Roof Top Tents: Hard Shell vs Soft Shell
Updated: May 1
Roof top tents have become increasingly popular among campers, offering a convenient and comfortable camping experience away and elevated from all the creepy crawlies that roam your campsites. Discover the pros and cons of hard shell roof top tents and soft shell roof top tents before you make a purchase. We’ve got you covered with all the information you need to make an informed decision. Read on!
Hard Shell Roof Top Tents:
Hard shell roof top tents are designed with a rigid exterior that provides a level of protection from the elements. The hard shell is made from a durable material such as fiberglass, making it more weather-resistant than soft shell tents. Hard shell roof top tents are also more aerodynamic, which makes them easier to transport and reduces wind drag, resulting in better fuel efficiency.
One of the biggest advantages of hard shell roof top tents is their ease of use. Hard shell roof top tents are typically equipped with a ladder, which makes it easy to climb in and out of the tent. Additionally, they are often equipped with windows and skylights that provide ample ventilation and natural light. Hard shell roof top tents are also relatively low maintenance, as they do not require regular cleaning or conditioning to keep them in good condition. My favourite advantage to a hard shell is the significant reduction in time to setup and pack down. Often, after unlatching the tent, it will erect itself with minimal effort. Pack down generally can require some slight tucking of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t get caught around the edges, but that doesn’t take too much effort to pack away. As an additional bonus, depending on the model you choose, you may be able to even leave your bedding inside! (this is often a struggle with soft shells).
Hard shell roof top tents are also generally more expensive than soft shell roof top tents, making them less accessible to budget-conscious campers. Additionally, they are often heavier and more cumbersome to transport, which can be an issue for those who want a more mobile camping experience. Another downsize may also be the overall footprint of the tent. These style tents can also take up a large area of rooftop space on your car. Check the size comparison table below.
Soft Shell Roof Top Tents:
Soft shell roof top tents are designed with a flexible exterior that is made from a waterproof material such as canvas or nylon. This makes them more affordable than hard shell roof top tents, making them a popular option among budget-conscious campers.
One of the biggest advantages of soft shell roof top tents is their versatility. Soft shell roof top tents can be packed away into a compact size, making them easier to transport and store. Additionally, they are often more comfortable and spacious than hard shell roof top tents, offering more room for sleeping and storage. This will be a top option if you are sharing the tent and your sleeping companion tends to stir. (Hot tip!)
Soft shell roof top tents are not as weather-resistant as hard shell roof top tents, and may require more maintenance, such as regular cleaning and conditioning, to keep them in good condition. They are also more vulnerable to wear and tear, which can reduce their lifespan over time. These style tent also take more time and effort to pack down. While not difficult and can be time consuming. You also need to be aware that if you pack down wet, when you get home you’ll want to set it up to dry out when not raining to prevent deterioration and other problems that may present if not given the opportunity to dry out as much as possible.
Whether mounting on a tub rack, roof racks, or even a canopy, be sure to check your vehicle ratings and mounting requirements.
What's best for you?
Whether you choose a hard shell or soft shell roof top tent, the type of camping accommodation you select will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Hard shell roof top tents are ideal for those who want a more weather-resistant and low-maintenance camping experience, while soft shell roof top tents are better for those who want a more affordable and versatile camping experience. When choosing your roof top tent, it is important to consider factors such as cost, ease of use, and the level of comfort you require. With this guide, you'll be able to make an informed decision and choose the roof top tent that is right for you. If you want to see more photos on these type of setups and follow along for the adventure be sure to Follow @offgrid.adventuring on instagram. Special shoutout to @livinglifeoffroad for sharing pictures of their setup. Katie & Dylan have built an impressive rig and have just packed up their lives to set off on a journey around Australia! Be sure to follow them on instagram, they've already visited some incredible places. You may even find yourself some inspiration and spot some cool camp gear! Stay tuned for in depth reviews on the options we’ve mentioned above. Coming soon to Essential Camp Gear. Happy Camping!