Roof Tent?

OK, this isn’t kayak or canoe related, but putting two people in a roof-top tent would sure be a good way to test the load carrying capacity of that roof rack.

Pop-Up Roof Tent

I have always wondered that about those rooftop tents. Many racks would barely support one person, let alone two. Obviously you’re not moving, but that could be putting a lot of stress on the roof.

Where do you put the boats then? :wink:

I’ve wondered about those roof perch tents too, both in terms of vehicle strength and in practicality for users. Kind of don’t understand what advantages they would have to just setting up a way cheaper tent on the ground. As a lady of a certain age, having to clamber down to visit the little girl’s tree a couple of times a night has little appeal. These are for young bladders, IMHO.

Another digression, but I have finally found the perfect solution for me for hauling boats and having a place to sleep. Pic below of 15’ 3" kayak and 13’ canoe loaded in my 16’ box van conversion camper beside the Murphy bed (which folds up to the right hand wall .) The boats are lashed with Thule straps to eye-bolts through the truck floor. Truck still has the pull out ramp but it’s easy to just slide in the boats at waist level. I actually loaded a second canoe to the left of these right after taking the shot.

Right now my 15’ 7" Feathercraft Wisper is inside the camper where it tucks nicely on the floor between the full sized bed folded down and the bathroom/kitchen area on the driver’s side. So I actually can share the sleeping space with the boats! Boat traveled to Maine and the Adirondacks with me last month and was safely tucked inside.

Not to mention the advantage of having your own toilet and shower, changing room and even a refrigerator (propane) along on trips. I put up with the cost of gas (only 11 mpg) for the benefits, including being able to pull over and take a secure and comfortable nap any time. Got 480 watts of solar and the propane (generator, heat, hot water, cooktop, outdoor grill and even a built in lantern) to run most of the important stuff. Only need to plug in to 15 amp 120v to run the AC though even the propane generator can handle that.

I think the RV industry is literally “missing the boat” in not designing smaller “toy hauler” motorhomes that can carry any paddle craft within the shell. This one was a one-off custom (retired Penske van).


I have looked at the roof top tents as well. Do not have one (yet).

Cars have two roof top weight capacities. The one most people quote is sometimes called the dynamic capacity. That is the amount of weight you can drive around with out the car becoming too top heavy. This is much lower than the static capacity. The roof racks can easily support the tent, two people plus their gear, but you can’t drive around with that much weight. Go read about it on the tent sellers sites or on a car forum for your model of car.

I read about it on the Subaru Crosstrek forums a long time ago, so I cannot give a more specific link than this:

Club Crosstrek


Getting up it the 3am call to nature could be dangerous.


I’ve thought of getting a roof topper for our 1996 Land Rover Discovery, it would look cool, but that first step in the middle of the night is a doozy! Unless you’re on safari, not sure what the value really is, I’ll keep the kayaks up there instead and a tent on the ground.


For Africa with large predators wandering around at night they would be a great idea.
For North America they seem like they are way too risky. I am not climbing ladders in the dark in the middle of the night to take a leak.
No way to carry boats on the roof.
Too expensive.

Never saw roof rack spec’s with two ratings. Most are 150 or less.

Overstreet, my thought exactly. A relief tube might work.

You’d get the Thule Tepui Foothill as it only uses 24" of rooftop and unfolds to 48". It leaves at least enough space for one, perhaps two kayaks in J-cradles or on a stacker.

I still need to steal away enough time to try mine out.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
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We have a roof top tent that’s been used extensively on the east coast. Took it to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia two years ago. You stay far drier and far warmer. A memory foam mattress makes it essentially glamping. Even our shepherd has never had any issues somehow managing to slip out in the middle of the night :wink:. We still keep the backpacking tent for more remote places, but it’s like having different kayaks for different purposes!

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Here is a link to one of the more popular manufacture’s FAQs where they address the question of dynamic versus static capacity:



That’s not an auto manufacturers numbers. When you’re depending on a ladder to take a load you’re in trouble.

I was just trying to point out that I did not dream up the dynamic load versus static load terminology.

As far as the auto makers numbers go, I do not know. But I do know that the roof has to meet certain standards set by NHTSA. The most recent one I can find is HERE. The standard set in the regulation is either 3 times or 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle, depending on the vehicle weight and age. This is tested on each side of the roof independently. The vehicle roof cannot crush more than 5 inches with that weight applied.

Many of the vehicles are also tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety organization. You can look up how your vehicle rates HERE.

None of these provide an exact answer to your question, however if each side of the roof can support 1.5 (or 3) times the vehicle’s gross weight than roof racks mounted to those same areas can certainly support a couple of people (even overweight ones.)

Hope that helps you sleep better in your roof top tent :slight_smile:


Crash rating has nothing to do with capacity of roof before you roof has cosmetic damage.

The roof top tents don’t lay on the top of sheet metal, that would cause a lot of damage. They mount on the roof rack and never touch the roof itself. And you can’t (or shouldn’t) install them on the clip on type roof racks, basically you should only install them on cars that have factory installed rails. Those rails are attached internally to the roof cage that provides the strength needed to pass the crash tests.

Anyway, if you are that worried about your roof don’t get one! That will solve the problem.


Sheet metal can still bend if overloaded where rack mounts. Most cars are rated for 150 lb. max racks are not all connected to internal frames. You can pull up and down and see the roof sheet metal flexing.

Here is a quote from an official Subaru website:

  • Weight: This is key and requires that you understand the capacity of the roof rails of the vehicle to which you’re about to mount a tent. The Ascent, Crosstrek and Forester all have a roof rail capacity of 700 pounds when the vehicle is parked on a level surface. That means that the tent and the occupants inside it can’t weigh more than 700 pounds.You should also be aware of the weight capacity of the roof rails when the vehicle is moving. At speed, all of the aforementioned Subaru models have a roof rail capacity of 176 pounds, meaning that the tent – when stowed and at speed – has to weigh less.

Half way down this long page:

Subaru Drive - Camping With Your Subaru: Everything You Need To Know

I was looking for something else and stumbled across this.

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700 lb. On my Excursion or new Grand Cherokee I’d be in the auto body shop the following day.