What kind of roof racks do you need for a roof top tent?

Roof racks now come in all shapes and sizes. We get lots of questions about roof top tents but the most common is “what sort of roof racks do you need for a roof top tent?”

Not hard to see why people love the idea of roof top tents - adventure, fun, freedom, nature, comfort, convenience ... awesome!

But there are some practical things to think about.

Orson roof top tent SAB2

A few quick pointers on roof racks.

  • Square bars and the oval shaped whisp bars are both ok. The width of square bars is narrower and most mounting plates supplied with a tent will fit them. Whisps are wider and most plates will work with them  - if not you may have to look around for some alternative to the supplied ones. Our Orson roof top tents come with mounting plates that can be used with bars from 4cm up to 8cm in width which should cover most racks on the market.

mounting plates for roof top tents

  • You need a minimum of 86cm width (for Orson soft shell tents and most other brands) or 81cm width (for Wild Land roof top tents) of clear, clean straight bar to work with on the underside of the racks between the mounting feet. The tent will sit on the cross bars and be clamped on at 4 points. You need to make sure that nothing gets in the way underneath – no plastic mounting fittings underneath or curves in the racks that can stop you from securing the tent to the crossbars.   
  • Check weight ratings on roof racks. A roof tent typically weighs 60+kg so best to get racks that have a load rating of minimum 75kg or 100kg even better. These ratings are for dynamic weights when a vehicle is moving to cope with braking and turning. The static weight on the racks is much higher than the dynamic rating.
  • Try to get racks that will leave a reasonable gap between roof and the racks. You have to get your hands in there to fasten/loosen the bolts. More room and better access will make things easier.
  • Make sure that the height from ground to the top of the roof racks is within reach of the roof top tent ladder and annex you’re after. Most ladders are around the 2m mark and annexes fit a set up around 2m in height or XL ones around 2.2m. If your racks are set at 2.4m up then something’s gotta give.
  • Get advice from a specialist roof rack retailer. They'll have a database to find racks that are suitable for your model vehicle and compatible with a roof top tent. You can fit a set of racks (and a tent) on most vehicles but you should seek professional advice and also check the load capacity of your vehicle roof with the manufacturer. 

Other options

  • Ute back frames – some guys are building racks and frames over the ute trays to sit the tents on. We hope to have a frame that can be fitted to ute backs in the near future.
  • Rooftop baskets – need to check that the bars will hold the weight as weren’t really made to take the weight of a tent. And also check that the roof top tent ladder is tall enough with the extra height that baskets add to the set up.  
  • Roof top platforms - generally these will work fine but the width and direction of the slats used may mean a bit of extra effort to make sure the roof tent can be secured properly. 
  • Trailers – some are setting up the roof tents on a trailer. Gear underneath, frame and bars with roof tent and then using removable H bars over the packed tent to carry kayaks etc.
  • Awnings – vehicle awnings are a cool and easy way to add a massive living area to add to your bedroom upstairs. You might want to think about a roof rack that can handle both a tent and an awning.

Sorted! Yeah nah? If you still have any questions we can help out with then give us a call 0210405991

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