Best Rooftop Tent for 4Runner

Maximum carrying weight for a 4Runner rooftop rack is only 120lbs. Apparently, that applies to on-road and off-road driving. That means you have a problem. If you are going to buy a rooftop tent you must pay attention to weight. This weight only applies while the vehicle is in motion – tent weight with no occupants. The vehicle can actually carry a lot more weight than that (when parked) but then there are increasing driving stability issues due to changes in the center of gravity.

I would keep on eye on 120lbs even if you have a new rack with a much higher dynamic load limit. I wouldn’t put 200lbs of stuff on the top of my 4Runner. I explain this further in the next section on racks.

The most popular tent at Amazon.Com is the Smittybilt Overlander (Check out the link for a full review). It weighs 117lbs. It’s one of the cheapest rooftop tents at around $900. It can handle 2 to 3 people. The maximum static weight the tent can hold is 661lbs. It compares favorably to much more expensive tents. A lot of people with 4Runners own the Smittybilt Overlander. Check out this Q&A from Amazon.Com. Enter 4Runner in the search box and read the results.

You’re likely to go over 120lbs by leaving stuff in the tent but probably not by a lot. It may be an option to consider for people who need the size.

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.

Another popular tent at Amazon.Com is the Tepui Ayer. It weighs 95lbs. But it’s a smaller tent – sleeps up to 2 people, and it’s a lot more expensive – about $1,200. This is probably a better option if you can make the size work and money isn’t an issue.

I would say the Tepui Ayer is the best tent for the 4Runner due to its lower weight and popularity. The Smittybilt Overlander, the most popular rooftop tent at Amazon.Com, is a good option to consider for people who need a bigger size. You can read more about them here.

What if you go out and buy a new rack that holds a lot more weight?

Well, people have done just that but then there are handling issues while driving. You’ll have to be more careful. Depending on the weight of your load maybe you’ll have to limit off-road driving.

The Rack Problem

Rooftop rack fit guides:

Yakima Configurator
Fit my car | Thule
Fit My Car (AirFlow2) | Malone
Fit My Vehicle | Rhino-Rack

These rack guides let you input your make, model and 2019 and show you which racks fit. But there are some issues that you need to be aware of which I discuss in the rest of the article.

In order to select the best tent for the 4Runner, we need to solve the rooftop weight problem. How much weight can the 4Runner carry on its roof? It would nice if Toyota just told us but it won’t. We just get the limit in the manual – 120lbs. We need to know the maximum cargo weight on the rooftop while moving (on-road and off-road) and while parked. Plus we need to know the maximum weight for the factory rails and separately the crossbars.

Just for reference, the 2019 RAV4 maximum roof cargo limit is 176.4 lbs. The RAV4 is about an inch lower (at 8.4in) to the ground. For the FJ Cruiser it is 165lbs, and it has the same ground clearance as the 4Runner (9.6in.) For the 2019 Land Cruiser it is 154lbs, and its ground clearance is 9in.

Why is the maximum roof cargo limit so much lower on the 4Runner? Is it just the rack or is there something else to worry about? I suspect a couple of things are going on. The 4Runner is expected to be more of an off-road vehicle than the RAV4, hence the higher ground clearance. That’s going to lower the cargo limit. Then there is the rack itself which may be weaker than the RAV4. I suspect the FJ Cruiser cargo limit is based on the rack itself and not the driving impact due to the higher center of gravity.

I was watching this one video where a couple put a Tepui Ruggedized tent on their FJ Cruiser. They said the tent weighed 185lbs. With other stuff, they probably had 200lbs on the top. They also installed a different rack. They were reviewing the whole rooftop tenting thing. “When it’s windy you WILL feel it,” she said when driving with that big block (the tent) on top. With that much weight on top the driver will have to compensate by driving slower. They were moving into danger territory.

The cost of his tent was probably around $2,300. Then the rack was maybe $1000. Total is around $3,300. How badly do you want a rooftop tent? In my opinion, the rooftop rack problem is potentially a rooftop tent killer. Maybe I should get a good used tent trailer instead?

Getting back to the 4Runner. This guy (below) mounts a Ruggedized Kukename Sky rooftop tent onto his 4Runner factory rails. He posts at toyota-4runner.org. That tent weighs 180lbs according to the Tepui website.

Roof top tent (RTT) on factory rails. It’s doable

I’m posting this really just because when I was searching, I didn’t find all the info I was looking for as easily as I thought I would.

I recently bought a Ruggedized Kukenam Sky RTT from Tepui. I plan to eventually get a full length rack, so I didn’t want to waste the money getting some Yakima or Thule (or anything else) mounts and crossbars. After doing some research, it seems like the general consensus is that the stock crossbars aren’t up to the task of supporting 180 pounds (that’s how much this one weighs) but that the stock rails (the part that runs parallel to the car) are.

[Factory stock rails will work but the stock crossbars probably won’t.]

All that being said, I set out to mount this tent to my car by using the [factory] rails.

The only thing that’s done differently is that the mounting channels that come with the tent are turned 90 degrees from their instructed way and they stick out just a little bit on either side from the base of the tent (maybe 5-6 inches on both sides).

I was able to mount the tent without having to take off the stock crossbars but the stock crossbars may end up having a slight load on them when the tent is occupied due to the stock crossbars having a slight bow to them.

I was in a hurry today and had other errands to take care of so I didn’t have time to tent it all up properly but here’s a quick shot.

Also, like I said, this is mounted directly to the RAILS and not the crossbars. However, because the crossbars naturally bow upwards, I have a feeling that some of the weight of the tent, when occupied, will be on the crossbars (which I think only makes it more stable).

Because this is mounted directly to the rails, I don’t think this is any worse (or better) than how it would be mounted to an aftermarket full-length rack. Like you said, it’s the same 8 holes.

Not sure why you think that [that it would break] but it didn’t break when I had two adult men in there fixing the internal straps.

They’re [the factory rails] not rated for anything. At least not publicly but they’re very wide bars that are mounted to the roof using the same 8 holes that every single roof rack system out there uses. If people load up the roofs of these vehicles with full length racks and tons of other equipment without problem, what makes you think the stock rails would have a problem holding just a tent?

How did the factory rails hold a 180lbs tent plus the weight of two guys while parked? Apparently just fine. Yes, he did completely overload the vehicle for driving.

Below is another person who mounted his tent to the 4Runner factory rails with success:

I had my RTT Tepui Autana Ruggedized (so not the lightness one) on the factory rails, family of 3 (2 adults and a 4 year old) with absolutely no problems for approx 6 trips and over 5000 miles. (left it on for daily driving in between trips) – Source.

The Tepui Autana Ruggedized rooftop tent weighs 195lbs. It sleeps 3. Everybody seems to be ignoring that 120lb weight limit. The Smittybuilt sleeps 3 and only weighs 117lbs.

The roof of a vehicle can handle a rollover. That means the roof won’t collapse due to the weight of vehicle plus occupants plus cargo. You are never going to the collapse the roof of your vehicle by loading up the rack with heavy stuff – including people weight. What are going to do is make it unsafe to drive by changing the center of gravity.

Many aftermarket roof racks raise the dynamic load limit (weight limit while driving) of the rack. This is a serious problem because a big issue is center of gravity, and center of gravity doesn’t care about your rack. If you put 240lbs on the top of a 4Runner you seriously increase the rollover risk because the vehicle already has a high center of gravity. So be careful here.

Aftermarket roof racks may have a guarantee. I looked at the Gobi guarantee. It covers defective work and materials on the rack. It doesn’t cover damage to the vehicle for any reason. If you roll your vehicle because you followed their dynamic load limit of 300lbs, then too bad.

Smittybilt says it’s tents work with most factory rails but to check with the manufacturer. Toyota will only give us the dynamic load limit of 120lbs for the 4Runner. It won’t say anything about the static load (parking) weight. One guy e-mailed Toyota about the static load weight. Here’s the response:

“We apologize as we do not recommend or assist with modifying our vehicles from the original factory specifications. The maximum roof capacity listed is 120 Lbs.” – Source.

The 4Runner Sport factory rails worked for this guy. Apparently, the factory rails are a c-channel design which are very tough. It’s the crossbars (mounted to the factory rails) that are the weak link.

So tired of guys saying you cannot mount on factory rails–like they are engineers. I just had my Tepui on 4Runner rails(not cross bars) and went 16K thru 20 states with no problem. Offroad, on sand, up hill etc. – Source.

On the same page Doubleroses mentions a little disaster that hit him:

Looks good man! I rock my Tepui Grand Sabana on my stock roof rack for my 100 Series as well.

Unfortunately I made the huge mistake and did this with my 80 Series roof rack this weekend. After 3 days and almost 200 miles off road in Moab I noticed that I completely destroyed the factory roof rack. Luckly I made it home with no series issues.

It’s fine on the 100 Series factory roof rack. My tent weights somewhere around 200 lbs and I didn’t have a single issue with it on the 100.

So what happened with his 80 Series rack? I’m thinking he scratched up the factory rails a lot. Probably came loose a little bit. You may want to check out that entire page.

Before you go out and buy a new roof rack, consider mounting your rooftop tent to the factory rails. Another option would be to buy some new crossbars instead. I wrote an article about factory crossbars here if you feel like doing a little testing on a couple of 2x4s.

Remember, watch your weight. Don’t get too far away from 120lbs regardless of your rack.

Another issue is putting the tent on and taking it off the rack. You can make this process a lot easier with a ramp system:

How To: Remove CVT roof top tent off 4Runner by yourself

Below is some reference information.

Where can I find the maximum roof rack weight limit for cargo?

On page 174 of the 2019 Toyota 4Runner manual: “Do not exceed 120 lb. (54 kg) cargo weight on the roof luggage carrier.” This weight applies when the vehicle is in motion and would apply to only the tent weight. So you need to know the tent weight including the stuff you’ve left in it plus a couple of pounds buffer for unknowns.

What about other years?

  • 4Runner Manual for 2020 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 190)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2019 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 174)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2018 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 174)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2017 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 174)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2016 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 172)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2015 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 172)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2010 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 271)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2005 – Limit: 120lbs (Page 278)
  • 4Runner Manual for 2000 – Didn’t say.  (Manual PDF)

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.

Toyota-ModelYearLoadManualNotes
Tacoma2019440lbsManualPer deck rail
4Runner2019120lbsManual
RAV42019176lbsManual
Sienna2019150lbsManual
Tundra20191300lbsManualVaries.
Highlander2019165lbsManual
FJ Cruiser2014165lbsManualLetter
Land Cruiser2019154lbsManual

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