To Hardshell or to Softshell? That is the question!

The Ultimate Guide: Hardshell vs. Softshell


Rooftop Tent Basics

Many overlanders have been looking to invest in a rooftop tent for their travels. In general, there are many advantages to having a rooftop tent. Whether hardshell or softshell, they both take away the difficulties of searching for the perfect campground late at night, when all you want to do is get comfortable in your cozy tent.  Given that you are off the ground on top of your car, all you need to do is find a place to park, pull open your tent, and your home away from home is ready to go!  Rooftop tents also provide a nice enclosure off the ground away from all the creatures of the night.  You will sleep soundly knowing you are 7 feet above any animal wandering near your campsite.  Being in the air also gives you a nice little extra breeze, which can be relaxing and almost soothing throughout the night.  Rooftop tents have many advantages, but which one is right for you?

Hardshell or Softshell?

When it comes to deciding whether you should go with a hardshell or softshell rooftop tent, there are many factors that you should consider.  I will compare them below and help you decide which style of rooftop tent is the perfect fit for you!

Hardshell Rooftop Tents

Bigfoot Tents - Roof Top Tents Official     Bigfoot Tents - Roof Top Tents Official

Featured above: Bigfoot Tents hardshell RTT

Let's start off with hardshell rooftop tents. Although hardshell roof top tents are a bit more expensive, there are many advantages to owning one.

For one, hardshell roof top tents are very easy to set-up and takedown within minutes or even seconds. This is a huge advantage for someone who is looking for a tent that is very little labor intensive.

Hardshell tents are also known to last longer and are more capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions compared to the softshell tents. This is because the “shell” of the tent is made from either fiberglass or aluminum (both equally durable), making them more durable than fabrics.

Due to the design of the hardshell roof top tents, the hardshell will also keep the tent fabric safe while traveling since they are fully enclosed inside of the shell. The shell shape also helps the vehicle stay more aerodynamic while in motion which will help save on gas mileage compared to the softshell tent.

Most hardshell tents can only sleep 2 people, which makes them limited on space. If you want to camp with a group, this can definitely be a negative. Hardshell tents also tend to weigh more. Because of this, smaller vehicles cannot always handle the larger weight loads.

Let’s break it down!


  • Easy set-up and take down in minutes or even seconds!
  • Tend to be more durable than soft shell tents (longer lifespan).
  • Fabric stays safe when closed in “shell body”.
  • Tend to be more aerodynamic with shell shape saving money on gas.
  • Durable in all 4 seasons.


  • Price of hardshell tents is usually more expensive than softshell tents.
  • Hardshell tents usually offer less space than softshell tents.
  • Hardshell tents tent to weigh more compared to 2 person softshell tents, making small vehicles less compatible.
  • Less variety of colors and tents to choose from. Softshell tents have more options.
  • Less compatible with accessories such as annex.

At Roof Top Tents Official, we offer a variety of brands of hardshell rooftop tents including Tepui, Bigfoot Tents and more!

Softshell Tents

Tepui Ruggedized Series Kukenam 3 - Roof Top Tents Official     Tepui Explorer Series Ayer 2 - Roof Top Tents Official

Featured above: Tepui Explorer Series Ayer 2 RTT

Now, let's move to softshell tents. Softshell rooftop tents have many advantages when compared to the hardshell tents. Softshell tents tend to dominate the market with their lightweight characteristics (compared to hardshells), expand out to a larger footprint for sleeping area, have a wide variety of choices and are compatible with more accessories.

Softshell tents are able to have a small footprint when closed, and a footprint nearly double in size when opened giving families and travelers of 3+ sleeping room! Once opened, the softshell rooftop tents also give a little extra cover underneath the tent base next to your car for additional shade and comfort.

In addition, softshell tents allow you to add additional accessories to your tent, such as a rainfly, awning, or an annex for extra cover and make a larger campground for you and your guests!

Softshell tents are usually less expensive than hardshell tents, making them a better option as a starter tent for beginner travelers.  Softshell tents are also much lighter than hardshell tents that sleep the same amount of people. They also come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, weights, and brands. This helps accommodate almost any adventurers needs!

When looking into softshell rooftop tents, there are two different types to look for.  The first type is the "starter" softshell tents, which are the less durable of the softshells.  These tents will normally sleep 2-3 people and are cheaper in price.  The TJM Yulara, Smittybilt Overlander, and ARB Simpson III would fall into this category.  

The second type of softshell tents are the "expedition grade" softshell tents which are the most durable and most useful tents on the market.  These tents are usually more expensive, but they are definitely more durable and can handle all 4 seasons for camping.  Brands that fall into this category consist of Tepui, HITents, and 23Zero.  For this category, you are looking for tent manufacturers that specialize in just rooftop tents rather than have a large array of car accessories.

TJM Yulara RTT - Roof Top Tents Official     Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 - Roof Top Tents Official

Picture left: TJM Yulara RTT        Picture right: Tepui Ruggedized Series Autana 3

Let's simplify that!


  • Softshells offer a lower price tag, making them more affordable.
  • Offer a smaller footprint on your roof.
  • Softshell tents tend to offer larger sleeping space for campers including tents that can support anywhere from 2 to 5 people depending on the tent size.
  • Comes in a large variety of colors.
  • Softshell tents tend to be more lightweight, giving the ability to fit on a mini- cooper!
  • Ability to have more accessories and attachments.
  • Expedition grade softshells are durable in all 4 seasons.


  • Longer setup and breakdown time of the tent.
  • Less aerodynamic when closed while driving.
  • Can be less durable than hardshell tent due to lack of hardshell casing (comes with a durable PVC travel cover).
  • Starter softshell tents are only durable for 3 seasons (excluding winter), but we've been told that they have been used for winter before.

As you can see, both tents have their pros and cons. No matter what your preference is, Roof Top Tents Official has the perfect rooftop tent for your adventures! We hope this post helps you better understand the difference between hardshell and softshell tents. If you have any questions about our products, please do not hesitate to contact us at or (800) 650-9970!


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