A rooftop tent is a great way to camp and sleep elevated off the ground. It can provide more comfort and security than a ground tent. Many people with pickup trucks like to add rooftop tents so they can camp anywhere they can park their truck. But what if your truck already has a tonneau cover over the bed? Can you still mount a rooftop tent?
What factors decide if a rooftop tent will work with a tonneau cover?
There are a few things to think about when seeing if you can put a rooftop tent on your truck with a tonneau cover. The main things are:
The weight capacity of the tonneau cover
- Most tonneau covers are not made to hold a lot of weight. Rooftop tents can weigh 100-200 pounds when empty. You need to make sure the tonneau cover can handle the extra weight without bending or breaking.
The type of tonneau cover
- Roll-up tonneau covers need to be completely removed to use a rooftop tent. Retractable tonneau covers may work if they open fully. Some covers like the BakFlip have parts that might get in the way of a roof rack.
If you want access to the truck bed
- With the tent on top, you won’t be able to easily open the tonneau cover anymore to access inside the truck bed. For some, this is fine but others may want to still use the bed for storage.
Added height and wind resistance
- The rooftop tent and roof rack will make the truck taller. This can affect fuel economy and stability in wind. The tent also creates a lot of wind resistance when driving.
What tonneau cover types allow rooftop tents?
The style of tonneau cover makes a big difference if a rooftop tent will work or not.
Roll-up tonneau covers
Roll-up covers need to be fully removed to use a rooftop tent. They do not have the strength to hold the weight of a tent and occupants. Taking off the cover defeats the purpose of having it.
Folding tonneau covers
Soft folding covers should not be used with a rooftop tent. Aluminum folding covers are stronger but there is still a risk of bending or breaking. Most folding covers cannot fully open flat anyways.
Retractable tonneau covers
Retractable covers like a Roll-N-Lock retract fully into a canister at the cab end of the truck bed. This gets the cover completely out of the way for mounting a rooftop tent. The cover must have a high enough weight rating though.
Hardshell tonneau covers
Solid hardshell covers do not work with rooftop tents. They do not open and prevent rack installation. There would be no way to access the tent.
Tips for mounting a rooftop tent on a truck with a tonneau
If your tonneau cover is retractable and rated for the weight, here are some tips for adding a rooftop tent:
- Install a bed rack designed to work with your model of cover. This provides a secure mounting point.
- Make sure to open the cover fully before lifting the tent onto the roof rack.
- Consider gas mileage and wind resistance. Get removable rack legs to improve driving when the tent is not on the truck.
- Check that the cover seals properly with the rack installed before hitting the road.
- Bring tools to remove the cover if needed for full bed access at campsites.
- Use a tent that is low profile and dynamic when driving. The right style helps with fuel efficiency.
- Add wind fairings or deflectors that attach to the roof rack to reduce drag.
With the right gear like a retractable tonneau rated for the load and a roof rack designed for the application, you can absolutely mount a rooftop tent on a pickup truck that already has a tonneau cover. It may require some extra planning and preparation but it allows you get the benefits of both upgrades for the ultimate adventure rig.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rooftop Tents and Tonneau Covers
Here are answers to some common questions people have about using a rooftop tent on a truck with an existing tonneau cover:
Can any tonneau cover hold the weight of a rooftop tent?
No, most tonneau covers are not designed to hold much weight. Only heavy duty retractable covers may be rated for the 100+ pound load of a roof tent. Always check the weight rating.
Do I need a special rack system for the tonneau cover?
Yes, you need a rack made to work with your specific tonneau cover model. It has custom brackets that mount around the cover and seal.
Can I open the tonneau cover with the tent installed?
On retractable covers you can still fully open and close the cover with the rack and tent on. But the cover on folding and roll-up styles will no longer open.
Will a roof tent fit in my garage with the tonneau cover?
Measure the clearance in your garage. The rack and hard shell tent add at least 6 inches. The tent folds down to about half its height for storage.
How much of a mileage hit is adding a roof tent?
Expect 1-2 MPG reduction with the tent installed. Use a dynamic/low profile tent and removable rack legs to minimize the wind resistance.
Should I remove the tonneau cover if I’m not using it?
If you don’t need enclosed bed storage, removing the cover saves weight and eliminates the risk of damage to the cover from the tent mounting.
Will I still be able to reach gear in the truck bed?
It depends on the tent position and lift type. You may be able to access part of the bed from the tailgate. Use removable tent mounts for full access.
Can I mount off-road lights on the rack too?
Absolutely. Take advantage of the rack to add lights or traction boards. Just be sure to calculate the added weight.
With the right preparations like choosing a heavy duty retractable tonneau cover and compatible roof rack system, you can successfully add a rooftop tent to your pickup truck. This allows you get the best of both worlds – lockable and weatherproof bed storage when driving, and an elevated tent for camping you don’t have to unpack at the campsite. With a few adjustments like removable rack legs for better driving aerodynamics and planning for reduced mileage, a rooftop tent can be a versatile and comfortable upgrade for truck owners who don’t want to remove their tonneau cover.
In summary, whether you can mount a rooftop tent on your pickup truck if you already have a tonneau cover depends on:
- The weight rating and type of the tonneau cover
- If you still need access to the truck bed for storage
- The increased wind resistance and hit to gas mileage
Retractable covers that open fully and are rated for over 200 lbs like the Roll-N-Lock offer the best chance for compatibility. Combined with a specially designed rack, retractable covers allow full bed access and provide optimal mounting points.
Always check if your specific tonneau cover model and style allows rooftop tent installation. With good planning and preparation, you can have the versatile utility of a truck bed cover and the convenience of a rooftop tent for your adventures.