Your Vehicle’s Roof, Explained

Vehicles have a number of different roof shapes and features built into them. Below we’ve listed the possible variations to help you understand what you’ll need to have to install a Roofnest.

First it is important to understand that all you need to install a Roofnest is a set of crossbars (the bars which go horizontally across your roof).

The crossbars should be at least 30 inches apart and have a weight rating that is equal or greater than the weight of the Roofnest.

Second, it is not important which style of crossbar you have (round, square, aero, etc) although the aero style bars do provide a wider platform for your Roofnest.

Here are the different types of roofs and what kind of cross-bars and towers you’ll need to look for to mount a Roofnest and turn your vehicle into a camper:

Remember, roof racks are rated for DYNAMIC loads (e.g., when you’re going 100 mph and slam on the brakes) – the load that the vehicle and rack can carry when you’re parked is a STATIC load an can be as much as 7x the dynamic rating.

Any well-installed rack which is rated for the load of the Roofnest by itself will have no problem supporting you and others in the tent when your vehicle is parked.

Rain Gutters

These are the small “gutters” on the edge of the roof which were commonplace 50 years ago but are only found on cargo vans, etc these days.

To prepare a vehicle for a Roofnest, you will need a set of “gutter-mount” towers and matching crossbars.

Thule, Yakima, and Rhino Rack all make suitable towers and crossbars for gutters.

Bare Roof

Most vehicles on the road today have bare roofs with no rails or racks preinstalled.

For these vehicles, Thule racks provide the best match between the rack and the specific vehicle, the shape of its roof and door jam, etc. Yakima and Rhino Rack also make vehicle specific towers and racks and these are also great options.

Raised Rails

The next most common roof type is the raised side rails found on the majority of SUVs, wagons and mini vans. Raised rails are factory installed roof attachments that runs from front to back on the outer edges of the vehicle’s roof.

The “raised” rails are distinguished by being open between the rail and the roof – like you can wrap your hand all the way around the rail.

Connecting a crossbar system to raised rails is straightforward and not vehicle specific, you just need crossbars and the foot pack. Raised rails offer the versatility to choose the optimum crossbar location to best support the Roofnest.

Flushed Rails

These rails are similar to the raised rails above but are flush to the roof without any space between the rail and the roof.

There is usually an inner and/or outer groove that allows connection of a crossbar system. Thule uses a special set of fit kits specifically for flush side rails to provide precise integration to the rail.

Flush side rails offer the versatility to choose the optimum crossbar location to support a Roofnest.


Tracks run from front to back on the outer edges of the vehicle’s roof and are a channel rather than a raised rail.

The channels offer versatility in positioning of the crossbars from front to back along the length of the tracks. Thule Top Tracks can be custom installed onto truck fiberglass camper shells tops and sheet metal roof tops as well.

These attachment methods require drilling and offer an excellent solution when other attachment methods are not available


Hopefully this overview of all the possibilities has been helpful and gives you the confidence and knowledge to get ready to explore the freedom and adventure that car-based camping can offer.

Please reach out to us at 888-887- 8897 or email [email protected] for more information. You can also join our Facebook group, the Roofnest Flock, to ask real customers what they’ve done and how they’ve mounted their Roofnest to their vehicles – chances are there’s someone with your same vehicle who can help!