Jeep Wrangler with Rooftop Tent

Ultimate Guide to Jeep Roof Tents for Overlanding

Dreaming of Jeep rooftop tent camping, venturing into the wilderness, and setting up a campsite? We will guide you through the process of choosing a rooftop tent for your Jeep, outlining the options available that match your mission and vehicle type. Let’s delve into the array of Jeep Roof Top Tent choices, examine mission parameters, and elaborate on weight, balance, and safety considerations for Jeep Tent camping, whether it involves an RTT mounted atop your Jeep or towed on a trailer.

Know your overlanding mission

Whether you’re a hardcore rock crawler who occasionally camps or an Overland enthusiast using four-wheel drive to explore and camp in the backcountry, understanding your purpose is crucial. It will help you refine your options and ensure you start on the right path to enjoying your rooftop tent.

For rock crawling aficionados, a lower center of gravity might be preferable to avoid adding extra weight atop your Jeep. Conversely, if overland camping is your passion, then a roof-mounted tent or a trailer-towed tent could fulfill your needs.

Remember, there are no hard rules; both installation options have their merits. However, be mindful of the extremity of your adventures. Carrying 200lbs on your roof or pulling a heavy trailer will undoubtedly affect your vehicle’s capability and performance.

Know your Jeep roof limits

If you own any Jeep model other than the Wrangler, you’re fortunate. The roof’s dynamic and static weight load ratings are compatible with a variety of rooftop tent options. The only extra expense would be the roof rack rails and rail feet, if necessary.

lifted Jeep with rooftop tent mounted on roof rack.

Jeep Wranglers do not certify the weight capacity for roof rack systems. This significant detail influenced my decision to opt for a trailer-towed tent rather than installing a rooftop tent on my Jeep Wrangler. I didn’t want to risk accident/injury trying to do something that is not certified from factory. My Jeep is still my daily driver as well.

Manufacturers that provide 3rd party roof rack systems will rate their system for vehicles. The Thule Rack System for Jeep Wrangler has 165lbs of dynamic rating – which means that at most you can carry 165 lbs of rack + gear on your Jeep while the Jeep is in motion.  Again, for the Jeep Wrangler, the static load limit is missing.

Warning: Always know and understand the limitations of your equipment including the weight, balance & installation requirements.

I would advise against installing an RTT on a Jeep Wrangler Hardshell Top simply because it isn’t static weight rated – but that doesn’t mean you have to follow my advice or that we don’t have other choices. Knowing that Jeeps don’t do a static load rating on their roof, we feel that your best options are to install a roll-cage style frame supported rack mount system or to use a trailer to mount your RTT.

Rooftop tent for Jeep

If you possess a standard roof rack system and drive a vehicle other than a Jeep Wrangler, then opting for a factory-mounted roof rack system (or a third-party option) is the most cost-effective gateway to Rooftop Tent Camping.

Such a roof rack system enables you to detach equipment during the off-season to conserve fuel and securely store your tent when it’s not in use.

Additionally, the elevated position of the tent when mounted on the roof rack makes RTT’s ideal for those desiring a full-height annex.

Note: RTT tents are typically very heavy and challenging to install or remove, so it’s advisable to undertake this task with a friend or several friends to ensure it’s done safely.

Benefits

  • Nothing to Tow.
  • Affordability – Lowest cost of entry.
  • Removable – Heavy but is removable during of season.

Pitfalls

  • Noisy at highway speeds.
  • Feels top heavy on short wheelbase vehicles.
  • Hard to remove freedom tops. (wrangler)
  • It is difficult to remove the hard top. (wrangler)
  • No ability to open/close the soft top. (wrangler)
Jeep Roof Top Tent camping in Woods
@Gallivanting_overland IG

Again, it bears repeating – This is not advisable on the Jeep Wrangler line of Jeeps.  We recommend a tow behind RTT on a trailer setup or roll cage Jeep Rooftop tent setup for Wranglers.

Jeep Roll cage mounted Rooftop tent

Roll cage mounted rooftop tents offer strength and durability over a bolt on system or aftermarket removable rack system. With full height above ground and three ways to open your tent – left/right or rear, you have a lot of options and flexibility.

Jeep Roof Tent camping on beech
@kentek

Roof-mounted tents supported by a heavy-duty Jeep roll cage have the luxury of plenty of room under them for awnings and annexes. If you desire to have an annex for more living & personal space while camping, then having your tent mounted on your roof may be the best option.

Jeep wrangler Roof Tent with Annex camping near mountains

One downside of installing a roll cage is the potential for increased noise and decreased fuel efficiency. If you’re considering a roll cage style mount, it’s wise to invest time in researching reviews and seeking feedback from current users before making a purchase.

For those whose Jeep serves primarily as an overland vehicle rather than a daily commuter, concerns about mileage and noise might be less significant, as these issues are more prevalent at highway speeds. It’s commonly acknowledged that Jeeps are not known for their fuel economy.

Benefits

  • Heavy Duty Roof Rack & Roll Cage – Holds a ton of weight & other options.
  • Accessory Mounts Galore.
  • Nothing to Tow.
  • Durable compared to a bolt on roof rack.
  • Everything is bolted to your vehicle – minimizing theft.

Pitfalls

  • Noisy at highway speeds.
  • Gas Mileage may suffer.
  • It is difficult to remove freedom tops. (Wrangler)
  • Can’t remove the hard top. (Wrangler)
  • Won’t be able to open/close the soft top roof. (wrangler)

Jeep Trailer mounted Rooftop tent

Trailer-mounted rooftop tents provide an ideal balance of options – they allow for an elevated camping experience and the convenience of establishing a basecamp with your trailer and tent ready to use.

Trailer Mounted Rooftop Tent

On my trailer, the roof rack is not as tall as it would be on a vehicle, making the use of an Annex less practical. However, some trailers offer the ability to raise or extend the rack system to a higher position once the vehicle is parked, providing alternatives and trailer models that allow for increased height.

Rooftop tent mounted on trailer Jeep Wrangler

Like any decision, opting for a trailer-mounted solution leads to additional considerations.

For instance, when towing a heavy trailer or navigating challenging off-road terrain, it’s wise to use a brake controller and electronic brakes on your trailer.

Furthermore, it’s beneficial to explore various hitches tailored for rough road and off-road conditions. While the standard ball hitch is great for highways, paved roads, and level dirt paths, more demanding and uneven terrains call for specialized hitch types.

Trailer Mounted RTT at campsite

Jeep Trailer brake controllers

If you decide on a trailer for off-roading, choosing one with electronic brakes and installing an electronic brake controller is advisable. Since Jeep Wranglers lack integrated brake controllers, a third-party solution is necessary.

After extensive research and reviewing various options, the controllers listed below have garnered positive feedback and numerous endorsements. My choice is the Prodigy P2 brake controller.

Sale
Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ Electronic Brake Control, Grey
  • Utilizes Plug-N-Play port for 2-plug adapters.Fit Type: Universal Fit
  • Self-diagnostics features will illuminate LED readout when issues occur
  • Requires T-connector to connect to vehicle (sold separately)
  • Works proportionally in reverse
  • Snap-in dash mounting clip and hardware included

Affiliate links & Product Images are from Amazon Product Advertising API.

Off road hitch mounts

Three well-known hitch systems offer extended off-road capabilities over ball hitches.  These hitches will allow further articulation, rotation and off camber capability improving your off-road towing capability and safety.

Pintel

Pintle hooks and lunette rings are frequently utilized on military trailers, including the famous M416 trailers that Jeep aficionados often build, restore, and customize for their expeditions. These trailers usually have a pintle-style connection, known for its robustness in challenging terrain.

The lunette ring is attached to your trailer.

Lunette ring trailer hitch

The Pintel Receiver hitch is attached to your vehicle.

Pintel receiver for trailer hitch

Once the pintle receiver grasps the lunette, your trailer can rotate around & articulate fully.  Many different manufacturers offer pintel & lunette hitches and receivers of varying designs & capacities. No tools are required to disconnect your trailer from the receiver. These are considered maintenance free hookups.

Lock N Roll

Lock N Roll hitches are another style of fully articulating hitches with many configurations for your trailer, weight, and mission needs. These are manufactured in the US by lock N roll and designed for specific trailers, weights, and uses. No tools required to disconnect your trailer from the receiver.

Lock N Roll Hitch & Receiver

Lock N Roll Demo Video

Max Coupler

Another design picking up traction is the Max Coupler receiver & hitch system. The max coupler is a three-axis coupler offering full rotation and a stable connection to your trailer. There is no chance of uncoupling short of failure. Tools are not required to disconnect your trailer from the receiver with newer Max Couplers. (Some versions may still need tools to separate). Max Coupler hitches do require maintenance and lubrication. Please follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Max Coupler Demo Video

Benefits

  • Complete use of Freedom Panels/Sunroof/Soft top
  • Hard top / Soft to / Door less OK
  • Basecamp – don’t need to pack up camp to drive around
  • Can use the roof rack for other equipment & gear

Pitfalls

  • Some trailers aren’t tall enough to support Annex Rooms.
  • Storage – will it fit in the garage? Outside? Pay for safe storage?
  • Expensive.
  • Not bolted to your car – Trailer Theft can be a concern.
  • Gas mileage.
  • Make sure your 5th (spare) off-road tire can be used for a trailer spare! Matching 7 tires can get expensive!

When trailer camping, be sure to use chocks to secure your trailer and lock everything down including your hitch & receiver.

Choosing a rooftop tent for jeep

Check out our detailed Rooftop Tent guide to help you understand the options, configurations, and choices you have with regards to RTT tents, styles, features and tradeoffs.

Jeeps with rooftop tent camping near water
@Jeep_outdoor_adventures IG

Jeep Rooftop Tent Camping

The most important thing for Jeep owners to understand is their mission. It’s the same mantra whether you’re kiting out for an adventure or modding your Jeep – a haphazard approach can lead to haphazard solutions, So I always advocate being smart, building up some knowledge and planning accordingly.

Tepui Rooftop Tent on Jeep Wrangler camping in desert

Camping with a Jeep and a rooftop tent offers an unmatched experience. It fosters a close bond with nature and the opportunity to explore regions beyond the reach of standard vehicles. The freedom to roam with a well-equipped tent and the versatility to set up camp whenever and wherever you choose is indeed extraordinary.

FAQs

What is the difference between a rooftop tent and an overland tent?

None, they’re the same. Rooftop tents are often called Jeep Tent, Jeep Tent Top, Overland Tents, Off Road Tent, Car top tent, Car tent, Car tent, roof rack tent.

Are there rooftop tents specific to off-roading?

All RTT styles are great for off-roading, but for extreme use, many brands offer a “Ruggedized” version. These ruggedized versions usually come with stronger hardware to take the abuse of trails.

Can I use a rooftop tent On top of my Jeep Wrangler?

The Jeep Wrangler is not rated for load bearing on the roof. With a third-party roof rack system those are usually limited to ~100lbs or less. To use an RTT on a Jeep Wrangler you would need to add a support cage or external roll cage system or tow it on a trailer.

Why would you install a roof top tent on a trailer?

There are advantages and disadvantages to installing an RTT on a trailer or on your roof. The largest advantage is that your trailer can be a “base camp” and you can leave it set up as a home-camp and not off to set up and tear down camp to move. Inversely, if you are always moving, then having your RTT on your vehicle may be the least amount of hassle as towing a trailer does have added complexity while on the trails.

Jeep RTT camping

We hope this comprehensive guide to rooftop tents for Jeeps has helped you understand your options and determine your needs. Camping with a rooftop tent on our Jeep has revolutionized our road trips. We find ourselves better rested, more content, and thoroughly enjoying our journeys.

While the initial cost of rooftop tents may seem steep, consider that flying a family of four for a vacation can exceed the price of most rooftop tents, which offer years of use. The value of Jeep Roof Tents shouldn’t be compared to ground tents but rather considered for the sanity, sleep quality, and comfort they provide, which is in a league of its own.

Comparing rooftop tents to a $59.00 store-bought tent may seem difficult, but the worth becomes apparent when you spend two weeks traveling to remote locations and camping in the wilderness with your Jeep.

Which type of Jeep roof tent have you installed, or do you tow behind your Jeep? Please leave a comment below and share a picture of your setup; we’re eager to see what our readers are using!

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