I started my adventures into the world of overlanding in early 2019. I had come across a few videos of it and was instantly hooked. Being able to use my truck to get into the backcountry sounded amazing. I spent weeks watching more and more videos, trying to learn as much as I could and understand the different things I would need. I knew that I didn’t NEED a rooftop tent in order to overland, and I had plenty experience car camping in the past but I liked the idea of getting up off the ground and having the tent attached to the truck. I quickly learned there were two main rooftop tent types which were Soft Shell Tents and Hard Shell Tents.
Soft Shell Tents
My experience with soft shell rooftop tents was like most, it was an affordable way to get into overlanding and it had tons of options and vendors willing to sell me theirs. After weeks of research, I chose the soft shell rooftop tent that I felt best suited my budget and my needs. Most of these tents come with a 3-inch foam mattress and I quickly learned that I would need to purchase an additional foam topper to be more comfortable. Since I was a side sleeper, I could feel my pressure points “Bottoming out” onto the floor of the tent, which did not make for a very comfortable sleep. One of the other pain points was that since the soft shell tents are generally bigger and the fabric is a little looser, if there’s any wind at all during the night, you will hear it and feel it with the tent fabric flapping about all night. The last point I’ll make is regarding the setup and put away times. While soft shells tents are fairly quick, and definitely quicker than most ground tents, you need to remember there are a lot of steps to getting your tent open and/or closed up. Once you find camp, you’ll need to undo the strap on the thick vinyl cover, and then unzip the cover. If it has been raining, then your cover is most likely wet and muddy as well, and where do you put the cover? Do you let it just hang along the side of the vehicle? Or pull it out off the tent altogether and fold it up and put it on the ground? After that, you’ll need to flip open the tent, set up the annex pole, and then open up all the windows and set up all of the 6-8 awning poles for the windows. It’s not terrible but it is a process, and putting the tent away is one as well. Reverse all the steps, but I found that because I wanted to have an extra foam topper mattress, it was very difficult to actually fully close/collapse the tent. I found out that I would basically have to stand on or sit on the tent when closing in order to get the velcro straps to fully cinch the tent in order to get the vinyl cover over the top. Now if you are someone who enjoys getting to camp and staying in one spot for 2-3 days at time, these tents aren’t a terrible option, but if you enjoy being on the move each day and being able to see as much of this beautiful country as you can, then opening and closing this tent everyday quickly becomes an annoyance as it did with me.
As I was working through my struggles with the soft shell tent, I started to research different tent options for a quicker setup and take down time. I started to watch videos on different hardshell tents, which generally are made from a fiberglass shell or an all-aluminum shell. The one I thought was best for me at the time was a fiberglass shell, with gas struts in each corner to open and stabilize the tent. This tent was clearly faster than the soft shell tents in that the setup time was roughly 45 seconds once I got to camp. Once I would find the spot I wanted to be, all I had to do was open up the 4 clasps along the sides of the tent, push up on both sides and the tent would pop right open. Because the gas struts stick out a bit like a V shape, you lose some interior space inside the tent which can make the tent feel even smaller. Now the major negative is putting this tent away. Depending on your vehicle, this can be easier or far more difficult. I have a full-sized truck, so the tent was over the bed of my truck. But in order to put this type of hard-shell tent away, you need to first pull either the front or back down. The front for me was up near the cab of the truck, which was kind of difficult to get to because of the cab without having to stand up on the roof, which I didn’t want to do. The main issue is that once you get one side clamped shut, when you start to put the other side down, both sides of the fabric start to pop out and I began to notice as I would push in the driver’s side, the passenger side would pop out and back and forth I went. So yet again, I would generally need some assistance from a friend to ensure to put the tent away properly.
Now how did I end up with a BunduTec BunduTop tent? Well throughout the journey I’ve gone through with all my previous tents, a close friend had a BunduTop tent. And through all the camping trips we’ve been on, to see the ease of use with opening and closing the tent electrically with a button was always intriguing. Why didn’t I buy a BunduTop tent months or years ago? I don’t know, but I can tell you I wish I did. This tent is revolutionary in the world of overlanding. The tent is made up of all aluminum, finishing perfectly in black with a very thick and sturdy grey 300gsm riptech canvas that is UV resistant to prevent fading. The tent also comes with a built-in awning that is erected with the tent and the awning is set at a 45-degree angle to ensure you can have ventilation in poor weather while still maintaining water deflection (this is huge for me in the Carolina’s with as much rain as we get). The tent has 4 windows, one on each side of the tent and you can utilize any of the windows as a “door” to enter and exit the tent depending on the set up of your vehicle. For me, the passenger side and/or driver side work best but I’ve also thought about using the back of the tent which is over my tailgate as the door. The dimensions of the standard size tent are 82 inches long by 53 inches wide by 12 inches tall when closed. The exterior height of the tent when open is 41 inches and the interior height is 36 inches. I have always felt the tent was incredibly roomy on the inside and being by myself, have plenty of room of my sleeping area, plus some along the walls to put my shoes, phone, bottle of water, and a book. The other bonus of this tent being electric and hardwired to the car battery is that it has both a 12volt plus and 2 USB plugs to use. So you are able to plug in your phone, or a tablet to be charged overnight. All tents also come with an LED light that is pre-wired into the tent to use, with the option to add fans as well, which are great for summer camping in those hot and muggy spots here in the southeast.
The main component that makes this tent stand out above the rest is the 2,000 lb winch on the inside that uses 0.1-inch Dyneema rope to raise and lower the tent on a very sturdy pulley system. The roof portion of the tent only weighs 44 lbs, so the winch will never have an issue raising the tent at camp. Regarding the roof, it can support up to an additional weight of 55 lbs if evenly spread, so attaching a solar panel or something else wouldn’t be an issue as long as it’s within the weight limits. Speaking of solar, the tents are pre-wired for solar as well. This was fantastic because it allows all the wiring for the solar to be hidden above the roof fabric so it’s out of sight for a much cleaner look overall. The overall weight of the tent is approximately 176 lbs, which isn’t much heavier than most of the fiberglass hard-shell tents on the market now, and you’re also getting a much more durable product with aluminum than you are with fiberglass.
I’m so happy that I finally made the decision to buy my BunduTop rooftop tent, but I don’t discount the journey that it took me to get here. The experience with the other tents allows me to appreciate the superior product that BunduTec has built and will allow me to continue to adventure through the United States and see more of this great country. My biggest headache is no longer opening or closing the rooftop tent, and now is “What’s for dinner?”