Best Roof Tents For Subarus

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Article Categories: Gear
Article Tags: Camping | Hiking Gear | Travel Gear

Picture this: You’re out camping at your favorite spot. You’ve had a great night’s sleep, and you’re ready to start the day. You yawn, stretch, and then go down the ladder to hit the ground and get ready to hike.

The ladder? Yes!

When you sleep in a rooftop tent, you’re camping on an elevated platform– the top of your car. Rooftop tents are becoming more popular due to their comfort, ease of use, and ability to provide a safe place to sleep. People love them for road trips and offroading, as well as extended camping trips. They’re great for winter camping too, since you aren’t directly on the ground.

 

Why Subaru Tents?

Subaru makes a variety of automotive models, and outdoors enthusiasts have long enjoyed them for several reasons. One of these is their rugged rough-road capabilities. Their sturdy drive train, standard all-wheel drive, and reliable engines are also very attractive for people who enjoy the backcountry– and their hauling capabilities and cargo space are the proverbial icing on the cake. Basically, Subarus tend to be more fuel efficient, and much cheaper than other highly capable SUVs while still maintaining impressive capabilities.

It’s no wonder that Subarus are frequently seen sporting National Park System and gear company logo stickers! These cars and SUVs perform well in all kinds of weather and road conditions and are perfect for an adventurer.

However, not all Subarus are suitable for use with a rooftop tent. We will be talking about four of their most popular models today. These are all SUVs or wagons that are popular with outdoors enthusiasts for their durability and cargo-hauling ability.

  • Subaru Ascent
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Subaru Forester
  • Subaru Outback

All of the tents we are highlighting here are compatible with each of these four Subaru models! Here’s a quick overview before we get into our detailed list.

 

Subaru Rooftop Carrying Capacity Chart

This is probably the most essential stat for your Subaru if you are considering a rooftop tent. Do note, that you also need to consider the weight of your racks, and not only the tent.

Car Model Moving Weight Capacity (Dynamic Load Limit) Stationary Weight Capacity (Static Limit)
Subaru Crosstrek (2005 – 2021) 150 – 176 lbs 700 pounds
Subaru Forester (2010-2021) 176 lbs (80 kg) 700 pounds
Subaru Forester (2000-2009) 150 lbs (68 kg) NA
Subaru Outback (2005 – 2009) 100 – 150 lbs NA
Subaru Outback (2010 – 2014) 150 – 165 lbs NA
Subaru Outback (2015 – 2019) 165 – 176 lbs NA
Subaru Outback (2020 – Present) 176 lbs (80 kg) 700 pounds
Subaru Ascent (2005 – 2018) 150 lbs (68 kg) 700 pounds
Subaru Ascent (2019 – Present) 176 lbs (80 kg) 700 pounds

 

Subaru and Thule

Before we dive into tents, we need to talk about the special relationship between Subaru and Thule. Thule’s rooftop tents are not recommended for use with most factory-installed crossbars of other car brands. However, Subaru actually does install Thule rails on their vehicles!

Many other tents will fit on Thule crossbars, and you can rest assured that a Thule tent will work with your Subaru.

 

The Very Best Subaru Rooftop Tents

Our list of the best Subaru rooftop tents is in alphabetical order, and we chose these tents based on their features, quality, and of course, how well they fit on top of various Subaru models!

Tent Model Sleeps Shell Price Subaru Models
Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 2 Soft $1,099 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
Free Spirit Recreation High Country Series – 63” Premium 3-4 Soft $3,195 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
Guana Equipment Wanaka 55” w. XL Annex 5 Soft $2,249 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
Ikamper Skycamp 2.0 3 Hard $3,699 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
OVS TMBK 3 2 Soft $999 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
Roofnest Sparrow Adventure XL 2 Hard $3,295 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2 2 Soft $1,299.95 Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback

 

Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2

The Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2 is a compact rooftop tent that’s perfect for the solo car camper or a couple. This compact model features a comfy mattress and built-in skylights so that you can see the stars.

  • Key Features: panoramic skylights for stargazing, 2.5 inch high density foam mattress, quick release rain fly
  • Sleeps: This tent fits 2 people
  • Weight: 100 pounds
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Soft shell
  • Pros: Durable, lightweight, comfortable, lots of available accessories like mosquito netting
  • Cons: This tent is a little smaller than some of the other models we recommend and is a tight squeeze for two people.
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback– you could even use this tent with a sedan
  • Price: $1,099 (more expensive on 3rd party websites

 

 

Free Spirit Recreation High Country Series – 63” Premium

Free Spirit Recreation’s High Country Series includes rooftop tents at several sizes, but we chose the 63” Premium to feature here because of its size, quality, and features. This tent goes up to an 80” version if you want to fit more than 4 people in the tent.

  • Key Features: Waterproof, UV resistant to SPF 50, 1.5 inch dense foam mattress, annex accessory available
  • Sleeps: This tent fits 3 or 4 people
  • Weight: 162 pounds
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Soft Shell
  • Pros: It’s a small feature, but we really love the integrated night light. It makes navigating the tent at night so much safer.
  • Cons: The mattress is a little thinner than other tent models offer
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback– most of the tents in this line will fit the main popular Subaru models, but the 80” versions are too big for the Crosstrek
  • Price: $3,195

 

 

Guana Equipment Wanaka 55” With XL Annex

If you want to take everyone camping, the Wanaka 55” is the rooftop tent with its giant annex is the tent for you. Three people can sleep in the main body of the tent, while two more people can sleep in the annex. The Wanaka was designed to be more than just a tent– the attention to detail in this camping setup really shows (thought the photography and videography highlighting the product is lacking).

  • Key Features: 3 inch dense foam mattress, integrated LED light strip, silver coating inside the rainfly for better shade, 270 degree skylight
  • Sleeps: Up to 5 people with the annex
  • Weight: 155 lbs or 70 kg
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Soft shell
  • Pros: Huge annex, built-in anti-condensation mat to protect the mattress, integrated lighting and boot bags
  • Cons: Extra insulation is an add-on with an attached fee; other tents featured here include it with the base price
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
  • Price: $2,249

 

 

Ikamper Skycamp 2.0

Ikamper’s follow up to their popular Skycamp 2.0 is lighter and larger than its predecessor. We especially like the honeycomb aluminum panel floor, which is light, strong, and provides great insulation. This tent has been tested thoroughly in all kinds of weather conditions and is truly a four-season tent

  • Key Features: Canopy-covered windows, 1.8 inch thick high density memory foam mattress, layered shell with 1 inch of air insulation
  • Sleeps: This tent has room for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids
  • Weight: 160 lbs (72 kg)
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Expanding hard shell
  • Pros: Large, comfortable, 60 second setup
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
  • Price: $3,699

 

OVS TMBK 3

If you’re looking for a basic, affordable rooftop tent for you and your closest camping friend, look no further than the Overland Vehicle Systems TMBK 3. This compact tent will fit perfectly atop your Subaru and you’ll be ready to hit the road in minutes.

  • Key Features: 4 season, 2.4 inch dense foam mattress, easy mounting system
  • Sleeps: This tent fits 2 adults and a small child or medium dog
  • Weight: 108 Pounds
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Soft shell
  • Pros: Affordable, lightweight, comes with all the tools needed for installation, optional easy-to-use shower system
  • Cons: No-frills- this is a very basic tent
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
  • Price: $999

 

 

Roofnest Sparrow Adventure XL

Rooftop tents are great, but they do have one major problem: they take up your whole roof rack, which means that you won’t be able to put your skis, bike, kayak, or other gear up there. Unless you have a Roofnest Sparrow Adventure XL! Roofnest makes a bunch of great rooftop tents, but only the Sparrow Adventure and Sparrow Adventure XL have this awesome design choice.

Putting a gear rack on top of your tent means that you can travel with all of your stuff and not have to worry about where to put it! While some gear can go in the Subaru, you probably can’t fit a kayak or the whole family’s mountain bikes. We think this is a great solution to the gear rack problem and hope that more rooftop tents in different sizes adopt this feature.

  • Key Features: 3 inch foam mattress, integrated waterproof storage, hard-shell pop up assembly, anti-condensation mat, included privacy tent
  • Sleeps: This tent fits 2 adults
  • Weight: 150 Pounds
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Hard shell
  • Pros: You don’t have to sacrifice your gear rack, and crossbars are included in case your vehicle doesn’t already have them.
  • Cons: We wish it was a little bigger.
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback
  • Price: $3,295

 

 

Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2

The Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2 is another Thule tent, but this one has actually been featured on Subaru’s website. It also comes in a larger version, the Low-Pro 3, that can fit an additional person. This tent sets up easily and folds down to 7 inches high, which doesn’t have a huge impact on fuel economy.

  • Key Features: Ultra low profile, durable and eco-friendly tent base, lightweight
  • Sleeps: This tent fits 2 people
  • Weight: 98 pounds
  • Soft Shell or Hard Shell? Soft shell
  • Pros: Ultra-low, streamlined design is easy to drive with, lightweight dome canopy provides 4 season protection, compatible with lots of accessories
  • Cons: Requires Thule rails or an adapter
  • Compatible Subaru Models: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Outback– when it was featured on Subaru’s website, the model in question was an Ascent
  • Price: $1,299.95 (more expensive on 3rd party websites)

 

 

While these tents are our top choices, there are a lot of great rooftop tents for Subarus out there. You will find that a lot of dedicated rooftop campers and overlanders are Subaru enthusiasts.

Subaru itself even has camping guides and recommendations for people who drive their cars. If you’ve never tried rooftop camping, and you drive a Subaru or other SUV, wagon, or crossover, you might want to consider one of these tents and give it a try!

 

What Is A Rooftop Tent?

A rooftop tent is a specialized tent that attaches to the cargo rails on the top of your car. It is a unique tent type that elevates your campsite. These tents use sturdy hardware to attach to your car and then fold out or pop out to create a stable surface for sleeping. They have a ladder that leads up and attaches to the vestibule of the tent, and many of them have built in mattresses and insulated baseboards to keep you warm and comfortable.

When you camp in the winter, you want to put some insulation between you and the ground. The ground is much colder than you are and will act as a heat sink. You can avoid losing heat with insulation, like dense foam or inflatable sleeping pads and highly rated sleeping bags (read our article on staying warm while camping for more info). Rooftop tents still need insulation, but it comes built into the bottom of the tent and the built-in mattress. Because of this, these tents are great four-season tents.

If you want to use a rooftop tent, you will need to make sure that your SUV or other vehicle is ready to go camping. Before you go purchase any rooftop tent, you need to know the capacity for your vehicle. How much weight can it carry while moving, and how much wehn just staying put?

While rooftop tents are great for a number of vehicles, including Jeeps and many models of SUV, today we will be focusing on the best rooftop tents for Subarus. We will talk more about why we’re addressing these further down, but for now, read on to find out everything you need to know about rooftop tents!

 

Pros of Rooftop Tents

  • Many rooftop tents come with a built in foam mattress, which is typically very comfortable.
  • Rooftop tents are portable – Rooftop tents take a little bit of time to initially install, but then afterwards they pop up very quickly once you get to the campsite. Hardshell rooftop tents can take less than a minute to fully set up. Because they’re attached to your luggage rails, they free up room in the cargo area of your car to haul more gear or people.
  • Very easy to set up – You don’t have to pound tent stakes, dig trenches, put out guy lines, or get tangled up in poles. There’s nothing to trip on after dark, and most modern rooftop tents can be opened up in a matter of minutes, and once they’re open, the mattress– and even your bedding, if you pack it in advance– is already set up inside.
  • Rooftop tents make your vehicle more versatile. Instead of an expensive camper van, it can turn your SUV into a super convenient adventure vehicle.
  • Great for areas where the ground is wet or where you’re worried about insects and other pests— being off the ground puts you above awkward terrain conditions.
  • Very comfortable in the cold – In most scenarios, you wouldn’t take a memory foam mattress camping– but with a rooftop tent, you can. Rooftop tents are great for winter, when you want as much insulation from the ground as possible.
  • Rooftop tents are elevated, which means that you very often have great views. Some of them take advantage of this height to have huge skylights that will let you stargaze from the comfort of your mattress.
  • Your tent is less likely to get damaged – When you set up your tent on the ground, it is much more likely to suffer from rips and tears compared to a rooftop tent.
  • Safe in the rain, snow, and other harsh weather conditions – Because they get you off the ground, you are elevated away from a lot of uncomfortable conditions.
  • The tent is mounted to a very heavy object, and it’s mounted very securely. These tents perform really well in high wind conditions, provided your car is parked safely.

 

Cons of Rooftop Tents

  • Initial cost – Rooftop tents can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, which is a big investment for a tent. These tents also need a roof rack or roof rails to work. If your car doesn’t have these installed, it can cost over three thousand dollars.

However, these tents are highly durable and last a long time. You can get years of enjoyment out of your initial investment.

  • Rooftop tents will not work with all cars. Even if your sedan has luggage rails, most rooftop tents are too heavy and have too big a footprint for these smaller vehicles. There are a couple of models that can fit on top of a sedan, but most rooftop tents are optimized for SUVs.
  • Rooftop tents mount to the roof of your car, which means that you can’t put anything else on your roof. If you usually take a kayak, mountain bike, skis, or other equipment with you, you can’t do that with most rooftop tents. A few models have additional rails on top of the tent for this gear. However, you may need a trailer or rear-mounted carrying option to pack your large gear with a rooftop tent.
  • Wear and tear on your car – If you use your vehicle for off-roading, road trips, or all-terrain driving, then this probably won’t bother you. After all, your vehicle is an extension of your adventures in this case. But if you’re leasing the vehicle or want to maintain a high trade-in value, you might be less comfortable settling that much weight on your car’s roof.
  • Gas mileage will be affected by a rooftop tent. The heavier, and less aerodynamic it is, the more it will effect your gas mileage.

 

What To Look For In A Rooftop Tent

  1. Compatibility with your car – If you don’t have rails on top of your car, you won’t be able to use a rooftop tent. Many SUVs, including the vehicles we are talking about today, come with these racks as a factory option. You can also get aftermarket racks if your vehicle doesn’t have them and you want to get into rooftop camping.
  2. Weight of the tent – While you won’t be lugging the tent with you as you hike, you will have to get it on top of your vehicle the first time you set it up at home. The weight can also affect your car’s performance, as well as the aerodynamics of driving.When looking at these tents, there are two types of weight limits for your vehicle that need to be considered:
    1. “Dynamic weight” or “moving weight” of your crossbars and rails. This is usually 150-300+ pounds, and it represents the weight that can safely be carried on top of your vehicle while it is in motion. The weight of the empty tent needs to be less than this limit.
    2. The amount of weight the car rails can support while your car is stopped. This number is much higher than the moving weight, usually 500-750+ pounds.
  3. Size of the tent and how many people it can sleep – Some tents can fit quite a few people. Other tents say they can fit three, but that really means “two comfortably and three uncomfortably.” If you don’t mind cozying up to your camping buddies, this might not be a problem— but if you want personal space, take this to mind.
  4. The tent’s performance in inclement weather conditions – All of the tents we are recommending today are highly rated for all weather situations. Many of these tents come with features like protected canopy windows, multiple shell layers, and more options that will protect you through wind, rain, sleet, and even snow.

However, rooftop tents will not protect you from lightning strikes. While your rooftop tent is extremely unlikely to flood, camping on top of your car makes you one of the tallest things in the area, and that can increase the risk of lightning striking your tent. If you’re camping in a thunderstorm or there’s lightning in the area, get out of your tent and get in the car. Your car is grounded, which means that it’s a safe shelter from lightning.

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about

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