How to Set Up Smittybilt Roof Top Tent


Smittybilt roof top tents are truly for the moments when creepy crawlies and curious critters make the most disturbances. They are the most unpleasant to sleep with through the night. Such setup only justifies why ground tents do not feel like a home away from home. There is just too much need for comfort going on plus higher risks of groundwater getting in. But because roof top tents eliminate these struggles, one can finally set out on camping sites where a traditional setup would have been outright impossible. However, the decision to try a new way to camp in comfort calls for the need to learn the Smittybilt roof top tent set up.

The Smittybilt roof top tent follows a straightforward setup. It takes only little effort to decipher and familiarize these steps:

  •     Find a parking spot
  •    Check all the components
  •    Attach the mountain rails to the Smittybilt roof top tent
  •    Attach the mounting extrusion to the Smittybilt roof top tent
  •    Fit the Smittybilt roof top tent to your roof rack
  •    Raise the Smittybilt roof top tent

The decision to shift from a ground tent to a roof top tent is an important one. Just like any other purchase, the specs and features you need aren’t always easy to find. There have to be considerations that should be followed and research to be reviewed. Roof top tents are generally technical and expensive. If you make a hasty purchase, you could end up with a tent that does not work well. Since such camping gear is deemed an investment, this guide informs you why Smittybilt roof top tents are the best option for both traditional campground digs and wild camping.

Smittybilt Roof Top Tent Features

The Smittybilt Roof Top Tent is designed to mount easily on a built-in roof rack system or on an aftermarket rack system. Because it is lightweight (weighing only 118 lbs), anyone can mount it to most rack systems. The tent features the following:

  • Red nylon grab handle straps: are used for assistance on getting in and getting out of the tent. Basically, these add more caution while going up and down the ladder.
  • Screens and covers: can be rolled up and help up using the attached chords.
  • LED light: is used to provide light during the early mornings or evening hours. 
  • Shoe bag: storage that can be mounted on the ladder or side of the tent
  • Sun-proof: can be used best without a rain fly.
  • 12-volt outlet: can be used for charging cameras and other gadgets.
  • Side flaps: can be strapped down if you pull the bottom cord with a handle through the grommets.

Setup Steps

Step 1: Find a parking spot

The first step in a Smittybilt roof top tent setup is to find a parking spot. The right parking spot is free of falling rocks, falling tree limbs, lightning strikes, and strong winds. If you just set the parking brake without considering these hazards, you may end up with serious injuries if not death.

Step 2: Check all the Components

Make sure that the Smittybilt roof top tent has all the necessary components- tent body, mounting rails, clamps, poles main support, pole can awning, pole tailgate awning, pole bag, tent bag, and ladder. Also, check the features- red nylon grab handle straps, screens, and covers, LED light, shoe bag, sun-proof, 12 volt-outlet, and side flaps. Failure to check these things may cause you to overlook those who have factory defects and those not in good condition.

Step 3: Attach the mountain rails to the Smittybilt roof top tent

The next step in the Smittybilt roof top tent set up is to attach the mountain rails to the tent. You have two options to have the Smittybilt roof top tent open to the back or to have the Smittybilt roof top tent open to the side of your vehicle.

  • Off the Back: The opening off the back position is ideal for most large-size vehicles such as SUVs. This provides an extra roof space for additional storage and additional weather protection. To end up at this position, cut off the mounting extrusions at both ends up to the second pre-drilled hole. Then, bolt the mounting extrusions to the base of the tent. Do this in the direction of opening at right angles to the roof rack.
  • Off the Side: The opening off the side position is preferable for small vehicles such as Jeep Wrangler. It allows for tailgates to operate normally. It further means that the closed tent pack is better balanced on the roof. As the narrow face of the tent is traveling forward, less wind drag is being created. To follow an opening off the side position, bolt the mounting extrusions to the base of the Smittybilt roof top tent. 

Step 4: Attach the mounting extrusion to the Smittybilt roof top tent

Begin with removing the mounting extrusion from the carton and place it on the ground. Using the supplied 6mm bolt and washers, slide one hand in between the inside of the base and the mattress. When your hand is already in, insert the bolts into the pre-drilled bolts. Next, place the mounting extrusion into position and slide the 6 mm nuts. From the inside of the tent, tighten the bolts. Find the holes for the self-drilling screws and use these to attach the outside edge of the mounting extrusion to the base of the tent. For the ladder, mount it to the base of the tent using 4 x 6mm x 40 mm bolts. If you are using a ladder extension, simply slide onto the ladder and secure it with lock pins. 

Step 5: Fit the Smittybilt roof top tent to your roof rack

After you have completed the fourth step in the Smittybilt roof top tent setup, proceed to the fifth step. With assistance, lift the Smittybilt roof top tent into your vehicle. Do this together carefully as to not damage the tent. Then, place an 8mm bolt into the slide plate and slide the plate into the mounting extrusion. After you bolt the plate in, attach the tent to your roof rack. Make sure that the tent is centered on the roof of your vehicle and that mounting points are evenly and correctly positioned. To avoid the bolt head from stripping the aluminum slide plate, do not overtighten all the nuts.

Step 6: Raise the Smittybilt roof top tent

smittybilt roof top tent setup

The last step in a Smittybilt roof top tent setup is raising the tent. Start off by unfastening the cover straps and the Velcro around the edge. After you remove the tent’s cover, carefully fold it over the side. Then, release the hold down Velcro straps on each side of the tent. To engage the ladder, simply slide it out until all the locking pins are in. You can then use the ladder as a tool to help you open the tent. Rest the ladder on the ground while you fold open the tent with ease. For the rainfly, slide the end of its poles into the pockets situated on the side of the tent. Install the side rods and tighten the quick-release straps on the sides of the rain fly. Again, make sure not to overtighten anything. After tightening the straps, enter the tent and install all the cover rods. Place the hook end of the rod through the grommet on the rain fly facing outward and downward. Do this on all four sides of the tent. 

You can now enjoy a short nap inside your tent before setting on the first adventure in your itinerary. To pack away your tent, just repeat all the steps of the Smittybilt roof top tent set up in reserve order.

Handling Cautions

  • When closing the tent, do not pull down on the side, retaining Velcro straps. These straps are not intended for pulling the bases together. If you do so and apply excessive force, it will tear out. The right way to close the tent is to (1) hold down the top folded base to compact the tent and (2) use the Velcro straps to secure the bases in position.
  • There are already existing locking pin holes in the ladder. If you drill additional locking holes below, it can weaken the structure of the ladder. Should the need to shorten the ladder arise, drill the holes above the existing locking pinholes. Additionally, purchase a ladder extension should the situation call for the need to extend the length of the ladder.
  • Always adjust your driving according to the center of gravity. This is because the center of gravity will be altered by the attachment of the Smittybilt roof top tent in your vehicle.
  • Inspect all the nuts and bolts regularly. After a long span of tent usage, the nuts and bolts may loosen. There is a need for re-tightening.

Storage Guidelines

  • Do not store the tent when wet. The tent must be completely stored dry to prevent mold and rot.
  • Do not drag the tent on the ground to protect the cover from damage.
  • Do not store the tent directly on a concrete floor.

Care Instructions

  • Do not use soap and detergent while cleaning the tent. Only use cold water and a soft brush.
  • Do not expose the tent to oil, petrol, and other solvents.
  • Using the tent, again and again, may cause some wear and tear. As early as your first tent use, install a good quality tent-proofing solution. 

Related Questions

Are Smittybilt roof top tents backed up by warranties?

All of Smittybilt’s products are covered under various warranties. However, the warranties do not cover impairment in any part due to improper installation, product modification, improper maintenance, and even shipping damages.

What should be the budget for a Smittybilt roof top tent?

Roof top tents are naturally pricey because convenient features are included during purchase. While you can spend around $600 on serviceable ground tents, the basic budget model for a Smittybilt roof top tent is $800 to $1000. 

Tria Cinchez

loves outdoor activities, especially when it involves camping. Also, she sees to it she doesn't miss her joyride schedule with friends.

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