From the perspective of most automotive manufacturers, roof top tents are not too heavy – they are “within tolerance limits”, meaning they are light enough to respect many vehicles’ maximum roof top load, but heavy enough to be a sturdy, safe and durable overland sleeping system. But with most things in life, it depends on your actual vehicle and what other aspects you are considering, such as handling, gas mileage and suspension wear’n’tear.
So, let’s dive into some of the concerns you may have regarding the weight of a roof top tent, be it a soft shell or a hard shell one AND make sure that you’re not buying a roof top tent that might end up damaging your vehicle.
Roof Top Tent Weight Limits Guide
What vehicles can support a roof top tent?
Most vehicles, especially trucks, vans, Jeeps and SUVs can support a roof top tent by using a heavier duty roof rack and the general rule is that any vehicle with a rooftop load limit under 165 lbs won’t support a roof top tent safely. Trucks can support a roof top tent either in an elevated position using an elevated truck bed rack or as a truck bed tent, depending on the particular roof top tent model. Furthermore, it is fairly straightforward to find out the weight limits for the vehicle, the rack and the tent itself to ensure you can safely drive and use your roof top tent.
» Read more: What vehicles can support a roof top tent?
How much do roof top tents weigh?
The lightest roof top tent on the market weighs around 80 pounds, while the heaviest weighs around 250 pounds. Roof top tent weight varies significantly based on their size, type and the materials it’s made of. Keep in mind that soft shell roof top tents are generally much lighter than hard shell tents.
While many roof top tents emphasize lighter solutions by using a combination of aluminum and fiberglass for structural elements, some roof top tents use heavier materials such as steel and special alloys in their construction, to account for heavier loads, strong winds and other factors.
» Read more: How much do roof top tents weight?
What is the weight limit for a roof top tent?
Roof top tent weight limits vary greatly depending on the marketed size of the tent (1-2, 2-4, 5+ people), but the lower end of weight limits is around 180 to 240 pounds and the higher end of weight limits we’ve seen for heavier-duty tents is around 800 to 1000 pounds. Do keep in mind that while some roof top tents can support massive amounts of weight, it’s not implied that your vehicle or your preferred roof rack system is up to the task.
» Read more: What is the weight limit for a roof top tent?
Can my roof rack support a roof top tent?
While your roof rack MIGHT support a roof top tent, it’s never a safe option to use factory installed racks for roof top tents without double checking weight limits and confirming with the roof top tent manufacturer. If you own a heavy-duty aftermarket roof rack with a maximum load equal or higher than the tent’s load, it is very likely that it will support your roof top tent, but it’s still a better idea to a) confirm with the manufacturer or b) buy a manufacturer recommended roof rack system.
» Read more: Can my roof rack support a roof top tent?
How do you know if your car can handle a roof top tent?
You’re a couple of searches and a simple calculation away from figuring out if your car can handle a roof top tent safely and without risking any damage during actual usage. In most cases, if you own an SUV, Jeep, van or truck, you’re good to go, whilst sedans, hatchbacks, coupes are almost never a safe fit for a roof top tent. On top of that, you can pretty much rule out putting a roof top tent on any vehicle with a rooftop load limit under 165 lbs.
But let’s jump to the steps you should take to be absolutely sure you can buy, install and safely drive with a roof top tent.
Roof Top Tent Weight Concerns
Are roof top tents stable?
Roof top tents are designed, built and tested to be highly stable products both in a closed (when driving) and open state (when camping). Even camping in strong winds has little impact on the stability of the roof top tent, although some level of wind noise is unfortunately inevitable even with great insulation. As for driving with a roof top tent, owners report no significant changes to their driving experience, but it’s best to gradually increase your speed to the point you are comfortable, while adjusting to any minor changes in maneuverability.
» Read more: Are roof top tents stable?
Do roof top tents damage cars?
Simply put, roof top tents do not damage cars as long as they are installed correctly and weight limits for the vehicle, the roof rack and the tent are respected. Mounting and unmounting the tent is also an easy and safe procedure that does no damage to your vehicle. There is an argument that the extra weight causes extra wear to your vehicle’s suspension for example, but that same logic applies to literally anything else in your car, including passengers.
» Read more: Do roof top tents damage cars?
Do roof top tents affect gas mileage?
Yes, roof top tents definitely affect gas mileage negatively, with some RTT owners reporting as little as a 5% decrease (light tents with a more aerodynamic profile) and some reporting as much as 20%-25% increase (heavier tents that are bulkier and basically less aerodynamic). However, there are some useful tips and tricks to ensure that your roof top tent doesn’t affect fuel economy drastically.
» Read more: Do roof top tents affect gas mileage?
So, are roof top tents worth it despite the concerns and downsides mentioned above? Definitely. For some, just having a higher vantage point for sight seeing is worth the downsides and the extra cost, but roof top tents offer way more advantages for a reasonable cost compared to campervans.
If you’re having trouble picking a roof top tent, we recommend going through our series aimed at helping you narrow your list of choices.
Finding the Right Roof Top Tent
What roof top tent features matter most?
From brand reputation, materials used, insulation level and ease of setup to the availability of various complementary accessories such as annex rooms and awnings, there are quite a few things that matter when purchasing a roof top tent. We go through at least 21 factors when ranking a specific roof top tent and our list can help you understand and identify the factors that matter most to you.
» Read More: Important Roof Top Tent Features?
How do you pick a roof top tent?
Choosing the right roof top tent can be broken down into the following steps to ensure you get the most out of your budget:
- Decide on a budget for your roof top tent & accessories
- Pick a specific style & type of roof top tent
- Compare roof top tent features & specifications
- Find the right roof rack for your roof top tent
- Check the rack, tent, vehicle compatibility and weight limits
- Choose the right roof top tent accessories
- Order, install & go on an adventure!
As we love over-analyzing any purchase decision, we recommend reading further so you can make your own check list of priorities in terms of features and accessories for your ideal roof top tent.
» Read More: How to choose a roof top tent