DIY Roof Tent: How to Build Your Own Rooftop Shelter

If you’re an adventurous soul who loves camping, then you’ve probably heard of rooftop tents. These tents are mounted on the roof of your car or SUV, providing a comfortable and convenient sleeping space for your outdoor adventures. However, buying a rooftop tent can be expensive, which is why many people opt to make their own DIY rooftop tent.

Making your own rooftop tent is not only cost-effective, but it also allows you to customize the tent to your liking. You can choose the materials, design, and size that best suits your needs. Plus, building your own tent can be a fun and rewarding DIY project that you can be proud of. With the right tools and materials, anyone can make their own rooftop tent.

Understanding the Basics

If you’re looking to build your own roof top tent, it’s important to start with the basics. Here are some key things to keep in mind:


The materials you use to build your roof top tent will depend on your budget and the level of comfort you’re looking for. Some popular options include:

  • Plywood: This is a cost-effective option that can be easily cut and shaped to fit your roof.
  • Aluminum: This is a lightweight and durable option that can withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • Canvas: This is a popular choice for the tent material itself, as it is breathable and provides good insulation.


When designing your roof top tent, there are a few key things to consider:

  • Size: Make sure your tent is large enough to comfortably fit you and anyone else who will be using it.
  • Shape: Consider the shape of your tent based on the materials you’re using and your desired level of comfort.
  • Ventilation: Make sure your tent has adequate ventilation to prevent condensation and ensure a comfortable sleeping environment.


Once you’ve built your roof top tent, it’s important to install it properly. Here are some key tips:

  • Use a sturdy roof rack: Make sure your roof rack can support the weight of your tent and anyone who will be using it.
  • Secure your tent: Use straps or bolts to secure your tent to your roof rack.
  • Test your setup: Before hitting the road, make sure to test your setup to ensure everything is secure and functioning properly.

Overall, building your own roof top tent can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. With the right materials, design, and installation, you can create a comfortable and functional sleeping space for your next outdoor adventure.

Planning Your DIY Roof Tent

When it comes to building your own roof tent, planning is key. Here are some important factors to consider before you start your DIY project.

Budgeting and Cost

One of the first things you’ll need to consider is your budget. Building your own roof tent can be a budget-friendly option, but costs can quickly add up if you’re not careful. Make a list of all the materials you’ll need and research prices at your local home depot or online. Don’t forget to factor in any tools you may need to purchase or rent.

Choosing the Right Materials

Choosing the right materials is crucial to the success of your DIY roof tent project. You’ll want to select materials that are durable, weather-resistant, and lightweight. Some popular options include PVC pipes, aluminum bars, and canvas or nylon fabric. Consider the weight of your materials, as well as their ability to withstand wind, rain, and other weather conditions.

Dimensions and Design

The dimensions and design of your roof tent will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your vehicle, the number of people who will be sleeping in the tent, and your personal preferences. Make sure to measure your vehicle carefully and consider the weight capacity of your roof rack. You may also want to think about adding features such as windows, ventilation, or a built-in ladder.

By carefully planning your DIY roof tent project, you can create a custom sleeping space that is both functional and affordable. Whether you’re looking to save money or just enjoy the satisfaction of building something yourself, a DIY roof tent can be a great option for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget.

Materials and Tools Needed

Essential Tools

Before starting on your DIY rooftop tent project, you’ll need to have some essential tools on hand. These include:

  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Screwdriver set
  • Power drill
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife

Materials Breakdown

When it comes to materials, you’ll need to gather the following items:

  • Plywood sheets for the frame
  • Fabric for the tent walls
  • Hinges for the roof and ladder
  • Bolts and screws for assembly
  • Foam mattress or bed cushion for comfort
  • Aluminum or steel square tubing for the frame
  • Woodworking tools for cutting and shaping the wood
  • Conduit for electrical wiring (if you want to add lighting)
  • Metal brackets for reinforcing the frame
  • Racks for storing gear

It’s important to choose high-quality materials that will withstand the elements and provide a comfortable sleeping space. Make sure to measure your vehicle’s roof and plan out your design before purchasing materials to ensure a proper fit. With the right tools and materials, you’ll be able to create a sturdy and comfortable rooftop tent that will make your outdoor adventures even more enjoyable.

Building the Frame

Preparation and Measurements

Before building the frame, it is essential to take accurate measurements to ensure that the roof tent fits perfectly on your vehicle. You will need to measure the length, width, and height of your vehicle’s roof. Once you have these measurements, you can start preparing the materials needed to build the frame.

The frame can be made of wood, aluminum, or conduit. Wood is the most commonly used material and is easy to work with. You will need plywood sheets to create the base of the frame and A-frame supports to provide stability.

Assembling the Frame

To assemble the frame, start by cutting the plywood sheets to the required size and shape. Then, attach the A-frame supports to the plywood sheets using bolts and screws. Make sure that the frame is sturdy and can support the weight of the tent.

Next, drill holes in the frame to attach the roof rack. The roof rack will hold the tent in place and prevent it from sliding off the roof. You can use aluminum or conduit to create the roof rack.

Once the frame is complete, you can attach the tent to the roof rack using bolts and screws. Make sure that the tent is securely attached to the frame and roof rack to prevent it from coming loose while driving.

In conclusion, building a roof tent frame requires careful preparation and accurate measurements. Wood is the most commonly used material for the frame, and plywood sheets and A-frame supports provide stability. The frame should be sturdy enough to support the weight of the tent and securely attached to the roof rack.

Creating the Tent

Choosing the Fabric

When creating your own rooftop tent, one of the most important things to consider is the fabric you’ll use. You want a fabric that is durable, waterproof, and lightweight. Some popular options include canvas, nylon, or polyester. Canvas is a great choice if you want a more traditional look and feel, while nylon and polyester are lighter and more weather-resistant.

When choosing your fabric, make sure to take into account the size of your tent. You want to make sure you have enough fabric to cover the entire tent, including the sides and bottom. You’ll also want to consider the weight of the fabric, as heavier fabrics can be more difficult to work with.


Once you’ve chosen your fabric, it’s time to start sewing. If you’re not comfortable with a sewing machine, you can always sew by hand. Make sure to use a heavy-duty thread and sew with a tight stitch to ensure the tent is strong and durable.

When sewing your tent, it’s important to pay attention to the details. Make sure to sew all seams twice to ensure they are strong and secure. You’ll also want to add reinforcement patches to high-stress areas, such as corners and seams.


After you’ve finished sewing your tent, it’s time to assemble it. Start by laying out your tarp or rain fly, and then lay your tent fabric on top. Make sure to align the edges of the two pieces of fabric.

Next, sew the two pieces of fabric together along the edges. You can use a sewing machine or sew by hand. Make sure to sew with a tight stitch to ensure the tent is strong and durable.

Finally, add any necessary waterproofing to your tent. You can use a waterproofing spray or add a waterproof coating to the fabric. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure the waterproofing is effective.

Creating your own rooftop tent can be a fun and rewarding project. With the right fabric, sewing techniques, and assembly, you can create a durable and comfortable tent that will last for years to come.

Adding Comfort Features

Bed and Mattress

One of the most important features to consider when adding comfort to your roof tent is the bed and mattress. A good mattress can make all the difference in getting a good night’s sleep. When choosing a mattress, consider the size and style of your roof tent. A foam pad or mattress topper can also be added for extra cushioning and comfort.

Windows and Ventilation

Good ventilation is key to staying comfortable in a roof tent. Windows and vents can help keep the air flowing and prevent condensation from building up. Consider adding a nest thermostat or heating/cooling system to regulate the temperature inside your tent.

When it comes to windows, consider adding curtains or shades for privacy and to block out light. You can also add mosquito nets to keep bugs out while still allowing fresh air to flow through.

Overall, adding comfort features to your roof tent can make all the difference in enjoying your camping experience. Consider your personal needs and preferences when choosing which features to add.

Finalizing Your DIY Roof Tent

Attaching to Roof Rack

Once you have completed building your DIY roof tent, it’s time to attach it to your roof rack. Make sure that your roof rack is sturdy enough to hold the weight of your tent and that it is securely attached to your vehicle’s roof. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure that you install the roof rack correctly.

Next, position your roof tent on the roof rack and secure it in place using the mounting hardware provided with your tent. Double-check that all bolts and screws are tightened properly to prevent any accidents while on the road.


Before you hit the road, it’s essential to test your DIY roof tent to ensure that it is safe and secure. Start by climbing up the ladder and checking that the tent is level. Adjust the ladder and tent as necessary to achieve a level position.

Once you’re inside the tent, test the zippers and windows to ensure that they work correctly. Check that the tent is waterproof and that there are no leaks.


If you encounter any issues during testing, make the necessary adjustments to your DIY roof tent. If the tent is not level, adjust the ladder or the position of the tent on the roof rack. If there are leaks, apply sealant or make repairs as needed.

It’s also a good idea to make any necessary adjustments to your vehicle’s roof rack, ladder, or roof to ensure that everything is secure and safe.

By following these steps, you can finalize your DIY roof tent and hit the road with confidence. Remember to always prioritize safety and make adjustments as needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience.

Travel and Camping with Your DIY Roof Tent

Packing and Travel Tips

When traveling with your DIY roof tent, it’s important to pack smartly and efficiently. Make sure to pack only the essentials and avoid overpacking, as this can add unnecessary weight to your vehicle. Consider investing in lightweight camping gear to save on weight and space.

If you’re planning a road trip, make sure to have a roadside assistance plan in place in case of any unexpected breakdowns or issues. It’s also a good idea to have a basic tool kit on hand in case of any minor repairs.

When packing your roof tent, make sure to secure it properly to your vehicle’s roof rack. Double check all straps and fasteners to ensure that your tent is securely attached and won’t come loose during transit.

Setting Up at Campsites

Setting up your DIY roof tent at a campsite is a breeze. Simply park your vehicle in a level spot and remove the tent from its storage bag. Unfold the tent and secure it to your vehicle’s roof rack using the included straps and fasteners.

Once your tent is set up, it’s time to make yourself at home. Many roof tents come with built-in mattresses or sleeping pads, so you can rest comfortably after a long day of adventure.

If you’re camping in a particularly windy or rainy area, consider using guy lines and stakes to secure your tent even further. This will help prevent any damage from strong winds or heavy rain.

Overall, a DIY roof tent is a great option for anyone looking to add some adventure to their travels. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can hit the road and explore the great outdoors in comfort and style.

Maintaining Your DIY Roof Tent

Cleaning and Storage

Keeping your DIY roof tent clean and properly stored is essential to ensure its longevity. Here are some tips to help you maintain your rooftop tent:

  • Clean your tent regularly with a mild soap and water solution to remove dirt and debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage the fabric or waterproof coating.
  • Allow your tent to dry completely before storing it to prevent mold and mildew growth. Hang it up or lay it flat in a cool, dry place.
  • Store your tent in a breathable storage bag or container to prevent moisture buildup. Avoid storing it in direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Repairs and Upgrades

Even the best DIY rooftop tents may require repairs or upgrades over time. Here are some tips to help you keep your tent in top shape:

  • Regularly inspect your tent for signs of wear and tear, such as holes, tears, or broken zippers. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage.
  • Consider upgrading your tent with additional features, such as a rainfly or bug netting, to enhance its functionality and comfort.
  • If you’re not comfortable making repairs yourself, consider taking your tent to a professional for RV repairs. They can help you fix any issues and ensure your tent is safe and secure for your next adventure.

By following these simple tips, you can maintain your DIY rooftop tent for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make DIY roof top tent hinges?

Making DIY roof top tent hinges requires some basic tools such as a drill, screws, bolts, and a saw. You can use aluminum or steel to make the hinges. You can find online tutorials or videos that can guide you through the process.

What are some ideas for DIY aluminium roof top tents?

Some ideas for DIY aluminum roof top tents include using PVC pipes to create a frame, using aluminum sheets for the tent portion, and using hinges to attach the tent to the frame. You can also add windows, doors, and ventilation to your tent.

How can I make a wedge roof top tent?

To make a wedge roof top tent, you will need to create a triangular frame using aluminum or steel. Then, attach a tent portion to the frame using hinges. You can also add windows, doors, and ventilation to your tent.

Where can I find roof top tents under $500?

You can find roof top tents under $500 on websites such as Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. You can also check out camping and outdoor stores for sales or discounts.

What kind of floor is typically used in a roof top tent?

Roof top tents typically use a durable and waterproof material for the floor such as PVC, vinyl, or canvas. Some tents also come with a built-in foam mattress for added comfort.

Do I need special roof racks for a roof top tent?

Yes, you will need special roof racks that can support the weight of the roof top tent and its occupants. You can find roof racks that are specifically designed for roof top tents or consult with a professional to ensure that your roof rack can handle the weight.