Rooftop Tent Requirements: 9 Things Your Car Needs (Checklist)

Unlike traditional ground tents, which can take up to an hour to set up and tear down, rooftop tents are incredibly easy to use – unfold them and secure them on your car’s roof rack.

Before you hit the stores, make sure your vehicle is equipped with the following practical items:

1. A Mounting System

The first step is to have the proper mounting system or roof rack for your rooftop tent.

Your car can only handle so much weight without a roof rack, so you’ll want to ensure you get a sturdy one. Most rooftop tents have a weight limit or a requirement for the kind of rack they need.

Pay special attention to your rooftop tent product and ensure that you buy the right rack and mounting system for your tent.

Knowing Your Car’s Roof Type:

Furthermore, your car may require specific roof rack systems, such as one for an SUV vs. one for a small car. For example, an SUV or hatchback might already have a roof rack system in place.

A small car, however, will have a smooth roof surface and no rack in place. This requires a special rack system to protect your car’s roof from dents or harm.

The following are the possible roof types that you might find on your vehicle:

  1. Gutters: these are on the edge of your roof and are normally found on vans. These require a gutter mount.
  2. 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.
  3. Raised Rails: SUVs commonly offer raised rails on their vehicles. This allows you a straightforward way to connect the necessary cross-bars.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 from which you are getting the roof rack.

Thule, for example, offers a rooftop rack generator where you can pick your roof type and see if its products match your vehicle.

2. Poles

Rainfly support poles for your rooftop tent can make or break your ability to stay dry during a storm.

Poles help to support the tent’s canopy, preventing it from sagging or collapsing. In addition, they provide additional stability in windy conditions.

Without support poles and extra stability, your rainfly won’t be able to attach as well to your tent. Furthermore, your tent might require an additional awning pole to keep the rain away from the door.

Most rooftop tents will come outfitted with the required poles, but investing in extras isn’t a bad idea. Make sure your car has backup poles in the trunk when camping in case one of yours snaps or goes missing.

3. Guy Lines

Tent guy lines are essential to any camping trip – even rooftop ones!

Guy lines help to hold the tent in place and provide additional support in high winds. Most guy lines are made from nylon or polyester, which can either be attached to the tent or staked into the ground.

Staking guy lines into the ground is a more secure option, but it can be more difficult to adjust the tension. When staking lines, it is important to use a heavy-duty stake so that it will not easily pull out of the ground.

Some campers use guylines with reflectors or bright colors for added security. This helps make the lines visible in low-light conditions, preventing trips and falls.

4. Stakes

You will need tent stakes to secure your guy lines or any additional ropes connected to your rooftop tent.

Like any normal tent, these stakes can be metal, wood, or plastic. You’re good to go if you can connect it to the tent lines and secure it in the ground!

Remember to bring a rubber mallet with you when you camp. Staking tent stakes into the ground is difficult with bare hands, and using a rock nearby is not always the safest option.

On the other hand, a rubber mallet will safely and gently push your stakes into the ground, giving you the stability and tension you need to secure your tent.

5. Rainfly

A rainfly is an essential piece of gear for any camping trip, and there are several good reasons to make sure you always have one with you:

  1. A rainfly can provide extra protection from the elements, keeping you dry in case of rain or allowing you to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep even if the temperature drops.
  2. A rainfly can help to keep your tent clean and free of debris.
  3. A rainily can provide privacy while you camp, giving you a place to change clothes or take care of personal business without being on display.
  4. A rainfly can be used as an emergency shelter in an unexpected overnight stay outdoors.

Most rooftop tents come with their rainfly, but you want to ensure that yours does before you head off on your adventure.

Going without a rainfly can lead to disaster, even if you thought there was no rain in the forecast.

6. Anchors

Rooftop tent anchors are designed to secure the tent to the roof rack, preventing it from being blown away or damaged in high winds.

Various anchor types are available, so choosing one compatible with your roof rack and tent is important. Some anchor types require drilling into the roof, while others hook onto the rack.

Once you have selected and installed your anchors (usually included with your tent), test them before heading out on your next camping trip. With a little preparation, you can rest assured that your tent will stay put no matter how strong the wind blows.

7. Cables & Ropes

Cables and ropes go hand in hand with stakes and poles.

Staking down your rainfly means being able to connect the cables from the top of your car’s roof to the ground. They will have to be long but with sturdy tension, holding everything in place.

If your tent is missing cables or robes that help keep it safe and secure, go out and buy some right now.

Don’t take a chance on rooftop tent camping if you don’t have the right safety ropes and cables to keep your tent from blowing away.

8. Ladder

The only thing worse than forgetting the ladder is forgetting the tent itself.

Getting into your tent requires a ladder or creative climbing, so make sure you bring a ladder that is compatible with your tent and car.

Almost all rooftop tents come with a ladder, but if yours did not, you’ll want to buy one. You’ll want your ladder to be collapsible and sturdy, able to hold your weight but compact and easy to transport.

Don’t bring just any ladder from home. Make sure that your ladder is perfect for your tent and is portable.

9. Bedding & Accessories

Unlike the ground, which can sometimes be soft, your rooftop tent will be a plastic floor connected to the roof beams of your roof rack.

Making sure that you have the proper bedding, comfortable blankets, and a foam mattress might be the best way to keep you comfortable and warm during tent camping.

Other accessories include thermal coverings to keep you warm, lighting, and storage for your food and personal items.

You’ll also want to make sure that your rooftop tent is secure and can’t get stolen, so invest in some locking or security systems.

While some of these accessories are not as necessary as keeping warm or staying dry, they do enhance the rooftop tent camping experience.


What Do You Need for a Rooftop Tent? (13 Item Checklist)

How Often Do Rooftop Tents Get Stolen? (Explained)

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