This guide is suggested equipment and the easy modifications anyone can do to have an ultralight Jimny roof tent build.
From experience this is a great balance between roof load weight and overall camping comfort. This set up is not only ultralight, it’s ultra comfortable.
Elephant in the room
People freak out about the 30kg roof load limit. I run with a heavier setup than this with an awning and a heavier roof rack and have no issues whatsoever. With this set up your roof you’ll hardly even notice it’s there.
That said, like everything in life don’t trust to some bloke on the internet. I’m only sharing my experiences and tests carried out over the months we’ve been roof tent camping with our Jimny. Your experience and expectations may vary. It’s a risk getting out of bed in the morning so pull the covers up over your head and read on.
I’m not affiliated to any company linked in this guide. I’ve bought everything with my own money. Please shop around and don’t necessarily use the links I give here to buy them. I can only vouch for the quality of their products as a customer using them not the company themselves.
I’ll list everything in GBP (£) for what I paid and links to their respective websites. Prices may not include shipping and you may get a better deal if you shop around, good luck!
TOTAL = £1248.68
The roof tent is one of the lightest on the market and with some mods it becomes even lighter.
The load bar kit is brand new from Front Runner. In actual fact the Slimline II 3/4 rack that I’d previously bought has the necessary components to mirror the load bar kit. I only needed to buy the load bar end caps.
Here’s a quick video of the final ultralight set up.
Optional but highly recommended extras.
TOTAL = £438.80
Obviously you can use the mattress that comes with the tent. However, in our experience the tent mattress isn’t very comfortable. My wife and I are side sleepers and within an hour or so our hips start to go numb.
The MegaMats are extremely comfortable, warm, lightweight and require very little pack space in the Jimny when on the road. They’re easy to inflate and deflate. They have a 5.30 R rating keeping you warm down to -20 degrees. R-values are used to determine how warm a sleeping mat is. ‘R’ refers to thermal resistance, and a greater R-value and thermal resistance means a warmer mat.
I also recommend the mattresses if you decide to carry out all of the modifications to fine tune the weight and aerodynamics. As you’ll be removing the mattress that came with the tent. Naturally you can do your own research and find some alternative options a bit cheaper but make sure the widths do not exceed 60cm. Any length mattress will fit as the tent is 250cm long.
As an added bonus you can also use both of these mattresses inside the Jimny if you have kids or other adults along for the ride. Or when the weather is too bad for the roof tent.
The sleeping bags I recommend are great for one main reason… getting in the bastards! I don’t know about you, but why are sleeping bag zips on the side? I’m sure someone far smarter than me knows why. Anyhow, being able to jump in, lie down and zip up is perfect without fannying on trying to find the damn zip 😉
Here’s how you take an already lightweight set up and make it ultralight.
Tent ladder mod
Make the ladder quick release and store it in the Jimny during transit. It’s not hard to reach up and fix the ladder back on at camp and storing it in the Jimny reduces the roof load by 4.6kg! This is the single biggest reduction in weight you can do.
You can make this process even easier by using quick release seat post bolts instead of the M6 bolts.
The ladder that comes with the tents fits in the Jimny boot space (seats dropped obviously lol) but it takes careful manoeuvring to avoid scratching your interior. I learnt the hard way but it’s doable.
If you want save space in the Jimny while also upgrading the tent ladder to something more substantial, then go all in and make your own quick release telescopic ladder. I’ve posted an article about how I easily modified a telescopic ladder from Amazon and made my own quick release brackets. This has been a great mod and fun to do and has made getting in and out of the tent easier due to the extra ladder width and adjustability.
This obviously isn’t a mod and no effort is required for this weight reduction. The poles that fix to the rain fly are generally left in the tent when you fold it down. They weigh 1.2kg but every bit counts.
They fit neatly behind the front seats so you can store them in there on the go. We used to tuck them into the first replacement mattress we bought but it didn’t stand the test of time. Regardless, the poles easily slot anywhere in the back.
Removing the mattress
There’s very little weight reduction gains here (0.5kg) but it’s more to do with increasing the sleeping comfort and reducing height profile of the tent when packed down to reduce the wind drag.
Reducing the height of the tent when packed down
Okay, so this mod doesn’t effect the weight but it does have an impact on the wind drag and fuel economy. This effects your driving pleasure so it’s worth doing. The tent with the ladder attached has a total height profile of 300mm. That’s a big blocky chunk up there on a car that’s got the aerodynamics of a borg cube.
When you remove the original tent mattress you’ll notice the height at the front of the tent reduces considerably when it’s packed down.
NOTE: This only applies when you mount it off the rear of the Jimny as we do (see the picture at the start of the guide).
I’ve had the tent cover modified to fit the new shape and profile of the tent. The red line indicates where the new height is. Here’s the finished cover that no longer needs the 2 big straps on the top too.
Using the load bars and the original tent mounting brackets is also recommended over buying the tent mount kit from Front Runner. Not only do you save £50 you also lower the overall height of where the tent sits on the vehicle by 60mm. Giving you a total height from the ground to the top of tent of ~192mm.
Top tip: Get shorter hex bolts or cut the ones you get with the tent shorter. You’ll need to do this due to the low profile gap between the roof and the bottom of the tent. Plus you’ll need a long ratchet spanner to reach the bolts to tighten them up, this can be fiddly especially if you have big hands.
You can also choose to drill holes directly into the load bars for the tent bolts to drop into. I’ve chosen to do this as it means I only have to secure 4 bolts rather than 8 when mounting/removing the tent.
You can expect a fuel economy improvement of ~35 mpg to ~38 mpg on a run once these adjustments have been made. As the Jimny has a small fuel tank this can help more than you think.
I still believe that there’s room for improvement here and will post once I make a wind deflector that does have a positive impact. I’d like to get as close as possible to the fuel economy of the Jimny without the tent on. Ever the optimist 😉 After further fuel tests with the roof tent on and off the Jimny there is little difference in fuel economy. Rather than make false claims I’ll keep testing and update this article once I know more.
Edit: Recent tests on the auto Jimny with 5000 miles on the clock are showing 29 mpg with the tent and awning attached to the front runner load bars. We’re getting 35-37mpg without the tent and awning on the car, just leaving the load bars on 24/7 for normal daily driving.
Total Roof Load
Crunch time! With all the changes let’s do a side-by-side comparison of weight. I’ll round up the numbers to factor in things like the tent mounting plates.
- Tent 43kg
- Load Bars 7kg
- Tent 37kg
- Load bars 7kg
As you can see none of the recommendations in this guide are hard to do. The cost isn’t bad for roof tent camping.
I think 44kg is incredibly low for what you get in return. A 44kg roof load you hardly even notice. I’ve been in high winds with more. Many roof tents weigh 70kg without even considering the roof rack or load bars. So this is 70% lighter than the average roof tent alone and 12% lighter than the unchanged kit.
The result is a lighter, more comfortable and convenient camping build with quality kit that make the experience better.
- Set up time is still quick coming in under 5 minutes.
- Fuel economy is better.
- Road driving manners are better.
- Maintains its off-road capability.
- Aerodynamics are better.
- Reduced wind drag.
- Warmer and more comfortable to sleep in.
- A wider and more stable ladder with more adjustability to find the perfect height.
- The tent sits perfectly on the roof of the Jimny, no overhang.
As always I’ll update this guide as I discover any improvements or better kit.
Hope it helps you on your adventures.