Fitting a Roof-Top Tent to Your Vehicle

Fitting a Roof-Top Tent to Your Vehicle

A roof-top tent attached to the roof rack of a driving car

Most roof-top tents weigh more than a hundred pounds, so you need to be sure that your rack is up to the task. If you don’t have a roof rack yet, then you’ll need to consider your tent weight as you shop for a rack to serve as its foundation. The specs you need aren't always easy to find, so you might have to contact your vehicle manufacturer and rack manufacturer directly to get the information you need.

To check if a roof-top tent will work on your vehicle, look up the following information:

  • Total tent weight: That should be in the tent's product specs.
  • Car and rack dynamic weight capacity: This measures the ability to support that tent weight while you're driving. You need to verify this spec for both the vehicle and your roof rack. So if you're putting the tent on a separately purchased roof rack, you have to check your vehicle owner's manual for the roof's dynamic weight capacity and your rack owner's manual for that same spec.
  • Rack compatibility: Check the owner’s manual to be sure that your rack works with a roof-top tent.
  • Static weight capacity: The ability of the rack and vehicle roof to support its designated number of sleepers and their gear isn’t typically an issue. Most car roofs are already engineered to withstand loads relating to a rollover accident. Couple that with the load distribution provided by the sturdy tent-floor platform and extra support provided by the ladder, and you have one very robust structure. That said, you still need to confirm that the static weight capacity on your vehicle and on your rack will support the weight of your tent, plus everyone in it and their sleeping gear.


Attaching the Tent to Your Roof Rack

A roof-top tent attached to the roof rack of a car

Though the setup is a breeze once you drive your vehicle into camp, the initial process of bolting the tent to the roof rack will take some time. Read and follow all the provided installation instructions carefully. And you’ll need at least one strong partner to be nearby because you’ll need help to lift the tent up onto your roof rack.


Additional Shopping Considerations

The one big factor is determining which tent models will work with the load capacity of your vehicle rack. After that, you have a handful of things to consider:

  • Annexes and awnings: Some models include extended living spaces or covered areas; some tents give you the option of adding one later.
  • Durability levels: Though all roof-top tents are extra sturdy, some super-rugged models designed for extended trips in extreme climates. 
  • Hardtops: Fabric models are much more affordable; hardtops keep things more fully protected as you drive.
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