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Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

Hard shell Roof Top Tents are a whole new way to go car camping. Although they’ve been around for some time, they are really breaking onto the camping scene now in a big way. In 2019, you’ll likely start seeing them everywhere you go (if you don’t already). They are 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 (HS RTT) or a Soft Shell Roof Top Tent (SS RTT). Here are some factors you might consider while making this decision:

Soft Shell Roof Top Tents:

PROS:

  • Because they fold out from the footprint on your roof they 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.
  • 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 because the space become unusable and just makes it harder to get in your car if you need anything).

CONS:

  • Significantly taller footprint on top of your car both in weight and aerodynamics. Most soft shell Roof Top Tents (SS RTTs) have very tall and very blocky when closed and affect gas mileage, road noise, and appearance much much more than hard shell Roof Top Tents (HS RTTs).
  • Significantly longer setup and take-down time. Because SS RTTs require a protective cover, must be folder out, and require tent poles they become much harder to setup and exponentially harder to take down (especially in any kind of bad weather – rain, wind especially, and snow).
  • Because the entire SS RTT is made from fabric they are not as waterproof as a Roofnest which made from plastic and/or fiberglass.
  • Noisier in the wind. SS RTTs have a lot more fabric close to a lot more poles and so the inevitable flapping occurs despite best efforts to secure everything.

Hard Shell Roof Top Tents

PROS

  • Aerodynamic and attractive shape. Saves you gas because on most cars the HS RTT sits within the slipstream of your car’s design so that, in many cases, they do not affect gas mileage at all.
  • Room inside to store bedding while the tent is closed.
  • Most take less than 30 seconds to set up – that’s right – LESS THAN 30 SECONDS. Just unlatch the Roofnest’s buckles and push up… you’re done. Closing the tent is only a bit more difficult – pull each side down and stuff the tent material between the shells, latch the buckles and away you go.
  • More weatherproof – that impermeable top combined with the taught, vertical tent walls make the tent virtually weatherproof and very quiet in the wind.
  • More comfortable. While some soft shell Roof Top Tents have mattress as thick as Roofnest’s 3 inch mattress, most do not because the mattress has to fold over on itself to close the tent. This is a big deal if you like sleeping in a comfortable tent!

CONS

  • Really the only con is the sleeping area size – this is the only advantage the SS RTTs have over hard shell roof top tents like the Roofnest. If you’re by yourself, with a friend, or have a couple and a small child then Roofnest’s hard shell roof top tent is going to be the right size.