Upgrading the Front Runner Tent Ladder

The Jimny is a small car with a tall stature and soft suspension, essentially a box on wheels. Therefore, as soon as you begin to carry a decent amount of weight on the roof you may find yourself in some squeeky bum situations on the road.

Ever since starting to build our Jimny Micro Camper I’ve been obsessed with function and form to find the perfect setup with a good driving experience. I’ve experimented and will continue to do so with how to optimise the setup.

One obvious change to make was the roof tent ladder. The Front Runner tent ladders adds 10cm of additional height and 4.6kg (10.4lbs) weight when mounted to the tent.

Front Runner Ladder

When you first set up your tent you need to drill holes to the height of your setup to pin the ladder in place. As you can see the height of the Jimny means the ladder has a 1/4 height step in the middle. My wife struggles with this as she isn’t as reckless as I am zipping up and down the ladder.

Overall the stock ladder as very sturdy and easy to use, no real complaints about it!

Front Runner Ladder
Front Runner Ladder

Why change the ladder?

After driving and fuel economy tests I feel it’s worth the additional set up time of storing the ladder inside the vehicle. In reality we’d not bother changing it if not for the fact our intention was to store the ladder in the Jimny.

Ladder stored in the Jimny

The stock ladder fits neatly in the rear of the Jimny if you decide not to do any modifications.

My main reason for the modification is to save space. The stock tent ladder requires careful manoeuvring into the rear of the Jimny and I ended up hitting the top brackets on the inner paintwork leaving a nasty scratch. It’s also made slightly more tricky by our custom table.

I wanted to achieve an easier method of reattaching the ladder at camp. Ideally with a wider, more stable ladder without the 1/4 height step in the middle.

Telescopic ladder

I searched online for days trying to find a proper roof tent telescopic ladder with mounting brackets. I could not find one for sale in the UK! Perhaps I’ve missed one and please comment below if you have any recommendations.

Roof tent telescopic ladders aren’t cheap either. Anything from $150-$250 is the price point I’ve found. Crazy!

Normal 2.6m telescopic ladders on amazon start at £39 and after reading dozens of reviews we took a chance on the Nestling Aluminium Telescopic Ladder.

Nestling Aluminium Telescopic Ladder

If you’re more talented than I am with DIY metalwork and welding, I’m sure there’s better ways to fix the mounts needed to the top of the ladder.

As I’m more of a have-a-go-hero DIY’er I drilled 4 holes into the top of the ladder as shown below. Using gate/fencing brackets from a local hardware store and M6 nylock hex nut and bolts. Finishing them off with some black plastic bolt caps.

Gate/fence brackets

The hole in gate brackets (for the gate to swing on) is perfect for the quick release bracket I planned to use on the tent. The size is sufficient for an M10 bolt or rod.

Notice how the bracket is positioned the the back side of the ladder, with the black plastic sliders to the front. You you use them unlock the sections as you retract the ladder and need them facing you. Mounting the brackets tin that way offers the pivot angle you need to reach the bolts on the tent and to be flush with the tent when packed away. This is important for camp tear down. Also if the weather is shit and you need a quicker get away I wanted the ability to leave the ladder attached when driving (we can easily cope with the extra 2kg if needed).

The Quick Release Bolts

This part of the modification took some trial and error. My current method of using seat post quick release bolts works great but I knew I could make something better.

I was inspired by the spring loaded gates you see on public footpath gates and animal trailers. After a quick google I found the SMITH & LOCKE Animal Galvanised Bolt (150mm) on Screwfix.com. These looked promising.

They certainly felt super strong but the only problem to overcome was how to help support the end of the bolt when extended into the ladder brackets. That’s where all the weight bearing will be and the last thing I wanted was for the bolt to bend or even worse damage the tents aluminium framing.

The bolts would need some sort of custom bracket and a bunch of washers to allow it to sit flush against the tent as they’re wider than aluminium tent frame. The 2 bolt holes in the tent flooring is there for finishing and not strong enough to provide and support.

I decided to make my own bracket to use under the bolt. After a few sketches I opted for the easiest design possible (my metalwork skills are limited) of a 40mm wide steel sheet with 4 holes drilled to match the bolt. The plate will have an 90 degree bend at the end to help support the bolt. The height would need to be 25mm to allow for 1mm clearance of the bolt.

Custom Bracket
Not pretty, but effective.

After a bunch of adjustments, success! The final brackets are almost half the height of the original ones and twice as heavy but it’s a marginal increase in weight that’s we’d not notice.

Here’s a short video of the bolts in action.

It works!

The new bolts are a great addition providing the adjustable convenience and strength we need for the telescopic ladder. It means we can store the ladder much easier in the back of the Jimny and I’ve reduced my setup time by a minute or so… 😜it all adds up!

I’m happy with this upgrade and I know my wife is thankful of the wider ladder which makes finding your footing a lot easier if you’re a bit nervous climbing down.

Look out for my next project where I’ll make a custom canvas bag to store the ladder in. Time to learn how to use a sewing machine lol.

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