Hardshell vs Softshell Roof Top Tent

Hardshell vs. Softshell

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Differences between hard-shell and soft-shell.

Hardshell vs Softshell Roof Top Tent that’s the question. You are camping at one of your favorite spots with your friends or family when suddenly a car pulls up a few meters from you and bam! In a few minutes, their rooftop tent is set up.  You stare at your friends who are also stunned as you began to whisper to each other that you need to upgrade your camping tent. Well, you should, however, before you rush to the store to purchase a rooftop tent it’s crucial to find out which type of tent is best for you.

There are two types of rooftop tents, hard-shell tents as well as soft-shell tents. Though both tents are great for campers they do have their pros and cons. Therefore, keep reading to find out what to look for in the two types of rooftop tents.

Hard-Shell Rooftop Tents

Generally, hard-shell rooftop tents are very simple in design with two outer shells made from fiberglass or aluminum. With fabric joining the two shells, the tent is made to either pop up which is opening in a box-like shape, or simply open up as a mouth does.


  • More Durable

When we look at hard-shell rooftop tents it is very obvious that they are more durable than other tents due to their clamshell construction.  Designed to last a lifetime, you will get to enjoy your camping experience for years to come.

  • Aerodynamic and Attractive Shape    

Unlike soft-shell rooftop tents that have been around for a decade or more, hard-shell roof tents are more improved when it comes to aerodynamic capabilities when traveling.  This feature enables you to drive without worrying about your gas mileage too much, losing your tent, or being slowed down while Overlanding.

  • Easy  Setup

Another great advantage of a hard-shell rooftop tent is that they are easy to set up as well as to take down. Taking less than a minute to set up, the gas struts make it easy to open the tent as well as pull tent down and close it.  Keep in mind, even with sleeping bags inside the tent; it is possible to close the tent alone.  All you need is to pull each side down and stuff the tent materials between shells, latch the buckles, and you are done. Note that, some hard-shell rooftop tents have a remote opening system which makes for a speedy setup too.

  • Offers Complete Comfort

Everyone loves to sleep comfortably and so do campers, it is no exception. Although some soft-shell rooftop tents have thick mattresses, most don’t come with one. Nonetheless, hard-shell rooftop tents offer thick mattresses that offer complete comfort while sleeping.

  • Great Living Space

Most hard-shell rooftop tents are raised completely when compared to soft-shell rooftop tents. The hard shell has almost four vertical walls that provide more room inside unlike a soft shell that has sloped walls. Besides, the tents have a more uniform interior making it easy to move inside.

  • They are Built for All Seasons

The good news about hard-shell rooftop tents is that they are built for all four seasons. They will protect you from the scorching sun in the summertime while providing great ventilation. In the fall, you are safe from the wind and rain while in the winter, you are kept warm and safe from the snow.

  • Provides Great Storage Space

Just like they provide a great living space, a hard-shell tent is spacious even when closed.  Offering around 1-3 inches of height, you have around 10 inches of space inside the tent to store clothes, food, and other stuff.  Note that, it is possible to add more space when you remove the mattress.

  • Tents Are Weatherproof

Sometimes weather can be unpredictable but that is not an issue when you have a hard-shell rooftop tent.  The watertight top combined with the vertical walls of the tent makes the rooftop tent virtually weatherproof and pretty quiet in the wind. 

  • Easy to Maintain

Last but not least, the hard-shell rooftop tent is easy to maintain. If it gets dirty, most tents can be easily unclipped and washed by hand or a machine.


  • Expensive

 Unfortunately, hard shells are very expensive compared to soft shells. Nonetheless, they are worth the investment for anyone looking for comfort.

  • Fewer Customizations

Though it is might not be a big deal for lovers of hard shells, the tents don’t offer a wide variety of designs. This is contrary to soft shells that have different shapes and annexes as well as a lot of customizations.


Soft-Shell Rooftop Tents

Known to fold out and expand, soft-shell rooftop tents mostly resemble ground tents. However, contrary to hard shells, they come in various sizes with some accommodating four people. When they are packed they are pretty tall thus causing their boxy shapes to catch more wind to drag.


  • Offers More Sleeping Space

A soft-shell rooftop tent simply allows more sleeping space.  Known to accommodate at least four people, your family members or friends will sleep more comfortably in the wide space. If you are more than four campers, then don’t worry. The tent has you covered with a small awning that simply suspends at the side of your car. This gives you more sleeping space while still being used as a living area or just a cooking space during the day.

  • Fair Priced

When it comes to the price range, soft-shell rooftop tents are around $1,000 to $2,000 which is cheaper compared to hard-shells.  The good news is that with their fair price, they easier accessible and are ideal for any camper on a budget.

  • Provides Shade

Another benefit of a soft-shell rooftop tent is that when deployed, there is a space underneath the extended tent that provides shade.  However, you need a medium-sized vehicle to be able to use the area properly.


  • Takes Long to Setup/ Take Down

All soft shells come with a heavy protective cover that needs to be removed. Once folded, you need to securely set up the tent poles which may take some minutes.  Keep in mind, taking it down will take a considerable time which might be a disadvantage, especially in bad weather.

  • Not Waterproof

Made from poly-cotton fabrics that mostly resemble ground tents, the soft-shells are not, although they come a long way, waterproof like hard-shell tents.

  • Nosier in Wind

Since these particular tents have fabric and poles, it leads to inevitable flapping in the wind despite your best efforts to secure the tent.

  • Affects Gas Mileage

Due to its tall and blocky feature when closed up, the soft shell usually affects gas mileage negatively as well as enables road noise which can be a nuisance.

 The Verdict

When you look at both hard-shell and soft-shell rooftop tents, they tend to provide comfort in their unique way. Designed with different features, we are not in a position to decide for you which is the best tent to choose from.  However, the above pros and cons are meant to guide you when making your choice.  Just ask yourself, which type of rooftop tent best suit my needs?  And at the end of the day, you are all set for a new rooftop tent. 

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