Rooftop tents are mounted on your car’s rack system and are an alternative to a field bed, RV, or camper.
However, you can use a camper shell or truck topper as the “roof” for your rooftop tent.
Rooftop tents will work with most vehicle pop-up shells, whether it is an SUV, crossover, wagon, pickup truck, bus, or a trailer.
Here’s a Rundown on How Shells Handle Rooftop Tents:
Cars, sedans, and hatchbacks have more difficulty supporting a rooftop tent without a roof rack, while SUVs and most truck beds can hold one just fine with an added shell. If the camper shell or truck topper does not come with a roof rack, users will need one to properly attach their tent.
How Much Weight Can a Truck Topper Generally Hold?
The hottest trend at present in the car camping and overland world is the lightweight pop-top camper.
It is now popular to incorporate a camper shell or truck topper with a rooftop tent. A camper shell is an add-on for your truck bed, which usually has roof rack capabilities.
People use a truck topper to build an expansive storage area in the weatherproof truck. This is great for adding extra storage for your camping needs when you are sleeping up top in a rooftop tent.
There are other ways to protect your truck bed or make it safe enough for you to sleep in it.
As mounted on LEER (including models 100XQ, 100XL, 100XR, 100R, 180, or 122), the Thule Aero Bar and Tracker II Roof Rack systems have a combined load capacity of 150 lbs.
When mounted on the LEER Model 100RCC or 180CC, the Thule Professional Roof Rack system has a maximum load capacity of 400 lbs.
How Heavy Are Rooftop Tents?
Rooftop tents can come in various shapes and sizes.
For your convenience, we have compiled a table with the most used campers:
|Thule Tepui Low-Pro 2||400lbs (180 kg)||105lbs (47 kg)|
|Thule Tepui Explorer Series||400lbs (180 kg)||105lbs (47kg)|
|SKYCAMP 2.0||900lbs (408 kg)||120lbs (55 kg)|
|Roofnest Sparrow XL||650lbs (290 kg)||145lbs (65kg)|
Note that the capacity in this chart is pulled from each manufacturers’ site.
As we can see from the chart, rooftop nests come in different shapes and sizes. Selecting the right tent won’t be an easy task, though.
For instance, you have to consider:
- How you will be using the tent
- The number of people staying in the rooftop nest
- In what type of environment you will be camping
Rooftop tents have many advantages and many choices to accommodate your needs.
What Are the Most Durable Truck Shells?
There are two types of shells, hard shells and softshells, and each comes with pros and cons:
A hard shell one, unlike a soft-shell shelter, is a little heavier and sturdier.
The durable exterior gives better protection against the elements, such as heavy winds (and even thunderstorms), and when the tent is being shipped. They also come with glass windows on most occasions.
They may seem a little difficult to tackle for those inexperienced with hard-shell rooftop tents, but they really are not. Usually, they have a process that makes them straightforward to manage and use.
Heavy-duty camper shells are much more insulated than standard, which offers a more convenient sleeping space.
The hardshell truck shells have a hard, durable top and bottom and are more likely to keep out the wind.
Softshell truck toppers and camper shells are made from fabric, usually covering the entire thing without windows or flaps.
There are softshell truck toppers with windows and flaps, but they usually don’t have glass like a hard shell, although there are some that have a thin, tinted, or reinforced glass.
Soft Shell is usually more affordable as compared to hard shells.
Rooftop Tents for your Truck Bed or Shell:
1. Skycamp Mini
The Skycamp Mini is a two-person rooftop camp. It sets up within a minute and comes with a lightweight design.
The Skycamp Mini is waterproof, and the poly-cotton fabric used makes the canvas tent breathable.
2. Thule x Tepui Ruggedized Kukenam 3
Thule Shells come with a high-density mattress with foams, which adds warmth and a home feel.
Telescoping steps strengthen assistance and encourage entry, and mesh panels boost ventilation in warm weather to keep you cold.
It features external pockets, and its insulated fiberglass base decreases weight and gives comfort.
3. Roofnest Falcon XL
This is a hard shell roof top tent which is comfortable for 2~3 people.
It weighs 160 lbs, and the construction is based on Aluminum.
It is fast to set up and is durable during harsh weather. Because of these features, this can really be a good hardshell choice for you.
Can You Have a Pickup Shell Reinforced?
Reinforcing a pickup shell is totally possible, and making adjustments to your shell according to your requirements can make an immense quality shift of the Shell.
There are several ways in which you can reinforce your Shell. For instance, one person designed a rack that clamps on the bed rails and the shell suits underneath it.
This made the shell more comfortable, but the seal lost its tightness.
It’s essentially a universal reinforcement to take the pressure off the shell and place it on the bed rails, but if you’re going to use the top of the shell as a roof rack, sometimes it is advised to build a cage.
Reinforcements are not often the best idea, though, so any changes you make to your shell should be well planned.
So far, potential ideas that can be useful for reinforcing are stated below:
- The fiberglass interior bed liner will be a great reinforcement to the shell, as the bed liner is supposed to provide loads of strength to a product.
- You can buy a contractor-built aluminum cap that is rated for unnecessary quantities of weight.
- Try to develop some structural support cage as a skeleton from within the cap to support and spread the tent weight, increasing the holding capacity.
So, Can You Put a Roof Top Tent on a Shell?
Yes, it is indeed possible to put a rooftop tent on a shell.
Most users do this to add extra storage and sleeping space for camping, or to keep enough supplies for longer journies.
However, if your camper shell or truck topper doesn’t have a rooftop rack, you will need one to secure your tent properly.
There are a few things to consider before putting the rooftop on a shell:
- What is the weight of the tent?
- How much can the shell hold?
- Is the tent weatherproof?
Vehicle roofs are not built to hold a great deal of weight, but bolting heavy objects up will also destroy them.
By raising the average height of the car, you can also reduce its fuel consumption. If you add a tent at the top of the shell, you must keep in mind that it will increase the car’s average height and weight.
Even as little as 100 extra pounds can increase fuel intake by 2%.
Furthermore, it will create more noise.
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.