How Fast Can You Drive with a Roof Top Tent?

Roof Top Tents are a extremely popular with the Overlanding community. In fact, Roof Top Tents(RTT) are becoming more popular for those who want to take off and set up camp anywhere without having to sleep on the ground. There are different options for rooftop tents for those who wish to have the convenience of sleeping in their vehicles without sacrificing comfort.

How fast can you drive with a rooftop tent? You can drive as fast as you usually would, but you may notice some drag. Rooftop tents create an aerodynamic drag that could slow you down a bit or create a need to fill up your gas tank a little more often. 

How Fast Can You Drive with a Roof Top Tent?

Read on to learn about why adventurers like rooftop tents and what options are out there to make your camping trip as convenient as possible. Also, you will find out which style of rooftop tent has the least effect on gas mileage and wind drag.

Can You Put a Roof Top Tent on Any Vehicle? 

There are a variety of different rooftop tents, and they come in various sizes. However, if you have your heart set on a large tent, you must make sure your vehicle can accommodate it. Some vehicles, like SUVs and trucks, can handle a large tent. Smaller cars have other considerations. Your vehicle’s roof weight capacity should be considered while you evaluate if you need to add a roof rack to hold the tent.

A rooftop tent is installed on racks that are either flat or crossbars. If your vehicle does not come standard with a top rack already, they can be added aftermarket easily. One of the significant considerations is the Dynamic Weight Capacity of the rack itself.  This capacity is for the weight carried while in motion. It needs to be high enough of a weight to accommodate your tent, which can be substantial. 

Lastly, make sure the roof racks on your vehicle are compatible with your rooftop tent. Whether or not your rack is compatible should be stated in the owner’s manual for the rack itself. 

How Much Does a Rooftop Tent Affect Gas Mileage?

Both hard and softshell rooftop tents have plenty to offer in the way of convenience and adventure. However, they both do impact gas mileage in a car. In some cases, this impact is dramatic.

Hardshell rooftop tents tend to be aerodynamic. They are designed to allow you to drive without worrying about your gas mileage or being slowed down by wind resistance. 

How much of a disruption your gas mileage experience depends on many factors. The weight and bulkiness of the rooftop tent system play a part, but the vehicle itself also has factors that impact gas mileage. 

According to Zach Butler, writing for TFLCAR in his article titled, “How Much Does A Rooftop Tent Kill Your Fuel Economy? We Find Out!” discovered a 17 percent drop in fuel economy in a vehicle that was topped with a bulky softshell tent attached to a rack. 

In the end, a hardtop tent setup costs more overall, but given how long it lasts, it might be a better option for gas mileage. The gas savings adding up over time is especially true for those who camp frequently and drive long distances on their adventures. 

Why Use A Rooftop Tent?

Rooftop tents offer a few great benefits for lovers of camping and adventure:

  • It keeps campers off the ground, which helps to avoid crawling bugs. 
  • It is helpful not to have to worry about pitching a tent in the mud or over rocky ground. 
  • You can pull up and camp anywhere if you can get your vehicle to the destination.
  • Rooftop tents are also very quick to set up. The construction of these tents are sturdy, and the foam mattresses are comfortable. 

What Are the Different Types of Rooftop Tents?

There are a couple of different styles of rooftop tents, and what you choose depends on personal preference and what your camping situation happens to be. 

Softshell Rooftop Tent

The softshell rooftop tents are very common, and therefore several different options exist. 

Some features of softshell rooftop tents are:

  • They are very lightweight. 
  • They are relatively easy to set up. 
  • They usually appear as a standard tent. 
  • These tents can mount on a rack at the back of a truck just under the rook line. 
    • This option creates the most fuel efficiency. 
    • But you lose space in the bed of your truck for other storage.
  • You can also mount the tent to the roof rack at the top of your vehicle. 
    • This option works for most vehicles, even smaller cars. 
    • But this option does have the most impact on fuel efficiency. 

Hardshell Rooftop Tent

Hardshell rooftop tents are more expensive than the softshell options, but because the hardshell tents are designed with aerodynamics, you will find you save money on gas mileage.

Other features of hardshell rooftop tents are:

  • They are heavier than softshell tents, but their shell offers lots of protection. The shell protects the tent when you are driving, and it also protects you from the elements when the tent is in use.
  • They are remarkably easy to open and set up. Hardshell tents are designed with an outer shell, usually aluminum or fiberglass, and fabric joining both the top and bottom shell. 
  • In some models, the shell opens like a jaw, making one end of the shelter narrow. 
  • Other models open straight up and down like a box expanding upwards. 
  • Whereas softshell tents are square and bulky, hardshell tents are made to be aerodynamic. 

Common Concerns and Solutions

Despite the conveniences of rooftop tents, there are a few issues that come with using them. Fortunately, they have easy solutions if you are prepared.


Because of the design of rooftop tents, they tend to be darker. Campers can plan and ensure they have LED lights, a flashlight, or a lantern ready to go to ensure handling the darkness is easy.


Rooftop tents keep you off the ground and out of the mud, gravel, and away from the creepy crawlers. While many of these tents are easy to set up for camping, they can be challenging to install. The tents often weigh 100 pounds or more, so getting one on top of the roof of your vehicle by yourself may seem impossible. 

You can circumvent this problem by having a helper on hand to help you install the first couple of times. You will likely figure out the easiest way to install solo eventually, but until then, plan for help.

Midnight Trips

Because of the design of rooftop tents, they utilize ladders to get up and into the tent. While the loftiness keeps campers off the ground, that also means that midnight bathroom trips might end up being a challenge. 

Campers can avoid hazardous midnight bathroom trips by having dinner a few hours before bedtime and not drinking fluids after a specific time. 


Your rooftop tent will keep you off the ground when it is raining. However, you are still exposed to rain. Getting caught in the rain happens when getting in and out of the tent on the ladder. Furthermore, gear becomes wet, including shoes. Campers in rooftop tents may struggle with deciding what to do with wet shoes and rain gear once ascending the ladder to the tent.  

To accommodate this problem, many campers buy or create a vestibule for protection. These vestibules cover the ground alongside and below the tent as well as around the ladder. It gives a ground-level area to store gear and protection from the elements while going up and down the ladder.

It Can Get Warm

Rooftop tents are known for being durable and sturdy. They often do a fantastic job in all weather conditions. This durability also means that, if it is hot outside, it can be hot in the tent. The windows do add some ventilation, but many campers in a rooftop tent make good friends with a battery-powered fan. 

To Conclude 

Rooftop tents are a game-changer for those who want to camp but do not want to have to worry about the conditions of the ground where the tent would go. It allows campers the freedom to pull up their vehicle and get to camping.

Fuel efficiency comes down to the type of tent style you chose, but it also is impacted by the type of vehicle you drive and its unique set of factors that impact its fuel economy. 

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.