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Import RTT From China? Ever try it? Pitfalls concerns?

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
Good point, but I would like to add a little. There are a lot of fine products made in other countries that aren't shipped to the US. I once tried to "import" a bicycle from Europe and the manufacturer wouldn't ship to the USA because of product liability. Yes, I know it sounds weenie but years ago I was involved in importing roof tents into the US. I worked with the rack manufacturers, car companies and even put two rooftents through crash testing. So when one of my very good friends was in a serious accident, not his fault, I didn't have to ask how the tent performed. The tent stayed on his Jeep, but his truck which we used in shows was a total loss. It was one of the few things he was able to transfer to his new truck. If there was a problem, he had the tent and the rack manufacturer standing behind him.

I would estimate that if you do it right, product liability and product safety testing adds about $200 to the cost of a roof tent here in the US. I suspect there is a lot higher profit margin in the Chinese tents too, so it may be cost effective to do a direct import. The European tent manufacturers will sell and ship you a tent but the saving isn't enough to justify the work, unless you need the tent shipped to someplace truly out of the way.
 

FrenchieXJ

Expedition Leader
As Lemsteraak said above about the Autohome tent on the totaled vehicle accident, I am very familiar with that accident. That was myself, my Jeep, trailer and tent in the accident. The trailer, Jeep and much of the contents were totaled, I got messed up, but the Tent is still used on my vehicles still.

All I had happened to the Autohome RTT was with that the tent slid with the mounting bars 2" to 3" with the impact. With that happening in October 2004 and my Autohome Extreme still being used as of last weekend, I can vouch for the quality of the top of the pile RTT's on the market today. My RTT has been used as my guide tent for up to 250 nights a year for 9 years and the last 4 years for my personal use. The results that I see as a guide with clients having all different brands of RTT's is how they hold up. A number of them have less then a months worth of use and the people have serious problems with some of them. There are good dealers in the US who will stand behind the products they sell and their are others. As mentioned by others getting service after the sale to me in far more important then the saving of a few dollars.

Good luck in what ever you decide to do and keep us posted. As a person who in my lifetime has made some decisions based on price I have regretted most of them.
 

Kevin108

Explorer
The Smittybuilt is a different design. Not sure about build quality etc - I'm sure its similar. I like the more covered entrance of the TuffStuff style with the ability to use the large annex room around the ladder etc... I don't think the annex is included with the SB, and by the time you add in freight, cost difference is minimal.
The Smitty is similar to the eBay model listed above, but there is no coverage out over the ladder. The annex is not included, but is available for $130. http://www.amazon.com/Smittybilt-2788-Tent-Annex/dp/B00S9G7LS6



All these tents come from China anyway. I was a little concerned because I had to drill out an additional hole for mounting the ladder on my Smitty.



Far more recently, I was watching an official installation video on CVT (might have been Tepui), and the guy showed how to drill new holes if the ones that came pre-drilled were wrong. :********: That tells me fit and finish are comparable amongst most of the manufacturers.

The ladder that comes with the Smitty isn't my favorite. I use it for support, but also carry a $60 telescoping ladder from Amazon for entry/exit and to get up high enough to setup the rain fly. I may eliminate it and just setup the telescoping ladder, but I've just used it as is for the time being. The extra ladder is handy in camp anyway for stringing ropes or placing lantern holders.



That said, I feel this tent is a great value for $800. http://www.amazon.com/Smittybilt-2783-Folded-Tent/dp/B00KCFKPX0 The second half of last year didn't go anything like I wanted it to, so I only have only spent about a week in the tent, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to more use soon.
 
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For some people a $30 dome tent works well for them under specific circumstances on that mile hike into a camping area under the most idealistic camping conditions and that is fine. If you expect to travel/pack all over the country in all seasons and spend hundreds of nights in that kind of tent you will find the shortcomings quickly and you literally will find you are not going to be a happy camper.

I recently saw the Smittybuilt tent and Tepui displayed side by side and it is evident that it is not true that all RTT's are made in the same factory and just badged for a certain company importing them. Quality and materials differ greatly. Is the lesser of the two not a good tent? I'm not saying that but if you expect to have the same level of comfort and durability in all the extremes you might encounter in traveling that just isn't going to be the case.

I'm not selling tents or anything for that matter I am just a guy that lives in the PNW and has like most, grown in my experiences and spent a lot of nights in tents all over in conditions including a small creek forming in the middle of the night under my tent, unexpected snow, extreme wind, 4+ inches of rain in 24 hours. I'm not one of those guys with more money than brains and can't just fork over money I don't have. I do know the lasting value in quality equipment and how and where I plan to use it. This is just the information I would have liked to have had available when I was thinking about what RTT to buy. If I ordered a tent direct from China and the Smittybuilt model came instead of the CVT model I got maybe I would not have known how disappointed I would have been.




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Box Rocket

Well-known member
I can completely understand someone being hesitant to spend ~$1000 and up on a quality RTT. It's not an insignificant purchase. However, in most cases the ones that balk at the price have not seen one of the QUALITY tents up close, let alone use one in the field. The hesitance is still understandable but it shows the importance of seeing one in person, examining the materials and stitching quality, construction of the frame and base, and if you're lucky a friend that lets you borrow his for the weekend. Once that happens, the price point becomes much more understandable. Tents are getting popular enough and with the help of social media its not too difficult to find someone near where you live that has a tent and is willing to let you take a close look.
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The most important thing to know is NOT ALL ROOF TOP TENTS ARE CREATED EQUAL. The brands currently most popular in the US are manufactured in a couple of places, South Africa and China. Even ARB which is an Australian brand is manufactured in China. There is a common misconception that all of the tents coming out of China are manufactured in the same factory on the same assembly lines with the only differing element being the logo printed on the tent and cover. The reality is that there are literally dozens of factories in China that are manufacturing tents and that number is growing. The materials and quality vary greatly from one to the next, even when visually they look identical. Even when several different brands are being made by the same factory, the materials and level of quality control can vary just as dramatically from one brand to the next even though they come from the same place. There have also been cases reported of some brands of tent material not actually being the weight advertised.
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The RTT market has exploded in the last few years and new players in the market are frantically searching for ways to sell for less than their competition to stake their place in the market. Those savings have to come from somewhere and quantity won't always get you there. Most often it comes through lower quality materials and components and a lower level of quality control which can be simply not examining closely every seam and how it's stitched and if the waterproofing is done correctly, or it can be random checks on a handful of tents coming off a line rather than every single tent being checked.
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At the end of the day, it pays to do your homework and the cliché generally holds true that "you get what you pay for" in this case. The good news for all of us is that there are several excellent companies to choose from that have quality products. The last thing I think is worth mentioning is that there may be one buyer looking for a tent that will work for him maybe 6 weekends a year, and there may be another customer that is planning to spend several months straight living out of the tent in remote locations (for example a customer of mine is currently 10 months into a trip that started in the US and is taking them to the southern tip of Argentina). The needs of those two customers obviously are not the same and while the weekend camper may still choose the quality and durability of the tent being used by the long-term adventurer, he may in fact choose one that costs less and maybe doesn't have the same features as the more expensive option. That's just fine in my opinion. There is no single right answer for everyone. Fortunately most of the quality brands have a good selection to choose from that can fit any budget and will satisfy the weekend KOA camper and also the world traveler. The ultimate goal being that we just get out more often and maybe venture a little farther than we did the last time.
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I'm happy to answer any questions if you have them. Drop me a PM. Happy camping.
 

Mattm94

Observer
I gladly pay a premium for the few products left that are made on US soil with American labor. Kifaru packs are an excellent example of this. Impeccable quality, customer service, and made HERE.

I'll also pay a premium for Japanese products actually made in Japan. Lexus SUVs are a typical example.

I WON'T buy a cheap Chinese copy of a product where the patent was obviously just outright stolen. Think Kipor copies of Honda generators.

If I'm getting the same "Made in China" product either way, color or brand usually matters not, I'll buy the cheapest color or brand I can find. Poorly executed MIG welds on aluminum or steel, and holes drilled in the wrong places are excellent examples of that. I don't own nor have I seen in person examples of each brand of roof top tent, so can't speculate on which are which. Limits on liability info is probably included with each tent, stating that it was made with quality materials and workmanship but you are responsible to install properly or professional installation strongly recommended, improper use voids this and that, not responsible for misuse or abuse, limit UV exposure, etc.

Good luck.
 

plh

Explorer
I gladly pay a premium for the few products left that are made on US soil with American labor. Kifaru packs are an excellent example of this. Impeccable quality, customer service, and made HERE.

I'll also pay a premium for Japanese products actually made in Japan. Lexus SUVs are a typical example.

I WON'T buy a cheap Chinese copy of a product where the patent was obviously just outright stolen. Think Kipor copies of Honda generators.

If I'm getting the same "Made in China" product either way, color or brand usually matters not, I'll buy the cheapest color or brand I can find. Poorly executed MIG welds on aluminum or steel, and holes drilled in the wrong places are excellent examples of that. I don't own nor have I seen in person examples of each brand of roof top tent, so can't speculate on which are which. Limits on liability info is probably included with each tent, stating that it was made with quality materials and workmanship but you are responsible to install properly or professional installation strongly recommended, improper use voids this and that, not responsible for misuse or abuse, limit UV exposure, etc.

Good luck.
Are there actually any RTT companies making tents in USA?
 
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