Hard shell or folding tent? The comparison

Hartschale oder Klappzelt? Der Vergleich

Would you like to buy a roof tent? But you're not sure whether a hard-shell roof tent or a folding tent is better for you? In this article, we'll look at the advantages and disadvantages of hard-shell and folding tents to make your decision easier.

Choosing between a folding and a hard-shell roof tent is an individual decision and depends on the personal usage requirements of your vehicle, your preferences and budget, among other things. Therefore, it is important to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of both options in order to make the best decision for your needs.

Before you make a decision, it is also essential to know the maximum permissible roof load of your vehicle. This can usually be found in the car manual or can be requested directly from the manufacturer.

Hard shell roof tents: the robust and reliable solution

A hard shell roof tent is a robust and reliable solution for your car adventure and offers a number of advantages. Hard shell roof tent
  1. Solid shell construction: The solid hard shell makes the roof tent robust and reliable. It is also flatter and more aerodynamic on the roof, which improves handling and reduces fuel consumption. The hard shell also protects you from all weather conditions and makes you feel particularly safe.
  2. Quick assembly and disassembly: Setting up the hard shell roof tent is particularly time-saving. The horntools hard shell roof tent can be set up in under three minutes (click here for the assembly video). You save additional time by stowing your bedding in the roof tent while it is still folded up.

    So that you can see exactly how this works, we have step-by-step instructions for you here:
  3. Convenient size: A hard-shell roof tent takes up less space when set up. The roof tent usually doesn't extend beyond the side mirrors of your vehicle, so you can easily spend the night almost anywhere.


The special shell construction also results in certain disadvantages:
  1. Higher price: Hardshell tents are usually more expensive than folding tents, mainly due to the materials.
  2. Higher weight: Hard-shell roof tents are generally heavier than folding tents for the same number of people. When choosing the right roof tent, make sure you consider the maximum permissible roof load of your vehicle and also take the weight of the roof rack into account.
  3. Limited space: A hard-shell roof tent can accommodate a maximum of two adults .
  4. Temperature inside the tent is higher: Due to the airtight material of the hard shell, the roof tent heats up more and the temperature inside can be a little higher than with a folding tent, especially in summer. However, the hard shell also offers the advantage that the tent is better insulated in cold weather conditions and ensures a warmer sleeping climate. It is therefore important to consider the climatic conditions in which you want to camp when choosing a tent.
  5. Vehicle must be large enough: The size of the roof tent is larger than a folding tent when closed. The vehicle should therefore be large enough for it.


The hard shell tent is the right choice for you if …

✅ you often change your night camp and therefore quick assembly and disassembly is important to you
✅ you are travelling alone or with a partner
✅ your car has a slightly higher permissible roof load
✅ you want to withstand any weather in a particularly durable tent


The hard shell tent is not the right choice for you if …

✅ you are travelling with your family (with more than one child)
✅ you drive a smaller vehicle with a permissible roof load of less than 70 kg


Folding tent: the lighter alternative?

As the name suggests, folding tents are folded up on the roof of the vehicle. The folding tent is mounted on an aluminum plate, is set up by unfolding the plate and is protected by a rubber cover when closed. When closed, it is around 10 cm higher than the hard-shell roof tent. It has the following advantages. Folding tent
  1. Cheaper to buy: Folding tents are usually the cheaper alternative and therefore ideal as an entry-level model.
  2. Low weight: Depending on the model, folding tents start with a lower initial weight than a hard-shell roof tent and are therefore ideal for vehicles with a lower roof load. The horntools Desert roof tent, for example, starts at 45.5 kg (at 120 cm wide) and weighs 78 kg in the largest version (at 220 cm wide).
  3. Very spacious and available in different versions: Depending on the version, the folding tent offers space for up to 4 people (2 adults and 2 children) and is therefore particularly suitable if you want to travel with the family.
  4. Overlapping area as a shady spot: The overlapping area of ​​folding tents can serve as a natural shady spot. This means you usually don't need an additional awning and can use the protection of your folding tent even on sunny days.

However, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  1. Longer assembly and disassembly time: Compared to hard-shell roof tents (around 3 minutes), folding tents require significantly more time to assemble and disassemble (around 10 minutes). Click here to watch the assembly video.
  2. Wind and weather are more noticeable: Due to their lighter construction, folding tents are more sensitive to strong winds and temperatures. If you like to sleep in a roof tent in colder temperatures, you can use a thermal inner tent to help with insulation.
  3. Needs more space: The folding tent needs significantly more space when unfolded.


The folding tent is the right choice for you if …

✅ you are travelling with your family or several people and need a spacious place to sleep
✅ you are mainly travelling in warmer regions
✅ your vehicle has a lower permissible roof load


The folding tent is not the right choice for you if …

✅ you mainly stay in colder regions
✅ the assembly and disassembly of the roof tent should take as little time as possible

At horntools you will find folding tents in various versions: The Desert roof tent and the latest Elements model in the Ocean and Stone versions are designed to offer you the highest level of comfort and convenience.


The options in comparison: The advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Hard shell roof tent

Advantages Disadvantages
✅ robust and reliable construction X higher purchase price
✅ quick assembly and disassembly (approx. 3 min) X higher weight
✅ less space required when setting up (advantages when camping in some countries) X limited space (max. 2 adults)
✅ offers protection from all weather conditions X possibly increased tent temperature in summer
✅ more aerodynamic on the car X requires sufficient roof load


Folding tent

Advantages Disadvantages
✅ cheaper to buy (depending on size) X longer assembly and dismantling time (approx. 10 min)
✅ lower weight X wind and weather more noticeable
✅ very spacious and available in different versions X larger space requirement when camping
✅ Overlapping area as a shady spot or protected space


Would you like a direct comparison between our hard shell roof tent and the folding tents? In our explanatory video you will quickly get a feel for which tent is perfect for your adventures.


Ultimately, you decide, based on your preferences, ideas and personal circumstances, which roof tent will best support you on your adventures. It is important to make an informed decision that best meets your requirements.

If you still have any questions about roof tents, take a look at our roof tent guide with the most important roof tent FAQs. Of course, you can also contact our customer service at any time.

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