What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?





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  1. #1
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    Default What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    After walking past dozens of Rooftop Tent brands and manufacturers at this weekend’s outdoor show at Swartkops, it felt like “seen one seen them all”.

    Most of the clamshell options have the typical exposed aluminum frame and dark khaki canvas.... and very little else that differentiates them. Being in the market for a RTT, I have no idea what to look for. Some are twice the price of others for a not-so-different product. #confused

    so, my questions are:
    1. What are the ideal/key features of a roof top tent - lets stick to a tent for 2 shall we.
    2. What would be really nice improvements over the current line up available?
    Last edited by Boesman88; 2019/09/03 at 08:25 PM.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Kry n Bundutop tent

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Well, having used rooftop tents all over Africa, and lived in one (that I designed myself) for two years, here are some key things to look out for:

    1. Heavy duty Ripstop canvas all round - some of the tents have heavy duty vinyl roofs, which are fine in warm weather, but in cold weather they collect condensation and you get wet.
    2. There must be enough space under the cover to store your bedding in the tent when folded up.
    3. The cover should close very securely over the tent otherwise dust will get in: if it has an all-round zip, make sure it is a heavy duty YKK zip (the zip alone costs about a thousand bucks).
    4. Make sure the ladder has flat risers, not round ones (you slip off round ones, and they are painful under bare feet) and that the risers have a baffle plate pattern on them for better grip.
    5. While metal floors are lighter, they are very cold in winter, and need a blanket over them below your mattress - wood is better, but metal is longer lasting.
    6. The whole point of an RTT is that it is quick and easy to put up and take down - avoid the temptation of buying rooms that add on underneath and other such stuff, they are of limited use.

    I have no experience with clamshell tents, self-raising electric motor tents etc, but my instinct for rough travel is to keep it as simple, rugged and non-mechanical as possible. Our current RTT is an Echo and it is nearly 20 years old, has done multiple long overland trips, and still looks brand new, and the only thing we have replaced is the cover, which got ripped by a thorn tree (it does have the vinyl roof, but we bought it because at the time it was the only well-made tent on the market that could sleep two adults and two kids comfortably).
    Tony Weaver

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  5. #4
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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    [QUOTE=Boesman88;4220737
    1. What are the ideal/key features of a roof top tent - lets stick to a tent for 2 shall we.
    2. What would be really nice improvements over the current line up available?[/QUOTE]


    I suspect that all that have graduated from soft-top to hardtop RTTs will attest to the sublime convenience. Most of these hardtops are simple and quick to deploy or pack up, can be opened and closed wih all bedding and ladder stored inside, and in literally a couple of minutes by a single person, wife included.
    The lighter ones with an aerodynamically designed heavy-duty plastic case, will be strong enough plus light enough. It will also not be too much of a wind drag on top of the roof and fuel consumption should be reasonable. These are often significantly lighter than many of the soft-top tents.
    There will usually be a sufficient gap in the rear (or front) of the casing, to accommodate a row of articles such as jerry cans, gas bottles and wood, on the roofrack .
    Most of these hardtop RTTs are clamshell in design and are most comfortable, and sturdy by their nature of having a hard case.
    They are plenty large enough and ladder entry can be from the rear or side as desired.
    Many can carry solar panels and sandtracks, mounted externally onto the hard top, completely out of the way.
    The only trouble I have had with mine after 6 years of use and abuse, is replacing the gas struts, and then with stronger ones.
    Although very comfortable I regard the electric deployment mechanism of the Bundutop type of hardshell to be a potential complication (despite the mechanical override).

    We have a generation I Alucab clamshell. Because of its aluminium shell it is exceedingly robust, which we needed on a prolonged (10 month) African expedition and it stood up there where other brands might have faltered and also on subsequent trips. On such a long trip where the tent was up and down on most days, the convenience was the trump card. However this early Alucab generation was a heavy load and the newer Alucabs are less so, as are the plastic hardtops.
    A carpeted bottem and an excellent quality, high density foam matress ensured an excellent night's sleep and no cold.
    The tent ceiling is quilted on its inside and this prevents internal condensation and water dripping. The large windows/doors have excellent quality insect-proof gauze and canvas covers can be conveniently closed and zipped from the inside.

    The major setback to such a RTT is the extra cost. If budget is an issue, shop around, perhaps even second-hand. You and particularly your wife will be eternally grateful for the convenience and comfort. The best camping money we have spent!
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2019/09/04 at 12:24 AM.
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    Arrow Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Stan and Tony both have excellent points. I'm not sure there is a "perfect" roof top tent, because of course it matters what you want to do with it and what kind of vehicle you have.

    My .02:

    Perfect RTT would:
    -weigh 40kgs or less. Currently the only hardshell tent that I know of that is this light is carbon fiber.
    -hardshell for easy set up/take down
    -wedge shape for wind resistance
    -entrances would zip open from the bottom (opposite Alu-cab) so that you can slip in and out without letting all the mosquitos in
    -have a ladder that stows under the tent and slides out (as far as I know there are no hardshell tents on the market like this), not in the tent or another thing rattling around in the back of my canopy
    -is at least a little bit affordable


    General thoughts:
    -The convenience of a hardshell tent is much higher for sure, it comes at a price, not only of money but also weight. My research showed hard shell RTTs almost double the weight of soft tents, and up high this is of course the worst location to have weight. This is something the hard shell tent manufacturers don't talk about and I think is a real danger if not carefully considered. No doubt there are some hard shell RTTs on vehicles that do not have the stability to support them safely.

    -I was wary of the Bundu Top tent, and other rectangular tents, for wind. We have spent a few nights camping in quite gusty conditions and we went for a wedge shaped hard shell tent because of this. A sturdy soft tent will hold up just fine in wind, but ours did flap a bit and all the dang zippers inside jingling around would keep me awake. I then stuff clothing around to muffle them, and I've since either tied twine into the zippers or put rubber on them to help quiet them down, but it doesn't solve the problem entirely.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post

    The lighter ones with an aerodynamically designed heavy-duty plastic case, will be strong enough plus light enough. It will also not be too much of a wind drag on top of the roof and fuel consumption should be reasonable. These are often significantly lighter than many of the soft-top tents.
    Interesting to see your note that some are significantly lighter, perhaps I am missing something. The new Gen3 Alucab (80kgs!) is certainly not lighter than our Easi-Awn Jazz soft tent (40 kgs).

    We were just shopping for a hard shell tent and I was surprised that there was minimal weight difference between some of the fiberglass tents and the Alucab tent. As I recall the Wild Earth fiberglass tent and the Alu-cab Gen3 where something less than 10 kgs apart, much closer than I would have thought. I didn't weigh them myself of course, but this is from the brochures.

    Then only hard shell tent I found that was lighter was the Columbus carbon fiber tent (https://www.autohomeus.com/roof-top-...-carbon-fiber/), but it is REALLY expensive, and I don't know if it's available in South Africa.

    Stan it is so good to hear that you are so satisfied with your Alucab tent! We have just invested in one, but have yet to take it on a trip with it (November) and I have some trepidation. As you know, it was expensive.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Caldriver, your points about improvements are almost spot on for me too.

    The biggest improvement for me would be a ladder that either slides under the RTT, or can be permanently fixed to the vehicle (depending WHAT vehicle you drive) or stored in such a way that you simply pull it down.
    The ladder is by far the weakest point of the RTT in my opinion.

    I would also like to see enough hooks inside the RTT, and even a strip of carpet/velcro to stick your stuff to.
    (I know some RTT's are sorted in this department already)

    Perhaps window zips that go all the way around so one can choose to open bottom or top? I like the ALUcab open from top. But sometimes I wonder.
    Ezzac

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Set-up speed which the Bundutec Bundutop has but not many can afford.
    Shallow sliding drawer system (similar to inside the vehicle) accessible from the sides for clothing to relieve space inside the vehicle.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    CalDriver and Ehoffmann are making interesting points re the easy access to the ladders. What is the issue with the current practice of ladder inside the shell? Is it a case of you needing to step on something to reach and open the shell in the first place? I guess being fairly tall I never thought about that- but shorter people might struggle opening the shell and then only grabbing the ladder. The other issue I guess would be ensuring the ladder is always clean and mud free before putting it on top of your bedding

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roberto Betta View Post
    Shallow sliding drawer system (similar to inside the vehicle) accessible from the sides for clothing to relieve space inside the vehicle.
    Mmm interesting thought- how would this work? Drawers sliding out of the shell so you can access contents from outside?

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    I always thought that its a bit limiting to have only one direction to sleep in (head facing the open side of the tent) due to the narrow end where the shell hinges. I see one of the manufacturers made their tent to lift at both ends which looks really cool - but most certainly adds extra weight which is not so cool. Others have a clam than opens up sideways and then an extended floor folds out. Looks a bit cumbersome to operate but is very spacious inside if space is what you’re after in a RTT

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boesman88 View Post
    Mmm interesting thought- how would this work? Drawers sliding out of the shell so you can access contents from outside?
    Yes. That or a frame with drawers attached underneath to the shell. We take up a good part of the back seat with clothing and camera bags that can be better utilized.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    The major change for us when going from the Serengeti soft RTT to the Bundutop was the access. On the Serengeti it was one place only, that being which ever side of the car the tent folded out too.

    The Bundutop has 4 entry points and when it was on Pajtu's roof we entered via the spare wheel step, or we could have a ladder at either side. Landy guy's also employ the bull bar front entry method.

    I found that wind resistance on the soft tent to be considerably more than the hard shell Bundutop. No matter how well I put the bag on, wind would find it's way in and that bag would inflate in places. No such problems with the hard shell.

    We have experienced no problems in wet, windy or harsh weather in our square box. As for the mechanical aspect, like anything mechanical a little maintenance goes a long way and the Bundutop can be raised and lowered manually if needed.

    Pros for the soft shell would be lighter weight and smaller footprint, cons would be that some are difficult to pack with bedding and pillows.

    Pros for the hard shell would be easy setup and take down, room for bedding, better aerodynamics, cons would be bigger footprint. We have not owned a clam shell, they just don't appeal to me, so I am not qualified to comment.
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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boesman88 View Post
    CalDriver and Ehoffmann are making interesting points re the easy access to the ladders. What is the issue with the current practice of ladder inside the shell? Is it a case of you needing to step on something to reach and open the shell in the first place? I guess being fairly tall I never thought about that- but shorter people might struggle opening the shell and then only grabbing the ladder. The other issue I guess would be ensuring the ladder is always clean and mud free before putting it on top of your bedding
    The "hardest" part of the Alucab set up is getting the ladder out, and fitting it.

    Alucab comes with a mother-long ladder, which needs to be put in a mother-long bag, before putting it in the RTT.

    I replaced this with a telescopic ladder - still needs to go into a bag (for the sand and mud)

    I dont find it a problem so much to get up on the back of my Prado, and getting it out of the RTT, the issue is more I would want to avoid having to do that, and having to put it in a bag. The other thing is - with the Prado, there is a spoiler so you cant access the RTT from the back at all. Putting ladder on the side, prevents you from opening the back door behind the ladder.

    A pull out ladder will be quick and easy, no lifting, no mud.

    It takes longer to set up the ladder than to open or close the RTT
    Last edited by EHoffmann; 2019/09/04 at 09:03 AM.
    Ezzac

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    I cannot add much to what has already been said.
    On all of my RTT's after all what has already been said my big next problem has always been mattress. None of them come standard with good one's. I have used that eggshell thin mattress to improve mine.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    My rooftop requirements were: Lightweight, weather resistant and cheap.
    Bought a well used Eezi Awn for R1500, fully refurbished it for less than R2k. Also got a new fly (Tentco) since I hated the original PVC fly sheet. Also replaced the Eezi Awn cover with Tentco Cover. This one is up in less than 3 minutes so time to pitch not an issue. More than enough space to leave bedding in as well.

    Now I am pretty much where I wanted to be with my bakkie. I just don't know where to mount the Tentco Bundu Canopy.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roberto Betta View Post
    Yes. That or a frame with drawers attached underneath to the shell. We take up a good part of the back seat with clothing and camera bags that can be better utilized.
    Make sense provided the weight and aerodynamics aren’t too badly affected

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boesman88 View Post
    Make sense provided the weight and aerodynamics aren’t too badly affected

    And height. Most RTT's already dont fit into garages. Adding any height for me is a negative (unless I am missing how you want to do it)
    Ezzac

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boesman88 View Post
    CalDriver and Ehoffmann are making interesting points re the easy access to the ladders. What is the issue with the current practice of ladder inside the shell? Is it a case of you needing to step on something to reach and open the shell in the first place? I guess being fairly tall I never thought about that- but shorter people might struggle opening the shell and then only grabbing the ladder. The other issue I guess would be ensuring the ladder is always clean and mud free before putting it on top of your bedding
    To me the issue with the ladder is cleanliness. AluCabs non collapsable ladder is good in the sense that is very durable, simple and doesn't have anywhere for sand to jamb it up, but because of it's length it's difficult to put the bag on without two people. A telescoping ladder solves this to a degree, but they are heavier, and then it's another thing that you have to put somewhere. The collapsable ladder built into a soft tent is a major bonus for me.

    Also one issue with the soft tent depends on what vehicle you have. They're not hard to put up/take down, but if you have a taller vehicle (Land Cruiser 70 series) or a suspension lift it means you have to do a sort yoga/rock climbing gymnastic move while standing on the tires to be able to put the cover back on, or install the poles for the fly. I love my LC 79, but I'll say for sure that I have looked enviously upon those with a 5 year old hilux that can close their RTT while standing on the ground (such luxury!), let alone me standing on my toes while on the back wheel or rear wheel carrier. As an added bonus I get to hug my dust covered canopy while doing this.

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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    We have been looking at hard shell tents for a long term overland expedition we are planning. I am tall (1,88) and found that most of the ones we looked at were just too short to be comfortable. My wife also felt cramped and was looking for something with more space. After much searching she found the Hardshell Plus from Custom Leisure Tech which is long enough for me and has much more space. We have placed an order for one so will be able to give some feedback after the first trip. We visited the factory and the owner Paul was very helpful, quality looks good.
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    Default Re: What would the perfect rooftop tent look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanW View Post
    We have been looking at hard shell tents for a long term overland expedition we are planning. I am tall (1,88) and found that most of the ones we looked at were just too short to be comfortable. My wife also felt cramped and was looking for something with more space. After much searching she found the Hardshell Plus from Custom Leisure Tech which is long enough for me and has much more space. We have placed an order for one so will be able to give some feedback after the first trip. We visited the factory and the owner Paul was very helpful, quality looks good.
    saw their products at the show- looked pretty good but also bit heavy. Did you go for the one that lifts both sides?

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