15 Best Pop Up Tents For Your Compact Camper Van
If you’re a fan of small campers and small travel trailers, then you’ve probably been wishing that someone would make a list of the best pop up tents for your travelling tiny home. You have? Well; you’ve come to the right place!
I’m a big fan of trailer life. Small living is what it’s all about, and I really admire people who can condense their whole lives down into such a small space. Living in a tiny house on wheels can have its challenges, however, especially when you want to bring other people on the road, and the same can be said for compact camper van or car camper models out there too. They promote a stealthier, and in some respects, more outdoorsy way of life, but that doesn’t mean that they have to feel cramped or claustrophobic.
Featured Image @802_rubicon
Why Do I Need A Pop Up Tent?
Pop up tents are one of the main add-ons that you can incorporate into your campervan conversions or off grid trailer builds. They’re easy to install, come in all shapes and sizes, and give you that extra space that you might be desperately craving – we’re talking about adding a-whole-nother level onto your camper!
Tents are bulky and need somewhere to be stored. The beauty about roof top pop up tents is that they can stay attached to your vehicle all year round. What’s more, if you don’t have space for another vehicle or large motorhome, then you can get off the grid in your existing car and enjoy the outdoors for a fraction of the price. Combine a rooftop camping pod with one of our electric campervans, and you’re practically saving the planet!
So, if you’re having guests on the road, travelling with kids, or just want to keep the downstairs for living while you lay in bed and look at the night sky, then the following 15 pop up tents should certainly float your boat (or drive your van…you get the idea).
Hard Shell or Soft Shell?
It’s the age-old question when looking for rooftop pop up tents. Which is best for your setup, and which will give you the most room? Soft Shell tents are more like the type of thing that you might have used on camping trips, basically more like a regular tent. They fold out, are easy to set up, and are pretty lightweight, so if you’re already driving around in a monster camper gas guzzler, then this could be the best option for you.
Hard Shell pop up tents really do ‘pop up’ with so much ease; all it takes is releasing a couple of latches, and away you go! They’re more like a roof box, with protective plastic outer to protect from anything that the elements might throw your way. They usually cost a little more than the soft shell option but are often better insulated and come with a memory foam mattress pre-installed!
Now you know the difference, it’s time to check out what are the top products in 2020.
Here are the best pop up tents on the market:
1. Pittman Outdoors Comet – $2,299.95
First up on our list of powerful and portable pop up tents is the comet from Pittman Outdoors (not to be confused with an actual comet, which would be insane).
Remember what we said about Hard Shell tents in the section above? You can see how strong and durable this product is right from the get-go, with a thick plastic roof that can withstand hailstones, branches, and drunk seagulls. These camping pods come with a super-comfortable memory foam mattress built-in, giving you the perfect excuse to have that afternoon nap that you’ve always dreamt of taking.
The Comet has a ripstop cotton canopy and is so waterproof you’ll feel as though you’re a wizard as you watch those rain drops bouncing off and away from the fabric.
Apart from housing the super-comfortable mattress, the honeycomb base is also insulated, keeping you nice and toasty and preventing the cold metal of your van or car from keeping you awake all night. It comes with a telescopic ladder (so you don’t have to jump up into bed) and can be set up in minutes!
2. Yakima Skyrise – $934.11
If you’re in the market for funky-looking pop up tents that have that ‘bedouin’ vibe, then the Skyrise roof tent from Yakima should be at the top of your list.
One of the things that we get asked the most about pop up tents is what the beds are like once you get inside, so you’ll forgive me if I mention the sleeping area first once again (It’s not because I’m tired – honest!).
The Skyrise features a wall-to-wall 2.5″ foam mattress, so there’s no chance you’ll fall down the crack between the bed and the tent wall once you’re asleep (just make sure you don’t fall off the roof). The 210D Nylon fabric is breathable while remaining waterproof, and the whole sleeping area is roomy and spacious with windows front and back to take in those epic views.
One thing that you tend to find with the Soft Shell roof tents is that they are a little bit wider, allowing for more people to squeeze in on top of your SUV or camper and away from the critters on the forest floor.
This product does require a roof-rack to fix onto (as will most of the pop up tents in this list), and can be unlocked and removed in seconds if you need the car for a trip to the shops.
3. ADDG Truck Tent – $280.00
Sometimes all you need is a waterproof roof over your head, which is why the next pop up tent is cheap, cheerful, and compatible with most off road trucks. This truck life tent from ADDG is perfect for anyone from the part-time fisherman to the weekend warrior who likes to keep things simple.
It’s super fast to set up, keeps you up off the ground and away from the creepy-crawlies, and is better for keeping your camp spot green and healthy than a normal tent as there is less surface area coming into contact with the grass itself.
With the tailgate down, this range of pop up tents has even more space for you to kick back with an espresso (check out our top cooking accessories to find the best portable coffee maker!) or just to lay and look up at the moon while you’re listening to your favourite audiobook.
It’s big enough for two people to camp together cosily, and the 210D Oxford cloth is weatherproof, making this perfect for use in every season. There is, however, no insulation in this tent, so make sure you get a good sleeping bag!
4. Smittybilt Overlander Tent – $899.28
Smittybilt make affordable and top-quality pop up tents that have been keeping Americans comfortable off-grid for decades. They’re the perfect companion for any off grid adventure and are perfectly suited to life on the open road.
The Overlander Tent uses 600D ultra-weatherproof fabric that can take a serious beating from Mother Nature without you having to whip-out the sewing kit.
This tent sleeps 2-3 people and has a full-sized double foam mattress built in, so you don’t need to worry about cramming your bed from home into the back of the car for the journey. The telescopic ladder is easy to erect and provides a sturdy climb up into your truck-top-mansion.
Mosquito netting keeps bugs away, LED lights keep you illuminated while reading or chatting, and the included PVC cover keeps UV rays at bay while the tent is packed down. This thing has everything except a toilet (which you can find in our best campervan toilets list!)
5. Overland Vehicle Systems Pop Up Tents – $1,399.99
Any range of pop up tents that start their description with ‘marine grade’ means business, and this rooftop tiny home from Overland Vehicle Systems is no exception. Marine-grade 600D rip-stop polyester, 3″ high-density foam mattress, storage pouches, breathable windows – you name it, and this thing has it.
Overland Vehicle Systems have constructed these tents from Aircraft-grade aluminium, and the telescopic ladder is one of the nicest I’ve seen on a rooftop camping product. The sloped roof won’t hold any puddles that might collect and drip in on your head in the middle of the night, and the interior living space looks incredibly comfortable.
There’s no drilling or neuroscience degree needed to install it, and add-ons such as an annexe can be bought to increase your living space even further. You could make your Mini Camper feel like an EarthRoamer Camper with all of these accessories!
6. Tepui Explorer Kukenam – $1,507.94
I’m a big fan of the Tepui Explorer Kukenam; I think it’s because it’s one of the only products on our pop up tents list that looks like a common-old-garden tent.
It’s got that ‘family camping trip nostalgia’ to it and comes in neutral colours that won’t alert passers-by or bears to your presence while you’re wild camping in the forest. This tent can accommodate three people with ease and can be bought in ‘Haze Grey’ or ‘Olive Green’ for that extra ‘leafy’ touch.
The Explorer Kukenam is mould and UV resistant, so as long as you take good care of it, it should be an investment that will last you a lifetime.
It’s designed to be used in all weathers, with 600D rip-stop and strong poly-cotton fabric protecting you from the harshest weathers and climates. All you need to do now is kit it out with some of the best RV accessories and gadgets chosen by our favourite van life influencers!
7. ARB Awning – $216.60
The first of our ARB products on this list is not only the simplest pop up tent add-on for your camper, but it’s also the cheapest.
Ok, so it might not sit up on top of your vehicle and it might be a cube, but it’s a cost-effective option for anyone who is looking for an extra room to be able to spread out into or a second bedroom for the kids to sleep in while out on the road (who doesn’t love being in a breathable cube!).
The heavy-duty polyurethane floor will keep you and your van life essentials dry while camping, and even though this product doesn’t cost very much, it still comprises of 300D Oxford cloth walls that are UV treated. It just goes to show that you really can get a lot of bang for your buck!
One of the things that I learnt from spending some time on the Four Wheel Campers Pop Up Truck Campers while out in California is the power of the crosswind. Opening up those mesh windows on a sunny summers day can cool down the camper interior far quicker than a fan, and if your whole room is essentially made up of mesh windows, then you’ll have no problem staying comfortable on those muggy forest nights.
This tent comes with storage pouches as well as other neat-organisational accessories to keep everything nice and tidy too – there’s no excuse not to keep the place clean!
8. iKamper Skycamp 2.0 – $4,375.11
We’ve come to the first hybrid on our list of the best pop up tents; a Hard Shell tent that opens out to the side, giving you durability and space in one sleek, easy-to-operate package. iKamper are a huge name on the Overlanding circuit; the aerodynamic design and hard shell protection make them a hard company to beat, especially once you see what goes into making one of these things! The Skycamp 2.0 can be set up in 60-seconds flat; that’s from getting out of your car to getting into your bed. Not bad, eh!
You might be thinking that this is a pretty expensive range of pop up tents, but unlike some of the other models in our list, the Skycamp series can fit up to 4 people comfortably, making it a great solution for the whole family (or a couple if your partner is like fellow Van Clan writer @rose and loves to spread out like a starfish when she goes to sleep!). The floor is insulated, the outer shell has an air-insulation cavity, and the 1.8″ high-density foam bed has seen many campers hit snooze-town with no difficulty whatsoever.
Does it look a little like a Velociraptor’s claw? I don’t know, but the Raptor Rooftop tent certainly has a cool name; there’s no denying that!
The next range of pop up tents in our list are perfectly suited for the intrepid explorer, providing shelter from the elements in a rugged design that can take the rough with the smooth. Pull down the 8-foot ladder and swing up the hood, and your elevated sleeping space is ready in a matter of seconds.
The double bed is big enough for two people to top and tail or spoon (depends how close you are with your travel buddy/how cold it is outside!) and the whole unit has a weight capacity of 750lbs, making it a great option for a solo traveller who wants to keep their gear with them at all times.
The curved roof on this tent is very interesting as it makes for one incredibly aerodynamic product. It’s been engineered in a way to shelter the user from the wind and keep the rain away from your living area. I know all tents should do this, but when you get a strong gale coming your way, you’ll be glad for the amount of thought and design that has been put into the Raptor series.
It also has a built-in awning and shoe hanging pouches so that you can keep your sleeping area dirt-free!
10. Front Runner Pop Up Tents – $1,263.85
Front Runner are another big name in the pop up tents industry and are just as suited to travel trailers as they are to some of the best RVs on the roads.
At 40kg, it’s one of the lightest products on the market and boasts a ‘super-low 330mm profile wind-resistant’ design while folded down. Front Runner claims that it’s the lowest-profile roof tent on the market, which makes this product even better value for money!
400D Oxford tent fabric and a removable fly-net provide a weatherproof, bug-free camping experience, and the unit is mounted onto an aluminium insulated base designed to keep the cold from creeping up into your back during the night.
The ladder is a little steeper than some that we’ve seen on the market and you do need a Front Runner fixing kit to put it onto your vehicle, but this range of pop up tents should definitely be a contender for anyone looking for a solid camping pod that doesn’t cost the earth.
If you need a tent that’s ‘tuff’ enough for your gnarly lifestyle, then we’ve found the perfect product for you. The Elite Overland roof tent from Tuff Stuff is the largest camping pod that the company produce.
It’s a great solution for the family that prefers off grid living to a spell at the seaside and is well kitted out for any season. It has two entry doors, two ladders, can sleep up to 5 up-top with a further 4 in the optional annexe add-on below, and comes with two separate mattresses and a privacy filter.
That’s great for friends that might want to head out on a road trip together or siblings who might want a bit of privacy from their parents.
Let’s talk facts.
- The breathable UV and mould resistant tent fabric spans the entire product and has a waterproof polyurethane that won’t let you down when the skies open.
- The 420D rainfly cover sheds water instantly and eliminates 50% of overhead light, making this a perfect option if you’re travelling through somewhere like Northern Russia where it can stay light for almost 20 hours.
- There’s also an awning that spreads over the other side of the vehicle too and provides a nice sheltered area for hiding from the sun while sipping an ice-cold beer.
12. YX Outdoor Pop Up Tents – $2,318.94
We’re back to the classic Hard Shell design with this little rooftop number from YX Outdoor. The durable ABS plastic roof is kamikaze-bird proof and 100% waterproof, giving you peace of mind when you’re camping in remote areas without a launderette nearby.
This pop-up camping pod has spacious windows and an insulated mesh design, keeping you warm and dry no matter what the elements are getting up to outside.
As with the other Hard Shell tents on this list, the YX Outdoor rises up with ease after unbuckling the fasteners around the rim. It’s so simple that even a baby could do it (though we don’t recommend you try this at home!). The product itself weighs just 50kg, so you don’t need a massive installation team to fix everything together for you.
Keep it on top of your stealth camper van all year round without having to worry about storing it somewhere safe, and always be ready when the feeling for adventure strikes!
13. ARB Simpson Tent – $1,493.44
Remember the ARB cube further up the article? Well, this is its supercharged brother, and while Bart and Lisa might not be anywhere in sight, the ARB Simpson certainly provides a fun experience that the whole family can enjoy.
This product is a combo kit of a pop-up roof tent and annexe, turning your small camper vans or SUVs into a two-story apartment in a matter of minutes. It comes with a retractable ladder for getting up and down between the penthouse and the ground level (note – it’s not really a penthouse) and has a 2.5″ foam bed for snoozing all of your cares away on.
This tent can be mounted onto any roof rack, and the annexe section is the perfection addition for any digital nomad that likes to get off grid with travel bikes in tow.
It’s also a neat idea for anyone who might want to keep their outdoor gear and clothing out of the car and sleeping area, making it perfect for any fishermen or downhill enthusiasts who might get wet or muddy. You could even set up a camper shower in there and keep clean while living off grid!
14. Roofnest SparrowEye – $2,895.00
Here’s an easy way to make your vehicle look like the Earthrcuiser GXL 300 without emptying your bank balance and selling the children to be able to afford one.
The SparrowEye from Roofnest is a slick little triangle-shaped pop-up. It’s one of the only rooftop tents that has a specially designed gear storage area and space for solar panels to be mounted on top. It sleeps three people, has a 3″ inch foam mattress, and comes with a waterproof storage bag.
The SparrowEye can be mounted onto most vehicles and comes with an 8’5″ telescopic ladder for clambering up in your pyjamas. The ABS fibreglass shell has a low profile (11″ tall in the highest point when folded down) and pops up super-fast thanks to the gas-assisted lifters. If you want a product that takes the stress out of camping, then look no further!
Last but not least is another range of triangular pop up tents that are perfectly suited to smaller Ford Campers or Volkswagen Bus Camper conversions. This unit is constructed from rugged honeycomb aluminium sheeting (we should all be very grateful for all of the hard work that the bees put in to come up with this super-strong design) and has its own set of accessory rails for official Tent-Box add-ons.
Made for wild campers that want the ability to camp anywhere at a moments notice, the Tent-Box can sleep two people and can be accessed via the side or rear doors. It’s simple to attach, has a set-up time of 60 seconds, and comes with a mattress as standard. Plus, the company will plant a tree for every unit sold – now you can join the ranks of the worlds top eco campers!
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