Rooftop Tents in Wind, Rain and Storm

Just listen to the racket of the rain against the rooftop tent in the video below. Even when the tent is just fine the noise makes it really hard to get any sleep. And that is before any thought of wind.

Listen to the rain inside the RTT – YouTube

One couple got caught up in high winds in a CVT hard shell tent (Mt. St. Helens – cost $2,500.) Interestingly, the problem wasn’t the tent. It was the general noise of the wind and the rocking of their vehicle that caused them to drive to another location.

The wind actually starts before you hit your campsite. People like to load up their vehicle with too much weight and that can be a problem while driving.  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 is going to have to slow down or potentially run into trouble. They were moving into danger territory.

If there is the potential for the wind to pick up then you will want to tie down the ends of your RTT to the bumper of your vehicle. Sometimes the wind can get so strong that the tent can close up.

Roof Top Tent Tie Down Ideas After Wind Folds Up Roof Top Tent – YouTube

Two things that may come in handy: Paracord/Parachute Cord camping stakes for tents. See the materials list here.

What about a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning? In the video he is testing two tents in very difficult conditions. The tents are tied down and seem to do well, but the noise is really a big problem.

One very popular tent is the Smittybilt Overlander. Here is a comment at about the rainfly after heavy rains:

My concerns about the rain buildup on the fly are real. We camped in two heavy rains, not a drop inside the tent, but the rainfly did hold a large amount of water over the door that needed to be dumped before exiting the tent. The second storm we went through we got smart and closed those two openings, the one over the ladder and the one directly opposite, before the rain hit. The awnings over the windows do not seem to have the same problem.

Even with the awnings closed down and in a heavy summer rain the tent was very well ventilated because of the ability to open the “moon roof” under the rainfly.

All and all a great tent for the price and we are still very happy with the purchase.

Here is a tip about the wind while in a rooftop tent: you can always move your vehicle (tent open, ladder up) to better position yourself for the wind.

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.

Are Rooftop Tents Safe From Lightning?

Your vehicle provides a Faraday cage effect which protects you while you are inside of it. If you are on top it, like in a rooftop tent, then you are not protected during a lightning storm. You have to get inside the car if lightning is near. You can get back in your rooftop tent 30 minutes after the lightning and thunder have passed.

Is it worth the upgrade to the hard shell rooftop tent?

If you plan to camp in fair weather without much wind and/or storms, then you probably don’t need a hard shell tent. If you want to go camping regardless of the weather, then the hard shell is going to be worth it. The added protection of the hard shell is going to protect you much better in wind and rain.


Pay attention to the weather forecast before you go camping. If bad weather is expected be prepared. Use tie downs. Ear plugs might come in handy due to all the racket from the wind, rain and possibly thunder. Be prepared to escape to your vehicle in case of lightning. Consider upgrading to a hard shell rooftop tent for better protection.