Why Are Roof Top Tents So Expensive?

Feb 01, 21
Why Are Roof Top Tents So Expensive?

Camping has been around for a LONG time. When you head out for a camping adventure, you will find everyone from hikers, ground tent dwellers, and luxury RVs all lined up in a row.

But there’s a new kid on the block, the Roof Top Tent...

You’ve probably seen them around. While driving down the road they look like a simple large box on a truck or roof rack. When opened, they are an oasis above the ground.

But, why are they so expensive?!?!

Well, there are several reasons. To start with, the build quality is far superior to ground tents or hiking tents. They also have a built-in mattress and some even have built-in lighting. Because they are off the ground, they also have a sturdy foundation.

With all that put together, it’s easy to see why roof top tents are so much more expensive than your average ground tent.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn…

Quality materials of a roof top tent

Quality of Materials

To the average camper, you may think that a tent is a tent. But once you climb into your first roof top tent, you’ll quickly realize that this is a huge step above (pun intended) a ground tent.


The first thing you’ll notice is that the walls are not made from the thin, light weight nylon materials used in ground tents.

Roof Top Tents are made from thick, heavy canvas made to withstand the weather that any of the 4 seasons can throw at it. It doesn’t matter if you’re camping in extreme sunlight, temperature changes or heavy wind and rain. The heavy canvas will allow you to have a good night’s sleep.


Ground tents are held up by thin, flexible rods that bend and crisscross to hold the nylon out. These are used because they can collapse into a small bundle and are light weight. Most ground tents only weigh about 10 lbs. and to keep a ground tent in place you have to stake it down with ropes.

The roof top tent’s frame is made from heavy-duty, ridged, aluminum tubes made to hold the thick canvas out and provide a sturdy frame for your bedroom in the sky. They are engineered to fold open and closed quickly and still maintain their strength.

ROAM Vagabond Roof Top Tent at Roof Top Wanderer


Built-in Mattress

The next thing you’ll notice when you climb into a roof top tent, is the built-in mattress. This really sets the roof top tent apart from the ground tent. These mattresses are designed for one thing, comfort. That’s what we’re all looking for when we try to fall asleep at night, right?

Even when you are looking for a ground tent, you will need to factor in the bedding you will need. On the cheaper side you can get a simple inflatable pad for around $100 or go for the higher end options in the $400-500 range.

Depending on the brand, the mattresses available in roof top tents are of even better quality. Most are made from 2-3” high-density materials. Some even come with sheets that zip around the mattress that can be removed for easy washing.

Another great benefit of the roof top tent is that you can leave your bedding in the tent even when you fold it up and hit the road. Then you have all that saved space in the back of your rig for other goodies!

The mattress in a roof top tent.

Base Support

The last thing you’ll notice is that all this is built on an incredible foundation. Most brands build their tents on a polymer base while some of the higher-end tents build on aluminum or even heavy-duty plywood.

You need this strong base to support the hinge mechanism and to provide a solid foundation for you (and up to 4 other people) to sleep on.

Base for a roof top tent.

Under $1000

Unfortunately, you won’t find many good roof top tents for under $1000. Most at this price point are cheap knock-offs.

But that’s not to say there aren’t ANY good ones!

If you need a light roof top tent for only 1 or 2 people, then your absolute best option will be the Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Roof Top Tent by Body Armor. Honestly, it’s the only tent under $1000 that we can recommend at Roof Top Wanderer. But this is a good one!

The Sky Ridge Pike is well built yet weighs in at only 108 lbs. That’s light enough to work on almost any vehicle with a roof rack.

If you can stretch your budget just a little more, two other options might be the Front Runner Roof Top Tent or the Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent (Standard size, not the XL). They are $1099 and $1035, respectively.

The Wanderer’s Choice: Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Roof Top Tent by Body Armor

Sky Ridge Pike 2-person roof top tent


Most of the tents you see on the road fall into this price range. Most can comfortably sleep 2-3 people and come with everything you need to get the tent mounted on your rack.

Each brand will have a different focus. Eezi-Awn and ARB are built to be rugged, while ROAM focuses more on features. Just to be clear, they all make great roof top tents!

The ARB Series III Simpson roof top tent is one of the pioneers and has been roaming through Africa and Australia for decades. You certainly can’t go wrong with this one. But they also only offer the one size.

Eezi-Awn is also one of the pioneers but they offer a variety of sizes in both hardshell and softshell models. They have the classic Series 3, and the two new tents, Jazz and Fun.

A newer kid on the block is ROAM. They offer three sizes with two falling into this category, the Vagabond Lite, and the Standard Vagabond. ROAM is known for their coolers, but they also make great roof top tents.

All of these tents are well suited for two people and come with everything you need to mount it on your rack and hit the road.

The Wanderer’s Choice: FUN Roof Top Tent by Eezi-Awn

FUN roof top tent by Eezi-Awn

Higher-Priced Roof Top Tents - $2000 And Up

When you get into this category of roof top tent you are getting two things: Size and design. If you are looking at a softshell roof top tent at this price point it will be large. We’re talking room for 3 or 4 people. The Eezi-Awn has two that fall into this category, the Globe Tracker Trailer Tent and the XKLUSIV Roof Top Tent.

Most roof top tents can be mounted on a trailer but the Globe Tracker Trailer Tent is specifically designed for it. Two people can comfortably sleep in the tent and the annex opens up to provide the largest additional room of all of the roof top tents. This is perfect for a "Living Room" for those that live in wetter climates like the Pacific Northwest.

The ROAM Vagabond XL is also a great option.

At this price point you’ll also see hardshell roof top tents. There are two popular types, the clam shell and square. Both are built for rugged overlanding, even quicker deployment, and you can even store equipment on top like a kayak or solar panels.

The Tepui HYBOX tent is a good square tent and the Mamba 3 Roof Top Tent by Overland Vehicle Systems and the Stealth Hard Shell Roof Top Tent by Eezi-Awn are popular clam shell options. If you are able to find one of these in stock you had better get it because they go QUICK!

The Wanderer’s Choice: Softshell: Eezi-Awn XKLUSIV. Hardshell: Eezi-Awn Stealth

Stealth Roof Top Tent by Eezi-Awn


So, why are roof top tents so expensive? The build quality is far better than ground tents, they have many extra built-in features: heavy duty canvas walls, aluminum supports, fold-out setup and even their own mattress to keep you warm, dry, and safe off the ground.

In this article, we mainly focused on the roof top tent itself, but there is so much more. Most brands also offer annexes, awnings and even portable kitchens and electrical systems. Put all that together and you have your bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and even utility room!

Now the choice is yours…which roof top tent are you going to get?

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