If you’re planning or currently building your own DIY camper van, you’ve probably considered incorporating a van roof deck into your build. Van roof decks are a versatile space that allows you to transform your campervan’s roof into a functional, elevated oasis.
But with so many options out there and all of the things to consider, where do you start? I’ve compiled a list of reputable companies offering van roof deck options, what to prioritize when considering your van roof deck, and some pros and cons of having a van roof deck.
Read on to learn how you can elevate your van life living experience!
Why Add a Van Roof Deck to Your Camper Van?
A van roof deck expands the usable space of your campervan, providing numerous advantages.
The most popular reason people add a deck to their campervan roof is to provide an extended outdoor living space to enjoy the panoramic views surrounding them. Wildlife viewing, sunsets, and stargazing are just a short ladder climb away. You’d be amazed how much further you can see being nine feet taller!
A camper van roof deck is also a great way to increase storage capacity. Some roof decks are designed with anchor points to tie down surfboards, paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes. Storage boxes can be added to your roof deck to hold camping gear or other items.
Functional items like solar panels, satellite internet components, or cellular boosters can be mounted on a van roof deck, making the space multi-functional, as all things in van life should be!
And finally, everyone loves to gather on a van roof deck to socialize in small groups. You may even see multiple camper vans parked in a circle, with people hopping from one van to another, sharing food and planning their next group destination. (I don’t recommend the hopping, but I’ve seen people do it!)
Van Roof Decks on the Market
With the growing popularity of camper van roof decks, several companies have latched on to the interest and now specialize in crafting high-quality, easy-to-install options for your DIY campervan. Some of the most popular options are outlined below.
Benefits: Heavy-duty construction, customizable accessories, ideal for off-road adventures.
Aluminess produces robust aluminum roof racks with the option to add decking material for the ultimate van roof deck, railings, and ladder attachments. Their racks are known for their ruggedness and longevity.
Designed for the intrepid explorer, this rack is built to withstand off-road challenges and take you to uncharted territories. Equipped with integrated lighting solutions, including driving and load lights, you can confidently navigate any terrain, even in the darkest of nights.
The load lights feature a proprietary, patent-pending design, ensuring they remain intact despite encounters with branches and other obstacles. The Explorer Roof Rack boasts internal wire routing and a sleek, curved windshield-following design, presenting a clean, streamlined aesthetic.
The Touring Roof Rack by
It features raised rails for added security for you or your gear. Designed to fit your vent and roof layout, the Touring Roof Rack offers a seamless installation process and impeccable functionality.
Custom-built to accommodate a wide range of vent openings, the Weekender Roof Rack fits seamlessly with various vent and roof layouts. Its low-profile railing adds a touch of style to your vehicle while maintaining a reasonable overall height.
Double loop railing encircles the entire rack to ensure secure storage, granting you peace of mind throughout your adventure.
The Cruiser[coming soon]:
This simple roof rack is designed for adventurers seeking a functional and versatile solution without all the bells and whistles of
Orion Van Gear Roof Deck: best modular option for Sprinter Vans
Benefits: Modular panel system, lightweight, low profile
Compatible Vans: Mercedes Sprinter
Recently, Orion Van Gear introduced a modular van roof deck panel system. Their innovative design allows for easy DIY installation on the Orion Sprinter Stealth+ Roof Rack. The panels feature a sleek, low-profile appearance that matches your vehicle’s aesthetics.
Crafted from premium-grade aluminum, the roof deck panels offer exceptional durability without compromising weight. This lightweight construction ensures optimal fuel efficiency while providing a robust and stable surface for various activities.
Van Cafe Rooftop Deck: best DIY & customizable option
Benefits: Modular, DIY or pre-configured options, low profile
Compatible Vans: Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Ram Promaster, Ford Transit
Built for versatility and customization, the Van Cafe Rooftop Deck offers a modular system that allows you to configure your van’s roof deck according to your unique needs and preferences. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast looking to build your ideal setup or prefer the convenience of our pre-designed Summit or Approach kits, Van Cafe has you covered.
Made with extruded aluminum, this rooftop deck epitomizes durability, lightweight construction, and weather resistance. It remains corrosion-resistant and retains its strength even when exposed to the sun, ensuring long-lasting performance.
The Van Cafe Rooftop Deck is specifically designed to fit Sprinters, ProMasters, and Transits flawlessly. With its exceptional load-bearing capacity and sturdy construction, you can confidently rack up and safely stow all your gear.
The Summit Pre-Configured Roof Deck:
With the most deck space available, the Summit Rooftop Deck package offers ample room to secure your gear or create an expansive rooftop hangout area. Designed for adventurers needing rooftop storage for larger items or maximum walkable space for roof elements like vents and solar panels, the Summit Rooftop Deck is a game-changer.
This van roof deck package is compatible with Fiamma Awnings, Road Shower, Van Cafe RTD Ladder, and more, providing endless customization options. The t-slot design allows for a fully modular and customizable layout based on your adventuring needs.
The Approach Pre-Configured Rooftop Deck:
Designed for minimalist adventurers, the Approach Rooftop Deck offers a compact yet functional solution. It provides a space for your essential gear, a walkable surface to maintain roof elements like vents and solar panels, and a comfortable spot to soak in the breathtaking views.
Flatline Safari Roof Deck: easiest DIY installation on the market
Benefits: Easy DIY installation, compatible with various add-ons like awnings and lighting.
Compatible Vans: Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit
Flatline’s Safari Roof Deck is the most DIY-friendly and forklift-free installation roof rack on the market. Designed with convenience and simplicity in mind, this rack allows single-person installation using basic hand tools—no need for specialized equipment or additional assistance.
The removable aluminum decking panels are strategically placed, eliminating the need for cutting out fan locations. This innovative feature ensures hassle-free installation and provides a seamless platform for your ventilation and air conditioning units.
With this decking system, you can easily mount solar panels, MaxTrax, and storage boxes, allowing you to personalize your rack to fit your specific needs. The optional front drop-down section expands your deck space and simplifies lighting installation, enhancing visibility and versatility.
Designed for a streamlined wiring process, the Safari Rack includes an integrated wire chase channel around the perimeter of the rack. This feature simplifies the addition of lighting accessories, ensuring a straightforward installation.
The Safari Rack comes standard with wall-mount awning attachment brackets and is compatible with most roof top tents.
Van Roof Deck Brackets for the DIYer
If you’re considering building your own roof deck and are not needing an entire roof rack system, there are some great options on the market for brackets you can use to mount cross members for a roof rack.
Unaka Gear has a universal bracket that bolts into any campervan roof.
If you have a Promaster, Orion Gear has an excellent bracket solution to safely attach your DIY rooftop deck.
Note that most brackets require you to drill holes in your roof for the mounting bolts. Be sure to check the instructions for recommendations on sealing the holes property to ensure you don’t have any leaks in your van!
10 Considerations for Selecting or Building a Van Roof Deck:
If you have the time, tools, and capability to build a van roof deck yourself, it could save you a significant amount of money, not to mention the sense of accomplishment of completing a project like that yourself.
Regardless if you’re building a van roof deck or choosing a modular option, there are various things you should consider before deciding on your style of van roof deck.
- Plan the Layout: Envision how you want to use your roof deck. Are you incorporating walkable solar panels to increase usable space on your roof deck, or will you need to consider mounting options for rigid, non-walkable panels?
- Consider Weight and Stability: Ensure weight is evenly balanced to maintain stability and prevent potential issues when driving. Ensure the roof deck’s weight capacity aligns with your intended use and the weight limits of your van.
- Research Building Materials: Lightweight and durable options like aluminum, composite materials, or marine-grade plywood are popular for DIY and modular campervan roof decks.
- Size and Configuration: Assess the available roof space and select a deck that optimizes functionality without hindering driving or maneuverability.
- Mounting Options: Consider the ease of installation and whether the deck integrates well with your van’s existing roof attachments or requires additional modifications.
- Purpose: Determine the primary activities you plan to engage in on the roof deck, such as lounging, cooking, or hosting, to select a suitable design.
- Compatibility with Accessories: If you plan to install solar panels, roof vents, awnings, or other accessories, ensure they can be seamlessly integrated with the roof deck.
- Integrate Lighting: Install lights to create ambiance and ensure visibility during evenings or nighttime. Lighting can also enhance safety and security on your roof deck.
- Incorporate Power Sources: If you plan to charge devices on your roof deck, include weather-proof AC and USB outlets on your roof deck. This especially benefits digital nomads who use their rooftop deck as an office space.
- Regular Maintenance: Regularly inspect the structure, ensure all connections are secure, and promptly address any signs of wear or damage to keep your roof deck in optimal condition. If your roof deck is made with wood decking material, wood can shrink and twist, requiring you to regularly check that the frame and panels are bolted down tightly.
Top 5 Pros and Cons of Van Roof Decks:
Depending on how you choose to use and install your van rooftop deck, there are pros and cons to this highly-sought-out van addition.
- Expanded living space and versatility.
- Improved views and connection with nature.
- Easy access for cleaning off debris or snow
- Increased storage capacity.
- Customizable configurations and accessory integration.
- Additional weight and potential impact on fuel efficiency.
- Installation and cost considerations.
- Increases the overall height of the vehicle.
- Additional maintenance of an exterior upgrade.
- Possible challenges when insuring your campervan.
Which Van Roof Deck is Right for You?
Van roof decks provide campervan enthusiasts an exciting opportunity to elevate their mobile living experience. From panoramic views to expanded storage, the benefits of a roof deck are numerous.
If you’re ready to take your campervan adventures to new heights, a roof deck might be the perfect addition for you. Let me know in the comments what one you’re considering or if you have any additional tips and tricks to share!