Guide To Driving With a Roof Top Tent
We cover everything you need to know about driving around with a roof tent. Some people are happy to buy, install and drive, others are more safety conscious and want to understand all the Do’s and Dont’s of driving with a roof tent. Which ever you are, rest assured, this driving guide has you covered. In it, we cover vehicle weight limits and why it is important to adhere to them, what vehicles can support a tent, legal max. road weights, how to support a car tent properly, where you can use one, best type of roof rack to use when driving and max. permitted vehicle speeds.
Check out the most frequently asked questions our customers ask below.
Q. What are vehicle weight limits?
A. The roof load limit of your car, SUV, or van stated in your vehicle’s manual is for dynamic load. Dynamic load is moving load, i.e. when you are driving your vehicle. Because the car tent is only used when the vehicle is parked up and not moving, the dynamic load figure is not relevant in terms of the weight of the person or people inside and resting in the tent. In short, the dynamic load is only relevant when driving the vehicle and it must be greater than the weight of the roof tent you intend to mount on your vehicle. Please also note, that if you intend to carry anything inside the tent when driving, the weight of these items should also be added to the total weight of your tent when comparing against the dynamic load total.
Your vehicle’s static load is much greater than the dynamic load. A static load refers to the load or weight on the vehicle when it is not moving i.e. when parked up and stationery.
Your vehicle’s steel frame is extremely strong and can take many hundreds of kilograms and withstand a crash, therefore, our car rooftop tent can easily accommodate 2 large adults sleeping inside.
Q. What cars or vehicles support a roof top tent?
A. The response to this question can be split into three sequential answers. Firstly, any car or vehicle that one can mount roof bars or a roof rack onto will be able to support a roof top tent. Secondly, the roof bars / roof rack should be constructed from steel rather than aluminium and thirdly, the roof weight limit of your car, van or SUV should be greater than the weight of the tent and what is inside the tent, and the weight of the roof bars / rack.
See this — Roof Weight Limit ≥ Tent + Tent Contents + Roof Bars / Rack
Once these three questions and subsequent formula are satisfied, you can mount a tent on your vehicle.
Q. What is the legal weight limit on UK and Ireland roads?
A. The legal weight limit on UK and Irish roads is 44 tons or 44,000KGs for road haulage. This means that if your vehicle weighs more than this, you are not permitted to drive it on any UK or Irish road. Tongue in cheek when saying this, but I do not think any camper who uses a roof tent, needs to worry about this limit as it applies to very heavy trucks and machinery.
Q. How are roof top tents supported?
A. Have you ever heard the phrase or saying, “your house is only as strong as the foundation it is built upon”? Well, this applies to roof top tents too. What your tent rests on must be strong and fit for purpose. In addition, your roof tent should be constructed from robust materials to take the weight of the occupants.
We have already described on this page how your vehicle and roof rack must be stout enough to take the weight of the tent and do so when the vehicle is moving. Equally as important though, is the strength of the base of the tent. Potentially two adults and maybe a child will camp in a standard hard shell roof tent, therefore, the occupants could weigh as much as 200KGs. Your chosen tent should be rated to at least this, Mako56 tents can take 300KG occupant weight.
How the top of your car tent is attached to the base should not be overlooked either. In a standard pop-up tent, there will be 4 hydraulic arms installed to do this. In a clamshell tent, there will be two. These arms should be of good quality too. Remember, when a roof tent is open and it is windy outside, the tent will be buffeted by gusts of air from different directions and the hydraulic arms need to be able to withstand this added pressure.
Q. Where can you use a roof top tent?
A. In short, the answer to this question is anywhere you can park your car, SUV, or Van.
You will know what kind of camper you are. If you are truly adventurous but still like the comfort of a decent mattress, you will probably want to stay away from the crowds and will not need the additional peace-of-mind that a camp site provides, with showering, toilet, washing and cooking facilities available to paying guests. Such people will want to camp out next to rivers, lakes, beaches, valleys, forests, and mountains. You should definitely check out our blog for the best Irish camping spots.
Having the right equipment such as solar panels, batteries, lights, gas hobs / rings or BBQs will enable you to be truly self-sufficient.
Others are happy to just stay at the campsite. Many of our customers are parents who want their children to just have a safe adventure in their garden or back yard. Remember! Once you can park there, you can use your roof tent there.
Q. What kind of roof rack do I need?
A. It is important to first note that you will need a roof rack or bars to mount a Mako56 roof top tent or any other brand of tent to your vehicle.
Roof racks and roof bars come in various shapes, guises, and designs. The best are simple bars to cross from one side of your vehicle’s roof to the other. Whether the roof rack or bars come in an aero, round or square profile is not important. What is most important, is that they are strong.
And by strong, we are referring to a steel rack or bars instead of those manufactured from aluminium.
In our experience, a two-bar set roof rack with a rating of 100 KGs (50 KG each bar) constructed from steel is significantly better than a similar two-bar set with the same weight specification constructed from aluminium.
When I bought my first roof top tent, I got aluminium aero roof rack bars rated to 100 KGs (again 50KG each bar). I mounted the roof rack to my car and then attached the roof tent to the rack. Up until this point, no problem.
However, when I got up into the tent (which weighed 55 KGs), I added my weight of 82Kgs to the tent’s weight and my aluminium roof rack buckled under the combined weight and the bars dented my roof, which resulted in a large repair bill.
In short, I believe, you should only ever fit a steel rack to your car, SUV, van, or truck when mounting a roof top tent.
Next, it is important to source the correct tower or foot to connect the rack or bars to the rails, fixing points or door-jam of your vehicle. The tower or foot is important as this item (you will need 4 of them) connects to the vehicle and to the bar or rack. If it looks cheap and not too sturdy, it probably is cheap and not sturdy. I advise you not to scrimp on the cost of these connection pieces as they are as important as the strength of the roof rack bars.
It is this tower or foot that will prevent the bars with tent from detaching from your vehicle’s roof if you suddenly brake to slow down when driving. Follow these guidelines and you will not go wrong when choosing your rack. If in doubt, we can source one for you.
Q. What is the max. speed I can drive my car with a roof rack and car tent attached?
The maximum speed you should drive your car with a roof tent attached is 120KPH or 75MPH. Any faster than this and your roof tent can become unstable or risk detaching because of the high level of wind resistance at these speeds. Aerodynamics can also be adversely affected at such speeds.