Autohome Air Top and Columbus Variant (any in Vancouver, Canada?)

Would you go with...


  • Total voters
    5

pizzalover

New member
Hello!

I'm currently using a Tepui Autana Sky and it has been great for my girlfriend and I travelling for extended periods of time. The only issue - setup and take down time. Together we can setup in 5 minutes and take down in just a few more, and while that doesn't sound like a lot of time, it adds up and can occasionally deter us from packing up and moving camp. The other small gripe is that it is quite noisy in high winds. Very happy with it overall, and worth every penny.

For my next tent, I have been looking at James Baroud and Autohome. Right now I am leaning towards Autohome, because they're a few hundred dollars less for a similar model, while still great quality. I do like the solar fan in the JB, but I'll just add a small 12V fan to the autohome.

I am only really looking at the two gas strut models: Air Top and Columbus Variant. Both look awesome and I'm sure I would be happy with either. Right now I am leaning towards the Columbus Variant because of the extra headroom (59" vs 36"). I am looking for some feedback and real-world experience as to why you would go with the 'rectangular style' like Air Top / Maggiolina or the 'triangular style' like the Columbus Variant. I have found lots of people that are happy with both, and that makes the decision even harder.

What would be amazing is if I could actually see these models in person. Does anyone own either of these and live in Vancouver, Canada? Squamish maybe? Or are there any dealers in the area?

Thanks,
Andrew
 

Crazy Schooner

Fortune's A Mistress
I owned both and would go with the Columbus variant. Having to open your vehicles doors to get access to the front of an Airtop is quite annoying when the weather isn't perfect. Due to the side load issue when pulling the top down, It's just awkward to close the front end of the RTT's that pop open front and back. The other autohome variant (maggiolina) with the rotating crank handle is much nicer providing you don't lose the handle by mistake.

On that note, the Columbus (I had a medium) won't close very good if you stuff it with blankets/pillows. I remember having a tough time with just a down sleeping bag (thick one mind you) plus a pillow and the ladder. However just pulling the back down in order to close it completly is very nice. Just be mindful you only have one latch at the back. So a cotter pin of some sort is needed to avoid the unit accidently opening on rough roads.

Just a heads up, i'm not sure if the newer models changed but the one I had didn't really have a bug screen. The bug screen velcroed to the sides of the doors and would need to be taken off and stored inside. Plus the base of the tent door didn't zipper shut. It just had a flap that overhangs the bottom, which was lackluster in colder weather.

The airtop I didn't use very long but the doors had proper bug screens but still used a flap on the bottom. Also the airtop had a less headroom on the base mattress, as parts of it was cut out to make room for the hinge mechanisms. So it was lacking in floor space compared to the columbus which had a corner to corner base mattress. Minor gripes but those were my biggest issues. The airtop closed a bit better with blankets inside but getting the front down was a bit of a hassle. Both tents were mounted on trucks btw.

Hope that helps!
 
Last edited:

pizzalover

New member
I owned both and would go with the Columbus variant. Having to open your vehicles doors to get access to the front of an Airtop is quite annoying when the weather isn't perfect. Due to the side load issue when pulling the top down, It's just awkward to close the front end of the RTT's that pop open front and back. The other autohome variant (maggiolina) with the rotating crank handle is much nicer providing you don't lose the handle by mistake.

On that note, the Columbus (I had a medium) won't close very good if you stuff it with blankets/pillows. I remember having a tough time with just a down sleeping bag (thick one mind you) plus a pillow and the ladder. However just pulling the back down in order to close it completly is very nice. Just be mindful you only have one latch at the back. So a cotter pin of some sort is needed to avoid the unit accidently opening on rough roads.

Just a heads up, i'm not sure if the newer models changed but the one I had didn't really have a bug screen. The bug screen velcroed to the sides of the doors and would need to be taken off and stored inside. Plus the base of the tent door didn't zipper shut. It just had a flap that overhangs the bottom, which was lackluster in colder weather.

The airtop I didn't use very long but the doors had proper bug screens but still used a flap on the bottom. Also the airtop had a less headroom on the base mattress, as parts of it was cut out to make room for the hinge mechanisms. So it was lacking in floor space compared to the columbus which had a corner to corner base mattress. Minor gripes but those were my biggest issues. The airtop closed a bit better with blankets inside but getting the front down was a bit of a hassle. Both tents were mounted on trucks btw.

Hope that helps!
Thank you very much. I will do some research on the bug screens before buying.

Confirmed: the columbus variant has mosquito net on both side doors and the big rear door.
 

spressomon

Expedition Leader
I too have the hook & loop to hold in place bug screens on the vertical side doors. I heard, the next container after mine came out of (go figure) Autohome Italy changed to zipper screens.

I've got too many nights in my Columbus Variant (small width, x-long length) to count and like it overall. However, having now used both the Maggiolina (Grand Tour) and our current Variant just know the Maggiolina is impervious to wind. Whereas the Columbus' fabric gets noisier (seems exponentially :D) as the wind blows north of 20mph.

The Maggiolina also sleeps warmer due to the lower ceiling height; visa-versa though in warmer temps. But I did have the timing chain derail on my Maggiolina after a run of Death Valley washboard. If I bought another Maggiolina, assuming Autohome Italy hasn't added a chain tensioning device or simple washers on each side of the sprockets, I would take it apart in the comfort of home and do the mod. Not a deal breaker and not many have experienced the dreaded timing chain derail but just FYI/FWIW based upon my experiences.
 

pizzalover

New member
I too have the hook & loop to hold in place bug screens on the vertical side doors. I heard, the next container after mine came out of (go figure) Autohome Italy changed to zipper screens.

I've got too many nights in my Columbus Variant (small width, x-long length) to count and like it overall. However, having now used both the Maggiolina (Grand Tour) and our current Variant just know the Maggiolina is impervious to wind. Whereas the Columbus' fabric gets noisier (seems exponentially :D) as the wind blows north of 20mph.

The Maggiolina also sleeps warmer due to the lower ceiling height; visa-versa though in warmer temps. But I did have the timing chain derail on my Maggiolina after a run of Death Valley washboard. If I bought another Maggiolina, assuming Autohome Italy hasn't added a chain tensioning device or simple washers on each side of the sprockets, I would take it apart in the comfort of home and do the mod. Not a deal breaker and not many have experienced the dreaded timing chain derail but just FYI/FWIW based upon my experiences.
Thank you! If you had to have just one of them now, would you go Grand Tour or Columbus Variant?

Climate wise, I think I'd prefer something cooler that I can always layer up sleeping bags/comforters, than something too warm in the hot weather.
 

spressomon

Expedition Leader
Some folks can sleep through a tornado so YMMV. If you have a propensity to camp in 20mph+ winds then the Maggiolina. Or wear ear plugs 😊.

I did fab a crude telescoping ‘spreader bar’ that, used inside the Variant and above the doors, to help put outward tension on the fabric that gets me less/no fabric flap noise and about 10mph. So this trick gets me to about 25-30mph with manageable fabric flap/noise.
 

pizzalover

New member
Some folks can sleep through a tornado so YMMV. If you have a propensity to camp in 20mph+ winds then the Maggiolina. Or wear ear plugs 😊.

I did fab a crude telescoping ‘spreader bar’ that, used inside the Variant and above the doors, to help put outward tension on the fabric that gets me less/no fabric flap noise and about 10mph. So this trick gets me to about 25-30mph with manageable fabric flap/noise.
OK understood. Hopefully in the newer models they have allowed for the struts to fully stretch the fabric and reduce the noise a bit. Thanks for your help.
 

spressomon

Expedition Leader
The fabric on my Variant at least, has zero flex. Its a complicated probkem to solve actually. A better fabric IMHO will be heavier & thicker per yard and thus occupy more space when closed.

I’m no spring chicken...and at 60 I’d actually prefer another inch or two in height to accommodate a 4-5” mattress/pad. This is a somewgat consistent area that gets all brands of RTTs negative comments. I fabbed my own dual density mattress pad. Its 4” tall...works fine and still closes with down comforter inside but w/o a real pillow.
 

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
Good point, the Maggiolina's mattress is a little thicker and the roof when closed is a little higher. It is a better cold weather tent, you need the extra cushion when it is cold. I've found the ACS mat from AutoHome is something special, from Germany. It is only about 1/2 inch thick and acts like a boxspring. Comfortable enough to lie on alone.

One trick we used to do with the Columbus and I think AutoHome is incorporating it into their tents now as a undocumented feature is a special vent up high. There is no way to get the fabric tight like on the Maggiolina so it will flap, as you have experienced. Gusts are differences in air pressure, why sailors talk about pressure and not wind. When the gust hits, high pressure, then when it leaves, low pressure so you get a snap. The trick is to use a vent as a one way valve and the air is sucked in slightly and moderates the flapping. Frenchie of Western Adventures came up with this innovation and there was a special Columbus we nicknamed "Frenchie's tent", works fairly well to quiet things down a bit. May take a little fiddling with the upper vent on your Columbus to make it react to air pressure.
 

Wallygator

Adventurer
I'm not sure Maggiolina USA can even be trusted. Meaning they don't follow this forum, they don't answer calls or emails. Not even sure if they even exist??? Are these tents still the best? If so how is the customer service?? Being on the East coast I can't just drop by the warehouse.
 

pizzalover

New member
Good point, the Maggiolina's mattress is a little thicker and the roof when closed is a little higher. It is a better cold weather tent, you need the extra cushion when it is cold. I've found the ACS mat from AutoHome is something special, from Germany. It is only about 1/2 inch thick and acts like a boxspring. Comfortable enough to lie on alone.

One trick we used to do with the Columbus and I think AutoHome is incorporating it into their tents now as a undocumented feature is a special vent up high. There is no way to get the fabric tight like on the Maggiolina so it will flap, as you have experienced. Gusts are differences in air pressure, why sailors talk about pressure and not wind. When the gust hits, high pressure, then when it leaves, low pressure so you get a snap. The trick is to use a vent as a one way valve and the air is sucked in slightly and moderates the flapping. Frenchie of Western Adventures came up with this innovation and there was a special Columbus we nicknamed "Frenchie's tent", works fairly well to quiet things down a bit. May take a little fiddling with the upper vent on your Columbus to make it react to air pressure.
Thanks for the insight. It sounds like the Columbus is closer to my needs, but the Maggiolina is a more 'perfected' model given its history. Again, makes this decision very tough.

I'm not sure Maggiolina USA can even be trusted. Meaning they don't follow this forum, they don't answer calls or emails. Not even sure if they even exist??? Are these tents still the best? If so how is the customer service?? Being on the East coast I can't just drop by the warehouse.
I have been in touch with AutohomeUSA; they replied to my email inquiry within 24 hours.
 

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
Don't be so tough on AutoHome, it is probably difficult for them to just answer their emails. Personally, I don't like it when vendors monitor a discussion, it colors it. We are lucky we don't have to import these direct from Italy, you don't want to see what a box looks like if it wasn't shipped in a whole container. They have to crate the tents because our carriers in the US are so rough on freight.

Back to the discussion - Andrew, think of a RTT like you would a sleeping bag. It has more in common with a bivy than a ground tent. I personally have a Columbus even though I prefer a Maggiolina because this is my wife's preference. She likes the height for putting on her clothes. Me, on the other hand, like it when it is so cold you have to dress inside your sleeping bag. Yes, it is all about compromise.

If anything, I prefer the older AutoHome tents. They were full expedition tents, simple and tough. The small "Adventure" for example was really small, designed for cold weather and stayed toasty inside. Worked well in hot weather too, opened up and the fiberglass shell didn't transmit heat. Had a flat top and tie downs so you could throw crap on top of the tent. Which brings me to my latest "rant" what is with the ABS shells on the Maggiolina knock-offs? Isn't that a thermo-plastic, won't it reform and distort with heat? Maybe they are adding glass fiber for structure? Seems like a huge cost cutting shortcut.

For reference, I'm not a big fan of AutoHome US, I do really like the guys in Italy at the factory. The whole factory shuts down for a month in the summer and everyone goes out and "tests" their tents, seriously. Years ago I talked to their office manager, who spoke English, and wasn't taking her advice seriously, and she set me straight, she and her husband used one of their new model tents in Northern Africa for a month.
 

pizzalover

New member
Don't be so tough on AutoHome, it is probably difficult for them to just answer their emails. Personally, I don't like it when vendors monitor a discussion, it colors it. We are lucky we don't have to import these direct from Italy, you don't want to see what a box looks like if it wasn't shipped in a whole container. They have to crate the tents because our carriers in the US are so rough on freight.

Back to the discussion - Andrew, think of a RTT like you would a sleeping bag. It has more in common with a bivy than a ground tent. I personally have a Columbus even though I prefer a Maggiolina because this is my wife's preference. She likes the height for putting on her clothes. Me, on the other hand, like it when it is so cold you have to dress inside your sleeping bag. Yes, it is all about compromise.

If anything, I prefer the older AutoHome tents. They were full expedition tents, simple and tough. The small "Adventure" for example was really small, designed for cold weather and stayed toasty inside. Worked well in hot weather too, opened up and the fiberglass shell didn't transmit heat. Had a flat top and tie downs so you could throw crap on top of the tent. Which brings me to my latest "rant" what is with the ABS shells on the Maggiolina knock-offs? Isn't that a thermo-plastic, won't it reform and distort with heat? Maybe they are adding glass fiber for structure? Seems like a huge cost cutting shortcut.

For reference, I'm not a big fan of AutoHome US, I do really like the guys in Italy at the factory. The whole factory shuts down for a month in the summer and everyone goes out and "tests" their tents, seriously. Years ago I talked to their office manager, who spoke English, and wasn't taking her advice seriously, and she set me straight, she and her husband used one of their new model tents in Northern Africa for a month.
Very interesting, thank you. I also want the Columbus because of the headroom and that it'll sleep cooler. However my girlfriend is a very light sleeper so the design of the Maggiolina would be better for her.

What's also complicating matters a bit is the intended use. We'll be taking our first big trip later this year and will be crossing through some very hot areas (30+), so the Columbus sounds great. However after this trip, we'll be back in the PNW, where the warmer Maggiolina would be better (warmer).

Speaking of the models, I understand that Columbus is noisier than the Maggiolina. Does anyone have experience with these and the Airtop? Is it as quiet as the Maggiolina, or as noisy as the Columbus, or somewhere in the middle?

I really appreciate the help. This is a big purchase for us and while I'm sure both will be big improvements on the Tepui (simply because of setup/takedown time), I still want to make as informed a decision as possible.
 

Wallygator

Adventurer
Not to further distract from the discussion but in a way my concerns are relevant. I'm not being hard on Autohome, whatever that means??? It's a business. Autohome USA actually has a thread here that says they support Exportal....but they never make a post or answer posts. I would be very concerned about customer service here in the USA if the USA representative is virtually non-existent and Autohome Italy has no one that can speak English. @pizzalover good luck with your decision. It's a lot of money and if you need customer service I hope they do you right. As of now I just can't trust this company even though I would love to have one of their tents....just saying.
 
Top