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How To Secure Your Soft and Hard Shell Roof Top Tent From Any Danger or Situation

A soft or hard shell roof top tent can have many advantages over ground tents including convenience, comfort and keeping dry. With that said, any camping trip comes with its risks like wildlife and freak weather. Whatever the situation, you can take precautions to keep yourself – and your tent – safe and secure.

Secure Your Soft and Hard Shell Roof Top Tent From Theft

You’ve invested in a roof mounted tent and want to use it for many years to come. The last thing you need after a hike is to come back and find your tent is missing. In remote locations, this is unlikely. But you never know.

So, how do you secure a roof top tent from theft? Fortunately, there are a few options.

  1. Security Nuts

Some tent manufacturers make security nuts which you use to attach your tent to your roof rack. A thief would need special equipment to remove them.

  1. Lockable Straps

You can order a strap size that will cover your tent when it’s closed. Some brands (such as KanuLock) make these straps in sizes up to 18 feet, so it works even for a large roof top tent. 

Whether you get a locking system from a tent manufacturer or elsewhere, the key is this – make sure it’s not something that standard equipment can unscrew. 

  1. Lock Your Roof Rack

So you’ve locked your tent to the roof rack. A thief comes along with a spanner and realizes they can’t take the tent. They could remove your roof rack and the tent with it. To prevent this, lock your tent to your car, Yakima have developed roof rack locks which you need a key to open.

In the worst case scenario (your car getting stolen along with your tent), make sure your vehicle has a GPS tracking device installed.

Do Roof Racks Affect Gas Mileage? 

An empty roof rack can but it’s usually minimal. It depends how aerodynamic the rack is and how often you drive at speed. The faster you drive, the more of an effect your roof rack will have on gas mileage. 

The effects of an empty rack may be negligible, but a roof mounted tent can make a difference. In fact, soft shells are not as aerodynamic as their hard shell counterparts. The added drag they create makes them more costly in terms of gas mileage, compared to the sleeker, hard shell models. 

You may have heard that storage pods are better for other items like kayaks and bikes, compared to attaching them to the rack. The sleek, aerodynamic design of these pods is the reason. Also consider the tent’s weight when calculating mileage costs.

Removing the tent from your vehicle off-season and storing it safely prevents unnecessary fuel usage. When it’s not locked to the roof, you need to protect it from theft in other circumstances, like if your home was broken into. 

Whether you choose to detach your tent from your car off-season or not, insurance is worthwhile. Depending on your policy, your tent may be insured under your homeowner or car insurance. If not, you can get cheap insurance for it separately.

Camping In All Seasons

Hard shell tents may be your best option for combatting extreme conditions. They’re waterproof and their sturdy structure is stable in high winds. However, some soft shell options can handle extremes and you can buy extreme weather covers for added protection.

A 4 season roof top tent is designed to withstand heavy snow loads and high winds, while preventing the build-up of condensation. Eezi Awn’s Stealth roof top tent is a great example, with insulation in the floor and top shell, and durable rip-stop canvas. Powder coating on the aluminum exterior boosts its resistance to corrosion.

Whether you choose a hard or soft shell for year-round camping, a few features to look out for include:

  • Insulated flooring (you may be off the cold ground but you have cold air between the floor and the roof of the vehicle). Some tents don’t come with insulation but allow you to add it later.
  • Good ventilation – sufficient windows and vents
  • Waterproof cover
  • Thick yet breathable fabric
  • Durable materials
  • Anti-condensation mat

Secure Your Tent From Strong Winds

How do you secure a roof top tent from strong winds? You might not need to worry about it – many campers report having no issues during wind speeds of 30 mph+, without taking extra steps to secure their tents. 

  1. Stake It Down

To be extra careful, use guy wires to stake down the ladder and for camping in the snow, consider snow stakes.

If you’re likely to camp in windy conditions often, a hard shell is your best option. With that said, soft shells have their advantages. They’re spacious because their surface area extends beyond the roof. If you need a 5 person roof top tent, there are more soft shell options.

To secure soft shell tents, stake any overhanging parts. Some large tents have two entrances (convenient if you don’t want to climb over people during the night). Two entrances means you need to stake down two ladders and the overhang at both ends. 

  1. Get an Annex

Consider a tent with an annex. You’ll need to stake the annex into the ground anyway, which will provide more support for the overall structure.

Since the base of a roof mounted tent is designed to fit on a roof rack, it will not have the ring attachments for staking. If you want to stake it in the same way as a ground tent, you may be able to fit rings to the base.

  1. Wind Deflectors

Some manufacturers make wind deflectors for roof top tents and it’s easy to make a DIY version.

  1. Find Shelter

But what if an unexpected storm comes with gale force winds?  The above steps are usually more than enough to keep your tent secure in general. If you encounter a severe storm, move your tent to a sheltered location with the low end of the tent facing the wind.

In a location where you might expect this kind of weather, park somewhere sheltered in the first place. Shock-corded guy line can help the tent to withstand gusts, as it allows the tent to lean slightly. Worst case, pack up your tent and wait out the storm inside your vehicle.  

Extra Waterproofing

Your tent should be made from waterproof material and have a waterproof cover. To be extra sure you won’t have issues in prolonged, heavy rain or snow, here are a few things you can do. 

  • Use a waterproofing spray. Depending on the brand, it can take around 48 hours to dry and needs a few hours between coats.
  • Protect your tent from condensation, especially in cold, humid climates. As we said above, sufficient ventilation and anti-condensation mats are key. Some tents come with these mats. Otherwise, you can buy them separately. They prevent condensation building up between the mattress and tent base.
  • If no wet weather is forecast during your camping trip, you can take the rain cover off. Condensation can build up between the cover and the tent roof. If you’re concerned about condensation but you think it might rain, take the cover off for part of the day while it’s dry. It all helps.
  • Open the windows as much as possible and if necessary, use a fan to improve ventilation. If it’s possible to keep the windows open at night, it’s a good idea. Netting keeps the insects out but air can flow through the tent during the night. Finally, avoid sleeping too close to water - the air humidity is much higher near rivers and lakes.  

With all this weather-proofing in mind, think about Scott Brady and his companions who survived a trip across the Canadian Arctic, sleeping in Eezi Awn roof top tents in temperatures as low as – 50° F. If their tents survived, you’ll be just fine in less extreme conditions.

What About Bears?

Bear attacks don’t happen often. You can prevent them by understanding some principles that apply no matter what type of tent you have.

Some claim that being off ground makes you safer from bears but there are so few bear attacks, we can’t know if that’s true. Adult bears can reach more than 8 feet tall on their hind legs. Unless your vehicle is high up, you’re not out of their range. And they can climb. At least in a roof mounted tent you’re out of their direct path.

The best approach if you’re camping in bear territory is to follow the same precautions as if you were sleeping on the ground. Bears visit campsites looking for food so you need to keep all food out of reach.

  1. Never store food anywhere near your tent, nor in your vehicle – a bear can easily break in. 
  2. Store your food and aromatic products (such as toiletries) in approved bear canisters, aka bear cans. Bear cans are secure locked containers which hide the scent of any items inside.

Many campsites provide them, but check in advance so you can get your own if necessary. It’s compulsory to have them in many regions. A bear can is large enough to store 3-5 days’ worth of supplies per person. Make sure you store all trash and food waste in bear cans as well.

  1. Use bear bags - An alternative to bear cans are bear bags which you hang in trees, at least 15 feet above ground and at least 10 feet away from the tree trunk (or whatever vertical support you use).

Using dark-colored rope makes them harder for bears to notice. Bear bags are more hassle than cans and may not be as effective. You can also use approved bear-resistant coolers but they need to have locks. You should place all bear cans, bags and coolers at least 100 feet from your camp.

Here are some more tips for keeping bears away:

  • Don’t sleep in clothes that you prepared food in. Any clothes you prepared food in should be stored away from your tent.  
  • Don’t wipe your hands on your clothes.
  • Clean all dishes and cutlery to remove the scent of food.
  • Prepare food and wash the dishes (and your hands) a good distance from the camp so the lingering odor doesn’t attract bears.
  • Don’t use hair products or scented toiletries.
  • Bears climb trees – to reduce the chance of bears getting close, don’t set up camp close to any trees.
  • Bears don’t like loud noises so keep a horn close by as a deterrent, or be ready to bang some pots and pans together.
  • Bears don’t like flashing lights either - another deterrent.
  • Bear spray – in the worst case scenario (a bear is about to attack) bear spray may save you. It doesn’t cause permanent harm but they will temporarily lose their vision and will have difficulty breathing.

To sum up, the key to keeping bears away is to lock up your food and keep all scents away from your camp. The only reason bears show up is to look for food.  

Will Mountain Lions Attack a Tent?

Like bears, mountain lions (aka cougars) don’t attack for no reason. They can jump and climb but they have no reason to approach if there’s no food in your tent or vehicle. Attacks have happened in areas of human activity where mountain lions don’t usually roam – not while people are camping.

Like bears, they don’t like loud noise and flashing lights. They don’t like fire, either. If you see a mountain lion, don’t run away. Their instinct is to pursue their prey – if you run, they will attack. The best defense is to have a deterrent. Be prepared by having flashlights and something that makes loud noise. 


Hopefully you’re now equipped with the knowledge to protect your tent and yourself. We looked at how to secure your tent and roof rack from theft, and how to protect it from the elements.  We looked at the safety precautions to keep bears and mountain lions away.

A hard shell roof top tent can solve many of your camping concerns. Bundutec’s BunduTop is a spacious hard shell that sets up in 30 seconds. It has a 4 inch mattress – thicker than most others on the market. Made with aluminum, it’s lightweight, yet sturdy and durable. It has excellent ventilation, making it a great choice for year-round camping.