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Overlanding Installing and Using Roof Top Tents

Make Your Vehicle Home with the Perfect Roof Top Tent

In today’s world of adventure and exploration, the concept of “home is where you park it” has never been more relevant. Equipped with the right gear and essentials, every traveler can turn any location into their temporary home. As technology and products continue to evolve, so does the convenience, comfort, and enjoyment that comes with it. One such innovation that has significantly improved the outdoor experience is the roof top tent.

In this article, we will discuss the advantages of using a roof top tent, the factors to consider when choosing one, and the proper way to install and maintain it.

Understanding Roof Top Tents and Their Benefits

Roof top tents, also known as car top tents, have become a popular choice for regular campers due to their quick setup, durability, portability, and comfort. They are easy to install and maintain, and their vehicle-mounted design makes packing and setting up the tent effortless. Most roof top tents come with comfortable mattresses that can accommodate up to five people, ensuring a cozy and relaxing camping experience.

Advantages of Roof Top Tents Over Ground Tents

While many campers still use ground tents, roof top tents offer several advantages that make them an attractive alternative. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Faster and easier setup
  • Greater durability
  • Elevated views
  • Reduced exposure to bugs and insects
  • Easier campsite selection
  • Increased safety from potential predators or wild animals
  • Improved ventilation and warmth
  • Enhanced aesthetics
  • Greater sleeping comfort

Choosing Between Hard Shell and Soft Shell Roof Top Tents

Roof top tents come in two main categories: hard shell and soft shell. Hard shell tents have two rigid outer shells (typically made of fiberglass, aluminum, or hard plastic) joined by waterproof fabrics, while soft shell tents have bodies made of waterproof fabrics and rely on an internal folding support structure for their shape.

Hard shell tents are more durable and long-lasting, while soft shell tents are lighter and more affordable. To help you decide which type of tent best suits your needs, we have provided a comparison of the two below:

Hard Shell:

  • Faster and easier to set up
  • More durable and long-lasting
  • Warmer and more weatherproof
  • Can serve as a cargo box for extra storage
  • More comfortable
  • More aerodynamic, resulting in better gas mileage
  • Quieter (less affected by wind)

Soft Shell:

  • More affordable
  • Lighter weight
  • Allows for stargazing
  • Packs down smaller
  • Larger sleeping area
  • More customizable
  • More accessories available
  • Higher headroom

Factors to Consider When Buying a Roof Top Tent

When choosing a roof top tent, it’s essential to consider factors such as durability, shipping costs, and compatibility with your vehicle. Look for tents made of high-quality materials that can withstand various weather conditions. Additionally, be aware of potentially high shipping costs due to the weight of the tent.

The most crucial factor to consider is the compatibility of the tent with your vehicle. This involves checking the tent’s weight, installation specifications, and requirements to ensure a proper fit without any issues.

Installing Your Roof Top Tent

Before attempting to install your roof top tent, make sure you have all the necessary tools and materials, as well as a thorough understanding of the installation process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you mount your roof top tent:


  1. Lay out your roof top tent on a flat, clean surface and unpack all the materials and tools that came with it. Inspect the tent for any damages or holes and ensure that you have all the necessary components for installation.

Assemble the mounting brackets

  1. Your tent will come with mounting brackets that need to be assembled before installation. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly assemble and secure the brackets.

Prepare your vehicle

  1. Ensure your vehicle’s roof rack or crossbars are compatible with the tent’s mounting system and can handle the weight of the tent. Clean the roof and crossbars to remove any dirt or debris.

Mount the tent

  1. With the help of at least one other person, lift the tent onto the roof of your vehicle and align the mounting brackets with your vehicle’s crossbars. Secure the tent to the crossbars by tightening the bolts and nuts according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Install the ladder

  1. Attach the ladder to the tent following the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure that it is properly secured and stable before use.

Adjust the tent position

  1. Make sure the tent is evenly distributed across your vehicle’s roof to avoid any imbalance. Adjust its position if necessary and tighten all the bolts and nuts to secure it in place.

Set up the tent

  1. Unfold the tent, set up the poles, and attach any additional accessories like awnings, mesh screens, or rainflys according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Perform a safety check

  1. Before hitting the road, double-check that all the bolts and nuts are tightened, and the tent is securely fastened to your vehicle. Additionally, inspect the ladder and tent accessories for stability and proper installation.

Maintaining Your Roof Top Tent

To ensure your roof top tent lasts for many adventures, proper maintenance is essential. Here are some tips to keep your tent in top condition:

Clean the tent regularly

  1. Wipe down the tent’s exterior with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. For the interior, use a vacuum to clean the mattress and a damp cloth to clean any hard surfaces. Allow the tent to air dry before packing it away.

Store the tent properly

  1. Always store your roof top tent in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place to avoid mold and mildew growth.

Check for damages

  1. Regularly inspect your tent for any damages, such as tears, holes, or loose bolts. Address any issues promptly to avoid further damage.

Lubricate zippers and hinges

  1. Apply a silicone lubricant to the zippers and hinges periodically to ensure smooth operation and prevent rust.

Protect from UV exposure

  1. When not in use, cover your tent with a UV-resistant cover to protect it from sun damage.

With the proper installation, use, and maintenance, your roof top tent will provide a comfortable and memorable camping experience for years to come. Embrace the freedom of the outdoors and make your vehicle your home away from home with a roof top tent.

Maximizing Your Roof Top Tent Experience

Once you have successfully installed and maintained your roof top tent, it’s time to make the most of your outdoor adventures. Here are some tips to enhance your camping experience with a roof top tent:

Choose the right campsite

  1. Pick a campsite with a flat and stable surface to ensure your vehicle remains balanced and stable throughout your stay. Look for locations that offer beautiful views, as one of the perks of a roof top tent is the elevated perspective it provides.

Organize your space

  1. To make your camping experience more enjoyable, keep your roof top tent and vehicle organized. Utilize storage solutions, such as hanging pockets and gear nets, to store your belongings and keep them easily accessible.

Bring additional comforts

  1. Enhance your sleeping experience by bringing extra pillows, blankets, or even a sleeping bag to keep you cozy during chilly nights. Don’t forget a camping chair and a portable table for added comfort during meals and relaxation time.

Plan your meals

  1. Prepare easy-to-cook and nutritious meals that can be cooked on a portable camping stove or a campfire. Pack enough food and water for the duration of your trip, and consider bringing a cooler to keep your perishables fresh.

Pack essential gear

  1. Make sure to bring essential camping gear, such as a flashlight, portable power bank, multi-tool, first aid kit, and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions.

Be mindful of the environment

  1. Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of your waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, and respecting wildlife and the environment.

Socialize with fellow campers

  1. If you’re camping in a popular location, take the opportunity to connect with fellow campers and share stories, tips, and experiences.

Embrace the experience

  1. Lastly, take the time to truly enjoy the experience that roof top tent camping offers. Savor the views, breathe in the fresh air, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

By following these tips and ensuring proper installation and maintenance of your roof top tent, you can create unforgettable memories and experiences on your outdoor adventures. Whether you’re exploring remote wilderness areas or spending a weekend at a local campground, a roof top tent can provide the ultimate home away from home for the modern-day adventurer.

Roof Top Tent Accessories and Add-Ons

To further enhance your roof top tent camping experience, consider investing in some useful accessories and add-ons. These items can provide additional convenience, comfort, and functionality to your setup. Here are some popular options to consider:


  1. A vehicle-mounted awning provides shelter from the sun and rain, extending your living space and offering a shaded area to relax, cook, and socialize.


  1. An annex is an optional add-on that attaches to your roof top tent, providing an enclosed space beneath the tent for extra storage, privacy, or sleeping quarters. This is especially useful for larger groups or families who need more space.

Roof rack storage

  1. Roof rack storage solutions like cargo baskets, gear bags, and bike racks can help you organize and secure your belongings while traveling.

Solar panels

  1. Portable solar panels can be used to charge devices, power lights, and provide energy for other camping appliances. They are a sustainable and eco-friendly power source, perfect for extended trips off the grid.

Interior lighting

  1. LED strip lights or portable lanterns can be used to illuminate the interior of your roof top tent for added convenience and ambiance during nighttime.

Mosquito netting

  1. Although many roof top tents come with built-in mosquito netting, investing in additional or higher-quality netting can provide extra protection from insects and other pests.

Tent fan

  1. A portable fan can help to circulate air inside your roof top tent, providing comfort on hot nights and reducing condensation.

Insulated tent cover

  1. An insulated tent cover can be placed over your roof top tent to improve thermal insulation, keeping you warmer in cold conditions and cooler in hot weather.

By investing in these accessories and add-ons, you can customize your roof top tent to suit your specific needs and preferences, ultimately maximizing your enjoyment and comfort during your outdoor adventures. The convenience and versatility of a roof top tent make it a perfect option for modern campers seeking to explore and experience the beauty of nature in a unique and comfortable way. As you venture into the great outdoors, a roof top tent allows you to immerse yourself in nature while still enjoying the comforts of home, ensuring that your camping adventures are nothing short of extraordinary.


  1. Q: What is the weight limit for a roof top tent?
    A: The weight limit for a roof top tent depends on the specific tent model and your vehicle’s roof rack capacity. Generally, roof top tents can accommodate between 400 and 800 pounds, including the weight of the tent itself and its occupants. It is crucial to check both the tent’s weight limit and your vehicle’s roof rack capacity to ensure a safe and secure installation.
  2. Q: Can I install a roof top tent on any vehicle?
    A: Not all vehicles are compatible with roof top tents. Factors such as the vehicle’s roof structure, the weight of the tent, and the roof rack’s weight capacity must be considered. It is essential to verify that your vehicle can support the added weight of a roof top tent and that the tent is compatible with your vehicle’s specific make and model.
  3. Q: How do I maintain and clean my roof top tent?
    A: To maintain and clean your roof top tent, regularly inspect it for any signs of wear or damage. Make sure to address any issues immediately to prolong the tent’s lifespan. After each camping trip, clean the tent using a mild soap and water solution, and allow it to air dry completely before storing it. Always store the tent in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and mildew growth.
  4. Q: Is a roof top tent safe to use in extreme weather conditions?
    A: While roof top tents are designed to withstand various weather conditions, extreme weather can pose risks. High winds, heavy rain, or snow can put additional stress on the tent and your vehicle’s roof rack. It is best to check the tent’s weather resistance specifications and avoid camping in extreme conditions if your tent is not equipped to handle them.
  5. Q: Can I leave my roof top tent attached to my vehicle at all times?
    A: Yes, you can leave your roof top tent attached to your vehicle as long as it is securely mounted and does not exceed your vehicle’s weight capacity. However, it is essential to consider factors such as the tent’s effect on fuel efficiency, aerodynamics, and the added height it brings to your vehicle, especially when driving in areas with low clearance.