A roof top tent is one of the fastest ways to set up camp in the wilderness. They are ready to enjoy in just a minute or two after you park your vehicle. Their vantage point on top of your Jeep or SUV gives you a great view of the surrounding area, plus it keeps wildlife from visiting during the night.
Once upon a time, Jeep rooftop tents were the preferred lodgings for adventurers on safari. Now anyone can sleep in comfort and safety on a real mattress high above the cold, hard ground. They are ideal for travel as well as prepping for when SHTF. Let’s take a closer look at the best roof top tents of 2017.
Table of Contents
- 1 Smittybilt 2783 Jeep Wrangler Roof Top Tent
- 2 Tuff Stuff Overland Rooftop Camping Tent with Annex Room and Black Driving Cover
- 3 ARB (ARB3201) Series III Sand Rooftop Tent
- 4 Camco 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent with Annex
- 5 Which roof top tent is the best for you?
- 6 Pros and Cons
- 7 FAQs about vehicle top tents
- 8 Conclusion
Smittybilt 2783 Jeep Wrangler Roof Top Tent
We’ll start with a classic made by a company with fifty years of experience making Jeep accessories. Smittybilt’s Overlander 2783 Roof Top Tent is perfect for Jeep Wrangler models made from 2007 through 2014. It weighs just 116.5 pounds and easily attaches to most kinds of roof racks.
Why is the Overlander 2783 one of the best roof tents? There are many reasons. For one, the price is very competitive for what you get. The tent is well-made, sturdy, and weather-resistant enough to use year-round.
The fabric of the tent is 600D rip-stop polyester treated with polyurethane. It’s resistant to rain by itself, and protected against heavy downpours by the rain fly. The rain fly is 420D and completely waterproof. Remove the rain fly and you can view the stars overheard through the netted windows in the roof. All windows are protected by mosquito-proof mesh so you have good ventilation without bugs intruding.
The anodized aluminum tent poles are lightweight and strong and impervious to rust, as is the telescoping ladder. The 18-inch wide ladder opens up to 6.5 feet, enough for regular Jeeps, but it might need an extension for lifted Wranglers and taller vehicles. You can access the tent with the ladder from either the driver’s or the passenger’s side.
Inside the tent, you have a 2-inch thick foam mattress that measures 90 inches long by 53 inches wide. That’s longer than a queen and almost as wide so you can sleep two people comfortably. Smittybilt’s specifications state three people, but the reality is more like two adults and a child.
The mattress comes with a removable, washable mattress cover. You can make up your bed and leave all the sheets and blankets in place while you travel. Then at night when you set up camp, your sleeping area is all ready to use right away. Plus, the mattress is fire-retardant for safety.
In the roof of the tent is a built-in LED lighting strip that runs off the 12V cigarette lighter in your Jeep. It puts out plenty of illumination for reading, changing clothes, or scanning the map for the next day’s journey.
If you’re wondering how a tent can hang off the edge of a Jeep’s roof and support the weight of adults sleeping on it, consider this. The base of the tent is a 2.5cm (about 1 inch) thick aluminum and polyurethane composite that can hold up to 300kg, or 661 pounds. It has a dual aluminum track with U-clamps to hold it on the roof rack. If you choose to use Smittybilt’s SRC Overhead Rack, it’s already 100% compatible with the Overlander tent.
If you want to have additional space for your campout, Smittybilt sells an Annex that attaches below the tent on the side of your vehicle. This makes for more room to change clothes, which is nice because the interior of the roof tent is only 51 inches tall. If you would prefer to have an Annex without making an additional purchase, check out the Tuff Stuff Tent below.
In conclusion, the Overlander 2783 Jeep Wrangler tent comes with a one-year warranty from Smittybilt. Plan on having a friend help you install it on your roof rack, then you’re ready for travel. See how the tent looks and how to set it up in this video.
Tuff Stuff Overland Rooftop Camping Tent with Annex Room and Black Driving Cover
While Smittybilt focuses on Jeep Wranglers, Tuff Stuff doesn’t care what you drive. Their Overland Rooftop Camping Tent fits pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, and Jeeps as long as you have a rack for mounting it. You can open the tent off the side or the rear of the top of your vehicle.
Besides the tent itself, Tuff Stuff includes an Annex room for the side below the tent. It’s a complete enclosure with a tough poly floor, zippered door and windows. It’s large enough for a queen-size mattress so you can bring friends along and every couple has their own room. Or you can use it as a screened-in eating area with a table and chairs. The ladder up to the sleeping area fits inside the Annex so you’re fully protected from the elements both upstairs and down.
The folding ladder, tent frame, and roof rack mounts are all made of lightweight, no-rust aluminum. The fabric of the tent is 280gram rip-stop poly/cotton coated with polyurethane to resist heavy rainfall as well as mold and UV rays. For even better protection, you can use the 420D rain fly.
As for the sleeping area, the 2.5-inch thick foam mattress measures 56 by 96 inches, a little larger than the one included in the Smittybilt Overland. The interior space reaches a height of 52 inches.
While you’re driving, you can use the included cover to protect the tent when it’s folded up on your rack. Given the fact that Tuff Stuff offers the driving cover and the Annex along with the rooftop tent, this is a real bargain. Take a closer look at the Tuff Stuff Overland in this video.
ARB (ARB3201) Series III Sand Rooftop Tent
Some owners of the Tuff Stuff tent described above said that they could see similarities between it and the Australian-made ARB Simpson III. Then again, many of these truck top tents have a lot in common with each other.
The ARB3201 comes with a rain fly, a retractable aluminum ladder, a foam mattress with removable pad, and a laminated PVC cover for driving. It can open off either the side or the rear of your truck, Jeep, or SUV. You can mount it to ARB’s own roof rack or use your own as long as it has a 95lb kinetic load rating. It does not come with an Annex but you can purchase ARB Awnings to use with the tent.
The size of the Simpson’s sleeping area is 55 by 95.50 inches and the interior height is 51 inches. ARB explains that they have improved the durability and comfort of the foam mattress. It’s now made from high density bonded chip foam instead of single layer extruded foam. This difference makes the mattress less likely to break down from regular use.
ARB also upgraded other aspects of the tent. The aluminum poles that frame it are thicker now, better able to resist strong winds. Hinges and fittings have all been improved as well, from thicker or better materials to better form factors.
The canvas of the tent fabric is now 300gsm rip-stop poly-cotton with a polyurethane coating. All seams have welded seam tape to stop water from entering. The rain fly, or fly sheet, has been redesigned with elastic toggles to stop it flapping in heavy wind. It is made from 300D Oxford polyester to better shed water.
The driving cover for the Simpson is resistant to UV rays so it won’t break down. It also has a much better zipper and three straps to secure it instead of only two.
As you can see, ARB has listened to their customers in order to improve their product to be one of the best roof rack tents on the market. But if you’re wondering if there might be a less expensive option available, check out the model below.
Camco 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent with Annex
Camco sells their 51373 Vehicle Roof Top Tent with Annex as a less pricey alternative to the other big brands. But is it worth it? Let’s look at the details and see.
One of the highlights of Camco’s tent is the fact that you can mount it in various ways on a variety of vehicles. The entryway can face either side or to the rear of your truck, Jeep, or SUV. You can also install it on top of a trailer.
It comes with universal mounting brackets and wrenches. While you may need a friend to help you lift it, it’s not hard to lock it in place on almost any roof rack or load bars. It weighs 130 pounds and measures 59 by 49 by 12 inches when it’s packed up.
The interior space has a foam mattress that Camco says can hold up to three people. That’s up to you. It measures 56 by 94 inches, so it may be a bit tight for three adults side by side.
The 51373 comes with an annex that attaches below the tent as well as a rain fly. There are air vents built into the tent to keep condensation to a minimum. Of course, all the doors and windows have mesh screens to keep insects outside.
Overall, if you were looking for a SUV roof tent for occasional use, the Camco may be a bargain for you. It even comes with a zippered waterproof cover for driving.
Which roof top tent is the best for you?
Now that you’ve seen four popular vehicle roof tents, how do you choose between them? We lean towards getting the best deal for the money. Here’s what we think.
- For light use, or for campers on a budget, consider getting the Camco 51373. It can be mounted on a variety of vehicles and comes with an annex as part of the package.
- For Jeep owners who plan to do a lot of wilderness camping, consider either the Smittybilt 2783 or the ARB Series III ARB3201. Both are very durable for heavy use.
- For families or groups camping together who drive trucks, SUVs, Jeeps, and other vehicles, take a look at the Tuff Stuff Overland because it also comes with an Annex. The annex is large enough to contain an eating area or another bed.
Pros and Cons
FAQs about vehicle top tents
Q: What about hard shell roof top tents?
A: We didn’t cover any of those in these roof top tent reviews, but they do exist. The first models appeared in the 1950s and they are still sold today.
Q: Why would I want a rooftop tent camper instead of just pitching a tent?
A: We have three answers for you: time, ease of use, and comfort. It takes a lot less time to setup a car top tent than it does a tent on the ground. It’s also easier to take down. Plus, you can leave your bedding in place and drive to the next site. Finally, you’ll have plenty of room to stretch out on a nice thick foam mattress that you don’t have to pack separately.
Q: Is it hard to set up a jeep rooftop tent?
A: No, it’s not very difficult. Once you get it secured on top of your vehicle, you only have to worry about setting it up with the poles at camp. Every one of these models comes with instructions, although sometimes they are a little confusing to read. Most of them can be ready to use in less than five minutes. Just practice in your driveway before you leave home. Check out this video below about how to mount, pack, and set up an ARB tent. It will give you a good overview of what to expect.
We hope we helped you choose the best roof rack tent for your next camping trip. Check back soon for more reviews of the top gadgets on the market.