If your an avid camper or someone wants to get into camping, you might be concerned that your rooftop tent won’t be suitable for your compact car.
Fortunately, some compact cars can handle the added weight of rooftop tents. This, however, will largely depend on what precisely your car’s dynamic and static weight ratings are as well as many other factors.
After spending some time looking into compact cars and their abilities to support rooftop tents, we’ve listed four of the best so that you can plan out your next camping trip properly.
1. iKamper Skycamp Mini (Our Top Pick)
iKamper is one of the most renowned manufacturers of rooftop tents.
The Skycamp Mini is the top pick on this list for compact cars. This two-person rooftop tent fits easily on most cars and can be set up in one minute.
With a price of around $3,500, it’s an investment worth potentially making, although this price point has somewhat been a point of contention for some.
The interior of this rooftop tent, once fitted, is more spacious than what you might initially think it would be. With a length of 57.28 inches and a width of 54.82 inches, there is enough space to rest and relax while out camping.
This hardtop tent is made with durable materials and is insulated with honeycomb aluminum panels. However, this tent is not meant to be utilized during the winter months, which is a drawback for many customers.
If you’re concerned about safety, the Skycamp Mini comes with hardshell locks that ensure the tent stays put. Additionally, the redesigned ladder is safer as the steps are now parallel to the ground.
In terms of materials, this rooftop tent canvas uses breathable 300gsm poly cotton, and the rainfly is made to be waterproof by using 150D polyester.
Below were going to have an in-depth look at two cars that can use the Skycamp Mini:
Ford Escape & Volkswagen Golf with Skycamp Mini:
If you own a Ford Escape or a Volkswagen Golf, you might think you can’t use a rooftop tent.
With the Ford Escape especially, there is the problem of its overall roof carrying capacity to contend with depending on if you have a moonroof or not.
The Ford Escape can only hold 45 pounds with a moonroof, which means you won’t be able to utilize a rooftop tent. If you don’t have a moonroof and utilize roof racks, the capacity goes up to 100 pounds.
However, note that rooftop tents are usually not recommended for vehicles with a weight limit of under 165 pounds.
You could instead opt for an inflatable rooftop tent, but these can be pricier.
Should you have the Volkswagen golf, you can indeed fit a rooftop tent to it, provided it isn’t more than the total roof weight capacity, which is 165 pounds.
With both these cars, you will want to use a rooftop tent like the Skycamp Mini as it’s aerodynamic and incredibly lightweight at 125 pounds.
This rooftop tent fits many compact cars and is arguably the most popular amongst small car owners who camp with a rooftop tent.
2. Thule X Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 (Our Budget Pick)
The budget option on our list of the best rooftop tents for compact cars is the x Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3.
This rooftop tent is approximately $1700 and can sleep two to three people comfortably. Additionally, what’s great about this budget option is that it not only works for more compact cars, but it is also a four-season tent.
For all those who enjoy frequent offroad camping, this could be the tent for you. The fabric used to make this rooftop tent is durable and made out of a 600D ripstop blend, allowing it to be weather resistant and mildew and UV resistant.
Inside the tent is a comfortable high-density foam that helps travelers get a good night’s rest.
The mattress fits comfortably within the 96 inches long and 56 inches wide floor space.
This tent also provides 6 pockets to store any gear you might have, and there are 4 mesh side panels and 2 roof panels that provide adequate ventilation throughout.
Two of the main complaints that customers have reported about the Explorer Kukenam 3 by Thule is that it doesn’t come with an entrance awning, nor does it come with any added extras when you purchase it.
Toyota Carolla & Toyota Camry with Explorer Kukenam 3:
Both the Toyota Carolla and Toyota Camry are good candidates for the Thule x Tepui Explorer Kukenam rooftop tent.
These two cars both have a dynamic weight capacity of 165 pounds, which means they can both, in theory, handle a rooftop tent provided it falls within the weight range of no more than 165 pounds.
Luckily the Explorer Kukenam 3 only weighs 131 pounds, which makes it suitable for compact cars as the rooftop tent itself is made with insulated fiberglass, which reduces the tent’s weight.
As a general tip, these two cars must use a proper roof rack. There are many suitable brands like Yakima and even Thule that provide quality roof racks that you can fit onto your Toyota Carolla or Toyota Camry.
You will also need a rooftop tent with an appropriate ladder to correctly fit these vehicles without being too long or cumbersome.
Thule’s Explorer Kukenam 3 rooftop tent provides an easy to use and set up the 7.5-inch telescoping ladder, so you shouldn’t have an issue using it with either of these vehicles.
3. iKamper Skycamp 2X 2.0
Are you looking for a great rooftop tent that is both a hard shell and customizable to fit onto your compact car?
The new and improved Skycamp 2X 2.0 might be what you’re looking for. This rooftop tent can sleep two adults or up to three small children inside the interior, which is incredibly spacious.
Inside the spacious interior is a king-size bed that fits easily while providing enough space to still move about. However, some customers have complained that the approximately 2-inch mattress isn’t very comfortable or long-lasting.
In terms of durability, this tent has a durable honeycomb floor made with aluminum panels, which also provides extra insulation for the occupants. In addition to this, the tent fabric is durable and breathable due to being made with a 300gsm poly-cotton canvas.
This rooftop tent has a cool interior image of a world map designed onto the canvas as a side note.
Notably, one of this tent’s key features is the quick setup time, which will only take you around a minute. The 2.0 model is made with new standard mounting brackets that have been improved upon to give users a faster installation time.
There is also a smartly redesigned ladder, which is safer, and there are hardshell stainless steel locks to ensure the tent doesn’t come loose.
At only 120 pounds, this rooftop tent is ideal for some Honda civics, and Honda Accords as the dynamic weight carrying capacity for both vehicles is roughly 165 pounds.
However, remember you need to ensure that you distribute the weight; otherwise, an incorrectly placed rooftop tent could damage your vehicle.
4. Roofnest Sparrow
Colorado-based camping brand Roofnest might have been in business for only a few years, but they are quickly becoming known for their exemplary products.
The Sparrow pop-up rooftop tent has been redesigned to be easier to use and is relatively affordable at approximately $2900. It can sleep two people and is suitable for most cars, including the more compact car models available in the US.
This tent’s interior is cozy, with an interior length of 83 inches by a width of 49 inches. Along with other features that impress many who have purchased this model, the firm high-density foam mattress stands out for being comfortable for heavier campers.
In addition to this, the interior provides several windows, which allow occupants a nice breeze and adequate airflow year-round.
As with any camping product, there are some downsides to this product that customers have reported. Although the telescopic ladder is safe, some have complained that the matting on it could use some more rubber.
Additionally, the hard shell nature of this tent adds some noise to your vehicle.
Moreover, the awnings are designed somewhat flimsily, with some customers choosing to forgo using them due to the hassle involved.
However, the Sparrow pop-top rooftop tent is quickly becoming a favorite despite these cons. This is partly due to its being set up in less than a minute, with many campers throughout the US appreciating this handy perk.
Another great feature is that this rooftop tent is made with quality materials making condensation less apparent, and the canvas itself is waterproof.
Below find a few compact vehicles that can utilize the Sparrow rooftop tent by roof nest.
With the Sparrow only weighing 130 pounds, this hardshell rooftop tent is ideal for most cars:
- Volkswagen Jetta: Dynamic Weight Capacity of 150 pounds.
- Mazda 3: Dynamic Weight Capacity of 165 pounds.
- Kia Soul: Dynamic Weight Capacity of 165 Pounds.
- Chevrolet Equinox: Dynamic Weight Capacity of 200 pounds.
How Much Should You Really Pay For A Rooftop Tent For Your Compact Car?
When looking at rooftop tents’ cost for compact cars, the pricing varies due to many factors.
Importantly you will first need to determine your budget and what you’re looking for in a rooftop tent before you can establish how much you really should be paying for one.
Hardshell rooftop tents for compact cars are more durable and often more aerodynamic. This tends to be especially important for compact vehicles.
However, hard shells are more pricy, but it might be worth the investment if you plan on utilizing your rooftop tent regularly.
We would recommend the Skycamp Mini by iKamper as it’s compatible with most cars and lightweight. If you’re on a tighter budget, the x Tepui Explorer Kukenam 3 soft shell rooftop tent by Thule will work almost as well for a cheaper price point.
In the end, the key takeaway is to remember that the weight measurement matters when deciding if your car can handle a rooftop tent. Always check the load capacity for your roofrack!
To carry a rooftop tent safely, a vehicle needs to have a dynamic carrying capacity of 165 pounds or more.
The dynamic carrying capacity can vary from model to model, and a 2010 and 2012 Toyota Camry, for example, can have different weight limits, so be sure always to check.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.