If you’re looking to upgrade your overlanding rig or camping set up, investing in a good rooftop tent is one of the quickest ways to drastically improve your sleeping set up.
However, hard shell rooftop tents are expensive. Luckily, soft shell tents are more affordable, and there are a lot of great options on the market.
Below we compare the best soft shell rooftop tents, and the pros and cons of each.
Let’s dive in!
Why Pick a Soft Shell Rooftop Tent?
There are pros and cons to choosing either a hard shell roof top tent or a soft shell rooftop tent. We do have a full guide to the soft shell vs hard shell roof top tents. Here are some of the main reasons you would choose a soft shelled rooftop tent:
1. They’re Cheaper
Overall softshell rooftop tents are notably less expensive than their hard shell counterparts. If you are on a budget, a soft shelled roof top tent could be the perfect solution for you. Not only that but since they’re less heavy duty you won’t need as rugged of a roof rack to support it. This makes them a very affordable upgrade from traditional pop up tents.
2. More Living Space
Soft shelled rooftop tents have the ability to create more living space than hardshell tents because they can fold in much smaller than a hard shell. This means you will often see soft shell tents that can fit 4 people.
3. They’re Lighter
A couple hundred extra pounds here and there may not seem like a big deal. However if you are doing other modifications on your vehicle like adding bumpers, bed racks, or rock sliders, you’ll definitely have to watch your weight.
Too much weight can drastically decrease your fuel economy and even cause damage to your suspension. A soft shell rooftop tent is a great way to save on weight and still enjoy a much more comfortable camping experience than a ground tent can provide.
4. They Pack Down Smaller
Because soft shelled roof top tents can fold up so much more, they often take up significantly less space than a hard shelled roof top tent. This can sometimes mean they are more aerodynamic.
Cons of Choosing a Soft Shell Roof Top Tent
While there are plenty of reasons you may want to choose a soft shelled roof top tent, there are also some notable cons to consider.
First, while they do pack down smaller than hard shells, they often cause more drag on your vehicle. Also, soft shelled rooftop tents will be much louder on a windy night than a hard shell. This can be annoying if you find yourself in a windy mountain pass.
Lastly, set up for a soft shelled roof top tent can be notably more tedious than hard shell rooftop tents. While the setup will get easier the more you do it, you aren’t getting much more convenience over a traditional ground tent.
Our 7 Favorite Soft Shell Tents
Here are our picks for our favorite soft shelled rooftop tents:
1. Best Premium Soft-Shell Rooftop Tent: Thule Tepui Low-Pro 3 Roof Top Tent
- Price: $1,999.95
- Sleeps: 3 people
We love the Thule Tepui Low-Pro 3 because it only weighs 120 pounds but boasts the ability to comfortably sleep up to three people. This tent also is made from the highest quality materials and is rated for all four seasons.
This is also the lowest profile soft shell rooftop tent on the market and only stands 7 inches high. This tent also boasts the ability to fit on smaller SUVs and hatchbacks. This tent also has pop out raincovers for extra protection over all the windows while you sleep.
Overall, this tent is the perfect balance of features, specs, versatility, and price.
2. Best Budget Rooftop Tent: Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent
- Price: $1,259.70
- Sleeps: 2-3 people
The Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent is big enough to hold 2-3 people and packs down relatively small. This tent is completely waterproof and safe to use during a rain storm without fear of getting wet. This tent also provides great internal storage for things like keys and flashlights. It even has a shoe bag, lighter adapter, and a built in LED lights.
The interior of this tent stands at 51 inches tall which provides ample space to do things like change and sit up. This tent also comes with a PVC cover that protects your tent while it isn’t in use. This can be a bit tedious to use and definitely isn’t the most aerodynamic set up, especially compared to its hard shell counterparts.
Overall the Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent provides a great array of features at a fairly low price compared to other similar tents. If you’re looking for an inexpensive tent with plenty of features, this could be the right tent for you.
3. Best Four-Person Roof Top Tent: iKamper X Cover 2.0 Roof Top Tent
- Price: $3,499
- Sleeps: 3-4 people
The iKamper X Cover 2.0 rooftop tent boasts a completely unique design that is ideal for those who like to pack around heavy equipment such as bikes and kayaks. The most notable feature this tent provides is the integrated crossbars that sit on the top of the tent while it isn’t in use.
This tent is also rated for all four seasons and provides ample internal storage for things like keys and headlamps. This tent also is incredibly easy to install and even easier to set up when you need it. This features a king size mattress and is designed to fold up with your sleeping bags and pillows in it so you can get out on your adventures quicker.
Although this tent may be as pricey as a hard shell rooftop tent, the features and specs are truly unmatched. We are huge fans of the iKamper line of rooftop tents and have an extensive review of the iKamper Skycamp Mini that we have taken all over the country and even Mexico.
4. Best Two-Person Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: Roofnest Meadowlark
- Price: $1,595
- Sleeps: 2 people
What we love most about the Roofnest Meadowlark is that it boasts being ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight, and ultra-affordable. This soft shell rooftop tent is one of the lightest on the market while also having one of the easiest setups.
This tent shines because of its small footprint that allows for storage of things such as bikes, kayaks, or roof top water storage. Because of its small footprint it is also able to fit on some of the smallest vehicles as well. This tent only weighs 90 pounds which makes it compatible with most crossbars and roof racks.
The Roofnest Meadowlark also comes with plenty of internal storage pockets, an LED light strip and an all-weather cover for protection. This tent is a fantastic choice for solo travelers and couples. Roofnest is one of the best rooftop tent brands out there today.
5. Most Spacious Soft Shell Roof Top Tent: Eezi-Awn Series 3 Roof Top Tent 2200
- Price: $3,750
- Sleeps: 5 People
The Eezi-Awn Series 3 Roof Top Tent 2200 is the largest in a series of 5 tents ranging from two to five people. This tent comes with a thick 2.5” high density foam mattress which makes it one of the thickest on this list.
Another great perk of this tent is that it is an all season design that is capable of keeping you dry in even the heaviest rains. It is crafted from incredibly durable materials and a full coverage rainfly which gives it a very impressive weather resistance.
One downside to this particular sized tent in the series is that it weighs a whopping 215 pounds—although this isn’t completely surprising given the size. If you’re a fan of this tent and the extra space it provides, but aren’t sure you quite want a tent this large, there are four other sizes below this one you can also choose from.
6. Best Lightweight Soft Shell Tent Option: Thule Tepui Foothill Rooftop Tent
- Price: $1,999.95
- Sleeps: 2
If you are looking to keep your weight down, the Thule Tepui Foothill may be the best softshell rooftop tent for you. This tent also has a small enough footprint to still fit a bike rack, kayak, or even a surfboard on your roof.
This tent also has oversized windows that provide panoramic views, an extra wide entry point, and two skylights. It has a high quality telescoping ladder, built in mattresses with an anti condensation mat, and is aerodynamic to help preserve your gas mileage. Another great perk of this tent is that it has an incredibly simple setup that is similar to a hard shell rooftop tent.
Overall, this softshell rooftop tent has a great balance of features and packs a big punch despite the smaller package and one of the lightest tent options on the market. This tent would be an ideal choice for solo travelers and couples.
7. Best Option For Families: Guana Equipment Wanaka With Annex
- Sleeps: 4
- Price: $2,249.00
The Guana Equipment Wanaka With Annex roof top tent is an ideal choice for families because of the sheer space and protection it provides. Not only does the tent body sleep four (preferably smaller) people, but the annex room below is ideal for escaping the sun, changing, and hanging out.
We also love that three of the annex doors swing out to provide additional protection against the sun. The tent portion also comes with two shoe bags, an integrated LED light strip, a utility net, and skylights.
This spacious tent is also rated for all four seasons and is made from 1 inch thick aluminum poles and a waterproof ripstop polyester oxford canvas. This means it will have no issues keeping you dry and warm on cold nights. This tent is truly the best roof top tent on the market for families because of its easy setup, integrated mattress, and additional living space in the optional annex.
Overall there are some amazing soft shelled roof top tents on the market. Soft Shelled tents are definitely a cheaper alternative to their hard shelled counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you have to lack features or space. Plus, soft shelled tents are ideal if you’re wanting extra sleeping space, a lighter setup, or even just a less expensive upgrade from a ground tent.
However, if you are still on the fence about choosing a soft shell tent check out our other guide to the best hard shell roof top tents.