Best 4 Person Roof Top Tent – Which One is Best in 2021?

Gear Tents

You may have come across many types of tents – backpacking tents, pop-up tents, cabin tents, even SUV tents– but have you considered a 4 person roof top tent?

Roof top tents are pretty different from regular tents, and there are fewer out there to choose from. How can you tell if a roof top tent will work for you, and how can you find the best one for your situation?

The bottom line up front: we like the Touralite Hard shell Roof Top Tent. It’s super-easy to set up and it comes with a thick, comfortable mattress.

We also like: 

We’ll be looking at:

  • What a roof top tent is
  • Our top 5 best roof top tents including their key features, pros, and cons
  • Some frequently asked questions about roof top tents
  • Which ones we like the best, and why

Let’s start by comparing the best 4 person roof top tents out there.

The Best Roof Top Tents Compared

ModelFeatureCategoryCapacity
Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3Best Soft Shell TentSoft Shell3 person
Touralite Hard shell roof top TentBest Hard Shell TentHard Shell3 person
Touralite roof top TentBest for Small FamiliesSoft Shell3-4 person
Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2Best for Smaller VehiclesSoft Shell3 person
Cascadia Hybrid Tent Best for Extra SpaceHybrid4+ person

What is a Roof Top Tent?

Excursion or overlanding with a Roof top tent on a regular car in a sunny spring

A roof top tent sits on top of your car, allowing you to sleep off the ground. They come with a retractable metal ladder, giving you easy access in and out of your tent. They also come with mattresses integrated into the tent, which is handy if you don’t want to set up a bed each night.

What to Look for in a Roof Top Tent

There are a few key things to look out for in a roof top tent:

Capacity and Dimensions

Rooftop tent interior wide angle view.

With a roof top tent, it’s not as easy to find a larger family tent. Capacity is measured in how many people will fit inside it (so ‘sleeps 4’ should fit 4 people inside). However, these tend to be a little generous. It’s worth looking at the actual dimensions. 4 person tents tend to work quite well for a family of 4 with 2 smaller kids, but would be a tight squeeze for 4 adults.

Many roof top tents have a capacity of 2-3 people, making them ideal for solo travelers or young families.

It’s also worth looking at the closed size of the tent. You’ll have to take into account your vehicle height (as you’ll have to factor in driving under bridges and so on). Slimmer designs tend to be less noisy while you’re on the road.

Soft shell or Hard shell?

Camper van with roof top tent camping on mediterranean coast

Roof top tents come in 2 broad categories – soft shell, or hard shell. Soft shell tents are like regular tents that attach to the roof of your car. They’re typically made from the same materials as regular tents, like polyester.

Hard Shell tents are quite different. They look like regular roof boxes like the ones you would use to transport gear. They pop up to create a tent you can comfortably sleep in.

Which one you’ll go for is down to personal preference. Soft shell tents tend to be a bit roomier as you can attach extra living areas, and they’re usually smaller in size when collapsed. The downside is that they do flap around a bit in the wind, so they’re noisier to sleep in. They also have a longer set up and pack-down time.

Hard shell roof top tents are super-fast to set up. They’re quiet in the wind, and they tend to be sturdier and more waterproof. The downside is that while they have a good amount of headspace, the capacity tends to be smaller than you could get with a soft shell tent. 

They also tend to be heavier, which can impact fuel efficiency. It can also impact the energy used for electric cars, but it’s a little more complex – you can read more about it in Green Car Report’s guide, ‘Busting 7 of the Most Common Myths About Electric Cars’.

Vehicle and Roof Rack Compatibility

Car with roof top tent camping on mediterranean coast at sunrise

Of course, you’ll have to check if your tent is compatible with your vehicle. If your vehicle can be paired with a roof rack, then you should be able to find a tent that works for you. Roof top tents tend to work with a wide range of roof racks, and some have adaptors that you can use to make it work with the type of roof rack you have.

Something to consider is aerodynamics. Essentially, the taller the object (a tent or roof box for example) on top of your car, the more ‘wind drag’ is an issue. You will use more fuel this way (as well as more energy for electric car users), so it’s not the most economical way to drive. Look for a roof top tent that folds up small to mitigate this. If you’re interested in maximizing fuel efficiency, Toyota has more detailed information about this in their article ‘How Do Car Aerodynamics Affect Fuel Efficiency?’

Ease of Use

man sitting in a roof top tent mounted on off road car.

Like any tent, ease of use is something to think about. Hard shell roof top tents are, by nature, much easier to put together. You open the lid, extend the struts, and that’s it – job done! They work very similarly to instant tents. Soft shell tents are a bit more like traditional tents, in that you will have to fold them out and insert the poles. Still a bit quicker than a regular tent, as they tend to be smaller, but if you want something super-convenient, a hard shell tent may be better for you.

Layout

roof top tent on vehicle over forest view

The layout is another thing to think about. Some roof top tents come with awnings, which give you an extra area of shade. Others have annexes, which attach to the tent’s platform to create an extra enclosed area underneath – this works well as a privacy tent or shower tent.

Materials

Tent fabric used to cover the tent

The materials used are very similar to regular tents. The most common materials are polyester or a poly-cotton blend, which are strong, durable materials. They may also be coated in a waterproofing material like polyurethane, which you need to keep the rain out.

The poles will be made from aluminum or fiberglass. Aluminum is lightweight and cheaper, whereas fiberglass is heavier, stronger, and a little more expensive.

Mattresses

Lake view from inside of a tent

The great thing about roof top tents is that they have mattresses integrated into the tent, which means you don’t have to worry about sleeping pads or figuring out where you’re going to sleep. These range from fairly thin sleeping pads to soft memory-foam-topped beds which give you a real ‘home-away-from-home’ feeling. If you want a very comfortable mattress, you may end up having to pay more. Some manufacturers offer upgrades on their mattresses, allowing you to pay a bit more for thicker mattresses.

Mattresses vary in thickness from around 1.8 inches (4.57cm) through to 3.5 inches (8.89cm) and beyond.

Weatherproofing

Drops of water on the roof of the tent

Most roof top tents come with a waterproof rainfly, which helps to keep the rain from seeping in. As roof top tents are exposed to the elements, you should be able to find one with good weatherproofing credentials.

You could also look at ventilation. By their nature, roof top tents have good airflow, because they’re elevated off the ground. You can also look for windows and mesh panels for maximum ventilation, which is especially important if you’re camping in warm weather. 

Some tents come with anti-condensation mats. This sits underneath the roof or mattress, minimizing condensation build-up which can cause mold to grow. The REI Co-Op has a helpful guide on How to Prevent Condensation in a Tent if this is something you need more information on.

Extra Features

Interior of roof-top tent with a view

Finally, there are extra features to look out for, including:

  • Ventilation fans
  • Built-in lighting
  • Extra storage space, like overhead storage hammocks and smaller pockets for valuables

These come at an extra cost – some premium models are packed with extra features like this, so it depends on your budget and what you need.

Top 5 Best 4 Person roof top Tents

Now, let’s take a look at the best roof top tents out there. We’ll let you know their key features, what we like about them, and what we dislike, so hopefully, you’ll be able to find one that suits you. Some of the tents we’re looking at today have a slightly smaller capacity, at 3 people as opposed to 4. However, the dimensions mean that they also work well as a 4 person tent for a family with 2 young children.

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 – Best Soft shell Tent

Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3, Olive Green

Key Features

  • Capacity: 3-person
  • Category: Soft shell
  • Materials
    Outer Materials: Polycotton
    Poles: Aluminum
  • Dimensions Open: 96 x 56 x 52 inches (244 x 142 x 133 centimeters)
  • Dimensions Closed: 56 x 48 x 12 inches (142 x 122 x 30 centimeters)
  • Weight: 131 pounds (59 kilograms)
  • Mattress: Foam, 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters)

The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 is a great soft shell roof top tent. It sleeps 3 but works well for a couple with a couple of young kids, too. It has 1 sleeping area, with a large window at the front with an extended awning, and an extended awning over the sides. The Explorer Kukenam 3 compatible with most roof racks.

It’s a durable tent, which keeps the rain out well. It’s also excellent in terms of ventilation thanks to the large mesh window. However, the noise is an issue on windy nights, but this is a common problem with hard shell tents. The poles are strong though, so you won’t have to worry about them bending or breaking.

It’s very easy to set up and fold back down again, with the exception of the ladder, which can sometimes be a bit tricky to extend.

The high-density foam mattress is pretty comfortable, and it also has 4 large pockets for storage. 

Pros

  • Durable
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Noise can be an issue on windy nights
  • Ladder may get stuck from time to time
Check Price

Touralite Hard shell roof top Tent – Best Hard shell Tent

Car Rooftop Tent Hardshell Pop Up Tent for Cars Trucks SUVs Camping Outdoors Sleeps 2/3 Persons (White Green)

Key Features

  • Capacity: 3-4 person
  • Category: Hard shell
  • Materials
    Outer Materials: Polyester
    Poles: Aluminum
  • Dimensions Open: 83 x 49 x 35 inches (211 x 124 x 89 centimeters)
  • Dimensions Closed: 82 x 52 x 11 inches (208 x 133 x 28 centimeters)
  • Weight: 199 pounds (90 kilograms)
  • Mattress: Foam, 5 inches (12.7 centimeters)

The Touralite Hard shell roof top Tent is a strong, durable hard shell tent. It has 1 sleeping area with an awning over the doorways, with 2 doors and 4 windows. The tent is compatible with most roof racks.

It’s durable, and as it’s a hard shell tent, it works well at protecting you from both rain and wind with minimal noise issues. It also has excellent ventilation thanks to the mesh windows.

It’s really easy to set up – just open it up and extend the built-in poles – super easy and fast. The ladder is pretty easy to use, too. 

It has a thick, comfortable foam mattress, which is great, and it comes with a removable washable cover. However, it does lack some of the extra features that more expensive models may have – it doesn’t have any storage pockets, for example.

Pros

  • Very fast to set up
  • Durable
  • Thick mattress
  • Good ventilation

Cons

  • Doesn’t have any extra features
Check Price

Touralite roof top Tent – Good for Small Families

Touralite Rooftop Tent for Car Vehicle for Camping & Outdoors Universal Fit (Khaki)

Key Features

  • Capacity: 3-4 person
  • Category: Soft shell
  • Materials
    Outer Materials: Oxford cloth with polyurethane coating
    Poles: Aluminum
  • Dimensions Open: 55 x 94 x 51 inches (140 x 240 x 130 centimeters)
  • Dimensions Closed: 57 x 52 x 11 inches (146 x 126 x 30 centimeters)
  • Weight: 115 pounds (52 kilograms)
  • Mattress: High density foam – size not stated

The Touralite roof top Tent is a great tent with just enough space for 2 adults and 2 young kids, if you don’t mind squeezing in together. It has a sleeping area with 2 doors, and a large awning that extends around the tent.

It’s a durable tent with a strong, heavy-duty rainfly that works well at keeping out the rain. It has a strong frame, too, so you won’t have to worry about wind damage. However, like all soft shell roof top tents, it’s a little noisy in windy weather. It has great ventilation thanks to the large mesh panels.

It’s pretty easy to set up. While it will take longer than a hard shell tent, it’s still quicker than a regular camping tent. The ladder is easy to extend, too.

It has a high-density foam mattress, with a removable washable cover. It has some small storage pockets, too.

Pros

  • Good rainproofing
  • Easy to set up
  • Good mattress with removable cover

Cons

  • Noisy in windy weather
Check Price

Thule Tepui Low-Pro 3 – Best for Smaller Cars

Key Features

  • Capacity: 3 person
  • Category: Soft shell
  • Materials
    Outer Materials: Polyester
    Poles: Aluminum
  • Dimensions Open: 95 x 56 x 49 inches (241 x 142 x 124 centimeters)
  • Dimensions Closed: 48 x 56 x 7 inches (122 x 142 x 17.78 centimeters)
  • Weight: 105 pounds (48 kilograms)
  • Mattress: High-density foam – 2 inches (6 centimeters)

The Thule Tepui Low-Pro 3 is a tent designed to fit smaller vehicles. It can fold up to 7 inches (17.78 centimeters) thick, which is better in terms of aerodynamics, saving you money on fuel, or energy, by decreasing wind drag. Although it’s a 3-person tent, it would work well for families with 2 adults and 2 young kids, if you don’t mind squeezing in together. It has a sleeping area and a large, extended rainfly which provides shade as well as keeping the rain at bay. It has a large doorway on either side and 2 large mesh panel windows.

It’s durable, with a very good rainfly. The frame is strong, and thanks to the mesh on the doorways and windows, the ventilation is great. As it’s a soft shell tent, it is a bit noisy in windy weather.

It’s easy and intuitive to set up, and the ladder works very smoothly.

It has a pretty good mattress at 2 inches (6 centimeters), with some small storage pockets. A bonus is that it’s made from 100% recyclable materials, so it’s a good choice if you want something that you can recycle eventually.

Pros

  • Good rainfly
  • Easy to set up
  • Recyclable
  • Comfortable mattress

Cons

  • Noisy in windy weather

Cascadia Hybrid Series – Best for Extra Space

Key Features

  • Capacity: 4+ person
  • Category: Hybrid
  • Materials
    Outer Materials: Polyester
    Poles: Aluminum
  • Dimensions Open: 96 x 88 x 44 inches (244 x 224 x 112 centimeters)
  • Dimensions Closed: 89 x 49 x 15 (224 x 124 x 38 centimeters)
  • Weight: 280 pounds (127 kilograms)
  • Mattress: Memory foam – 3 inches (7.5 centimeters)

The Cascadia Hybrid Tent is an interesting soft shell/hard shell combo. The largest size (the Denali) has enough space for 4+ people. It has 1 sleeping area and a side area that extends over the ladder all the way down to the ground. This gives you extra space – it makes an ideal tent to get changed in (like the tents in our guide to the best pop up privacy tents and the best camping shower tents), or just an area for extra storage. It has an extended awning over both sides. The downside is that it’s a large tent (even the smallest version) and it’s heavy, so it may not suit smaller vehicles.

It’s a durable tent, with great weatherproofing – the rainfly is excellent for keeping rain from trickling in, and it has a strong frame. It also has good ventilation thanks to the large mesh panels.

It’s easy to set up. The top area works similarly to other hard shell roof top tents – just open it up and it’s pretty much done. The side area takes a bit more work, but it’s very self-explanatory.

It has a comfortable memory foam mattress, covered in waterproof nylon to protect it from damp. It also has an LED Light Kit, which can attach to any USB power source, which is a nice touch. 

Pros

  • Good weatherproofing
  • Easy to set up
  • Lots of space
  • Comes with an LED Light Kit

Cons

  • May be too large/bulky for smaller vehicles

Frequently Asked Questions

Camping with a rooftop tent

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about roof top tents:

Are roof top tents safe?

Yes, roof top tents are just as safe as other types of tents. The main thing to make sure of is that they are attached properly. Safely attaching your roof rack is important – Home Depot has a step-by-step guide to roof rack installation if you’ve never done this before.

Why are roof top tents expensive?

Admittedly, roof top tents can be quite expensive, especially when you compare size (for example, even those tents in our guide to the best 6-man tents, with their large capacities, are cheaper than most roof top tents). However, they do tend to be well-made, strong, durable, and very easy to set up.

How can I care for my roof top tent?

Taking care of your roof top tent works in a very similar way to a regular camping tent. Before you use it, it’s important to check it over for any signs of damage from your last trip – bent poles or rust, for example. It’s also important to let it dry out completely before you put it away. If you have to take it down in the pouring rain, put it back out when you get home and allow it to dry completely. Eureka! Camping has more Tent Care Tips, most of which apply to roof top tents too.

Can I make my roof top tent more waterproof?

You can use a waterproofing spray, which is pretty cheap and easy to do. We like the Kiwi Camp Dry Spray for this job. Trespass has a great guide on How to Re-Waterproof a Tent with more detailed advice.

To Sum Up … Which is the best 4 person roof top tent?

Couple sitting on the camp car roof top, playing guitar and singing together

We really like the Touralite Hard shell roof top Tent. It has the benefit of being a hard shell tent, which means it’s really easy to set up and not too noisy in the wind. It’s durable and has a thick, comfortable mattress.

If you’d rather go for a soft shell tent, we like the Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3. It’s easy to use and has a good mattress. 

Or, if you’d rather go for something with the best of both, why not look at the Cascadia Hybrid Tent? It’s spacious, so it’s perfect if you want a bit more room, and it’s easy to set up.

If you’ve found this helpful, please feel free to share it. Also, if you’ve got a good roof top tent recommendation, let us know in the comments – what do you like about it? What are the disadvantages? We’d love to hear your thoughts.