Budget Hard Shell RTT from Alibaba


New member
I searched for old threads on this topic but couldn't find much info from anyone who has actually bought a hard shell RTT from China/Alibaba so I wanted to share my experience incase anyone is considering this cheaper alternative.

Its obvious why I went this route, I cheaped out. When I do mods on my vehicles or even bicycle for that matter, I never cheap out because you get what you pay and I hate buying things twice. For some reason I convinced myself against my normal train of thought and since majority of affordable tents are made in China, I decided why not just buy direct and take a risk. After all is was only about $1,932.77 to my door for an 80"x54" hard shell RTT that would have been more than a $1,000 at the time from the competition (Roofnest is on sell for $2,295+shipping at the moment, back then I would have jumped on this deal in a second).

I originally received my tent in April of 2018 for which it sat in my warehouse "airing" out for a couple of months while I figured out how I was going to secure it to my rhino rack pioneer platform. After almost 9 months the smell has reduced a lot, it's not causing a headache, but I feel its worth noting as I like to avoid coming in contact with chemicals, especially unknown ones from China.

The difficulty with mounting this to my Rhino Rack was that I was using the backbone system and it limits access to the underside of the rack from just the front or back and that would be very unpleasant to install. I decided to just make 3 aluminum cross bars from 1.25" square tube with a .25" thick wall that would clamp to my existing rack. This would give the RTT base a grid style platform when mounted to the channel rails on the RTT. I created the design on Solidworks so I would have blue prints incase I needed to make changes. After machining the needed components I got my cross bars installed on my tent and was then able to install it.
RTT SYSTEM.JPGRTT SYSTEM1.JPG20181231_141012.jpg20181231_155540.jpg

The install was fairly easy at this point. I picked the RTT up using a fork lift and was able to slide it onto the Pioneer Platform and install it without any help. The clamp system felt solid and I decided to go for a test drive. Aside from the 2-3 mph drop, extra wind noise and sail on my roof, everything seemed to hold up well. I got up to 70mph momentarily to see if it was going to fly off and surprisingly the tent held on and I was able to drive it home for an initial test. My only concern right now is too much air could build up and break the fiberglass shell from the channel rails since I don't know how good the quality is. I plan on addressing this with some type of custom deflector.


The maiden voyage will be sometime in the next month or two when I get a few other projects completed. The plan is do the ~120 mile long Mojave Road at which point I will report back on how it this RTT holds up.

After Install

After making it home and parking in dirt for the full overland experience :p
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Active member

What are your thoughts on the tent, other than the smell? Do you need to waterproof the fabric and/or tape seams? I know it’s not. Even used yet, but if it impresses up front, that’s something.

It looks like an old magiolina. The 101 that went to Africa with us had a solid shell tent just like yours, but blue canvas.


New member
Thanks Bernard.

J!m, I like the tent over all, but my only other experience is with ground tents so that's not saying much. The size is rather large for the type of off road adventures I enjoy, but its very comfortable with 2 people inside which was one of the main goals with an RTT. The fiberglass is all nicely lined inside, it has some hooks and a storage net. I'll have to get some interior pictures when I actually use it. The only thing that is a bit janky on the outside is the rubber molding that goes around the top shell, its not very evenly installed. I'll probably need to work on that with some masking tape and rubber cement. I am not sure what type of treatment the canvas has, but I think the manufacturer did say it was treated. I'll see how it holds up and then apply seem sealer or water repellant as needed.


New member
Thanks for the write-up. As a fellow cheapskate, can you go over how the process went with ordering just one thing from alibaba?
It was not a problem, I found the size of the tent I wanted and emailed the vendor. The tent was about $950.00 IIRC. Shipping was about $750.00, I was expecting it to be cheaper because I had previously bought a Chinese Laser Cutting machine that was way larger for about $650.00 (used the same company). If you are seriously considering ordering from Alibaba, I can dig up the old emails and post more information up.


There are some familiar-looking designs on Alibaba, seemingly good deals even after shipping. Buyer beware, of course, but as much as you're willing to share I'd appreciate. Do the sellers typically handle shipping/customs/ports etc.?


New member
I'm more than happy to share all the information I have on this. I was actually incorrect about pricing. If you get a quote on customs before it should be way less, I think I got hosed because I had ordered it first and didn't get a quote (figured it would be cheaper than the 48"x48" laser engraver I bought).
Tent: 950
Shipping: 159
Customs: 823.77
Total: $1,932.77 :eek:

I used a company called Delmar International. I would contact them first and tell them what you are purchasing and get a quote. I would also make sure they are comfortable dealing with whoever you are dealing with in China and that the seller is comfortable getting everything arranged with your customs broker, this will make everything relaxed on your end.

Dear Nick,
Good day to you!
This is Helen, thanks for your interest in our roof top tent.
I would like to give you our price and details as below:

1.Hard shell roof top tent:
CARTT01-1 (210*125*90 cm): US$ 850/pc for one piece
CARTT01-3 (215*145*95 cm): US$ 950/pc for one piece

Which size would you prefer?
2. Shipping Cost:
The shipping cost for one piece is US$159 by sea to your LA port, takes about 18days.

We can also ship to these ports LONG BEACH/OAKLAND/SAN FRANCISCO/SAN DIEGO, could you please tell me which port is much convenient for you?

3. Color choice:
Fabric color: green, grey, khaki

Shell color: white and black
Which color is your favourite?

This is my whatsapp and mobile phone number: +86 15188366069
skype: whli100
If you have any query or any help from us, please feel free to contact me.

Looking forward to your early reply.

Thanks and best regards
Helen Wang
Sales Manager
Beijing Unistrengh International Trade Co., Ltd.
Mob/whatsapp: +8615188366069
skype: whli100


Thank you for this! So you call Delmar and say hey, I'm some guy trying to ship a box coming from this guy in China to this port in California, get it through customs, and trucked to my doorstep? And they handle all that and charge you the $800? That seems ... reasonable?


New member
Yes, basically. I am only an hour from the port so I think that also kept some of the transport cost down and I have a forklift. I previously bought a massive laser machine (3x the size of the tent) and shipping was only $650 so you may be able to find someone cheaper. Delmar was just who my friend had referred me to for the laser, so I used the same guys again for the tent. I believe I ordered in February and received the tent by April, so it is not the fastest route.


New member
Holy crap that customs fee!

Does it come with an insulated liner?
Yup, it wasn't cheap. That's why I posted so people could make a bit more informed decision than I did and decide if saving a couple hundred is worth it or not buying something they can't see in person.

All the fiberglass is lined with some fabric material and its a bit padded, whether or not its insulated I am not sure.


Expedition Leader
Yeah if not for that customs fee I'd be a lot more interested but that coupled with no service kills it for me. I've had good luck with the two orders I've placed on alibaba though (or maybe it was dhgate, it's been a while).

There are various awnings, including batwing awnings, on there as well but I would rather buy something that's got some reviews behind it or an ARB awning that I can get a room attachment for.


New member
The seller did follow up, but it was not that helpful when I explained the smell, obviously not much they can do. Here are some pictures of the inside, I added my own condensation mat after buying the tent.