Rooftop tents have come a long way since they first appeared in the 1930s and will always remain a relevant element of the overland and outdoor lifestyle. With the simple installation of a roof tent, a vehicle is elevated and repurposed at a relatively low cost. While older roof tents were large, heavy, and hard work, new roof tents are the opposite. Having lived full-time for four years in a roof tent with my family as we explored Africa and the Americas, I understand the value of a well-made and durable option. That said, our roof tent was a dinosaur compared to the latest offerings from companies such as the esteemed ARB.
ARB has launched two new rooftop tents this summer; a hard-shell option called the Esperance, and an airy, equally lightweight counterpart called the Flinders. With over two decades of experience manufacturing roof tents, these two latest offerings are a culmination of that experience and innovation combined with some well-considered, practical improvements and high-tech materials. Development of the new tents aims to balance comfort and vehicle performance by implementing intelligent upgrades and avoiding dead weight. ARB recognizes that the needs of overlanders are more diverse than ever before and created these purposeful rooftop tents accordingly.
The hard-shell Esperance rooftop tent balances practicality and comfort while retaining an efficient setup. Its clamshell design is easy to deploy, and packs down to only 13 inches tall when closed and weighs a mere 123 pounds (a full 100 pounds less than our old heavy-duty canvas dinosaur); its hard-shell outer surface is aerodynamic to prevent drag. The Esperance includes a telescopic ladder conveniently internally stored when the tent is stowed. Packed dimensions are 60 x 48 x 13-inches, and open dimensions are 60 x 79 x 47-inches.
This hard-shell rooftop tent seems the best of both worlds as the unit is compact and lightweight yet hardy and aerodynamic when closed and spacious when deployed. Gas struts assist with lifting the tent open, and setup is as simple as unclamping the cover, lifting it up, and folding out the tent with a pull. A sky-facing stargazing window is incorporated into the ceiling for starry nights and early mornings, and two large additional windows bring the outdoors indoors while a removable rainfly maximizes airflow for those hot summer nights. The 1.5-inch included mattress sleeps two adults, and the tent interior also has shoe and cargo storage pockets, with a dimming LED strip light with concealed wiring. Conveniently, the Esperance can be packed up with compact bedding left inside.
The new Flinders tent offers the biggest footprint of any ARB rooftop tent, yet a smaller pack-down size compared to the long-standing Simpson series. The externally stored ladder allows the soft-sided bag exterior to pack down to less than 8 inches tall, significantly reducing drag. It is worth noting that the ladder can be removed and stored within the vehicle to further reduce drag and overall height.
Spaciously sleeping two adults and perhaps a couple of small kids, the Flinders is built to enhance the camping experience with a skylight, easy setup, and five zippered windows (with dual insect-proof screens) to maximize airflow. The Flinders includes a two-inch high-density foam mattress, storage pockets, and a dim-able, built-in light with a USB charging port. Packed dimensions are 55 x 47 x 8-inches (packed height with ladder is 12-inches) and open dimensions are 55 x 94 x 55-inches.
Pro Tip – Mounting a rooftop tent on a full roof rack is both overkill and an unnecessary expense. Instead, mount the roof tent on appropriate load bars, thereby reducing roof load weight and saving money.
Both the Esperance and Flinders are now available from authorized ARB retailers throughout North America. www.arbusa.com
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