Smittybuilt roof top tent review

kcabpilot

Well-known member
Mar 26, 2006
334
0
California
I bought this tent a month ago for a trip I'm taking through Utah and Colorado in June. I weighed the options of sleeping in the truck, a ground tent or the RTT. It wasn't an easy decision considering some of the new instant-erect tents they have nowadays and the fact that roof top tents are pretty expensive. But I had earlier this year purchased and installed a Voyager roof rack so, in a way, I had already committed myself to the RTT idea. That in itself was a bit of a struggle because roof top tents have both good and bad aspects to them.

Among the good - easy as pie to erect and collapse, takes only a few minutes. You can leave all of your sleeping gear in the tent so no rolling up bags and packing stuff. Being off the ground is nice in bear country and when it's raining. It's pretty darn comfortable.

Among the bad - It's a bit of a chore getting it up and mounted to the roof rack, it weighs about 120 pounds. I was able to get it up there myself but there's a potential for injuring yourself doing that. It's not particularly well suited for a weekend outing and you probably don't want to drive around with it up there all the time. Then there is the possibility of falling while getting in or out of the thing and if that happens you could hurt yourself real bad - out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. So there's that to think about.

Finally there's the cost. In that regard the Smittybuilt is the cheapest roof top tent you can buy. I got it for $749 on Amazon with free shipping. I looked at other brands including the Tepui - which appears to be the exact same tent, probably made in the same Chinese factory. Ultimately I decided to settle on the compromises. Yes you can get a much higher quality tent for three or four times the cost and if you are absolutely certain that the roof top tent system is what you want that's probably the way to go - or, better yet, look at the new pop-up roof top clamshell tents available now. Easier to put up and stow and much better aerodynamics.

So, on to the experience. I've taken it out on a couple of shakedowns to see how it all works. As far as the aerodynamics it doesn't seem to be too bad, at least not mounted on the back of a Disco. I really didn't notice it at all even doing 70 mph on the freeway. You are of course mounting 120 pounds up high but if you have ACE you won't notice it at all going around turns. Setting it up is pretty easy, the toughest part is getting the cover on and off. With the Disco I can get to pretty much everything by opening the rear doors and standing on the sill or standing on the rear tire or bumper. The Voyager rack is nice as it provides all sorts of great hand holds. I didn't want to modify the rack however so I mounted the tent on the top rails so even though my Disco is not lifted I decided to order the ladder extender which will give me a more comfortable angle for getting in and out.

Would I recommend this tent? I guess, if like me you just want to try out the RTT experience. If, on the other hand you're absolutely sold on it then you should probably invest in a higher quality product. I think this tent will last providing I take care of it and so far I have enjoyed using it. The real test will come next month when my brother and I take our trucks into Canyonlands.



 

Tugela

Well-known member
May 21, 2007
3,993
22
Seattle
But I had earlier this year purchased and installed a Voyager roof rack so, in a way, I had already committed myself to the RTT idea.
This sounds like false reasoning, or like you were trying to justify the purchase of the RTT. You were committed to buying a RTT because you already had the rack for it? This is like saying you're committed to buying 35" tires because you already have 16" wheels that will fit them.

You could just as easily have reasoned "Well, I already have 100 pounds of steel on my roof that cost me a good chunk of change, so I could just buy a roomy ground tent for $250 that weighs 13 pounds and save the space on my roof for things I don't want inside the truck."

The RTT is cool and has some advantages, although it's not without limitations. I may invest in one myself eventually, but not because I already have the roof rack.
 

kcabpilot

Well-known member
Mar 26, 2006
334
0
California
So, you really take your cat camping?

Jimmyjamz will be all up in this thread...
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ha, ha well no not generally but I want to do this trip out to Colorado next month and although I've got him set up pretty good with auto feeder, water tower and electronic door that only he can get in and out of I don't really want to leave him alone for two and a half weeks so plan is to take him with me to Utah where he can stay with sister-in-law while brother and me have our adventures. So I took him along to see if I can get him acclimated to traveling for two days. He digs the camping part alright but not too keen on the traveling part. Cats are susceptible to motion sickness because they aren't big enough to see out the windows like dogs. For the first 50 miles he wedged himself between the back of my head and the headrest but after I stopped he found a suitable spot on the back shelf above the rear A/C. I figure he'll be okay.

While setting up the tent at the house I trained him how to get up on the hood then roof so he can get in and out of the tent on his own. He also likes to hang out on the front part of the rack where I mounted a piece of plywood.
 

Nomar

Well-known member
Apr 23, 2004
6,059
0
Virginia
You're braver than me.
It was usually a blood donation to put our old cat(RIP) in the car!


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ERover82

Well-known member
Nov 26, 2011
3,060
41
Darien Gap
There's a guy who takes his cat and dog on the same hiking trail every week here. The dog runs ahead and the cat lazily follows behind. It's one of those cats that's desensitized to most things and doesn't give a damn. The issue is when it's time to go it never gets in the car. He coerces it around the parking lot until the cat is done giving the middle finger and decides it's time to go.
 

kcabpilot

Well-known member
Mar 26, 2006
334
0
California
Laser pointer - I can get my cat to go anywhere with it. He absolutely cannot stop himself from chasing it. I'm not kidding he will stop eating to go after it.
 

Tugela

Well-known member
May 21, 2007
3,993
22
Seattle
I was advised prior to first using it to bring an empty Gatorade bottle up there with me.
That's dangerous. Why? Because after you pee in the bottle it is conspicuously similar to a bottle of Lemon-Lime Gatorade. The risks of confusing them, should the wrong bottle end up in your Yeti cooler, are simultaneously scary and amusing.