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How to Use a Hoist to Install, Remove, and Store Your Rooftop Tent

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Not a year-round camper? Need to remove your RTT seasonally or to unload your vehicle? The easiest solution is a rooftop tent hoist.

There are many reasons why you may choose to remove your rooftop tent. You might not be into winter camping (despite the amazing new diesel heaters!) You might spend the winters skiing or snowboarding and need to install a different rack. You may want to have access to your garage for the bad winter weather, which is only possible without the high RTT. You might be upgrading to a new hard shell RTT – or a different vehicle.

Whatever the reason, there will come a time when you need to remove the bulky rooftop tent from your vehicle. Actually, this process is helpful to consider BEFORE you take delivery of your RTT. That is, how do you plan to install it the FIRST time?

In my case, I not only remove rooftop tents in the off-season, but I also install RTTs throughout the camping season for new owners on cars, trucks, and trailers. My solution is an overhead hoist. With the advantage of compound leverage provided by pulleys, I can easily install and remove rooftop tents by myself. If you use this same system, you can hoist your RTT to the roof of your garage for off-season storage.

Here is how this rooftop tent storage system works.

I use and recommend a 4-pulley system that was originally designed to lift the roof off a Jeep or the topper from a truck. This ceiling-mounted pulley hoist is also sold for bulky rooftop cargo carriers and heavy kayaks, which share the same storage problems as rooftop tents.

Here is a video of this hoist in action:

Before you order your hoist, you need to understand the principle of mechanical leverage, then take some measurements.

1. The hoist works by pulling ropes from the four corners through a system of pulleys. You will need to lift the rooftop tent above your vehicle, then lower it to the floor. The hoist uses a “collector pully” where the four ropes on the corners come together. This pulley must be placed at a distance that is greater than the height of the ceiling. For example, in my shop I have a 9-foot ceiling, so I installed the “collector pulley” 11-feet from the side wall. The further the better to allow for ease of use.

2. With this requirement in mind, look for potential mounting locations in your garage. To install and remove your RTT, you need to be able to back under the hoist. You need a clear area on the ceiling that is at least 4-feet wide and 7-feet long to accommodate most rooftop tents. The area must be accessible with the garage door open.

3. Is the hoist going to be used to install and remove the RTT – or to store it for the winter? If off-season storage is the goal, the ceiling should be high enough to allow you to drive under the raised tent. In my case, the hoist is located in my workshop, so I need to be able to raise the RTT high enough to walk underneath all winter long.

The best position for your hoist determines the model you need to order. There are models for up to 10-foot ceilings, 12-foot, and 16-foot. If your ceiling allows, choose the longer version to provide more flexibility in mounting. I use the 12-foot model with my 9-foot ceiling.

Next, you need to choose the weight range. I have a light RTT, so I chose the 7803.12 hoist rated for 145-pounds. If you have an extra-large RTT, choose the heavier 7806.12 version rated for 200-pounds. Always err on the heavy side.

The actual installation of the hoist is covered in detail in the included instructions. (Besides the measurements for installation of the pulleys, you will need to carefully mount the eye bolts in the ceiling joists.) In any case, the Harken hoist uses top-quality hardware designed for sailboats. Don’t make the mistake of trying to duplicate this complex system with a cheap bike lift rated for 50-pounds! If you have a wide-open garage ceiling and shop walls, you can also select a hoist with a hand winch – CLICK HERE.

Is this whole topic too confusing? Is storing your rooftop tent causing more anxiety? No place to install an overhead hoist? Then mounting the RTT to a trailer may be the best option for you. It is really nice to be able to pull in the garage without the tent on the roof. I use a trailer that allows me to push the entire rig in my garage between camping trips. Learn more about this option in this previous article; CLICK HERE.

rooftop tent hoist


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