Must Have Roof Top Tent Camping Resources

The rise of the popularity of car camping began in the early part of the 1900s as a family activity. Post-war and depression that lasted for about two decades, families started going on vacation with their station wagons. Others pioneered the idea of resting tents over their vehicles. This is as the units provided more space and headroom than the inside of the cars. At present, roof top tents are already formally manufactured, and car camping, normalized as a recreational activity. Also, roof top tent camping resources are already relatively different today from before.

Generally, the majority of the must have roof top tent camping resources are composed of material resources. Human and financial resources are as necessary, however. Human resources are those we can tap to help upon the installation of our tent on our car top. Financial resources, on the other hand, cover the expenses we spend on the tent, car fuel, and our food. Lastly, some material resources include the following:

• Camping Vehicle – ideally SUV or trucks if possible

• Roof Rack with a Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC) that is the same as the tent weight

• Roof Top Tent – soft or hard shell

• Floor Insulation such as a thermal floor mat or a sleeping pad

• Sleeping Bag

• Utility Tarp

• Shoe Bags

• First Aid and Emergency Kit

Camping essentials and gear may vary for different campers with different needs. For instance, weather and climate can cause significant differences in choosing our campsites. They should also affect, of course, the gear we choose to bring with us. Also, our budget should similarly affect the same decisions. Big budgets can open for backcountry trips as well as more expensive tent purchases. Thus, it is important that we examine our resources for a camping experience we would not forget.

Human Resource

Roof top tents and ground-mounted tents are considerably made differently for different purposes. Ground tents, for one, are made to be compact and portable. They are manufactured so that we can carry them on our backs for when we climb a mountain, for instance. On the other hand, roof top tents are built to address the issues when mounting a tent on the ground. This includes issues like being accessed by animals and by flood during unpredictable rainstorms.

Thus, in line with that, roof top tents are typically made of a heavier and thicker fabric than ground tents. This tells us that setting up camp with it will be a little harder than ground tents. We should have somebody to help us chiefly with lifting the tent onto the top of our vehicle. Ultimately, roof top tents have different sizes and weights. But for the most part, their weight is generally at least a hundred pounds. Unless we are body-builder strong, then we cannot install a tent on our car tops by ourselves. Therefore, we must list human resources among the essential roof top tent camping resources.

Financial Resource

As mentioned, roof top tents are built to withstand strong elements. It is one thing to consider that because they are at an elevation, they are more susceptible to heavy wind. This is why their materials are typically heavier duty and thicker than ground-mounted tents. And since this can be considered as an upgrade, we should expect roof top tents to be more expensive also. As ground tents cost tens to hundred dollars, roof top tents will cost at least a thousand dollars.

Moreover, not only are we to spend a considerable amount of money on the roof top tents. We should also have to spend on gas for our vehicle since the tent load atop affects the car fuel efficiency. The tent, rack, and other extra gears are most likely to affect the vehicle’s center of gravity. Because of this, wind resistance is created that will reduce gas mileage and performance.

Other than that, we also have to set a budget on our other camping needs. These include necessary tent accessories like sleeping pad and insulation, lights, storage pockets, and the like. We should also have to have a budget on food, and campground entrance and miscellaneous fees, if any. 

With all that being said, financial resources should top among the essential roof top tent camping resources.

Material Resources

Material resources comprise the majority of the roof top tent camping resources. They are the live versions of our outdoor aspirations. Most of them, we spend our financial resources on for a successful camping trip. Others, we can hack with our existing stuff at home with a little creativity and innovation.

Camping Vehicle

Of course, a sufficient vehicle is just as important as the roof top tent for our desired camping trip. It is what will bring us across roads to our planned campsite within or outside the city limits. And basically, it is going to be the foundation of our tents in our camping setup. We can treat it as our home flooring. 

The question here though is whether our existing cars will be able to support a roof top tent. The answer? Yes. Many roof top tents can and will work on just about any car. However, there are a few considerations to take before going ahead on that tent purchase. This is saying that not all cars are ideal as roof top tent camping resources.

As a general rule, trucks, and SUVs are competent candidates for roof top tents. Cars, sedans, and hatchbacks, on the other hand, are usually not. Roof top tents are additional loads to carry and are not exactly aerodynamic. The 100-pound minimum weight of a tent would need to be on top of a roof rack, which is another weight. Thus, if we are to use small cars with less power, they will likely be more affected by the extra weight. This means that our car will go through considerable change in power, speed, and acceleration.

Roof Rack

As mentioned, roof top tents are not directly mounted on top of our cars. They have to be mounted on a roof rack that may hold other extra gears if there are any. On the market, the best roof racks include Yakima, Thule, and Rhino Racks. Other brands will work just as fine though as long as they match our tens and vehicles. Moreover, roof top tents can be placed on flat racks, crossbars, or on canopies.

The critical thing that we have to take note of is the Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC) of the rack system. This is the rack’s weight, which can physically carry while the vehicle is in motion or driving. It is different when the tent is in use. At a time like this, the tent’s weight plus ours is effectively distributed over the whole frame of the vehicle. So, it does not matter how much weight is added as long as the vehicle is not in motion. This is known, thus, as the Static Weight Capacity (SWC), much greater than the DWC.

The DWC, in particular, should match at least the weight of the tent. For instance, if the tent is 140 pounds heavy, then the rack system’s DWC should be the same. We can ask the manufacturer for the rack’s specs. In case our rack is not enough to hold a tent in place, we may have its engineering altered.

Roof Top Tent

As mentioned, roof top tents are now already uniquely manufactured for its purpose. They are considerably different in built from the ground-mounted tents, but still with design variations. Two major categories classify roof top tents – soft shells and hard shells. We can choose between these two depending on our budget, car, and other factors.

Soft Shell Roof Top Tent 

Generally, all roof top tents are built to be durable and long-lasting under extreme weather conditions. Thus, whether soft shell or hard shell, we can guarantee a quality that is better than ground tents. It’s just that soft shells may just be typically smaller in size for transport, but with a bigger living space. Moreover, they may relatively be taller and blocky when closed, which affects the fuel efficiency of the car. And compared to hard shells, they may be a bit noisier in the wind and a bit less waterproof.

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Hard shell roof top tents, on the other hand, can guarantee us a hundred percent weatherproof shelter due to the impermeability of the fabric materials being used. And in line with construction, it is a plus that they are more sleek and attractive than soft shells. They also require less time to set up than soft shells that need protective covers and tent poles. The only snag of hard shells, though, is that they typically have smaller sleeping areas if we are not camping alone.

Sleeping Bag

Usually, roof top tents already come with a built-in mattress that is at least two inches thick. However, it does not mean that our sleeping concerns are already addressed totally. We may still need extra sheets so that we are kept warm and toasty throughout our camping nights. Sure, we can bring our home blankets or duvets, but they may not suffice during cold temperatures. It is better if we bring sleeping bags, ideally body-hugging mummy ones, to deal with our cold feet.

Floor Insulation

This item is also to address the cold during our nights at the camp. To effectively prevent the cold from reaching our body, we will need something placed under the sleeping bag. It can be a thermal mat or a foam insulating sleeping pad. They function by trapping dead air inside our tents and thus, increasing the insulation value. They send our body heat back to our sleeping bag, providing an additional layer of insulation. They are especially useful if we plan on camping at a sub-zero degrees temperature even.


One noteworthy property of roof top tents is that their darker interior compared to ground tents. As mentioned, they are built with thicker, impermeable fabric to be weatherproof. That is why, even with a lamp post outside, functioning inside our tents may still be a little hard. Thus, we may install LED lights or lanterns inside the tent to improve internal visibility, especially at night. Also, we might as well hang by the ladder a handy headlamp or flashlight. It will be useful for when we need to come down to pee in the middle of our sleep.

Utility Tarp

When going out to camp, we should have to cook our food outdoors unless we prefer eating non-fresh foods. We can prepare food the simple way through a campfire or through using a portable propane-operated stove. The former is one for the books experience, but it is not always convenient, especially when it rains. We may need to have an annex extension if we want a ground that is protected from getting wet. Otherwise, since an annex might be an additional expense, we may improvise with a utility tarp. If not as an annex, the tarp may be used as a picnic mat during sublime daylight hours at the campground.

Shoe Bags

Shoes are needed for safe ladder climbing, ideally the non-slip shoes. When barefoot, we may be more susceptible to fall, especially if we usually have sweaty soles. Also, we may not want to trust the ground with our shoes overnight, would we? However, we also do not want to bring the dirt from our shoes into our sleeping areas. Therefore, we should have accessible storage where we can place our dirty shoes in. A sufficient show bag will do which we can hang at the side of the ladder. Some tents may come with a bonus of built-in pockets or storage for shoes and our other stuff.

First Aid and Emergency Kit

Camping, in general, is tons different than our normal lives in our well-equipped homes. We have to do the cooking without our timer ovens and stoves. We also have to walk through a forest to reach a bathroom or the toilet. And with roof top tent camping, we have to climb up and down a ladder into our comfortable mattress. Because of the strangeness, we may be more susceptible to unexpected injuries or burns. Thus, we have to bring a first aid kit so that we have an immediate solution just in case.

Also, not only unexpected injuries should threaten us. Sometimes, no matter how much we come prepared with our research, nature may still surprise us. We may wake up one morning in our camp at an unpredicted rainstorm that should give us literal chills. Therefore, we should bring as well an emergency blanket with our first aid kit. We might as well stock the emergency kit too with waterproof matches in case it should be needed.

Related Questions 

Is it safe to use an electric heater inside the tent?

Electric heaters are one of the easiest ways to heat a tent. Many would use a small electric fan heater on their camping trips. However, using one should urge us to consider safety and the kind of power supply at our campsite. We must note how much less a campsite’s power supply is than what we have at home.

To use an electric heater inside a tent, we will need to book a pitch in our campsite which provides EHU. EHU or electric hook-ups require special electrical fitting, different from our extension cable at home. They may only be limited to 5amps of electricity. Also, we should use only the correct fitting that has a built-in RCD or circuit breaker. Without an EHU, we may only sign ourselves up to accidents, trying to save costs with the conventional extension wire.

What should we skip bringing in the camp?

The number of items that we do not need in our camping is countless. As a rule, we only need to make a shortlist of essential camping items that we need to bring. Any other that is not in it is considered unnecessary, and thus, we should skip bringing. However, there are a few that we can name to aid for a successful camping experience. For one, we should skip bringing and wearing white clothes. The thing about camping is that we are closer to the bare earth. Any time, our white shirt may acquire mud stains or bird poop.

Aside from that, for our safety, we should avoid bringing perfumes and other strong-scented items. This is especially required if our campsite is in the middle of the wild. This is because the strong smell is likely to attract bears that may get interested in us later. Also, we should avoid a sophisticated, loud sound system. We are camping, not having a party. The tendency is that if we are at an established campground, we may disturb other campers. Also, the campground management may have its own rules about loud sounds.

Eni Gordove

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

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