Fascinating Ideas, Tried and True

SUV Roof Tent

SUV Tent
Open up a flap on one of these Coleman 7X7 foot tents and you have a room with a view, especially if that room is on top of your SUV. My first thought when I climbed up through the sunroof of my SUV into the upstairs room was: "Wow, this thing is huge." For Doctor Who fans, it's probably a little bit like walking into the Tardis. It's a lot bigger than it appears from the outside. The small space of the SUV opens up above you into something larger, something that doesn't seem to belong there, but as if by magic, it is.

SUV Tent Sunroof
Here is the view looking up through the sunroof. A careful step on the center console and one more step up and you are now in the upstairs room, the top floor of our SUV.

Inside SUV Tent
Forgive the mess. This picture was taken just after my wife and I woke up at our camp site near Acadia National Park in Maine. This is a queen size air mattress with a nice comfy sleeping bag on top of it. It was actually too warm in the tent that night, even with the sea breeze, so we left the queen-size sleeping bag open most of the night. The air mattress has since been replaced with a foldable foam mattress. A foam mattress doesn't rock the other person when one moves or gets out of bed.

SUV Tent sunroof
Here is the view through the sunroof of the room downstairs. There is a lot of storage space on this side of the queen size bed. The $60 dollar Coleman tent comes with an attached plastic ground cloth. I've cut a hole in the ground cloth for the sunroof and reinforced the edges where I made the cut with duct tape.

SUV Roof Platform
The platform for the tent is made of 1/2" CDX plywood that I have painted black. I wanted to keep the platform light. I only go camping when the weather is nice, so I wasn't too concerned about rain damage. When the platform is not in use, I store it folded up just under the car port roof you see in the background. I drive into the car port, and tie the platform to the eyebolts I have in the ceiling. Then I just drive away. That way, I don't have to lower and raise the platform all the way to and from the ground. The platform is strong enough that it could be used as an observation deck for sporting events. Just put some folding chairs up there, and maybe a cooler with some drinks. It wouldn't be hard to add a sun umbrella.

Folding roof platform
Time to fold up the platform: It folds down in two steps. The first step is shown here. Notice the two hinges attached to a 2X4 that runs along the top of the SUV. The 2X4 is actually cut to follow the curve of the roof so that the load of the platform is distributed evenly along the roof. The curved 2X4 doesn't actually touch the roof. A 3/4" black plastic pipe attached to the 2X4 fits nicely in the groove that runs along the SUV roof. So nothing but plastic touches the roof.

I spent some time trying to design a way to support the 7X7 platform. This is one of those challenges where there are a lot of different ways to achieve a goal. I ended up using electrical conduit pipe. I bought 4 pre-bent 90 degree conduit pieces and some straight conduit and attached them with bolts as shown here. This made a fairly rugged base that I could use for transporting really wide things like mattresses and furniture. Okay, you need to get the stuff up there, and once loaded, you look a lot like the Beverly Hillbillies, but it works. The pipe also gives a lot of tie down points.

SUV folded platform
One more fold and we're done. You can see the four hinges that allows the smaller pieces of plywood to fold backward. One of the design goals was to keep the sunroof functional when the platform was folded up. This does that while maintaining a fairly streamlined profile. There was a slight air vibration around the round front pipe when travelling at high speeds, so I added a folded piece of plexiglass onto the pipe to get rid of the noise. This picture also shows how the black plastic pipe fits nicely into the groove on the top of the SUV.

SUV Platform Tie-Down
The whole platform is tied down securely at four points. I opted to use thin ribbon straps tied to the back side door hinge supports. The custom fit of the platform on the roof coupled with these two strong tie-down points does the job very well.

SUV Platform Tie-Down
The hinge plates for the rear door are also used to secure the back of the platform. I positioned the platform so that it does not affect the ability to open and close this rear door.

Car Roof Tent
Now the only problem left is deciding where and when to go camping next.