Like it or not, camping has changed more in the last decade than in the previous century. From new, lightweight materials like sil-nylon and carbon fiber to glamping experiences, hitting the open road just isn’t quite the same as it was when you were a kid.
That’s not to say these developments are a bad thing — sleeping out under the stars in the wilderness is more accessible than ever for anyone. The latest trend in camping technology, the rooftop tent, is taking the outdoors community, van-lifers, and gear heads across the world by storm. After spending a week testing out the latest hard-shell tent from our friends at Roofnest on a road trip from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Silverton, Colorado, it’s easy to see what all the buzz is about.
We’ll be honest, testing out a rooftop tent had us more than a little apprehensive when we picked up an Eagle Tent ($2,495) from Roofnest in Salt Lake. Giving up all of the real estate on the top of our Subaru Outback is a big commitment — no ski, bike, or cargo rack felt somewhat limiting at first. Then there was the bulk we expected. Some of the larger, folding tents from competitors add hundreds of pounds to your vehicle and act as a huge sail, killing gas mileage even when packed down. In comparison, the Eagle’s hard fiberglass shell and low profile design when closed (not to mention a svelte 135-pound weight that includes a foam mattress) actually provided a little extra aerodynamic freeway driving.
Initial set-up proved to be a little bit of a hassle, but that was no fault of the tent; Subaru’s factory racks are close enough to the roof of the car that getting the tent’s rails and hardware tightened down was a bit of adventure. Lucky for us, some skinny wrists and low profile wrenches had us on the road in no time. The drive from Salt Lake to the little mining town of Silverton was uneventful — even going over 70 mph, we hardly noticed the extra bulk on the roof. There was no appreciable extra road noise and we got a couple miles-per-gallon better mileage than we’re used to down the freeways and canyon roads of Utah.
Pulling into Silverton, it was already dark and we still had to find a spot to sleep. A short drive out of town brought us to the parking lot of Silverton Mountain Resort, our destination for a weekend of steep skiing, parking lot beers, and epic goggle tans. In less than five minutes we had the tent set up (hydraulic pop-up supports for the win!), sleeping bags and pillows spread out, and the ladder attached. A quick check of the temperature — a frosty 5 degrees Fahrenheit — prompted us to grab an extra down jacket before we climbing into bed.
We spent three more nights in the Eagle, ranging from cold nights in the alpine forests outside Durango, Colorado, to the red rock deserts of Moab.
Prepared for an incredibly chilly night, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the tent insulated us from the cold, but also shed moisture from our freezing breath all night. The nearly three-inch deep foam mattress and bottom shell of the tent kept body heat locked in and chills out. Mesh vents at the front, back, and both doors kept the inside of the tent walls (cotton-poly blend fabric, with a generous weatherproof polyurethane coating) from icing over. In the morning, we simply left the tent up while taking a few laps through Silverton’s amazing terrain before packing things up. Our sleeping gear conveniently fit in the tent even when closed up, freeing up valuable cargo space in the car for skis, hiking gear, and the precious beer cooler.
We spent three more nights in the Eagle, ranging from cold nights in the alpine forests outside Durango, Colorado, to the red rock deserts of Moab, Utah, on our way back to Salt Lake City. From hot desert thunderstorms to freezing nights above the treeline, Roofnest’s tent provided the best nights of sleeping on the road that we’ve had in years.
If the nearly queen-sized bed dimensions of the Eagle are a little too much for your liking (or size of your car), the new Sparrow ($2,295) is also live on the Roofnest site. Coming in a little more narrow, it is perfect for smaller hatchbacks or solo road tripping. Whether you’re a serious overlanding enthusiast or just looking for a luxury night out under the stars, Roofnest’s new tents should be on every adventurer’s gear list this summer.