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Rooftop Tents 101

Rooftop Tents 101

You've seen them on the road, you've seen them at the camp. You've heard about them in magazines and you've probably even poked around Facebook marketplace trying to find a deal on a used one. 

Rooftop Tents. What are they? Well out of the gate, lets define them. And then we'll see if they are for you. 

The name Rooftop Tents (we'll refer to them as RTT's for the remainder of the article), is a bit misleading. They really should have a different name, especially since they are not exclusively for the roof top of a car, SUV, or truck.

So lets ignore the Rooftop and start with the tent. It is a tent. A tent that you can sleep in. Comfortably. Even fantastically. 


  1. You're not sleeping directly on the ground. You're sleeping on a built in cushion, with a flat surface. RTT's have a firm base, made of varying types of insulated aluminum honeycomb, and a 2-3" polyfoam mattress. 
  2. You're not sleeping directly on the ground. 
  3. It's easy to set up. Usually minutes. And you're not sleeping directly on the ground.

How do they open? Well it depends on the style of the RTT. The main types of RTT's are 

  1. Hard shell - more expensive, more durable, sleek construction 
  2. Soft Shell - budget friendly, lengthier setup, canvas cover
  3. Hybrid - mix of the two 

Budget is certainly a consideration for anyone purchasing an RTT - pricing ranges from $1200 all the way up to $5,000-$6,000. The key to maximizing your purchase is using it, and maintaining it. We'd recommend storing your RTT in a safe, dry location, during the months you won't be using it, to avoid moisture entering the equation, leading to possible mildew issues. 

That being said, if you are diligent in packing the RTT back up correctly, you can roll around with it 24/365, so you're ready for that impromptu trip. 

Lets talk briefly about dynamic stress on the bedside while running an RTT.

If you have a truck, and are going to use a bed rack (unless it's a small RTT, we'd recommend avoiding mounting it on a roof rack) to mount the RTT, the simple rule of thumb is  - the higher the bed rack, the higher the dynamic load on the bedside. 

If you're dead set on a cab height rack, and plan on mounting the RTT on top, we'd highly recommend looking into a set of bed stiffeners to avoid cracking the bed side.

Re: selecting a brand to choose from? There are a lot of options on the market. Some our favorite brands include

  • iKamper (their 1.0 and 3.0 brackets clamp directly to our crossbars) 
  • Roofnest 
  • GoFSR
  • ROAM 
  • Desert Armor 
  • Smittybilt 
  • CVT
  • And many more! 

For all of the above options, we'd recommend pairing them with our HD Clamps, if you're going to be mounting them to BillieBars (with the exception of iKamper). Our crossbars are beefier than most at 3.15 x 1.5" - you'll simply use the provided hardware in conjunction with our HD clamps.

If you do land on BillieBars as your bed rack of choice, our heights (example 5" or 8") correspond to the total height of the bed rack, from the top of the bed rail.

So if you want to mock it up on your end, to see the total height of the system, add our bracket height + height of the RTT. We know for a lot of customers keeping the RTT below the height of the cab is imperative, so you can reduce drag, also allowing you to pull into a garage at the end of the day! 

A question we get a lot is, "can I mount my RTT and kayaks, or bikes at the same time?" 

It's a great question and we absolutely love working with customers to see what the potential is for carrying more than just an RTT, on one of our bed racks. 

Below is an example off a Gen 2 Tacoma with our 5" brackets 

  • 5" BillieBars - provide roughly 65" of mountable crossbar space 
  • Customer plans on mounting a ROAM Vagabond with closed dimension's of 56"L x 48"W x 12"H 
  • The 48" number is the key (when you open the RTT, you'll actually have 96" to sleep in) as this is the width of the RTT, while closed
  • This will leave the customer roughly 17" of space to mount something else 

Ideas and Dims on other items to mount 

  • Our awning mount takes up 8.5" of crossbar space
  • Our Bike Bundle takes up about 10" of space - our Woopy rear tire tray is flush with the crossbars, so if you mount the Drop Top (front axel locking mechanism) on the side of our crossbars, you can remove the bike and open the RTT to that side, maximizing space 

If you need specific dimensions on anything so you can mock up your build with peace of mind, please reach out!  

In summary, if you're planning on mounting an RTT on the bed of your truck, start by finding the bed rack you'd like to mount it on. If you're looking to keep your tonneau cover, to safely store your belonging below, BillieBars may be a great option for you. There are a lot of great bed racks on the market, which we highlight here.

Most importantly, if you do decide to upgrade your campsite with an RTT, make sure you get out and use it!