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
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
Inspired Overland has a tent on the market right now that’s, well super lightweight but don’t confuse that with the “Superlight”. This tent comes with everything you need; 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.
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?