What makes the best roof tent?

Ok, so you are looking to buy a roof tent and you want to know, what makes a good car roof tent? We have put together some of our experiences and knowledge about rooftop tents for you to use while shopping for your very own rooftop tent. This will hopefully help you pick the best car roof tent in the UK (for you).

So where to start? The first thing you need to decide is which type of roof tent is best for you?

Soft shell or hardtop roof tent?

There’s no easy answer to this question and ultimately it will come down to what works best for you. Therefore, rather than waffle on about the subject we thought we would create the pros and cons for each roof tent type. This means you can review the benefits of each rooftop tent and pick what’s important to you.

Soft shell vs. Hard shell roof tent

Here's our list of advantages and disadvantages of roof tent types.
Roof tent on a Defender with lower annex with door and ladder
Front and side view of a hard shell aluminium roof tent with an awning extension attached in a field in the UK. Clouds and trees behind.

Soft Shell Roof Tent

Hardtop Roof Tent

Hopefully, the above information has given you an idea of which roof tent type is right for you. And if it hasn’t then don’t worry, the best thing to do is go view some roof tents and get the feel of the tent types. 

What to look for in roof tent materials?

If you are looking for a soft-shell roof tent, material quality is very important when making your purchase. Hard shell/top roof tents have a solid (normally fibreglass) waterproof top but the sidewalls of hard shells are material and need to be waterproof but breathable. The various types and acronyms of materials can be confusing, especially when they are just versions of the same fabric.
For simplicity, we highlight the important specifications to look for or ask about when you are buying your roof tent.



What to look for when checking the waterproofing of your rooftop tent? Well, the best thing to look for is the Hydrostatic Head rating or HH rating. This is measured in millimetres and measures the height of a column of water that a material can withstand before it leaks. For example, a HH rating of 200mm would mean a material can support a water column about the height of a pint glass before it starts to leak. The higher the HH rating the better waterproofing, make sure to check this rating when selecting your rooftop tent.

Roof tent fabrics and rainfly canvas with a buckle for tension.
Close-up view of the side of a hard shell aluminium roof tent in a field with a fence behind.

UV Resistant

Virtually every time you use your rooftop tent you will be exposing it to the sun. Thus, it’s important that the material isn’t going to be affected by the sun’s rays. UV rays that are thrown out by the sun will fade or even degrade the material on your roof tent. By making sure the material used in your roof tent is UV resistant then you will prolong the life of your tent. Which fabrics do this the best? Materials such as Polyester, Nylon and Ripstop are all great UV resistant fabrics. For more information on the best fabrics for the outdoors, see this helpful article.


Mould Resistant

As a resident of the UK, we all know that camping here will no doubt at some point involve rain. But this is not the only way your tent will get wet, morning drew or even condensation with make your roof tent wet or damp. Consequently, you will need to dry your tent out before packing away and this isn’t always possible. So being able to pack your tent away while still damp is an important factor.

Mould resistant material will stop your roof tent from going mouldy, (but not forever!). You still need to air your rooftop tent out, if you put it away wet or very damp. The keyword here is ‘resistant’, make sure not to leave your tent wet across the winter. If you have packed it away wet, wait for the next dry day and give it a little airing to stop it from being mouldy when you open it the following summer.

What features should you look for in a rooftop tent?

Most tent manufacturers will offer a host of great features on their roof tents, (check out our roof tent features). Which makes your rooftop tent a more luxurious stay while your camping in it. But what are the ones to look out for?

Windows and Skylights

Some roof tents have multiple windows and even skylights to enable light and air to flow through your tent. The key things to look for are the quality of the zips and their use of bug nets to keep out unwanted guests. Skylights in roof tents are great for extra sun and light during the day but perfect for stargazing at night.

Mattress and Anti-Condensation Mat

When you’re bedding down for the night in your new tent, the worse thing to find out is that your mattress is uncomfortable or maybe it’s damp and mouldy. The industry standard is to have a high-density foam mattress at least 50mm or 2 inches thick. However, we would suggest that 60mm or 70mm thick options will give you a better night’s sleep. Also, make sure that the mattress cover is removable for washing. 

A great extra feature that isn’t industry standard, is an anti-condensation mat that fits underneath your mattress. This is an important bit of kit to stop your mattress from going damp and mouldy. Some roof tent manufacturers will sell these separately but we would suggest finding a roof tent with this included. 

Annex Rooms

Roof tent annex rooms are great for extra accommodation space for kids or pets. Not only are they good for sleeping but good for storage, cooking or eating if the weather is bad. Some roof tents will come with an annex room included but other manufacturers will charge extra for this feature.

There is one thing you will need to check when considering the use of an annex room with your vehicle and that is mounting height. For an annex room to peg out correctly, the mounting height of your tent will need to be from 1.75m to 2.1m. A little tip if your vehicle is a little short of this height, buy some camper van leveling ramps to rise your car’s height.

Other Extras

Beyond the listed features above, there are lots of other extra bits and bobs that can make camping in a roof tent that extra bit more special. LED lights that plug into your 12v, storage nets for clothes, shoe bags because where do you put your muddy shoes in a roof tent? We suggest having a good look at what’s included and not included with your rooftop tent.

Roof tent on a Land Rover in a field in the UK with thistle in the foreground .

In conclusion, we hope this article has given you an insight into what to look for in a car roof tent in the UK. The best bit of advice we can give is to reach out to the manufacturers and talk to them about their products if you are unsure which is best for you. If there is anything else you think should be included in this article or you would like to know more about, drop us a comment below.

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