Steal a roof tent? Who comes up with this idea? Is that possible? The answer is yes! And easier than you think!
Stolen items are always annoying. Imagine you are on vacation and your expensive camera equipment including all memory cards has been stolen? The bike that was only parked briefly in the city center or the smartphone is gone? You will usually quickly find out that not only has a financial loss arisen, but also a heap of data or memories has gone with it.
That is why we always take special care of these items. But have you ever thought about what it would be like if your roof tent and the sleeping accessories in it were stolen on vacation? Quite apart from the fact that suddenly there is no place to sleep, that would certainly not be a nice course of the long-awaited summer vacation.
A stolen roof tent would of course not only be ugly on vacation. Therefore, as the proud owner of a roof tent, should you also think about an appropriate anti-theft device? What has to be considered? How does an anti-theft device work? And is that necessary always and everywhere?
You will find answers to all of these questions in this article on the subject of roof tents & anti-theft devices.
Is a roof tent theft even an issue?
Up until a few years ago, theft of roof tents was not a common issue. One or the other contribution to stolen roof tents in social media makes one or the other roof tent nomads perk up their ears. These include various unfinished thefts, which were revealed by nuts loosened overnight, to the theft of a hard-shell roof tent from a guarded parking lot.
In simple terms, it can be said that the attention of thieves for certain objects increases when they are increasingly common in everyday life and they achieve a high price on the used market. Both of these apply to rooftop tents, as the ever-increasing range of rooftop tent variants and manufacturers shows. The prices for new, well-equipped roof tents are now considerable and the value of roof tents is not diminishing.
Whether you have to worry about your roof tent being stolen from the roof of your car depends entirely on the region in which you are vacationing and also on the parking spaces that you choose outside of your vacation. Overall, however, the risk of a roof tent theft is rather low.
A roof tent is not stolen as quickly as a smartphone or a wallet – that alone makes it really difficult and also relatively unlikely. The probability that your car and the roof tent will be stolen is probably a lot higher.
You will find a few little everyday anti-theft hacks for your roof tent that you may not have thought of yet later in the article. Securing your roof tent against theft doesn’t always have to be expensive or time-consuming.
How does the theft of a roof tent work?
If you have assembled your own roof tent yourself, you have certainly taken great care to ensure that all screws are properly seated, that the roof tent rests nicely on the girders, that the tailgate can still be opened, etc.
This time effort is no longer required during dismantling. Strictly speaking, there are often only eight nuts that your thieves can loosen in a few moments without any care. After that, if the roof tent is stolen, it is placed on a trailer parked next to it or pushed into the hold of a transporter. It can go that fast.
If the people and vehicles involved do not look completely suspect from the outside, to make matters worse, perhaps not even someone will be bothered by the busy hustle and bustle.
Risk factors in roof tent theft
Even if suitable tools and transport options are available, a roof tent theft must offer the right opportunity and financial incentive at the same time. A roof tent model that is already visibly aged attracts less attention than a brand-new premium roof tent, the market value of which can be quickly determined on the Internet.
Further indicators are the place of parking and the accessibility. For example, a roof tent is less easily accessible on a high off-road vehicle or on a minibus than on a compact car.
Thieves can also reach a parking space in public traffic more easily than a locked garage in a narrow back yard on private property. On a vacation trip, however, you can often not choose the conditions on site – and thus the risks. This is why additional theft protection can be useful, especially when on vacation.
The roof tent fastening: weak point of the counter plate fastening
If you want to protect your roof tent from theft, then in addition to the safest choice of location, you also have the option of making the roof tent itself more theft-proof.
The weak point in roof tent theft is clearly the attachment to the vehicle. Therefore we want to take a look at the technical conditions of the most common form of roof tent attachment.
“Anyone can just dismantle this attachment?” – “Yes, but who should actually do that?” There are two aspects to this dialogue:
1 . the apparently poor technical protection against dismantling by unauthorized persons and 2. the human-based doubt that thieves would actually do this.
Both aspects seem plausible in their own way, because presumably every type of roof tent theft protection can be cracked relatively easily with heavy equipment, such as a mobile power cutter, with the corresponding effort and the associated noise pollution. Although this variant is of course a bit more noticeable in road traffic than loosening eight screws.
Many roof tents are mounted at four attachment points. The roof tent is clamped securely to the roof rack by means of a counter plate or two nuts. These nuts can be tightened or loosened with a suitable wrench or, if necessary, pliers.
These are tools that most people have in their toolbox at home anyway. What seems practical to you is unfortunately at least as practical for thieves.
It is also known that the screws are usually exposed when the counter plate is fastened and can consequently be cut through almost noiselessly with a hacksaw or bolt cutter. Anyone who has ever sawed through such a screw knows that the actual effort is limited.
Incidentally, it should be mentioned here that a thief who is armed with bolt cutters and the like must also be able to access the screws. In the case of a vehicle with a roof rack at chest height, this is much easier than if the roof rack is more than two meters high.
Many roof racks can only be attached to the vehicle with a special tool or their attachment mechanism can even be specifically locked with a key. In this article it is therefore assumed that the roof rack does not represent a general weak point even in the event of a roof tent theft.
The various anti-theft devices
Anyone who has dealt with the topic of fastenings when purchasing their own roof tent knows that some manufacturers offer various sets with counter plates in different sizes, hole spacings and screw diameters – mostly M6 and M8. Depending on how wide and how high the cross member profile is, a suitable size must be selected.
Just as there is no single roof tent attachment, there does not seem to be a single option for an associated anti-theft device. The different types of commercial suppliers and hobbyists are discussed below.
First of all, there seems to be no commercially available solution against roof tent theft that is universally suitable for all types of roof tent attachments.
Self-made with padlock
Many individual or branded anti-theft devices are not exactly cheap to buy. So it makes sense to look for an inexpensive alternative. The easiest way to do this is of course with materials that can be found in your home workshop or hardware store.
A conventional padlock can be used to directly couple the counter plate fastening with a lockable component. A padlock is used to ensure that the nuts cannot be loosened when they are locked. A variant with ring nuts appears most obvious here. These are available in different sizes and thread diameters. The photo shows a version with stainless steel ring nuts with M6 thread.
Here is another security solution with a lock.
Apart from the fact that the screws are still exposed unprotected, these in-house designs seem to have a completely different disadvantage. While driving, the padlock can move in the eyelets and cause rattling noises. However, if you only mount the lock when parking, there is a risk that you will miss out on exactly that. You can of course try to counteract the rattling with cloth wraps, adhesive tape, foam or the like.
Self-made shielding of the counter plates
A basic objective of many anti-theft devices is to shield the actual fastening components against attack by tools. A particularly clear example of this principle can be seen in the in-house construction of a box-shaped cover made of sheet steel.
The cover has side recesses that are precisely adapted for the roof bars. In the assembled state, such a “fuse box” covers both the counter plate and the screws and nuts. The cover itself is secured with one or more lockable knob nuts.
Lockable knob nuts
A knob nut is a mushroom-shaped construction that has a nut at the lower end and is star-shaped at the upper end, so that the knob nuts can be easily gripped by hand and thus tightened and loosened.
To secure your roof tent attachment, you can also work with lockable knob nuts. They usually fit on M8 threads and can only be opened when the key is in the lock.
Brake disc lock
If you want to secure your roof tent from theft, a brake disc lock can also be of great service. The built-in sensitive alarm device in the event of a shock automatically activates an integrated alarm device to draw attention to outside interference. Practical, isn’t it?
Storing the roof tent: roof tent lift
Conventional nuts have a thread on the inside and a hexagonal shape on the outside so that they can be tightened or loosened with a wrench or socket. In order to prevent exactly that for a thief, there are nuts that have a special shape on the outside, on which only a single associated tool fits. The English term anti-theft nuts is often used for such nuts and can be found, for example, in bicycle accessories or at hardware stores.
The basic idea is the same as with the anti-theft nuts from Autohome (see below), whereby the Anto-Theft-Nuts are used in addition to the actual hexagon nuts. In view of the sometimes low acquisition costs for anti-theft nuts, the use of a counter plate attachment appears very attractive, especially since the associated tool (usually a specially shaped socket) is very compact and takes up hardly any space even when you are out and about.
However, there are different views in product reviews and in discussions on social media about the effectiveness of these anti-theft nuts. The following photo shows that many of these special shaped nuts or anti-theft nuts can be loosened without the corresponding socket. In most cases, a simple pair of pliers and a little skill are sufficient. It must be mentioned here, however, that pliers must also reasonably reach the outer edge of the nuts in order to loosen them. The rest of the shape of the anti-theft nuts is deliberately rounded so that the pliers inevitably slip off.
Self-made counter plate for anti-theft nuts
Based on the obvious flaw of the anti-theft nuts shown, the author of this article modified a counter plate and added a shield. As with the “old” anti-theft device from Ikamper, this so-called roof tent protection counter plate is exchanged for a standard counter plate.
If the aforementioned anti-theft nuts are used instead of normal hexagon nuts, these nuts can only be loosened with the appropriate socket, because the nuts are laterally encased by the steel tube. A pair of pliers can no longer reach the lower edge.
The photo shows the attempt to grip the rounded anti-theft groove with pliers, which is effectively prevented by the rounded nut shape:
The welded steel pipes are dimensioned towards the top so that they surround the nuts and also shield the screws behind them. The steel pipe is too big for the jaw of a bolt cutter. With a hacksaw, the time required is maximized due to the thickness and circumference of the steel protective tube.
The principle of the roof tent protection counter plate can also be applied to the anti-theft nuts, for example. However, a suitable manufacturer is still missing for a commercial offer of roof tent protection.
New fastening concept from Ikamper
The roof tents from Ikamper show that it doesn’t always have to be a counter plate fastening. The “new” fastening system does not use counter plates, but represents a tensioning device with a long screw in the longitudinal direction. Unfortunately, this system does not seem to be suitable for all roof rack sizes and primarily only to fit the Ikamper roof tents. In the photo, the attachment can therefore unfortunately only be shown without the roof tent and “upside down”.
The corresponding anti-theft device is also used on the right in the picture. As a result, the screw head is completely shielded and the long clamping screw cannot be loosened as a result.
Lockable counter plate attachment from Ikamper
In contrast to the “new” fastening system mentioned, Ikamper still offers an “old” fastening system with counter plates and a corresponding lockable variant. Here an additional cover plate hides the actual counter plate.
The cover plate is attached to the counter plate using two locking mechanisms and locked tightly. A corresponding wrench or even a pair of pliers can no longer reach the nuts, which are virtually well shielded between the counter plate and the cover plate. The screws are also securely shielded. The cover plate is simply too big for the jaw of a bolt cutter.
You could still think about going to work with a hacksaw. However, the time required is rather high due to the thickness of the steel cover plate. Can you really steal a roof tent unnoticed during this time?
Anti-theft lock nuts from Autohome
The Italian roof tent manufacturer has been offering a special theft protection kit since 2019. The kit consists of four anti-theft nuts and a suitable assembly key that engages in the holes in the nuts. The thread diameter of these anti-theft nuts is M6, as is usual for Autohome roof tent fastenings. This means that these nuts are not suitable for roof tent fastenings from many other manufacturers, because they often use M8 threads.
The special trick with this kit is that the anti-theft nuts have a recess on the inside, which makes it possible to unscrew the anti-theft nuts in addition to the actual nuts and completely shield them. With the right key, the anti-theft nuts can be screwed on tightly so that they can no longer be loosened by hand.
The rounded shape of the Autohome anti-theft nuts is intended to ensure that encompassing tools (such as water pump pliers) slip off when attempting to loosen the anti-theft nuts.
However, this concept does not seem to work, as the photo shows. The outer edge of the anti-theft nuts is not covered and thus offers a useful clamping point for pliers tools. After the first turn with pliers, you can continue turning by hand. Then the usual 10 mm wrench is used for the actual nuts.
Amazingly, the current counter plates from Autohome are no longer designed as smooth plates, but have a bead shape, as can be seen in the photo. What on the one hand increases the rigidity of the counter plate on the construction side, however, on the other hand, makes it even easier for a thief finger to grip the anti-theft nuts with pliers and loosen them.
Everyday anti-theft hacks for the roof tent
In fact, it doesn’t always have to be a solution made up of steel and technology. Even simple everyday anti-theft hacks can protect you from thieves getting your roof tent out.
For example, a highly polished roof tent in its original state could be more exciting for theft than a completely individualized roof tent with one or two scratches. Don’t worry, we don’t recommend deliberately damaging your rooftop tent now. A particularly individual sticker that is difficult to remove could be enough to make your roof tent less attractive to thieves.
It is not the same with more unusual models. For example, some roof tents are available in very special colors. The purple-pale-blue checkered roof tent is probably not as interesting for thieves as the black roof tent that you see on every corner. Because the thief is usually happy about the resale value. Quite apart from the fact that the purple-pale-blue checkered roof tent might not sell well again, it is also immediately noticeable on the second-hand market and could put the thief down.
The safest way to protect the roof tent from theft is probably always to lie in it. So spend as much time as possible in the roof tent, then nobody can steal it from you!
Another topic is electronic anti-theft measures such as GPS trackers. These do not prevent a thief before the actual act, but only help to find the roof tent afterwards, so that they can be seen more as a supplementary measure. A similar issue is that it is good to know the serial number of your rooftop tent (if you have one).
It should also be mentioned that a corresponding anti-theft device on the roof tent can not only be useful. It is also advisable to document this accordingly.
If you do become a victim of theft in a roof tent, your insurance company will certainly be happy to receive the information that your roof tent was also secured against theft. Or would you like to tell your insurance agent that your roof tent was only secured against theft with eight screws?
For the insurance, it can also be useful if you can present current pictures of your roof tent vacation that prove that you were out with a roof tent at all.
In response to the initial question of how do I protect my roof tent against theft, this article has given us an overview of mechanical anti-theft measures. In addition to products that are already commercially available, there are also ingenious self-construction solutions that fulfill their purpose equally, if not even more well-thought-out.
Due to the variety of roof tents and their fixings, you have to find the right solution for your own roof tent yourself. You can then only judge the cost-benefit ratio of a suitable solution for yourself.
The most complex part of assembling a roof tent is definitely lifting the towing or roof tent onto the car roof. This need not be. Why not just lift the roof tent to the garage / carport ceiling with a lift? All lifts that work for roof boxes also do their job for roof tents.
In particular, the owners of hard shell tents, whose ladder has no support function, often have to stow their ladder separately. In addition, the ladders supplied with the tents are often unwieldy. If you don’t feel like having to put your wet ladder in your hard shell, you can remedy this with a telescopic ladder. Since this is small and light, it will definitely fit in the car.
Download Our Roof Top Tent Overview (PDF)
In this pdf file, we give you an overview of the most popular rooftop tents. You can download this PDF file for free and use it freely!