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How to Care For a Roof Top Tent

When I started camping over a decade ago, I couldn’t imagine of ever having the luxury of being able to sleep on the roof of my 4WD! While roof top tents have been around since the 1960’s, they’ve only recently become a popular item with campers. Not only are you safer from wild animals and able to sleep on an even surface, but your tent doesn’t get anywhere near as dirty. I guess dirt and camping goes together like fish and chips, but that’s beside the point. Roof top tents are awesome! But they are elaborate accessories and can therefore be quite expensive, so it’s important that you take adequate care of them.

Roof top tents are generally made from poly/cotton canvas which is a heavy duty and durable material designed to live a long and sturdy life. Having said this, there are specific measures that should be taken to ensure your tent stays in top condition and doesn’t deteriorate over time. Knowing how to properly care for your roof top tent can save years before it needs to be replaced, so let’s put our gloves on and investigate these measures more closely.

General Care

The same precautions should be taken with roof top tents as with any type of tent. The most important consideration is that you always pack the tent away when it’s dry.  As with any wet material, mould and mildew will accumulate quickly which can deteriorate the tent material and cause a foul odour (foul being a gross understatement)! If, for whatever reason, you need to pack your tent away when it’s wet, open your tent back up at the next available opportunity and let it dry. Keep in mind that mould and mildew is typically not covered under your roof top tent warranty.

Zipper Care

As you may know, zippers aren’t the most reliable devices and will likely be the first problem you’ll encounter with your roof top tent. Dust quickly accumulates, particularly in extreme conditions, so remember to always clean the zipper with a damp cloth after use. Once the zipper is clean, add some lubrication to the zipper while it’s both open and closed. Any type of lubrication will do the trick. This will greatly improve its functionality and lifespan. Don’t forget, there’s nothing worse than being an open platter for mosquitoes whilst you’re sleeping!

General Cleaning

Depending on how long your camping trip is, you’ll want to get rid of the dust and grime every now and then with a stiff bristled brush, and make sure you give it a good vacuum when you get home. Not only will this remove dust and grime, but also any insects or pests which can cause further problems when your tent’s in storage. Once you’ve vacuumed your tent, use a mild detergent and warm water to gently clean the tent before allowing it to dry thoroughly in the sun.

Most of the time, this same process of cleaning will also remove any stains caused from mould or mildew. All you need to do after washing your tent with mild detergent and warm water is rinse the tent with a solution of 1 cup lemon juice and 1 cup salt to every 4 litres of hot water. Once you’ve done this, leave your tent out in the sun to dry completely before following the next step.


Unfortunately, the cleaning process described above is so effective that it will typically remove the waterproof coating on your tent. It’s very important that you apply a waterproofing agent or repellent to your tent once it’s been washed and dried. You can purchase various waterproofing repellents from most camping stores. I’d recommend you purchase a waterproofing agent that also contains UV protection, as excessive UV rays will degrade the tents material over time. Once you’ve applied a waterproofing agent to your tent and it’s completely dry, store your tent is a cool, dry area of your house.

While roof top tents are terrific camping items that significantly increase the comfort of your 4×4 trips, they do need a certain level of care to maximise their lifespan. If you’re interested in purchasing a roof top tent or have any questions about any of the above steps, get in contact with TJM Australia on 07 3865 9999, or use their store locator to find the TJM store closest to you.


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