Overlanding is awesome, but it can be a lot of work to continually have to pack and set up every day for all of your great overland expeditions. Because of that, you decide that investing in a roof top tent(RTT)—one that remains installed on your vehicle’s overhead rack—is worthwhile to save you time and energy. The question is, just how much packing time do roof top tents save?
Can you leave bedding in a roof top tent? Yes, you can leave a limited amount of bedding in a roof top tent. However, it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to keep your entire sleeping set up in your roof top tent at all times.
The key with stowing bedding in your roof top tent is safety. What can safely be left inside, and what needs to be removed in between trips? As having a tent attached to the top of your vehicle carries with it some safety concerns in and of itself, you need to make sure that overnight bedding left in your roof top tent does not pose any risks before folding up and moving camp.
How Do Roof Top Tents Work?
It is essential to understand how roof top tents work before deciding as to whether or not it will be feasible to leave bedding in the tent in between stops:
- A roof top tent has a pair of support beams that attach to the underside of the tent’s base. The tent base is then mounted onto the overhead rack, with the support beams connecting the roof top tent to the overhead rack using a series of sliding mounts, metal strips, bolts, and nuts.
- As the tent opens and closes from this mounted position on the top of your vehicle, straps on each side of it fasten together and hold both ends open during transport. Then, a ladder is connected to the end of the tent, and it folds over to rest on top of the unit.
- Once these straps are fastened, and the ladder is folded into place, a cover is added to the roof top tent to protect the unit from wind, moisture, and debris during travel. This cover employs a series of straps and buckles to hold it in place.
- After a level camping location has been found, the tent cover is removed, the ladder is extended, the securing straps on the ends of the tent are unfastened, and the roof top tent is folded out like a giant foldable fan.
- To finalize the setup, a series of rods are inserted into the awning and window frames to increase the structural integrity, and you can start climbing the ladder and putting stuff into the tent.
Roof Top Tents and Bedding
One nice aspect of roof top tents is that most models have a foldable mattress pad built into the tent base. However, this is just one element of bedding for tent camping: pillows, comforters, sheets, and sleeping bags must still be added.
If you have taken the plunge to invest in a roof top tent, then you are likely on the move a lot and may be tempted to fold up your tent to go without having to add and remove these items at each stop.
The only way you will be able to accomplish this is if you can successfully fold your tent with the bedding included; get the fastening straps connected on the sides of the tent; get the ladder tucked away and folded on to the top of the unit, and reapply the cover. This successfully connects all straps and buckles to hold the cover in place.
As such, it is unlikely that you will be able to accomplish all of this, and if you do, the integrity of your cover straps may be put to the test and jeopardized. The following are some considerations for leaving bedding in roof top tents:
- Small items should be okay. If you are only leaving thin, non-bulky items like sheets and small blankets, you should be fine to leave them in the tent, as they will not contribute much girth to the folded unit.
- Remove all bulky bedding. Pillows, sleeping bags, comforters, large blankets, and mattresses should be removed from the roof top tent between stops. These items will contribute significantly to the tent’s thickness when folded and make it difficult to get the straps connected, and the cover reapplied.
Best Practices for Roof Top Tents and Bedding
Despite the recommendations, some will risk safety for the added convenience, especially as climbing up and down a ladder to add and remove bedding can become quite tiresome.
If this is the case, please take the following precautions when folding bedding into your roof top tent:
Keep Your Vehicle On the Back Roads
If you are moving your camp from spot to spot in the wilderness without ever getting your speed up much over 25 miles per hour, then it is more acceptable to try and fold your bedding into the roof top tent for moving in short distances.
However, if you plan on getting out onto the open road and cruising, clean the bedding out of your tent first. Bedding inside the tent increases the likelihood that a crack somewhere might present itself to allow wind to rip your unit right off the top of the vehicle, and that is not a chance you should take with other cars cruising near you.
Be Meticulous Before Folding
If you do plan on leaving all your bedding in your roof top tent before moving camp, then do not just leave it as is and try to fold the tent back up; this will lead to shifting, sliding, and clumping that will create problematic inconsistencies in the folded unit, possibly making it impossible to fasten and cover.
Fold all your bedding tightly, and make sure it is over the half of the tent covering the vehicle. Space it out in such a way that it does not interfere with the tent poles when closing, and press down on the bedding to make it compact as possible.
By doing this, you make the side that does not cover the vehicle as light as possible, facilitating the folding process by making it easier to press down on the bedding and get the folded unit fastened.
Don’t Drive If You Can’t Attach the Cover
No matter how short of a distance you plan on traveling or how slow you plan on going, do not attempt to drive with your roof top tent mounted if you cannot get all of the straps fastened or the cover securely in place.
Not only does this put you at risk of seeing some of your bedding slide out during the commute, but it also increases the likelihood that wind will catch hold of your unit and rip it off its foundation. This can potentially cause harm to your vehicle, your passengers, or any bystanders in the area.
Check It Frequently
If you are traveling with your bedding folded into your roof top tent, it is a good idea to stop and perform frequent checks, even if you were able to get everything covered and fastened adequately.
The reality is that tents were not designed to be folded with stuff in them, so even seemingly safe and secure mounting will put additional stress on straps, threads, and buckles. By stopping to check your cargo, you can prevent that big accident before it ever happens.
Roof Top Tents (RTT) are a great way to camp.They’re one of the best ways to camp if you’re overlanding. They are easy to set up and take down. For the most part, you’ll be fine if you want to store your bedding in your roof top tent. Make sure you follow the advice above and keep safety in mind. If you’re struggling to close your RTT, check your bedding and make sure it’s not getting in the way.