugged aluminum shell is tougher than any other in the market, and this makes it heavier. This is a 210 lbs roof top tent, not suited for the cab of any pick-up truck, but rather to the bed to balance out the weight. It’s also a 16” tall hard shell roof top tent, so less aerodynamic than most, but this is mostly due to the rack over it. Just bear in mind these two pointers, and you’ll have one of the best tents in the market.

Pros:

  • Nearly indestructible aluminum outer shell
  • Fits 3 people
  • 4 season roof top tent
  • Includes rack on top to carry other gear over it
  • Can have an annex added to it
  • Opens and closes in less than 60 seconds

Cons:

  • Heavier than most tents
  • 16” tall when closed, less aerodynamic than usual

 

 

2 Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Skycamp Mini 3.0 Best 2 Person Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

ikamper skycamp mini 3.0 small hard shell roof top tent

The younger sibling of the iKamper Skycamp, the Mini 3.0 is the best two person hard shell roof top tent in the market. Designed with the characteristic side opening hard shell tent design of most iKamper tents, the Skycamp 3.0 Mini is perfect to comfortably fit 2 adults, as well as installing it on pretty much any vehicle.

With dimensions of 55”x57.5”x13/5” when closed , and weighing only 125 lbs, this hard shell roof top tent is perfect to be installed on any truck bed, any crew cab or double cab truck, as well as on almost all cars with a roof rack capable of holding 125 lbs of weight when in motion.

The iKamper Skycamp Mini 3.0 is the best thanks to the quality and craftmanship. Designed and manufactured at iKamper’s factory in South Korea, the Mini is made of a shell with double-layered fiber-reinforced plastic with a 1” air insulation. Not only is I great against the elements such as sun or rain, but the additional insulation which other tents don’t have, make it a great winter tent. Add to that a 300gsm polycotton canvas, and you know you’re covered. Plus, inside the tent, the canvas has a black-out feature so you can sleep like a rock. 

Speaking of sleeping, the Mini 3.0 hard shell rooftop tent also comes with the newest 9-zone mattress from iKamper, which is one of the most comfortable mattresses in the industry.

Another great thing about this tent, is the fact that you can easily remove the canvas and store it somewhere else, and turn the tent itself into a cargo box, with over 10” of space inside of it for additional storage. All of that with an ease of setup and pack down that takes less than one minute. This hard shell roof top tent isn’t just great for overlanding and camping with your couple, a friend or a pet, but to carry almost anything you need inside of it if you’re running errands!

Pros:

  • Designed and manufactured at iKamper’s own factory
  • Incredibly comfortable mattress
  • 10” of space inside the tent when closed for storage
  • Opens and closes in less than 60 seconds
  • Comfortably fits two adults
  • Can easily be installed on most vehicles
  • Weighs only 125 lbs
  • An annex can be used with it

Cons:

  • High end price for a high end product

 

 

FSR Evolution V2 Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Tacoma

fsr evolution v2 hard shell roof top tent tacoma

The FSR Evolution V2 hard shell roof top tent is one of the best options in the market. Why? It comes in 3 models, all for different uses. The V2 short, as shown in the picture, fits a Tacoma bed being just 79" long, hence making it one of the best sellers for that truck. The V2 long is 88" long, and the XL is wider for extra comfort.

One could say this tent is the most aerodynamic and dimension conscious in the industry, it’s just 9.75” tall when closed. Add to that a 750 lbs weight capacity, and you know that two adults will fit in comfortably and perfectly, you can carry it over your rig and parking anywhere will not be an issue. There will barely be any wind resistance or noise, and a smaller mpg impact.

As to the materials and quality, they’re excellent. The tent is made of a honeycomb aluminum shell, with a tri-layer canvas (the standard of FSR), which is the best, very best out there for the colder months. As to the mattress it’s a 3” inflatable mattress, the most comfortable in the industry. 

The FSR Evolution includes an LED light strip, two boot bags for the shoes, and a telescoping ladder. The tent has windows on all sides which are great not just for the 360 views, but mostly for the airflow and ventilation inside of it. Finally, opening and closing the tent takes less than 60 seconds. 

Pros:

  • Best canvas and insulation features in the market
  • Comes in three sizes: short, long and XL
  • Top quality materials and craftsmanship
  • Lightweight and very low profile 
  • Best mattress

Cons:

  • The XL version can be a bit heavier than desired

 

Eezi-Awn Stealth Hard Shell RTT 

tuff stuff stealth hard shell roof top tent

South Africa, a land of wildlife and adventure, a land where safaris and overlanding have been a thing for decades. And the land where the Eezi Awn Stealth hard shell roof top tent comes from. Made of aluminum directly at Eezi-Awn’s headquarters, the Stealth is perhaps the best manufactured hard shell in the world.

This tent has not only one of the most rugged aluminum exterior shells, powder coated in black, with top quality hinges, nuts and bolts that can withstand rough weather conditions and time. The tent is 57” wide, with a queen mattress that’s 3.5” thick. It has insulated floor and roof, a space under the tent to store the ladder, has an assisted metal built mechanism to open and close this clamshell in less than 60 seconds, and a few other extras such as 12v port inside the tent to charge devices or turn on lights.

The Stealth is heavy, 220 lbs to be precise, and with a footprint of 87” x 57” x 12”, it’s suitable for bigger vehicles. Preferably longer SUVs, trucks with an excellent bed rack or even a truck cap. The Stealth is a true predator of a tent, and must be treated accordingly. With it, your overlanding and camping adventures will be much more fun and comfortable than ever.

Pros:

  • Toughest construction in the market
  • Spacious and comfortable for 2 adults
  • Really comfortable mattress
  • Opens and closes in less than 60 seconds with an excellent mechanism

Cons:

  • A bit heavy at 220 lbs, not suitable for smaller vehicles

 

 

Thule Roof Top Tent

thule roof top tentEveryobdy knows Thule, the famous Swedish brand which manufactures all things vehicle related, from racks to tents. The Thule Basin Wedge roof top tent is an excellent clamshell opening hard shell, which opens and closes in less than 30 seconds, made from a 5mm ABS hard shell material (perhaps the thickes ABS shell), and a 260g poly cotton canvas suitable for all weather conditions.
One of the best things about this Thule hardshell rooftop tent is the fact that the mattress can be removed, transforming the tent into a cargo carrier. Top that with the classic Thule features, and this tent is incredibly easy to install over any Thule cross bar or bed rack system, since it has the Thule mounting brackets which can be the easiest to use in the market.
Then we have the price. This is an affordable and reliable hard shell tent, that paired with a 2 year warranty, as well as features such as the telescoping ladder, a net to store items, and premium quality construction, and you know you're investing your money in a smart way.
Pros:
  • Weighs only 156 lbs, quite lightweight
  • Comfortably fits 2 people
  • Removable mattress can turn the tent into a cargo carrier
  • Excellent price

Cons:

  • Canvas is not as thick as other models, which may not be as warm during winter

 

Premium Electric Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

BunduTop Electric Roof Top Tent

bundutop electric hard shell roof top tent

The only electric hard shell roof top tent in this list, which just like you can imagine, can open and close with an electric controller and mechanism. Made in South Africa, a country where camping and overlanding is literally a huge passion, the Bundutec Bundutop is perhaps the most luxurious hard shell roof top tent that exists. This pop up roof top tent comes in three different sizes: standard, king and super king. Depending on the size, you can fit from 2 to three adults comfortably.

Lets take a look at some of the features. The electric motor takes two minutes to open and close this tent, but that also means you don’t need to climb up or down to open it, nor do you have to do any physical effort to close it. Both shells are made of aluminum and the canvas is of riptech rip stop that can hold well the colder weather, yet remains breathable during spring and summer.

As to some of the extra bells and whistles, this hard shell roof top tent includes an interior 12v winch motor and cables to raise and lower the roof of the tent. It includes an Anderson plug for easy connection, a dual 12v and usb interior outlet to charge your phone or other electronics. It even has an LED light in the center of the roof, a 12v fan inside, and even solar wiring in the case you wanted to mount a solar panel over it!

What about the comfort? Well, no for nothing is this a premium hard shell roof top tent. The Bundutop hard shell roof top tent has a 4” thick hi density foam mattress, which is the thickest in the market. However, the tent when closed remains 12” tall, which isn’t as low profile as other models. This is mostly to all the extra features it has to ensure comfort, from the light to the fan and the wirings. You can leave some bedding inside of it, but not as much, and this is certainly not a tent to try and force the closure, as the electric closing mechanism could be damaged. 

Pros:

  • Electric hard shell roof top tent opens and shuts on its own
  • 4” thick mattress, one of the thickest and most comfortable
  • Full of great perks: 12v and usb ports, light, solar wiring for panels
  • Comes in 3 sizes for more space 

Cons: 

  • Heavier at 150 lbs and bulkier at 12” when closed

 

 

Best Budget Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

In contrast with the previous section, we will now take a look at a cheap hard shell roof top tent, which means cheap in price, but not in quality. Let’s really call it an affordable roof top tent, because at the price point there is nothing that can truly be compared.

 

OVS Bushveld II Cheapest Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

inside view of the ovs bushveld ii cheapest hard shell roof top tent

Not to be confused with its older brother the Bushveld, this is the Bushveld II, and it’s literally a 2 person hard shell roof top tent, yet it has a lot of other great advantages, such as the dimensions. Given this is a 67” x 47” x 10” hard shell roof top tent, it will fit almost any vehicle and certainly any truck bed. Weighing 150 lbs, it’s lightweight enough for smaller SUVs, and as said, it can accommodate two adults.

It's a side opening hard shell rooftop tent, with a polymer hard top, an aluminum insulated base, a 600D ripstop canvas, a telescoping ladder, a 420 Oxford ripstop waterproof rainfly, marine grade stainless steel hardware and a comfortable mattress. It has it all for a memorable adventure when camping out in the wild with a significant other, a friend or even your dog.

Much like its older brother, the Bushveld II has the great ballistic nylon pull strap to easily close the tent without too much of a hassle having to climb up or down your rig. It also comes with an anti condensation mat to place under the mattress in the warmer months, or if you’re sleeping tight during winter with lots of bedding. Surprisingly, given the price, it still includes an LED light strip, storage pockets inside the tent, plus like most hardshell roof top tents it takes barely a minute to open or close it.

An annex can even be added to it for more storage or coverage space, for an additional fee. Basically, this cheap hard shell roof top tent remains nearly unbeatable at this price point, and it still offers great perks, solid quality, and a compact size for smaller vehicles. With a 4 year warranty you can have the peace of mind that you will get a great product out of it!

Pros: 

  • Best and cheapest price in the market
  • Compact tent, ideal for smaller trucks and vehicles
  • Includes an LED light strip
  • Can work with an annex
  • Fits 2 adults comfortably

Cons:

  • Can’t leave much bedding inside, it’s quite compact

 

Different Materials Of A Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

This is a really important section for you to read, as it’ll help you better understand the type of hard shell roof top tent you might want to get. There are three main materials used on most hard shell roof top tents:

  • Aluminum
  • Fiberglass
  • ABS Plastic 

 

Aluminum Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

fsr aspen aluminum hard shell rooftop tent

The first material we’ll cover is aluminum. Compared to other materials such as fiberglass or ABS plastic, it’s the strongest one out of the three. This means, it can withstand better than the other two the rocks, branches, or things that can potentially hit it. It won’t pierce easily nor crack, but it can be scratched easily (unless powder coated), and it can be dented easily too. 

When it comes to weight, aluminum shells are less dense than fiberglass, hence lighter, but ABS plastic is the lightest of them all. As to insulation, aluminum is cooler during winter, so it won’t insulate as well as the other two materials (but most companies add a 1” insulation between the bottom shell and the floor of the tent), and it heats up more during warmer months, as it conducts the heat better.

All in all we think aluminum hard shell roof top tents are excellent, and tend to be the most aerodynamic and low profile tents. Plus, they can handle more weight than other materials, hence why they tend to be the ones with crossbars.

A highly recommended aluminum model is the FSR Aspen hard shell roof top tent. It’s a traditional clamshell, made of a rugged honeycomb aluminum plate and exterior frame. The canvas is a tri-layer, and the base has enough insulation for colder camping. If you don’t want bulkier tents as the Stealth models, the FSR Aspen is a very good option to look for.

 

Fiberglass Roost Roof Top Tent

roost explorer clamshell roof top tent

Time to talk about fiberglass and its benefits. Although a big hit from a rock, branch, or another thing can crack it or even break it, fiberglass is extremely strong. Not as strong as aluminum, hence why most of these tents don’t have crossbars over them, as weight on top is not recommended, but they can withstand the elements and even unexpected hazards. Fiberglass is very strong.

Most pure fiberglass hard shell tents have been discontinued, as they could crack at some point. Now, brands mix the fiberglass with plastic to get the insulating features of fiberglass, and remove the cracking risk.

A good fiberglass tent is the Roost Explorer. This hard shell roof top tent is made in USA, offering a very good quality for a reasonable price. Like most clamshells, it opens and closes in less than 60 seconds. It also offers a fiberglass shell covered in marine resin for a higher strength. The canvas is 600D polyester, UV and water resistant. With a 5 year warranty, you know it’s well built. Finally, it is 13” when closed, but can fit bedding inside of it which is a great plus!

 

ABS Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

thule basin abs hard shell roof top tent

ABS plastic when compared to the other two materials, has a few great things: it’s the lightest material, it won’t crack and hardly ever dent, and it’s easier to shape into what the brands want the tent to look like, as well as easily repaired. Perhaps the only true downside of ABS is that it doesn’t handle extreme heat well, and it’s not as insulating. Yet, it does the trick. Not for nothing are most tents now ABS or aluminum. 

A lot of UV ray exposure can lose it some of the color, but this also happens to most materials. UV rays are a bit too strong for human creations.

There are plenty of hardshell rooftop tents made out of ABS plastic shells, but amongst them, we are big fans of the Thule Basin Hard Shell Roof Top Tent. The Thule Basin is a traditional 2 person rooftop tent, with a pop-up opening mechanism, that opens and closes in less than one minute, and it’s made with the highest quality materials. As a matter of fact, it even combines ABS with an aluminum welded structure (top of the line), as well as an excellent canvas made from 260g poly-cotton and waterproof.

The Thule Basin hardshell roof top tent offers very good insulation, it’s only 12.75” tall when closed, so quite aerodynamic, and weighs 176 lbs. Perhaps the best thing about it is how easy it is to install it over most crossbars, since it’s made by well: Thule.

 

Different Styles Of Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

We figured it’s important to explain the three different styles, shapes or designs of hardshell roof top tents. Currently, all hard shells are one of these three styles:

  • Clamshell
  • Pop Up
  • Side Opening

 

Clamshell Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

kakadu canning clamshell hard shell roof top tent
Clamshell hard shell roof top tents are those that open like the mouth of an alligator, or in a triangular shape. When closed, they are flat like all other models, but you open them by lifting the far side of the tent, where the ladder will be attached to, and lift it up. It’ll have a clam or triangular shape, with that part you lifted as the tallest side, typically from 37” upwards, and you then crawl inside and sleep with your feet on the lowest side of the tent. 

A good clamshell tent is the Kakadu Canning 1300. One of the toughest roof top tents in the market, it has an aluminum hard top shell with cross bars to carry other gear over it, the canvas is 280gsm rip stop (one of the thickest in the industry), and it has excellent German engineered struts to open and close it. With a 3 year warranty, you know you're getting a terrific hardshell rooftop tent.

 

Pop Up Hardshell Roof Top Tent 

tentbox pop up hard shell roof top tent

Pop-up hardshell tents are the ones that open up like a box, they literally pop up entirely, giving you an equal height on all sides. Typically, you will need to lift up the tent from one of the longer sides of it, and then climb in it to lift the other side, but it still remains a simple and quick task of less than one minute. 

They have the advantage of being slightly more spacious height wise when you’re inside of them, and sometimes can accommodate more bedding due to the extra space they have. On top of that, they have an internal metal arm opening feature, that is quite sturdy and rugged. 

A fantastic option for a pop up hard shell roof top tent is the TentBox. The English roof top tent company has been around for quite a few years. Their Tentbox Hard Shell Roof Top Tent is not only equipped with a few nice accessories, such as internal pockets and storage net, but it’s built with high quality materials, and it weighs only 143 lbs. As a matter of fact, thanks to how lightweight it is, the Tentbox suits most SUVs and smaller vehicles in the market.

  

Side Opening Hardshell Rooftop Tent 

fsr odyssey side opening hard shell roof top tent

Time for the final style, which when closed looks like a regular hard shell, but it tends to be more spacious. The side opening hardshells can be either for just two people, or even to fit up to four or five. How? Well, they open from the side just like a clamshell, yet when they fit more people, you pull out a panel from under the base, which ends up creating a much larger sleeping footprint by adding more width. As you pull the panel outwards, the top or roof of the canvas also stretches out to fully cover that side floor panel. 

Great examples of these are the iKamper Skycamp 3.0 and the iKamper Skycamp Mini 3.0, as well as both OVS Bushveld models, or the Tuff Stuff Alpha models. These side opening hardshell tents have become extremely popular due to the fact they can be more spacious. Other companies such as FSR offer the Odyssey hard shell roof top tent, which are also side opening, yet you don’t really pull out a panel or canvas, they remain a 2 or 3 person tent depending on the width, yet still open up in this way.

Ultimately, no matter which style you pick, as all three of them are popular, tested, long lasting and comfortable. However, some are faster to open or close and have less hinges or struts (clamshell), some are more spacious and are better ventilated (pop up), and some are great to fit more people inside of them (side opening). Your call.

 

Why Buy A Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

This is one of the most common questions we get, and the truth is there are three main advantages that hard shell roof top tents have, which make them an excellent pick.

 

Ease Of Setup

Hard shell roof top tents are much faster to open and close than a soft shell. Normally, it takes less than 60 seconds to open any hard top tent, especially the pop up or the clamshell designs. Sometimes, the side opening tents require a few more seconds since you need to pull the canvas and sometimes even add a few spring rods.

That said, the ease of set up tends to be the main factor for most people to buy them over a soft shell. Sure, soft shells can be a bit more spacious and even more affordable, but they can take up to 5 or 7 minutes to pack down, and that's if you've got practice! A hardshell will literally never take more than 2 mins.

Picture yourself at the end of a camping trip, you're tired, maybe even dirty, and all you want to do is quickly pack your stuff, close the tent and drive away. Well, with a hardshell rooftop tent you're looking at just one minute and you're gone. That's the main reason to buy one.

 

Quality 

Hard shell roof top tents tend to be a bit more expensive than other models, and this also means that they are better built, as brands choose stronger materials for them. It’s not just shell, but also the insulation in the base, the thicker canvas, the stronger hinges made from better quality metal. You pay more, but it is likely you get a slightly better quality rooftop tent.

Sometimes you can even get better mattresses, such as the inflatable ones in some tents, like FSR. Also, the protection that the hard shell offers, specifically when closed which keeps the tent practically shut, allows you to have other feature such as USB cables, or use the tent as a cargo carrier for valuable items. You see, quality also translates into these other areas.

 

Aerodynamics

This is the final and most obvious advantage, hard shell roof top tents tend to have much lower profile when closed, which can go from around 9” to around 12” with the bulkier models. That is still better than other tents which are closer to 15” or a bit more when closed. Plus, being they are slimmer, thinner they also offer much less wind resistance, which doesn’t have as much of an impact on your mpg. Add to that less noise from the wind resistance, and you can drive without much of a whistling sound.

Oh, and don't forget that aerodynamics can also mean you can fit on certain garages or parking lots. Adding just 9" to the heihgt of your vehicle isn't as much as other tents which can add up to 14" or even 15". In our book, that's aeodynamics and it makes your life much easier!

 

Durability

Durability is one of the main reasons. Hardshell rooftop tents tend to last a bit longer, especially the aluminum hard top ones. Why? Well, since they can be closed shut, there isn't much air, water or even dust that can get into the tent and affect the canvas. So that is reason number one.

Reason number two is the sell itself. Although roof top tents can last for ages, and at Off Road Tents we've owned and tested dozens of models through the years and can vouch for soft shell tents being in perfect shape after 5 years of literal abuse, hardshells have a hard top that protects them from unexpected hazards such as hitting a branch. In such situations, which can happen, the travel cover of a softshell rips or pierces, a hard shell barely suffers a scratch. So yes, durability is a factor to consider!

 

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent Comparison Chart

Hardshell Rooftop Tent

Price

Sleeping Capacity

Weight

Mattress Thickness

Roof Crossbars

Material

Style

Warranty

iKamper Skycamp 3.0

$4199

4-5 people

165 lbs

2.5”

-

FRP Plastic

Side Opening

2 Years

OVS Bushveld

$2799

4-5 people

175 lbs

3”

-

Polymer Plastic

Side Opening

4 Years

Tuff Stuff Alpha 4

$2999.99

4-5 people

176 lbs

2”

-

ABS

Side Opening

1 Year

OVS Mamba 3

$3499

3 people

250 lbs

2”

Included

Aluminum

Clamshell

4 Years

Tuff Stuff Stealth

$3999.99

3 people

221 lbs

1.6”

Included

Aluminum

Side Opening

1 Year

iKamper Skycamp Mini 3.0

$3699

2 people

125 lbs

2.25”

-

FRP Plastic

Side Opening

2 Years

FSR Evolution V2

$3895

2-3 people

164 lbs

3”

-

Aluminum

Pop Up

1 Year

Eezi Awn Stealth

$4750

2-3 people

220 lbs

3.5”

-

Aluminum

Clamshell

3 years

Thule Basin Wedge $2999.95 2 People 156 lbs 2.5" - ABS Clamshell 2 Years

BunduTop

$4235

2-3 people

150 lbs

4”

-

Aluminum

Pop Up

1 Year

OVS Bushveld II

$2199.99

2 people

150 lbs

3”

-

Polymer Plastic

Side Opening

4 Years

 

 

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent FAQs

 

What is the lightest hard shell roof top tent? 

The Baddass Rugged hardshell roof top tent is the lightest model in the industry at the moment, weighing only 113 lbs, which is incredible.

 

What is the lowest profile hard shell roof top tent?

The iKamper BDV Duo or BDV Solo are the two lowest profiled tents in the industry, with a height when closed of only 7”.

  

Are there more hard shell roof top tents with an annex? 

There are quite a few models that can accommodate an annex. The iKamper Skycamp models work great with their annex, as well as the Tuff Stuff Alpha II and Alpha 4, or the OVS Bushveld and the Bushveld II.

 

Are there hard shell roof top tents with a rack?

Yes, there are plenty. Most of them are aluminum hard shell tents, which can have crossbars installed on top. An example is the Eezi Awn Blade, the FSR Odyssey, the iKamper BDV, the Tuff Stuff Stealth and a few more!

 

Can I install a solar panel over a roof top tent?

Yes, if you can figure out the solar wiring, then yes. Hard shell roof top tents are better suited, given their flat and even hard upper shell. As a matter of fact tents such as the Bundutop already include the solar wiring, or can have it installed easily, so you can mount a smaller solar panel over it.

 

Does a hard shell roof top tent affect my fuel economy?

Yes it will. All tents will since they all mean a significant weight over your roof. Add to them the weight of a rack, and it’s impossible not to see an increase in the miles per gallon. Nonetheless, hard shellr oof top tents are more aerodynamic than softshells, and as a result they’ll offer less wind resistance and consume less fuel. 

 

How To Install A Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Hard shell roof top tents tend to be heavier than other models, so this will be at least a two person job.

The first thing you need is to have a roof rack which has a dynamic weight capacity of at least the same weight of your tent. The dynamic weight capacity or DWC is the weight that your roof rack can stand when the vehicle is in motion.

The second thing is to take out all the install hardware (all tents include it), and make sure the base rails are properly attached to the bottom of the tent. On some tents you need to bolt them through the inside already predrilled holes the tent base has, others already have these rails.

The third step is a bit tougher, meaning you’ll need to place the tent over the roof rack or crossbars, and then attach the tent brackets and fasten the bolts on each side of the crossbar or rack slat, until the tent is secure. Crossbars or slats to which the tent is attached must be around 32” to 48” apart to properly hold it.

 

Best Hard Shell Rooftop Tents For Sale