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Best Roof Tents For Your Car: A Detailed Review

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Roof tents are easy to set up and offer more versatility than traditional ground tents. They are also space-efficient as you can set up camp wherever you park. While they may be pricier, the ground clearance provides for protection against weather elements and creeping animals.

Thule is globally renowned for its high-quality vehicle accessories. Tepui is the Thule subsidiary in charge of the production and selling of roof tents. They primarily specialize in soft-shell roof tents, with the Explorer series leading in sales worldwide. The Ruggedized series is the most durable of the lot and is more expensive, while the Baja series consists of lightweight roof tents designed explicitly for spring and fall seasons.

Here are the best Thule roof tents available in the market based on construction, capacity, versatility, functionality and price.

Best Overall
Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 with Annex, Haze Gray
Best For Off-Road and 4x4 Trailers
Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 with Annex, Haze Gray
Best for Small Cars
Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2, Light Gray, One Size
Best Budget-Friendly
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2, Blue, One Size
Best Alternative to Thule
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Product
Thule Tepui Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex
Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex
Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
Smittybilt Overlander 2783 Tent
Capacity
4 Person
3 Person
Available in 2 and 3 People
2 Person
2 to 3 Person also available in XL (3 to 4 Person)
Materials Used
600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend
High-quality 360g stitched fabric
Thermoplastic materials that are both durable and 100% recyclable
Coated 600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend
600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly and heavy duty PVC cover
Dimension (Open)
122 x 72 x 52 in
122 x 56 x 52
2 Person: 84 x 50 x 44 in and 3 Person: 95 x 56 x 49 in
84 x 48 x 39 in
95 x 56 x 51 in
Dimension (Closed)
48 x 72 x 12 in
48 x 56 x 12
2 Person: 43 x 50 x 10 in and 3 Person: 48 x 56 x 10 in
42 x 48 x 11 in
58 x 49 x 13 in
Weight
190 lb
152 lb
2 Person: 105 lb and 3 Person: 120 lb
105 lb
116.5 Lbs
Price
$2,699.95
$2,799.95
$1,599.95
$1,399.95
$1,190.99
Best Overall
Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4 with Annex, Haze Gray
Product
Thule Tepui Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex
Capacity
4 Person
Materials Used
600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend
Dimension (Open)
122 x 72 x 52 in
Dimension (Closed)
48 x 72 x 12 in
Weight
190 lb
Price
$2,699.95
Best For Off-Road and 4x4 Trailers
Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 with Annex, Haze Gray
Product
Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex
Capacity
3 Person
Materials Used
High-quality 360g stitched fabric
Dimension (Open)
122 x 56 x 52
Dimension (Closed)
48 x 56 x 12
Weight
152 lb
Price
$2,799.95
Best for Small Cars
Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2, Light Gray, One Size
Product
Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent
Capacity
Available in 2 and 3 People
Materials Used
Thermoplastic materials that are both durable and 100% recyclable
Dimension (Open)
2 Person: 84 x 50 x 44 in and 3 Person: 95 x 56 x 49 in
Dimension (Closed)
2 Person: 43 x 50 x 10 in and 3 Person: 48 x 56 x 10 in
Weight
2 Person: 105 lb and 3 Person: 120 lb
Price
$1,599.95
Best Budget-Friendly
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2, Blue, One Size
Product
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent
Capacity
2 Person
Materials Used
Coated 600 denier and a 260g poly-cotton blend
Dimension (Open)
84 x 48 x 39 in
Dimension (Closed)
42 x 48 x 11 in
Weight
105 lb
Price
$1,399.95
Best Alternative to Thule
Smittybilt Overlander Tent
Product
Smittybilt Overlander 2783 Tent
Capacity
2 to 3 Person also available in XL (3 to 4 Person)
Materials Used
600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly and heavy duty PVC cover
Dimension (Open)
95 x 56 x 51 in
Dimension (Closed)
58 x 49 x 13 in
Weight
116.5 Lbs
Price
$1,190.99

Last update on 2021-09-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Overall - Thule Tepui Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex

Thule Tepui Autana Rooftop Tent with AnnexOur top choice is a no-brainer as it is the best Thule roof tent out there for large families and groups for all-year-round camping. The Autana’s impeccable construction is second to none. Its base construction is made from a 19mm welded aluminum tube capable of handling 650lb static weight capacity.

The water-resistant canopy consists of 600-denier coated fabric blended with 260g polyester cotton. On top of that, the tough exterior is UV and mold-resistant, able to withstand the different seasons and weather conditions.

Another great feature of the Autana is its massive internal space. You get 96 x 72 inches of sleeping room and an interior height of 56 inches, providing ample accommodation for up to four adults. The tent comes with a comfy 2-inch high-density foam mattress for snoozing and recharging after a long day. Additionally, it features four large pockets for stashing gear and other camping accessories like headlamps or your car keys.

An extended canopy entrance provides for additional privacy with a retractable annex. Mesh panels ensure efficient air circulation within the tent and easily open or close to regulate the desired airflow. It’s worth noting that you can still access the vehicle’s side door with the tent mounted, thanks to a u-shaped zipper. You unzip it, roll up the fabric and pin it up with the provided toggles.

When fully assembled, the Autana weighs 190 pounds and measures 122 x 72 x 52 inches. After use, it folds down to 48 x 72 x 12 inches for ease in transportation and storage. You can use the roof tent in its folded state can be used a 200-pound cargo box. Before mounting it, ensure the minimum bar spread is 30.7 inches the racks are strong enough to handle the weight.

Pros

  • Spacious- easily fits four people
  • Durable

Con

  • Bulky

 

Best For Off-Road and 4x4 Trailers - Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana Rooftop Tent with Annex

Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana Rooftop Tent with AnnexThis is the toughest, heavy-duty roof tent on our list and arguably in the market. The base construction features a reinforced aluminum tubular frame with diamond plate cap sheets. This increases protection against the harshest weather conditions; it’s durable and barely corroded even over extended usage. The internal structure is also made from heavy-duty 19mm aluminum tubing to handle loads of up to 600 pounds.

The canopy of the fabric is heavily insulated. Unlike the other Thule roof tents, canvases that are 260 grams of polyester cotton, the canvas of this model is 360 grams. 600D ripstop fabric with water-resistant ventilate coating ensures you are kept dry regardless of the storm. The taped seams are dual stitched for increased strength.

The spacious 96 x 56-inch interior is furnished to provide maximum comfort and relaxation for up to three people. A 2.5-inch thick high-density mattress lines the entire floor of the tent coupled with a washable cotton mattress cover. Beneath the mattress is an anti-condensation mat that prevents moisture build-up for a cool and dry interior. You can stash personal items or gear in any of the four large pockets spread across the sides of the tent.

An extended canopy with a removable annex offers safe storage for any dirty and wet gear as well as privacy. Six large windows with mesh panels ventilate the entire structure. Two of the mesh panels are located on top of the UV and mold resistant canopy to let in the moonlight and watch the night sky. Finally, the 8.5 feet telescoping ladder offers ease of entry and provides additional support to the roof tent.

The Ruggedized Autana model is the most expensive tent on this list, but considering the quality construction and numerous accessories, it’s worth the premium bucks you will pay for it.

Pros

  •             Heavy-duty construction
  •             An anti-condensation mat prevents moisture build-up
  •             Added insulation provides more warmth

Con

  •             Expensive

Best for Small Cars - Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop Tent

Thule Tepui Low-Pro Rooftop TentRooftop tents are synonymous with large vehicles and SUVs, but small cars can also enjoy this convenience with the Low-Pro tent. It is the lightest, 105 pounds, and has the lowest profile of all the Thule soft-shell tents. It is remarkably slim as it folds down to just 7-10 inches. The ultra-low profile design offers better aerodynamics, making driving more pleasurable and fuel-efficient.

All this has been made possible by the new Tepui TEC Composite Base technology. The base material is made from cellulized thermoplastic honeycomb fiberglass material, which weighs less, and the thickness is significantly decreased.

The tent may look subtle; however, it’s robust and sturdy enough to accommodate two people or static weight of 400 pounds. While the internal frame is constructed from 16mm wrapped aluminum, the dome-shaped canopy fabric is made from 3000WP ripstop polyester. The material is breathable, waterproof, UV and mildew resistant and is also flame-retardant.

A 40-denier hard density mattress is provided that spans the entire 29.2 square feet base of the tent. The tent is cozier and warmer when the temperatures drop at night. The vents can be zipped up or folded up for ventilation or to prevent rainwater from seeping in. A ladder comes prepackaged to enable you to gain easy access into the 84 x 50 x 44-inch rooftop tent.

The Low-Pro is relatively easy to assemble. It incorporates the patented ZipperGimp for quick attachment of the canopy to the base of the tent. Pay attention to the recommended dimensions for the rack systems to avoid incorrect mounting. The crossbars need to have a maximum of 80 mm width and 38 mm width.

Pros

  •             Lightweight
  •             Better fuel efficiency
  •             Easy to set up

Con

  •             Not ideal for cars with glass roofs or sunroofs

Best Budget-Friendly - Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop Tent

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 Rooftop TentIf you are looking for a cheap but durable Thule roof tent, this is the best option available. Thule doesn’t compromise on the quality of construction and uses the same materials as the Kukenam model despite an almost $500 price difference.

Similar to the Low- Pro, it has a 400-pound static weight capacity and 105 pound heavy. It fits small vehicles, and if you have a sedan or a hatchback, this is a safe pick. It comes in two distinctive colors, Haze gray and blue.

Welded aluminum with EPS foam insulation makes up the base of the tent. The canopy fabric is made of a water-resistant 600-denier polyester-cotton ripstop, while the rain fly is made from 420-denier polyester oxford with a 2000mm polyurethane waterproof coating. In fair weather, you can retract the rain fly for scenic stargazing. Sturdy 6061 tubular poles provide 38 inches of headroom and keep the tent upright during heavy downfall or strong winds.

Mesh vents reduce condensation build-up, whereas awnings over the door and windows shut out bad weather. The windows are made of translucent mesh panels for privacy, ensuring that the two occupants’ activities can’t be pried on and can be opened to bolster airflow. An integrated high-density mattress lines up the tent with a removable, washable cotton cover for easy cleaning. During transportation and storage, a heavy-duty PVC cover zips in the Ayer 2 tent protecting it from abrasion and weather elements.

The Ayer 2 has universal mounting brackets that allow for easy and quick mounting of the rooftop tent in under 20 minutes. The telescoping ladder comes with adjustable height variations that can be appropriately calibrated to match your vehicle’s height, easing access into the tent.

Pros

  •             Affordable
  •             Compatible with most factory roof racks and aftermarket crossbars

Con

  •             Tight Fit for Two Adults

Best Alternative to Thule - Smittybilt Overlander 2783 Tent

Smittybilt Overlander 2783 TentIf you cannot acquire a Thule roof tent, The Overlander is a pretty decent go-to option for camping and hiking. It is versatile and slightly cheaper than the Thule Ayer 2 but with fantastic functionality.

The standard size tent weighs 48 pounds and has an astounding 661-pound maximum loading limit. It can accommodate 2-3 people with its vast 95 x 56 x 51-inch size. You will also find plenty of storage from the four interior compartments or the hanging shoe bag. The bag has two drain holes where wet gear can be left to dry as you take a nap.

 The tent base is made from aluminum and polyurethane material, while the tent poles are made from an anodized aluminum frame with stainless steel hinges. The canopy is heavy-duty 600D ripstop polyester fabric, while the flysheet is made from a lightweight 420D Oxford material. It has a sunroof which also doubles up as a ventilation panel. All the side panels have mosquito nets that keep you safe from bug bites and infections.

You don’t necessarily have to carry a headlight when going camping, as the Overlander comes with an LED strip. This LED light can be either connected via a USB port or a 12V socket directly to your car. A comfortable foam mattress with a removable cover is attached to the base of the tent using Velcro. You can effortlessly access the tent from either the passenger or driver’s side.

The roof tent is easy to set up even for a first-time user and comes with detailed setup instructions. Unlike the Thule roof tents, the Overlander uses Velcro fasteners instead of zippers. They may not be as popular, but they are more convenient when compacting the tent for storage. The tent is quickly dissembled, tied down using Velcro and conveniently stored in a UV-resistant PVC cover.

Pros

  •             Versatile
  •             Dual side access
  •             Interior LED strips

Con

  •             Ladder extension is sold separately
  •             One year warranty

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you drive with a roof tent?

Yes, you can. Nonetheless, as much as can fold down the roof tents to miniature sizes, they heavily impact your fuel efficiency, and you will end up spending more at the pump. Low-profile roof tents may reduce the wind resistance, but the drag is still significant.

What is the difference between the static and dynamic weight capacity of a roof tent?

The static weight capacity refers to the recommended loading capacity of a tent a roof rack system can support when the vehicle is stationary. The dynamic weight capacity is how much weight the rack can handle as you are on the move. It’s essential to adhere to both of the weight capacities to avoid accidents.

Can you install the Thule roof tents on factory-installed racks?

The racks should be able to accommodate the weight of the tent as well as the entire rack system. Thule recommends using aftermarket racks as factory-installed racks do not generally meet the mounting space or weight distribution requirements for a rooftop tent to be used safely.

What is the difference between the Thule rugged and explorer models?

The main difference is that the rugged model has an aluminum diamond plate at the bottom, whereas the explorer is made up of an aluminum frame. The diamond plate is thicker for added protection and is more durable.

Final Words

Mounting a Thule roof tent can be challenging if you don’t have the correct roof rack system. Most factory racks don’t meet the minimum 165-pound load capacity threshold for mounting a roof tent. You are better offer acquiring another set of racks systems that are better suited for the work.

Moreover, read your vehicle’s manual to make sure that the roof can support the weight of the rack system, the roof tent and the loading capacity of the tent. Installing a Thule rack system will be an added advantage as they provide compressive information on the driving and dynamic weight rating.

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Last update on 2021-09-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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