Cheap roof top tent idea: Is it practical?

SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
147
Tampa Florida
Roof top tents are expensive. Considering I only go camping once a month and don’t want the hassle of mounting on a roof top tent every month, any suggestions. The price is also an issue. I have though about getting an inexpensive safari rack and getting a pop up tent to go on top. I could also build a wooden hinge folding base for a hard surface and a blow up air mattress inside the tent.

I would drive to my location, unfold and mount the plywood base on the rack, open up the pop up tent (very small no overhang over TJ at all) and blow up an airmattress with a pump. There would be no risk of any danger when driving as it would all be stored in the trunk. Is this practical? Has anyone else done it?
 
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
147
Tampa Florida
Just out of curiosity, why does it have to be a roof top tent? You could probably get a nicer regular tend for cheaper.

Your idea sounds like it would work, but it doesn't sound the most practical to me.
Yes it may not be the most practical, I just really like the idea of a rooftop tent because I can camp I’m the mud.
 
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
147
Tampa Florida
Are you dead set on climbing on top of your Jeep? These work pretty good and are easier to get in and out of. Much less weight to add to your Jeep and still off the ground.

Kamp-Rite Compact Double Tent Cot, 45x12x12-Inch https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AAQZK5E/?tag=wranglerorg-20
I could go with those and I have saved it in case I decide to. I just really like the idea of an rtt on my Jeep. If I get time maybe I’ll draw a picture.
 

Sundowner

Nutritious Karenator
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
281
Republic of Dave
Yes it may not be the most practical, I just really like the idea of a rooftop tent because I can camp I’m the mud.
You can, yes, but the RTT won't solve the problem of poor site selection (i.e. mud). You still have to enter and leave the tent through the mud, which means that you're slogging through the same muck and exposing your gear to the same dirt and damage. The tent itself won't sit in the mud, but your vehicle will; that's just trading one problem for another. That said:

I just really like the idea of an rtt on my Jeep.
This is the real crux of things. If you want one, get one...but get a real one, and skip the tent on a platform concept. I, myself, wondered if that was a viable solution some years back, and after looking at the situation I realized that it wasn't. Some things to consider:

  • Most tents - aside from one-person backpacking tents - aren't small enough to fit on a platform.
  • Most tents require staking out with guylines to be stable in higher winds; placing one on a platform on a vehicle makes it that much more exposed, and makes the guylines both more necessary and more difficult to secure.
  • Most tents aren't designed to be accessed from below: you will need additional space in front of the vestibule (or a creative platform) in order to get inside.
  • The amount of time spent designing and building a rack and platform that are safe enough for highway speeds is better used at work, making money and saving it for a real RTT...unless you work in an industry where the daily fabrication of such items reduces the inherent inefficiency attached to their construction.
I know that all of that sounds like a slam, but I don't want to see you waste time and money on something that's going to give you inferior results. If you really just want a rooftop tent on your rig, fine...just get one that's designed to go there.
 

MutantNinjaTJ

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 21, 2018
133
The sewers of Newer Mexico!
I never have really gotten the idea of a roof top tent. I don't see any benefit and getting in and out looks to be a pain in the butt. I think the added weight to the top would be a show stopper as well for me. Good luck on your search for penthouse accommodations.
 

Brianj5600

TJ Enthusiast
Jul 4, 2018
162
Middle Tennessee
I agree with buying an RTT vs DIY, but disagree with the idea that an RTT doesn't open up far more ground for camping, including mud. Just about any spot you can get the platform reasonably level is fine. Stacking rocks, using RV blocks, logs, etc can open up a camping spot, even a rock garden. Can't pitch a tent very well in rocky areas and putting away a muddy mess is never fun. You don't have to be super creative to come up with a solution for muddy shoes. I chose a TTT, trailer top tent, to make wheelin easier without being top heavy.
 
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
147
Tampa Florida
You can, yes, but the RTT won't solve the problem of poor site selection (i.e. mud). You still have to enter and leave the tent through the mud, which means that you're slogging through the same muck and exposing your gear to the same dirt and damage. The tent itself won't sit in the mud, but your vehicle will; that's just trading one problem for another. That said:



This is the real crux of things. If you want one, get one...but get a real one, and skip the tent on a platform concept. I, myself, wondered if that was a viable solution some years back, and after looking at the situation I realized that it wasn't. Some things to consider:

  • Most tents - aside from one-person backpacking tents - aren't small enough to fit on a platform.
  • Most tents require staking out with guylines to be stable in higher winds; placing one on a platform on a vehicle makes it that much more exposed, and makes the guylines both more necessary and more difficult to secure.
  • Most tents aren't designed to be accessed from below: you will need additional space in front of the vestibule (or a creative platform) in order to get inside.
  • The amount of time spent designing and building a rack and platform that are safe enough for highway speeds is better used at work, making money and saving it for a real RTT...unless you work in an industry where the daily fabrication of such items reduces the inherent inefficiency attached to their construction.
I know that all of that sounds like a slam, but I don't want to see you waste time and money on something that's going to give you inferior results. If you really just want a rooftop tent on your rig, fine...just get one that's designed to go there.
I will heavily consider saving. It’s just so expensive at a minimum 1000
 
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Sundowner

Nutritious Karenator
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
281
Republic of Dave
I agree with buying an RTT vs DIY, but disagree with the idea that an RTT doesn't open up far more ground for camping, including mud. Just about any spot you can get the platform reasonably level is fine. Stacking rocks, using RV blocks, logs, etc can open up a camping spot, even a rock garden. Can't pitch a tent very well in rocky areas and putting away a muddy mess is never fun. You don't have to be super creative to come up with a solution for muddy shoes. I chose a TTT, trailer top tent, to make wheelin easier without being top heavy.
I didn't say that it wouldn't open up more areas for camping; I said that it doesn't make up for poor site selection, and that selecting a site in the mud is trading one problem - a tent pitched in mud - for another: a rig parked in mud. Camping in a mud pit, or a rock garden, or a pebble-strewn area, or an unlevel area, or any other not-so-great area offers the same basic challenges, regardless of where you pitch; you can solve them on the ground, or you can solve them elsewhere...but you'll still be dealing with them, one way or the other. My point is that the rooftop tent isn't a magic bullet that suddenly makes anything easier or better, and that what advantages it offers are often offset by other drawbacks. Naturally, the balance between those advantages and drawbacks is the province of the individual user, but my advice remains the same: if you want a rooftop setup, buy a good one. In fact, buy the best one you can afford.
 

Sundowner

Nutritious Karenator
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
281
Republic of Dave
I will heavily consider saving. It’s just so expensive at a minimum 1000
Good ones are pricey, but they last a long time and can be resewn. Also, consider that you'll need a quality rack to mount it on, and storage for the tent when it's not in use on the vehicle. Lastly, you'll need a way to easily get it on and off; it's a one-gorilla job, but since most of us don't keep a gorilla at hand, a hoist or a couple of buddies will get it done.
 

Sundowner

Nutritious Karenator
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
281
Republic of Dave
I never have really gotten the idea of a roof top tent. I don't see any benefit and getting in and out looks to be a pain in the butt. I think the added weight to the top would be a show stopper as well for me. Good luck on your search for penthouse accommodations.
A rooftop tent keeps you away from the ground and whatever hazards may be on it, sets up quickly, and doesn't take up prime real estate inside the vehicle; all are valuable benefits. Yes, some are difficult to enter and exit - especially at three in the morning - and they all weigh quite a bit and create wind resistance...but most people with a real need for a rooftop tent aren't traveling in areas that offer highway speeds.
 

mrblaine

TJ Expert
Supporting Member
Nov 20, 2015
3,915
Quail Valley, CA
A rooftop tent keeps you away from the ground and whatever hazards may be on it, sets up quickly, and doesn't take up prime real estate inside the vehicle; all are valuable benefits. Yes, some are difficult to enter and exit - especially at three in the morning - and they all weigh quite a bit and create wind resistance...but most people with a real need for a rooftop tent aren't traveling in areas that offer highway speeds.
Buddy bought a JKU. Shortly thereafter swings by to show it off. Has a roof rack and a giant ass RTT on the rack. I know he doesn't camp that much and he was complaining about some less than stellar performance of the rig on some moderate trails. I had to point out to him that RTT's are for one thing and that didn't necessarily fit in with what he was trying to do the rest of the time with his rig. He is also notorious for being one of those that wants one rig to do everything. He wants low CoG and lots of wheelbase for hill climbs, but he wants the same rig to go run Johnson Valley like a boss and then drive it home on 40's and get 15-17 mpg doing it. A TJ Unlimited with 98" of wheelbase on 40's with a roof rack, fold down seats, XJ rear hatch, and a 8 cylinder diesel that weighs sub 500 lbs would just about do it for him if it had a switch so he could paddle shift the manual transmission.
 

mrblaine

TJ Expert
Supporting Member
Nov 20, 2015
3,915
Quail Valley, CA
Good ones are pricey, but they last a long time and can be resewn. Also, consider that you'll need a quality rack to mount it on, and storage for the tent when it's not in use on the vehicle. Lastly, you'll need a way to easily get it on and off; it's a one-gorilla job, but since most of us don't keep a gorilla at hand, a hoist or a couple of buddies will get it done.
RTTs are right up there with that pink mini skirt with sparkles you offered the other day, just not something I ever see myself in.
 
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Jerry Bransford

TJ Guru
Supporting Member
Nov 9, 2015
9,957
Escondido California
I watched a friend spend 30 minutes getting his rooftop tent set up including the ladder he would need to go up & down 3-4 times during the night so he could take a leak. I was tenting at the time too and my tent took 3-4 minutes to erect, no ladder needed.

The only time I'd feel the need for a rooftop tent would be if I was traveling through an area chock full of Black Mambas, Kraits, Cobras, etc... none of which live here in the US. :)
 
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
147
Tampa Florida
This is a design I photoshopped up. $289 Smittybilt SRC roof rack, 60$ cot tent, 30$ ply wood hinge fold out base for tent to mount on and 10$ in mounting hardware, tie downs, straps.

Less than $400 to have a functional rooftop mounting situation for my once a month camping trip with the guys.
Away from the critters, and it all is kept in the backseat (aside from the rack) which is left on the whole time. When I get to my campsite I simply attach the play wood base on the rack, release the tent and strap it all down secure.

For those saying to just tent on the ground, that’s not an option, my only other option is to convert the inside of my TJ to sleep in. As it’s my daily driver and it’s too much hassle to take out the backseat once a month, I need a rtt. Worst case if my idea doesn’t work I figure I can always keep my tent for other camping. The rack is useful and I can reuse the plywood and straps for other uses. I don’t see anything to lose.
82440
 
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qslim

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 17, 2018
34
Utah
These RTTs have blown up in my area over the past year. It's like everyone all of the sudden decided they can't sleep on the ground anymore.

Cool idea though, props for fabbing your own setup, that way you can make it your own
 

Sundowner

Nutritious Karenator
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
281
Republic of Dave
RTTs are right up there with that pink mini skirt with sparkles you offered the other day, just not something I ever see myself in.
They're SEQUINS! Get it right!

I watched a friend spend 30 minutes getting his rooftop tent set up including the ladder he would need to go up & down 3-4 times during the night so he could take a leak. I was tenting at the time too and my tent took 3-4 minutes to erect, no ladder needed.
Some take longer to set up than others, for sure...and if you don't know what you're doing, they really take a long time to set up. The largest and most complicated tent that I own requires about fifteen minutes to set up, and that's if I'm digging deadman anchors into loose sand...but the first time I set it up, it took me an hour. The only reason I've considered a rooftop is for when we've been on the move and camped at a different site every night...but that whole "down the ladder to piss" thing really puts me off. I also like being able to walk a few steps to find a level patch, and not have to confine myself to a level patch that the Jeep can reach.

The only time I'd feel the need for a rooftop tent would be if I was traveling through an area chock full of Black Mambas, Kraits, Cobras, etc... none of which live here in the US. :)
Excerpting zoos, animal rehab facilities and any other relevant herpetological extravaganzas, any area on this planet that contains mambas, kraits and cobras can go fuck itself right out of existence.

These RTTs have blown up in my area over the past year. It's like everyone all of the sudden decided they can't sleep on the ground anymore.
Most of those guys just want to look like they're crossing deserts while driving down the interstate. I don't even like leaving the rear awning on the rack on my LJ because it looks stupid while driving around town, but it's so much of a pain to take on and off that I don't bother with it. Eventually I'll build a sturdy quick-release bracket for it, but that project is pretty far down on my list.

Cool idea though, props for fabbing your own setup, that way you can make it your own
Fabbing your own stuff is cool, as long as it's safe and sturdy.

Am I the only one that keeps a wide mouth bottle in the tent? No so much in warm weather, but in the mountains when it is frosty I don't like to get out of the tent.
Do you keep other people in the tent, too?