Review of the Freespirit Recreation High Country Tri-Layer Roof Top Tent

inexplorata

Member
No one seems to have gone over these, so here’s my experience with them and a boatload of pictures. Long story short, I like the tent a lot. It’s solved all the problems I’ve had with rooftop tents I’ve owned in the past, and it seems to be built really, really well.

After a couple years of my wife, kiddo and I in our Tepui, we sold it and were going to be ground tent and cot people. I’d complained about how much fiddling I had to do with the rooftop tent, between spring poles and zippers and what-not, and with a tall rig like ours I was climbing around way too much. Plus the girls were getting cold at night, and also complaining.

Then I saw these. The Freespirit tents seemed to take care of everything that had led me to abandon rooftop tents. So I ordered one never having put my hands on it, and we were off to the races.

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Mine is the High Country Series, Tri-Layer. The High Country tents are their clamshell ones, and they’re pretty interesting. Built with extruded aluminum framing, there’s a lot of stability for the weight. At 178 pounds, it’s lighter than my somewhat smaller Tepui Kukenam XL Ruggedized (210 pounds) and at 85”x52”x14” closed it’s bigger in every direction (Tepui was 72”x48”x12”). This means a huge mattress when open, which is great. That mattress is also slightly thicker, although it seems to get that way with two thinner mattresses put together that slide cleverly when the thing folds.

Things I loved:

- No spring poles. This was a big one for me. I have a tall rig, and in order to get around to all the spring poles on my Tepui I had to bring along a little ladder, stand on tires, hang off the roof rack and generally contort myself for ten minutes to get them all in place. This tent is 90% ready when you open it up, the remaining 10% being getting the little awning in place. That goes surprisingly smoothly, so maybe I’ll reduce that percentage to 5%.
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- Buckles instead of a zipper on the cover. This was something I thought at first was going to work out to be a wash, but I spent so much more time getting that Tepui zipper started than I do on this cover it’s not even funny. Also FreeSpirit has made the cover generously large, which makes getting it in place easier. And the buckle straps are great; an older model had snowboard-binding-style fasteners I thought I was getting, but these buckles are even better I think. Clip them together and tighten them and you’re set.
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- The Tri-Layer stuff. I thought this a bit gimmicky, but it’s not. It’s awesome. I set up a dual temperature gauge, with just the three of us inside by morning the air in the tent was 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside air. Also the multiple layers seem to have solved the condensation problem handily — zero condensation. Snug as bugs, it feels well put together and cozy as all get-out.
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- Integrated shoe bags. Of course it’s very little effort to make your own, but these are perfect. They have little drawstrings and flaps for when it’s dumping rain, and tiny grommet holes in the bottom for dirt to fall out.
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- Little zipper hole for power/etc. I've got a second battery in the truck, we run power up for various devices from a socket on the rear bumper. It's perfectly positioned, and a nice thought.
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- Stabilizer poles. Another thing I wasn’t sure about, but they make a real difference on a large tent like this. I wanted to complain about the way they extended, but I was just being an idiot, it’s simple and effective with little spring buttons on the inner pole and holes in the outer.

Things I didn’t love:

- It’s big. And of course that’s a plus as well, when you think about it. The problem with the larger size is just my own setup; it takes up ALL of my Front Runner rack, and sits so low on regular tent mounts I couldn’t buckle the cover. Mounting it slightly higher of course solved that. But at the end of the day I have no more room on top to store things, which is something I’m adjusting to. And the lighter weight of the Freespirit means it ends up “feeling” smaller when you’re driving around.

- Poor documentation. The instruction manual was clearly written in China and loosely translated into English. I figured it all out, because it’s not my first rodeo and we’re not exactly sending people to the moon here, but at the price point I’d like to see at least some local effort put into instructions being clear and less absurd-sounding.

- “That’s not a wrench.” Similarly, the toolkit provided, while nice looking, is cheap. I have my own tools, so again no biggie, but at the price…

- Different sort of ladder. This is another pretty minor complaint, but the ladder provided is a little different than the one that came with my Tepui, particularly when closing it up. With the Tepui, there were a couple of red latches under the bottom rung, and when you depressed those the whole thing would collapse itself sequentially. This meant that when I was closing the whole thing up I could practically toss the ladder into place on top of my rig. The Freespirit choice was one where every rung needs to be collapsed individually — and you need to depress levers on both sides of each rung, which means both hands, which means careful planning at the end of the folding process. A little fiddly, although I expect it’s less likely to collapse when I’m standing on it, which is probably a good thing.

Bottom line:

I’m pretty pleased so far. We did a week on the road with it down to New Mexico and it’s a great tent for my requirements. We've got a two-week trip set for this summer and I'm confident in the tent, at least. I always told people the Tepui was the best-made tent I’d ever owned — which is saying something because I’m kind of old and I’ve been tenting forever — and I’ll say the Freespirit seems to be even better-made at a very similar price. Time will tell, of course.

If anyone has any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
 

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lfdtom

New member
Great review! I actually just bought this tent yesterday (the 55" version). There isn't too much real world experience posted about these tents so I was happy to find your review.
 

filoufil

New member
Nice review! I am eyeing a High Country Tri-Layer also but in 55'' instead of the 80'' like yours.

Being in Canada, I really like the idea of insulated walls but I am also a little afraid that it could be too warm during the summer.

They also offer insulated tri-layer removable walls that could be an option if it's too warm during the summer.
 

inexplorata

Member
I'm guessing (hoping) the insulation will work to keep things cooler as well as warmer... realistically this tent has a ton of "screen door space" and I expect it to ventilate well regardless, but I'll bet a piece of tri-layer fabric sitting in the sun will be less warm underneath than a single layer under the same sun, if that makes sense.
 

sabjku

Observer
Awesome review! Really good to hear about the quality of the Freespirits, especially when comparing to your Tepui. I also have a Tepui Autana 3, and am highly considering the Freespirit Adventure Series Automatic tent. I completely relate to your review of the standard rooftop tents. They are a bit of a pain to completely setup. Yea, you could take the cover off and unfold it and use it. But fiddling with the spring poles, dealing with zippers, etc. gets a bit old, especially when it's cold outside! That's my primary reason for looking to change tents. Maybe I'm just lazy😂
 

06tacodude

New member
I'm guessing (hoping) the insulation will work to keep things cooler as well as warmer... realistically this tent has a ton of "screen door space" and I expect it to ventilate well regardless, but I'll bet a piece of tri-layer fabric sitting in the sun will be less warm underneath than a single layer under the same sun, if that makes sense.
I’m about to pull the trigger and buy a 55” High Country Tri-layer. I was worried about the summer heat.
 

Nwtravler

New member
I saw the tri-layer setup in the sun on hot pavement a few weeks ago. If you kept the tent zipped up it was cooler inside than outside in the sun. Great review, I'm sold.
 

Jbagger

New member
Great pictures and description.

I am close to pulling the trigger on this exact tent. Can you talk a bit more about the support poles on the corner of the tent? Are they necessary, and how much support do they provide? Most of the other large RTTs have dual ladders and I am concerned about how the single ladder setup would stabilize a tent this large.

Also, is the rainfly removable?

Has the tent been in heavy rains yet? If so, did you stay dry?

Thanks!
 

BCBadger

New member
Looks like a great rtt, but I do have a concern with all of that cross stitching in the quilted fabric. That's a lot of potential pinholes for moisture to find its way in the tent. Am I just overthinking this, or could that be an issue?
 

Jbagger

New member
I purchased this tent and it is awesome so far. I too was a concerned about the cross stitching AFTER purchase—you can see light coming through these seems.

I reached to FSR and spoke to Tim about this is and he said “The sonic welding process leaves a clear window of melted polyester. This is perfectly normal.” I feel assured by his response and plan to test it out this weekend in some stormy weather.
 

inexplorata

Member
Sorry I missed the questions about the stitching, I was off putting 3,200 miles on this thing. :) Sounds like you got a better answer than I would've had anyhow.

Speaking of longer-term use, when I got back I noticed some wear on the cover, specifically where the edges of the ladder sit when the whole thing is buttoned up. Little holes, FSR sent me some patch material I'm getting around to putting on, which should also help bolster that area. But other than that, no concerns, the thing held up.
 

inexplorata

Member
And if anyone is curious, I was in the mother of all rain storms last night, 2-inch sheets of water across camp and whoops the campfire's been put out sort of stuff. The tent is a real performer in the rain, several hours of the heavy stuff and we were dry and even cozy once we retreated to the tent. Dried out pretty quickly in the sun today, too.
 

Lovinmyjeep

New member
Did you every look at the Ikamper models? What made you choose Freespirit over all other RRt? Also how did you find it in the summer, being a black tent and the trip-layer as well?
 
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