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4 Things You Need To Know About Your Pop Up Car Tent Before Hitting The Road

After you have researched and purchased your new pop up car tent, it is time to hit the road and take it for a test trip. For both novice and experienced campers alike, adjusting to the nuances of camping with an above-ground setup can be difficult, especially if you have never had to deal with rainy weather, condensation, chilly mornings, or sleep-deprived days - all of which can make or break a camping trip if you are not prepared to deal with them effectively.

Will my vehicle’s roof rack work for my pop up car tent?

There are a couple of things to consider before installing your rooftop tent onto your vehicle’s roof racks. They are your rack’s dynamic and static weight capacities.

  • Dynamic Weight Capacity

Most rooftop tents are made to fit on the majority of vehicles with roof racks. You first want to check that your car and its rack have a minimum dynamic weight capacity (DWC) equal to how much your tent weighs. The DWC is the weight your rack is able to carry while your vehicle is moving. So, verify your tent’s weight and compare that to the rack’s manual and check what weight your rack is rated for. If the numbers add up, then your DWC, along with your tent, is literally good to go, in motion, on the road. 

  • Static Weight Capacity

When you are parked at your campsite and the vehicle is no longer moving, the great news is that you can feel free to load up your tent with all of your supplies. All vehicle racks are able to carry quite a bit more static weight capacity (SWC) than they can dynamic. As a guideline, three times your roof rack’s capacity can be used in static mode - again, this means that your vehicle is parked and stable. So long as the overall weight of your gear, the occupants, and the tent itself is spread out evenly over the length of the vehicle, it doesn't matter that you're adding extra pounds. What matters is that your car is not in motion with this extra weight.

How do I lift up my rooftop tent?

This is one of the most common questions many roof tent owners have as they stand in front of their truck staring at the tent box and scratching their heads. There are many approaches for this, but the following is one good option that involves a bit of Do-It-Yourself ramp-making skill. 

The process is simple:

  1. You’ll need a pair of 4x4 boards along with a couple of heavy-duty hooks. First, drill then screw in one of the hooks into the end of one of the 4x4s. 
  2. Next, check that the screw is securely in place and then connect the board to your roof rack. 
  3. Do the same thing with the other hook and board and properly space that one apart from the first board on the rack. Great! You’ve just made a pop top tent ramp that leads up to your car racks. 
  4. Now, have another person with you so you both can slide your tent up on the ramp and push it up until you get it onto the roof rack. 
  5. Congratulations! You’ve just successfully lifted your rooftop onto your vehicle and best of all, you’ll be ready to go. 

Can I sleep in a roof tent when it's raining?

The simple answer to this question is yes, although doing so comfortably requires a bit of prior planning and preparation. Many new campers wonder if they have purchased a completely waterproof rooftop tent, and while most tents are made from water-repellent material there are still steps that you can take to ensure that you stay dry even when storms rage outside.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure a dry night’s sleep in your roof tent. 

  • Use a Rainfly

Your waterproof rooftop tent comes with a rainfly, or as it’s also known as, a fly sheet. Now, don’t toss it back in the tent cover wondering what it is, use it. You’ll simply attach it to the top of your tent with its included guylines to help keep the rain out. The durable material your rainfly is made from usually comes with its own waterproofing that’s designed to push the showers away from your tent as you slumber. Something else to consider when you use a fly sheet is that while installing it, keep the material very tight so that you don’t end up with pools of water in the creases. If you don’t keep the rain fly taut, then the water that has collected can damage it over time.

  • Make a Waterproof Camping Tarp Roof

To help keep your car top tent dry while you sleep inside, you can make a roof-of-sorts by securing a few waterproof camping tarps to trees using paracord rope. When you do this, be sure to create an angle so the excess water runs down the slant of the tarps instead of pooling up in the middle. Remember to keep the high point of the angle away from the wind so that the gusty gales don’t pick up your tarp roof and blow it away. 

How can I minimize condensation in my car top tent?

Condensation happens when humid air clashes with a colder surface. Now even though you own a waterproof rooftop tent, there are many factors that can lead to this happening: weather, wet camp gear, and even breathing.  

Here are a few ways to help reduce the naturally occurring wetness that happens inside of your tent:

  • Ventilation

Proper ventilation is the best way to reduce condensation in your pop top tent. Keeping a window or door open allows for air circulation and also for wind to enter; both help rid dampness. Continuing, many times while camping, you experience drastic temperature changes, and hot days coupled with cold nights cause the wet to build up. So, prior to sleeping, fully open up your rooftop tent to rid any heat and humidity that has accumulated during the day. If rain seems to make that difficult, then make use of the rainfly or your waterproof camping tarp roof so you can open up the tent and air it out, all while keeping it dry at the same time. Finally, if the weather is so intense that you must keep your tent closed, then be sure that its built-in condensation vents are facing into the wind.

  • Location

Where you choose to set up camp makes a difference in the moisture levels that can occur in your car top tent. As pleasant and convenient as it may be to camp right next to a babbling brook or lovely lakeside, in order to help control condensation levels, choose a site location that is not too close to water. 

As peaceful as it would be to be surrounded by a lush, green grassy area, this is also not the best location when wetness management is at stake. Camping here would cause you to experience high humidity levels which, in turn, will produce wetness inside of your tent. So set up camp away from places like these and your car top tent will be drier on the inside.

  • Use a tent dehumidifier

Using a dehumidifier in your popup car tent will help you reduce the amount of moisture that collects inside. If no electricity is available, then opt for a battery-operated one or even a simple dehumidifier bag. Obviously, if your tent comes equipped with electrical hook-ups, then you can buy a slightly more heavy-duty dehumidifier. 

As far as placement is concerned,  the more centered you can get the dehumidifier inside of your tent, then the better it can work. If you need to place it near the tent walls, then be sure to face the intake vents towards the middle. Also, try to set it on top of a sturdy surface like a small camping table or chair positioned somewhere where it won’t get knocked over.

In Summary

Hitting the road in your pop up car tent is easy, and you can take that trip with confidence knowing that you are ready for several commonly-faced camping issues. From lifting it to your car racks to sleeping in it as it rains and controlling condensation, preparation is key to a successful outing. You can even opt for a tent with a spacious annex so that you have even more room to move around and enjoy your time away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. The more you know in advance the more peaceful your above-ground camping experience will be.