Setting Up a Car Top Camper (Click here to download an Onwers Manual)
After years of setting up ground tents for weekend to week-long camping trips, you finally made the switch to a roof top tent from www.CarTopCamper.com. This tent costs about $1000; but this is more than offset by the advantages of quick set up, a solid insulated floor, built in foam mattress and sleeping above the rocks, mud and critters. Sleeping bags, blankets and pillows can be stored in the tent while traveling and the 55” or 72” wide by nearly 8 feet long space provides plenty of room for tall campers and gear. This is an overview of the roof top tent from Car Top Camper…
Mounting A Roof Tent To A Vehicle’s Roof Rack
First, your vehicle will need a suitable roof rack. Most factory rack systems will work, although you may need to purchase a separate set of crossbars as explained later. If your vehicle doesn’t have a factory rack, investigate an aftermarket roof rack system from Thule or Yakima. The car top tent weighs from 110 to 130 lbs – so look for a positive mounting system that mounts to a rain gutter or somehow bolts to the roof. I’m not sure mounts that simply ‘clamp’ to the outside edge of a vehicle without rain gutters are secure enough for a tent – ask your rack dealer. Generally, most rack systems are strong enough to handle the weight of a tent and sleepers when in static use in the campground but again, verify with your dealer before purchasing a roof tent.
The roof tent mounting mechanism is flexible. There are two parallel aluminum mounting rails attached to the bottom of the tent. Mounting brackets (2 bolts per bracket – 4 brackets total) slide through a channel that runs the length of each mounting rails. The tent mounts to a vehicle’s roof rack system by placing the mounting bolts on either side of roof rack rail and bolting a bottom bracket around the bottom of the rack rail. Bolt four brackets (8 bolts total) and your tent is securely mounted to your car.
Bolting and unbolting the tent from your vehicle’s rack can be time consuming – and difficult of there isn’t much clearance between the bottom of the tent and the roof of your car. Another mounting idea is to bolt the tent to a set of crossbars. Generally, the crossbar lock to your roof rack are easily accessible. Your tent can remain permanently attached to the crossbars, and the crossbar/tent assembly can be lifted as a unit off the car. If you have enough clearance, you can install a set of pulleys to your garage ceiling to store your tent and hoist your tent/crossbar assembly on/off your vehicle.
Once the tent is installed, set your tent up on level ground to check ladder height. Ladder height can be easily customized for your vehicle height by drilling two holes to accept the ladder extension adjustment pegs at the appropriate position along the sliding ladder track. Note that the ladder should be slanted out a few degrees from vertical to permit easier tent entry. The standard ladder will fit vehicles that up to 6’4” tall (measured to the bottom of the tent mounting rail.) For taller vehicles, order the ladder extension that provides approximately another 12” of height.
A Word About Vehicle Height
The roof top tent sits on top of your vehicle. If you don’t like heights or are not confident in your ability to climb up a ladder – a roof tent will not work for you. Also, it is much easier to open and close the roof top tent if it is mounted on a lower profile vehicle such as a compact station wagon or over the bed of a pick up truck. If the tent is mounted to the top of a van or taller SUV, you must either be tall or agile enough to stand on the top of your tires, door sills, through the sun roof etc. to reach your tent. Alternatively, you may want to carry a folding step stool or climb up on to the roof of your car to access the folded tent.
Opening The Roof Tent
Find a relatively level patch of ground on which to park your vehicle. There should be a level area over which the folding floor and ladder can be set up.
Undo the two Velcro secured straps and toss the loose ends over the top of the tent to hang down on the side of the car to which they’re attached. I usually shove these straps between the tent bottom and the roof of the car.
Unzip the cover around three sides where zipped to the tent floor. The fourth side of the tent cover is attached to the tent floor, so pull off the tent cover and let it drape over the side of the car – or you can shove the tent cover between the tent bottom and the roof of the car like you did the Velcro secured straps.
Undo the two small Velcro secured straps that hold the folded floor sections together near the edges away from hinged side of the floor.
Reach to the top of the folded tent from hinged side and grab the end of the ladder. Gently pull on the ladder which raises the clamshell floor and pull over the floor until it is level with the portion of the floor that is still attached to your vehicle’s roof rack. Notice that the floor isn’t very heavy – and that it is suspended by the internal tent frame that automatically shapes the tent into a usable space. Also notice that even without extending the ladder, the fold over floor stays in position.
Extend the ladder to support the floor. If the ground is soft, you may want to set the ladder on an adequate size piece of wood to prevent the ladder from sinking into the ground.
Once the ladder is up, the 8 awning support spring rods are installed. The awning rods contain a small crook or hook bent into one end. Use this crook to grab the metal ring or eyelet installed into each corner of each window and door awning. The other end of these rods is inserted into corresponding holes drilled along outside edge of the floor. Be careful! Each spring rod must be bent slightly while under tension to suspend the awnings. There is plenty of opportunity to scratch the finish of your car roof if you are not careful.
After the awnings are up, enter your tent by unzipping the door and screen. Grab the convenient assist straps and carefully pull yourself into the tent. Remember that you must exit the tent by facing into the tent and holding on to the assist straps while testing for a ladder rung with your foot. Open the window storm screens for as much view and ventilation as you want.
Open your sleeping bag, fluff your pillow and spread out your blankets (these can remain in your tent during travel.) There is enough floor length to also keep your personal gear and bags in the tent will in use.
Stowing the tent for travel is just a reversal of the above steps.
Enjoy your portable bedroom with a view.
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