Important Roof Top Tent Camping Hacks


Roof top tent camping has been a game-changer for everyone who does not approve of sleeping on the ground. It relieves most campers of the thoughts of getting invaded by spiders, scorpions, or snakes while dozing off. However, setting up a tent over our cars might be a little baffling as well. Also, roof top tents do come with a few trade-offs despite its convenience and benefits. But by knowing some roof top tent camping hacks, most of our concerns can be sorted out. More than anything, it can ease out transition into rooftop sleeping if we are new to RTT camping.

Roof Top tent Hacks

Getting by roof top tent camping is similar to our conventional camping with ground-mounted tents. However, the major difference is just that roof top tents are typically darker inside than normal tents. Thus, it is a simple yet important hack to install portable light sources for bearable nights. Aside from that, roof top tents are also typically harder to install than ground tents. However, we can hack this out by using a skateboard or cart rolled onto the tailgate of our cars.

Moreover, other important roof top tent camping hacks include the following:

  • Using an extendable tarp pole to raise the center of the rain fly to avoid pooling rainwater
  • Packing the bottom of our sleeping bags with hot water bottles or with dry clothes for warm nights. Acquiring a heated blanket is an easy go-to for subzero temperatures, though
  • Placing desiccants inside closed tents to reduce the buildup of moisture, which can damp down our bedding
  • Using bungee cords or ratchet straps to pack up our tents more easily. Ratchet straps are better than Velcro straps at holding our tents up on windy conditions
  • Keeping our packed spices compact and convenient by using our old Tic-Tac boxes or straws. Straws can be sealed with a flame and can be cut into portions per meal or per cooking
  • Kindling fires a lot faster with lightweight fire starters, for instance, wax-dipped cotton pads. Hand sanitizer, line, and weatherproof trick birthday candles could work as well

Camping out is supposed to be just a fun and relaxing experience. However, a couple of trade-offs can spoil our fun if we do not know how to handle them well. And while roof top tent camping is an alternative for fairly hassle ground-camping, it can have its own downsides too. Luckily, there are multiple hacks that we can use to our advantage for a smooth camping experience. Some of these hacks are strictly for rooftop tent camping, while the others are for all types of camping opportunities. 

Dealing with the darkness

Usually, roof top rents have fairly darker interiors as compared to ordinary ground tents. Therefore, it will be quite a struggle when we try to function at night. Getting up from sleep to pee is a real hassle as well. This is as we have to climb down a ladder from the top of our car.

Roof Top tent Hacks

To remedy, we can use, by default, flashlights to provide us some much-needed light. We can also opt to bring along a solar lantern or a battery-operated lantern for wider coverage. We can even get creative and install stylish and more sophisticated lighting such as fairy lights for magical nights. Lastly, we can use LED strips and get power as well from a camping generator if we have one with us.

These are some of the devices that will help us deal with the darkness inside our rooftop tents. In addition, we may as well keep a small torch in the little side pockets of our tent. This is especially helpful for midnight toilet runs as our phone torches might not suffice or always accessible.

Handling the quite complicated installation

Roof top tents typically weigh about 100 pounds to 200 pounds (45 kg to 90 kg). Aside from that, they also come in fairly complicated shapes and unique sizes. Because of these reasons, installing them on our car rooftops can be, thus, a little hectic. This is especially so if we are doing the installation by ourselves.

We can always tap a friend to give us some assistance when installing our roof top tents. However, we can do the job as well without asking for an extra hand. Firstly, we will need to make a skateboard, or basically a cart for our tents. Perhaps we can use caster wheels and plywood sheets to make a cart or skateboard. Then, we can roll the cart or skateboard onto the tailgate of our cars to get our tents on the roof. For cars or vehicles which do not have a tailgate though, a table or a chair can be of assistance.

To get the tent on our vehicle’s rooftop, we can simply roll our cart on and position it. Our tent must be kept on end. Then, we have to push the cart toward our car’s tailgate. We should lift it on the ground end until it is finally standing on the tailgate. After that, we must tip the cart onto the roof bars of our vehicle and finally slide the tent into place.

Having the cart, moreover, is one of the most important roof top tent camping hacks in general. Aside from the installation, it will also help us maneuver our tents around our camping grounds. Also, it can act as great storage to place our tents in.

Managing the rain

Generally, roof top tents are designed with two-room portions. There is a portion for the bed and another lower room portion. Toward the latter room of a roof top tent, the roof usually tends to slope down. And when it rains, the roof is most likely to get pooled with water. The pooled water on top of our tent’s roof has the tendency to form drips on the interior of our tent. The drips then will roll down the canvass and probably drop right onto our face, eyes, or ears. Of course, when this happens, we will never get comfortable enough to sleep.

For this particular scenario, it is among the most important roof top tent camping hacks to use a tarp pole. We can use an extendable tarp pole to hold up and raise the center of the rain fly. This will prevent the water from collecting, making it simply run-off when it rains.

Surviving the cold

Sometimes, no matter the gear we have on, nights will get really cold. It does not help moreover that some people naturally just are born with cold feet. However, there are actually multiple roof top tent camping hacks to remedy this concern. For one, we can fill up our hot water bottles before bed and toss them in the bottom of our sleeping bags. Not only will this keep our feet warm but the entire bag to keep us warm and toasty.

In addition, we can pack the bottom of the sleeping bag with dry clothes as they have an absorbency property. This property is the ability of a fabric to take in moisture. Thus, throwing dry clothes in our sleeping bag will take up any moisture inside, aside from keeping cold feet warm.

Lastly, we can get a heated blanket, especially during winter. Yes, it sounds crazy, but camping at subzero temperatures can actually be survived. With a heated blank, we will be kept warm and toasty inside our tents on our car roof tops.

Reducing tent moisture and condensation

It happens – waking up to our condensed breath dripping back on our face in our mornings. And it is nowhere near fun. This is caused primarily by the moisture we exhale when we sleep. That warm moisture hits the cold walls of our tents, causing it to turn into water. When we sleep, we exhale moisture. When that warm moisture hits the cold walls of the tent, the moisture turns to water.

Apparently, we can keep our tent from getting or developing too much moisture and condensation. We can do this by keeping our tents well-ventilated. But apart from that, we can also use desiccants to reduce moisture at a considerable rate. We can hang the desiccants inside our closed tent so that it absorbs any residual moisture. This will prevent our bedding from getting damp for a good night’s sleep.

Withstanding the wind

Apparently, the usual four straps that hold roof top tents are just as effective in calm weather. But when it comes to windy conditions, these much straps, usually Velcro, may not suffice at all. We really cannot tell the weather at all. One day, our tents might fly right open in the middle of a freeway, causing damage to our supposed shelters. Thus, we can always secure our tents by using ratchet straps – double if necessary. Not only will this hold the tent securely, but it also makes it easier to compress the tent when we are packing up.

Hack for easy packing

It can be a lot of trouble trying to close our tents as the canvas most likely keeps ballooning out. We will have to go on extra trouble to stuff all the canvas back in buying us more time and energy. However, this problem can easily be minimized by using the provided bungee cords. We just have to simply hook them on the rings by the side of the windows. And that is it. Our tent can now be kept easily, saving us time to pack up the rest of our camping equipment.

Protecting our backpack stuff from impromptu showers

This is not just among roof top tent camping hacks, but for all camping opportunities in general. When we go out camping, probably in our itineraries are some hiking or trailblazing. However, as mentioned, we can never really tell what mother nature has for us while we are out and about. We can come across an impromptu little rain that might not get us sick but will keep our stuff wet for long.

While we can address this problem by using waterproof dry bags, their size might not be enough for our stuff. They are also a bit harder to carry than our regular trail backpacks. Luckily though, garbage bags are invented and can be used not only for garbage. We can use garbage bags to line the inside of our backpacks to protect our stuff from a rainstorm. We can stuff it up with all of our gears first and toss it inside the backpack. Then, we can head out the trail confidently, not worrying so much about the rain. And we will have something dry to change into in case it really does rain.

Skipping bottles or jars for cooking spices

As much as possible, we want to reduce the weight and the size of the stuff we bring while camping. One way to do it is by skipping our spice bottles or jars. We may not need our several months’ supply of spices anyway.

Thus, we can utilize a few things to make our spices storage compact and more convenient. We can do this by using our old Tic-Tac boxes to be filled with portions of our spices. Not only do they carry our go-to spices, but it also makes cooking easy for us with their convenient openings.

Aside from that, we can also utilize drinking straws as handy spice holders. We can use the plastic-type, seal a side with flame, and fill it with a portion of a spice. We can even cut our straws into smaller lengths, depending on how much of the spices we are to bring. This is also a great hack to pre-portion our spices per meal or per cooking.

Making campfires easy

Again, as much as possible, we want to reduce all the weight that we carry with us while camping. Apparently, bringing the classic fire starters does not address this concern at all. They are, in fact, one of the major contributors in adding so much extra weight to our packs. They even just simply take up room in our rigs. However, we can skip these heavy fire starters with several hacks.

First, we can bring a couple of handy little fire starters other than our conventional paper or carton. These can take the form of our classic cotton pads that are dipped in wax. One of it will be enough to kindle a roaring campfire within seconds. And they barely even take up space in our packs and are light as a feather.

Aside from that, we can also bring our hand sanitizer for a purpose beyond sanitizing our hands. Apparently, it is flammable enough to work as a fire starter to kindle a germ-free fire in just a pinch. Or we can use lint for another lightweight fire starter; nothing too fancy and too difficult to explain. Unless we are saving it for something really important…

Lastly, we can use our fancy trick birthday candles as festive fire starters. Apparently, as much as we can hate them on our birthday cakes, we can actually love them as weatherproof matches. Yes, they are weatherproof, perfect during impromptu rain showers.

Related Questions

How many people can sleep in a roof top tent?

Like our regular tents that are mounted on the ground, roof top tents can actually house up to four people. In fact, the floor of a roof top tent can even fold out into a king-size mattress. A family of two adults and two children can sleep comfortably on top of a vehicle for a fun family outing. Or for that gang trip, up to three adults can sleep, sharing the floor of a single roof top tent.

Moreover, the weight capacity of a roof top tent is generally around 200 pounds for every camper. This capacity actually breaks down as a two-person roof top tent with two people sharing its space. Thus, it can handle even up to 400 pounds of weight. Conversely, a three-person tent with three people sleeping in it can hold up to 600 pounds. The ladders that are used for access to these tents are typically about 320 pounds.

How can we protect ourselves from bears while camping?

Bears get attracted to food, garbage, or other attractants that typically have strong scents. Sometimes, bears that learn to get food in campgrounds get bold and aggressive. This is as they exert efforts to obtain their foods. When this happens, they may damage our vehicles, tents, and other property present in the situation. They may even, on rare occasions, enter tents and attack us while we are inside. This will cause us potential injury… or death, both campers, and the bears as they are killed by bear managers.

To avoid getting into these situations, we should remember to sleep, not in the clothes we cooked in. This will save us from bears getting inside our tents to eat us. In a backcountry camp, we should park our vehicles at least 100 yards away from cooking campfires. And speaking of cooking, we should avoid aromatic foods like fish and bacon. We should not as well place foods inside our tents, but rather keep them in bear-proof storage near the campfire. Garbage, on the other hand, should not be buried but packed or disposed of on provided disposals.

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Eni Gordove

is an outdoor enthusiast. She loves the thrill of the challenges that nature brings.

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