How To Install A Rooftop Tent

Thinking about installing a rooftop tent? In this guide, we explain step-by-step how to choose and install a rooftop tent to transform your vehicle into a mobile campsite.
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How To Install A Rooftop Tent

Thinking about installing a rooftop tent for your next camping adventure? It’s not as intimidating as it might sound. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing a rooftop tent, and then explain step-by-step how to install a rooftop tent to transform your vehicle into a mobile campsite.

Key Takeaways

  • Rooftop tents provide a safe, space – saving camping option by sitting on your vehicle’s roof rack and folding out into a bed.
  • When choosing a rooftop tent, consider the type (hard shell or soft shell), extra features like LED lights or self-inflating mattresses, and ensure it fits your vehicle’s roof rack securely.
  • Properly prepare your vehicle by checking its compatibility with the tent, installing crossbars or roof racks for support, unpacking and assembling the tent, assembling the mounting hardware, positioning the tent on the roof rack, attaching all hardware securely including the ladder, and adjusting everything for safety.
  • Remember to follow safety tips such as checking weight capacity limits, parking on flat surfaces for stability, using three points of contact when entering/exiting the tent, and maintaining proper maintenance care to prolong its lifespan.

Understanding Rooftop Tents

Rooftop tents are like a treehouse on your car. They sit on the roof rack and fold out into a cozy bed when you need it. These tents provide safety as they keep us from bugs and animals.

There are many types of rooftop tents, some fold open like a book, others pop up or slide out. Some even have awnings for shade or rain cover and LED lights for night time use. Brands such as Skycamp make great rooftop tents that come with comfy foam mattresses inside.

How to Choose the Right Rooftop Tent for Your Car

Picking the best rooftop tent for your car is key. You need to think about some things.

  1. Know Your Vehicle’s Roof Capacity:
    • Check your vehicle’s roof capacity, including its dynamic (while driving) and static (while parked) weight limits. Rooftop tents vary in weight, so ensure your vehicle can safely support the one you choose.
  2. Consider the Type of Camping You Do:
    • Determine the type of camping you prefer. Are you into solo adventures, family trips, or overlanding expeditions? The number of occupants and your camping style will influence the size and type of rooftop tent you need.
  3. Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell:
    • Decide between a hard shell and soft shell rooftop tent:
      • Hard Shell: Are tough and made of materials like fiberglass, reinforced plastic, or aluminum. They’re easier to setup, often in less than 5-10 minutes with the click of a button, and provide more weather protection. They’re also heavier and more expensive.
      • Soft Shell: Lightweight and made of fabric like poly-cotton canvas or high-denier polyester, this type is more budget-friendly, but may take longer to set up and may not be as weather-resistant.
  4. Size and Capacity:
    • Consider the sleeping capacity and available space in the tent. Ensure it comfortably accommodates the number of people you plan to camp with. Some tents also have annexes or awnings for additional space.
  5. Material and Weather Resistance:
    • Check the tent’s fabric material. Quality poly-cotton canvas or durable polyester is ideal for soft shell tents. For hard shell tents, assess the materials used in both the shell and fabric portions. Ensure the tent is weather-resistant and can handle your intended camping conditions.
  6. Ease of Setup:
    • Evaluate how easy it is to set up and take down the tent. Quick and hassle-free setup is a valuable feature, especially if you plan to move frequently.
  7. Aerodynamics and Fuel Efficiency:
    • Consider how the rooftop tent may affect your vehicle’s aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Some rooftop tents are designed to minimize wind resistance.
  8. Mounting System Compatibility:
    • Ensure the rooftop tent is compatible with your vehicle’s roof rack or mounting system. Check the required mounting hardware and compatibility with your specific vehicle make and model.
  9. Weight:
    • Pay attention to the weight of the rooftop tent. A heavier tent may affect your vehicle’s handling and fuel efficiency. Ensure it falls within your vehicle’s weight capacity.
  10. Ventilation and Insulation:
    • Look for tents with proper ventilation to reduce condensation and improve comfort. Some tents come with additional insulation for colder climates.
  11. Additional Features:
    • Consider any extra tent features, like LED lights, built-in mattresses, interior pockets, windows, and access options.
  12. User Reviews and Recommendations:
    • Read reviews and seek recommendations from fellow campers who have experience with the specific rooftop tent models you’re interested in. Their insights can be valuable.
  13. Budget:
    • Determine your budget and explore rooftop tents within your price range. Keep in mind that quality and features often correlate with the price.
  14. Warranty and Support:
    • Check the manufacturer’s warranty and customer support options. A good warranty can provide peace of mind for your investment.
Bestseller No. 1
TOPBEE Hard Shell Rooftop Tent for Camping, Roof Tent with Double Skylight With LED,Outdoor Pop Up Waterproof for SUV, Truck,…
  • The TOPBEE Hard Shell Rooftop Tent provides ample space for comfortable camping. With a length of 2.1 meters and a width of 1.2 meters, it can easily accommodate you and your camping gear. Made…
  • Easy to Set Up: No more struggling with complicated tent poles. The TOPBEE rooftop tent features an easy-to-open air pressure bar, allowing you to set up your tent in minutes. Simply unlock the bar,…
  • Comfortable Sleeping: Get a good night’s sleep on the 2-inch rear mattress included with the TOPBEE rooftop tent. This thick and comfortable mattress ensures that you wake up refreshed and ready for…
  • Ventilation and Protection: Stay cool and bug-free with the zippered mesh window of the TOPBEE rooftop tent. It allows for excellent airflow while keeping insects out. The tent is also wind and…
  • Reliable and Warranty: Your satisfaction is our priority. The TOPBEE rooftop tent comes with a 1-year warranty, so you can buy with confidence. Additionally, our customer support team is available…
SaleBestseller No. 2
Naturnest Rooftop Tent Hard Shell, BAMACAR Rooftop Tent For Camping, Hardshell Rooftop Tent For Van Jeep SUV Truck Car Tents For…
  • 【Complete accessories / travel is more convenient!】Newly upgraded car rooftop tent add 2 luggage pole, LED light strips, zipper for YKK, 5 cm thick mattress and retractable 2.3m ladder. The…
  • 【Easy to set up a tent in seconds】 Hard shell rooftop tent is equipped with air pressure rods, which can easily pop up or store the roof tent within 10 seconds, easy and convenient! Overland rtt…
  • 【Aluminum Alloy Shell + Stainless Steel Gas Bar】The car camping tent is designed with high-quality aluminum, ABS 5.5mm hard shell, installation kit and fabric, metal shell rtt can resist level 6…
  • 【Top configuration 3-layer mattress】 Roof rack tent have three mattresses: 5cm non deformable soft mattress providing you with high-quality and comfortable rest and sleep; condensation mat to…
  • 【Spacious / Storage Space】 Roof top tents can accommodate two adults and one child. And with 10 storage bags for daily necessities and 2 waterproof storage bags for shoes!
SaleBestseller No. 3
Body Armor 4×4 20010 Sky Ridge Pike 2-Person Tent, Grey,Black
  • The Tent Walls And Roof Are Manufactured With 280Gsm Ripstop Reinforced Polyester/Cotton Canvas, Polyurethane Coated For 2000Mm Waterproofing
  • The Separate Rain Fly Is Manufactured From 420D Polyester Oxford Fabric, Polyurethane Coated For 2500Mm Waterproofing
  • A Heavy Duty Travel Cover Protects The Tent And Components When Folded And Not In Use. The Cover Is Made Of Sturdy, Uv Resistant 680Gsm/1200D Pvc Coated Tarpaulin Material With Heavy Duty Zippers
  • Adjust Privacy, Natural Light, And Airflow With The Covered Entrance, Skylight And Three Large View Windows With Mosquito Netting, Exterior Awnings And Interior Zip-Up Closures
SaleBestseller No. 4
Smittybilt GEN2 Overlander Tent XL - 2683
18 Customer Reviews
Smittybilt GEN2 Overlander Tent XL – 2683
  • Open size 122″” W x 76″” L x 51″” H
  • Sleeps 3-4
  • Bed size: King, 92.5″” x 74.8″”
  • Gray tent body with light gray rainfly
  • (1-3/16″”) 2.5cm aluminum/polyurethane sandwich base
Bestseller No. 5
TopOak Pop Up Rooftop Tents Hard Shell for Camping Waterproof SUV Car Jeep Overland Tent Roof Rack Tent Triangle Aluminium Black RTT…
  • 【Warranty & Service】2-year warranty for all parts from the date of purchase. Every tent has been insured for transportaion. After receiving the tent, if there is any problem, please feel free to…
  • 【Insurance】If the tent and packaging are both damaged during transit, please send us photos to initiate an insurance claim to get an extra new tent.
  • 【Quick and Easy 30-Second Setup】- Expandable hard shell rooftop tent can be set up in 30 seconds.
  • 【Aluminum Roof Bars】- Accessory aluminum bars to support luggage racks, off-road equipment, traction boards, and more.
  • 【Spacious Entrance & Large Skyview Window】- Generously sized entrance for easy access. A large Skyview window for ample daylight and a view of the night sky with twinkling stars.
SaleBestseller No. 6
TMBK 3 Person Roof Top Tent with Rain Fly Tan Base & Green Rainfly
  • Features: Marine Grade 600D Rip-Stop Polyester Water Proof Body, 420D Polyester Oxford Waterproof Rain Fly, 110g Fade-less Gaze Breathable Windows, High Density Foam Mattress with Cover, Insulated…
  • What’s Included: Insulated Base With Stainless Hinges and Anodized Aluminum Poles, Khaki Tent Body, Coffee Rain Fly, Foam Mattress With Cotton Cover, Window Rods, Adjustable Ladder 81”, Aluminum…
  • Fitment: Anything with a factory or aftermarket roof rack. Please confirm rack weight capacity prior if you’re unsure.
  • Installation: Requires no drilling or modification to your vehicle if equipped with factory or aftermarket roof rack.
SaleBestseller No. 7
Naturnest Rooftop Tent Hard Shell, Roof Top for Truck SUV Jeep Car Camping Tent, Shell Overland Hardshell Best Tents That Attach to
  • 【Easy Open an Close】 Car rooftop tent with air pressure poles and pre-assembled components, setting up the hard shell roof tent is a breeze. Within 5 seconds, you can pop it up or put it away…
  • 【All-Season Versatility】 Designed to withstand various weather conditions. Its waterproof fabric and shell, with a W/R 5000 rating, ensure excellent water resistance. The sun protection fabric and…
  • 【Premium Three-Layer Mattress】 Experience ultimate comfort with the top configuration three-layer mattress. It consists of a 5cm non-deformable soft mattress that offers high-quality rest and…
  • 【Spacious Design with Ample Storage】 The roof rack tent provides ample space to accommodate two adults and one child, allowing for a comfortable camping experience. Furthermore, truck bed tent…
  • 【Full Overland Equipment for Car Camper】 BAMCAR roof top tent hardshell includes 3 mattress, zipper for YKK, mesh window, 10 storage bag, and 2 waterproof shoe bag. Overload equipment also…
Bestseller No. 8
Hard Shell Rooftop Tent Hardshell Roof Top Tent Car Tent Naturnest Camping Roof Tent for Pickup Wagon Van SUV All Seasons with...
7 Customer Reviews
Hard Shell Rooftop Tent Hardshell Roof Top Tent Car Tent Naturnest Camping Roof Tent for Pickup Wagon Van SUV All Seasons with…
  • Premium Material: Made of durable ABS material, the textured hard shell has a unique and stylish design with low wind resistance. The main body of the rooftop tent is made of high-density oxford cloth…
  • Comfort Experience: This rooftop tent has plenty of space for 2 adults and 1 child to lie down. Built-in a thickened 3-layer mattress, soft and comfortable, water-proof and moisture-proof. There are…
  • Detailed Performance: 3 large openings can reduce condensation and provide excellent ventilation. The top cover can be rolled up completely for more natural light and wider view. The zippered insect…
  • Easy Assembly: Compact when closed, the roof top tent will become a spacious rooftop home when open. Designed with air pressure poles, this car tent can be quickly popped up or folded in seconds. No…
  • Wide Adaptation: The roof tent fits most vehicles such as Pickup, Wagon, SUV and Van, and the included 90.6″ telescopic ladder will make it easy to access the tent. If you have any questions about…
Bestseller No. 9
LEADWIN Naturnest Rooftop Tent with 2 Outdoors Moon Chairs for Camping 2-Person,Panoramic Softshell Roof Top Tent with...
3 Customer Reviews
LEADWIN Naturnest Rooftop Tent with 2 Outdoors Moon Chairs for Camping 2-Person,Panoramic Softshell Roof Top Tent with…
  • 【Detachable Roof Tent】You can see the stars or the moon. When it doesn’t rain, you can choose to remove the upper cover of the tent, which will provide a wider view.
  • 【Convenient and Fast】The installation track of the tent is already installed before packaging, so do not need to receive secondary installation. It can be set up in just 20 minutes.
  • 【Spacious and Comfortable】Our rooftop tent has enough space to accommodate 2 adults to sleep comfortably, and our design takes into account your comfort level. The Open size of this soft-top tent…
  • 【Upgrade to Become Younger】 A unique small table design has been added, as well as high-quality YKK zippers that are not easily damaged. We have chosen a younger and more natural color for the…
  • 【Rain Proof and Sunscreen Fabric 】The canopy is made of 420D Oxford cloth, PU coated, waterproof 1500mm, UV anti-UV, provides a completely waterproof and sunscreen area.
SaleBestseller No. 10
Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent - 2783
648 Customer Reviews
Smittybilt Overlander Roof Top Tent – 2783
  • Standard size tent (sleeps 2-3) with high-density 92″ x 55″ foam double/full mattress and 661 lb. max load
  • 600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly; sunroof; side windows with mosquito netting; anodized aluminum tent frame poles; telescopic ladder; interior LED strips and many more features
  • Easy to set up and take down; heavy duty PVC cover keeps tent dry and free from UV rays when not in use
  • Smittybilt Tent Annex (sold separately #2788) with removeable floor can be attached with heavy duty zippers for privacy
  • Tent also available in Size XL (sleeps 3-4 #2773). Ladder extension also available (#2785).Ladder capacity:265 lbs

How to Preparing Your Car for a Rooftop Tent

To ensure a successful rooftop tent installation, it’s important to properly prepare your vehicle. This involves checking the compatibility of your vehicle with the tent, as well as installing crossbars or roof racks for proper support.

  1. Check Vehicle Roof Capacity:
    • Refer to your vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the dynamic (while driving) and static (while parked) weight capacity of your roof. Ensure that the roof can safely support the weight of both the rooftop tent and any occupants.
  2. Install Roof Rack or Roof Bars:
    • If your vehicle does not have a roof rack or roof bars, you’ll need to install them first.
    • Ensure that the rack or bars are made for carrying a rooftop tent and are securely attached to your vehicle.
  3. Select the Rooftop Tent Location:
    • Choose the location on your vehicle’s roof where you want to install the rooftop tent. Ensure that it’s centered and aligned properly.
  4. Gather Installation Hardware:
    • Collect all the necessary hardware and components provided with your rooftop tent. This typically includes brackets, bolts, nuts, and mounting plates. Make sure you have all the required tools, such as wrenches and screwdrivers.
  5. Inspect the Roof Rack or Bars:
    • Examine the roof rack or bars for any damage or signs of wear. Replace any worn or damaged components to ensure a secure installation.
  6. Position Mounting Brackets:
    • Attach the mounting brackets provided with your rooftop tent to the roof rack or bars. Ensure that the brackets are positioned correctly according to the tent manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Assemble the Rooftop Tent:
    • Follow the assembly instructions provided with your rooftop tent to put together the tent structure. This may involve attaching the tent’s base to the mounting brackets on your vehicle.
  8. Secure the Tent to the Brackets:
    • Once the tent is assembled, carefully position it on the mounting brackets attached to your vehicle’s roof rack or bars. Ensure that the tent aligns with the brackets and the holes for mounting hardware.
  9. Attach and Tighten Bolts:
    • Insert bolts through the mounting holes in the rooftop tent and brackets. Securely fasten nuts to the bolts and use the appropriate tools to tighten them. Follow the manufacturer’s torque specifications for proper tension.
  10. Double-Check Fastenings:
    • After securing the rooftop tent, double-check all fastenings and connections to ensure they are tightened properly. Loose hardware can lead to instability during travel.
  11. Test the Setup:
    • Before your first camping trip, perform a test setup of the rooftop tent to ensure that it opens, closes, and latches securely. Verify that the tent’s setup does not interfere with any other vehicle components, such as antennas or sunroofs.
  12. Perform a Weight Distribution Test:
    • To assess the balance and weight distribution of your rooftop tent, park your vehicle on level ground and carefully load the tent with gear and occupants as you would during camping. Ensure that the weight is evenly distributed and within the roof capacity limits.
  13. Regular Maintenance:
    • Periodically inspect the rooftop tent and mounting hardware for signs of wear, rust, or damage. Maintain your roof rack or bars to prevent corrosion. Lubricate moving parts as recommended by the tent manufacturer.

The Installation Process

To install a rooftop tent, start by unpacking and assembling the tent itself. Then, assemble the mounting hardware and position the tent on your vehicle’s roof rack. Attach the mounting hardware securely and install the ladder for easy access.

Unpacking and Assembling the Rooftop Tent

To install a rooftop tent, you will need to unpack and assemble it. Here are the steps to do it:

  1. Start by unpacking the rooftop tent from its packaging.
  2. Lay out all the components and make sure everything is included.
  3. Follow the instructions provided to assemble the tent frame.
  4. Connect the poles and secure them according to the instructions.
  5. Attach any additional accessories, such as an awning or side panels, if desired.
  6. Once the tent frame is assembled, locate the mounting hardware.
  7. Attach the mounting hardware to the designated points on the tent frame.
  8. Position the rooftop tent on top of your vehicle’s roof rack.
  9. Use the mounting hardware to secure the tent to your roof rack.
  10. Ensure that all bolts and screws are tightened properly for a secure installation.

Assembling the Mounting Hardware

To assemble the mounting hardware for your rooftop tent, follow these steps:

  1. Lay out all the components of the mounting hardware kit.
  2. Attach the metal brackets to the base of the tent using the provided screws.
  3. Position the mounting plates on top of the roof rack crossbars.
  4. Align the holes on the mounting plates with the holes in the roof rack crossbars.
  5. Insert and tighten the bolts through the holes to secure the mounting plates to the crossbars.
  6. Use a wrench or socket set to tighten the bolts securely.
  7. Double – check that all bolts are tightened properly to ensure stability and safety.

Positioning the Tent on the Roof Rack

To position the tent on the roof rack, follow these steps:

  1. Check the weight capacities of your roof rack and ensure it can support the rooftop tent.
  2. Place the tent on top of the roof rack, making sure it is centered and aligned with the vehicle.
  3. Secure the tent to the roof rack using the mounting brackets provided.
  4. Use a measuring tape to ensure that the tent is evenly positioned on both sides of the roof rack.
  5. Double – check that all bolts and screws are tightened properly to prevent any movement or wobbling while driving.
  6. Test the stability of the setup by gently shaking the tent to make sure it is securely attached.
  7. Once you are satisfied with the positioning, move on to attaching other components such as ladders and awnings if needed.

Attaching the Mounting Hardware

To attach the mounting hardware for your rooftop tent, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure you have all the necessary mounting hardware, including brackets and screws.
  2. Position the brackets on the bottom of the tent base, making sure they align with the mounting points on the roof rack.
  3. Use a screwdriver or drill to securely fasten the brackets to the tent base.
  4. Lift the assembled tent onto your vehicle’s roof rack, making sure it is centered and aligned with the mounting points.
  5. Securely attach the brackets to the roof rack using screws or bolts, ensuring they are tightened properly.
  6. Double – check that all connections are secure and stable before moving on to other steps in the installation process.

Installing the Ladder

To install the ladder for your rooftop tent, follow these steps:

  1. Attach the ladder brackets to the side of the tent.
  2. Position the ladder at the desired height and angle.
  3. Secure the ladder in place using the provided bolts or clamps.
  4. Test the stability of the ladder by gently shaking it.
  5. Ensure that the ladder is securely attached and can support your weight.

Choosing the Right Rooftop Tent for Your Vehicle

Securing and Adjusting the Tent

To ensure a secure installation and proper usage of your rooftop tent, follow these steps:

  • Attach the tent securely to the roof rack or crossbars using the mounting hardware provided.
  • Make sure the tent is centered and level on the roof rack.
  • Tighten all bolts and screws to prevent any movement during travel.
  • Adjust the ladder to the appropriate height for easy access.
  • Double – check that all straps, buckles, and zippers are properly fastened before use.

Safety Tips for Using a Rooftop Tent

  • Make sure to properly install the rooftop tent and check the weight capacity of your roof rack or cross bars.
  • Ensure that the rooftop tent fits securely on your vehicle and does not block any doors or windows.
  • Use a clean vehicle for installation to avoid debris causing damage to the tent.
  • Follow the instructions and guidelines provided by the manufacturer for safe installation and use of the rooftop tent.
  • Park on a flat surface when using a rooftop tent to ensure stability.
  • Respect weight limitations and do not overload your vehicle with excessive weight, including the tent and additional structures.
  • Be cautious when entering or exiting the rooftop tent, using the ladder or steps provided, and always maintain three points of contact.

Rooftop Tent Manufacturer Websites

Maintenance and Care for Your Rooftop Tent

Maintaining and caring for your rooftop tent is important to ensure its longevity and functionality. Follow these steps for proper maintenance:.

  • Regularly inspect the tent for any damage or wear.
  • Clean the tent using mild soap and water, focusing on removing dirt, stains, and debris.
  • Lubricate pivot points and zippers with a silicone-based lubricant to prevent rusting and ensure smooth operation.
  • Check the tension of straps and ropes, tightening them if necessary.
  • Use UV-resistant products to protect the fabric from sun damage.
  • Store the tent in a dry and well-ventilated area when not in use to prevent mold or mildew growth.
  • Avoid storing heavy items on top of your rooftop tent as it can cause unnecessary strain on the structure.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for specific care guidelines.

Proper maintenance will help prolong the lifespan of your rooftop tent, ensuring it remains a reliable and comfortable camping option. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to keep your warranty valid.


Installing a rooftop tent is a straightforward process that most people can do themselves. By choosing the right tent and preparing your vehicle properly, you’ll be ready to go on your next camping adventure in no time.

With some basic tools and careful installation, you’ll have a cozy spot to sleep under the stars right on top of your vehicle. So get out there and enjoy the great outdoors with your new rooftop tent!


1. How can I install a rooftop tent like Skycamp Series on my 4Runner?

You can fix the Skycamp series or other roof top tents to 3rd and 4th generation 4Runners with mounting brackets. Fit these on existing factory mounting points, tracks, or any raised side rails present on your 4Runner.

2. Can I use tools from McMaster-Carr to put up a rooftop tent?

Yes! Tools from McMaster-Carr such as U-bolts and Unistrut/Channel struts are perfect for fixing aluminum rails or ARB L-brackets required for installing roof top tents.

3. Will fitting a BDV Series impact the weight of my car?

While some load is added by the BDV Series or other roof top tent accessories, it does not exceed the static weight capacity and stays within dynamic weight capacity of your car’s factory roof rack.

4. Are there extras that come with rooftop tents like X-Cover 2.0 series?

Yes! The X-cover 2.0 series includes LED light strips, USB cords to power banks for charging devices and handy shoe bags among others!

5.Should I worry about bad weather when camping with FreeSpirit Evolution RTT fitted?

The FreeSpirit Evolution RTT comes fully equipped with UV protection and water resistance features so you’ll be well covered against rain or sun!

6.What should I consider before picking an after-market roof rack for my Second Generation Nissan Xterra?

Pick an after-market roof rack based on factors such as door clearance, strut channel low-profile options, and fitment compatibility with popular brands such as Prinsu or Front Runner Outfitters.

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