Will My Car Work For A Roof Top Tent? What Do I Need? Let Us Explain! – Off Road Tents

14 comments / Posted on by Karsten Koberg

This is a very fair and important question. It is important for you to know that roof top tents can and will work on any car, however that doesn’t mean your car is ideal for one.

There are funny stories, for example Evan, Tepui Tent’s founder, can tell you how he saw during a trip to Venezuela a bunch of cars with RTTs on top of them (Read HERE interview with Tepui), and not all where 4x4s or even SUVs. Nonetheless, if you own a sedan, or a very compact vehicle such as a hatchback, keep in mind these tents will have a different impact on your vehicle.

 wanaka roof top tent with extra large annex

Wanaka Roof Top Tent by Guana Equipment

The reason being is that roof top tents are an additional weight on top of your roof, plus they aren’t exactly aerodynamic. We are talking about tents that are 120 lbs the lightest, and they need to be set up on a set of roof racks (more weight), so if your car is smaller and with less power, then it will be affected more by the extra weight, meaning you'll feel a big change in power, speed and acceleration.

Of course there are tents such as the Baja Series from Tepui that can be suitable for sedans, and we have seen it, but it’s not common. In the end it is down to you, and if you don’t mind all the other factors, you just want a good place to comfortably sleep at night while you are on a cross-country trip on your Corolla, go ahead.

On the other hand we advice you to buy one if you have an SUV or upwards.


Will My Racks Work With The Roof Top Tents?

Yes, they will. There are a few recommended brands for roof racks: Yakima, Thule and Rhino Rack, but others will work just fine. Roof Top Tents can be installed on flat racks, cross bars or a canopy.

Just make sure that your racks have a Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC) of at least the weight of the tent. For example, if the tent weighs 130 lbs, the racks MUST have at least that same DWC. You can simply call your manufacturer; look at the specs of your racks to know.

The DWC is the weight that the rack can physically carry while the vehicle is in motion. When the tent is in use, the weight of the tent plus the weight of it's occupants is effectively dispersed over the entire frame of the vehicle, so it doesn't matter that you're adding some extra pounds as long as the vehicle is NOT in motion. This is also known as the Static Weight Capacity (SWC). This is a much much greater capacity, as the frame of the vehicle will be strong enough to hold the weight of the occupants.

With all that said, you do not want to just put your RTT on top of any rack. Let us explain, take as an example Rhino-Racks, their Fixed Mounting Point, Backbones, Gutter Mount and Trackmount (see image below) systems will all work with RTTs, but the 2500 systems might not be recommended since extreme weight increases can alter the engineering of the product. Meaning that before you purchase an RTT, make sure you have a good rack system in place that can hold them.

Rhino-Rack RLT600 Trackmounts         Rhino-Rack RLT600 Trackmounts

One of our preferred rack systems is the Rhino-Rack Backbone system, because it’s one of the safest and strongest. They are specifically designed for an increased Static Weight Capacity, ideal for RTTs.

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!


How About The Weight Capacity Of The Tents?

Most of the tents that we offer at Off Road Tents have a weight fluctuating between 100 lbs and 220 lbs, so what model tent you decide on will depend on how much weight your roof rack can carry. The positive thing is that because we have many different brands and styles of tents, your rack will probably be able to hold at least one of the models in our collection. Racks from Yakima and Thule, have systems that are specifically for most vehicle makes and models, and generally have a higher Dynamic Weight Capacity than most factory racks.

In regards to tent weight capacity, RTTs average 200 lbs per occupant. In the case of the two-person, the total weight capacity would be 400 lbs. A three-person tent, has a capacity of 600 lbs, etc It is also worth noting that the ladders have an average weight capacity of 320 lbs.

***If you're not sure whether your vehicle has the right roof rack, please take a look at our roof rack collection, most of which will be able to support any roof top tent.***

If you are after a roof top tent, here are the best roof top tents.

FINALLY, if you would like to share info, pictures or anything roof top tent or overland related, please feel free to do so Joining Our Facebook Group HERE.


  • Posted on by Levi Armstrong

    My boyfriend and I love camping, so we want to invest in a vehicle rooftop tent. I like that you said we should consider the weight capacity of the tent before buying it to ensure it would hold us both. I’ll keep this tip in mind when we start to shop around for a rooftop tent this weekend. Thanks. https://bundutecusa.com/bundutop-rooftop-tents

  • Posted on by Karsten Koberg

    Hy breadpete for some odd reason our replies aren’t being shown and in this particular article the dates have been changed and they now all show the same date… A glitch perhaps.

    How can we help you??

  • Posted on by breadpete

    How come none of the comments were being answered or replied? and everything is written on the same day (Feb 02, 2018) but nothing at all after? I am looking for the answers many have asked above..!

  • Posted on by Jon Osmond

    Hi I have a 2009 Mazda 5. I already have the Mazda cross bars on my roof. However, their max weight capacity is 100 lbs. I need a max weight capacity of 165 lbs. Which roof rack / cross bars would I need? And what other adapters might I also need? Thanks for your time

  • Posted on by juan vargas

    I have a 2016 CR-V with no roof rack
    Is it possible to add one that can hold at least 1000llbs the reason is my tow capacity is 1500 on the CR-V I figured why spend 12k for a teardrop or trailer when I can add Roof rack and tent for 2 and in the back hatch I can throw in my cooler and camp stove and my 5 gollon water container and I’m good financing 5k instead of 12k .any recommendations of where or what company can do this?

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