Hard Shell Vs Soft Shell Roof Top Tent – Which One Is Best?

Rooftop tents are the most popular shelter choice nowadays among road trippers, overlanders, and off-roaders. Though the idea of the rooftop tent has come to the light in the 1930s, you will find a rooftop tent is an excellent thing among your accessories.

When you go to purchase a rooftop tent, you will find two dominant designs to opt from. And often it is hard for a person to pick the appropriate one for him without making assumptions.

In this article, I will discuss “rooftop tent hard shell vs soft shell” and the pros and cons of both designs. Stick with us until the end.

Roof Top Tent Hard Shell Vs Soft Shell: In-depth Comparison

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

A Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Hardshell rooftop tents are known for their rigid or firm outer shell. These are manufactured with hard plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass. The inflexible shell constitutes the floor and ceiling of the rooftop tent.

You will see that each wall of the hard shell tent is made from enduring waterproof plastic namely canvas or nylon. The walls of waterproof fabric join attach towards the rigid floor’s and ceiling’s edges, attaching them together. While you are driving and it is shut for storage, the ceiling shells and rigid floor sandwich the tent walls and beddings.

Pros Of Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Here I am mentioning the advantages of hard shell rooftop tents.

Easy And Fast Setting Up:

A hard shell roof top tent of well-designed can be fixed by a person within one minute. What has to be done is unlock a few safety latches therefore pop up the tent with the support of a crank mechanism or gas struts. A rooftop tent of hard shells takes a little physical energy to open.

Even, some models have electric cranks for lowering and lifting the rooftop tent. When you open the tent, you have to lock a security assistant in place.

If you want to compare it with a softshell, you will see, it will take at least 5-10 minutes for setting up. So, hard shell roof top tent is a greater preference for campers, those who want to move various places.

More Durable:

Softshell tents are less durable than hardshell tents since hard shells are constructed from harder materials.

Each wall of the hard shell is made from higher and thicker denier fabrics that don’t tear so easily and don’t wear out so quickly.

The vertex shell is also manufactured with fiberglass or thick aluminum. These materials may survive strong impacts from debris peace or the branch of a tree falling on vertex. They don’t demote or degrade at Ultraviolet light.

Hard shells are waterproof as well as have higher build quality.

Longer Lasting:

Hardshell rooftop tents last longer than soft shell models due to their higher quality and durability. According to experts, if a hard shell rooftop tent is well cared for, it can last for up to 15 years. On the other side, a softshell may go 5-10 years. It is one of the reasons for preferring hard shells for heavy use and Overlanding trips by some people.

Storage Facility When Tent’s Are Closed:

You will see, there is an excellent space between the shell of the upper and the top mattress when your hard shell roof top tent is closed. Which is around 4”-8” to help to store your necessary gear inside. While you are driving you can leave your flashlight, extra clothes, maps, books, and other kits.

 More Comfortable:

Hard shells are more comfortable than soft shell roof top tents since they come with higher and thicker quality mattresses.

It simply lays flat on the tent’s bottom shell. You will find it with a mattress of thick foam which covers the tent’s entire floor. The mattress of the hard shell is generally 2.5”-3” thick. On average, a two men roof-top tent mattress measures approximately 84”×48”. For further comfort, you may upgrade your mattress to a pretty higher-end model. Gel tops, memory foam, extra insulation, and high-density foam can be added with higher-end. It will improve comfort as well as increase sleeping quality.

More Weatherproof:

Rooftop tents with hard shells are completely waterproof. Because the walls of the tent are vertical, they do not easily get wet during a rainstorm. As a result, leaks are rare.

When it is closed, you will see that the hard bottom and top shells seal or fasten together for keeping out moisture. It will be somewhat a dryer camping for you.


Hardshell rooftop tents will be better for you because it often has insulation built within the top shell underside. Sometimes you might deal with the wind-chill factor, but hard shell roof top tents provide a little wind protection. Therefore, the inside of your tent might remain warmer a few degrees.

When you are sleeping in your tent in the winter season, it will make an excellent difference between an above-freezing tent and a below-freezing tent.

There are also other advantages of using a hard shell rooftop tent. Such as extra storage capacity when it is closed, it occupies smaller space, it can be used in more than three or four seasons, the solar panel can be mounted on top easily, it dampens the sound of the wind, it can be built with one’s design, etc.

Cons of Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Despite hardshell RTT having huge advantages but it has also some considerable downsides.

Hardshell rooftop tents are generally expensive. On average these may cost within $2500-$3500. Premium model hard shells might cost as far as $5000. Which is double if you consider it with a softshell model.

Hard shells are usually heavier. A hardshell RTT might weigh approximately 59-77 KG. The reason for the extra weight is the sturdy top shell. So, it will be hard for you to lift it up on your vehicle, you will need someone’s help.

The surface of hardshell RTT is smaller. It is identical to your vehicle’s roof. Also, there are other downsides of hard shell rooftop tents. Such as worse vehicle handling due to extra weight, packing is problems into a small vehicle, fewer customization, etc.

Soft Shell Roof Top Tent

A Soft Shell Roof Top Tent

After knowing about hardshell RTT, it will be easy for you to understand soft shell roof top tents. When you will set up your softshell rooftop tent, you will see it resembles an off-ground tent.

However, soft shell roof tent body is manufactured with an excellent durable and thick waterproof fabric, for example, canvas, polyester, or nylon. The body of a softshell rooftop tent attaches towards a sturdy or rigid platform. Which is manufactured with hard plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass.

You will see there is a common bi-fold designed rooftop tent out of two different types. Bi-fold tents have double floor sections of equal-sized on one part these have a hinge.

Pros of Soft Shell Roof Top Tent

Here I am mentioning the advantages of soft shell rooftop tents.

More Spacious:

An excellent point that differs a softshell rooftop tent from a hard shell roof top tent is – you can fold out a soft shell roof top tent, therefore, the tent’s half hangs over your vehicle’s edge. It will provide you ample space inside your tent, you will be not limited to your vehicle’s roof area.


You will see that a softshell rooftop tent is cheaper than a hard shell. You will find it in marker at approximately $800. On average, you can purchase a softshell rooftop tent for $1200-$1800, which is half of the hard shell roof tent’s price.

Built-In Awning:

When your tent is unfolded, you will see half of it hanging over your vehicle’s side. It may stick 4-5 feet, therefore works as an excellent small awning and provides protection and shade from the heavy sunlight or rain.

You May Attach A Vestibule Or Annex:

When you get a softshell rooftop tent, you may also get a vestibule or annex. Annexes are generally small tents. An annex connects towards the rooftop tent. It sits next to the vehicle at floor level.

Usually, an annex attaches towards the bottom portion of your rooftop tent which hangs over your vehicle’s edge. An annex provides you with a space to hang out, cook, or eat.

Less Weight:

A softshell rooftop tent can weigh about 9-14 KG, which is a lot lighter than a hardshell rooftop tent. You can lift it up without any hassle.

Cons of Soft Shell Roof Top Tent

Though it has many advantages, it also has many downsides. Here I am mentioning some of the downsides.

If you want to set up a soft shell, you will see it is time-consuming. You will need a larger space for your softshell RTT. You will not find enough space to keep your gear after folding up the tent. Expert says that this tent is less comfortable. It will be hard for you to get into your vehicle when you will set up it. Therefore it is less durable.


Above, I discussed the differences between hard shell and soft shell roof top tents. Both rooftop tents have pros and cons that I have outlined for you so you can decide which is best for you.

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