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If you’re interested in camping in the great outdoors, you may be looking for a camper van or something similar. However, because these vans can be pretty expensive, it might be better to get something a bit more affordable, like a Toyota RAV4. This lightweight and compact SUV works well for most camping situations, making it a versatile choice for outdoorsy types everywhere.
But, how can you sleep in a RAV4? The answer is simple, with a rooftop tent. If you haven’t considered this option yet, let’s dive in and see the best rooftop tents for a RAV4 and why they can be so useful on your next adventure.
Table of Contents
What is a Rooftop Tent?
As the name suggests, a rooftop tent is a tent designed to mount to the roof of a car or SUV. While other car tents attach to the trunk, rooftop models come with a platform and legs so you can sleep comfortably and have extra room to spread out (and store your belongings).
Most rooftop tent models are designed for various vehicles, so not all of them are suitable for a Toyota RAV4. However, we’ve compiled a list of the top tents so you can make an informed decision before your next camping trip.
Can you Put a Rooftop Tent on a RAV4?
You can definitely put a rooftop tent on a RAV4, but you should think twice about using the OEM roof rack. According to Overland Vehicle Junction, the OEM rack is only rated up to 300 pounds.
So, if you want to mount a rooftop tent to your RAV4, you should probably upgrade your roof rack. There are a bunch of companies out there that make roof racks for a RAV4 SUV.
Here are a couple to check out:
Why Use a Toyota RAV4 for Camping?
If you don’t already own a RAV4 SUV, you may wonder if it’s the right vehicle for your needs. After all, if you need to buy something anyway, why not go with a standard class B RV or camper van? There are a few reasons why traversing in a Toyota RAV4 makes sense, including:
- Cost-Effectiveness – You can convert an older RAV4 model for a lot less than it would take to buy a new rig. Also, SUV conversions are easy enough to do yourself if you’re handy with tools and know your way around a vehicle chassis.
- Minimalist Lifestyle – If you like the idea of roughing it as much as possible while exploring the great outdoors, converting a RAV4 makes sense. Because this vehicle is relatively small, it’s only ideal for one or two campers. So, if you’re trying to shed all modern amenities, camping in a RAV4 makes sense.
- Versatility – Once you choose the best rooftop tent for RAV4, you should be ready to go virtually anywhere at any time. Because this SUV is light and nimble, you can access various campgrounds and overnight spots that you wouldn’t be able to with a traditional RV.
- Easier to Handle – Driving a class C or class A rig requires a lot of patience and practice. However, a RAV4 is much easier to handle and requires less upkeep and maintenance. Plus, backing up or making a tight turn is possible with a RAV4, but not so much with taller, longer, and wider rigs.
Top Rooftop Tent Models for a RAV4
Finding the best rooftop tent has never been easier! We’ve compiled a list of our top models, and they work for solo travelers, couples, and even small families. No matter what kind of adventure you’re seeking, these roof top tents offer excellent amenities and comfort.
OVS stands for Overland Vehicle Systems, and the company offers many products to make your next camping trip more enjoyable. The Nomadic 3 rooftop tent for a RAV4 is one of the top tents we’ve seen, and it’s large enough to fit you and your gear comfortably. Let’s break down why this tent works so well.
When camping in any kind of tent, rooftop or otherwise, you need to make sure it can withstand the weather. Fortunately, the Nomadic 3 works well for all seasons, whether you’re camping in blistering sun or frigid winter. The durability and weatherproofing also mean that you can expect to use this tent for many years to come.
Sleeps Three People
Even if you’re not traveling with three people, it helps to have extra room for your gear. This way, you don’t have to store as much inside your vehicle and you can have everything on-hand.
If you are traveling with two other people, having enough space for everyone to lay down comfortably is essential. Otherwise, your trip could get pretty unenjoyable.
- Durable construction
- Sleeps three people
- Annex available for extra room
- Handles all weather conditions
- Fits most vehicles, including the RAV4
- Affordable compared to other rooftop tent models
- Annex is only sold separately
As a Lite rooftop tent, this model is a bit more portable and easy to mount to the top of your RAV4. However, while it does technically sleep two, you may feel a bit cramped, especially with all of your stuff inside too.
Three-Inch Memory Foam Mattress
Sleeping in a rooftop tent is a unique experience, especially if you’re not used to sleeping on a flat metal surface. Roam makes the Vagabond Lite more enjoyable by providing a three-inch mattress inside. This piece conforms to your body and helps you wake up feeling refreshed, not tired and sore.
Reinforced Diamond-Plated Foundation
Since you need to mount a rooftop tent to your roof rack, you must have something flat upon which to sleep. The Vagabond uses reinforced metal to ensure you don’t have to worry about the tent moving or shifting throughout the night. Also, this foundation is solid enough to work for many years to come.
- All-weather design
- Easy to set up and tear down
- Reinforced foundation for better durability
- Extra-thick mattress for added comfort while sleeping
- Built-in see-through skylight
- Fully waterproof materials
- Can be pretty small when folded down for travel
- More expensive than other rooftop tents of this caliber
Although Roofnest is a relatively new addition to the overlanding industry, it’s already making waves. Case in point is the Condor rooftop tent, which offers some incredible features and benefits. While the price tag is pretty high, you can look at it as an investment for many future adventures with fun in the sun.
Typically, getting in and out of a rooftop tent means exposing yourself to the elements immediately as you descend the ladder. However, the Condor offers awnings so you get a bit more privacy, both from prying eyes and the weather. While this option isn’t as nice as the annex from OVS, it’s still pretty nice to have.
Built-In LED Light
Typically, you’ll bring a flashlight or lantern on your overlanding trip, but there’s no need with the Condor. While this tent is full of unique features, one of the best is also one of the simplest. By mounting an LED light in the center of the tent, you can move around at night without fumbling with a button or switch.
- High-quality materials
- Weatherproof design
- Awnings to protect from the rain and snow
- Fast and efficient setup
- Extra comfortable interior
- Hanging storage pockets for gear
- More expensive than other rooftop tent models
- May feel cramped with three people inside
Here we have another high-end rooftop tent with the FSR High Country that offers lots of amenities and features while still being rugged enough for the great outdoors. However, this rig is pretty large, so if it doesn’t fit on your RAV4, you may have to upgrade your vehicle to something bigger, like a Jeep or full-size SUV.
Tri-Layer Weatherproof Material
While all of the rooftop tents we’ve seen are built to withstand the elements, the High Country has one of the best tent walls around. Made with tri-layer material, it insulates the interior and protects you from wind, rain, and snow outside. Even better, during the hot summer, you can still get airflow inside the tent, making it accommodating all year long.
Many rooftop tents are fast and easy to set up, but this one doesn’t use spring poles to set up the frame. Instead, you’re practically ready to go as soon as you unbuckle the tent from the roof rack compartment. The piece that takes the longest to set up is the awning, and even that takes only a few minutes.
- Rugged and dependable
- Faster setup than other rooftop tent models
- Spacious interior
- Front awning for sun and rain protection
- Tri-layer technology for better climate control
- Power cord opening
- More expensive than other models
- Takes up a lot of room on your vehicle’s roof rack
Our final rooftop tent for a RAV4 is the Falcon Pro by Roofnest. This model is a bit smaller than the Condor, but that’s more of a benefit than a downside. If you’re trying to pack relatively light and nimble, the Falcon works well.
One way the Falcon outperforms other rooftop tents is that it opens up and you’re pretty much done. The cover of the container doubles as the roof, so you only need to fix the front in place and you’re ready to bed for the night.
Withstanding the elements has never been easier, thanks to the hard roof of the Falcon. Now, you don’t have to worry as much about rain, snow, and hail damaging your tent and ruining your sleep. Overall, you’ll feel like you’re in the right place, no matter where you are.
- Fast setup
- Hardbody rooftop provided
- 2.5-inch memory foam mattress
- Built-in LED lights
- Tons of storage pockets for gear
- Slim profile
- Pretty expensive for a rooftop tent
- Feels cramped with two people and all necessary equipment
How to Choose a Rooftop Tent for a Toyota RAV4
We’ve seen a lot of high-quality rooftop tents for RAV4s, so it might seem a bit overwhelming to pick one for your next adventure. Fortunately, comparing these products is a bit easier than you might think. Just pay attention to these factors and you’ll be ready to hit the trail in no time.
First and foremost, how many people will be sleeping in your rooftop tent? If it’s just you, you have quite a bit of flexibility. However, while having extra space for all your gear and accessories is nice, you may not want to pay extra if you don’t need it.
If you’re looking for a larger tent that can hold two or three people, keep in mind that it will be bulkier and take up more room. Also, it may take longer to setup and tear down, as well as install on your vehicle.
Another point to consider about the size of your rooftop tent is whether you can move around much inside. If the tent is too short, you may struggle a bit to do anything like changing clothes.
Ease of Setup
If you’ve been on the road all day, the last thing you want to do is spend hours setting up your rooftop tent. Some models are easier to install and put up than others, meaning you can save a lot of time and hassle once you arrive at your campsite. For example, if you get to your spot at night, you want something that won’t have you fumbling with a flashlight and complicated gear.
One way to alleviate this issue is to practice setting up and tearing down your tent before heading out. This way, you can spot any potential snags and figure out how to overcome them quickly and easily.
Since you’ll be sleeping in your rooftop tent, you want something extra comfortable and accommodating. There are several features to pay attention to, such as:
- Mattress – Does the tent come with its own mattress, and if so, what’s the material? Some models have memory foam, meaning you get extra cushioning for a better night’s sleep.
- Height and Width – Since you’ll be laying down inside the tent, you need to make sure it’s long enough to accommodate your body. Also, it should be tall enough for you to move around without being stooped too low. A rooftop tent isn’t very comfortable if you have to crawl around to do anything inside.
- Insulation – How warm does the tent stay at night? Or conversely, how cool can it get when you’re camping during the summer? Insulated tents are necessary for colder nights, but you should also be able to get some airflow if it gets too stuffy inside.
As you’ll notice when comparing the best rooftop tents, they can get pretty expensive. On the low end, the price tag may be around $1,200 to $1,500. If you want a high-end rooftop tent, you could wind up spending over $4,000. Overall, these products are designed for hardcore campers who want to explore different trails and campsites regularly.
That said, you also want to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money. Just because a tent costs tons of money doesn’t mean it’s better than something cheaper. Some companies offer high-quality units at an affordable price, so do some research before making your purchase.