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Rooftop Tents vs Ground Tents - Sunday

Jan. 06, 2024

Rooftop tents are mounted on your vehicle's roof, secured by a roof rack or roof bars. These tents fold or collapse into a flat pack that remains on your roof during travel. Upon reaching your camping destination, they unfold or pop up, depending on the chosen design. Rooftop tents come in three main styles: hard shell rooftop, soft top, and hybrid.


On the other hand, ground tents are the traditional type set up directly on the ground. They accommodate sleeping arrangements for individuals or groups ranging from one person to eight or more. Ground tents are available in various styles and sizes, spanning from compact hike tents and swags to more luxurious bungalows.


When comparing rooftop tents to ground tents, it's crucial to consider factors such as when, where, how often, and who will be using the tent. For instance, a large family may find a hard shell rooftop tent insufficient in space. Conversely, if you need a quick setup and takedown for short trips, a ground tent might be a more suitable choice.


hard shell roof top tents

Hard Shell Roof Top Camping Tent Tallsail-51(1-2 Person Tent)

Different types of Rooftop Tents


Most roof top tents come with a  foam mattress, and a ladder. Typically mounted to 4x4 style vehicles based on their roof load capacity. They can also be mounted to trailers to give you flexibility to customise your setup..


Rooftop tents sleep from one to four people depending on the style, and come in three varieties:


Hard shell:


Built using solid materials such as fibreglass or aluminium for the roof and base, a roof top hard shell tent takes less time and effort to set up than a ground tent. Depending on the chosen design, a hard shell rooftop tent can be effortlessly set up by a single person in less than a minute. Unlock the latches, pop it up with the assistance of gas struts, and allow gravity to take over. This process is considerably quicker and simpler compared to setting up a ground tent, eliminating the need for poles, stakes, and lines.


When it comes to durability, it's hard to surpass a hard top rooftop tent due to its sturdy and weather-resistant materials. However, this style of rooftop tent tends to be more expensive and has a limited capacity, typically accommodating only one or two people. Despite these drawbacks, if you prioritize a "pack and go" style of tent that offers durability and weather resistance, a hard top rooftop tent is an ideal choice.


Soft Shell:


A soft shell rooftop tent resembles a traditional ground tent but on top of your vehicle. Constructed from materials similar to those used in ground tents, they offer ease of setup, typically taking around five minutes. One notable advantage is the larger footprint when open, paired with a more compact footprint when closed since soft shell tents fold in half. Typically, one half extends beyond the vehicle's side and is supported by a telescopic ladder. This design not only provides more internal space but also allows for the attachment of an annex, creating an enclosed room beneath the tent. With an annex, this type of tent can comfortably accommodate up to four people.




A hybrid rooftop tent combines a hard shell with a fold-out tent section, offering the durability and streamlined pack-down of a hard shell, along with the expanded sleeping space characteristic of a soft shell. Additional benefits of the hybrid style include a quicker pack-down compared to soft shell options and the convenience of mounted crossbars for carrying cargo boxes, bikes, surfboards, and kayaks on top. The pack-down size and weight are also less than typical hard shell tents.


What to Consider When Buying a Rooftop Tent




1. Fast and Easy Setup: Rooftop tents are quick and easy to set up, often including a mattress in most models.


2. Elevated Camping: Being off the ground provides comfort away from uneven surfaces, critters, and other potential discomforts.


3. Compact Campsite: Rooftop tents reduce your campsite footprint, and they can double as an awning to offer protection from rain or sun during the day.




1. Higher Cost: Rooftop tents tend to be more expensive than traditional ground tents.


2. Access Challenges: Being around 2 meters off the ground, accessing the tent using the ladder may be difficult for some individuals, especially at night or for small kids and animals.


3. Vehicle Movement: While easy to set up and pack down, moving your vehicle requires packing down the tent. This challenge can be addressed by mounting a rooftop tent on a trailer, which can be easily unhitched when necessary.


Different Types of Ground Tents


1. Swag: A one-person tent equipped with a built-in mattress. Swags zip up all around you to provide complete shelter. Designed primarily for sleeping and resting, swags offer a comfortable lying position but do not allow for standing.


2. Fast Frame Tents: Everything in this type of tent, from poles to material, comes pre-assembled and remains connected. This design ensures a remarkably fast and easy setup and takedown process.


3. Dome Tent: Dome tents feature at least two flexible poles that cross at the top, bending to anchor to the floor at each of the four dome corners. Known for their lightweight design relative to the internal space they offer.


4. Hike Tent: Specifically designed to fit into a backpack, hike tents are compact, lightweight, and durable shelters for one to four people.


5. Stretcher Tent: Combining elements of a stretcher, tent, and swag, stretcher tents are quick and easy to set up and pack away. Elevating you off the ground, they provide complete shelter.

hard shell roof top tents

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