Are Roof Top Tents Safe?

Mar 08, 21
Are Roof Top Tents Safe?

Camping innovation is an amazing thing.

I remember the first time I slept on an ultralight inflatable sleeping mat. I had recently returned to the USA from 4 years studying art in Europe and went camping with some old college friends (and one beautiful girl that I later married). I had to borrow camping equipment because I only had 8 shirts and 3 pairs of pants to my name. One thing I have always found frustrating about camping is having to sleep on the cold hard ground. That’s not too bad when you are in your early twenties, but its not so fun once you hit your mid 30s! That inflatable sleeping mat was great. That’s one camping innovation that got me back out on the trail.

Then there’s the survival shovels and water and windproof USB rechargeable lighter to get your fire and camp stove going. What?!?! So cool!

Another innovation that is changing the landscape of camping in America is the roof top tent. With a roof top tent I have been able to upgrade my inflatable mattress and tent to something even better. Sleeping up off the ground keeps you warmer and safer. The build quality of a roof top tent is also FAR superior to most ground tents.

But, how safe is a roof top tent really?

There are few things you will want to keep in mind when stepping into the world of roof top wandering with your new roof top tent.

Installing Your Roof Top Tent

One of the first areas of precaution is when you install the roof top tent on your vehicle. Most roof top tents weight between 100-180lbs. That’s a lot of weight for one person to lift onto a vehicle so I would highly recommend you have a friend help you with the install. That’s what your community is there for. Here is an article about how heavy roof top tents are.

Dangers of Using a Roof Top Tent

I suppose it’s safe to say that anything and everything CAN be dangerous. With a roof top tent you will want to make sure it is installed correctly. I’ve never heard of one falling off a vehicle, but I suppose it could happen.

Pro Tip: When you embark on your first Wandering Adventure, it is a good idea to check and tighten the bolts that connect your RTT to your rack.

The main danger of actually using a roof top tent is climbing in and out, especially at night when nature calls. The first time I used my roof top tent, my foot slipped on the bottom ladder rung and I scraped my shin up a little. That’s the only “injury” I have ever had because of my roof top tent.

Soft shell tents open like a book and some people have expressed concern that the hinge will break. I can certainly understand this fear, but I have never heard of it happening.

Are You Safe from Animals?

Roof top tents were initially created in Australia and Africa for the express purpose of being further away from wild animals. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a little unnerving to climb out of your ground tent in the morning and find elephant and hyena prints running through your camp site!

So, yes, roof top tents will provide much more protection from the curious and hungry critters that you are joining while on your wandering adventures.

But, that’s not to say that you don’t still need to be diligent while roof top wandering!

While we don’t have lions or hyenas in the States, we do have bears. You may have heard the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” When you feed wild animals, it interferes with their natural lifestyle and can easily make them dependent on the forgetful camper leaving food out. This can put both the bear and campers in danger.

So, even when you are roof top wandering, you still need to follow appropriate bear precautions!

  • Always have bear spray near you.
  • Lock all food and fragrant items in bear-safe containers.
  • A bear food bad is a cheap way to keep your food (and yourself) safe.
  • Store these containers at least 100ft from your campsite.

Roof top wanderers need to be aware of the dangers of their pull-out kitchens with wild animals. Bears have been known to tear off the sides of vehicles to gain access to the food inside. Make sure you always clean your kitchen well after each meal. It is also a good idea to install bright lights around your kitchen area that you can turn on from inside your tent. The light itself can deter some wild animals, but it will also allow you to see well enough to spray your bear spray if you need to.


Like everything else, I cannot say that a roof top tent is 100% safe. Nothing really is. But, when it comes down to it, they are a very safe innovation for the outdoor enthusiast. The things you will want to pay attention to are having help to install your new tent, be careful climbing in and out, and practice appropriate wildlife precautions.

If you do those three things, then you will be set up for success! In fact, I would say you will be far safer (and warmer and more comfortable) in your roof top tent than you would be in your old ground tent.

Happy wandering fellow roof top wanderer!

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