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How can you put a rooftop tent on your camper shell?

Oct. 09, 2021

Rooftop tents are called priceless by serious travelers and overland travelers around the world. If you are a fan of rooftop tents, the biggest dilemma will be whether the camper shell can handle the weight of a rooftop tent.

Generally speaking, ordinary fiberglass camper shells cannot support the weight of a rooftop tent and the people sleeping in it. There are heavy duty aluminum and steel camper shells that are strong enough to hold a rooftop tent.

Before purchasing a rooftop tent for your camper shell (or vice versa), it is important to know all the dimensions and weight dimensions and limitations of both. We will walk you through the basic things you need to do to turn your truck into the ultimate land rig.

 

Camper shells dictate tents

Most camper shells are made of flexible fiberglass. They are perfect for protecting your gear and can even be a nice place to sleep. Some come with large windows that can be opened for light and ventilation. You can also find camper shells made of metal or canvas. 

A typical rooftop tent weighs about 225 pounds and has no people inside. Depending on how many people you are traveling with, there could be an additional 500 pounds in the tent. This weight can easily collapse the camper shell like an old soda can. That's why it's important to choose a camper shell that can support the weight and a lightweight roof tent on top.


There are two types of roof tents: soft-shell and hard-shell. 

Soft-shell tents feature a folding structure that can be assembled more quickly and provides more maneuverability after unfolding. However, assembling a soft shell is labor intensive. Securing the poles and brackets to the tent's lid is time consuming. 

A hardshell tent has many advantages over a softshell tent. Its internal assembly mechanism is fully automated. The hard shell consists of fiberglass and synthetic siding. To set up these tents, you simply undo the four buckles and the tent pops up into place on its own. Assembly usually takes about 60 seconds. 

Hardshell tents are also lighter. They help reduce the fuel consumption of the cars that carry them. Because they are not as flexible as soft shells, taller campers should not expect as much sleeping space.

Sunnycampers makes a line of rooftop tents specifically designed for campers with shell roof camping. They have some great open vent designs and can be mounted on almost any vehicle, even camper shells.


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If you are new to the rooftop tent game then there are some considerations you should be aware of.

Size

The tent should be sized to meet your camping needs. You need to allow enough space for everyone in your party and for your equipment. But remember, the larger the tent, the greater the drop in gas mileage. The extra weight makes it more difficult for the engine to keep it running properly. Size is a double-edged sword for overlanders. More space is great, but there are drawbacks.

The size of your vehicle is just as important as the size of your tent. The larger your vehicle, the larger the tent it will support. If you have a huge truck, it can accommodate a larger tent.

Price

Rooftop tents use a metal frame and floor that can be attached to the roof rack. As you might guess, the cost of metal is much higher than plastic and fiberglass. 

Also, it's always a good idea to have a professional install the roof tent, so be sure to include it in the total price. If you want to save money and install the roof tent yourself, check out our roof tent installation instructions.

Set up/take down

Roof tents will become a summer breeze. Some models open like a flip-top, while others unfold into an elaborate shell around your vehicle's entire footprint. If you are landing solo, make sure you can do all the setup and tear down yourself.

Installing a roof rack tent system can be a daunting task for those without a mechanical tilt. Asking a body shop to install a tent isn't expensive, but finding someone who is handy and willing to help you will be the best option. Fortunately, once your tent is installed, you will rarely (if ever) need to take it down.

 

Can you add a rooftop tent to your camper shell?

The answer is yes; you can add a rooftop tent to a camper shell, but there are some major limitations. Regular camper shells are not designed to hold that much weight. It is critical to do your research to find a camper shell that is strong enough to support the weight of the tent and all the campers inside. Otherwise, you could experience a rather expensive collapse in the middle of the night.

 

We recommend that you check out Sunnycampers rooftop tents. We also offer a range of all-in-one camper shell/rooftop tent solutions that will solve all your problems at once.


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