Do You Need Crossbars For a Rooftop Tent?

Updated Jul 21, 2023

Whether you’re exploring alpine forests or navigating through desert landscapes, the call of the wild can lead us to places beyond our everyday boundaries. One popular and practical method of accommodation among outdoor enthusiasts is a rooftop tent, which turns your vehicle into a portable and comfortable shelter.

But do you need crossbars for a rooftop tent? The answer is unequivocally yes. Crossbars form an integral part of your rooftop tent setup. They provide the necessary support and stability to your tent, making them non-negotiable for a safe and secure camping experience.

Let’s delve deeper into why crossbars are essential, how to choose them, and the best ways to install them. By the end of this article, you’ll be well-versed in why crossbars are a critical piece of your rooftop camping setup.

Do You Need Crossbars for a Rooftop Tent?

Do you need crossbars for a rooftop tent? Yes! Crossbars are 100% necessary. Their primary role is to provide a stable and secure foundation on which the tent can be mounted. Imagine crossbars as the beams of a house – they bear the weight of the structure (in this case, your tent), ensuring a secure fit and preventing any damage to both your vehicle and the tent. Given that rooftop tents, with their occupants and gear inside, can weigh several hundred pounds, crossbars are vital in distributing this weight across the vehicle’s roof.

Moreover, crossbars also offer versatility in adjusting your tent’s positioning on the roof, allowing for the best fit and weight distribution. High-quality crossbars can improve your vehicle’s stability, especially when driving in windy conditions or on uneven terrain. They also ensure the tent remains steady while you’re sleeping inside. Crossbars come in various sizes and designs to fit different vehicles and tents.

So, while you might initially consider crossbars as an additional expense or a complicated piece of the setup puzzle, they are, in fact, fundamental to the safety, functionality, and reliability of your rooftop camping experience.

Note: You may already have factory-installed crossbars, or you may need to purchase aftermarket ones.

What is a Rooftop Tent?

A rooftop tent is a portable shelter that mounts directly onto the roof rack of a vehicle, providing a safe and comfortable sleeping area elevated from the ground. Often made with durable materials designed to withstand the elements, these tents fold out to create a convenient and cozy camping solution, away from dirt, damp, and critters you might encounter on the ground. They are particularly favored by overlanders and outdoor adventurers for their ease of setup and versatility across a range of terrains and climates.

Rooftop tents are an innovative way to camp. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Convenient: It attaches securely to your car’s roof, so setup is quick and easy.
  • Space-saving: No need for bulky gear. You’ll have more room for other camping essentials.
  • Enjoy the view: An elevated sleeping experience – take in breathtaking views from your cozy nest.
  • Versatile: Fits on SUVs, trucks, and even smaller cars.

Factors to Consider When Installing a Rooftop Tent

When it comes to installing a rooftop tent, there are several key factors to consider ensuring a safe and efficient setup.

Firstly, you need to make sure that your vehicle’s roof and existing rack system can support the weight of the tent and its occupants. This is referred to as the dynamic weight capacity (DWC) – the weight your car can carry when it’s in motion. The DWC of most vehicles should be available in the vehicle’s manual or can be obtained from the manufacturer. Once you know this, choose a tent that, combined with the estimated weight of its occupants and gear, does not exceed the DWC.

Next, the type and quality of the crossbars you use can greatly affect the safety and stability of your rooftop tent. Ensure that your crossbars are strong enough to support the tent’s weight. Crossbars come in various designs and materials, with the most robust ones typically made from steel or aluminum. Your choice should align with your vehicle’s DWC and the tent’s weight. Additionally, the crossbars’ spacing is vital to consider; they need to be positioned correctly to adequately support and balance the rooftop tent.

The installation process also requires attention to detail. You’ll need to ensure the tent is securely fastened to the crossbars, following the tent manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Improper installation can lead to the tent shifting during travel or becoming unstable when in use. It’s also essential to check all connections and mountings regularly for wear and tear, and tighten them if necessary.

Continue Reading: How To Mount a Roof Top Tent

Lastly, keep in mind that installing a rooftop tent will change the vehicle’s center of gravity, potentially affecting handling. Be aware of this when driving, especially in windy conditions or on hilly terrain. A higher center of gravity may also make the vehicle more susceptible to tipping over, so it’s critical to adjust your driving accordingly.

By paying attention to these factors when installing your rooftop tent, you can ensure a safer, more enjoyable camping experience, whether you’re parked by a serene lakeside or nestled deep in the forest.


In conclusion, rooftop tents provide a fantastic solution for avid adventurers looking to create a comfortable, elevated home in the wild. However, setting up your rooftop haven requires careful consideration, especially when it comes to the necessity of crossbars. These crucial components not only support the weight of your tent but also contribute to its stability and safety, both while on the move and when settled for the night.

The correct selection and installation of crossbars can enhance your overall camping experience, offering peace of mind as you navigate diverse terrains or sleep soundly under starlit skies. Remember, your outdoor adventure’s success lies not just in the destination but also in the quality and safety of your gear. So, invest time in understanding your vehicle’s specifications, choosing the right crossbars, and correctly installing your rooftop tent.

Plus, crossbars look great! Whether you’re in a city or the wilderness, a rooftop tent on nice crossbars shows off a rugged, adventurous vibe.

With preparation and knowledge, you can look forward to many memorable nights spent in your rooftop tent, cocooned against the elements, and perched above the wilderness’s stirring beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need crossbars for a rooftop tent?

Absolutely, crossbars are essential for a rooftop tent setup. They serve as the foundation for the tent, bearing its weight and ensuring a secure fit on your vehicle’s roof.

Can I use my existing roof racks instead of crossbars?

This depends on the type and strength of your existing roof rack. Some racks may be suitable to support a rooftop tent, but most often, additional crossbars are needed for added stability and weight distribution. Always verify with your vehicle and tent manufacturers to ensure your existing roof rack can safely accommodate a rooftop tent.

How do I choose the right crossbars for my rooftop tent?

When choosing crossbars, you need to consider several factors such as your vehicle’s dynamic weight capacity, the weight of your tent, the strength and quality of the crossbars, and the dimensions of your vehicle’s roof. Typically, robust crossbars made of steel or aluminum are best. It’s advisable to seek professional advice or contact your vehicle and tent manufacturers to make the right choice.

Can I install a rooftop tent without any roof rack system?

No, a roof rack system, including crossbars, is necessary to securely install a rooftop tent. This system provides the support and stability required to safely bear the weight of the tent and its occupants.

Are crossbars included with a rooftop tent purchase?

Crossbars are typically not included with a rooftop tent purchase and are often sold separately. Some manufacturers or retailers might offer packages or bundles that include crossbars, but it’s always important to confirm this before purchasing.

Can I install crossbars and a rooftop tent by myself?

Yes, it is possible to install crossbars and a rooftop tent by yourself, but it’s generally recommended to have at least one other person assist you to ensure the process goes smoothly and safely. The installation involves heavy lifting and precise alignment, which can be challenging to do alone. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for installation guidance, and if you’re unsure, seek professional help.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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