DIY roof top tents

Submitted: Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 12:12
ThreadID: 7556 Views:11938 Replies:7 FollowUps:1
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Hi All,

I like to make my own gear where possible and was wondering if anyone has had a crack at making a roof top tent.

I've got a few ideas I'm mulling over, the favourite at the moment is making a full roof length rig with a hard top (aluminium sheet to keep the weight down) that is hinged at one end and opens up to triangular format, then using canvas or fold out solid walls for the rest.

If anyone has made one I'd love to hear if it performs OK, does it leak etc. Or any other ideas ......

Cheers all,


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Reply By: bruce.h (WA) - Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 17:24

Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 17:24
Hi cruiser
we had a roof top camper when we were kids that was built as you described the one you wish to build. it worked atreat it took two minutes flat to put up &down as all bedding staid inside,all you had to do was lift one end & lock the poles in place. the only thing is if you used ali for the top you would need to line it to stop condencation you may also find in full sun it may get hot inside
regards bruce
AnswerID: 32617

Reply By: chopper - Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 17:40

Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 17:40
I was actually thinking about this as a new project today, i hadn't thought of the triangular shape though, very interesting.

The bit that i'm struggling with is to have an 'awning' that can fold out over the back doors, so that you can get up and in dry.

I had thought about fibreglass for the tub and roof, but al could yet be an option, the heat would be an issue though
AnswerID: 32620

Reply By: TonyT - Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 20:06

Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 20:06
I guess u know there are commercial 'triangle' ones out there- maybe u could get some ideas from them.
AnswerID: 32632

Reply By: Hilly - Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 21:31

Thursday, Oct 02, 2003 at 21:31
Saw one on a guys GQ shorty the other day that was exactly as you described it. Approx 150 - 180 mm box section halves, hinged at the front with canvas triangular sides with the zip windows and fly screen that you find in camper trailers. He had a 120mm high density foam mattress in the base so that left heaps of room for a doona and pillows as well as the canvas that needed to be folded in as the top was pulled down. 2 gas struts at the rear corners to assist in the lift and keep it open and rubber door sealing to keep out the dust and water. 30 seconds and he was drinking a bourbon and watching the other mobs set up their camps. Sounded like a perfect set up to me. The only fly in the ointment is that he didn't have 3 kids to consider..... maybe in a few years time it will be an option open to me as well.

AnswerID: 32644

Reply By: Cruisergxl - Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 12:35

Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 12:35
Thanks all for the replies.

I think I'm going to go with the triangular design purely because I think it is the easiest to implement. I've seen the commercial ones with the gas struts and thought that was a great idea, so a trip to the breakers for that. I reakon the major construction won't be to difficult it's the small things such as windows, vents, doors and seals that will take the most design effort. I had been thinking of making solid sides as I has seen someone that had done this. It all folded down on hinges which was quite neat but I never got close enough to see how he had got the sides to seal together against the elements when it was set up. I was only thinking solid sides so I didn't have to get someone to make up the canvas as I guess that wouldn't be cheap but it may give the best result. I'll have to stop being a tight arse for once and pay for it.

I hadn't thought about condensation problems on an alloy roof. Good point. Perhaps if I made it from two sheets on top of each other and filled the gap with expanding foam. That should help insulate and make it more rigid but keep it light.

So many ideas to think over ..... I'll let you know how I go and please do likewise if anyone else has a go.


AnswerID: 32681

Reply By: Matt - Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 13:51

Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 13:51
Should use ply wood... easier to work with as well !!
AnswerID: 32689

Reply By: flappan - Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 14:02

Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 14:02
Out of curiosity . . . how do you go with the maximum weight on the roof of vehicles ???

Aren't most vehicles around the 120 - 150 kg mark ???

Wouldn't take much to get there and exceed that with these ???
AnswerID: 32693

Follow Up By: Cruisergxl - Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 15:51

Friday, Oct 03, 2003 at 15:51
Hey flappan,

The weight of commercial roof top tent jobs is around the 50KG mark, which should be well within the capacity of the vehicle.

I think the biggest limiting factor would be lifting the thing up there which is why I need to keep the weight down, my girlfriend is too short to help!!

The roof is plenty strong enough to hold the weight of tent plus occupants when stationary, or at least you should hope it is if you ever roll the car over!
FollowupID: 23384

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