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Things to Consider
When considering a rooftop tent, it's important to take a good look at the system that will be the base of the whole operation. The Crossbars/Rack System on your vehicle will not only need to be up to snuff to hold the weight of the tent while moving down the road, but also withstand the weight of people and the tent when at a standstill. In this article we will go over the main things to look out for whether you already have a rack system, or are starting from scratch.
The Base of the operation
When considering a rooftop tent the rack system supporting them is the most important factor to consider. Most importantly, can the crossbar system hold the weight of the tent itself? Most crossbar systems of good quality can hold up to 165 lbs when the vehicle is moving, some factory crossbars and “universal” rack systems may have a lower weight rating around the 100 lb range. If you already have crossbars, we recommend checking with the manufacturer of the bars to confirm both the dynamic weight capacity, as well as the static weight capacity. As the name suggests, the static weight capacity is the amount of weight the rack can hold when the vehicle is parked. This often is greater than the dynamic weight load by 1.5 - 2.5x depending on rack style and manufacturer. If you are starting from scratch, we would highly recommend not going with the least expensive crossbar option you can find online. A system from a reputable brand such as Yakima, Thule, Rhino-Rack, etc., is worth the extra investment to prevent issues arising with your rooftop setup or worse, losing the tent while driving. Their systems are tested on each vehicle and are often vehicle specific. This allows for a proper fitting, reliable rack system that you can feel confident in. There are of course more rugged systems on the market designed for off road use, and those of course are designed with rooftop tents in mind making them plenty capable.
What type of tent are you considering?
There are many styles of Rooftop Tents on the market, the two most common are soft-shell and hard-shell tents. In most cases, soft-shell tents such as the Thule Tepui Foothill, are less expensive and not as heavy as hard-shell tents, which pose less potential compatibility issues as well as less of a hurting on your wallet. Hard-shell tents, while generally heavier and more expensive, offer a more convenient setup when it comes to actually using the tent. The tent’s typically can be unlatched, then unfold easily to then be used right away. Soft-shell tents on the other hand typically have a protective cover that must be remover, as well as poles that may need to be inserted to prop up areas of the weather cover to prevent the elements from coming in. While the convenience of the hard-shell tents is great, there are some limitations that may arise with your rack system when considering one. Many hard-shell tents exceed the weight capacity of most factory crossbar systems, and even more recreational aftermarket ones. You may need to upgrade your rack system to something a bit more rugged such as the Yakima HD Crossbar Roof Rack or Front Runner Slimline II if they are available for your vehicle.
Most Rooftop Tents on the market are designed to sleep 1-3 people. 2 and 3 person tents are the most common capacities on the market, and we’d like to share some details regarding the capacity ratings that may assist you in your decision. If you are considering a 2 person tent as funny as it sounds you’ll need to consider your relationship with the person you’ll be camping with. The reason being, a 2 person tent with two grown adults and sleeping bags can be pretty tight from our experience. If you think you may feel claustrophobic or you want a little distance from your tent mates, swinging for the 3 person tent may be the way to go. 3 person tents also can be quite a bit wider than a 1 or 2 person tent, so you’ll want to confirm the dimensions of the 3 person will have enough room to be mounted on your vehicle's crossbars.
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