How To Put A Roof Top Tent On A Canopy

You look at the canopy of your vehicle with a heart-sinking feeling. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it,  it just needs…something. Suddenly you have one of those “A-ha!” moments that make you jump for joy. A tent on top is just the thing. You’ve seen pictures of people with tents on the top of their vehicles and it would be just the icing on the proverbial cake. Now you wonder how easy is it to put a roof top tent onto your canopy.

Put a rooftop tent on your canopy

Installing a rooftop tent may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t take long. However, it is usually a two-person job and you need to consider if your vehicle is able to handle the extra weight on top of your vehicle.

We are going to take you through the journey of installing a rooftop tent onto your canopy as well as potential issues to be aware of.  So flex your muscles, stretch your back and get ready to put a rooftop tent onto your canopy!

Fixing a rooftop tent to your canopy 

Good news. When you purchase a rooftop tent you get everything you need to get it from the box and onto your canopy (uh…except for an extra body to help you lift it). So you can put away your tools and open the box!  Here are some tips before you even start installing the tent:

  • Make sure you place it onto a clean flat surface before installing the mounting brackets.
  • Give the tent a good look over to make sure that it hasn’t been damaged in transit.
  • Check to see that all the parts that come with the tent are included in the packaging.  

If you notice an issue with your tent or there is a part missing, contact the maker straight away. 

Okay, you have given the tent and all the components the once over and you’re good to go. 

Getting the tent from the ground to the roof

The first step in installing your rooftop tent is to fix the mounting brackets to the underside of the tent. This will allow you to fix the tent to the roof rack. 

Once the mounting brackets are fitted,  it’s time to get the ladder on. Get the ladder, bolts and nuts and position the ladder onto the tent.  Slip the bolts into the predrilled holes and secure the ladder with the nuts. Guess what? You’re pretty much done with getting your tent ready for mounting onto your vehicle. 

Pretty easy, wasn’t it? Now comes the tricky part. Getting the tent onto the top of your canopy. Rooftop tents are pretty heavy as you probably figured out when you took it out of the packaging. Usually getting it onto the top of your vehicle is a two-person job, but it is possible to do it yourself if your friends are too busy. 

Going it alone

You don’t need to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger to get the 100 pounds of tent onto the top of your canopy, but you will need the following:

  • strong rope.
  • pulley
  • A fulcrum to provide leverage

Now you get an idea as to what we will suggest. 

Set up your pulleys and rope, making sure that the system can support the weight of your rooftop tent. Attach the rope to the corners of your tent and then use the fulcrum to lift the tent. 

Once you have the tent suspended in the air, manoeuvre it so that it is above the roof of your vehicle. Now, slowly lower the tent onto the top of your vehicle. Now it’s in position on the roof rack, go and have a rest you deserve it.

Okay, you’re back from your rest. What do you do now? You get the roof rack clamps that came with your tent and secure them under each corner of the tent.  Congratulations! You just managed to install a rooftop tent all by yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back! Of course, it’s easier with friends helping you but, hey, look at what you have achieved!

Try it out

Now comes the most exciting part, trying out your tent. This is done by pulling on the ladder and allowing it to lock into place, then using it to act as a lever to open your tent. Now. that the tent is opened it pays to have another inspection of it to makes sure there aren’t any rips, tears or other forms of damage to the tent. 

Once you have had a wee try out of your tent, pack it up and have a final celebration of your success. 

Can my roof support the weight? 

Imagine this scenario. You bought a rooftop tent, put in all the heavy lifting to install it and then you found the roof of your vehicle gave way because of the extra weight it has to support. What a horror story! 

To prevent such a disaster, it pays to check the load-bearing ability of your canopy. Here we will guide you through how to figure out the right weight that your vehicle can support and how you can strengthen your roof. 

It’s legal! 

Not only adhering to the load limit of your vehicle means your roof is intact, but it also saves you from being pulled over by police who are concerned about you having overloaded your the top of your vehicle. 

Is this permissible?

When it comes to placing heavy loads on the roof of your vehicle you need to work out the permissible load rating of your canopy. But what is meant by “permissible load” and how do you find it? 

The permissible load is the complete weight of your canopy and equates to the empty weight of your vehicle plus maximum extra load. Remember that, on average, a rooftop tent weighs 100 pounds. You can find the total permissible load of your particular vehicle by looking at its operating manual.  

Make sure that the total weight of the rooftop tent combined with the weight of any additional load on the roof rack is less than the total load-bearing capacity of the roof racks. Another way to check if your vehicle will survive the weight is by taking the weight of the tent in addition to the weight of the roof racks and any additional weight on the roof is less than your vehicle’s permissible load.

The roof needs to be stronger!

Your heart sinks when you find out that the tent that you have your eye on will cause some havoc to the roof. However, never fear, there is a solution to your weight problem.  Give your roof a helping hand with internal support.

You can pull apart the interior of your canopy and add roof bracing to give your roof extra load-bearing ability. You can use metal beams or wooden ones running along the canopy’s ceiling to support and spread out the weight of the load on the top of your vehicle. If you are the DIY type you can make the support system yourself or visit an automotive repair shop and see what they have to offer. 

Huh? Dynamic load and static load? 

When it comes to loading ratings you will come across the dynamic load and static load ratings. What’s the difference and which one should you be more concerned about? 

The dynamic load is how much weight your roof can cope with while you are driving while the static load-bearing is the amount of weight that your car can support when not moving.  Because your vehicle is subject to extra forces whilst moving it, the dynamic load capacity is the one that you need to pay attention to and it is usually the figure that is quoted when looking at your vehicle’s owner manual for the total roof load-bearing figure. 

Why should you pay attention to the dynamic load bearing total? Because when you place anything on the top of your vehicle, it affects the vehicle’s centre of gravity. That means that your vehicle is going to respond more and require more handling when cornering. Also, when driving along an uneven road the bumps in the surface will add to the total force that your vehicle is experiencing. Anything added to the top of a vehicle can increase the rollover risk while driving, and this factor is accounted for with your automobile’s manufacturer listing the total load-bearing weight of your vehicle.

If you exceed this limit, by putting an item or the several items whose total weight exceeds the dynamic load bearing recommendation, you are just asking for trouble by increasing the risk of you having an accident due to the inability to properly control your vehicle. 

You won’t find the static load-bearing total in your vehicle’s manual because, as we just mentioned, it is the dynamic value that is the most important one out of the two. However, that doesn’t mean you should disregard the static value. 

The static load total is the weight applied to your vehicle when it’s not moving. The only real force acting on the vehicle is that of gravity. So to work out the static load for your roof simply means adding the weight of the tent and the weight(s) of the people sleeping inside it. 

Should I put the tent toward the front, centre or back of my roof? 

When you install your rooftop tent, you can position it to the front, centre or the rear of your canopy. What difference does it make on where you position the tent? The positioning of your tent can affect the aerodynamics of your vehicle as well as even distribution of the tent’s weight across the vehicle. So, is there an ideal position on your roof in which to place your tent? It’s all a matter of personal preference.

The front of the vehicle

If you place your tent toward the front of your roof rack, it opens up more room to the back of the roof to store additional items (just remember not to exceed the dynamic load bearing that was recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer). Having the tent at the front of the vehicle and using it as a windbreak for the items towards the back makes your vehicle more aerodynamic through less wind drag. The benefit? It costs you less in fuel.

Positioning the tent at the front of your roof also helps with your vehicle’s centre of gravity and weight distribution. However, in saying that, the ten’s weight will put more pressure on the front tyres and suspension, which increases the wear and tear on the front of your vehicle.

Let’s centre this thing

By putting your tent dead centre of your vehicle, means that the weight of the tent is evenly spread over all four wheels of your automobile which means less worry for you on causing unnecessary strain on your suspension. However, it makes it a little more tricker to store extra bits on the top of your vehicle as the available space is now split between the front and back of the vehicle with your tent in the middle.

Hmmm, maybe the toward the back is better

By placing the tent towards the back of the roof makes your vehicle less aerodynamic which means you will pay more in fuel consumption. Also, it adds extra weight on the rear drivetrain of your vehicle which will ultimately result in this part failing.  However, it does open up the front portion of your roof to act as a storage area. 

Also, having the tent positioned toward the back, in addition to having the tent opened towards the back, allows the annexe and you to have more foot-space in which to access the inside of your canopy. It’s all about convenience!

It’s all up to you

There are no set rules on the best position on your roof in which to place your rooftop tent. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Some people like the front, others the centre and still others recommend the back. You can experiment by repositioning the tent and see which spot suits you best.

Oh no, it’s broken!

Things get old. Things get worn out and then…things get lost. With your tent, you don’t want to have everything ruined because you suddenly discovered that you can’t find a part or that a component of your tent finally got tired and broke. Time to adhere to the Boy Scout’s motto of “Be Prepared”. 

You have a repair kit for your vehicle in case it breaks down. It also pays to have a small kit on hand for your tent whenever you go camping. We aren’t recommending that you add any unnecessary weight or items each time you venture out. But spare mounting braces, bolts and nuts can come in handy. In fact, you should have a spare mounting kit on hand. You can order them from your tent’s manufacturer or there are generic third party kits available online. 

Also, before closing up your tent at the end of your camping expedition, give it an inspection and make a note of anything that looks in need of replacing. In addition, once you have closed up the tent, inspect the external shell and velcro straps to ensure that they are okay. 

Consider shipping times if you have to order parts that you may not have on hand as you don’t want to find out that you have to postpone a trip because you thought a part would arrive in a couple of days but you discovered it would be a couple of weeks before the parts arrived.

Removing the tent

Though in this post we focus more on installing a rooftop tent, we want to touch briefly on how to take it off your roof when you decide that your camping season is over. Sure, you could leave the tent permanently on your roof, but you may consider that awkward and unnecessary if you are a seasonal camper. 

Taking the tent from off your canopy is as straightforward as installing it. Just undo the roof rack mounting brackets and lift the tent down (which you can do with help from your friends or use a pulley system if you want to do it on your own). 

Make sure you store your tent on a clean surface and somewhere that will be dry as you don’t want moisture forming on or in your tent while it is “hibernating”.

Have fun!

Installing a rooftop tent may seem daunting, but it’s a straightforward and easy process. You will need to plan ahead though as you need to figure out how to get 100 pounds of tent onto the top of your vehicle. A rig and pulley system or friends can help you in the task. Do you want to have the tent at the front, centre or back of your roof? It’s whatever suits you.

Enjoy the process and have a great time getting the tent from the packaging and onto your the top of your vehicle.

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