Pop-Up Tent vs Rooftop Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

When comparing a pop-up tent vs rooftop tent, the decision really comes down to price and whether you have the supporting equipment or not. We’ve broken down the major similarities and differences of common tent types to help you make the right decision for your next outdoor adventure!

Pop-Up Tent vs Rooftop Tent

First, let’s break down each type of tent:

Pop-Up

a-frame tent vs pop-up tent
A newer tent category with fewer offerings than most other types of tents, pop-up tents are specifically designed for the easiest set-up possible. The poles are integrated directly within the tent frame and fabric.

Rooftop

dome tent vs rooftop tent

Mounted on the top of your SUV, Truck, or Jeep, these tents fold down flat while you’re driving and pop right up when ready to sleep. Rooftop tents are perfect for those who like to find backcountry campgrounds in dispersed lands or who hate setting up the tent once they get to their campground.

Major Differences

The biggest differences between a pop-up tent vs rooftop tent are their setup, capacity, and best use. Rooftop tents attach to a jeep or truck bed and are set up by pulling the ladder down to unfold the tent and attaching any necessary exterior poles to stretch the tent out. In contrast, pop-ups use multiple poles that are integrated directly into the fabric to create a pre-determined shelter frame that can be set up with a quick shake out on the ground once you arrive at the campground.

Pop-up and rooftop tents will have similar peak heights, although rooftop tents may have straighter sides that provide much more room than the oval pop-up footprint with sloped sides. pop-up come in sizes of around 4 people at their largest while the largest rooftop tents max out at around 6 people.

Both types of tents usually use a two-layer design to repel rain but rooftop tents may be slightly more comfortable to spend a longer period of time inside during a storm as you can sit inside with more room (or just jump back into the car to stay extra dry). Pop-up tents also have less coverage with the two-layer rain fly than most rooftop and other tents.

A pop-up’s biggest advantage is its ability to be set up anywhere with flat ground as Rooftop tents can only be used wherever you can drive your car to. That said, jeeps and trucks can get to spectacular backcountry campgrounds in national forests and other wilderness for free and incredible possibilities.

Best Uses For Pop-Up & Rooftop Tents

Pop-up tents can be used in most family or car camping situations while rooftop tents are able to be used across any camping setting! While not true backpacking tents, rooftop tents can access back country campgrounds using your jeep or truck so we’ve included a check mark in that row as well! Pop-ups usually have too large of a package to effectively take backpacking.

Pop-Up

Rooftop


Family Camping


Car Camping


Backpacking

Feature Comparison | Pop-Up Tent vs Rooftop Tent

Rooftop tents and pop-up tents are very different from their general structure to their intended purpose and capacity. If you have the car for it, a rooftop tent can be a pricey but versatile tent to take you new places that are inaccessible without days of walking otherwise. Pop-ups can be great for newer campers or those who just want an easy tent for the one or two times per year they go out.

Given their differences, you’ll want to pick the one best suited for your next couple of years of camping plans!

Product

Pop-Up

Rooftop

Sturdiness

Capacity

Cost

Portability

Lifespan

Want more?

Check out our infographic and larger article covering the ten most common tent types or use our tent finding tool to quickly find the tents that suit your needs!

About the Author

Photo of author

Robbie

Robbie is a Co-Founder and editor at Midwest Camping. Robbie has backpacked over two hundred miles of the Appalachian trail, visited seventeen national parks, and camped regularly for the last two decades.

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