How Fast Can You Drive With A Roof Top Tent?

As you can think of, placing a massive and large obstruction on the roofline of the car has a number of side consequences. One of them is additional tension in the wind and “squirrelly” feeling as you get to greater speeds. For many car owners it raises the issue of “how fast can I safely drive with the roof top tent mounted”?

You’ll notice an some additional drag from the top of the tent on the roof, however, you are able to move at a normal speed when it’s mounted. When you install a roof top tent, it will not affect the speed you travel, but the distance you can go on one tank of gas.

Although we’ve determined that it’s safe to travel the way you normally do from one location to another but your roof-top tent (RTT) can be a significant negative impact on the efficiency of your fuel. Let’s discuss some of the factors that contribute to that and what we can do to mitigate the effect, and what may experience when driving using your RTT.

Which Roof Top Tent Is Best For The Most Optimal Driving?

If you are concerned about how their vehicle might react to having an open-top tent mounted onto it, then a hardshell tent is the best choice.

I’ll provide a few examples of particular, but in general, it’s fair to conclude that the new kinds of RTTs are more slim and important, they are made to make aerodynamic, too. Less drag that they generate they will be smoother and more quiet driving they can be used for.

The problem with softshell RTTs is they tend to be taller than hardshells. This is due to the fact that softshell tents fold up, and can nearly double in size when they are closed.

A slim and sleek roof top tent made of hardshell is known as the Roofnest Falcon. It is constructed entirely of aluminum and measures sleek at 7” thick when shut. It’s even better that this tent is made of high-quality materials and features the attributes to make it among the most impressive in its category.

Its FSR Odyssey shares a 7 inches thick low profile design similar to the Falcons. It’s also a fantastic RTT option that is equipped with a rack for mounting to carry additional equipment.

Another RTT that can provide an excellent drive is one of the James Baroud lineup. As a world-class and global tent maker, they naturally create a fantastic product. However, more important to us is the fact that they have designed the RTT’s outer shell in order to make it as efficient as they can.

There are softshells that are extremely large in thickness. For instance the Low-Pro series by Tepui is 7 inches thin at its thinnest point, and is 10 inches high when it is most thick. Typically softshell RTTs can be found at 13-14 inches high.

How Can Mounting Location Increase The Efficiency of The Driving Experience

One topic that is in line with the speed at which you can drive is what you place your RTT.

“How” you mount your RTT is a reference to type of rack it’s mounted to. Some crossbars sit above others creating greater drag. Roof racks that are permanent can provide lower profile designs that can boost your car’s performance and fuel efficiency.

“Where” you mount your RTT is determined by the location of it. If you own a truck, putting it on the bed will be more conducive to driving when compared to the canopy or roof!

Another aspect to give consideration to is trying to focus the RTT the best way you can. This will ensure that your vehicle’s weight distribution as close to its original design.

For further ideas on mounting your RTT take a look at our article, which is filled with useful images. It also discusses the the best ways to mount an RTT as well as other safety measures. If you’re interested in what roof racks and crossbars are ideal for RTT then visit below to read the article I wrote on it!

Type of Vehicle and Efficiency of Fuel

The car you are driving likely play the largest role in the efficiency of your fuel and the way it runs using an RTT in it.

For instance, if you drive a compact car or hatchback that is lightweight and designed to save fuel however, it’s not designed to carry the additional weight. So, it will experience a greater reduction in efficiency than a truck or an SUV will.

No matter what vehicle you drive that you drive, any vehicle with an RTT can reduce the efficiency of your fuel. If you’ve got an RTT set up all year long and is your primary driver, I’d strongly suggest reading my article on how to avoid fuel loss by using an RTT. It offers easy and useful suggestions for optimizing your car’s fuel efficiency.

The kind of car that you own will limit the choices of RTTs can be used to suit it. If you have a car that is smaller it is crucial that you don’t overburden it!


A lot of overlanders as well as RTT owners prefer using an RV to put their tent on. I believe this is an ideal option since you can carry more equipment, set up the basecamp, and quickly disconnect the trailer, while keeping the RTT in it.

But I’d have reservations about driving at high speeds while driving with a trailer. This doesn’t have anything to relate to the RTT however, it is more about trailers generally.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of renting the trailer from U-Haul or a different moving truck business or perhaps you’ve hired a trailer for towing. If you’ve ever traveled more than 55 miles per hour, you’ll be able to see how this trailer “wiggles”. While the RTT might not cause a slowdown the speed of a trailer, it could.

Yet, they are extremely durable and practical. I wouldn’t let having to reach my destination earlier discourage me from buying this trailer.

Roundup of Driving Fast With A Roof Top Tent

My opinion is that speeding up your driving usually brings you to your destination just a couple of minutes faster. The majority of campers don’t think about it, but they want to ensure they’re safe on the next exciting adventure!

When I decided to add an RTT on the FJ Cruiser, I was initially nervous due to the weight increase and the car being heavy on top. To my surprise the car handled the weight quite well. Now I barely notice that it’s there when I commute to work or go to the supermarket.

If it’s very turbulent and your vehicle is higher than others of them, it could be wise to drive more cautiously. Apart from that I believe that putting an RTT on your car won’t change your driving habits this much!

According to my experience, they’re safe, enjoyable and well worth the money you make from them.

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Den Kyle

Den Kyle

I'm the founder of Dens Camp Guide. After many years of hiking and trekking worldwide, I decided to share my experiences by making my guide website! Former science teacher, Ohio State graduate, and now full-time adventurer!