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7 Reasons Why You Need a Clamshell Roof Top Tent

What’s the best roof top tent? It depends on your needs. But the clamshell design is a strong contender for the best type of tent.

What is a clamshell roof top tent? As the name suggests, these tents flip open. A hard shell example is the Eezi Awn Stealth. You might see terms like “wedge” and “eye” describing hard shell models – they mean the same. Soft shell tents also have clamshell designs, like the Yakima SkyRise.

Clamshells are the most convenient tents on the market. Let’s find out why, and what else they have to offer. 

Clamshell Roof Top Tent Benefits

  1. Set Up in Seconds

Perhaps the best advantage of a clamshell vehicle roof tent is the quick and easy setup. 

  1. Hard Shell Setup

Gas-assisted struts are the most common mechanism for opening these tents. You unlatch the lid and gently push upwards. The struts lift the roof until the tent reaches its fully-open position. Attach the ladder - and that’s it, your tent is ready. To close it, remove the ladder, push the lid down and fasten the latches.

Some hard shells have scissor arms instead. In this case, a hand crank mechanism opens the tent. It’s wise to keep spare cranks with you – lose them and you can’t open or close the tent.

  1. Soft Shell Setup

Soft shells like the Yakima SkyRise use the telescopic ladder to open the tent. The ladder is attached to the base - when the tent is closed, pull the ladder towards you and the tent unfolds. Next, adjust the ladder’s height until the tent is level. (It’s always a good idea to stake down the ladder in case of wind).

When you pack up, do the same in reverse – use the ladder to fold the tent and fully retract it when you’re finished.

The clamshell design is common with soft shells, compared to the pull-up style. With the pull-up style, you push the tent up from the back side until it’s in place. Then, you need to reach the tent’s roof to pull down the front side.

With any soft shell, you need to set up the rainfly. If speed is your priority, try a clamshell roof top tent with a hard shell (unless you want a rooftop tent with annex).

A quick setup lets you enjoy the wild - without stress. After an intense day of hiking, do you look forward to setting up camp? Or are you eager to relax by the fire? With a clamshell, it’s straight to the latter – no hassle. No need to get back before nightfall to avoid fumbling in the dark to pitch your tent.

  1. Aerodynamic

Hard clamshells have a low profile when closed. They’re sleek and aerodynamic for better fuel efficiency and they won’t slow you down on the road. Their even weight distribution provides more stability on uneven, off-road routes.

Soft shells are less aerodynamic than hard shells. They create more drag because they don’t have the same sleek, streamlined profile as a hard shell case.

Many hard shells have room to store the ladder inside the tent - soft shells often have the ladder attached to the base, increasing their height.

If you go for a soft shell, you lose the aerodynamic qualities. With that said, they have their advantages:

  • Weight is a factor in fuel-efficiency. If fuel-efficiency is high on your buying criteria, there are plenty of lightweight soft shells. Their weight may compensate for their less aerodynamic profile.    
  • They take up less space on the roof because of the folding mechanism, giving you more storage space – perfect as truck rooftop tents if mounted on the cab. (Otherwise, fit a larger hard shell over the truck bed).

Eezi Awn’s Stealth and Blade models are among the most aerodynamic hard shells. When closed, the Blade is 6.5 inches high at the front and 13 inches at the back. It’s lighter than the Stealth, making it the optimum choice of aerodynamic tent. 

  1. Weatherproof

Like any hard shell vehicle roof tent, the clamshell design protects you against the elements. Waterproof shells keep out rain and snow, while their strong construction (often aluminum) is sturdy in high winds. Many of these tents have insulation in the roof and floor.

Their shape diverts wind – just park with the slope facing the wind. Like buildings with steep roofs in snowy regions, the slope allows snow to slide off so the structure doesn’t have to bear its weight.

  1. Structural Integrity

The clamshell design may be the best for structural integrity. Along with the triangular shape, taught struts (or scissor arms) on each side provide extra stability. 

  1. More Vertical Space

Because of their structure, clamshells have more vertical space. Some models are 45 inches tall when fully open - ideal for tall campers who want to sit up comfortably. 

  1. Lightweight

Some clamshells are lighter than other roof top tents. This is not always the case but some hard clamshells weigh as little as 110 pounds. Lightweight tents not only save gas - they’re compatible with a wider range of vehicles.

There’s a limit to the weight each vehicle can support when static and in-motion. Some cars that can’t support heavier tents may support some clamshell models. And, there’s less chance of needing to upgrade your roof rack to support something heavier.

  1. Eye-Catching Design

Sleek and stealthy, futuristic yet rugged - the clamshell rooftop camper tent is the most eye-catching style on the market. Maybe you don’t care how your tent looks. If you do, hard clamshells are the most Instagram-worthy designs.


Convenient, aerodynamic, weatherproof. A clamshell roof top tent is the best option for many camping scenarios. The advantages of hard shells outweigh those of soft shells - but whichever style you prefer, a clamshell is the way to go.

Check out Eezi Awn’s Blade for a low-profile, lightweight, aerodynamic model, equipped with an 8 cm thick mattress and insulated roof and floor. Comfort, warmth, quick deployment - Blade has it all.