Roof-top tents are a great asset for campers looking for an easy and comfortable alternative to a traditional tent.
The main benefit of a roof-top tent is that it gets you up off the uncomfortable ground, which can keep you away from water, animals, and is guaranteed to be a flat surface to sleep on.
Here’s A Quick Rundown on How Rooftop Tents & Mounting Work:
Roof-top tents are mounted to your vehicle’s roof or bed using mounting brackets attached to your roof rack. The tent is collapsed for travel, and when you reach your destination, you can pop it open. Using a ladder, you can enter your rooftop tent from the ground.
Do You Need a Roof Rack for a Roof-Top Tent?
If you are looking at roof-top tents, you will need to get a roof rack for your vehicle.
If you do not have a roof rack, there is nothing that you can secure your tent too.
A roof rack is a must when purchasing a rooftop tent.
The most important thing when it comes to roof-top tents is safety, and without a roof rack, you will not be able to safely assemble your roof-top tent on the top of your vehicle.
What Kind of Roof Rack do I Need for a Roof-Top Tent?
There are different types of roof racks that you can choose from, but there are a few considerations that you will need to make:
The most important thing you need to look at when looking for a roof rack is how much weight it can hold.
When looking at roof rack capacity, you want to know the difference between static and dynamic weight capacity.
Roof-top tents can be heavy, so your roof rack needs to be able to hold the entire weight of the tent while in motion. This is your rack’s Dynamic Weight Capacity (DCW).
While parked, your roof rack can handle more weight. This is the Static Weight Capacity (SWC). This means that your roof rack can hold more weight while not in motion.
This will help account for the weight of the people and items you intend to keep in your tent while in use.
When looking at the weight of your tent, also consider your vehicle. This information should be found in your car’s manual.
Your Vehicle’s Roof:
Before you invest in a roof rack, you need to consider your vehicle.
To mount a roof rack on top of your vehicle, you need to know what type of roof you have so you know what will fit.
The following are the possible roof types that you might find on your vehicle:
- Gutters: these are on the edge of your roof and are normally found on vans. These require a gutter mount.
- Bare Roof: most vehicles have nothing on top that could support a roof rack. These require a roof rack for your specific vehicle to make sure you get a rack that will be secure.
- Raised Rails: SUVs commonly offer raised rails on their vehicles. This allows you a straight-forward way to connect the necessary cross-bars.
- Flushed Rails: If you don’t have raised rails, you might have flushed rails. These are similar to raised rails, but there isn’t any space between the roof and the rail.
- Roof Tracks: Tracks are the opposite of a rail. This would allow you to slide the roof rack right into the track provided.
If you aren’t sure what type of roof rack is needed, you can always check your vehicle’s operating manual or the company you are getting the roof rack from.
Can you Mount a Roof-Top Tent without Rails?
As previously stated, you can mount a roof-top tent as long as you can secure a roof rack.
If you cannot secure a roof rack, you should not attempt to use a roof-top tent.
There are a few basic options you can look into when picking a roof rack.
Just keep in mind that you want to be sure what type of rack you want before you commit as they can be difficult to switch out and redo, not to mention it can get expensive.
The following are the basic roof type options:
Full Roof Rack: A full roof rack is the best choice if you plan to frequently use your tent. This option allows you to disperse the weight evenly when the vehicle is stopped and a large weight when the vehicle is in motion. This is ideal if you intend to keep your roof-top tent mounted and do not plan to take it down often.
Crossbars: Crossbars can be a good option if you have a light tent or do not intend to keep your tent mounted for most of the year. However, a lot of these racks are clipped to the car. This means they are not as stable as the full roof rack option. Do not let this discourage you; there are still crossbar options that can handle a roof-top tent.
Truck Bed Rack: If you have a pickup truck, you might want to look into a truck bed rack. A rack will allow you to mount your tent above the truck bed, and you can assemble it in the same way you would on the roof.
How do You Fit and Install a Roof-Top Tent?
It is important to properly install your roof-top tent so that it is safe and secure.
Follow these steps to install your roof-top tent:
- Check the installation instructions: these will tell you what you need and how to install the tent. These are your main resource and should have the answers to all your questions.
- Get the proper tools: the instructions should tell you what wrenches and other tools you will need. Make sure you have all the tools before you begin mounting the tent.
- Find a good work station: you will need a good workspace to use before you can mount your tent. Make sure this space is clean, flat, stable, and has enough space to accommodate your tent.
- Ensure all your hardware is included: your tent should come with hardware such as a ladder, brackets, nuts/bolts, a tent cover, and anything else you need to use the tent. Make sure you have each item listed in the instructions.
- Ensure your roof rack works: no matter how you install your tent, it means nothing if your roof rack doesn’t work or is not secure.
- Mount and Secure Mounting Tracks: secure the mounting tracks to your tent.
- Secure the Ladder: attach the ladder to the tent with the included instructions.
- Attach the Cover: attach the cover to the tent with the included instructions.
- Secure to Roof Rack: move the tent, position it, and secure it to the roof rack. This part is difficult and will require more than one person to accomplish.
Just make sure your tent is secure, and you are ready to head out on the road. Once you get to where you are going, the tent set up should only take minutes.
How Long Does it Take to Set up a Roof-Top Tent?
Roof-top tents do not take a long time to set up.
Mounting it on your car should only take you an hour or two if you have the proper tools and assistance.
After the tent is mounted to your roof, a roof-top tent should be set up in minutes when you get to your camping site. This can be even more simple than setting up a traditional tent.
The best part? You can even leave your bedding in while it is on the roof, so you don’t have to keep taking it in and out.
How Durable are Roof-Top Tents?
One big perk to a roof-top tent is that it is durable.
With the proper care and attention, you should be able to get 3-6 camping seasons out of your roof-top tent.
Most roof-top tents are made out of a coated canvas and are likely water-resistant, UV resistant, and even mold resistant.
Not only is the canvas durable, but the support system they are made out of is more durable than that of a traditional tent.
Hard-top options are even more durable. Not only are they more durable, but they are also better at handling the weather while you are camping.
How to Mount a Roof-Top Tent on a Truck Bed:
Mounting a roof-top tent on a truck bed is very similar to mounting it on the roof.
If you buy a rack made for your truck’s bed, the setup steps are the same as mounting the tent on the roof. As long as your rack is secure on the back of your truck, you should be able to mount the tent without issue.
It is even easier to mount the tent on the truck’s bed because you do not have to lift the tent as high.
Popular Rooftop Options:
If you are looking for a roof-top tent and you think it might be for you, here are some great options to look into!
Roofnest offers the following series of roof-top tents.
The Sparrow Series offers a great set of roof-top tent options such as the Sparrow, the Sparrow XL, and the Sparrow EYE. These tents sleep between 2-3 people, are a pop-up style, and are made of fiberglass reinforces ABS.
The Falcon Series offers the Falcon and the Falcon XL. These tents also sleep between 2-3 people and are a clamshell-style.
Thule tents are great for couples and are more affordable than others on this list.
They also come in a variety of colors!
This allows them to offer you a tent to fit whatever your needs might be.
If you are looking for a great tent that will go the distance, you can’t go wrong with iKamper.
Not only are they incredibly durable, but iKamper tents are also great for serious, off-road campers who want to take long trips.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.