Soft Shell Roof Tents vs. Hard Shell Roof Tents

Exploring the differences: soft shell vs. hard shell roof tents

When it comes to rooftop camping, choosing the right roof tent is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience. Two popular options on the market are soft shell roof tents and hard shell roof tents. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between these two types of roof tents, helping you make an informed decision when trying to choose between the two.

Soft shell roof tents: Lightweight and flexible

Soft shell roof tents offer a lightweight and flexible camping solution. Constructed with a foldable fabric or canvas shell, they are designed to unfold and create a comfortable sleeping area on top of your vehicle. Here are some notable features of soft shell roof tents:

  1. Easy setup and portability: Soft shell tents are known for their quick and simple setup. Their lightweight construction makes them ideal for frequent travellers who value ease of installation and removal. You can be ready to camp in no time, making them a convenient choice for those on the move.

  2. Compactness and aerodynamics: Soft shell roof tents have a smaller footprint when folded away but a bigger profile which can increase wind resistance during travel. Although they are lighter in weight than hard shells which can improve fuel efficiency. Additionally, their compact size allows for extra cargo space on your vehicle, making them versatile for various camping needs.

  3. Affordability: Soft shell roof tents are often more budget-friendly than their hard shell counterparts. If you’re a camping enthusiast seeking a cost-effective option without compromising comfort, a soft shell roof tent may be the perfect choice.

  4. Internal space: Soft shell roof tents offer more internal space for their occupants. Most have the bonus feature of a zip-in annex room below the overhang which provides extra space for sleeping, cooking or relaxing away from the elements. This makes them suitable for families or campers who value ample space and comfort while on the road.

Hard shell roof tents: Durability and convenience

Hard shell roof tents are renowned for their durability, protection, and convenience. Constructed with a rigid shell made of sturdy materials such as fibreglass or aluminium, they offer several advantages:

  1. Enhanced protection and durability: With their robust construction, hard shell roof tents provide excellent protection against various weather conditions. From wind and rain to snow and rough terrains, these tents can withstand the elements and ensure a safe and cosy shelter for campers.

  2. Easy setup and additional features: Hard shell roof tents often come with gas struts or hydraulic mechanisms that facilitate effortless opening and closing. Setup can take less than a minute on many models, this added convenience enhances your camping experience.

  3. Carry cargo: Hard shell roof tents can carry extra cargo on their roofs due to their rigid construction. Some offer the ability to add roof bars to the top and carry such items as bicycles, surfboards and canoes. This is a vital feature for sport enthusiast wanting to buy a roof tent. 

  4. Considerations for weight and vehicle compatibility: It’s important to note that hard shell roof tents tend to be heavier than soft shell ones. Before choosing a hard shell tent, ensure that your vehicle can support the additional weight and consider any weight limits specified by the manufacturer.

So which should you choose?

Choosing between a soft shell roof tent and a hard shell roof tent ultimately depends on your specific camping needs, personal preferences, and your budget. Make sure to think carefully about what is going to matter most to you when you’re travelling in your roof tent.

Soft shell tents offer lightweight flexibility, smaller footprint, more internal space and affordability, making them a great choice for travellers with kids or pets. On the other hand, hard shell tents provide enhanced durability, protection, convenience, quicker setup and are more autodynamic, ideal for those seeking long-term use and minimal hassle.

Our recommendation would be to pop down to your local roof tent supplier or visit us at Stockbridge in Hampshire, to try out both roof tents before you purchase. This way you can get a feeling of which style of roof top tent works best for you. If you would like to know more about what features, extras and more to look for when choosing a roof tent, see our blog on what makes the best roof tent. Happy camping!

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