Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell Roof Top Tents: Pros and Cons Part 1

, Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell Roof Top Tents: Pros and Cons Part 1

Hard shell roof top tents are a whole new way to go car camping. Although they’ve been around for a better part of the last decade, they’ve more recently begun breaking onto the camping scene in a big way.

In 2019, you’ll likely start seeing them everywhere you go (if you don’t already). They’re like a car-top storage box, but they pop up to form an enclosed, protected, comfortable bedroom.

If you’re thinking about getting into the roof top tent game or you’re considering upgrading from a different kind of vehicle tent, one thing you’ll want to consider is whether to get a hard shell roof top tent or a soft shell roof top tent. Keep reading to check out the key considerations that should factor into your decision between a hard shell or soft shell roof top tent.  

Soft Shell Roof Top Tents


  • More floor area: Because they fold out from the footprint on your roof, these tents often have more floor area when deployed, and can sleep more people. If you have a family of four, this can be a critical pro.
  • Provides shade: When deployed, there is space underneath the extended tent which can provide shade and protection. The caveat is that if you have a smaller car, this becomes a con — the space becomes unusable and it makes it harder to get in your car if you need anything.


  • Significantly taller footprint on top of your car, both in weight and aerodynamics: Most soft shell roof top tents are tall and blocky when closed, which affects gas mileage, road noise, and overall appearance on top of your car much more than a hard shell roof top tent.
  • Significantly longer setup and take-down time: Because soft shell roof top tents require a protective cover, must be folded out, and require tent poles, they’re harder to setup and exponentially harder to take down (especially in any kind of bad weather – rain, wind especially, and snow).
  • Not waterproof: A soft shell roof top tent is made from fabric, meaning it’s not as waterproof as a Roofnest, which is made from plastic and/or fiberglass.
  • Noisier in the wind: Soft shell roof top tents have fabric and poles, leading to inevitable flapping in the wind despite best efforts to secure everything.

Hard Shell Roof Top Tents


  • Aerodynamic and attractive shape: A hard shell roof top tent saves you gas by sitting within the slipstream of your car’s design. In many cases, your Roofnest won’t affect your gas mileage at all.
  • Easy setup: There’s room inside your Roofnest to store your sleeping bags while the tent is closed.
  • Speedy setup: Our roof top tents less than 30 seconds to set up. You read that right. Just unlatch the Roofnest’s buckles and push up, and you’re done. Closing the tent only requires a bit more effort — you pull each side down and stuff the tent material between the shells, latch the buckles, and away you go.
  • Weatherproof: The impermeable top combined with the taught, vertical tent walls make the tent virtually weatherproof and quiet in the wind.
  • Complete comfort: While some soft shell roof top tents have mattresses as thick as Roofnest’s 3-inch mattress, most don’t because the mattress has to fold over on itself to close the tent. That’s a big deal if you like sleeping in a comfortable tent…and who doesn’t?


  • Sleeping area size: This is the main advantage that soft shell roof top tents have over hard shell roof top tents like the Roofnest. If you’re by yourself, with a friend, or with your partner and a small child, a Roofnest will be the perfect size for your camping party.

It’s no secret that the pros are pretty stacked for hard shell roof top tents — better waterproofing, more comfort, and quicker and easier setup aren’t qualities that many campers want to compromise in their tent.

Still not convinced? Take an even deeper dive into the pros and cons of hard shell vs. soft shell roof top tents in our next comparison installment >


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