It's time to start doing some gear reviews, and I can't think of a better way to start than with our favorite piece of kit, the Tepui Ayer Rooftop Tent!
Now where do I begin? For years I had looked at pictures of expedition trucks set up in the Serengeti and the Outback with rooftop tents emblazoned against a setting sun, always imagining how awesome it would be to have one myself. Finally three years ago when we purchased Rosie, our Wrangler, and began building her into an expedition rig we pulled the trigger and purchased one. After extensive searching, review reading, price comparing and shipping calculations, we ended up with the Tepui brand Ayer 2 person tent.
Arriving by freight truck a few weeks after purchasing, we tore into the 100 pound 5'x5' cardboard box, giddy as schoolchildren. With very minimal assembly, we hoisted our brand new tent onto the roof of our jeep and had it bolted onto the roof rack in a matter of minutes. With a certain joy that can only be described as climbing up into a brand new tree house, we clambered up the ladder to observe our version of the high life.
Luxuriously layered with a 3 inch foam mattress, we leaned back comfortably and took in the tan canvas walls, zippered skylights and contemplated where we should take our new purchase for its first adventure. Made of water resistant rip-stop fabric, the material and build quality felt rugged and durable, ready for the most strenuous of adventures, whether that be New Hampshire or South Africa. All seams and stitching were taped as well to add an extra layer of protection from the elements.
To keep our home away from home safe, the tent included a heavy duty rubberized cover. Overlanding can often be an abrasive endeavor, and the cover held up to all the low hanging branches and weather we could throw at it. Even with a few scuffs on the canvas, we never had any moisture or water enter the tent during storage.
After a long day of driving setting up camp can seem like such a drag. But with the Tepui Ayer setting up camp is breeze! In about ten minutes that 4x4 rectangle on the roof transforms into a thing of wonder, and a sight sure to start more than a few conversations in camp. Getting the support poles for the rainfly can be a bit of an experience though, especially if you happen to have a lifted jeep and the tent sits at over 6 feet in the air. If you plan on carrying your tent that high, I hope you have a travel partner who is very comfortable with getting a little handsy while you climb and reach to get those support poles hooked in.
Now storage and setup is one thing, but how did the tent itself hold up during use? In one word, amazing. From humid summer weather to below freezing temperatures the tent kept us either cool or warm and high and dry during southern monsoons. In one two week trip down to Key West, we were able to experience the entire range of extremes from icy mist to thundering Florida downpours and throughout the whole time never once did we find ourselves waking up wet or frozen. The canvas walls were thick enough that they held in our heat when needed, but there were enough windows and vents so as to allow a nice cross breeze, just make sure you get those zippers closed fully to keep out unwanted flying guests!
If you do happen to camp in rain, make sure after your trip you do take the time to air out the tent and let it properly dry out so as to prevent the classic tent odor that can develop. While the tent is branded as being water resistant, the worse we experience with water inside the tent was after an entire night of heavy rain and the bottom edges where our blankets ended began to leach water. One other quirk we did happen to notice though is that the rainfly did not seem to pull tight enough at the edges. Through a night of heavy rain, we would have a puddle build up on the rainfly, which every so often proceeded to empty out in a loud deluge across the roof of our Jeep.
So I guess the question is would we recommend the Tepui Ayer? Without hesitation I would say yes, yes, YES! If you're on the fence about making the switch to rooftop tent life, I can definitively say a rooftop tent will change the way you overland and camp forever! From being a great conversation starter to meet other campers, to keeping you high and dry and out of the reach of hungry wild animals, to being able to sleep soundly on a comfortable mattress rather than the hard ground, a rooftop tent will literally and figuratively elevate your camping experience! From the build quality, to the wide range of capability and durability of the Ayer, the tent is an amazing product that quickly found its way to being our home away from home.