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Are Roof Top Tents Too Heavy?

Jun. 15, 2024

From the perspective of most automotive manufacturers, rooftop tents are typically considered to be within tolerance limits. This means they are light enough to stay within many vehicles' maximum rooftop load capacities, yet heavy enough to provide a sturdy, safe, and durable overland sleeping system. However, as with most things in life, the suitability depends on your specific vehicle and other factors you're considering, such as handling, gas mileage, and wear and tear on suspension.


So, let's delve into some of the concerns you may have regarding the weight of a rooftop tent, whether it's a soft-shell or a hard-shell one, and ensure that you're not purchasing a rooftop tent that could potentially damage your vehicle.



Roof Top Tent Weight Limits Guide


Which vehicles can accommodate a rooftop tent?


Most vehicles, particularly trucks, vans, Jeeps, and SUVs, can support a rooftop tent with the use of a heavier-duty roof rack. The general rule is that any vehicle with a rooftop load limit under 165 lbs may not safely support a rooftop tent. Trucks can support a rooftop tent either in an elevated position using an elevated truck bed rack or as a truck bed tent, depending on the specific rooftop tent model. Additionally, it is relatively simple to determine the weight limits for the vehicle, the rack, and the tent itself to ensure safe driving and usage of your rooftop tent.


How much do roof top tents weigh?


The lightest roof top tent on the market weighs around 80 pounds, while the heaviest weighs around 250 pounds. Roof top tent weight varies significantly based on their size, type and the materials it’s made of. Keep in mind that soft shell roof top tents are generally much lighter than hard shell tents.


While numerous rooftop tents prioritize lighter solutions by incorporating a blend of aluminum and fiberglass for structural elements, others opt for heavier materials like steel and special alloys in their construction. This choice is made to accommodate heavier loads, withstand strong winds, and address other factors.


What is the weight limit for a rooftop tent?


Rooftop tent weight limits vary greatly depending on the marketed size of the tent (1-2, 2-4, 5+ people). The lower end of weight limits is typically around 180 to 240 pounds, while heavier-duty tents can have weight limits as high as 800 to 1000 pounds. However, it's important to note that while some rooftop tents can support significant weight, it doesn't necessarily mean that your vehicle or your chosen roof rack system is capable of handling it.


Can my roof rack support a rooftop tent?


While your roof rack might be able to support a rooftop tent, it's never a safe option to use factory-installed racks for rooftop tents without double-checking weight limits and confirming with the rooftop tent manufacturer. If you have a heavy-duty aftermarket roof rack with a maximum load equal to or higher than the tent's load, it's likely that it will support your rooftop tent. Nonetheless, it's still advisable to either confirm with the manufacturer or invest in a roof rack system recommended by the tent manufacturer.


How do you determine if your car can accommodate a rooftop tent?


You're just a few searches and a simple calculation away from figuring out if your car can safely handle a rooftop tent without risking any damage during actual usage. In most cases, if you own an SUV, Jeep, van, or truck, you're good to go, whereas sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes are almost never suitable for a rooftop tent. Additionally, you can pretty much rule out installing a rooftop tent on any vehicle with a rooftop load limit under 165 lbs.


But let's dive into the steps you should take to ensure you can confidently purchase, install, and safely drive with a rooftop tent.


Roof Top Tent Weight Concerns


Are rooftop tents stable?


Rooftop tents are meticulously designed, built, and tested to ensure high stability both when closed (while driving) and open (during camping). Even in strong winds, rooftop tents maintain their stability well, although some level of wind noise is inevitable despite good insulation. When driving with a rooftop tent, owners generally report no significant changes to their driving experience, but it's advisable to gradually increase speed until you're comfortable, while adjusting to any minor changes in maneuverability.


Do rooftop tents damage cars?


In simple terms, rooftop tents do not damage cars when installed correctly and when weight limits for the vehicle, roof rack, and tent are observed. Mounting and dismounting the tent is a straightforward and safe process that doesn't harm your vehicle. While some argue that the extra weight may cause additional wear to the vehicle's suspension, the same reasoning applies to any other load in your car, including passengers.


Do rooftop tents affect gas mileage?


Yes, rooftop tents do have a negative impact on gas mileage. Some rooftop tent owners report as little as a 5% decrease (with lighter tents having a more aerodynamic profile), while others report increases of 20%-25% (with heavier, bulkier tents that are less aerodynamic). However, there are helpful tips and tricks to minimize the effect on fuel economy.


So, are rooftop tents worth it despite the mentioned concerns and downsides? Absolutely. For many, the advantages such as having a higher vantage point for sightseeing outweigh the downsides and extra cost. Rooftop tents offer numerous benefits for a reasonable cost compared to campervans.


If you're struggling to choose a rooftop tent, we recommend exploring our series aimed at helping you narrow down your list of options.


How to Choose a Roof Top Tent


Selecting the perfect roof top tent can be simplified into the following steps to maximize the value of your investment:


1. Set a budget for your roof top tent and accessories.

2. Choose a specific style and type of roof top tent.

3. Compare features and specifications of different roof top tents.

4. Find a suitable roof rack for your chosen roof top tent.

5. Verify compatibility and weight limits for the rack, tent, and vehicle.

6. Select appropriate roof top tent accessories.

7. Order, install, and embark on an adventure!

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