The inflatable roof tent of GentleTent, a folding-, a hard-shell roof top tent or a vehicle with a pop-up roof: Which roof top tent is the best? Where are the differences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different roof top tents?  And where are the strengths and weaknesses of the inflatable roof top tent from GentleTent? In the following we provide a quick overview.

What is a roof top tent?

A roof top tent is a tent-system, which is fixed on the roof of a vehicle. By this construction, one can sleep space-saving directly over his/her vehicle. The complexity and duration of the set-up depends strongly on the type of roof tent.

Types of roof top tents: Hard-shell-, folding- & inflatable roof top tent or pop-up roof

Hard-shell roof top tent: What is a hard-shell roof top tent?

The hard shell roof tent was invented in Italy in 1958. The idea of sleeping on the roof was implemented with a robust hard shell, whereby the lying surface is limited by the base area of the roof tent and carrier. A crank is used to screw on the “suitcase-like” shell. One advantage of this pioneer model it the simple construction. However, there are big disadvantages in terms of weight and transport.

Folding roof top tent: What is a folding roof top tent?

The disadvantages of the hard-shell roof tent led to the development of the popular folding roof top tent. In contrast to its weighty predecessor, it is characterized by a smaller pack size and less weight. As the name already describes, it is unfolded during set-up. That is why the packing size is usually half of the lying surface. However, due to the lighter and numerous individual elements the main disadvantage is the time-consuming assembly and disassembly.

Inflatable roof top tent: What is an inflatable roof top tent?

In 2014 GentleTent developed the world’s first inflatable roof top tent. The concept manages to unite minimum weight and size with maximum space generation and comfort through the complete absence of annoying metal elements and the use of an inflatable system. In contrast to the folding roof tent, no poles have to be used, but the set-up also takes a few minutes.

Pop-up roof: What is a pop-up roof?

The pop-up roof is not a roof top tent in the traditional sense. An pop-up roof, which is often referred to as a lifting roof or sleeping roof, is a roof of a vehicle that can be folded upwards when stationary. This allows either to reach a higher standing height for vehicles with a low room height or offers the possibility of having a sleeping area on the vehicle roof.

The best known version of this pop-up roof is the popular VW California. In a broader sense, a pop-up roof is the luxury version of a roof tent. All its advantages are offset by the disadvantage of its extremely high price.

Overview of the pros and cons of the different roof top tent types

 INFLATABLE               ROOF TOP
Weightfrom 20 kg+/- 45 kgmind. 75 kg -
Pack-sizesuper compactrelatively compact, depending on the modelvoluminousintegrated in the vehicle's roof
Set-up10 Minutes with an electrical pump5-10 Minutes to unfold and fix it2 Minutes to crank up1 Minute to unfold it
Persons needed for the mounting1 Person2 Personsmind. 2-3 Personsprofessional assembly
Road performancehardly any effectunstable at higher speedhighly increased centre of gravity due to high weightno effect
Speed limit130 km/h100 km/h100 km/hnone
Min. required permitted roof load+/- 50kgfrom 50 kg, better if about 75 kgbest from 100 kg -
Expandable with an awningyesyespossible for some modelswith additional bus-awning
Biggest advantageweightspacesolid roofeasy handling
Biggest disadvantageset-up timedriving aerodynamicsweightprize

Conclusion and outlook

The GT ROOF has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors and is considered the generation 2.0 of the roof top tent. Whether hard shell roof tent, folding roof tent or inflatable roof tent, in the end it is a question of one's own taste, the desired range of application and the permissible roof load of the vehicle.

With the concept of the inflatable roof tents, GentleTent offers the first option for vehicles with a low roof load and creates a new alternative for vehicles with higher permitted payloads. It is not without reason that GentleTent’s first inflatable roof top tent is the new trend on the market. Decades of experience have led to the development of the optimum compromise for roof tents.

Why -speaking for ourselves- the GT ROOF constitutes the best roof top tent option:

The mounting:
  • possible on every vehicle
  • everything you need to do is to connect the air pump to the cigarette lightener
  • there are two different mounting options: to the side (vertical) or to the rear (horizontal)
Get the maximum out of the minimum:
  • About 2/3 lighter than previous roof top tents.
  • Incredibly compact packing size.
  • Unbeatable interior height and generous lying surface.
Hard to believe, but true:

„4 in 1“: Besides the function as roof top tent on the tent of the car, the GT ROOF can also be used on the loading area of a car, as conventional tent on the ground or on the water!

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