DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

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DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Toytaco2 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:44 pm

Hello All, I've been a member of the forum since 2007, but haven't posted much in the last couple of years or so. Even so, I check in every so often to see what's going on, or get help with a project (recently used the gas strut calculator to finally add struts to the TD after 10 years use). Anyway, I'm planning an "overland style journey" to the San Juan Mountains in SW Colorado this summer. I've pulled a trailer without brakes through that area once and do not want to have that much fun again! Also, my HF frame will not stand up to the Jeep trails we love. A rooftop tent will allow us to go where we want and easily camp in the back country (also avoiding Covid issues in populated camping areas). The ideal solution is, of course, a full rooftop tent with bed mounting frame for my 4x4 Tacoma (a huge one time expense given that my better half may never agree to travel this way again). So, I've set out to DIY my own bed rails with platform for pitching a decent quality 2 person tent (Eureka Timberline 2). I can then park the entire rig with mounted tent under the Coleman Event Shelter we normally use over the TD making for a very nice back country setup. Savings over the "ideal solution" is over 75%.

Here's a hacker's photoshopped idea of the concept:

Image

Now for my question(s): When completely unfolded, the platform on the bed rails will overhang the rear of the truck bed by about 24 inches and that area will need to be supported enough to handle at least 175 lbs entering and exiting the front door of the tent. My thought is to leave the tailgate down and build some kind of a structure that sits on the tailgate and supports the overhanging portion of the platform. I'm thinking something like those tubular "bed extender" things they used to offer as an option on downsized pickup trucks, but strong enough to bear the vertical load. This could slide in the truck bed for travel and be pulled out onto the top of the tailgate when ready to set up camp. Primary goals are light weight, easy handling, and quick deployment.

1. Does this sound like a viable idea?
2. Could a PVC pipe structure possibly bare that kind of weight? if so, what diameter and how many vertical members would be enough?
3. Should it a bigger/heavier wood structure.
4. Any other ideas for a solid and safe support? I thought about using the receiver hitch some way, but, I think it might get a lot bigger & more clumsy to haul around.

As always, thanks for all the help over the years,

Mike
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby saywhatthat » Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:31 pm

The ladder helps support the over hang . There on face book that might help https://www.facebook.com/groups/376952322867430/
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Pmullen503 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:28 pm

What are the dimensions of the platform and the truck bed. How thick is the platform? Do you plan to travel with the platform attached? Tailgate open or closed while traveling?

Vertical thick walled PVC is quite strong but how many and spacing will be influenced by how stiff the platform is.
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Toytaco2 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:11 pm

Saywhatthat, Thankyou for the facebook link.

Pmullen, The platform will be approximately 63 inches wide x 86 inches long when folded out. The bed of the truck from the outer edge of the sidewalls is 63 inches x 61 inches at the rear edge of the tailgate. I'll have to use two 4x8 sheets of ply since the width is greater than 48 inches, and cut each to 63 inches long with one panel being 48 inches and the other being approximately 38-40 inches wide (unfortunately, not a very efficient use of the plywood). I plan to use 3/4 inch thick plywood and the the 38-40 inch panel will be hinged so that it can be folded back toward the center of the truck bed. I'll use Unistrut for the cross rails with spacing such that one will support the 38-40 inch panel just beyond the hinge. Once folded out, that panel will have about a 34-35 inch wide section that needs to be supported.

I'll will definitely travel with the tailgate closed and the platform attached. It should not look very much different on the road than a hard folding tonneau cover with the back section folded open (I'll need to provide a lock down mechanism of some kind to keep the hinged section from flopping around while driving down the road. At camp, the idea is to open the tailgate, fold down the end platform panel, attach the ladder (wing nuts) and slide out the support structure from the bed onto the opened tailgate. Then mount the tent on the platform.

I think I've worked everything out with the exception of the support structure for the platform that extends beyond the end of the truck bed and over the opened tailgate. Hence, the questions in my original post.

Hope all this makes since, and thanks so much for the replies. This forum has always been my best help with this kind of stuff.

Regards,

Mike
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Pmullen503 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 6:02 am

OK, I think what I would do is use removable legs on the fold down portion. I'm guessing four legs bearing on the tailgate. 1 1/4 pvc would probably do.

Screw the flanges (google pvc flanges) to the deck and make the legs to match the tailgate. Don't glue in the legs so they can be removed when the deck is folded for travel.
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby tony.latham » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:17 am

Mike:

This may fall into the stupid question category but why not just pitch the tent on the ground?

Great tent, BTW. We've got one.

Tony
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Toytaco2 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:22 am

Pmullen: Thanks for your suggestion. That's very close to my own thought/idea. I was just unsure about the PVC pipe being strong enough to support the vertical load and I also wasn't aware of the PVC Flanges. The only PVC flange I've been able to locate at this point is something called a "PVC Table Screw Cap" which is a Furniture Grade PVC item available from Home Depot. Also, I could probably fashion something myself that serves the same purpose. Thanks again!

Tony: Glad to get the good report on the Eureka Timberline 2. That's definitely not a stupid question. The Rooftop Tent (RTT) craze is very popular with the "Overlanding Crowd" and many have debated the cost and expense of the RTT vs. just sleeping on the ground. As for me I've slept on the ground in a tent most of my life (now 69 years young) until I finished our TD about 10 years ago. Living in Oklahoma, I've awakened to 8 inches of snow on the ground outside my tent during deer hunting season, to weathering Oklahoma thunderstorms producing rediculous winds, hail, etc., to rivers of runoff water standing outside the tent. Also, finding a spot for your tent that's truly level for sleeping and devoid of rocks, sticks, etc. is pretty challenging (we are headed to Colorado & they don't call them the Rocky Mountains for nothing). As for me, I just don't want to sleep on the ground anymore and my wife has never really been a camping kind of person. She's much more amenable to climbing up off the ground, being "high & dry" than she is to getting on the ground and crawling into a 2 person tent, especially if things are already wet and water standing which can happen frequently in the mountain high country. I believe this setup will be the best compromise of cost and ease of camp setup for us two aging campers. I know others could have different ideas.

Regards,

Mike
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby tony.latham » Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:15 pm

She's much more amenable to climbing up off the ground, being "high & dry" than she is to getting on the ground and crawling into a 2 person tent...


Gotcha! :thumbsup:

Tony
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby greygoos » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:58 pm

Why not a truck tent?
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby dogcatcher » Wed Jun 03, 2020 5:22 pm

I would look at some pop up campers. Then create a slide in unit to fit the pickup that includes the tent as the pop up part. It would mean removing part of the floor or the tent and creating a lay out that maybe a removable table could fill in the area for sleeping. Removing the center part of the tent floor might also allow standing up or at least sitting comfortable with your feet on the floor of the pickup bed.

I would also look at some of the layouts of motorcycle tent trailers. They are smaller and just might give you an idea or 2 for building a slide in unit using the above info. Basically a box that the top folds out support the tent floor.
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Toytaco2 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:49 pm

Greygoos: A truck tent would be a simple and great solution. I gave that some consideration earlier, but my Tacoma has the shorter 5 ft long bed and the wheel wells reduce the sleeping width/space too much for our comfort. Thanks for the thought.

Dogcatcher: thanks for the idea. I hadn't considered anything like that up to now................thinking!

Thanks for your replies,

Mike
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby greygoos » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:49 am

I am a member of a group on FB called DIY Roof Top Tents. You might want to look on there and maybe get some ideas.
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby dogcatcher » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:38 pm

Google using a tent to make a pop up camper then look at the Google images. You will have more ideas in a an hour than we could type out in a year.
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Re: DIY Rooftop Tent Support Question

Postby Toytaco2 » Fri Jun 05, 2020 12:14 pm

Thanks for all the replies. For this trip, I'll be going with the plywood platform supported by the Unistrut bed rails and PVC Pipe support for the portion that extends over the tailgate section when its folded out. The Timberline 2 tent arrived yesterday, so I can use that to fine tune the dimensions and connection hardware to the platform. This is the best combination of simplicity and total cost for our situation. I can wait until the week of our departure to actually construct/install the setup on the truck. It should be pretty light weight and look a lot like a hard tonneau cover on the truck while traveling.

Hopefully the Covid camping/travel restrictions will lighten up some more by mid July. As of now, it looks like there are still a lot of closures (especially in New Mexico) which would be our stop-over for a couple of nights. If things don't loosen up, I can always cancel the project at the last minute and return the tent (90 day return policy). Our only motivation for this project is to travel with as little people contact as possible due to Covid, plus the fact that I'm not real comfortable towing our TD through the Colorado San Juan Range without trailer brakes. As i mentioned previously, we may not really enjoy the "overland experience" after dipping our toes with this project, so, I think this approach makes the most since for us.

Regards,

Mike
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