We don't sell rooftop tents, but we sure spend enough time in and around them to know a thing or two about what to look for.
We're regularly asked by our customers when shopping for a bed rack, if we have any recommendations on tent options to suit various budgets.
Either you landed on this page because you found a tent and need a bed rack (in which case, you're in the right place!), or you are buying a bed rack and looking for a tent.
We figured it was time to make a post about what to consider when selecting a rooftop tent.
Before getting down to it, I want to make it clear that we do not make any money off of the sale of any rooftop tent, regardless of where you make your purchase. These are our findings based on interactions we've had with various companies, business owners and our hands on experience with various tent models.
If you're anything like us, buying a rooftop tent is not a quick and easy decision.
Being a relatively expensive purchase and the fact that the market has been flooded with more and more options, it can become a bit overwhelming.
There's a lot of opinions out there that all the tents come from the same place in China, and while this can be said of many, it definitely doesn't apply to all.
We've connected with numerous tent retailers across Canada, both big and small.
For the most part, we haven't come across any that we feel the need to avoid. There are quite a few companies within Ontario that I've had the pleasure of meeting the owners and they are great people I wouldn't hesitate to work with.
Be sure to do your own research, seek real customer feedback, and use your best judgement.
Step 1: Determine a Budget
We suggest that your first step is to determine a budget.
It would be easy to run out to buy the top rated tent and be done with it, but that simply won't fit into everyone's budget.
If you haven't looked into rooftop tents very much yet, a rough price range to expect would be anywhere from $1500CAD to $6000CAD and beyond. You can stumble upon the odd bargain option outside of that and likewise, adding an annex to one of the more expensive options, you could go above that.
Once you've determined a rough budget, let your search begin.
Step 2: Determine your Needs
Need may be the wrong word here, but lets face it - if you're spending the money, it 'needs' to meet your expectations.
Someone planning to regularly go on multi-week trips will have different needs than the average weekend camper.
A couple of the main factors to consider are listed below, but there are many smaller points to consider, such as whether or not things like lighting, shoe bags, or cargo nets are included,
Tent size: The main factor for most people is probably size. This may be somewhat dictated based on your budget, as the larger the tent, the higher the price.
Rooftop tents can comfortably sleep anywhere from 2 people, up to 5 or 6.
If you plan to get out with the whole family, you'll want to look at some of the larger options available.
Hard shell vs soft shell: Do you have a need to have a hard shell tent, or will a soft shell suit your needs fine?
Of course, a hard shell tent will be more durable and resistant to trail damage from tree branches, etc., but soft shells aren't as weak as people make them out to be.
A common thought is that soft shell tents are prone to wear and damage. From our experience, they can hold up pretty well.
Otherwise, hard shells are typically faster and easier to setup and pack away than soft shell tents.
Tent material: Generally speaking, there are tents rated for 3-seasons or 4-seasons. Most of us in Ontario don't get out winter camping in our rooftop tents, due to the restrictions in place for snowmobile trails.
If you're in a location where winter adventures are more accessible and you plan to camp in colder temperatures, a 4-season tent may be necessary.
Step 3: Start Searching
Now that you have a rough idea of what you're looking for, open up that search engine and start scouring the depths of the internet.
Our top recommendation would be to buy from a reputable company, that has numerous reviews available to check out prior to purchasing, or to find a company that allows you to see a model tent in person before ordering.
A recommendation on a great value tent that we've given to a lot of our customers over the last year has recently increased significantly in price which has taken away from it's value.
It was the Smittybilt Gen 2 tents which were a great 'bang for the buck' so to speak, but they have since increased by almost $500 in price which puts it into a similar price range of many other comparable tents.
If you are local to the GTA, we'd highly recommend checking out Red Bear Outdoors.
They are a local, Toronto company selling some of the top name brand tents available in Canada.
Their Toronto showroom with display tents gives you the ability to check out various options before making a purchase.
Conclusion: We could try to break down every tent that we know of, but ultimately there are too many options with so many similarities to each other.
Find a tent that fits your budget, suits your needs and do your research on the company before making your purchase.