20 May 2022
Editor Patrick Cruywagen looks at ten of the best rooftop tents for far-out and closer-to-home adventures with your Land Rover
Never before has the demand for outdoor and camping equipment been so high as it is right now. The UK has gone camping crazy. I chat to advertisers and contacts, they have containers full of hundreds of rooftop tents on their way to Europe and the UK. When they arrive, they are all sold within hours or days. What will happen to all of those poor roof tents once we are allowed to fly all over the world again? Facebook market place or eBay I suppose?
As we find ourselves in the midst of a rooftop tent explosion I have decided to do a buying guide for those who are about to wade through the vast and ever-expanding roof top tent marketplace.
Some like to sleep in hotels, others prefer ground tents, while a third group prefer a tent on the roof of their Land Rover. One of the main bugbears of those who don’t like a rooftop tent is that once it is up, you cannot drive anywhere unless you pack it away. Some tents only take seconds to pack away, while others take several minutes.
The first thing to remember is that not all rooftop tents were created equal. You can easily get something for under £1000 like the Front Runner roof top tent. I’ve been using one of these for a few years now and can’t fault it. It does the job in snow, rain and strong winds. These type of tents with their zip-able, heavy-duty covers take a bit of time to pack away and can be labour intensive however, not great for the old and infirm. There is also the option of getting a tent with gas struts that self erects once you unlatch the clips, examples of this type are the Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 or the ADV Aero Luxury. Or you can get something like the tent that opens and closes itself with the push of a button like the Bundutec Bundutop tent thanks to the winch in the roof of it. For those with no budget restrictions there is the £10k Alu Cab Icarus conversion, as carried out a few months ago by a journalist in that other Land Rover magazine. This turns your Defender into pop-top camper but you will have to say goodbye to your original roof and brace yourself for having a slightly higher replacement. Read on to find out which ten tents made our feature.
Front Runner rooftop tent
Price: £952.87 Contact: frontrunneroutfitters.com
This new version has several advantages
Johnny Nel, Discovery 4: This is the latest version of this tent and Front Runner have made a few changes after listening to their customers. This newer version has a denser, more comfortable mattress. The roof has the new Skylight vent window so if there is no prospect of rain you can just open the roof vent for fresh air. Then if you pull the clipped straps to the left and right of the tent opening it pulls the flysheet tighter. The final change is their new logo.
The new mattress is denser and more comfy
You won’t find another tent of the same quality for under £1000. It may take a bit longer to put up and take down than some of the other brands here but once you have mastered the process it shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to do both.
• Two hanging pockets
• Ladder stored with tent when not in use
• Extra storage space at entrance
• Size: 1.3 m wide and 2.4 m long when set up. 330 mm high.
• Weight: 43 kg
Tuff-Trek TT-02 1.4 m
Price: £1295 Contact: tuff-trek.com
Dave and Jackie have taken on storms in their Tuff-Trek TT-02
Dave and Jackie Shrub, Defender 90: We’ve had this tent for three years now and just love it, although there is a newer model available. We drive a Defender 90 which is lacking in storage space so we have a set-up that keeps us warm and dry. We don’t only have the Tuff-Trek TT-02 tent but also use the tent annex when the weather conditions are really bad. We survived three days in a rainy and windswept Scotland like this. If you want to get out of the tent or annex then you can sit under the Rhino Batwing which provides another 270 degrees of shade from the rain and sun.
More space than a double bed
One of the things we love about the tent is that the ladder goes into the bottom of the tent and not into the side like the Front Runner one. It is also a little longer when open thanks to the extended flysheet. We have put a cargo net for our shoes in this extended bit. So you can sit in your tent and take off your shoes without getting it all muddy. Another bit I have added is an extended para cord to make zipping up the cover easier.
The biggest negative with a tent like this is the pitch and pack time. I am nearly 60 years old so we have started to look at hard top options with gas struts.
• Ladder access into bottom of tent
• Annex room included
• More space than a double bed
• Bungee system to aid packing away
• Size: 1.4 m wide and 2.4 m long when set up and 330 mm high
• Weight: 55 kg
Alu-Cab New Gen 3.1 Expedition rooftop tent
Price: £3575 Contact: tuff-trek.com
Pricey but without a doubt one of the best rooftop tents on the market today
Lee Lilley, Defender 110: Prior to this I had a Oztent ground tent but decided to replace it with a rooftop option. Six months ago when on the Salisbury Plains one of my friends had the Alu-Cab Gen 3.1 and after seeing how quickly they set it up I decided to get one too.
I also did loads and loads of research prior to this hard shell purchase. These tents have a reputation for being pretty robust and comfy which is why I went for it, plus they are super quick to put up and down. I have done loads of camping in Europe, Iceland and Sweden in my 110.
Tell your partner they can bring a few pairs of shoes
I like how they come standard with a plug so you can just attach that to a power source and you have power in the tent for the lights and phone/tablet charging points via the USB ports. There is also a cigarette lighter-type charger.
This tent does not flap around, you don’t feel the wind on a stormy day and the rain does not get in. It is absolutely solid. I sleep with the vents open so there is no condensation either. It’s without a doubt one of the best roof op tents available today.
Built tough for serious expeditions and maximum comfort
• Lots of storage space
• Charging and power points
• Solid and tough
• Can leave ALL bedding inside
• Size: 1.4 m wide and 2.3 m longwhen set up
• Weight: 80 kg
Overlander Series Mark II
Price: £3575 contact: tuff-trek.com
Flick two clips and seconds later your tent is erect
Donovan Sandham, Discovery 4: Prior to this I had a soft shell rooftop tent, which I used loads when travelling in Southern Africa. Packing them away in high temperatures and with dusty covers really gets you dirty and sweaty. With the Overlander Series Mark II you just flick two clips and seconds later your tent is erect. The ease of operation is what drew me to this option.
I know it is a big tent but I’ve only seen a change of one or two miles per gallon in my fuel consumption. You cannot hear the tent or rack at all when driving on the motorway thanks to the Front Runner roof rack system with the wind deflectors.
Wind deflectors help minimise travel noise
I absolutely love this tent but have not had it too long and will make a few tweaks, the light is a wee bit bright so that needs changing. It’s amazing having power in my tent thanks to the plug on the outside of it. That gets plugged into my leisure battery which in turn powers the USB ports, ciggie lighter port and that aforementioned light in the tent. I also like the organiser in roof. I know this is an expensive tent but you can’t fault the quality. It should last us years and years.
• Gas struts now inside
• Charging and power points
• Shell more aerodynamic
• Can leave all bedding inside
• Size: 1.45 m wide and 2.2 m long when set up and 300 mm high when closed.
• Weight: 83 kg
Bundutec Bundutop electric roof tent
Price: £2895 contact: tuff-trek.com
Not too many people in the UK know more about rooftop tents
Dara King, 2012 Defender 110 utility station wagon: What is great about this tent is that it takes 18 seconds to open or close once you release the catches and push a button. That is it. You can put the kettle on while the tent goes up or down. This is thanks to the All-Terrain vehicle winch (rated to 150 kg) which is housed in the roof of the tent. It is super convenient, especially at the end of a long day. Very good for people with limited mobility or older people as there is no climbing around when getting it up or down.
Push a button and the winch does the hard work
It is also very comfy thanks to its 10 cm thick mattress, which is thicker than any other tent here. Once you have used the Bundutec Bundutop electric roof tent it’s hard to go back to something else. I was sceptical because of its electric winch but it has never let me down in five years. Bundutec also do a thing called a Bundutop Add-a-room which gives you an awning with walls that slots onto the side of the tent so you can get some privacy or stand up to get changed. A unique and great rooftop tent.
• Push button operation
• Four big windows for good ventilation
• Shade windows deploy automatically
• Can leave all bedding inside
• Size: 1.35 m wide and 2.1 m long
• Weight: 73 kg
ADV Dyno Light
Price: £1950 Contact: advrooftent.co.uk
Probably the best low-profile rooftop tent in this line-up
Tom Parkes, Defender 110: ADV roof tents have been available in the UK for about seven years now and this is their aluminium hardcase offering. It is ideal for someone who is going greenlaning or overlanding thanks to its hardiness and low profile. They can take a serious knock or two. It’s not easy putting a tent on and off a rack but with this slimline offering you can just leave it on and still drive into your garage or a carpark. The fact that this tent sits so low means it won’t affect the handling or centre of gravity of your Land Rover either.
Cargo net in the roof for storage
Two people can comfortably fit on the 125 mm wide mattress. There is a cargo net in the roof to store goodies, it has a light, hooks to hang clothes, storage bags and a very useful external boot bag. You can leave a small sleeping bag in it when you close it but nothing more. To close the tent you just pull the black cord down after taking out the awning poles. Simple and easy. When you are touring every day you want something that is quick to put up and take down, this tent does just that.
• Very quick to erect
• Extremely tough and slimline
• Telescopic ladder extends to 2.3 m
• Size: 1.25 m wide and 2.1 m long
• Weight: 50 kg
ADV Aero Luxury
Price: £1595 Contact: advrooftent.co.uk
Tom Parkes, Discovery 4: Unlike our other offering (which is a single skin tent) the ADV Aero Luxury is a double skin, offering extra protection against the elements. Note that the second skin can be removed if the conditions are favourable. This is the largest hard shell tent in their range thanks to its width of 145 cm, which makes it great for expeditions or long trips. This tent will comfortably house two people.
Double skin for protection against the rain and cold
Bedding can stay in the tent when packing it up
While it might be a big tent, the unique quad closing system means it goes up and down in seconds. Bedding and ladder can be left in the tent when packed away. Just like the other ADV tent in this feature, the Aero Luxury has more storage space than most other roof top tents. There is a cargo net in the ceiling, hooks to hang clothes on, storage bags, a light and an external dirty boots bag.
• Loads of storage space
• Unique quad closing system
• Bedding and ladder stay in packed away tent
• Double skin
• Size: 1.45 m wide and 2.1 m long
• Weight: 60 kg
Autohome Land Rover rooftop tent
Price: £3480 Contact: www.4x4overlander.com
Andrew Robinson and Libby Williamson, New Defender 110 P400: We bought this Defender with the Explorer Pack together with a side ladder and the official Autohome/Land Rover rooftop tent. I like to keep my gear Land Rover original if possible. I was rather surprised at how quiet the Defender is with the rack and tent on. The fibreglass shell and roof rack make for a sleek combo, too.
Fastening the tent to the rack is a bit of a faff as there is hardly any space for your hands between the rack and the vehicle, especially when working on the ends where the ladder and side box are. I think I need some long reach spanners.
Libby uses the Defender's ladder, not the tent one
Lots of space to store spare parts
As for the tent itself you literally have to loosen one clip and up she goes. We were planning a trip to Morocco before Covid struck and so we wanted something that was quick and easy. We’ve had the tent up at our quarry in some pretty horrendous conditions and thanks to the insulated roof you don’t really need an extreme cold sleeping bag. The high-density non-deformable mattress is comfortable and big enough for two. There is cargo net in the roof and two storage pockets plus a light. What more do you need from a rooftop tent?
• Sleek design and fit
• Very easy to deploy
• Brilliant for its ease of use, comfy bed and protection from elements
• Size: 1.30 m wide, 2.3 m long and 330 mm high
• Weight: 64 kg
Price: £1995 Contact: tentbox.com
Ed's friend Lottie is also a big fan
Ed Offer, Defender 90 Td5: I use my Defender as on off-roader and like to go greenlaning. I wanted a tent to suit that lifestyle. I looked at various tents for a while and as TentBox are only a few miles from where I live, I went to their HQ. I saw this TentBox Classic and bought it there and then.
The first time I used it was in a hotel carpark when attending a small wedding. The temperatures dropped to below zero but it was perfect for me thanks to the nice, thick memory foam mattress and insulated roof.
The four windows make for good views
Useful storage netting below the insulated, hard-shell roof
To open the tent you need to loosen the two clips at the front and back and up it goes thanks to the gas struts on both sides.
There is a nice big window on each of the four sides. I slept in it during Storm Dennis too and it was pretty solid. The two little side awnings go into position with two poles on each side and then it is good to sleep in.
• Bedding and ladder in tent when packed away
• TentBox’s best-selling hard-shell offering
• Enjoy all round views
• Sets up in 60 seconds
• Size: 1.25 m wide and 2.1 m long
• Weight: 64.5 kg
Darche Hi View 1600 and Panorama 2 1400 roof tents
Price: £2300 and £2500 Contact: Trekoverland.com
The perfect set-up for a family expedition
Nigel and Linda Betts , Defender 130 Tdi: We plan on driving to Nordkapp and then the Pan American Highway in our 130. Our son Thomas will be coming along which is why we have gone for the Darche Hi View 1600 and the Panorama 2 1400 roof tents, as we needed something that would work for us as a whole package. This set does just that.
These tents are highly regarded in Australia which is why we have gone for this particular brand as they certainly know their stuff over there. We like how easily it all packs away, the cover goes on without any wrestling involved. You can leave all your bedding in the tents as well.
Where the ladder and tent meet is covered by a canopy
As we will be using these tents every day, reliability and usability are important to us. It started raining one night and we were able to test how we can get it all up rather quickly. The 1.6 is a roomy tent – you can get dressed in it. If camping for longer than a night it's handy to be able to put the annexes up and create a nice room for privacy below each tent. They even have a zip able PVC bucket floor to keep the creepy crawlies out.
Even if the annex is not on, thanks to the fact that the flysheet extends beyond where the tent base ends, with both of these tents you get some protection from the elements when climbing in and out. We also really like the fact that you can pack the 2.3 m telescopic alloy ladder away with the tent and don’t have to put it in the Land Rover.
Darche Hi View 1600 features:
• Unique full size side windows
• Super fine insect mesh
• 65 mm high density mattress
• 2.2 m wide x 2.4 m long annex
• Tested in the outback of Australia
• Size: 1.6 m wide and 2.4 m long
• Weight: 64.5 kg (plus 9.5 kg for the annex)
Darche Panorama 2 1400 features:
• Bound canvas window loops
• Versatile 3-way annex
• 50 mm high density mattress
• Fine insect mesh
• Tested in the outback of Australia
• Size: 1.43 m wide and 2.4 m long
• Weight: 61.6 kg (plus 7.4 kg for annex)
These products have been tested in the Australian Outback
Clare Brennan, Trek Overland (UK distributors of Darche): The Australian outdoor gear company Darche was started by Darren and Cheryl O’Dwyer in 1991. Today they have Charles Parsons, the textile manufacturer, as their parent company, who make all the textiles used in the Darche range. They have different textiles for different climates and applications.
I did ask them why they use a thick canvas on the swags but then use something thinner on the roof tents. They assured me that the ripstop canvas they used on these two tents is just as strong, waterproof and durable as the stuff used on a swag. The Hi-View 1600 uses a 260 gsm poly/cotton ripstop canvas while the Panorama 2 uses 340 gsm proofed poly/cotton double pass ripstop canvas. It should also be noted that the High View weighs a little more as a result of this.
The lighter textiles they have used in these two tents make it easier to put the tent away when wet. Darche products have been tested for extreme conditions and durability, they use quality components and so you pay strong money for that. We have been importing Darche since 2016 and I can happily say that the demand for their products have increased significantly since that first lockdown.