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Pop-up tents for the roof of your car can help you stay off the ground and free up storage in your vehicle. If you are in the market for a pop-up tent for your car, truck, or SUV, you have an array of brands and styles to choose from. We have created this guide to teach you everything you need to know when selecting your tent.
What Is a Car Pop-Up Tent?
A car pop-up tent is a tent that attaches to the roof of your car or the bed of your truck to create a portable living space. These tents are easy to assemble, with mechanisms that help you set them up in minutes and ladders that allow you to climb in and out with ease. Many models can stay assembled, letting you keep your sleeping bags and belongings inside.
Car tents have gained popularity in recent years because of their benefits compared to traditional tents:
- Elevated: These tents are on the roof or the truck bed, making it harder for pests like spiders or predators like bears to access your tent, allowing you to feel safe and comfortable.
- Comfortable: Car tents can have built-in mattresses or use temperature-controlling materials that can make your camping experience more comfortable.
- Easy setup: Pop-up tents are quick and easy to set up, and because it’s on your roof, you can leave it attached while you drive from campsite to campsite.
- Space-saving: Having your tent rigged onto the roof of your vehicle saves room in your trunk for other outdoor gear, and it adds space for living needs like bedding.
Types of Car Pop-Up Tents
Brands of pop-up tents have a variety of features that may appeal to different travelers. For example, you may consider the rack you have on top of your car when selecting what tent to buy. Of the different brands, there are two types of car tent you can decide between:
- Soft-shell: A soft-shell pop-up tent has a soft covering to protect it from the elements while it rides on top of your car. The benefits of this type of car tent are that it creates more space and can fit more people, which may be ideal if you are traveling with a family. However, the soft shell can be bulky and isn’t aerodynamic.
- Hard-shell: A hard-shell pop-up tent is a tent that is stored in a hard plastic covering on top of your car. The hard case is weatherproof and is more likely to be aerodynamic when driving.
How To Choose a Car Pop-Up Tent
There are a few factors to consider when choosing a car pop-up tent that fits your needs. They are:
- Rack compatibility: You will attach your car pop-up tents to the rack on your car’s roof. If you already have a rack, you can look for compatible tents. If you need to get a rack too, look for what tent you want and get a compatible rack.
- Weight: Make sure your car and rack can handle the weight of the tent, especially when driving. You can find a tent’s weight in its product specs. The amount of weight your car can handle while driving should be in the owner’s manual.
- Annexes: Many models come with added space that extends over the side of your vehicle or covered areas that can be good for prepping food. If you are camping with multiple people, look into options with annexes or that have the option to add annexes later.
- Durability: If you camp in extreme climates, be sure to get a model that can stand extended exposure to harsh weather. Most car tents are sturdy, but consider what kind of camping you want to do and look into models that are designed for that environment.
- Price: Consider how much you want to spend on your car pop-up tent. They can cost a few hundred dollars or a few thousand. More expensive tents can offer more features, but if you are looking to save a little money, you can get a model that has fewer features for a lower price.
How To Replace or Install Car Pop-Up Tents
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
The initial setup of your tent may take more than one person. However, once you attach the tent to your roof, putting the tent up and taking it down is easy. Installation may be different depending on the car tent you choose, but here are some basic steps you can follow:
- Unbox on a stable table: Most car tents include the hardware needed to attach them, so when unboxing your car tent, look for bolts, wrenches, and other mounting hardware. You may need to attach some hardware to the tent before you mount it on your car, so make sure you are using a stable surface.
- Mounting tracks: Attach the mounting tracks to the base of the tent. The mounting tracks should be perpendicular to the rack on your car roof, so consider which way you want the tent to face once installed before you attach the mounting tracks.
- Attach the ladder and cover: Depending on your model, you may need to install the ladder and cover to your tent before you attach it to your car rack.
- Lift onto your car rack: Lifting the tent onto the car and positioning it so you can secure the mounting tracks to the rack may require two people. You may also need your own wrench to tighten bolts that secure the tent to your rack.
- Test the tent: Lastly, test unpacking and repacking the tent once you install it to make sure it is secure.
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