Roof Top Tent Buyers Guide Review

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Before you drop a large chunk of change on buying a roof top tent, take some time to review who is making them and what the differences are.  

I write and operate my own low budget camping blog.  Sometimes I make some coin here and there from my 3 readers who click on affiliate links-enough money to buy batteries for my blue tooth mouse and keyboard. 

While I do not own a roof top tent I plan on buying one after I do my due diligence.  Expect frequent updates to this RTT Buyers Guide. Click here for another RTT article

Family Roof Top Tent Buyers Guide

The biggest advantage of owning a roof top tent is ease of use.  I see campers pull up next to us, pop up their roof top tents, and ready to sleep in less than 2 minutes.  Sleeping bags, pillows, and sleeping mat is ready to go.  These tents are folded up in 2 minutes or less.

The small herd of potential buyers is thinned out before they ever open the door.  No matter how you slice it, a decent RTT (roof top tent) will set you back a $1000 US or more unless you can find a used one.  

Used RTTs command a high resale value because the owners of these tents are educated, smart, and take care of the their stuff.  You are above average intelligence and you  have money to spend.  You may get lucky and find a used on Craig's list from a board rich guy.

Price comparison shopping is difficult at best because RTTs is such a small niche.  

From a distance, each type of  tent looks the same.  I have a hunch that many come from the same manufacturing facility.  This does not mean that each will be of  equal quality. 

Spending a $1000 or more is worth the expense because you are paying for comfort and convenience. 

Tepui Ayer Bargained Priced RTT At REI

If you are ready to get the best deal and money back guarantee for the top of line Tepui RTT, shop no further than REI.  For $925 plus tax, you get a lightweight Tepui Ayer.  It's one of the lightest RTTs on the market.  Backed by REI's satisfaction guarantee and 10% dividend, it's a bargain.  Shop their 20% off 1 item sale, and this tent is wholesale price!

tepui Ayer Roof top tent

Roof Top Tent Buyers Guide Video

Here is  a great buyers guide video on soft shell roof top tents provided by Gordi Tents.  It's very informative and gets you thinking.

Roof top tents can be broken down into 2 major categories.

  1. Soft Shell Tents
  2. Hard Shell Tents

That's right-2 choices.  But it gets better.  Some of  the RTTs can sleep up  to 6 people.  It's going to take some serious muscle to get the tent on top of your rig because they are heavy.  .

Soft shell tents have been around for decades.  They are the most economical.  Most can be set up or taken down as easy as their ground cousins-regular tents.  They are also a lot bulkier.  A heavy family tent may weigh 25 lbs.  The lightest RTTs  weigh a minimum of 70 pounds!

Soft shell tents usually have lower annexes or change rooms.  This really opens up your options.  You will  have as much room as a small rv at the fraction of the cost.  While your neighbors are fending off rain, bugs, and cold weather, you lounge in your shelter with your vehicle doors open and music blaring.

How To Choose A Roof Top Tent

When I purchased a roof top cargo carrier for my Subaru, I looked at both soft shell and hard shell designs.  I bought a Thule roof top cargo box 10 years ago.  It's been on and off my Subaru for the past 10 years and still looks new.  A hard shell for sleeping quarters is a much better value if you intend to keep it for a long time.

A hard shell rtt will keep your tent protected from the wind and sun while driving.  The biggest benefit is the fast set up time of usually 1 minute  or less.   My family of 4 sleeps in our van.  It takes about 5 minutes to set up our sleeping quarters because we have to move things around.  Having a roof top sleeping quarters eliminates that hassle.  We can literally roll in and be snuggled up in sleeping bags within a few minutes.   The hard shell option allows  us to store all of our sleeping gear out of the away on the roof.

Best Roof Top Tents for Sleeping Comfort and Protection From the Elements  

Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

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Maggiolina Air Land Roof Top Tent

 

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Autohome Columbus a-frame hard shell tent gives a lot of head and a feeling of more space.

 

roof top tent buyers guide
Custom made aluminum a-frame roof top tent.

 Soft Shell Roof Top Tents

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Cascadia Mt. Washington roof top tent with annex.

I have personally looked at both Autohome and Cascadia RTTs.  I impressed with the Autohome Maggiolina because I like the aerodynamic and ease of deploying the unit.  No whistling or vibration while traveling down the highway.  

Set up and take down time is measured in seconds.  The hard shell tents win every time for ease of use.

Roof Top Tent Distributor Contact Information

AutoHome USA

AutoHome manufactures and sells the Columbus and Maggiolina lines of hard shell roof top tents. These are the stealthy looking aerodynamic design available in either fiber glass or carbon fiber.  I looked at a used Maggiolina Extreme offered on Craigslist for $1000 less than the full retail price.  It looked brand new.  The quality is amazing.  In my opinion, it is a well made as any American or German product. AutoHome USA does not deal with knock-offs.  Fabric is made with heavy duty canvass. 

Cascadia Roof Top Tents  based out of Bend Oregon, design and market high quality RTTs.   I personally met Bobby, the owner.   While delivered a tent to a new customer, he offered to me up with me and show me his products.  

While I am not impressed with some of the sharp edges on the Aluminum frame, I think your car would have to be tipped over to destroy the tent.

Tepui Roof Top Tents

Tepui roof top tents are the only brand REI stocks.  It's a high end tent selling at a garage sell price.  They are a local California outdoor company based in Santa Cruz.  These guys live and breath high adventure camping.

Big Foot Roof Top Tents based out of Southern California.  I spoke with one of the reps and he was very informative.  He was bold enough to tell me that most of the distributors that import tents from Asia are nearly identical to each other. 

He mentioned that the quality is improving as the distributors place heavy demands on the factories that build products.  Most of the camping gear that we have bought over the  years is made in China and holding out quite well.  Every tent is shipped to your door for free.  They have the lowest price available.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi! I was looking over get websites when my blue defender 90 with my Oasis tent caught my eye. That was a fun trip. I just finished (last night!) with the final portion of the Oregon Discovery Trail. And used my Oasis tent. I am currently considering a hard shell tent purchase sometime. In the future. The one that catches my eye is the James Baroud tents. Any thoughts, comments?
    Regards,
    John

    • I sure like the hard shell tens. However, the price is high. When I finally buy a roof top tent, it will be a hard shell because you can use it as cargo carrier too. Soft shell RTTs are bulky. With that said, I like the roominess of soft shell roof top tents.

  2. Great write up. I’m curious to hear your opinion on the quality of the James baroud tent. I am currently in the process of Savin for this tent but when I saw your write up on the Bigfoot tent I was shocked at how cheap their tents are in comparison. And as a bonus they are a whopping 3 miles from my house. Do you think the material is the big difference between the two? I just don’t see how there can be such a difference in price. Also I was wondering what your opinion was on the shock pop up VS the crank up pop up tent? Some one told me that the crank up is based off of a chain driven pulley and with heavy off-roading the chain can loosen and pop off. I don’t truly see this happening but I guess it’s a possibility. Have you ever heard of such a thing. Thanks again and look forward to your advise.

    Alex Delieuze

    • Alex, James Baroud still makes their tents. They do not sell Chinese knock-off tents. If you can afford a name brand tent with the highest quality standards, I would spend the money. With that said, companies like Big Foot and Cascadia makes some incredible tents at bargain prices. They spec the tents themselves and are involved in the quality control process. At the end of the day, if the tent keeps you dry and lasts many almost as long as higher priced tents, who really cares where it’s made.

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