Best Roof Top Tent for the RAV4

The RAV4 is interesting in that it has a pretty high maximum roof cargo limit (dynamic load limit) at 176.4 lbs for 2019 and 2020. You’ll have options for those years. However, things are different for years 2018 to 2001. For 2018 to 2006 the max load is about 102lbs which is going to be a problem. 2005 to 2001 is even lower at 75lbs. 102lbs or 75lbs means supporting a rack and rooftop tent is going to be difficult. You’ll need to watch your cargo weight and do some testing on your own to ensure success.

This table is the maximum load (weight) that you can put on your RAV4 rooftop.

Toyota-ModelYearMax LoadManualNotes

Just for reference, the 2019 4Runner has a maximum roof cargo limit of 120lbs. The FJ Cruiser is 165lbs. For the 2019 Land Cruiser it is 154lbs.

The information below is for years 2020 and 2019.

Before I cover the best tents for a RAV4, I need to discuss weight and rooftop rack issues.

The maximum roof cargo limit refers to the dynamic weight limit while the vehicle is in motion. The static weight limit (max parking weight) is much higher, and we can estimate what that might be. Thule uses a very conservative estimate of 3x the dynamic limit when doing rough calculations. Their racks are rated for 165lbs and actually have a static limit of 650lbs, or 4x the dynamic limit. So 3x is pretty conservative.

We can estimate the static weight limit by using the 4x number applied to the dynamic limit: 4×176.4= 705.6lbs. That weight really comes into play with the crossbars. The factory rails can handle huge weights. The crossbars are the weak link. You probably want crossbars capable of supporting at least 650lbs. The RAV4 appears to be in good shape here with two factory crossbars.

You can test factory crossbars on some wood blocks or 2x4s in order to note the deflection.

Two (or Three) Crossbars + Tent + 2 People => Note Deflection

You’ll be able to see if you have a problem before putting it on your vehicle. Get more information about crossbar calculations and testing here. Another option is just to mount the tent to the factory rails.

This guy mounted his 95lb tent onto the factory crossbars. He initially calls them OEM crossbars but later just calls them factory bars.

Hey all,

I did a little browsing but I haven’t quite found an answer to what I’m looking for yet. I just got a 2019 XLE Hybrid 3 weeks ago. It came with the factory cross bars. I’d like to know if anyone has installed a roof top tent on their 2019 Rav4 yet? I know that the OEM cross bars can handle 165lbs which is perfect because my rooftop tent is only 95lbs but I did notice the bars aren’t completely straight. They seem to have a little arch to them. I’m wondering if I could still get away with mounting the tent anyway? Has anyone tried this?

UPDATE: I bit the bullet and decided to try and mount the tent to my factory bars so I could use it for a trip this past weekend. It worked like a charm!! No issues whatsoever. It felt sturdy as hell! I even did some light off-roading with it and it held on strong. Im thinking I’ll just stick with the factory bars.


A small tent with one guy is definitely going to work. A heavy tent with two big adults might be another story as their weight creeps up to 600lbs. I suspect that latter scenario would work too but that’s a gray area given the limited information available. A little testing would help.

What about the best tents?

What are some rooftop tents for the RAV4 that people seem to like?

Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent Review [on a RAV4] – YouTube

The Smittybilt Overlander rooftop tent is probably one of the best tents for any vehicle that can handle it. It’s weight is 117lbs, and sleeps up to 3 people. Throw on two adults (200lb each) and a child (100lbs), and you’re up to 617lbs. Still doable. The base footprint is 56 x 95 inches. The ladder is the crappiest thing about this tent. Ladders in other tents are much better but those tents cost a lot more too. This tent compares favorably to much more expensive tents, like the Tepui Explorer Kukenam ($900 vs $1,700.) Yes, the Kukenam is better but only marginally. The Kukenam weighs 125lbs and the base footprint is 56 x 96 inches. You can read more about both tents here.

Update 27-May-2020:

Now Smittybilt has come out with another model: Smittybilt GEN2 Overlander Tent – 2583. Check out the video:

This tent is available at 4WheelParts.Com for $1,150. This next generation tent has solved the crappy ladder problem. The fabric is the same but the color is different. Overall, this tent looks to be very similar to the prior model, although there may be some minor issues addressed like the poor straps.

Here someone put a Tepui Kukenam on a RAV4 and is renting it out at Hilo, Hawaii:

2011 Toyota Rav4 Motor Home Truck Camper Rental in Hilo, HI | Outdoorsy

Another one (search the page for “Kukenam” to find it): This Tepui Kukenam 3 looks awesome on a 2019 Toyota Rav 4!

The Kukenam is a good option for the RAV4, like an upgraded Smittybilt Overlander.

Here’s a RAV4 with Yakima Skyrise rooftop tent and Malone AirFlow2 crossbars:

Outfitting A Toyota Rav4 Yakima Skyrise Roof Top Tent + HD Cross Bars. – YouTube

Coming from Yakima you can bet that the rooftop tent install is going to be easy. It takes only a few minutes to install it on the rack. Other rooftop tents are a pain in comparison. This gives you an easier option to pop the tent on and off as needed.

The Yakima Skyrise has thinner material than the Smittybilt Overlander and Tepui Kukenam: 210D Nylon vs Kukenam’s 260 g Polyester Cotton; 600D ripstop fabric. It’s a 3-season tent. The Smittybilt and Kukenam are 4-season tents. The Yakima Skyrise is lighter at 115lbs. The base footprint is 56 x 96 inches. The cost is $1,500.

Yakima Skyrise 3: Thinner, cheaper, superior installation system as compared to the Tepui Kukenam.

How does the Yakima Skyrise 3 stack up against the Tepui Kukenam?

Tepui Kukenam vs. Yakima Skyrise 3 Tent Review – YouTube

What I really wanted to know was how much the crossbars deflected when the two people were in the tent. In this case, only the woman entered the tent with no observable deflection in the Malone AirFlow2 crossbars. I was hoping the YouTube post description would give me the static weight limit. No way.

I started searching the internet for information about the static load limit for Malone AirFlow2 crossbars. Nothing. Then I guessed at various static weights and searched for that. Nothing. Finally, this is what I got out of the manual:

“The load you are carrying plus the weight of the rack must not exceed the maximum weight limitation of the vehicle’s factory raised side rails. Before installing, confirm your vehicle’s factory specifications.” – Source.

“Before installing, confirm your vehicle’s factory specifications.”

You know we can’t get information out of the factory, right? It won’t tell us.

If the Malone AirFlow2 can match the factory rails then it’s safe to assume a static load limit of 650lbs.

If you don’t want a bigger 3-person tent then the little brother of the Kukenam might be a good fit. It’s called the Tepui Explorer Ayer. It has a base of  48 x 84 inches. The closed footprint is 42 x 48. It weighs 95lbs.

Below is the Tepui Ayer on factory crossbars for the Subaru Impreza.

Tepui Ayer on Subaru Impreza! in 4k! – YouTube

Dynamic Load Limits

Here are the dynamic load limits for select Toyota models in year 2019 for comparison purposes. FJ Cruiser is an exception. I have also included a link to each owner manual.

Tacoma2019440lbsManualPer deck rail
FJ Cruiser2014165lbsManualLetter
Land Cruiser2019154lbsManual

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