For all your overland adventures, a rooftop tent is an excellent way to make your sleeping experience more convenient than a traditional tent. Not only are they more comfortable and durable, but they’re also easy to set up and break down while traveling. This becomes particularly useful when you need to store it while not in use.
What’s the right way to store a rooftop tent? To properly store your rooftop tent, it should be carefully removed from the vehicle and kept in a location that is both dry and off the ground. Depending on the size of your rooftop tent and the type of storage space, storing a tent securely to a wall, ceiling, or on a raised cart/platform is best.
Because most tents are designed for three seasons—and, as much as you’d probably love to, you likely won’t be overlanding all the time—knowing how to store your rooftop tent safely is crucial. This will prevent damage to the tent, extending its life and allowing you to get years of adventures out of it. The way in which you store it will depend on space limitations, the tent’s design, and expected use.
The Right Way to Store Your Rooftop Tent for the Off-Season
The best way to store your rooftop tent will depend on the limitations of your space and the type tent you have. Despite these differences, all rooftop tents should be stored off the ground to prevent animals from finding their way into the tent and in a dry location so the tent isn’t damaged from weather or water exposure.
These are the key steps for storing a rooftop tent the right way:
- Addressing storage capabilities and choosing a method
- Safe removal from vehicle
- Positioning tent into place
Address Storage for Rooftop Tent
Before you do any moving, you’ll want to see where your rooftop tent will fit. The best options for storing a rooftop tent are on a ceiling or a wall because they satisfy these necessary conditions:
- Keep rooftop tent off the ground: It’s best to keep your rooftop tent off the ground to protect it from additional damage. Especially if it’s stored in a garage or shed, the tent may seem inviting to little animals like mice that might damage the covering or try to use it as a home. Being on the ground will also pose a risk of water damage if a flood occurs.
- Store the tent in dry conditions: Besides keeping it off the ground to avoid water, make sure that you store it in an area that will remain dry. Lots of moisture or nearby water could damage the covering or allow mold to develop inside. A roof alone isn’t enough to protect your roof top tent from water damage . Make sure there are side walls too. Rain and moisture can get in from all directions.
- Secure placement: Make sure the tent is secure and won’t fall over (or off the wall or ceiling). This could cause structural elements to break, especially with more delicate models. Avoid leaning tents up against a wall at an angle or placing it in frequently-traveled spaces, as there is more risk for contact and damage. If they’re not tightly secured, they can also possibly injure someone if the tent falls on someone (especially big tents).
The best way to stick to these guidelines is to mount your rooftop tent on the wall or ceiling for storage. Of course, there are some limitations. Wall storage will limit the amount of weight allowed, and if you’re storing it in a garage, ceiling storage will require enough clearance for a garage door to open and close.
If neither option is suitable, the next best solution is placing the tent on a rolling cart of a raised platform.
Removing a Rooftop Tent from Vehicle
Removing a rooftop tent can be challenging, especially when trying to do it yourself. The easiest way to remove the tent would be to have multiple people and carefully lift it off a vehicle. If no one is available or your team still can’t remove the tent, you’ll need to get a bit more creative:
- Lift or hoist system: Use a roof-mounted hoist or lift to remove the tent from the roof of your vehicle while it’s in the garage. Using this method, you only need you to loosen bolts and slide straps or cables, then let the lift do the rest of the work. We’ll discuss how to do this in more detail later!
- Forklift: If you have one accessible (although most people don’t), this is probably the easiest way to remove the tent. Just make sure you watch your fork placement. You don’t want to accidentally damage your rig.
- Wooden ladder and electric winch: This is a pretty simple and unique solution that requires making a wooden later with 2x4s and some hooks on the end. Attach a winch cable to the last rung of the ladder and raise it until it’s parallel to the vehicle’s roof. Slide the tent to the other end of the makeshift ladder and slowly let the tent down with the winch. No lifting (or calling friends) necessary.
While rooftop tents are durable, they should be kept out of the way when not in use. This will prevent them from not only getting in the way but also keep them in great condition.
Rooftop Tent Removal Tips
Removing your rooftop tent can be cumbersome. If you need to remove it often, we recommend using a lift system or choosing a lightweight tent that’s a bit more manageable to remove on your own (or with one other person).
Where to Store Your Rooftop Tent
The best way to store a rooftop tent is to secure it to a ceiling, wall, or raised surface. Most rooftop tents are stored in the garage, since there’s more room, it’s protected from the elements, and it’s not taking up space inside your house. How you store your tent will be different depending on which method you choose:
- Ceiling Storage: Storing a rooftop tent on the ceiling is a popular choice because it keeps the tent the most out of the way. When mounting ceiling hooks or brackets, always look for studs. You don’t want the tent to fall on someone!
- Wall Storage: Wall storage works best for smaller tents that can be held up with straps and secured to a wall easily. There are fewer limitations in terms of space for most people, but it may not accommodate as much weight as a ceiling lift will. Brackets are placed into a wall with ties to secure the tent. Again, look for studs to support the weight.
- Cart/Platform Storage: If you’re not a fan of wall or ceiling storage, a portable cart or platform will fulfill all storage requirements and allow for easy maneuverability. This option is also best for those who need to move their tent longer distances from the car.
The option that’s best for you will depend on your storage options and your personal preferences. They’ll all get the job done, so just choose the one you like the best!
How to Store a Rooftop Tent in a Garage
If you have the room, a rooftop tent can easily be stored in your garage. There are a couple of ways you can store your rooftop tent. More advanced systems will make the transfer from vehicle to garage more convenient to install and remove the tent as you need.
Here are some of the best ways to store a rooftop tent in a garage:
- Create a lift or suspension system for ceiling storage
- Build or use a wheeled cart for easy movement
- Mount rooftop tent to a garage wall
- Place rooftop tent on a raised platform
The method you choose for storage will depend on preference and feasibility. The easier it is to store the tent, the more likely you’ll be to remove your tent when not in use. We’ll go into each of these options in more detail so you can choose the one that’s best for you.
Lift/Hoist System for Rooftop Tent Storage
One of the best space-saving and convenient ways to store a rooftop tent in your garage is with a lift or hoist system. While this may be a bit more intensive to set up initially, you can easily pull the tent on and off the vehicle between trips (not just for off-season storage). Using automated electric or manual pulley systems, you can hoist the tent off your roof with ease.
If you’re going to take advantage of this storage system, you need to first make sure it’s feasible for your garage layout. Typically, the lift or suspension is placed directly over the parked car so you can raise and lower the tent easily. This might interfere with the garage door opening and closing, depending on its positioning and size. Make sure there aren’t any clearance issues BEFORE installing your lift. Trust us…
Always mount lifts into the ceiling studs. Drywall isn’t strong enough to support the weight of your tent.
Once you have the logistics and location figured out, it’s time to install the system. Heavy-duty lifts will be able to accommodate more weight, so make sure the weight capacity is beyond the weight of the tent itself.
Here’s an idea of what this type of system could look like:
Setting up a Lift or Hoist System
These are the steps for setting up a lift or hoist system (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any lift system you use):
- Mount harnesses or cables to ceiling: Make sure this is in a structurally sound location. They should be spaced out to match the locations of the mounting brackets on your tent.
- Add supports or hooks to cross support: This allows the tent to be completely removed with the crossbars underneath for easy on and off installation.
- Loosen mounting brackets on tent: This will allow the entire system to be lifted off of the car.
- Loop support straps or cables: Make sure the lifting mechanism is securely fastened on all sides of the tent so it suspends safely above the vehicle.
- Adjust height: If necessary, lift or lower the straps or cables with a pulley or automatic system to reach the ideal height.
These systems can loop onto the rooftop tent case itself, wrap around the case with straps, use support bars below it, or a combination of both. We recommend securing the tent with additional carabiners for more support. You can also make a similar DIY option using a pulley system.
Here’s a great video on a DIY option for storage:
Wheeled Carts for Rooftop Tent Storage
There are fewer logistics involved with a cart that can be placed anywhere that you have room. This can be a cart you make yourself or pre-bought for convenience. Rooftop tents can be heavy. A cart will make it easier to move them on a cart around your garage but won’t simplify the transfer from the top of the vehicle and off regularly.
We recommend this method if you have ample space in your garage and will only be removing your tent for the off-season (unless your tent is super lightweight). Make sure the cart’s weight capacity is suitable for your tent and that you secure the tent to the cart so it won’t fall off while in motion. You should also consider locking wheels so it doesn’t roll around in the storage area.
Wheeled carts with two stable railings are often best to secure the tent so it won’t fall off or become loose. This will also make it easier to move if needed (for example: to a shed that is not close to your car).
Wall Storage for Rooftop Tents
Another way to save floor space in a garage is to mount your rooftop tent to a wall. Compared to your ceiling or cart methods, this can be a bit more challenging from a weight perspective. Typically, this would be accomplished by securing brackets above and below the tent and holding it with tie-down straps or ratchet straps.
We only recommend this for lightweight rooftop tents because wall brackets will not be able to support as much weight. Again it is imperative that the brackets or mounting points are secured into the wall. Loops on the tent cover will make this process easier for attaching and keeping the tent snug against the wall.
This storage method doesn’t help with removal or transport, so it’s up to you and your strength to get the tent off your vehicle’s roof and into the garage. This storage solution is best used in the off-season or when you won’t be using your tent for a longer period of time. Because it will require lifting and installing (often with multiple people) every time, this isn’t a quick on-and-off option.
Raised Platform for Rooftop Tent Storage
The simplest solution for storing your tent is a raised platform somewhere in the garage. But this doesn’t mean that it is always the most efficient use of space. You can even construct the platform yourself with planks of wood, just make sure they’re secure and will be able to hold the tent without tipping or falling apart.
This could also be a good solution for storing your tent in a shed, as long as it’s protected from the elements.
To Remove or Not to Remove: Taking Off Your Rooftop Tent for Storage
If the storage systems mentioned above aren’t suitable for your situation, it is possible to keep your tent on your overland rig year-round. Not all tents and living situations will allow for this, so you need to make sure that if you do choose to keep the tent on, it’ll be safe.
These are the best scenarios for keeping a rooftop tent on a car year-round:
- Large garage or covering: If your garage is tall enough to house your vehicle with the tent attached, you can keep it on. This will prevent damage caused by weather or risk of theft when left outside.
- Waterproof/weatherproof casing: Most tents have a case that can withstand rain and harsh weather, but they aren’t designed for consistent outdoor storage. Make sure that if you do keep it outside, the case will be able to withstand wear and tear. This is more realistic in areas without snow.
- Vehicles rarely driven: If you don’t use your overland rig for everyday use, there’s no problem leaving the tent on year-round. Just make sure the vehicle is protected from the elements when you’re not using it.
If you don’t fall into any of these scenarios, we recommend taking off your rooftop tent when not in use (at least over extended periods of time). On many vehicles, keeping it on the roof will also cause you to waste more gas due to consistent wind-resistance and increased drag.
Properly Storing a Rooftop Tent
Rooftop tents can enhance any outdoor camping experience, and taking care of your tent is crucial to get the most out of the product. Choosing a method for storage will depend on your space restrictions and how often you plan to remove your tent. Storing your tent indoors for the off-season is the best solution for keeping it well-maintained and to minimize the risk of damage or theft. Take care of your rooftop tent and it’ll take care of you out on the trail for years to come.