The following project attracted my mind for quite some time, mainly because I get bored quite easily and perhaps because I just hate spending time setting up a tent when the day ends and the beer awaits in my fridge.
What’s is it about?
The tent’s floor will be established with two wooden plates, interconnected in the middle with brackets, just like a handheld fan with rotating blades. One of the plates would be mounted on my defender’s roof cradle, the 2nd plate would open out and hang above the hood, with two stainless steel wires securing it.
Alternatively one may use aluminum plates of course. It’s lighter and more resilient but it does not insulate.
Building the rooftop tent is easy and fast. The completed project will weigh approximately 30Kg to 45Kg, final weight depends on material (explained later).
Similar off-the-shelf products will probably weigh about 100KG (!). That’s a lot when it comes to a tall and narrow 4×4 camper such as the LR Defender 110, Nissan Terrano or Suzuki Jimny.
How much would it cost me?
When it comes to cost – again, it depends on material and quality. Realistic average cost would be ~250USD. You can reduce costs by using simple tent cloth or cheap wood but it would impact directly the strength of the whole structure, its ability to accommodate the tent residents safely, securely and with comfort.
I used Birch wood which is hard and heavy, and mainly because it comes well treated to handle moisture and rain.
What it takes?
Two wooden plates, each 110cm x 140cm – I recommend a 10mm birch wood.
Nyloc nuts 8mm x 10 and washers
Stainless steel bolts, 8mm thread
Stainless steel wire, 6 meters
Wood nuts, 8mm thread (see image below)
Four Aluminum angle plates, I recommend minimum dimensions of 5mm X 10mm X 100mm
Six Aluminum hollow round tubes, to be used as the vertical fan rods, 120mm x 20mm/2mm (length x dia/thickness)
Three Aluminum hollow round tubes, to be used as the horizontal fan rods, 135mm x 15mm/2mm (length x dia/thickness)
Six Aluminum angled hollow round tubes to help connecting the vertical to the horizontal rods
Four stainless steel lifting eye bolt (to hold the securing wire)
Half a meter of elastic nylon tube (PVC, silicon or similar), 6-8mm diameter max
Simple Staple gun
Tent fabric – there are many types (PVC coated canvas, Polycotton canvas, Polyester, Nylon). Look up each and decide what fits best your budget. Consider weight, leaking issues and sewing machine capabilities.
Sewing machine, a simple vise, driller, angle grinder
How much time would it take?
Building the tent – maximum one single day
Sewing the tent – depends on skills, may take a few days, I recommend leaving this part for those who can sew…
The tent is made of two wooden plates, interconnected by four brackets. Six aluminum hollow round tubes are vertically stretching up from the brackets to form a folding fan structure. Three aluminum hollow round tubes with narrower diameter will be mounted horizontally and connect within the vertical tubes. This will convert the fan structure from 2D to 3D, helping to hold the tent fabric.
We start by flattening the vertical tubes at one end with a simple vise –
I recommend using a 140mm tubes. Shorter tubes will create a small space and taller will impact the tent’s resiliency to wind.
We make an 8mm hole at each end –
We proceed to prepare the brackets that will hold the vertical fan. The bigger the brackets are, the more resilient your tent is (windproof). When deciding on the bracket size, you also need to consider the items you wish to host within the tent in its folded position. The bigger the brackets are, the bigger the gap is between the two plates, and that means keeping your blanket, pillow, spare cloths and teddy bear ready inside your folded tent.
Simply hold the aluminum angles with a vise and use an angle grinder to form the shape as seen in the picture below. When you accomplish that bracket shape, you need to drill 8mm holes to connect the bracket to the wooden plate and to the vertical tubes forming the fan.
As can be seen in the picture, I drilled two holes at the bottom of each bracket – these holes will be used to mount the bracket to the plate (tent’s floor).
I also drilled two holes along the side of each bracket – these holes will connect to the vertical tubes forming the fan. Big tents will require more than three vertical tubes so make sure you engineer the bracket size properly according to the number of rods/tubes it needs to hold.
We drill now a 6mm hole in the middle of the vertical aluminum tubes. Through these holes we will pass the stainless steel wire which holds the folding floor (2nd plate). After drilling the holes, you can install a PVC tube or silicon tube, to protect the wire from scratching and breaking.
We now connect three vertical tubes to two brackets as seen in the picture below –
We mount the two wooden plates on a stable table –
We place the brackets and vertical tubes where they need to connect and mark the holes’ positions.
After drilling the holes, we place the special wood nuts and firmly mount the fan bracket to each plate.
the nuts in the picture require a 10mm hole, they can accommodate an 8mm bolt.
Now we need to install the narrow tubes within the wider tubes to form the 3D fan structure. We pass the stainless steel wire through the vertical tubes and secure it to the plates using the eye shackles.
As mentioned earlier, one of the plates can be mounted permanently to the vehicle’s roof cradle. In such case, you simply pass the wire through the plate holes instead of using the shackles.
(The picture above shows a prototype version, please ignore the black connectors)
Now comes the not so fun part – sewing.
You have two options:
You can do this –
Or you can let someone more skilled to do it for you –
When it comes to mounting the tent on your roof cradle, there are so many options.
Here is an idea I designed for my roof cradle –