5 Best Cheap Roof Top Tents: A Wildlife Photographer’s Top Picks

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5 Best Cheap Roof Top Tents

rooftop tent is a tent mounted to the top of your car, turning your wheels into a quasi-camper, and they have really taken off over the last five or so years.

A combination of economic reasons (people are looking for more affordable trips closer to home) and an increased desire to spend time outdoors has prompted many people to invest in what is, for me, one of the best ways to camp out. 

Even the cheapest rooftop tents can be quite pricey, but they don’t necessarily have to be.

I’ve slept in some very expensive and also some really nice affordable roof top tents (affordable, not bad quality) over the years and for under a couple of grand, you can get yourself something nice that will also last. 

With that in mind, below is my list of the 5 best cheap roof top tents on the marketing right now.

Cheap Roof Top Tent #1: Raptor Series 100000-126800 Offgrid Voyager Rooftop Tent with Ladder

The Raptor Series is a great cheap rooftop tent designed for two people. Made to fit either SUVs or pickups, I really like how quickly this roof top tent sets up (just a few seconds), which is quite remarkable given that a lot of these setups can take quite a while (especially on your trial run).

The aerodynamic design is made to withstand heavy wind and wick away water and the built-in awning gives you a nice panoramic view of the surrounding area while providing a lot of shade.

Cons

Some owners have indicated that, despite loving this cheap roof top tent, the instruction manual could be a little easier to follow. Others have alleged that some of the components (e.g., the rubber at the bottom of the tent metal sticks required minor sanding in order to fit through frame sides) needed tailoring.  

The bottom frame is also quite heavy, which means you need quite a bit of upper body strength to install it on your own.

Still, two-thirds of reviewers have given this great little cheap rooftop tent 5 stars, commending everything from the sturdiness to the roominess to the quality of the materials.

Cheap Roof Top Tent #2: Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 2 Extended Roof Top Tent

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The Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 2 sleeps 2+ (likely max 3) people (as opposed to the Raptor Series above), so it features an extended floor area. 

Because of the added capacity, it’s made with marine-grade stainless steel (i.e., greater corrosion resistance) and aircraft-grade aluminium (high corrosion and fatigue resistance) to withstand more weight.

With great quality materials and an easy install, this is a really nice cheap roof top tent that will please both first-time roof tent buyers and long-time campers.

Cons

As far as cheap roof top tents go, the tents review sections has surprisingly few complaints about the Overland Vehicle System’s Nomadic 2. One person stated that the included mattress left something to be desired. 

The tent also sits pretty high on the rack, meaning more drag and potentially worse gas mileage for you. Something to consider in this era of high gas prices. 


All in all, a beloved cheap roof top tent that has two-thirds five star reviews and is commended by owners around the world for everything from the amazing quality for the price, and how easy it is to install to the comfort of the mattress.

Cheap Roof Top Tent #3: Smittybilt Overlander Tent

Smittybilt-Overlander

The Smittybilt Overlander is another great cheap roof top tent that comfortably sleeps two adults. Smittybilt is one of the most storied and trust names in offroading and overlanding Jeep accessories, but their roof top tents also fit a wide range of SUVs and trucks.

I love this tent because everything is self-contained. All of the bedding and the accessories are inside the tent, which makes it a breeze to set up and take down and really helps economize on storage space.

Cheap Roof Top Tent #4: Thule Tepui Kukenam Rooftop Tent

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Thule is a Swedish company that has been making roof racks, carriers and luggage since 1942 and their Tepui Kukenam is a great cheap roof top tent that comes with the Thule design and engineering prowess.

It’s a 3-person, four-season tent with nice mesh panels for good ventilation (and mosquito netting) and a quick-release rainfly that makes it easy to adjust your weatherproofing in a hurry if need be.

I also really like the annex accessory (sold separately) that lets you set up a sheltered, private entrance. Hold’s up well in storms and wind and is very easy to set up (especially after your first attempt).

Cons

The Kukenam has two-thirds five-star reviews, but one reviewer was really hating on the quality of pretty much everything (have a look yourself) with this tent. They detail non-stop calls to customer service and find fault everywhere. 

They suggest doing your homework before purchasing this tent (which you should always do regardless), but all of the many five-star reviews contradicting almost everything this one negative reviewer said leads me to believe that they either got a defective product (which happens) or they were being uncharitable. 

Read the reviews for yourself to see how many people are in love with this cheap roof top tent.

Cheap Roof Top Tent #5: Body Armor Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Tent

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For an entry-level tent under $1000, the workmanship on this cheap rooftop tent is really impressive–great stitching. I, as a tall person, also appreciate the hell out of this tent because it has a lot of headroom (which is often at a premium with roof tents).

I also really like the number of hooks and attachment points the tent has inside. It’s great for wildlife watchers like me because that means places to hang flashlights, camera gear, bags, lanterns and whatever else I might be using.

Cons

Some owners indicate that the installation is a real MF. As with most roof top tents, they weigh quite a bit, and you should really have two people for the installation. 

A couple of reviewers also indicated that they found the ladder slightly flimsy, despite it being around 350-pound weight capacity. Definitely something to keep in mind, as a stable ladder is key with roof top tents, especially if you are someone approaching the weight capacity limits.

That said, over three-quarters of reviewers gave the Body Armor Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Tent five stars thanks to its price, build, sturdiness and how well it stands up to the elements.

Why are even the cheapest roof top tents much more expensive than other tent styles?

The materials and design that go into a roof top tent make them more expensive. They are a platform with a tent on top that fits to the top of your vehicle, which also requires you to scale a ladder in order to enter the shelter. 

Also, because they are made to withstand harsher weather, the quality of the fabric increases the price. Even many of the cheap roof top tents use aerospace-grade aluminium and marine-grade stainless steel, which cost more than standard tent material. 

What is Considered a Cheap Roof Top Tent and What is Considered Expensive?

The cheap roof top tents that I chose to review in this article are all between $1000 and $200, with the exception of the Body Armor Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Tent (which is under $1000). 

Yes, these are considered to be on the more economical side. More “luxury” models can run you $3-4K.

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