Rooftop tents have become increasingly popular over the past few decades. It has become commonplace to see 4wds and utes driving around with a rooftop tent bolted to their roof racks, which speaks volumes about their popularity.
This booming popularity can largely be attributed to the convenience and compact nature of rooftop tents. They can be set up and packed away in just minutes, and most models have extra storage space that lets you keep your bedding inside them when they're folded away.
But selecting the right tent can be difficult. Of course, you're going to want something that's durable and easy to put up. Things like airflow, access, and price should also be considered.
I've used numerous rooftop tents during my travels across Australia and the world. Using this knowledge, I've developed the following list of the best rooftop tents in Australia so that you don't have to spend hours trying to figure things out for yourself.
How I Made My Selections
I've been travelling around Australia for over a decade now, and I've had the chance to test numerous rooftop tents and rooftop tent accessories during this time. While I prefer using a camper van for longer trips, I appreciate the convenience and space a rooftop tent provides.
When completing this review, I focused on a number of factors that I feel are important in a rooftop tent. The main things I took into account include price, ease of use, quality, design, and popularity. I also thought about things like how easy a tent is to mount to your cargo rack, what extra features they have, whether they have extra space for your gear, and more.
The Darche Panorama 1400 is, without a doubt, the best rooftop tent in the world. It delivers a neat mixture of value for money and advanced features. Boasting a durable design and tough canvas tent fabric suited to Australian conditions, it has everything you need for years of regular use.
One of my favourite things about this tent is its tight, aerodynamic design. When it's packed up, it sits just 29cm high, making it one of the most compact options on the market. On the downside, there is limited space for extra gear, so you will have to remove your bedding before folding the Darche Panorama up.
Other standout features include the excellent ventilation, the comfortable mattress, and the choice of different sizes. You can orient it to face sideways or backwards when attaching it to your roof rack, and there's loads of space inside for those rainy or cold days when you just want to relax.
The Darche Panorama rooftop tent is a little pricey compared to some alternatives, but you just can't go past it if you're looking for the complete package.
I've personally used the Adventure Kings rooftop tent countless times, and I just love it. Despite being the cheapest option on our list, it was only just beaten by the Darche Panorama for the position of the best overall tent.
One of the things I love about the Kings rooftopper is its simplicity. It doesn't have too many fancy bells and whistles, but its basic design makes it extremely easy to set up, even if you're on your own. It was also built specifically for Australian conditions. And, it comes with built-in mossie mesh and windows on all four sides to let the wind in - when you want to.
Our number-one hardshell is the Grand Tourer MK II, also by Adventure Kings. It boasts rapid setup, with large gas struts so you can simply unclip the top of your tent and push it up. The 75mm foam mattress is one of the most comfortable I've slept on, and the insulated floor and roof will help you maintain a comfortable temperature.
On the downside, the Grand Tourer is a little expensive compared to some alternatives. It's also very heavy, but this shouldn't be a major issue if you have a decent 4wd. If you're looking for a hardshell rooftop tent for your next camping trip, I really don't think you can look past this option.
23 ZERO's Dakota 1400 is one of my absolute favourite rooftop tents. It's not quite as good as the Darche Panorama, but it's pretty close. It's far from the lightest model, so you will likely need help lifting it onto your roof rack. But, I can honestly say that it's one of the easiest tents to mount that I've seen. It's also quite easy to set up and take down, and there's plenty of room to store your bedding inside.
On top of this, it stays nice and dark inside, even when the sun starts to come up. This makes it a perfect option for those who like to sleep in. The door is a little small, which may cause minor problems if you're a larger individual, but there's little else not to like.
I've given the Thule Tepui Foothill the honour of the best two-person rooftop tent. But it is a little more expensive than our number one choice, the Darche Panorama, and the rectangular design does generate a decent amount of wind drag.
But the pros here clearly outweigh the cons. I actually love the rectangular design, even if it does add a little drag, because it leaves so much more space on your roof rack. I’ve found that the Foothill will perform a lot better than traditional tents during bad weather, which is a major plus. It comes with a neat canopy to provide added sun protection, and it's quite easy to set up - providing an excellent camping experience.
My favourite three-person rooftop tent is, without a doubt, the Thule Tepui Explorer Autana. This softshell model features more than enough space for at least three people, and it comes complete with an annex for extra privacy. The ladder is cleverly placed within the annex for protection from the elements, and the entire tent packs down into a compact bundle for reduced wind resistance.
If you need a larger tent for up to four people, the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 is hard to look past. I love the hardshell design, which enables you to set up and pack down within just minutes. It's super roomy and comes with excellent weatherproofing and a durable build.
On the downside, it is very expensive compared to other options on this list. For example, it's well over double the price of the Darche Panorama, our number-one overall option.
The Darche Hi View 2200 boasts enough room for up to four people, and the addition of an annex adds space for a few more. It's extremely durable and designed for Australian conditions, and it boasts loads of space and can be folded up with your bedding inside.
The main drawbacks of this rooftop tent are its weight and size, which make it less suitable for smaller vehicles than many of the other options on the market. But if you're looking for something to sleep five or more people, I'd suggest seriously considering the Darche Hi View with an attached annex.
The GT SkyLoft, by Gentle Tent, is right up there with the largest rooftop tents on the market. It's one of the only options that sleeps up to six people without an annex, and it comes in at just 49kgs. Setup can take a little time due to the size of the tent, but you shouldn't have too many problems.
When you add an interior divider for extra privacy, an adjustable ladder, and multiple mounting options, you really have a winner here - as long as you can justify the hefty price tag.
Best Rooftop Tent Brands In Australia
The best rooftop tent brands in Australia include Adventure Kings, Darche, 23 Zero, Thule Tepui, iKamper, and Gentle Tent. Each of these companies offers a selection of rooftop tents and accessories, and they’ve shown that their products are built to stand up to Australia’s tough conditions.
Pros & Cons Of Rooftop Tents
Rooftop tents have plenty of things going for them, but they also have a few downsides that you should be aware of. I've listed a few of the most important pros and cons below.
Pros Of Rooftop Tents
You can camp anywhere
One of my favourite things about rooftop tents is their versatility. If you've ever camped in a normal tent or swag, you'll know how hard it can be to find a flat, even surface to sleep on. With a rooftop tent, the only thing you need is to have a relatively flat area to park your car on. It doesn't matter if it's wet, if there are rocks or gravel, or what sort of conditions the ground is in.
Rooftop tents are easy
Setting up a normal tent can take some time, especially if you have a complex model. If it's windy, the setup process can become extremely difficult. On the other hand, rooftop tents are designed to take no more than a couple of minutes to put up. In the case of some hard-top models, it's a simple matter of opening a few latches and letting the tent's gas struts do the rest.
They are comfortable
In my opinion, there's nothing worse than an uncomfortable bed when you're camping. Especially if you're going to be on the road for a while. Rooftop tents come with built-in mattresses, and every option on this list has passed my comfort test.
Cons Of Rooftop Tents
They are heavy and add drag to your vehicle
The main downside of rooftop tents is their weight and size. Most models come in at somewhere between 50 and 100kg, although these certainly aren't hard limits. If your vehicle isn't equipped to carry this weight, you might cause damage to your suspension, among other things. At the same time, some tents stick up significantly, affecting your vehicle drag and, by extension, your fuel economy.
Rain will cause issues
Now, rain is something a lot of people don't think about, but which I've found to cause huge issues. But perhaps not in the way you think.
Like most camping gear, heavy-duty rooftop tents with tough canvas are designed to be waterproof. And they are. I guarantee that you will get a great night's sleep, even if it's raining.
But the problem arises when it's time to pack away. If you're happy to stick around for a few hours for your tent to dry, there are no issues - assuming the rain has stopped, of course. But if you want to get on the road early, you will have to pack up a wet tent. This can lead to mould and mildew, making for a seriously unpleasant experience the next time you unpack it.
They can be inconvenient
If you've ever camped in an RV or camper van, you will know just how easy they are. When you're ready to camp, you can simply pull over, climb into the back, and head to bed.
But with a rooftop tent, you will have to spend at least a few minutes setting up. Admittedly, they are much easier to use than normal tents, but they can still get frustrating on extended trips.
Hardshell Vs Softshell
As you've probably realised by now, there are two types of rooftop tent: hardshell and softshell. The majority of models are softshell, which basically means that they have a "soft" canvas design. On the other hand, hardshell tents are more rigid and usually have some sort of popup mechanism for easy setup.
Softshells are much more popular than hardshells. In fact, it's quite rare to see a hardshell rooftop tent while camping in Australia. But that doesn't mean that they aren't worth considering.
Hardshells are generally easier to set up than softshell, but they also tend to be much more expensive, much heavier, and somewhat smaller.
On the other hand, softshells come in a much wider range of shapes and sizes. They are cheaper on average but do take longer to set up. And, they are much more susceptible to noise when it's windy or rainy.
How Much Can I Expect To Pay?
At the cheapest end of the spectrum, the Adventure Kings rooftop tent comes in at around $800 plus postage. Prices increase from here, with mid-range tents costing $1500 to $2500, and high-end options stretching to $5000 plus.
Another thing to consider is what extras you require. Things like awnings, tent locks, and annexes will add to the cost, but they are often worth considering.
Rooftop Tent Maintenance & Repair
If you want your rooftop tent to stay in good condition for years to come, you need to treat it right. I've found that even a quick clean when I'm planning to pack my tent away for more than a few days works wonders to keep it smelling and looking nice.
Rooftop tent maintenance largely comes down to ensuring it remains free of mould and mildew. The key here is ensuring that you never leave it packed away when it's wet, or even just a little damp. Clean your mattress pad and cover the same way as you would any bedding, and use a small broom to remove dust and sand.
If something like a buckle, strap, or tent pole has broken, your best course of action will usually be to contact the manufacturer for a replacement part. In some cases, these will be covered under warranty.
However, small tears in your tent can usually be fixed at home. All you will need is some sort of patching tape, some rubbing alcohol, and a sealer. Start by using rubbing alcohol to clean the edges of the tear. Cut a piece of patching tape to the appropriate size, rounding the edges to leave a circular or oval shape. Place the patch on the tear, cover it with seam grip, and let it dry. Repeat the process on the inside and the outside of the tear, and you shouldn't have any problems whatsoever.
Yes, rooftop tents are worth it - for some people. If you're looking for a short-term camping solution that's easy to set up, compact, and more affordable than a dedicated camper, rooftop tents are excellent. But if you want to travel and camp for longer than a couple of weeks or so, I'd recommend pricing a camper van or a 4wd with a bed in the back.
No, when rooftop tents are used correctly, they aren't bad for your car. However, exceeding your vehicle's load rating can cause damage to your roof rack, suspension, and the roof itself. As long as you ensure your vehicle is rated for the weight you're placing on it, you shouldn't have any major issues.
The best rooftop tent on the market is the Darche Panorama. It costs just over $2000 and is widely used by campers across Australia. Just have a look around next time you drive into a popular campsite, and I'd almost guarantee that you will see a few of these rooftop tents.
Yes, rooftop tents are comfortable. Some of the cheaper options can have thin and quite uncomfortable mattresses, but every tent on this list is very easy to sleep in - trust me, I've tried them!
Yes, rooftop tents are sometimes targeted by thieves due to their value. However, they are difficult to remove and theft is extremely rare. You can also buy locks and other devices to make your tent impossible to remove without the correct tools.
High-end rooftop tents are so expensive because of the quality materials used to construct them, their designs, and the convenience that they offer. Most softshell tents use heavy-duty canvas, which in itself is expensive. And then you have the added cost of a ladder, a solid floor, the mattress, and a cover to secure it all when not in use.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.