Do you want a Roof Top Tent but don’t know if your rack works? Or you don’t know which rack or cross-bars to buy?
We get these questions A LOT, literally almost every day. That’s why we came up with this blog post, to try and answer it for everyone in need!
The following article will recommend a few options of either roof racks or crossbars that will likely work with most vehicles. However, it’s impossible for us to recommend all the options in the market, or cover many models in depth.
That’s why we narrowed it down to a few options, which either we know that work well, or have been recommended by many seasoned vehicle owners, or other roof top tent camping veterans.
Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack
We sell a few of them so you’ll see links directing you to the product pages, others we don’t sell, but we’re more than happy to recommend them and even give you more info about them if needed.
The goal here is to give you the information you’re after, to save you time researching and to try and answer your questions or doubts before you even have to ask them.
Know The Basics:
The first thing to know is the type of rack or crossbars you need to be able to hold a rooftop tent.
You must make sure that the rack or bars you are going to buy have a Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC) of at least the weight of the tent. Most models weigh in between 120 and 165 lbs, so to be safe you will need a rack that can hold more than 165 lbs.
What is the DWC?
Simple, it is the weight that the rack can physically carry while the vehicle is in motion. Once the vehicle is parked, and the tent is in use, the weight limit of the tent plus that of it’s occupants is effectively dispersed over the entire frame of the vehicle.
This is also known as Static Weight Capacity (SWC), and as said, no matter if you’re 3 people on top of the rack, your weight will be distributed around the frame, without breaking them (as some may think), as long as the vehicle IS NOT IN MOTION.
Another important aspect to bear in mind is the vehicle you have.
Lightweight RTTs range from around 95 lbs (the Featherlite by Front Runner being one of the lightest), to around 125 lbs.
Front Runner Featherlite RTT on top of a Slimline II Roof Rack Kit
These lighter models will be able to fit smaller vehicles, such as SUVs, Subaru Bajas, or other cars which are not exactly built for off-roading. We’ve seen car top tents on models such as an Honda Civic, yet we DON’T encourage this.
The bigger, heavier models, whether we’re talking of 4 person roof top tents, or hardshell tents, are suitable for the bigger, stronger vehicles that are actually built for rougher and tougher trails and can of course support (the vehicle itself) a higher weight.
The big off-road rigs have themselves the capacity of sustaining a larger weight capacity than say an SUV, and despite racks or cross-bars being able to support pretty much any tent, if your car is a bit small or not exactly built for overlanding, then overtime the roof might sustain some damages.
Another good thing to know is that stock-mounting hardware will on average fit rack bars with a cross-section of 3.25" width x 2" height. Be sure to mount your racks 32"-48" apart on your vehicle.
Let’s now take a look at the recommended roof rack kits and cross-bars.
Front Runner Outfitters is one of the biggest and best companies manufacturing car accessories, off-roading products, racks, roof top tents and other camping equipment.
This South African based company designed the Slimline II Cargo Rack, which is available for many different vehicles (feel free to reach out asking if your vehicle make and model has a Slimline II designed for it).
The one in the picture is for a Toyota 4Runner 5thGeneration, although there are many more, such as for a Jeep Wrangler JKU 4 Door, for a Land Rover All New Discovery, for a Nissan Patrol/Armada, for a Toyota Fj Cruiser, for a Jeep Wrangler JK 2 Door, and many others.
If you have another vehicle, feel free to reach out sending us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to find the right Slimline 2 Roof Rack Kit for your vehicle.
The Slimline II rack tends to avoid drilling vehicles roofs. It installs on to the existing factory mounting points, although in some cases it will require some drilling. Keep in mind there is also a Strap-On version.
This rack will allow you to take any roof top tent on top of it, as well as other equipment or luggage, no problem whatsoever.
Built with T6 powder-coated aluminum and stainless steel, this particular rack is a beast. The weight of each rack changes depending on the vehicle, as well as the dimensions, but they all come with the legs and the tray, and installation is not complicated if you can handle some nuts and bolts.
If you don’t, then any mechanic or local repair shop will be able to mount this in 30 minutes or so.
It is backed by a Lifetime Limited Warranty, and it comes with some interesting features, such as enough space and openings to place camping tables under the rack, and still have your rooftop tent or other things such as kayaks, fishing rods, and bags on top of it.
The amount of weight you can put on this rack is not an issue. It’s one of the best in the market, and if you want to buy it, CLICK HERE.
Gobi Stealth Rack:
The Gobi Stealth is one of the preferred racks by most experienced off-roaders. The reason? Quality, durability, and strength.
Include the fact that each Gobi comes with free, or additional features, and you know you’re getting a very good deal for the price.
Just like with the Slimline, there are multiple configurations and multiple models for the different vehicles in the market.
Some of them have sunroofs, some don’t. It is pretty much up to you depending on your rig, and on what you want. Since we don’t sell the Gobi Stealth, we HIGHLY recommend you CALLING them, so that they can offer you expert advice.
Most Gobi don’t require any drilling, and they can easily hold up to 600 lbs of weight as a SWC, whilst the DWC is normally of 300 lbs, much more than the traditional cross-bars.
They’re made of black powder coated anti-rust undercoat, stainless hardware and a limited one year warranty.
The greatest thing about the Gobi Stealth, is that vibration with a lot of weight on it, will not cause any scratches on the roof of your car (something that can happen whilst driving, with other racks or cross-bars). There’s enough space in between the rack and the roof, and the strength of the frame is such, that this will not be a problem.
Also, the Gobi shifts weight off the mounting holes onto the A pillars of your vehicle, and this increases both the SWC and DWC. That’s why it can hold up to 300 DWC and 600 SWC.
When it comes to cross-bars the options are many. There are very good brands, such as Rhino-Rack, Yakima and Thule (just to name a few), which will fit pretty much any vehicle in the world.
iKamper Skycamp sitting on top of crossbars
When it comes to these, you’ll see options such as clip-ons, which are not a permanent solution and pretty much clip or clamp into your vehicle on the door jamb curves or factory side rails.
These are strong and secure, yet not the best choice if you want to use a roof top tent with them.
Because of the DWC. Despite these being able to hold the required 165 lbs, the fact that they clip on, means they won’t be as strong or as securely fastened as permanent bars.
What you will see happening is that when you’re driving, due to the weight of the RTT, the vibration will cause these crossbars to move a bit, potentially chipping your roof, door, and even damaging the crossbars themselves in extreme cases.
That is why we recommend more permanent solutions.
We recommend those rack bars, which will fit the vehicle by attaching into the factory mounting points. Other options also include those who fit into the vehicle’s roof ditch, those which fixedly attach to your roof using a specialized track mount, or even better, those which drill into the side rails.
Vortex RLT600 Trackmount Silver 3 Bar Roof Rack
As we have said numerous times, before acquiring any of these, since we don’t sell them, we wont’ be able to give you a detailed advice. We recommend you calling directly Rhino-Rack, Thule or Yakima to inquire what’s the best fit for your vehicle.
Use this article and recommendations as a reference, to have an idea what you should be after.
For example, the image below was given to us by Blake Walker, who’s using three Rhino-Rack heavy duty trade cross bars, and on top a Darche Panorama 2 rooftop tent.
Then once again, this other picture shows a Rhino-Rack Vortex Trackmount 3 Bar Roof Rack, which offers a heavier load rating than just clip-on bars. This means the weight is distributed well around the vehicle, and you could fit heavier tents on top of these.
Once again, another Front Runner Outfitters Rack Kit, but this time for the load bed of the truck.
This is another type of setup you can think of if you own a pick-up truck. We get the question from many owners of a Tacoma, an F150 or other trucks, where should they mount the tent?
We recommend the Slimline II Load Bed Rack Kit, which once again is available for most pick up trucks. It will still allow you to take things on your truck bed, and to safely place your RTT on top of it.
It won’t impact the vehicle's design, having a lower fuel impact than if the tent was on the roof.
Also, depending on the type of truck, the bed will be longer then the roof itself, allowing you to have a bigger rooftop tent on the back.
Depending on the tent’s dimensions, as well as on the truck’s bed and roof dimensions, you might want to get the load rack or a standard roof rack.
That said, the Slimline is made of T6 Aluminum, stainless steel and comes with the pick-up load bed tracks, the load bed leg as well as the rack tray and all the installation hardware needed. Drilling is required. Take a look at one CLICKING HERE.
Smittybilt SRC Rack:
This is one of the best-known racks for those owning a Jeep. The SRC is made by the famous Smittybilt brand that specializes in Jeep accessories. They’re also the makers of the well-known Overlander Roof Top Tent.
Smittybilt SRC Roof Rack
That said, the SRC roof rack comes in different sizes depending on the Jeep you have. They tend to offer in between 4 to 5 inches of spacing between the cage and the vehicle’s main bars.
The installation is quite a simple process, but drilling is required in some cases, depending on the make and model, and the bumper that you have. Another upside are the holes on the bars, which can make some noise, but if covered they are fine.
Now, when it comes to strength and durability, you’re looking at a good rack, yet not the best. It will definitely hold well any roof top tent, even the heavier ones, but it’s not the best rack in the market.
Price is good, quality is good enough, but you can find better options, and Front Runner and Gobi are better options.
Other Bed Racks:
To use your roof top tent, especially the bigger ones such as the 4-person roof top tents, or the iKamper Skycamp it’s ideal to have a bed rack that’s as tall as the roof of your truck (a hi-lift bed mount) or even truck caps with then a roof rack on top of them.
This way you’ll ensure enough length in your pick-up truck to use any RTT.
All-Pro Rack on Toyota Tacoma Bed (photo by: Topo Terra)
The All-Pro Rack is placed on the bed rails of a Toyota Tacoma, it is very lightweight and easy to install as well as to attach gear to.
Brandon explained it has the ability of having add-on accessory bars for Rotopax, Hi-Lift Jacks and other gear, making it a versatile and useful rack.
All-Pro Rack on Toyota Tacoma Bed (photo by: Topo Terra)
As seen on the pictures shared by him, the tent sits flush with the top of the truck, and still will enable you to store additional gear or stuff underneath the rack bed, and at the same time there is a direct line of sight out the back of the truck, not blocking the rear view and increasing the safety.
As said many times, the market is full of brands and options for roof racks and crossbars.
Randell Keith Ziegler shared with us his setup (image below). It is a Barricade Rack, which doesn’t require drilling on the roof, and according to him it has performed greatly.
Barricade Rack (photo shared by Randell Keith Ziegler)
This opens up other options for you to look at, not just the household brands, but you might want to check with local dealers for other brands, or even custom made roof rack kits, which might be one of the best options possible!
We hope this blog post has helped you get some knowledge or insight. We know it has been long, full of information, and that there are many options to choose from.
Does this make the process of choosing the proper one a complicated one?
Not really, it just gives you possibilities.
Start by knowing the basics we mentioned above, then think about what roof top tent you want, the weight, the dimensions of your both the tent and vehicle, how many people will use the RTT, and your budget.
From there start considering other factors:
- Will you carry other gear or luggage with you?
- Is it just the tent or will there be fishing rods? Camping tables?
- Will you use the roof rack or crossbars for other things such as carrying gear, kayaks on other trips?
All these questions will help you determine what you should be looking for. From there, look at the options we recommend above, and if you like any of them, you’re in safe hands. Front Runner, Gobi, Smittybilt, ARB, TJM, Thule, Rhino-Rack and Yakima are all reputable brands that probably will not let you down.
Have any questions? Write them below, or ask them on our Private Facebook Group (CLICK HERE TO JOIN).