[HOW-TO]: LED Strip Lighting For Roof Top Tent (RTT)
So I got my Tepui Autana about a month ago and after a couple camping trips of fumbling in the dark (which can be fun sometimes ) I deiced that I was going to install some LED strips to liven the place up. This walk through will go through materials needed, fab of mounts, and installation.
- 5 Meters of Warm White 5050 LED's - Make sure that you get warm white because the output is much better than the blueish cool white LED's
- 22 GA Wire
- 2x Rocker Switches
- Rocker Switch Holder
- Heat Shrink
- Female Blade Terminals
- GB Wire Surface Mounts
- Wire Wrap
- 20GA Aluminum sheet - To fab the inside switch mount
- ZIP TIES!!! - Every one loves zip ties right!?
Fabrication of Mount:
The switch that goes into the tent can be mounted easily by forming a quick bracket out of sheet metal. you dont need any special tools to do this just a tin snips and some pliers to bend the metal. Drill/cut a hole that is big enough for the switch you have selected then bend the metal into the shape of a box with two rear tabs that overlap, making sure to leave enough clearance for the wires in the back.
Test fit the switch
Next hold the mount with a pliers and drill a hole through the back two overlapping pieces that will be bolted to the tent. You can then take out the center bolt in the hinge and reassemble with the switch mount in place. It worked well for the depth of my mount because the socket used to tighten it down fit in the mount then i could use an extension through the switch hole.
Even after deburing those edeges on that sheet metal I noticed they were sharp so I took some hose i had laying around and slit it so it would slip over the edge. Then I zip tied it to keep it in place.
Next we put up the in-tent led strip. Wire side will go to the side that has the switch on it. I found it easiest if you don't peel the back of the strip until it is routed through the fabric loops that hold the tent fabric to the tent poles. I used a zip tie then on the wire end to hold it in place while peeled the back and stuck it up where it belongs.
Now for the fun part if you havent already put the wires from the LED's into the wire warp and neatly zip tie it to the tent pole down to where the swtich is mounted.
When you get to the switch cut your power wire and crimp on a female spade terminal and connect that to one of the switch terminals. The end that you just cut then can have a female terminal crimped on to it and can be run out of the "Hinge" flap out of the tent along with the ground wire. This will be the power cable for the tent. Here is what it looks like, sorry I don't have any intermediate pictures.
You are done with the wiring in the tent then, and it can be folded up. Here is what the switch will look like with the tent folded. There is just enough clearance in my tent where it will not catch on the mattress.
Now it is time to mount the lights for the annex/under the tent. First thing I did was cut the LED strip to the proper length and then stick them down so that they won't get caught by the ladder. I did this first so that I can get the exact wire lengths that I need to make it look clean.
Then it came time to wire them. I mounted my switch using one of the ladder bolts. I ran the exact amount of wire through conduit along the outside of the tent bottom using the stick on wire mounts.
I suggest that you solder and then heat shrink all connections in lue of using butt connectors because it will be much more durable in the long run.
Wiring them to the truck is more application dependent, but for my 3rd Gen 4Runner I ran a power and ground out of the cab through the conduit boot that is on the hatch then up and out to the tent. I used a 2 pin quick connect trailer plug that i got from nappa. make sure with this pulg that the hot side is the insulated pin otherwise you have the potential of blowing fuses if it rubs against the body when not connected to the tent.
Genesis 1:3 NIV
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
No images of annex lights.... Yet.....