If you’re thinking about camping in the new Jimny here’s everything I’ve learnt so far. This is all based on real life camping experiences. I’ll update the guide as I try new things and hope it helps you 🙂
We bought the Jimny to have a small daily driver that was capable of being adapted to an off road micro camper. Convenience, comfort and maintaining the drivability of the Jimny are all key factors in achieving the best set up. Of course doing so at reasonable cost is important too.
I’m not linked to any company mentioned in this guide. I’ve bought everything in full with my own money.
The guide is in 6 sections.
- Car camping in the Jimny
- Roof top tent
- Current build
- Final thoughts
Car camping in the Jimny
I’ve written an article dedicated to sleeping in the Jimny. It’s great fun and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to try it for yourself. Here’s video to help you decide if you want to read it.
Roof Top Tent
A roof tent was always our goal for the Jimny.
We decided to buy the lightest weight roof tent we could find. This was the Front Runner Roof Tent. It’s an awesome tent even though it’s one of the cheaper ones on the market. Coming in at 43kg, it’s one of the lightest too.
I’ve seen other Jimnys with heavier tents so it shows what can be done.
For now we’re happy with the tent we have as it’s a good balance of weight, convenience and comfort. We get some extra benefits that help with the overall build we’re aiming for too. More on that later.
If I had a larger budget and wanted to mount the tent off the side of the Jimny I’d go for the new iKamper X-Cover Mini (due for release in 2020) or the Sky Camp Mini. However, many great tents are available and this article isn’t about what tent to choose. Do your own research but my advice is to keep the weight as low as possible.
Roof Load Limit
The elephant in the room before we start is roof load limits. How much weight the car can carry on the roof, including the fixtures and fittings used.
The owners manual does not list a roof load limit. The official Suzuki roof load bars are rated to 30kg, and this seems to be the load limit consensus. However, I believe the limit listed on websites and quoted by Suzuki staff is carried over from the previous generation Jimny that has plastic mounts in the roof which limited its ability to bare weight.
The generation 4 Jimny has rain gutters that are very strong, combined with a quality rack system you can load a decent amount of static weight. We’ve had upwards of 220kg.
It’s the driving stability from the dynamic load that you need to focus on and be aware of. The more weight and height you add the worse it will be to drive the vehicle.
Many people will say that I’m exceeding the load limit and the Jimny is not supposed to be used in this way. Therefore, take what I say here with caution and do your own testing to discover what is is best for you.
Side mounted or rear mounted?
Side mounting seems to be a more popular method of fixing a roof tent to vehicles. We decided to buck the trend and mount the tent off the rear. Here’s why.
- To create shelter over the rear door.
- The width of the tent in this position sits well on the Jimny.
- Airflow is better when driving with the ladder stretching down the car not across it (even better if you remove it).
- It allows for an awning on either side of the Jimny (bonus, you can then connect it to the tent to create a superb batwing style shelter).
We mount the tent so the back edge is in line with the end of the roof. This is to allow space to open the door without it hitting the ladder.
Another cool feature is the tent cover will roll up neatly and slot into the space between the roof and the tent. Most people I’ve watched set up their tents remove the cover and store it in the car. I’m not a fan of that for 2 reasons, firstly it can dirty and wet and secondly you’re working with limited space in a Jimny.
Be careful to fold it around the aerial without damaging it. You can remove the aerial but I’ve not found it a problem.
Initially we used 2 load bars and it actually felt great on road with very little impact on handling.
Front Runner Tent – 43 kg
2 x Thule Bars – 6 kg
Total weight = 49 kg
Unfortunately, for 2 people sleeping in the tent 2 bars didn’t feel strong enough. We collectively weigh 150 kg and the bars are rated to 100kg. So we added a 3rd bar to help support where the main weight is distributed.
This was much better. The setup and positioning above is recommended if you go for 100kg rated load bars with 2 people sleeping in the tent. 3 load bars brings your total roof load to:
Front Runner Tent – 43 kg
3 x Thule Bars – 9 kg
Total = 52 kg
Our current set up uses 2 front runner load bars. There are many good quality load bars on the market and I can only give my opinion on ones I’ve used. They’re super strong and the feet sit great in the Jimny‘s rain gutters with no damage or denting overtime.
Front Runner recommend that you use their tent brackets to mount onto the load bars. Personally I would save your money and use the metal brackets that come with the tent. Or do what I did and drill holes directly into the slats for the tent bolts to drop into.
Front Runner Tent – 43 kg
2 x Load Bars – 7 kg
Total = 50 kg
Full Rack Systems
We tried the Front Runner Slimline II 3/4 rather than the full sized rack to save weight. We initially liked the idea of being able to have modular rack system to mount other things when we’re not using the tent too.
We’ve since removed the Slimline II rack and are running with the load bars only. I realised that part of my purchasing decision was (ashamedly) for how it looked. I’d convinced myself we would use the rack when the tent wasn’t on but that’s never been the case. So I swallowed my pride, accepted it was a vanity purchase and switched to the load bars only.
Regardless, the rack is great if you need one. It weighs 22 kg so it’s quite lightweight and the full rack runs at 27kg. For reference the measurement from the ground to the top of the rack when mounted on a Jimny is 69 inches (1755mm).
If you go with the Front Runner tent brackets they sit within the rack height when the tent is removed and the tent lies flush with the top of the rack when mounted.
Front Runner Tent – 43 kg
Front Runner 3/4 Slimline II Rack – 22 kg
Total = 65 kg
What’s it like to drive?
In my opinion the road manners of the Jimny are good with less than 70kg load on the roof. This is purely from personal experience. This does not mean 70kg is its limit. Plenty of Jimny owners are driving (and off roading) with way more roof weight than I choose to.
I love tweaking my set up and with our ultralight setup it’s hardly noticeable that there’s a tent on the Jimny. I like to run as light as possible, but it’s your call.
Regardless of what you decide, you ought to adapt your driving style to the conditions and weight you’re carrying.
- we don’t speed down the motorways
- We increase our stopping distances.
- We take corners at a sensible pace.
- We try to balance weight evenly in the boot space.
If you choose heavier tents or bigger rack systems with additional roof storage boxes the more you’ll feel it. The more you’ll need to dial back your driving style.
We prefer to drive between 60-65 mph (96-105 kph) for longer distances. Reduce to 55 mph (88 kph) you will see a noticeable improvement in fuel economy. At 65 mph (105 kph) in the automatic you are above 3000 rpm and the engine is slightly louder and more thirsty.
On a trip with longer distances involved the SZ5 UK spec automatic gives us approximately:
- ~35 mpg (8.1 Litres/100km) at 65 mph (105 kmph) ~3k rpm.
- ~38 mpg (7.1 Litres/100km) if you stay below 60 mph (96 kmph).
Around town, using the Jimny as a daily driver with the roof tent on this drops to ~28 mpg (10.8 Litres/100km).
With the 40L tank I’m glad there’s petrol stations littering the UK, it feels like you’re always filling up!
I’m still testing fuel economy and will post detailed findings on normal daily use and on trips with the roof loaded and more equipment stored in the back. The information above is a very small sample of data so please don’t quote me on it.
I actually prefer driving the Jimny with 2 passengers and the roof tent on. Because it feel less ‘kite like’ in high winds and more solid on its feet.
What’s it like off road?
I’m super impressed with the Jimny off road even with the tent on. You can see that on moderately rough terrain the Jimny eats it up. I’m not an experienced off-road driver. With the tent on and a decent amount of equipment it felt solid.
Watch some of the action in a video from a recent trip in the Yorkshire Dales.
What it’s like to sleep in a roof tent?
Simply put, it’s awesome.
It’s giving us the best night sleep we’ve ever had camping (depending on how drunk you get) and it’s easy to set up.
The tent takes approximately 5 minutes once you get the hang of it. With 2 people it’s quicker. Granted, it’s not 60 seconds like iKamper but it’s also not 3 times the price. We’ve done a lot overnight trips and it’s been worth every penny.
Here’s my favourite solo trips so far.
If you’re willing to add a more weight you can choose to add an awning. I debated this decision for a while before getting one. My main concern is always additional weight and the benefit of the item. I’m so glad we did though as we are surprised how good it is in practice.
The reason we chose 1.4m was its low weight (8 kg) and it’s just big enough for our needs. You could easily decide to go for something longer but this awning is ok for us. A 1.6m would fit perfectly across the length of the Jimny roof if you want to take advantage of the full length of the roof and line it all up. Obviously 2.0m awnings will have overhang.
We mounted it on the passenger side, aligning it with the back of the tent. It’s awesome and looks great on the car. Especially with the black front runner tent cover to match it all together.
The awning is mounted to a rack or load bars with the 2 brackets that come with the awning.
Front Runner Tent 43 kg
Front Runner load bar 7 kg
Awning 8 kg
Total = 58 kg
Front Runner Tent – 43 kg
Front Runner 3/4 Slimline II Rack – 22 kg
Awning – 8 kg
Total = 73 kg
This all might sound like overkill and yes I’m a bit of a weight nerd, but trust me you will feel the difference on the road.
The first thing to consider is how to reduce the weight, every kg counts. Second is improving aerodynamics. Finally, we’ll look at quality of life improvements, what we can do to make the setup quicker or more comfortable.
Reducing the weight
It’s easy to reduce the tent weight from 43 kg to 37 kg. Follow the modifications in my article for creating an Ultralight Roof Tent set up. The main element to reducing weight is the ladder. Similar can be achieved with other tents on the market.
Upgrading the ladder
Roof tent telescopic ladders are hard to find in the UK so I modified a 2.6m telescopic ladder I ordered from Amazon. It was a lot cheaper than the telescopic tent ladders I’ve seen online. How the ladder is fitted is detailed in this article.
Reducing the weight of a full rack
This is an easy task, simply remove any slats that aren’t used under the tent. You don’t need them and in the case of the front runner 3/4 rack it reduces the weight to from 22kg to 18kg.
Aerodynamics & wind noise
Depending upon what rack or load bars you choose you may have whistling and annoying wind noise.
With the front runner rack we had awful whistling over 20 mph. It sounds like a boiling kettle and isn’t much fun on a trip. Choose to either mount a proper wind deflector or try to close the gap between the tent and the rack. This should eliminate the noise.
When we ordered the rack we were sent the wrong sized wind deflector that mounts below the rack at the front. I wondered if mounting it to the top of the rack at the front, upside down would stop the whistling. As luck would have it, it worked!
It may require some trial and error but these little touches really increase the pleasure factor on longer trips.
Note that you get zero wind noise when mounting the tent directly onto the load bars either Thule or Front Runner.
A more comfortable tent mattress
The standard mattress in the Front Runner tent is okay and many roof tents adopt the same 2″ foam mattress concept. Unfortunately we were waking multiple times during the night with sore hips. They’re not very warm either as no insulation is factored in.
You can’t underestimate how much difference a comfortable, insulated mattress makes. I’ve written an article about sleeping in the Jimny and the 2 mattresses we use for that set up are the same ones we use in our tent.
Here’s what they look like in action. Being essentially expedition style inflatable mattresses, they’re warm and mega comfy. With ear plugs to block out any noises we get a far better nights sleep than we did with the tent mattress.
Upgrading the awning
If you decide to mount your tent off the rear of the Jimny and want an awning too, this tip worth considering.
I had an idea to create a bridge between the side of the awning and the tent. I’ve written an article on creating a custom awning extension to achieve this. This was a fun project and I’m astonished it actually worked. I’ve since remade the first prototype out of matching material to the awning.
In heavy rain the extra coverage makes a big difference. A 1.4m awning may be small but with this extension it’s ideal for keeping us dry when moving from the side to the rear of the Jimny. Extending the longest end to 2.7m!
Here’s our current set up. The video shows the tent and bars only, that’s why it’s rated at 44kg. We add 8kg with the awning, bringing the total roof load to 52kg.
Front Runner Tent – 37 kg
Front Runner Load Bars – 7 kg
Darche Awning – 8 kg
Total weight = 52 kg
Set up demo
Sleeping in a roof tent or inside a car is something you need to get used to. This might sound weird, but you get less broken sleep as you become more accustomed to it. Strange but true.
My advice would definitely be to try sleeping in the Jimny first as it’s the cheapest way to get out enjoying an adventure. It’s a ton of fun and the perfect solution in really bad weather. Don’t forget your ear plugs!
If you’re willing to invest into your Jimny camping experience and can justify the cost, we wholeheartedly recommend a roof top tent. Several trips per year ought to justify the expense.
I hope this guide has helped you in your future Jimny adventures. I’ll try answer any questions you have so feel free to comment below.