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Cheap roof top tent idea: Is it practical?

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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
221
Tampa Florida
The one I’m fabbing takes down in 10 minutes so you don’t have to worry about anything coming loose on the road. On,y thing that is semi permanent is the Smitty SRC rack
 

primetime4

Member
Sep 13, 2018
79
Northern Virginia
I will heavily consider saving. It’s just so expensive at a minimum 1000
REI had an extra 25% off sale prices last week and you could have gotten the Yakima Skyview 2 for around $500 which is about 50% off. Even now, it is around $750 for the 2 person. I would much rather buy one than hacking something together.
 

jjvw

0-60 in 18 seconds
Supporting Member
Feb 17, 2018
6,977
Colorado, USA
The one I’m fabbing takes down in 10 minutes so you don’t have to worry about anything coming loose on the road. On,y thing that is semi permanent is the Smitty SRC rack
You are young, stubborn and resilient enough to make something ridiculous work for a while. Go for it. You will learn a lot about how to build and put things together. If your homemade RTT fails, then figure out how to make it better.

Just be absolutely sure this contraption doesn't fly off the Jeep on the highway and become someone else's problem.
 
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OP
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
221
Tampa Florida
You are young, stubborn and resilient enough to make something ridiculous work for a while. Go for it. You will learn a lot about how to build and put things together. If your homemade RTT fails, then figure out how to make it better.

Just be absolutely sure this contraption doesn't fly off the Jeep on the highway and become someone else's problem.
Nothing will pose any danger to anyone on the highway. My idea is a tent that sets up on the pre existing rack. It will not be driven with the tent on. The tent will be folded up in the trunk.
 
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Jerry Bransford

TJ Guru
Supporting Member
Nov 9, 2015
11,172
Escondido California
Why is sleeping on the ground (in a tent) not an option? Florida may have water moccasins, cottonmouths, and rattle snakes but they're not the kind of snake likely to want to crawl inside of a tent. Especially when it's zipped up.

Edit: Well ok on second thought after the below post I would want to sleep up off the ground too if I was in an area frequented by alligators. Snakes? No problem lol.
 
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Mr. Bills

TJ Addict
Nov 24, 2017
1,630
Area Code 530
Getting back on topic:

I have several friends with RTTs. They are comfortable and easy to set up and break down. However, they are also expensive, heavy, and screw up COG and aerodynamics. The guys with RTTs on overlanding trailers or on low racks over pickup beds don't seem have as many issues as the guys with RTTs on the roofs of their vehicles.

I also have several friends who have experimented with regular tents and "tent cots"on roof top platforms. Most abandoned the arrangement after a season or two. The one arrangement that worked well that I know is still in use after several years is to roll out a one-person Aussie style "swag tent" on a plywood platform.

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After observing all of this I have concluded that for my purposes a ground tent is a better option and that if I do get an insatiable desire for a RTT the only way that makes any sense for my LJ would be if it were mounted on my Bantam offroad trailer instead of on top of my jeep.

Some questions to ask yourself:

How many people does the tent need to sleep?
What will be the weather conditions?
Are there compelling reasons to have the tent off the ground?
Is size and bulk a concern?
What about weight?

I currently use two on-ground tents - an ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 person tent and queen size air mattress for use when there are two of us (from steepandcheap.com), and a Kodiak Canvas aussie style swag tent with built in 3" foam mattress when I go solo (kodiakcanvas.com). I have never had a bad night's sleep in the swag tent no matter the condition of the ground underneath it or the weather, and it sets up and tears down in about 3 minutes each.

82457


82458


I may replace my 2 person ALPS Mountaineering tent with one one of these 8.5x6 tents from Kodiak Canvas when they become available again in late April:

6086_wb__91807.1429195481.jpg


http://www.kodiakcanvas.com/8-5-x-6-ft-flex-bow-vx-tent-estimated-restock-date-4-20-19/
 
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Sundowner

Groom Lake Resident
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
981
The Republic of Dave
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.
Bear with me for a minute, and don't skim the next two paragraphs.

There are a couple of factors that you need to consider, the first of which is the size and weight of your support platform. Cots similar to the one you depicted are approximately 90" long and 30"-36" wide; assuming that you have a single-fold platform built from 3/4" plywood (inference, based on what you've said so far) you'll need to make room inside your TJ for a 45" by 36"-ish object that weighs about 50 pounds...and that weight assumes that you won't reinforce it in any way, which I wouldn't advise. Plywood is incredibly weak across its surface, so it's more realistic to think about what kind of fold-up structure you can build that will be strong enough to support the weight of you and your tent-cot ...and unless you start getting creative with aluminum and/or some structural panel materials, you're probably going to easily hit the 50-lb. mark when you achieve that goal, and it's going to cost more than $30. You'll also have to take that platform in and out of your TJ, from the top of all the rest of your gear, and install it on the rack before you can set up the tent.

The second factor you need to consider is weight. If you somehow build a 50-lb. support platform you still have to put a tent-cot on it that weighs around 30 pounds; the Kamp-Rite is 32, and other options are even heavier. That puts you in the 80-lb. range of weight before you add a sleeping bag, pillow, any other gear you might want inside the tent, and yourself. That leaves you with only 220 pounds of weight capacity on the rack, because Smittybilt rates the SRC TJ rack at - and this is a direct quote - "300 lbs. of evenly distributed cargo." Most racks in that category are rated at a similar capacity.

The point of this is that it's not quite as simple as you made it out to be, nor will it realistically be as cheap, and it although your setup plan sounds simple, it isn't. Imagine having to do what you're talking about doing in the middle of a rainstorm, late at night, in the cold; things get immensely different when factors like that are involved.

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.
Camping on the ground is an option; you just need to figure out how to do it. Personally, I think it makes more sense to modify a tent-cot to be used on soft ground; at least then you're not having to take a platform out, bolt it to the rack, and then strap a cot down on top of it in less-than-ideal conditions. Also, I can't see why taking the backseat out is too much hassle; it literally takes a couple of minutes, and that's if you're taking your time. It's less effort than what you're talking about doing with the platform.

Think of it this way: you're building something that nobody builds...so there may be a reason for that. I love the ingenuity of the idea, but don't make the mistake of assuming success while shorting a proven method. If you really want to throw a rooftop on your rig, fine: do so...but buy a good rack, and buy a good tent. If you absolutely insist on going the cot-and-platform route, take a few pointers from the excellent photos that Mr. Bills just posted and try to replicate those Landcruiser setups on your TJ.
 

Sunder

TJ Enthusiast
Feb 8, 2016
156
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I'll be honest, I had given some thought last year to buying one of those cot-tents (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000I641UQ/?tag=wranglerorg-20) and seeing if I could attach/remove it quickly and easily to my Kargomaster Congo roof rack (rated at 500lbs).
I haven't done it (yet...not a high priority), but I'll keep an eye on out anyone that does try.

It could work out good if you're camping on a lot of rock, or in the bush.
Or it might not, as most have been posting above.

On the comedy side/thinking outside the box - maybe just get a bigger lift and sleep under the Jeep :)
 

Mr. Bills

TJ Addict
Nov 24, 2017
1,630
Area Code 530
If you want to be off the ground you can also put a swag tent on top of a regular cot rather than buying one of the TentCot combos - increase in versatility.

 
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DrDmoney

Jeep Codependent
Supporting Member
Jan 29, 2019
983
El Dorado County NORCAL
The one I’m fabbing takes down in 10 minutes so you don’t have to worry about anything coming loose on the road. On,y thing that is semi permanent is the Smitty SRC rack
Cool let us know how that works out for you the best part about using the cot tent is if it doesn’t work on the roof it will still work for you on the ground.
 
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OP
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SafariRumbler

TJ Enthusiast
Mar 13, 2019
221
Tampa Florida
Not as much snakes, but alligators, brown recluse spiders, and raccoons are frequent. I just like the idea of sleeping in my Jeep or on it. Perfect for road trips in parking lots on the way. Pitching a tent on the ground is a no go due to condition and wetness of the muddy ground, rocks, and roots in Florida. A hammock is a no go as I always won’t have access to one tree and
Bear with me for a minute, and don't skim the next two paragraphs.

There are a couple of factors that you need to consider, the first of which is the size and weight of your support platform. Cots similar to the one you depicted are approximately 90" long and 30"-36" wide; assuming that you have a single-fold platform built from 3/4" plywood (inference, based on what you've said so far) you'll need to make room inside your TJ for a 45" by 36"-ish object that weighs about 50 pounds...and that weight assumes that you won't reinforce it in any way, which I wouldn't advise. Plywood is incredibly weak across its surface, so it's more realistic to think about what kind of fold-up structure you can build that will be strong enough to support the weight of you and your tent-cot ...and unless you start getting creative with aluminum and/or some structural panel materials, you're probably going to easily hit the 50-lb. mark when you achieve that goal, and it's going to cost more than $30. You'll also have to take that platform in and out of your TJ, from the top of all the rest of your gear, and install it on the rack before you can set up the tent.

The second factor you need to consider is weight. If you somehow build a 50-lb. support platform you still have to put a tent-cot on it that weighs around 30 pounds; the Kamp-Rite is 32, and other options are even heavier. That puts you in the 80-lb. range of weight before you add a sleeping bag, pillow, any other gear you might want inside the tent, and yourself. That leaves you with only 220 pounds of weight capacity on the rack, because Smittybilt rates the SRC TJ rack at - and this is a direct quote - "300 lbs. of evenly distributed cargo." Most racks in that category are rated at a similar capacity.

The point of this is that it's not quite as simple as you made it out to be, nor will it realistically be as cheap, and it although your setup plan sounds simple, it isn't. Imagine having to do what you're talking about doing in the middle of a rainstorm, late at night, in the cold; things get immensely different when factors like that are involved.



Camping on the ground is an option; you just need to figure out how to do it. Personally, I think it makes more sense to modify a tent-cot to be used on soft ground; at least then you're not having to take a platform out, bolt it to the rack, and then strap a cot down on top of it in less-than-ideal conditions. Also, I can't see why taking the backseat out is too much hassle; it literally takes a couple of minutes, and that's if you're taking your time. It's less effort than what you're talking about doing with the platform.

Think of it this way: you're building something that nobody builds...so there may be a reason for that. I love the ingenuity of the idea, but don't make the mistake of assuming success while shorting a proven method. If you really want to throw a rooftop on your rig, fine: do so...but buy a good rack, and buy a good tent. If you absolutely insist on going the cot-and-platform route, take a few pointers from the excellent photos that Mr. Bills just posted and try to replicate those Landcruiser setups on your TJ.
you brought up a bunch of great points I will think about it and post some similar ideas soon. Maybe a leveling tent cot or something for on ground camping. Thanks for the time I’m the reply.
 

Sundowner

Groom Lake Resident
Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2019
981
The Republic of Dave
Maybe a leveling tent cot or something for on ground camping.
If I was you, that's what I would be thinking about. Skip the rack entirely, buy a nice bush cot with plenty of space, and think about a way to level it on the ground. I've never found myself in a situation where I couldn't find suitable space for a tent, but if the terrain you're in is as bad as you say, then the smaller your footprint, the better. Also - again - site selection is of paramount importance: you'll never make up for a bad site with any amount of gear. No matter what you do, Mother Nature will always be bigger than you...so you have to work with what she gives you at the time.

If you want a suggestion, look up OzTent's Jet Tent Bunker.