Are Roof Top Tents Safe from Bears?

One of the most alarming moments any camper will experience is the sight of a bear traipsing around your campsite, stalking either you or your picnic basket. Rooftop tents have become a popular option for Overland camping adventures due to the ability to minimize overall camping space and their elevated position. But is this a bear-proof solution?

Are rooftop tents safe from bears? The rooftop tent setup will be a safer option from bears and other wild animals than keeping the tent on the ground. Although it is not a fool-proof method, it will keep you and your belongings far safer than the ground. Since bears can climb trees, your rooftop tent needs to be safely away from trees.

is a roof top tent safe from bears

Rooftop tents have become an innovative way to stay safe from the wildlife lurking below them. Proper setup of one of these tents will help in your quest to avoid any furry but ferocious friends crashing your camping trip. 

Why are Roof Top Tents Safer?

Rooftop tents became popular for those traveling across the African and Australian outbacks and eventually made their way to the states in the form of mini campers and small tents for your car’s roof.

We have come a long way since then. The immaculate tents that can now stand well off the ground, on top of our cars and have become not only a fun and unique way to experience camping but also a safe way.

The first and most obvious reason that this setup is safer is because of the distance you are putting between yourself and wildlife on the ground. Bears are a frequent uninvited visitor to campsites. Taking steps like not leaving food out and unattended will always be helpful, but getting distance between you and a potentially dangerous animal is the most important step.

The heights and styles of these rooftop tents vary, and we will get more into the variations later. But, if you are using a tent that is going to be taller than what a bear could reach on its hindlegs, you are going to be in a safer position. 

Aside from the wildlife that may be a threat to you while camping, a rooftop tent is also going to protect you from some of the elements. Heavy rains can cause a flooded or damp lining to the bottom of your tent if it is not equipped to deal with such extreme weather.

So heavy rains, predatory animals, and any creepy crawlers you don’t want to invite into your sleeping bed—rooftop tents can help prevent any of these.

How to Stay Safe from Bears in a Roof Top Tent

Being in an elevated tent will be safer, but there are other precautions you should take to stay safe from bears. Much of your safety will come down to a few easy considerations to be made.

bear in woods rtt
  1. How far off the ground is the tent?

On average, bears can stand around a staggering 8-feet tall when standing on their hind legs. (Fun fact: According to National Geographic, the tallest bear ever recorded was a polar bear that stood at least 11 feet tall!) 

Making sure the tent will be out of reach for a bear to do any serious damage should be number one on your checklist for safety from these massive animals. The height of your tent will depend on the type of car you have and the style tent. 

  1. Are there any trees close to the tent?

Bears are avid climbers when they are young. As they grow larger, it becomes a bit harder for them to scale trees the way they used to. But they still are known to make an effort and many times can still get up a tree fairly well.

If your rooftop tent is right next to a tree, there is a chance the bear could climb the tree to attempt to get to your tent. This will be especially tempting if they smell food inside.

And don’t forget about the cubs. Cubs love to climb trees, and they are savvy little climbers. While you may not need to worry as much about the little ones crashing your space, you should be worried about the mama who will follow close behind.

If there is one thing we know about mama bears, it’s do not mess with her cubs. If a cub tries to access your tent from a tree, that mama bear will surely find a way to secure her cub.

  1. Has anything been left outside the tent or the car?

Having a rooftop tent is a great way to keep yourself safe from bears. But that’s not to say that you can forget the rules and leave stuff around the site around your car. Ensure all food and anything that could be tempting to bears is sealed and stored when you are not eating. 

The safest place for food and drink storage will be in a cooler or concealed container inside your car, or inside the tent with you up top. Just because you are in the rooftop tent, doesn’t mean tempting a bear with your leftover burgers is a wise move.

As a bonus, you will get a whole new vantage point by being up higher.  Imagine waking up in the morning and being able to see the sunrise over the trees.  Or at night feeling closer to the stars.  Not to mention that you will be able to better see off in the distance.   

From the top of your roof, you may be able to easier spot a nearby grizzly that may be well on its way to finding your campsite. If you spot one, you can begin using a noise deterrent to send them on their way peacefully.

Check out this article for more Roof Top Tent Safety Tips.

Different Types of Roof Top Tents

The innovation of rooftop tents has made it possible to have a tent raised up off the ground. While the rooftop tents may not be able to be as long and spacious as some larger luxury tents you see on the ground, they have done an amazing job of developing comfortable and function rooftop tents. 

Your first choice will be between a hardshell or softshell. The hard shell is exactly what it sounds like. It provides a stronger, hard shell against the elements and any wildlife trying to get in. 

Softshell will look like the standard canvas or nylon tents we have all come to know. They tend to have better ventilation options for a nice cross breeze through the tent, but hard shells have gotten better at adding such amenities over the past few years as well.

The safest against external threats such as a bear will typically be the hard shell. But either option will give you more peace of mind as you hover over the head of a grizzly, rather than staring at his feet beside your pillow. 

Once you decide on a hard or soft shell, you’ll want to learn about what types of cars will work best with different tents. Once you get some of those logistics out of the way, you can begin researching the types of amenities you are hoping for and figure out which rooftop tent will be best for you and your car.

Staying Safe from Bears while Overlanding

Rooftop tents are a great way to stay safe from bears and other possible predators while you head out on your next Overlanding adventure.

Keep in mind, bears can be a very real threat to any campsite that you set up. While your RTT will keep up an away where you can feel safe by being higher off the ground.

Taking the extra precaution to keep your belongings sealed and secure, making sure your food or scented items are stored away and in a bear proof container if necessary, and staying away from trees with your setup will all help keep you safe from bears.

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.