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5 Steps To Keeping Your Vehicle Rooftop Camper Dry

Rain-soaked sleeping bags, drenched camping gear, and worst of all, a wet bottom. These, and so many more damp dilemmas, are what many campers face when unexpected rainstorms invade their trip to the Great Outdoors. Maintaining a dry rooftop camper in wet and wild weather can be a challenge if you are not properly prepared. 

Below are five tips for keeping your rooftop tent, as well as everyone and everything inside, dry no matter what Mother Nature sends your way.  

5 Tips To Keeping Your Tent Dry

Tip 1: Get Your Rooftop Camper Wet Before Using It

It may seem strange, but getting your tent wet before you take it out on an adventure can help prevent leaks during a downpour.  This is called “seasoning” the tent material, and it helps reduce the size of the pinholes in the stitching.

To do this properly, you will need to do the following:

  1. Set up your tent at home, making sure to remove both the mattress and rain fly (more on the rain fly in TIP 3)
  2. Make sure to keep the doors, windows, and flaps zipped up completely 
  3. Use a garden hose to spray the entire tent with water - this causes the fabric to swell, creating an even tighter bond between it and those stitch holes 
  4. After you finish spritzing your tent, allow the water to settle in for a few hours 
  5. Be absolutely certain to allow ample time for drying before packing it back up; the last thing you want to encounter when you get to your camping destination is the unwanted surprise of a moldy, mildew mess 

Once you have ensured that every nook and cranny is completely dry, pack your tent up until it is time to head out to the river, forest, or mountains.

Tip 2: Use a Fabric Guard

Many rooftop tents are waterproof, and are made using high-end, durable materials. But just as with anything, over time, the natural waterproof ability will begin to dwindle and become less effective. It can be very helpful to enhance the existing waterproofing by using a fabric guard spray. Even if you own a hard top tent, the material that makes up the walls still needs extra protection, and taking the time to use fabric guard really helps to bring your roof tent’s repellency to the next level. As an added bonus, it also helps prevent stains.

There are many options out there, so do your research to find the product that is best for your specific rooftop camper. A great bet would be to consider a fabric guard spray that not only assists with keeping moisture out but that is  mildew and sun resistant, as well. These are all added benefits of using fabric protection spray for when you find yourself caught off guard by the elements while camping. 

Tip 3: Use a Rain Fly

The name “rain fly” sounds obvious, but for many rooftop tent owners, especially first-timers, the concept may be confusing. You may have looked at your tent pieces and wondered to yourself what that extra, odd-shaped piece of material was intended for.  Simply stated, it’s there to help keep the rain out of your tent so you stay dry and comfortable even if you run into an unexpected storm front.

Rainfly material usually comes with its own waterproofing treatment and is often made using a highly durable fabric. This special, waterproof layer will push the rain away from the body of your tent to prevent leaks. When utilizing this extra layer of protection, use the provided guide lines (poles) to help secure it and keep the material pulled tight to avoid puddles building up in unwanted areas. This can cause significant damage to your rain fly and your rooftop tent over time. 

There are several additional perks that go along with using a rain fly over your roof tent. 

  1. It helps to keep excessive debris from falling onto your tent
  2. It gives an extra layer of insulation between the inside of your tent and any cold, wet weather outside 
  3. It adds a bit more stability for your tent due to the use of extra guide lines. 

If your rooftop tent doe not come with one, a rain fly is a great investment as it helps protect its occupants from the elements. 

Tip 4: Use a Ground Fly

While a rain fly helps protect you from falling moisture like rain or snow, a ground fly helps keep moisture from seeping into your tent from underneath. Simply position it underneath your SUV top tent. This durable piece of waterproof material protects the base of your tent from rain splashback and more. Although generally used for traditional tents placed on the ground, the results are strikingly similar when utilized under a roof tent, whether it is a three-person rooftop tent, a hardtop tent, or anything in between. 

Unfortunately, rain does not always fall at a perfect vertical; sometimes it can wind up falling sideways, especially if the storm is accompanied by wind gusts. A ground cloth can be a critical component for staying dry, and also for protecting the underbelly of your tent.

Tip 5: Use a Tarp

Tarps are excellent camping staples and are useful for many things, including use as a makeshift ground fly. To help keep your SUV top tent dry, add an extra shield of protection by fashioning a tarp roof over it, secured by paracord rope tied to nearby trees. 

It is important to create an angle when you are constructing your tarp roof to make sure that the excess water runs down the slant of the tarp as opposed to puddling up in the middle.  Also, when angling your tarp, keep the high point away from the wind whenever possible. You want to do this so that gusts do not pick up your tarp and whisk it away. If there are no trees in sight, an alternative would be to wrap a few tarps around your tent and secure them tightly with clamps. While it may look a little funny (much like a badly wrapped birthday gift) it will definitely help to achieve your goal: staying dry. 

In Summary

No one wants to be left out in the rain or taken by surprise when an unforeseen storm takes their rooftop camper by surprise. Whether you make use of a rain fly, ground fly, or tarp roof, remember to fabric guard your roof tent to add one more protective barrier between you and the elements. By taking these weather-related precautions, you will be well on your way to a fun and comfortable camping experience.