Hard Shell vs. Foldout Rooftop Tents: What’s Best for Me?

By now, I’m sure that you have seen a rooftop tent or two on rigs driving down the road. Emerging decades ago, but gaining momentum in the last few years, people have found that rooftop tents give a more comfortable and easy camping experience. Getting off the ground away from bugs and critters, being higher up allowing for a nice breeze, makes rooftop tents the way to go for camping.

Foldout rooftop tents was where rooftop tents got their start, with an innovative design that continues to evolve over time. The major benefit to a foldout rooftop tent like the Freespirit High Country Series is increased sleeping space because of it’s fold out design.

Hard Shell Rooftop Tents broke into the car camping scene in a big way over the past several years because of the sleek, low profile, and easy set-up design. Being able to store gear on drop with a cross bar kit has been a huge benefit to campers too.

When camping with your family including kids, ease of use, speed of set-up, and sleeping size are all things to consider. Especially if you are driving Friday after work and you get there a bit late, you will want to pull into your spot, set-up fast, get everyone to sleep, and be ready to enjoy the next day. Rooftop tents give reliable shelter with a premium experience anywhere your adventure takes you.

With many options to choose from, you may be asking yourself “which one is best for me?” Let's walk through the benefits of hard shell and foldout rooftop tents. 

What are the benefits of Hard Shell Rooftop Tents?

Low Profile and Aerodynamic

With a closed height of 7”-9”, hard shell rooftop tents have a sleek look, aerodynamic design, and are incredibly easy to use. The low-profile design doesn’t hinder your gas mileage or slow you down when traveling down the road on your next trip. Because of the low-profile design and even when mounted to a roof rack, majority of the time, it can still fit easily in your garage (depending on overall vehicle height of course) so you don’t have to take it on and off to store your vehicle in the garage.

Gas Strut Assist Makes for a Fast and Easy Set-Up

After opening the latches and pushing the top upward, the gas strut assists take over and finish setting-up your rooftop tent in seconds. All hard shell models use the gas strut to make set-up up so easy and fast that one person can do it alone.

People often think they must travel or camp with someone else just for the extra set of hands or to have help setting up camp. Because the gas strut assist does all the work of opening and closing the rooftop tent, you really can get out there and explore alone, proving to yourself that anything is possible.

Size and Style

All hard shell tents can sleep 1-3 people like parents with small kids, couples, or individuals with dogs very comfortably depending on the size and model. The 49” models sleep 1-2 people and the 55” models can sleep 2-3 people.

The style of hard shell tent is personal preference depending on what look and features you want in your hard shell rooftop tent. The Evolution Series pops straight up and offers 360 degree views.  The Odyssey Series opens at a 45 degree angle and provides a strong hard shell back wall that can act as a wind break or shield you from rain or snow. The NEW Aspen Series is a spin on the traditional clamshell but it has been designed to be one of the lightest weight tents on the market.

Storing Gear on Top

One of the best features of hard shell rooftop tents is the ability to store gear on top of the tent while you are driving to your destination. Crossbar Kits allow you to put bikes, kayaks, and other gear on top of your hard shell tent, maximizing space and allowing you to transport even more gear. Just remove the gear when you get to your destination and your adventure begins.

What are the benefits of Foldout Rooftop Tents?

Increased Sleeping Area Size

The fold out design of foldout rooftop tents allow for a larger sleeping space. The High Country 80” for example is roughly the size of a king size mattress and can sleep a family (3-5 people) or a couple with their 3 Bernese Mountain dogs comfortably (scroll down to check out our Party Planning Committee at our Golden office), they are big fans of the High Country 80” with their parents, Ben and Megan.

The High Country 55” and 63” offer a sleeping space of roughly the size of a full and queen size mattress, perfect for 2-4 people. Depending on how many people you need to sleep, the foldout rooftop tents can provide you with a variety of options.

Store Gear Inside

The foldout rooftop tents like the High Country Series give you the room inside the tent to store basic bedding like pillows and sleeping bags so everything is in the tent and ready to go after you set it up. When in the closed position, you can also store some gear like duffel bags, camp chairs, or stored sleeping bags on top of the tent before putting on the PVC cover.

360 Degree Views

Just like in the Evolution, the foldout tents because of the fold out design have windows on all sides, allowing you to have 360 degree views. The extended rain fly in front by the door has a window on the ceiling too so you can look up at the stars when inside the tent.


The extruded aluminum design for the foldout rooftop tents has created one of the lightest and strongest tents in the industry. Weighing in at 119lbs to154lbs depending on the size and model, it makes the installation process even more manageable. When lifting the rooftop tent onto the vehicle, it can easily be done by two people, making the install process easy and smooth.

Find the Best Rooftop Tent for You

Foldout or hard shell, you can’t go wrong with either for your rooftop tent. The comfort, views, and easy set-up will elevate every outdoor adventure!

When you are deciding between a hard shell or a foldout rooftop tent, check out the Freespirit Recreation roof top tents to compare and decide.

Take out rooftop tent fitter quiz to see which rooftop tent is best for you >


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.