Installing a Roof Top Tent – Solo!


If you own a roof top tent, you will have looked and wondered “can I put this on myself?”. But ranging anywhere from 121 pounds (55kg) to upwards of 176 pounds (80kg) they are back breaking to “lift” and install by oneself. The combination of the tent’s weight, dimensions, and the height of your vehicle makes it a spine-tingling challenge to install. 

Yes, you can install a roof top tent by yourself. The simplest way to install a roof top tent by yourself is by using a hoist. This will bear the weight of the tent and allow you to drive right under and drop it into place safely.

Now that is the extremely simplified version of how to install a rooftop tent by yourself, and this article will go into much greater detail on the matter. 

Also, if you do not have the luxury of a high ceiling garage or a hoist, we will check out some other ways to mount a roof top tent by yourself.

How much does a roof top tent weigh?

A standard roof top tent (soft shell) weighs 121 pounds or 55kg. This includes the base, canvas, PVC cover, and ladder.

The canvas makes up most of the weight went combined together, as well as all the aluminum internal parts to give it rigidity.

Hard shell roof top tents will weigh a lot more due to their outer shells being made from either aluminum or heavy-duty plastic. These can weigh upwards of 200 pounds or 100kg.

Because they are also not small in size, the combination of their dimensions and weight make them difficult to maneuver (but not impossible).

How to put on a roof top tent by yourself

There are three main ways we recommend to install a roof top tent by yourself; through the use of a hoist, sliding tracks, or completely solo without the aid of any tools. 

Because of its weight, this can make it a challenge to lift alone safely without the use of tools or helping hands. However, we will explore a number of methods that can get you out of a pinch.

Hoist

The safest and easiest method to mount a roof top tent by yourself is through the use of a hoist. 

A hoist is a pulley system that is installed onto a roof, typically in your garage. Because of its ingenious design, it allows you to lift and load weight securely whilst the roof (or other structure) bears the weight.

  1. Position the tent under the hoist and securely wrap heavy-duty straps
  2. Lift the tent up with enough clearance for the vehicle
  3. Position the vehicle under the tent
  4. Lower the tent and secure the mounting components

If you intend to add and remove the roof top tent often, it really is the easiest option and is well worth the added installation. 

Check out the full article here

The roof top tent must secured on the ground with straps that load the weight evenly. If the weight is uneven, the tent may slip or start to rock side to side in the air because of the weight distribution.

It is also important to note that some hoist systems require power. However, there are some products such as a Racor Ceiling Storage Heavy Lift or a Lift and Lock that are all powered by muscle and physics. 

 Tracks

Tracks are an inclined plane which gives the user an advantage for the amount of force they are putting in. 

Tracks are a form of ramp used to slide the tent upwards and onto the roof of the vehicle. 

Without the use of the hoist, one must push the tent up the slope manually and up into place of the roof of the vehicle.

  1. Lay the tracks onto the roof rack (can be from the rear or side of vehicle)
  2. Secure the tracks to both the ground and roof (the weight and pushing may dislodge)
  3. Push the roof top tent up the tracks
  4. Once at the edge, either push over the top onto the roof racks OR pivot the racks so they become parallel with the vehicle roof and begin to push.
  5. Securely mount the roof top tent

This method can be a little sketchy if your tracks are not rigid and secure enough. Give yourself a gentle slope rather than a steep incline and it will be easier and safer.

See forum post by mmaattppoo here

When roof space is an issue and a hoist cannot be perfectly installed, there is an option to combine the track and hoist system. You still need to position the tent on the tracks, but the hoist will help lift the track up into the air (step 4).

In summary, tracks are useful alongside a hoist or as a standalone system. They can great when you are trying to save some money, but they are certainly not the easiest way for the task to be accomplished.

Without Tools

Yes, it is possible to install a roof top tent solo, without the use of any tools. However, it can be difficult!

All of the tools mentioned above would make your life a lot easier and not be a pain (literally). 

However with no additional tools whatsoever, you will at some stage have to deadlift, squat, and shoulder press the tent all by yourself. 

The biggest danger is that you do not correctly lift and injure yourself or you slip and the tent damages the vehicle.

  1. Position the tent by the vehicle where you can lean it against the roof racks at some stage (back or side)
  2. Stand the tent on its side so that it has less distance to travel to touch the roof racks
  3. Begin to lift and have the tent touching the roof racks
  4. As the tent is touching the edge, start to pivot the tent up and over
  5. Lift and push the remaining tent on to the roof racks

If you own a pickup truck or ute, you can make this a two stage process. First stage is getting it onto the tailgate, then second stage is up onto the roof.

For most people, this is not possible especially with the average weight of the tent is like lifting another person over your head.

Although this is by far the cheapest option, and maybe less time consuming since you are not installing any additional tools.

Overall, without tracks or a hoist, you can still install the tent yourself but it is certainly a physical challenge that can also save you some time and money.

Can I Remove a Rooftop Tent By Myself?

Yes, you can remove a roof top tent by yourself but we do recommend that you use a hoist or track system.  

At least this time when removing the tent, you will have gravity on your side and requires less brute strength. However a special finesse is needed not to scratch or drop the weight.

Consider laying a movers blanket to help with any accidental bumps.

Hoist

The hoist system is the most pain-free method where you would re-attach the straps, lift, and drive away.

Simple!

Tracks

The track system however, will need to wriggle or move the tent onto the track it self without scratching the top of your vehicle.

Since the tent is now on your rooftop it makes it much more difficult to establish the tracks underneath the tent for removal.

You will need to attach the tent to the tracks and slide them back down.

Without Tools

Removing the tent by sheer muscle power will be easier than putting it up.

You can slowly take the tent off your car with the help of gravity, and you can use the front of your car as a transition point allowing you to hop on the ground and finish the removal without dropping the tent on the ground. 

Overall, the uninstallation of the tent is as simple as it seems, the installation but in reverse.

Should I Ask for Help Instead of Installing it Solo?

YES! A good rule of thumb is always to ask for help if you think you need it.

Even if you are confident in your ability to do it solo, an extra person can still make the process go quicker than you originally anticipated.

They may also notice things that you do not, whether that is finding items you cannot like screws and bolts or making sure that the tracks do not scratch your vehicle or the hoist is on properly and much more.

Although we have explored mostly solo installations, we would always recommend two people install a roof top tent.

Risks of Putting a Roof Top Tent by Yourself

There actually are a number of risks and dangers you need to be aware of when trying to put the roof top tent up by yourself.

  • Danger of injuring yourself (mostly your back) – be sure to wear work gloves to prevent any cuts from bracketry/exposed metal. Lift correctly with your legs, not your back.
  • Damaging the vehicle – when positioning the tent, there is potential to accidentally slip and scratch, dent, or damage the vehicle. Have a plan, test it out on grass first. Ask for help.
  • Damaging the tent – dropping the tent from that height will damage the tent. Whether it’s ripping the canvas or snapping some components on impact, you are at risk of ruining your beautiful tent.
  • Hurting your ego – do not be afraid to ask for help. Roof top tents are heavy and awkward to lift. An extra pair of hands will make the job so much quicker.

Conclusion

You can install a roof top tent by yourself very easily through the use of a hoist or tracks.

If hard-mode is your default setting, then manually lifting and pushing the tent is an (undesirable) option.

A hoist is a system where at the press of a button or twist of a crank lifts the tent into the air with ease.

Tracks are simple enough to slide the tent up into position and over onto the roof of the vehicle.

Although this article was more focused on solo installations, we would stress the risks and dangers. Work smarter, not harder (or with a bad back!)

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