20 Best Free Dispersed Camping Spots In Washington - Tuff Stuff Overland

20 Best Free Dispersed Camping Spots In Washington

Are you looking to widen your dispersed camping horizon? Washington has a vast area of free lands and nature preserves waiting to be explored by you!

From pristine rain forests to hulking rocks and wildernesses that stretch far and wide, Washington has limitless natural areas for adventurous campers like you. Moreover, many of these areas offer free dispersed campsites to enjoy an adventurous boondocking experience without worrying about breaking your bank for designated campsites.

For campers who are always up for one more adventure, we have provided a list of the 20 best free dispersed campsites in Washington.

overground camping washington

Going Dispersed Camping In Washington

Washington might be known as the leading state that produces half of America’s domestically grown apples, but that is not all The Evergreen State is known for.

Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western United States, Washington is the only state named after a U.S. president. Washington boasts of being the birthplace of the famous Starbucks, home to the Starbucks Reserve, and 7.8 million citizens in 2022. But that is not all that the great state has to boast of.

Washington also boasts of famous natural landscapes like the highest mountain in the U.S., Mount Rainier. From alpine snow-capped volcanic mountains to choppy beaches and arid deserts, Washington is a home of beauty and breathtaking biological and geological diversity. Every kind of landscape you might imagine, you will most probably find one in the state.

Unsurprisingly and expectedly, Washington is a magnetic hotspot for tourists and campers looking to explore the sceneries the state has to offer. These natural attractions are on every tourist’s bucket list, with people looking to explore the lush scenery and engage in exciting activities they will cherish forever.

The geological diversity in Washington means there are different terrains that campers can explore. With various landscapes, wildlife, and ecosystems, nature enthusiasts will never run out of amazing things to see as they journey through Washington.

More importantly, if you are a camper looking to explore the wonders Washington offers, it is great to know you can explore all you want and get free camping when you need it.

Washington State is packed full of dispersed campsites, it is essential to know where to look. However, the upside remains that if you are looking to eliminate housing costs while you are out exploring the millions of acres of natural land in Washington, you have lots of options to choose from. 

Washington State’s natural lands are managed by Federal and State agencies like the U.S. Forest Service Dispersed Camping in Washington, Washington Department of Natural Resources Campgrounds, and the Bureau of Land Management Dispersed Camping.

The lands overseen by these agencies are marked public land and can be legally used for dispersed camping. However, while these lands may be free for boondocking uses, you might require a permit to gain legal access. To find out if your preferred terrain can be used as a free dispersed campsite, it might be best to reach out to the U.S. Forest Service

As with anywhere else, free dispersed campsites in Washington require all campers or overlanders to follow set rules to protect the area and, of course, themselves. These rules are generally known as the Leave No Trace principles and guidelines.

If you choose to go boondocking in these areas, you must have to arrange all your essentials like going to the bathroom and cooking your meals. Dispersed campsites are mostly undeveloped, and there are no facilities to offer any luxury. 

If you are out to explore by yourself and pick out your preferred campsite, it is advisable to do the necessary research and figure out the best campsite for you. However, we will ease your burden and provide an up-to-date list of the best dispersed campsites in Washington.

20 Best Free DIspersed Campsites In Washington

Are you looking for the best free dispersed campsites in Washington? Look no further than our finely curated list of the best areas for dispersed camping in a tent or your overland vehicle.

1. 29 Pines Campground

29 Pines Campground is located on the north fork of the Teanaway River. It is a standard free dispersed campsite with a first-come, first-served policy. There are no reservations allowed. 

29 Pines Campground is a large area with 59 sites, each with a fire ring and picnic tables. With limited facilities provided for the campers and overlanders, this campground has policies that necessitate precautionary and safety actions, like campers packing garbage themselves and packing their vehicles on rock pads.

To get to 29 Pines Campground, turn north to Hwy.907 from Hwy.97. Follow Hwy.907/MP7 to Teanaway Road. The campground is 12.8 miles away. You can use a GPS or a printable Topo Map to navigate the area. The campground is free, but it requires a Discover Pass.

2. Godman Campground

Godman compound offers breathtaking scenery that makes boondocking there worth it. It is located near the top of the Blue Mountains, peeking over the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. The Godman Campground is in the Umatilla National Forest along the Kendall Skyline Road. 

Godman campground is best visited in Summer or Fall to maximize your visit to the reserve. It requires no reservations and has a pet-friendly policy. Many sites on the campground have a fire pit and a covered picnic area with a cook stove.

Godman is not only a place to enjoy free dispersed camping but also other activities like hiking, fishing, hunting for deer, and biking.

3. Sherry Creek Campground

Sherry Creek Campground is nestled in northeastern Washington. It is another free campground that requires a Washington Discover Pass for use.The campground is off Hwy 20, through a gravel road that can be easily navigated. 

Sherry Creek Campground is full of large camping areas operating on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a popular area used by campers and other enthusiasts, however, it is equally peaceful.

There are few amenities and facilities at the campground. Each area has a table and fire pit with vault bathrooms. The campground offers ADA access for disabled campers, drinking water, and fire pits. All in all, Sherry Creek Campground is a great place to explore nature and enjoy free camping.

4. Middle Waddell Campground

Middle Waddell Campground is located in the Capitol State Forest. It is a popular tourist destination set off a short distance from Olympia.

To use the Middle Waddell Campground, you need to get a Washington Discover Pass. When you get access, you will be privy to large camping areas with clean sites and all the privacy you need. 

The area and amenities are well-maintained. Each site has picnic tables and a fire ring. Water and garbage disposal are unavailable, so you will have to figure out the best ways to go about that.

Since Middle Waddell is a popular spot for off-roaders, you might have to deal with constant revving noises from the vehicles. However, the area is as peaceful as possible, making it a great place for a quick getaway.

5. Cowlitz Wildlife Area

Cowlitz Wildlife Area is located in Lewis County and managed by WDFW. It spans 15,420 acres of land that serves as wildlife mitigation for the dams on the Cowlitz River.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area offers year-round access for campers looking to enjoy the beautiful scenery. There are about thirty campsites available for free for people brave enough to tolerate the biting cold in the area.

The campground can be easily accessible through a paved road. The area is suitable for campers or RV users and can be used for a maximum of fourteen days. 

6. Crawfish Lake Campground

Located in Colville National Forest, Crawfish Lake Campground is a free primitive camping spot on the shores of Crawfish Lake.

This campground offers 19 tent campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is usually open from May until the end of October and is best visited during the Summer.

There are dirt camping trailer pads for campers with vehicles. The campground provides each site with a picnic table, fire ring, and drinking water. There are also toilet facilities and a boat ramp.

Essentially, Crawfish Lake Campground offers easy access, campsites set back into the shades of the trees, cleanliness, and a lush area to be explored.

7. Rocky Lake Campground

Rocky lake campground is open seasonally and offers campers a maximum stay of five days. There are seven undeveloped campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The camp is free to be used by tent campers and smaller vehicles as the campground is a small area. However, regardless of its size, Rocky Lake Campground offers exquisite views and an ample amount of activities for campers to engage in. 

8. Big Meadow Lake

Big Meadow Lake offers a view of the pristine lake with a backdrop of forested mountains. The shallow lake can be used for fun activities like swimming and canoeing.

There are seventeen campsites on either side of the ake, all complete with picnic tables, vault toilets, camping tent pads, and fire rings. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are often quickly filled up in the middle to late Spring. 

9. Old Cascades Highway Dispersed

Old Cascades Highways Dispersed is a peaceful and secluded dispersed campground set off the Old Cascades Highway. The campground is a small area that will fit just a few vehicles and a handful of tents.

The area is filled with towering trees, waterfall trails, and a lake that meanders through the area. The area offers a spectacular view and is best visited in warmer months 

10. Wickiup Campground

Wickiup Campground is located near the Triple Ridge area. It is surrounded by The Jones, Huckleberry, and Hogback ridges. Since the site is close to towns like Asotin, Anatone, and Pomeroy, campers will have other scenic spots to explore.

The campground is open seasonally from April to November. It offers area amenities like picnic tables, toilets, and parking. 

The camping area features not only views of the mountains and trees but also cold water springs below the campground. This makes Wickiup not only a great place to camp but also indulge in activities like fishing and hiking.

overground camping washington

11. Big Hill Campsites 

This dispersed campsite is located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The roads are challenging to access and navigate, but if you have a vehicle with great clearance- and a sense of direction- you should arrive at the camp with little to no stress. The campsite is underdeveloped but rewards campers with an exquisite view. It features limited amenities like a pit toilet, but no water is available.

12. Indian Race Track

The Indian race track is an out-and-back trail that local tribes once inhabited for after-work gatherings and entertaining activities. This is why the area is often frequented for artifact hunting.

Now, the race track, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, is often used by campers looking for a free area to enjoy camping. There are limited amenities, and you will need a permit to camp in the area.

13. Camp Muir

Mountain climbers looking to conquer Mount Rainier often begin their expedition from Camp Muir, where they set up camp temporarily. However, the area is free for use regardless.

To get to this campground, you must embark on an 8.6-mile hike from the upper parking lot near the Paradise Visitor Center. 

14. Leavenworth Lot P6

The Leavenworth Lot is a free gravel parking lot located in the town of Leavenworth. It has space enough to accommodate 35 feet RV vehicles. The area has an elevation of 1,148 feet and allows campers to have a maximum stay of overnight parking once every seven days.

15. DeRoux NFS Campground

The DeRoux NFS Campground is a dispersed campground in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It is ADA accessible for easy use by disabled campers. The campground is pet-friendly and features amenities like a fire ring and restrooms. 

DeRoux NFS Campground is near the North Fork of the Teanaway River and is a great place for dispersed campers to enjoy activities like biking, hiking, and winter sports in the winter.

16. Lion Rock Spring

Lion Rock Spring is another free dispersed camping spot in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It is nestled in the Cle Elum Ranger District.

The campground is non-reservable and operates on a first-come, first-served basis. It offers only public toilets, leaving campers to create solutions for other necessary amenities during their stay.

17. Deer Camp

Deer Camp is another non-reservable dispersed campground in Leavenworth with an elevation of 2096 feet. It is accessible through a moderately easy 7.5km dirt road through the woods. It is a practical boondocking site with no notable amenities. Regardless, it is a fun and comfortable site to set up camp.

18. Mad River Sno-Park

Located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Mad River Sno-Park is a free dispersed camping spot that does not allow reservations. Other than being famous for winter recreation sports, the area also provides campers with free dispersed camping.

19. Nason Creek

Nason Creek is another dispersed camping spot in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It features lots of campsites spread out off the road. Because of its proximity to the road, you will often have to deal with noise from campers and overlanders passing through the area.

Besides this minor inconvenience, the campground is set in a convenient and comfortable location. Nason Creek dispersed camping ground is easily accessible and an excellent option for tent and vehicle campers.

20. Napeequa Crossing Campground

Napeequa Crossing Campground is located along the white river, making it easy for campers who choose to use the area to engage in fun activities in the river. The campground is also 7 miles from Lake Wenatchee, featuring a trail that provides access to Twin Lakes.

Napeequa Crossing Campground is a small camping spot with just five sites off the road. There are few amenities like picnic tables, vault toilets, and even grills. However, there are no essentials like potable water.

The camping spigot is suitable for both tent and RV campers as there is room for tent camping and about four RV sites.

Your Options In Washington Are Limitless

Although these areas are what we consider the twenty best free dispersed camping spots in Washington, your options are in no way limited to the camping spots on the list. There are many more free areas you can boondock in Washington, all you need is to research with the necessary land management agencies to ensure you can gain access.

As with any other location, if you choose to visit any of these dispersed campsites, it is essential to ensure you follow all vital rules of the area. Seek access permits when necessary, abide by the camp regulations, and always remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles. Essentially, plan ahead to stay safe as you enjoy an excellent dispersed camping experience.

For more adventures, check out our list of 20 best free dispersed camping spots in great Idaho!

How To Get Dogs Into Rooftop Tents (5 Proven Methods) - Tuff Stuff Overland

How To Get Dogs Into Rooftop Tents (5 Proven Methods)

As an outdoor lover who also doubles as a dog parent, going camping without your loyal furry companion is rarely an option.

While this means you will have an active, entertaining, and possibly fierce plus-one to enjoy the outdoor camping experience with, it also means you have to make extra preparations. If you use a rooftop tent, your biggest concern might be getting your dog in and out of your tent daily.

Getting your dog up the RTT ladder and into your tent might seem like a brain-racking puzzle that you do not have the answers to. However, in this article, we have provided the easiest way to get your dog in and out of your tent without any problem!

rooftop tent dog

A Rooftop Tent And A Dog… Or Two

Rooftop tents are the innovative camping gear of the decade. These tents take the cake for their contribution to improving the quality of outdoor camping or overlanding by providing features that enhance convenience and comfort.

Rooftop tents are tents erected on the roof of a vehicle. With your tent latched to the top of your camping vehicle, you can camp anywhere, especially in terrains usually unfavorable for ground tents. This camp-on-the-go benefit allows campers-and their dog(s)- to be anywhere they want to be at any time.

Ordinarily, to use your rooftop tent, all you need to do is install it. After the initial installation, you can leave your tent on the roof of your vehicle, secured in its cover whenever it is not in use. When you arrive at a camping area or pull off the side of the rod, you simply have to erect it, a process that takes less than three minutes on average, attach the ladder, and climb into your tent.

However, with a dog, it might start to seem sketchy as you wonder how you are supposed to get your dog in the tent.

There are many great things about bringing your dog with you on your camping trip. Firstly, you will feel safer knowing you have a companion with sharp eyes and a powerful nose to alert you when predators are around.

Secondly, you have time to bond with your furry friend. Lastly, your dog will help you remain active in the wilderness, getting exercises as you take them on walks or play fetch with them.

While these are great, you have to worry about simple actions like getting your dog into your rooftop tent. With the magical act of levitation out of the equation, you are left with finding actual options that will work for you and your furry roommate.

How To Get Your Dog Into Your Rooftop Tent

Unless you have a magic carpet stuffed in the back of your truck along with other camping essentials, you will need a realistic solution to getting your dog in and out of your tent. Some of the best methods you can use include:

1. Just Carry Them

It makes sense, doesn't it?

The easiest answers are not always farfetched. The oldest trick in the book will be to carry them up and into the tent. If you already like lifting your dog into a hug, this should not be a problem.

Carrying your dog is the most realistic and straightforward solution to getting them into your elevated nest. All you need to do is grab them firmly yet softly across the middle and place them safely in the tent.

While this is great for small and nifty dogs, it might prove difficult if your dog weighs a lot. Although it might be more challenging, it is nothing strong arms cannot solve.

Admittedly, carrying a dog up a flight of stairs differs from carrying them up a ladder. Seeing that your hands will be full- especially if you have a big dog- one wrong foot placement and down you and the dog goes.

If you are camping alone, there is really no way to beat this problem. All you can do is ensure you grip your dog and ladder firmly to ensure both your safety.

If you have company, you can get someone to watch your back-literally. Have them stand behind you as you climb the ladder and provide support to prevent you from tripping or losing your balance.

You can also climb into the tent first and have someone lift your dog to you. If your partner is tall and can lift high enough, you can reach down to grab your dog without them having to climb the ladder.

If you have a low rooftop tent, you have less to worry about as you can simply lift your dog overhead without climbing the ladder. 

Either way, you will get an arm workout out of doing this every day.

Pros of this method:

  • Simple and effective
  • No technicalities needed
  • Free arm workout

Cons of this method:

  • You may need a partner

2. Use A Vest Harness

A vest harness is another easy and effective way to get your dog into your rooftop tent. However, if you don’t already have a vest harness, you will need to purchase one.

Vest harnesses are a great option for bigger dogs where lifting them is not an option. It is a safer and more efficient method that saves you the arm workout while ensuring you don't trip on the ladder and hurt yourself or your pet.

Dog harnesses are multi-purpose, so they are a great investment even when you are not camping. They can be used to walk your dog, lift your dog into the car, carry your dog upstairs, and of course, carry or lift them up rooftop tent ladders. You can do all these without worrying about side effects like affecting your dog’s gait

Dog harnesses are beneficial for many reasons. This equipment is great for assisting paralyzed or injured pets dealing with certain physical challenges, as well as helping dog owners keep their pets active outside.

With the support harness, you don’t have to constantly bend to lift your dog on the ladder whenever you go camping with them. This eliminates the back pain that comes with lifting heavier dogs and reduces the risks of hurting your dog when you pick them up by evenly distributing the pressure when you lift them.

Although there is still a level of physical effort needed when you use a dog body harness, it is better and safer.

There are different types of vest harnesses, so you need to purchase the one best for your dog and their disability (if any). Also, harnesses come in different sizes, so you need one that is not so small that it squeezes your dog and leaves them in constant discomfort or big that it allows them to wiggle out.

Keep the harness snug so your dog can perform normal activities like urinating and defecating without feeling restricted. Like a leash, a vest harness can take time to get used to, so it is important to introduce it to your dog slowly. Use treats and positive reinforcement to get your dog to adapt to the harness and ensure they remain relaxed.

Unless you plan on totally lifting your dog with the harness, it will help if you train them to climb the ladder while you pull on the vest. This combined effort reduces the effort you otherwise need to invest in lifting your dog and makes it easier.

Pros of this method:

  • Easier on the arms
  • Safer than lifting

Cons of this method:

  • You will need to buy a vest harness if you don’t already have one
  • You will need to train the dog to adapt to the harness

3. Use A Ramp

If you want your dog to be able to go in and out of your rooftop tent without you necessarily lifting them, you should consider investing in a ramp.

A ramp is a practical solution that will help your dog in and out of your tent easily. You can order a ramp that fits your tent from an RTT manufacturer or use DIY methods to make your ramp from scratch.

A rooftop tent ramp might be expensive but consider it an investment for subsequent camping trips with your fur babies. These ramps come as heavy-duty, durable fabric and clamps attached to a rooftop tent ladder to support the weight of larger dogs and guide them safely to the tent.

After you purchase the ramp, you can install it on your ladder and put the bottom of the ladder on a gearbox or any other sturdy object to lower the incline and make it easier for your dog to climb.

If you cannot spare the extra hundred dollars necessary to purchase a dog ramp, you can make one using strong plywood or rolls of carpet. 

If you are using carpet, you will camp the carpet to your ladder firmly using ropes and carabiners or any other firm option. Afterward, it would be best if you raised the bottom of the ladder to reduce the angle of descent and make it easier for the dog to climb.

You can leave it attached at the top while allowing the carpet to roll up at the bottom easily. This will make it easier to switch your ladder between dog and human modes.

If you plan to use plywood instead, you will need a sturdy piece of plywood wide enough for your dog to climb on and long enough to provide a low slope, especially if you use a high rooftop tent.

You will also need double-sided sticky tape or anti-grip tape to provide traction and stop your dog from slipping off the makeshift ramp every time they climb it. Plaster the tapes on the plywood about six inches from each other to provide enough grip.

After you fashion your ramp, you will put your ladder at a less steep angle by placing the bottom of the ladder on a log or sturdy box. Afterward, place the makeshift ramp on top of the ladder and guide your dog up. 

While this is great, you will always have to pack up your plywood whenever you go camping. It will also require effort to make the ramp and train your dog to use it.

Pros of this method:

  • Less arm work as you do not have to lift the dog
  • Convenience

Cons of this method:

  • Extra bucks needed to buy a ramp
  • Efforts to train your dog to use the ramp
  • Action needed to make a DIY ramp
  • Requires more space if you are going to pack plywood.

rooftop tent dog ladder

4. Train Your Dog To Climb The Ladder

Dogs are enthusiastic little creatures that always manage to climb into spaces that will catch any owner off-guard. Why not take advantage of their high spirits and train them to climb your rooftop tent ladder and get in and out of your tent without help?

Chances are, if your dog sees you coming in and going out of the tent many times, they will be encouraged to do so. This feat will be easier if your dog has previously used a vest harness for support to climb the ladder into your tent. With a little more training, you can ditch the harness and proudly watch your dog go up and down the ladder.

Of course, you will still need to raise the bottom of the ladder to ensure it isn’t set to a steep incline. Using the previously mentioned methods of placing a log, suitcase, gearbox, or any other sturdy option under your ladder to reduce the angle of descent will help your dog adapt to climbing easily.

If you are using a lower tent, you probably do not have to worry about reducing the ladder’s incline.

Admittedly, training a dog is easier said than done. The process can be entirely frustrating, as much as potty-training a three-year-old child. However, with time, treats, and lots of patience, you should be able to get your dog to ascend and descend the ladder without any problem.

The process can also be used to strengthen your dog. Who knows, you might get them to learn more tricks for your subsequent outdoor camping trip. When your dog finally learns the art of going up the tent ladder all by itself, you will have one more trick to show your friends and family!

This method of getting your dog up the stairs sounds great, but it won’t be an excellent option for disabled dogs as they will require assistance. Regardless, dogs are enthusiastic creatures, and with proper encouragement and training, you can teach your dog to climb up to the tent and back down.

Pros of this method:

  • Helps your dog become independent
  • No carrying involved

Cons of this method:

Why Rooftop Tents Are Great For Dogs

Except for the minor inconvenience of getting your dog up into the tent and down back- especially for bathroom breaks- rooftop tents are a great shelter for dogs as much as they are for humans.

Think about it. Not only will you feel safer keeping your furry companion close to you, but you will also keep your dog safer.

If you do not want to keep your dog in the tent with you, your only other option will be to keep it tied to a tree, in your truck, or the bed of your truck. However, these come with several concerns.

Keeping your dog leashed to a tree trunk will ensure it doesn’t wander off. While this is great, it also means your dog is exposed to cold and predators throughout the night.

Keeping your dog in your truck also sounds like a great plan until you forget to come down and let them out for a leak, only to wake up to a mess made on your precious car seats. You also have to deal with the dynamics of how far down the window should go so it doesn't get too cold and your nimble dog doesn’t get enough window space to wriggle out.

The truck bed is a tangible option, but you have to pad it down to ensure your dog doesn’t get cold and provide enough security to ensure your dog doesn’t wander off.

Why go through all these when you can bring your dog up to bed with you like you probably do at home?

Many rooftop tents are animal friendly and have enough weight capacity to support you and your dog without any problem comfortably.

With rooftop tents, you can ensure you and your dog stays comfortable. An elevated sleeping area means a flat surface without rocky bits poking you, no problems for you or your dog when it rains, and no cold spots on the floor. 

With a rooftop tent, you and your dog will enjoy a good night's rest. At the end of each camp day, everyone is happy.

Getting Doggo Up And down The Tent With Ease

Rooftop tents offer many advantages, especially providing your dog the protection it needs on your trip. Bringing your dog to join you in your rooftop tent might seem like extra work on your camping trip. However, the benefits outweigh the cost, especially considering the companionship you will enjoy.

Figuring out the best way to get your dog in and out of the rooftop tent will require trial and error with different methods. Irrespective of how challenging this might seem at first, sooner or later, you and your dog will settle into a hitch-free routine.

To ensure you and your dog remain comfortable, invest in the best rooftop tent you can get. 

Overlanding vs Camping What’s The Difference - Tuff Stuff Overland

Overlanding vs Camping What’s The Difference

Overlanding and camping are two terms that often pop up in conversations concerning exploring nature. Although these two terms describe activities that will otherwise look identical to a person new to the outdoor camping scene, they represent two entirely different travel styles and scopes.

Overlanding and camping have their unique quirks and similarities, and knowing how to tell the difference between both is the trick to fully understanding the concept behind these terms. In this article, you will learn all you need to know about camping and overlanding experiences.

overlanding camping

Overlanding Vs. Camping

Overlanding and camping are two great ways to experience the outdoors. Both activities involve abandoning the comfort and convenience of the daily lifestyle and life as you know it to adopt a more nomadic way of life for a certain period.

At first glance, it is easy to see why anyone will mistake overlanding for camping and vice versa. Both involve stocking up on survival gear to advance into the wilderness, where you will have limited contact with civilization and have to find different ways to adapt to normal routines. 

However, with an in-depth look at the factors that entail both terms, you will learn that many key differences set the two apart.

An overlander is a camper, but a camper is not an overlander.

Sounds tricky, right? After all, both involve setting up camp and sleeping beneath the stars. Regardless of this similarity, camping and overlanding are two different concepts.

What Is Overlanding?

Overlanding is a self-reliant, vehicle-based on-road and off-road travel to remote locations. It is a journey of resilience and adventure where the focus and enjoyment are not on the destination but the trip itself.

Although it has been thought to have existed for quite some time, overlanding has only recently started to be recognized as a mainstream movement and pop up on the camping scene due to the growing popularity surrounding the term. 

The earliest record of what is considered a part of overland history originated in Australia. In the early 1900s, between 1906 and 1910, Australia opened a route for the sole purpose of herding cattle for long-distance travel.

These routes were used for trading farm animals and traders accompanied farm animals, probably on foot, to finalize these deals. Although modern overlanding has nothing to do with animals, this period is thought to have pioneered what has now evolved into present-day overlanding.

Overlanding is a journey of survival that will test anyone’s sense of will. It requires the traveler to be self-dependent on limited resources while going off-grid to explore the wilderness that the average camper probably never even dreams of visiting on the weekend.

Put simply, Overlanding is a journey traveled in resilient mechanized off-road vehicles into remote locations for an extended period which can last anywhere from weeks to years.

Overlanding is a journey that spans several international territories through rough terrain, conquering obstacles of exploring and enjoying nature. 

The trip's value is not arriving at a site to set up camp and enjoy roasted marshmallows. The joy lies in traveling unknown trails and exploring the gifts of nature.

What Is Camping?

When you think about camping, you envision a quaint little trip with your family to a picturesque location where you can enjoy the outdoors for a few days before returning home.

Camping is a time for people to relax and explore the outdoors, usually dedicating time to enjoying nature in one area. Camping trips are fun recreational activities to escape urban life for a more natural environment for a limited time.

The umbrella term ‘camping’ is often loosely thrown around. Still, it can only be defined in one true scope, which is a recreational activity devoted to relaxation and exploring life outdoors.

Camping can be done in different ways. Campers can be involved in tent camping, backpacking, survivalist camping, van camping, or glamping. Each term defines different camping techniques depending on preferences, purpose, and comfort levels.

When people camp, they often do so in designated camping areas in tents or recreational vehicles. Depending on the area and facilities available, campers will either be provided with facilities like bathrooms and kitchen equipment during their stay or have to make do with limited resources to navigate normal activities.

If the latter is the case, the camping style is known as boondocking or dispersed camping. Campers usually indulge in activities like hiking, fishing, kayaking, bird-watching, and other activities to enjoy an outdoor experience. 

overlanding camping

Differences Between Camping And Overlanding

Camping and Overlanding both denote a scope that involves abandoning the hustle of urban life in pursuit of something more natural.

Both terms are often used synonymous, especially since they involve a person temporarily habiting outdoors and using limited resources to survive. Although they are both ways to enjoy quality time outdoors- with or without company- camping and overlanding are two aspects of different spectrums.

1. Purpose 

Camping

The sole purpose and reason behind camping trips are to have fun, relax, and explore a particular location in nature. 

When people plan camping trips, they usually have a destination in mind. This destination might be a pristine lakeside nature reserve or a trip to a mountaintop plateau.

Regardless of the location they choose, campers already have everything thought out. They have already figured out the area they wish to explore, the duration of their trip, and even sometimes the activities they will participate in.

In camping, the journey to the campsite is fun, but that is not the joy of the trip. The pleasure and whole point of the trip is the location itself and the activities waiting for the campers.

Camping trips are usually made in social groups. This can be as a family vacation, with one partner, or one of those trips you order with nature reserves.

On camping trips, campers set up semi-permanent shelters, which they return to at night after exploring activities in the area or nearby areas. 

Overlanding

In overlanding, several concepts parallel the basic camping concept. However, the essential difference between overlanding and camping lies in the purpose of the expenditure, which is the journey itself.

When you choose camping, you have only one destination in mind. With overlanding, the destination is not the purpose of the trip, but the experience enjoyed to reach that location that is miles away.

Overlanding is a survivalist expenditure journey where the camper aims to enjoy the natural beauty of the off-roads, challenging terrains, and the raw, untouched beauty that surrounds them. 

Admittedly, both activities involve setting up a tent outdoors every night. However, with overlanding, the aim is not to arrive at a lake reserve, pitch a tent, and take a hike only to return to the tent at night. The joy of the trip is to make a long drive, set up camp, and continue the journey onwards.

Overlanding isn't just a trip. It is a lifestyle that involves maneuvering a 4WD and depending on your overland vehicle to travel over any terrain you might encounter.

Although overlanding is a chance to explore nature, it is better to embark on the expenditure alone and without out

2. Time

Camping

Camping trips are usually short. They extend for a few days, and on these days, the campers typically settle in one area.

Camping is a leisurely activity considered a vacation. On the trips, the campers never abandon their urban life for more than a few days. Instead, these trips are planned as a short break from their normal lifestyle to satiate their need to reconnect with nature.

Overlanding

With Overlanding, the story is very different.

When you choose to go overlanding, you decide to venture into the wilderness often for an unknown period. Overlanders can spend weeks, months, or even years exploring the areas across different terrains and often into different states.

Overland campers are always away from home longer than the average camper. An overland camper’s trip is split into what looks like an unending cycle of setting camp in different places and barely for more than a few days at a time.

3. Resources And Facilities

Camping

The availability of essential resources and facilities depends on where a camper chooses. No rule provides a one-size-fits-all account of what the average campers' facilities are like. There are different camping spots, and the facilities available in each camping spot often vary wildly.

However, the availability of resources and facilities depends on if the camper chooses to set up camp on a frontcountry, backcountry/designated, or dispersed campsite.

Frontcountry camping grounds offer campers the luxury resources and facilities they are used to in urban settings in exchange for a fee. These campsites have running water, restrooms, showers, trash disposal facilities, and electricity. Individual camps usually offer picnic tables, fire fings, tent space, and parking.

Frontcountry campsites are often owned by Federal, State, or Private agencies. They are often used by campers who seek a vacation in nature without any necessary discomfort.

Designated campsites often charge a considerably cheaper fee but lack the convenience a front-country campsite offers. They are often secluded without amenities like electricity or running water systems. These campsites often offer vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, but rarely anything more.

When campers choose to use dispersed campsites, they decide to boondock with extremely limited amenities. While these sites are often free, the availability of amenities is usually limited to public toilets and fire pits. Sometimes, dispersed campsites offer nothing but tent pads.

Overlanding

Although campers have options for where to set up camp and in what condition, overlanders take what they get. All you can do as an overland camper is to prepare for the worst and ride it out.

Going Overlanding means you do not get access to resources the average camper will enjoy. This leaves you to come up with substitutes for these resources.

For example, you do not get bathrooms or toilets on overlanding trips. You will have to make the most of your gear to create makeshift solutions for these processes. 

4. Planning Process

Because overlanding and camping involve different scopes, they require different planning methods.

Admittedly, campers and overlanders indulge in similar activities. Depending on the type of camping trip, some campers and overlanders perform similar activities that involve using limited resources for survival. Like overlanders, some campers sleep in tents and go to the bathroom in the wild. However, the methods of preparing for these activities are different.

Camping

When planning your camping trip, you need enough resources to last your planned duration in the location you are traveling to. This means you have to prepare for the camping location, the activities you will indulge in while at the site, and enough gear that will facilitate a successful camping trip.

Because you already have a location in mind, it is easier to plan what gear you will need to carry out specific actions in that location. Are you going to be in a camp that already provides facilities like bathrooms and firepits? Or will you be on a campground where you must figure out the essentials from scratch?

If you already have an RV, you already have most of your essential gears mapped out and provided for you.

Overlanding

Planning your overland trip is a more intricate and complicated process.

There are a lot of unknown variables when dealing with an overland trip. Short of having a general idea of where you wish to go, you have nothing else definite and set in stone. All you know is the routes of the area you are headed.

Because you do not have any other features to prepare with, your best bet at a planning method is to understand the weather and terrain in the areas you will be in. This will help you prepare for the worst.

Since nothing is known for sure, you have to prepare for different scenarios. You will need to plan your food, water, and even clothing to accommodate all the variables so you will not be stuck in a messy situation.

Essentially, where camping features a definite panning process, overlanding involves more variables you need to account for.

5. Gear

The type of gear you need when going camping is significantly different from the gear you need for an overland trip.

As previously mentioned, when you go camping, you already know what to prepare for. Depending on the area you choose to set up camp in, you already probably have access to electricity, gas, grills, and other essentials. This means you only have to pack temperature-appropriate clothing and other basic appliances.

When going overlanding, you have more to prepare for. Hence, you need more gear. This can be tricky, especially since you have limited vehicle space.

On your overlanding trip, you will be away from the typical urban setting. This means you will not have access to basic amenities for a long time, reading you to substitute these amenities for mobile gear. You will need to pack everything for your overlanding trip, from a camping stove to fuel, bedding and clothing essentials, enough food that can be preserved without refrigeration (for obvious reasons), water, and everything in between.

You will be held accountable for your survival, and you will need to make the most of the gear you bring along. Other than the essentials, you also need to bring along gear for your vehicle.

An overland trip is vehicle-specific, and you will be on the road a lot. Bringing gear for your vehicle will ensure you can get your vehicle out of any sticky situation. From vehicle recovery kits to maps, fire extinguishers, air tools, and an extra tire, you must ensure you have everything your vehicle might need.

Ultimately, you only need the necessities on your camping trip and full survival gear for your overland trip.

Knowing The Difference

Camping and overlanding might seem very similar at first. However, with an in-depth look, it is easy to see that these concepts are parallels.

Where overlanding features careful planning to figure out the best way to best the challenges nature might throw at you on your journey of discovery, camping is a more mundane and leisurely activity. 

Regardless of these differences, both activities are fun ways to explore nature and enjoy visiting new places.

How Much Weight Can Rooftop Tents Hold - Tuff Stuff Overland

How Much Weight Can Rooftop Tents Hold

Investing in a rooftop tent is possibly one of the best decisions you can make as a camper. With a tent that offers comfort and convenience on the go, you can enjoy a more quality camping trip alone or with friends and family.

Although rooftop tents are the new rave with campers everywhere purchasing a rooftop tent in various brands and models, many people are still skeptical and harbor concerns regarding these lofty nests that are popped up on vehicles.

One of these many concerns is the big question of how much weight a rooftop tent can hold without risking their safety and that of their vehicles. In this article, we have provided all you need to know about a rooftop’s weight load capacity and how to ensure your safety.

rooftop tent

Hopping On The Rooftop Tent Train

Rooftop tents are tents erected on the roof of a camping truck or van. Like regular tents, they come in different models, colors, sizes, and at different prices.

Although rooftop tents are a different ball game from conventional ground tents, they have slowly but surely been introduced to the camping scene and are being recognized as an essential camping gear. These outdoor living structures have peaked in popularity these past few years due to the benefits they offered adventurous campers. 

Seeing the immense benefits of owning a rooftop tent, it is easy to see why they have become an overnight phenomenon. Although they have their pros and cons, the benefits outweigh the concerns and the concerns are not much of a concern if you already know what you are getting into.

Some rooftop tent pros include:

Ease of Mobility

If you are a frequent camper or an overland camper then you will enjoy the ease and freedom rooftop tents offer. Being constantly on the go means you have to set up camp at a location, usually not for long.

Conventional tents may sound like an excellent option but that means you have to set up a tent in the evening only to tear it down in the morning. This repetitive ritual can be frustrating, tiring, time-consuming, and seem like too much work for a few hours worth of sleep.

With rooftop tents that pop up in a matter of minutes, you can be anywhere you want and at any time. Since your tent is latched to the roof of your vehicle, you can pack up and go any time you want.

Easy Set-Up

This benefit cannot be over-emphasized. Conventional tents require time and effort to be erected. This requires inserting tent poles and making knots to erect your temporary sleeping space. With a rooftop tent, you do not have to worry about any of these.

After the initial installation, you can pop up your tent and set it up with your mattress, pillows, and blankets in less than five minutes. The take-down is just as easy and since most tents come with a tent cover to store your tent on the roof of your car, you do not have to be worried about taking the entire tent apart.

Additionally, some rooftop tent brands allow campers to store their sleeping gear in the tent when it is closed down. With your sleeping space already set up, you can easily set up camp without the fuss that comes with using conventional camping tents.

Camp Anywhere

Using a conventional tent means you cannot camp on rocky, muddy terrain. It also means you will have to find a suitable designated or dispersed camping area where you can set up camp safely.

With a rooftop tent, you can camp anywhere as long as you can find a great spot to park. No designated campsite to set up camp? You can pull off the road and pop up your rooftop tent. 

Flat Sleeping Surface

When you want to set up your ground tent, you have to clear the area of pebbles, rocks, and sticks. Even after this- unless you invest in an air mattress- you can still fill stones and debris poking you.

In some conditions, you  can pitch your tent on uneven ground that contributes to an uncomfortable night rest. Rooftop tents have steady and in-built fiberglass or aluminum floor bases that provide an even flat surface for you to sleep.

Better View

Investing in a rooftop tent is possibly one of the best decisions you can make as a camper. With a tent that offers comfort and convenience on the go, you can enjoy a more quality camping trip alone or with friends and family.

Although rooftop tents are the new rave with campers everywhere purchasing a rooftop tent in various brands and models, many people are still skeptical and harbor concerns regarding these lofty nests that are popped up on vehicles.

One of these many concerns is the big question of how much weight a rooftop tent can hold without risking their safety and that of their vehicles. In this article, we have provided all you need to know about a rooftop’s weight load capacity and how to ensure your safety.

Cheaper Than RVs

Do you want more luxury on your camping trip but cannot afford the thousands of dollars necessary to purchase a RV? Get a rooftop tent instead! Admittedly, rooftop tents lack in-door toilet and kitchen systems present in many Rv models, rooftop tents are still an excellent upgrade from conventional camping tents.

You get to experience more convenience and comfort than you will if you see ground tents. Additionally, some rooftop tents provide extra features that allow the attachment of separately-bought annexes, awnings, and awning shade walls. With this option, and many other rooftop tent accessories, you can customize your rooftop tent however you like.

Safety

Safety is always a concern whenever you go camping. From the fear of wildlife and critters to that of being caught in a storm. With rooftop tents, you are at a  higher vantage point that protects you from wildlife like crocodiles, wolves, and bears.

Getting off the ground also means you don’t experience crawling critters like snakes. You do not also have to be stuck in a pool of muddy water when it rains because you will be safely tucked in a durable cocoon on the roof of your car.

Some cons of using rooftop tents include:

  • More expensive: although the advantages of rooftop tents are undeniable, the price, for many campers, is a deal-breaker. Rooftop tents are more expensive than conventional tents and can cost anywhere from $1000 to $4000. If you need to purchase more accessories, you will have to spend even more money.
  • The climb: the whole point of getting a rooftop tent is to get off the ground, but for many people, this is a problem. Understandably,it can be very frustrating to have to climb down and back up every time you need to take a leak. Also, getting your pets up and into the tent may be a fuss. However, if this doesn't bother you, you should go ahead and get a tent.

However, before you go in search of a rooftop tent for your subsequequent camping trip, you need to ensure you have complete knowledge of what it takes to own a rooftop tent. The more knowledgeable you are, the more you can optimize your rooftop tent on your outdoor expenditure.

How Much Weight Can A Rooftop Tent Hold?

You have made the decision to buy a rooftop tent for your next camping expenditure but you just can’t seem to shake the nagging concern of if a rooftop tent is strong enough to hold your weight. 

Admittedly, a rooftop tent looks like a regular tent. However, rooftop tents are designed with a sturdy structure to ensure they can bear enough weight without harming occupants on the vehicle they are latched on.

So, how much weight can a rooftop tent comfortably hold?

It is important to note that there are different types of tent and there is no formular to determine how much weight a rooftop tent can hold. Regardless, some manufacturers make it a point to clearly note a rooftop tent’s weight limit in the manual or instructional guide.

That being said, a tent’s weight limit depends on the typeof tent it is, the number of occupants it is meant for, and the materials it is made from.

A rooftop tent has a maximum weight capacity that ranges from 800 to 1000 lbs depending on these factors and the manufacturer. On average, a rooftop tent has an average weight capacity of 900lbs.

Some manufacturers roughly place the weight of a camper at the 200 pound mark. With this, you can be sure that a two-person rooftop tent will comfortably support a minimum of 400lbs. Generally, the average weight capacity of a rooftop tent is 900lbs. 

If a rooftop tent is made with durable aluminum flooring, chances are it supports a heavier weight than a rooftop tent made with other kinds of metal.

How Much Weight Can You Put On Your Vehicle?

Finding out how much weight your rooftop tent can hold is just one factor of the equation in figuring out how much weight is right for your vehicle. 

When a rooftop tent is pitched on the roof of your vehicle, it bears down on your vehicle, burdening it. Add in your weight when you are on top and surpassing the weight limit will put you and your vehicle at risk of danger.

Rooftop tents, like regular tents, come in different materials. These materials include cotton, polyester, poly-cotton, nylon, and rip-stop nylon fibers. Along with other materials that make up its framework, the type of material your rooftop tent is made from determines how durable it is, if it is fit for all seasons, and the weight of your tent.

A rooftop tent already weighs an average of 100lbs. This number varies with the size and type- soft-shell or hard-shell, with the latter being heavier- of tent it is. The heavier the tent is, the more weight your vehicle has to deal with.

If your tent weight, your weight, and the few pounds of pillows and blankets you need weigh less than your vehicle’s weight capacity, ten the rooftop tent is safe to use. However, if the numbers surpass the capacity, you will need to rethink getting that rooftop tent.

But what exactly is a vehicle’s weight capacity?

rooftop tent

Figuring Out Your Vehicle Weight Capacity

A vehicle is built to support a lot of weight. However, the amount of weight it can support during movement is different from the amount it can support when it is static. These two aspects are called the static weight capacity and the dynamic weight capacity.

The static weight capacity or static loading of a car is the amount of weight the roof can support when it isn’t in motion. This is how heavy your vehicle can hold when it is parked and it is often up to ten times the value of that of the dynamic weight capacity.

The static rating is higher because the weight is dispersed more evenly. The dynamic rating, however, is when it all gets technical.

The dynamic weight capacity of a vehicle is how much the roof can hold when the vehicle is in motion. The combined effects of gravity, drag, and acceleration causes the center of gravity to shift, resulting in the dynamic rating to be a smaller value. On average, most cars, trucks, and SUVs have a dynamic rating of 165 pounds.

You can find both the value of the dynamic and static weight capacity on your car owner’s manual. However, you might need to do a little bit of maths to figure out the necessary maximum rooftop tent weight for your vehicle.

Your rooftop tent will affect the driving dynamics, even when it is closed. This is especially worse for soft-shell rooftop tents that are not built with an aerodynamic design and will often cause drag.

With a rooftop tent latched to your rooftop, you will have increased difficulty accelerating and braking. You will also notice a difference in actions like driving down winding roads due to the shift in gravity.

The heavier the tent, the worse the change in driving dynamics. Exceeding the dynamic weight specification will put you at a risk of an accident, so if your dynamic rating limit is 165lbs, it is important to stick to tents that weigh at most 100lbs.

Since static rating is always higher, you have more room for your weight. Still, the same rules apply and you shouldn’t pass the limit. Although the value of the static rating might be higher, combine the weight of the tent, those of the occupant, and other gear, and you will find that the total weight is quickly cutting into the static weight limit.

Although all these might sound dangerous to the state of your roof, it is important to note that rooftop tents do not sit directly on your roof. Instead, they are latched to roof racks or bars. While this is great, it also means you have to factor in the weight of the roof rack into your rooftop tent calculations.

Put simply:

  • Rooftop tent weight + roof rack weight + additional weight load on roof must be less than the static rating

  • Rooftop tent weight + roof rack weight + your weight(s) + additional weight load on roof must be less than dynamic rating.

It is essential to adhere to weight limits to ensure road safety and avoid endangerment when your roof is erect.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Rooftop Tent

There are several essential factors you need to consider when choosing a rooftop tent to purchase. Some of these factors include:

  1. Materials: do your research before choosing your rooftop tent. You can find out what material a tent is made from in its description. If you are going camping frequently, invest in a rooftop with quality materials to enjoy a durable rooftop that lasts many years.
  1. Vehicle suitability: although most rooftop tents are not vehicle-specific, it is better to ensure the tent you pick is the perfect fit for your vehicle.
  1. The weight: cross-check the weight of the tent to confirm that it doesn’t elapse the necessary vehicle weight ratings. This will ensure your safety and reduce drag that might affect gas mileage.
  1. Tent type: although soft-shell and hard-shell rooftop tents are both excellent options, they both have their pros and cons. Soft-shell tents are cheaper and can fold out to create more space and shade. However, they are noisy in the wind, less durable, and cause drag. Hard-shell tents are more aerodynamic and easier to use but are smaller and more expensive.
  1. Weight capacity: rooftop tents are an investment so you need to purchase one that suits your needs. If you are going to be camping frequently with your family, you should buy a tent with the ight size and capacity that will hold your weights comfortably.q
  1. Roof rack: your roof racks or bar will hold your tent’s weight and distribute it on the roof of your vehicle. If your vehicle doesn’t already come with roof racks, you need to ensure you not only purchase the right size and weight of roof rack that can hold yours and the tent’s weight but also one that fits your vehicle’s roof design. There are different types of roof racks and bars so you need to choose the right rack that serves your rooftop tent needs.

Choosing The Right Rooftop Tent

Rooftop tents are an innovative and essential camping gear bound to make camping more convenient and fun. Without the hassles presented with erecting a ground tent, you can enjoy the outdoors differently and without restrictions.

For the best results, ensure you do proper research to help you choose the best tent for you and your vehicle. This will help you enjoy the outdoor better without compromising your safety or that of your vehicle.

How To Mount A Rooftop Tent Properly - Tuff Stuff Overland

How To Mount A Rooftop Tent Properly

Rooftop tents are a perfect fit for campers always on the go. With a tent latched to the roof of your vehicle, you are no longer limited by the constraints of conditions that guide hitching a regular camping tent.

Although this is great news for many campers and overlanders, buying a rooftop tent is only half the battle won as you still have to mount your tent on your vehicle roof properly. Installing your rooftop tent might look like rocket science, but in reality, it is easier than that. Below, we have provided everything you need to know about mounting, installing, and properly securing your rooftop tent on your vehicle.

rooftop tent

What’s The Rave About Rooftop Tents?

Are you planning to go camping or on a long overland trip? It is time to invest in a suitable rooftop tent.

Rooftop tents are the ‘in’ thing right now. Campers everywhere are switching from the basic ground tent to this innovative camping gear for great reasons.

Rooftop tents are just what they sound like- tents pitched on the roofs of vehicles. With their ingenious designs, rooftop tents offer campers the luxury of comfort and travel ease they cannot enjoy with regular camping tents.

Rooftop tents are a convenient, handy, easy-to-use alternative to traditional tents. They are designed to be secured to the roof of a camping van, truck, or other camping vehicle. They make it easier for campers to get around and camp in terrains, usually not possible with a ground tent.

One major advantage of rooftop tents is their quick and easy set-up after the initial installation. Once you secure your rooftop tent, you only have to erect and let them down when you find a suitable spot to park and set up camp. This sheltered vantage point off the ground not only makes it easier to set up camp and get in bed but also saves you from the dangers of sleeping on the ground, like experiencing wildlife, bugs, and being stuck in a flood when it rains.

It is also important to add that sleeping in a rooftop tent beats sleeping in your vehicle or on the truck bed. You do not have to spend night after night cramped in an uncomfortable position that will make your body ache when morning comes.

With the luxury, space, convenience, safety, and comfort rooftop tents offer, it is easy to see why anyone will want to own one of these essential camping gear. With no need to spend half an hour knotting ropes to pitch a tent only to tear it down when morning comes or sleeping on hard rocky ground, you can enjoy every minute with nature differently.

In addition, most rooftop tents come fitted with accessories or features that help campers optimise their tents and make the most out of limited space. With built-in LED lights and awning fitting for separately-bought awnings, you can make your rooftop tent your home away from home.

The best rooftop tents offer durability and the peace of mind that comes with taking your shelter every with you regardless of the terrain. 

However, like traditional tents, there are many things to consider when choosing a rooftop tent. From selecting the best type of tent to figuring out what size or tent material to choose, these factors play a significant role in ensuring you enjoy your rooftop tent to the maximum.

Furthermore, there is the concern of properly fitting the tent to your vehicle’s rooftop. Setting a tent on your tent precariously sounds dangerous, especially if you sleep in it and drive it everywhere you go. 

How do you know it is safe enough to use? How do you ensure you stay safe and keep your vehicle safe when you use a rooftop tent?

Figuring Out The Basics

Rooftop tents are extremely safe to use, given they are installed and mounted properly to your vehicle’s rooftop. With the correct maintenance to ensure it remains durable, a rooftop tent will serve you longer than a traditional tent. Of course, this also depends on factors like the material the tent is made from.

Tent Material

Cotton Fabric

Rooftop tents made from cotton are usually highly breathable, durable, and abrasion-resistant. They can handle tension without experiencing extreme damage. They can also be treated with chemicals to enhance their functionality.

100% cotton rooftop tents can be very thick, although the thickness varies. However, the thicker its material, the less breathable it is, the heavier it is, and the more moisture it can absorb. 

Polyester Fabric

Rooftop tents made from polyester are usually lighter, unstretchable, and equally durable options. However, polyester rooftop tents are less breathable and not very resistant to abrasion. These tents are water-resistant, easy to dry after being stuck in the rain, and can often withstand enough tension as they are tear-resistant.

Nylon Fabric

Nylon is flexible, water resistant, and can be woven into a breathable fabric with comparatively low breathability. Tents made from this material are strong, dry easily, resistant to abrasion, and can be UV-resistant if treated with the proper chemicals. However, nylon rooftop tents are not very durable and degrade easily when exposed to UV for years.

Poly-Cotton

Poly-cotton rooftop tents are made from a mix of cotton and polyester fibres. This blend creates a mixture of the features of both materials, making it one of the most reliable rooftop tent materials.

Poly-cotton tents are breathable, tear-resistant, and abrasion-resistant. These features vary with the ratio of polyester and cotton combination in the material.

The material your rooftop tent is made from determines how well it serves you and the appropriate care options necessary to keep it durable. 

Tent Size and Weight

Other than its material, the size and weight of a rooftop tent not only determines if it is the right fit for you but also for your vehicle.

Like traditional ground tents, rooftop tents come in different sizes designed to accommodate different numbers of people. There are rooftop tents that can contain just two people- meaning overloading them with three people can compromise your and your vehicle’s safety- and those can have up to five people, a dog, and other personal items.

Sizes vary widely, and on the upside, rooftop tents can easily be manipulated to provide more space by installing annexes, awnings, and awning shade walls. On the downside, the bigger your rooftop tent, the heavier it is. 

The heavier it is, the more weight your vehicle has to bear. The weight of your rooftop tent plays a major role in determining if it is safe enough to be mounted on your tent and secure enough for you to use on your subsequent camping trip.

Tent Type

Other than size, another factor that determines how heavy your rooftop tent is is the type or model of rooftop tent you purchase. There are two major types of rooftop tents:

Soft-shell Rooftop Tents

A soft-shell tent looks like a traditional tent hitched on a vehicle’s rooftop. They are a cheaper option as they are made from less durable materials and are the best option for people on a budget.

Soft-shell is made of more fabric than frame supports, meaning they are typically smaller (although their sizes vary), lighter, and fold out to create more space or shade. However, because of these features, they are sluggish to pack and take more time to set up.

They also flap too much in the wind and can be noisy, don’t fold completely when not in use, and cause drag in the wind when driving, affecting your gas mileage.

Hard-shell Rooftop Tents

Hard-shell tents are the new and improved version of the soft-shell tent. They have a boxy design that makes it easy to open them up and close them down when they are not in use, thereby slashing set-up time. 

Hard-shell tents are more expensive, more durable, and are a convenient weatherproof option. These tents are smaller, cannot fold out like soft-shell tents, and have a lot heavier options. However, the aerodynamic design of hard-shell tents makes it easier to pack up, reduces drag, and decreases gas mileage.

Regardless of the rooftop tent you choose, you need to ensure you purchase one that fits your vehicle. While most tents can be installed on any vehicle, some are designed to fit specific models. 

rooftop tent

Installing Your Rooftop Tent

Tent and vehicle weight is important when safely installing a rooftop tent on your vehicle.

Rooftop tents do not sit directly on the roof of your vehicle. They are mounted on roof racks or crossbars on top of the roof. Put simply, roof racks and bars are your rooftop tent support system or foundation and will determine how sturdy your tent is after installation is complete.

The rooftop tent will sit on the roof racks or bars, and the racks or bars will sit on your vehicle’s roofs. The racks will support the tent’s weight, and your vehicle will support both their weight- and yours when you decide to camp in the tent.

Considering how heavy a rooftop tent is, even when you are not yet in them, it is essential to ensure your roof racks can support it. To do this, you have to find out the tent’s weight and your vehicle’s load capacity.

Finding a rooftop tent’s weight is easy. All you have to do is check the manufacturer’s manual, which will be stated there, along with other specs. A rooftop tent can weigh between 45kg to 90 kg, although some may weigh more than that.

On the other hand, a vehicle’s weight capacity is made of two aspects which are the static load capacity and dynamic load capacity.

Dynamic load capacity refers to how much weight a vehicle can hold when in motion. It is the maximum permissible load it can withstand while driving and determines if your vehicle can handle a tent’s weight when impacted by movement.

Burdening your vehicle with a rooftop tent whose weight surpasses its dynamic load capacity puts you and your vehicle in danger. It also creates drag that affects gas mileage.

The static load capacity is how much weight your vehicle can handle when it isn’t moving. It is often higher than the dynamic load capacity, often tripling in amount. 

Essentially, it is important to confirm that your vehicle can handle your tent’s weight on the roof while driving and handle the tent plus your weight(s) when you are parked. If you are unsure what your vehicle’s capacity is, simply check your car owner’s manual or registration certificate.

So, now you know the necessary weights, and it is time to figure out if you have the right roof racks or bars for the job. Remember, the racks will bear the brunt of the weight, so to ensure your safety, you should confirm if they are the right size.

Firstly, check the top of your camping or overland vehicle to find out if you have the right racks. If you don’t already have racks pre-installed, you will need to buy the specific racks your vehicle requires.

If you have to purchase a roof rack, you must choose between steel or aluminum racks. Aluminum racks are stronger and lighter options that reduce gas mileage and offer less resistance, resulting in less wind noise. Steel racks are cheaper but less durable.

Depending on what your vehicle and tent need, you can either purchase a full roof rack or crossbars.

Full roof racks are great for campers who often find themselves touring the wild and constantly pitch their tent. It allows frequent use, helping you spread the tent's weight evenly when the vehicle is stationary and keeping it steady while driving. It is a more permanent option.

Crossbars are more temporary and are great for occasional campers. Although they are not as sturdy as roof racks, almost any crossbar can easily bear a tent’s weight. All you need to do is ensure the right length and thickness. The necessary specs are often stated in the rooftop tent manual.

How To Install Your Rooftop Tent

After ensuring everything is in place and ready for you to install your tent, you can now go on with the rest of the step-by-step process of mounting your tent to your vehicle’s roof.

To ensure you fasten the tent firmly on the roof, it is important to follow every instruction down to the letter. Most rooftop tents come with a manual so installing a rooftop tent is not as difficult as it might seem. 

To install your tent:

  1. Check the instruction manual: your tent manufacturer knows best! Some rooftop tent requirements vary, so it is essential to check the manual to see the necessary steps clearly displayed with pictures (in most cases) on how to carry them out. 
  1. Get the necessary tools: you won’t make much headway without the required tools. A screw won’t screw itself, so you need to ensure you have the essential equipment you need to install our tent. From wrenches to screwdrivers, assemble your tools in the right sizes.
  1. Ensure all parts are included: the installation of your tent will not be complete if one of its parts is missing. Even if it is one tiny nut, your tent will be unsafe for us. From bolts to nuts, ladder, brackets, tent cover, and support rails, consult the manual to ensure you have every part.
  1. Cross-check to see if you installed your roof racks or bars properly: your mounting system is your foundation. You should ensure they are sturdy enough to secure your tent.
  1. Set up your mounting rails: secure your mounting rails as instructed
  1. Attach ladder brackets to your tent: turn your tent over and secure the brackets as instructed
  1. Attach the ladder: secure the ladder as instructed by the manual.
  1. Secure the tent cover: attach and secure the tent cover as instructed.
  1. Mount the tent: close and raise the tent to the roof rack. You will need help lifting the tent. Attach it as instructed.
Voila! You have a fully-functional rooftop tent to tour the wilderness with.

How Easy Is It To Install A Rooftop tent?

Depending on the type of tent, its size, availability of tools, and if you had any help, mounting a rooftop tent is a fairly easy job. Installing a tent can take between 30 minutes and two hours but setting it up for use afterwards will take less than ten minutes.

Rooftop tents are a nice upgrade from the traditional tent. They are convenient, comfortable, easy to set up and improve the quality of any camping or overland trip.

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