Rooftop Tents Under 100lbs – A New Class of RTTs are Coming to Town. Here is everything you need to know
We’ve all heard the phrase by now… “weight is the enemy”.
Everyone should consider weight when building off-road and overland 4Runners. This platform is not rated for a large payload (combined weight of occupants and cargo) capacity and even if you’re under the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of your rig, it doesn’t mean everything is balanced.
4Runners and Tacomas feature a payload capacity of roughly 1000-1600lbs. If you want to check your 4Runners payload rating and GVWR, reference the sticker on the inside of your driver-side door jamb. When building these mid-size platforms, you can hit max GVWR (6000ish) pretty fast. Understanding your payload and GVWR is very important before you start building an off-road vehicle.
GVWR is based on factors like frame strength, shocks and springs, brakes, tire size and load range, axle size/strength, gearing, engine output + cooling, and all components that support the sprung weight (the portion of the vehicle’s total mass that is supported by the suspension) of your rig. The general consensus is to keep everything balanced, and you keep everything safe.
There’s an upgrade for all the factors mentioned above so as long as you’re increasing the strength of your vehicle’s components overall, you can increase your GVWR right? Well in theory, sure.. but that’s not what drivers are doing.
Some drivers upgrade their suspension only and then add 2000lbs of mods/gear (steel bumpers, steel skid plates, loaded fridge, drawer system, and a rooftop tent) for a weekend out camping, and think everything’s going to be ok.
Weight adds up quickly and the mods you choose are critical when putting together a build.
Weight On Your Roof
Your roof is one of the last places you should consider adding lots of weight. The 4Runner, Tacoma, and other mid-size vehicles, in general, are not designed to carry a large amount of weight on the roof. Yes, they come from the factory with roof racks/rails but they do have limits. The 5th Gen 4Runner’s factory crossbars are marked with a max load of “132lbs evenly distributed”. This is one reason why so many drivers upgrade their roof rack, but just because a CNC roof rack claims a static weight rating of 700lbs, doesn’t mean you should put that much weight up there.
Get to the point man!
Most vehicles are designed to carry the majority of weight inside the cabin or on the bed, not the roof. Mounting gear to your roof not only makes it heavier but also raises the center of gravity. An increased center of gravity makes body roll and corner handling much worse… on a vehicle that didn’t perform well in that category, to begin with. And depending on the weight increase, your low-end torque and general engine performance are also drastically affected. Other factors of increased weight on the roof include a reduction in fuel economy, increased wind noise, potential rattles/squeaks from the gear on roof racks or a rooftop tent, and so much more.
Now that you know how important weight is, let’s talk about Rooftop Tents. I know… it’s a heavy topic.
Where RTTs Stated
Rooftop tents started back in the 1950s and actually maybe even before that. Check out this cool piece of history from Autohome on their history of rooftop tents. Rooftop tents have been designed to fit many vehicles and to provide a simple yet effective experience while camping.
Over the next few decades, legacy automakers and outdoor-inspired automotive companies around the globe took a stab at integrating rooftop tent solutions into their marketing. Nothing seemed to really pop off until the traditional RTTs of today.
Traditional Rooftop Tents
Roam Soft Shell Vagabond: 150lbs
Soft-shell and canvas-wrapped fold-over tents were bulky and time-consuming but they were all the rage circa 2010-2011. Shoot, there are still some popular options out there today like Smittybilt and Thule/Tepui. Back when the 5th Gen 4Runner was first hitting the market and CVT was just getting started, their Mt. Bachelor and the Mt. Hood tents came out with pretty impressive selling points. Back in 2010-2011, the Mt. Bachelor was only 115lbs, the Mt. Hood was 130lbs and the Mt. St. Helens was around 150lbs. They were time-consuming to set up though and there was a lot of room for improvement.
Heavy Rooftop Tents
CVT Mt. Hood Double Channel: 225lbs
As time progressed, we saw more and more technology introduced which pushed tents into the 200lb+ class. For example, the CVT Mt. Hood transitioned into a clamshell design offering single or double channel options and went up from 130lbs to 225lbs+ loaded. Almost 100lb increase from almost a decade ago. I ran the CVT Mt. Hood for a season and when loaded with sleeping gear, solar, shovel, and recovery boards – it was pushing north of 260lbs+. In my personal opinion, it made for a horrible driving experience. There are many tents on the market today that feature crazy impressive specs but those specs come with a heavy cost. The RTTs of today are heavy and feature-packed, and if that’s your thing, great! However, if you’re among the many people that don’t want to run a 225lb+ tent, you’re heading in the right direction.
What’s the Ideal Weight?
Roam Rambler: Only 130lbs, 2.75″ high-density foam mattress, insulated base, and ceiling
I don’t know if there is any one ideal weight range to shoot for as every build is different. For example, you might be running a rooftop tent on a trailer and weight doesn’t matter that much for your setup. However, for the 4Runner, and mid-size trucks like the Tacoma, weight matters a lot. After running the 250lb loaded Mt. Hood for a season, I will never run a tent that heavy again on my 4Runner. It destroyed MPGs, was a pig on the road daily driving, and was horrible on grades through Colorado and Northern California. I will aim for well under 150lbs and in a perfect world, prefer to stay around the sub 100lb class of tents… which I somewhat made up a name for, for this article.
So what are some options for sub-100 class tents?
1. GFC Superlite
Find it online:
- GFC Superlite (back in stock 11/21): Check Price
GFC innovated the lightweight game. They brought this idea to market. Not only did they make all things “Light + Weight” possible, they also innovated the truck camper game. If it wasn’t for GFC, I don’t know where this industry would be. That said, the Superlite was a test for them. It was a product demand test and it worked… too well. They sold more tents than they could potentially support, given their first time outsourcing manufacturing. So why did GFC stop manufacturing their uber-successful Superlite test? Quality control, that’s why. If you don’t know, GFC is a customer-obsessed company that stops at nothing to provide the customer experience we all want. For the Superlite tent, they wanted to make sure the inventory they sold provided a killer experience and was 100% replaced if needed by the extra stock on hand. In short, GFC wanted to make sure that every single Superlite customer had an outstanding experience before they sold all their inventory. This is why we love GFC.
Now that some time has passed and their tent has been proven, they’re releasing 100+ tents back in stock soon.
2. Inspired Overland
Find it online:
- IO Lightweight RTT: Check Price
Inspired Overland has a tent on the market right now that’s, well super lightweight but don’t confuse that with the “Superlight”. It weighs in at only 87lbs and kind of changes the game in terms of what’s actually being provided with a tent for an ultra-light price. This tent comes with everything you need. Not only is it lightweight but it’s very well made and comes with a telescoping ladder, a weatherproof rainfly, internal gas struts, a super plush 1.5″ memory foam mattress, boot bags, and internal storage pockets galore. The zipper-enclosed weather-resistant PVC cover keeps the tent protected from the elements while offering a very efficient opening/closing process.
This tent is the definition of feature-packed and it comes at an impressive price… only $1500. That includes everything, all the accessories you need.
This tent is clearly sitting on Jade, our 2016 TEP and we’ve had a blast running it this season. It’s really nice. I still can’t believe this tent is still only $1500 for everything that it features.
We’ve never seen a deal this good and we’re almost shocked that it’s still sitting at this price.
3. FSR Prototypes
FSR is making prototypes and there are a few videos on them on the YouTubes‘ however no actual production units are available. The prototype that Talon Sai did an overview on is a carbon copy of the Inspired Overland RTT and was launched about a year after the IO tent was released. FSR ordered that tent as a sample from the same manufacturer that Inspired Overland works with and is working on version 2, or 3 of their updated sub-100 class RTT line. We will see what comes from FSR, but obviously, companies like FSR and many others are wondering what IO is up to with this new design.
4. Bad Ass Tents
Find it online:
- BA Tents MOLLE Packout: Check Price
I ran two MOLLE Packout prototype tents from Badass Tents and didn’t talk much about them as they were indeed… prototypes. We camped in these tents on two separate occasions. The concept of the Badass Tents MOLLE Packout on paper had all the right things going for it; lightweight, somewhat affordable, a fully assembled option, and a DIY version to save you money, among other selling points. The core selling point of this tent was its weight (85lbs) and was the main reason why I was running it. The challenge with this tent was in its design and construction. I don’t need to get into the details and every challenge we found, however, we did find quite a few that prevented me from running the tent full-time. I will say that the floor design of this tent was the most challenging. Because the floor is made up of 5 separate pieces (designed for the DIY guy) causes many loud scratching and squeaking moving parts when you roll around at night. I think in due time, a completely redesigned construction would yield a better user experience.
I mainly wrote this because of the experience I had with the heavy CVT Mt. Hood and to also introduce a new class of tents on the market. After that CVT Mt. Hood, I told myself I wouldn’t run anything that heavy again. The only tents I would consider right now would be the GFC Platform RTT (140lbs) or anything in the sub-100 class tents like the Inspired Overland and/or the Badass Tents.
What are your thoughts on lightweight tents vs. heavy tents?
So if you had to choose between #1 & #2 on your list (assuming the GFC Superlite was available) which one would you choose? Seems like IO did a 1up on the GFC. Since you have experience, what are your thoughts? Thank you!
NM, I found your answer in the discussions below. Thanks!!
Colorado4x4 is also coming up and has some great lightweight tents!
Bro this is such a helpful post. New taco owner here and I’ve been so intimidated trying to learn about RTTs. Thanks for this!
I recently switched from an ikamper to an iDome ground based tent. Best decision ever. Im saving nearly 50lbs in weight, i’ve got a 95sqft tent and my Gobi rack is no longer wasted space. The more and more I see rooftop tents their use cases decline for me.
Big moves man. Is the iDome kind of like a shift pod?
Yeah similar in appearance. However, its much more sturdy and capable. Currently on a 4k mile road trip. Ill get the DSLR out and do a write up if yall want.
Looks like GFC dropped an email on the superlight:
The lightest, thinnest, simplest, most affordable hardshell rooftop tent—the only tent to ever win the NORRA 1000—is back. But probably not for the reason you think.
Let’s go back in time a bit. When we first launched the Superlite in July, 2020, we intended it to be an exercise in extremes. We set out to make rooftop tents accessible to more people by optimizing the product entirely for weight and cost. And part of the way we got that cost down was by outsourcing production of the fabric to China.
That was never a decision that sat right by us.
At its core, GFC is a company that designs and manufactures amazing products. Filling out customs forms and managing someone else’s idea of quality was never that interesting to us.
So we killed it. But not before we sold a bunch of them.
We also put 500 of them into cold storage just in case there were any major issues. But, two years later, we really haven’t encountered any. So, with a new, all-American Superlite coming late next year, we decided to give the people what they want now: another chance to own the lightest, thinnest, simplest, and most affordable hardshell rooftop tent yet made.
It also turns out this thing is more American made than we’ve traditionally made it out to be. The honeycomb composite panels are made in the midwest. The aluminum extrusion comes from the Rocky Mountains. And we machine all the billet aluminum components ourselves, right here in Montana.
To recap specs, the Superlite measures 50 inches wide and 90 inches long, externally, and weighs 80 pounds. We achieved that weight using a drastically simple panel-in-bag design that inserts the composite honeycomb panels we also use in the Platform Camper and RTT floor and roofs into a 600-denier, UV-stable fabric sheath. That fabric provides the hinge and shell, leaving a 300-denier ripstop fabric to form the sides and rear of the tent.
You can cinch those composite panels down within the fabric sheath to a total thickness of just 4.5 inches. Or you can stuff your bedding inside, leave the straps a bit looser, and end up with a package that’s around 6 inches thick when closed.
To support the roof and hold the tent open, the Superlite is equipped with two telescoping aluminum poles that are basically trekking poles without handles, spikes, or baskets. The same cam lock you’re familiar with from those trekking poles allows infinite adjustment of tension by holding the poles as extended as you’d like.
Inside, you’ll find a three-inch thick self-inflating air mattress filled with open-cell foam, sized to perfectly fit the tent floor, and two adults.
On the underside, our very own aluminum extrusions and billet mounts can connect to any crossbars designed to support the weight of the tent. The Superlite is the only hardshell rooftop tent light enough to suit the dynamic roof load ratings of popular 4x4s like the Ford Bronco, and will work just as well on top of your Subaru, too, where its slim dimensions will cause the least wind noise, and take the smallest bite out of your fuel economy possible.
Is there anywhere to mount things on top of the IO tent? like cross bars or stuff for solar?
Not in a plug-and-play format, no. There are a few guys that have retrofitted solar panels to the Inspired Overland tent. I believe @adam.built on Instagram has panels on his.
Mounting system on the Inspired Overland RTT isn’t modular. They suggested I drill and cut into my Eezi Awn K9 rack to make their tent mounting system fit… not going to do that!
Such a bummer but happy there are other tent options out there.
where do you get the money for these roof tops and extra gear?
Write for Trail4Runner.com and make $100-$300 per post.
How do these superlights do in wind, rain and cold? Can’t seem to find much info on that.
I slept in the Bad Ass tents in windy/freezing temps. Late February in the High Sierras. It was really cold out but the tent was fine. There’s nothing too different between these lightweight tents and something like a CVT Mt. Hood, for example. Most of these tents use the same or very similar fabrics. On nights that I know it’s going to be freezing, I just double down on the blankets. I’ve slept in 4-5 RTTs and a camper. Not once have I been cold. I haven’t encountered a rainy day in either tent but I think the IO would do better given the fabric on the top cover.
Thanks. It is a great buy if it can hold up to 4 seasons.
The Terrapod Solo weighs 85lbs, but it’s a one person tent. I’ve been running their full size for a little over a year now, and its great. Weight was one of my primary considerations, and the full size is 125lbs. Only reason I didn’t go with the ultralight is I don’t have a place to take the tent off and keep it, so it’s in the sun all the time. Didn’t think the fabric top would hold up in that situation.
I just went over to their website, and at first glance, they look really nice. That $3500 price point would hurt though. I’d love to see those in person, the build looks very well made.
I am very partial to my Alu-Cab rooftop tent-it doesn’t get a lot of traction in certain circles because of the the buy in price,but they are the far and away best choice for comfort,and weather tight construction.
Yeah dude I was blown away at the level of detail in the Alu-Cabs. So freaking nice inside. No doubt that’s likely the highest quality RTT on the market. Alu-Cabs, James Bourrouds, and the Autohome lines are all super high-quality.
IO Lightweight RTT..Wow!! This might be the company to switch us from soft shell to hard shell.
Thanks for the brilliant write up, Brenan
Yeah, it’s a killer option for many people!
Damn thanks for this dude. Perfect timing. I had no idea GFC was putting their tent back in stock. I know you’re running the Inspired tent but if you had to choose between the two right now, after the fact, which one would you choose and why?
That’s a tough question. I’ve seen the GFC Superlite in person and it’s really nice but it’s hard to compete with the Inspired Overland price point of $1500. The Superlite, from what I remember, was $1700 + shipping (local pickup free in Bozeman) and that’s without a ladder. The Inspired Overland is $1500 + shipping (local pickup free in Oakland) and that’s with a ladder. It’s really hard to say because I have not slept on the Superlite and I’ve heard people say good and bad things about the mattress. I can, however, vouch for the IO mattress being incredibly comfortable for its size. Really a tough question man without testing both of them.
The inspired is 1299 with free shipping for Black Friday I saw