Let it be known that I hate staying home. My place of residence isn't exactly clean, comfortable, or classy. In fact, it's more like a small room in the back of a shop with an old futon. In fact, that's exactly what it is. So when I get a chance to leave town and stay under the stars I don't decline.
Recently I had the chance to pitch a tent on top of our 200 Series Land Cruiser project truck, and I feared I'd be sleeping in a noisy, unstable, sky-high condo with a lumpy mattress made of straw. Boy, was I wrong.
The ARB rooftop tent not only surprised me with its comfort, but it also has me considering moving out of my garage! Though not the most aerodynamic item you can install on your 4x4, it is definitely the most spacious way of turning your truck into a mini-cabin in the clouds. I must admit, I'm the type of guy who can sleep just about anywhere, but when I left the fire pit and climbed into the rooftop tent it was like being welcomed into a five-star hotel (or at least what I assume a five-star is like, seeing as I've never stayed in one).
Even with gusty, dusty winds blowing across the desert I slept like a baby. No, better than that: I slept like a baby tired from a long day of wheeling under the desert sun, sitting by the fire telling lies with my buddies, and partaking in a few baby beverages. But the next morning I was refreshed, well rested, and ready to do it all again. Sometime the best home is out on the trail.
This is the alternative to a rooftop tent: Either sleep on the trailer atop an old air mattress that leaks down until you're basically sleeping on the hard surface and getting covered in sand from the desert wind, or curl up in the front seat of your Jeep and wake up crippled. I've done them both, and I guess I could say it definitely builds character.
This is the inside of the ARB rooftop tent. It easily sleeps two and could pack in three if your wife or girlfriend wanted to bring one of her girlfriends along. (Yeah, you wish! More likely it's you, the wife, one or two small kids, and the dog!) The 2 1/2-inch-thick, high-density foam mattress is extremely comfortable. When open, the tent measures approximately 4 1/2 by 8 feet with another 4 1/2 feet of headroom.
Our 6,000-pound Land Cruiser is a stout rig with a healthy 5.7L V-8, but even so I could feel the 15 inches of rooftop tent protruding up top when cruising at highway speeds. And though I was now saving on hotel costs it didn't shrink my fuel consumption. The tent has a heavy vinyl cover to protect it during foul weather when packed up, but I would have liked a little more of a wind deflector to help it cut through the air.
Installing the tent on our 200 Series Cruiser wasn't exactly fun, but that was due to the Toyota's roof mounting system and the internal nutserts in the roof spinning when we removed the factory roof rack. Once we had the ARB rack installed, the tent easily bolted to it, though two people are needed to lift it up on top. Not everyone is looking to outfit their $70,000 SUV, but slap one of these tents on your old Suburban or Bronco and, between the inside of the truck and up on the roof, you'll instantly have sleeping quarters for the whole family.
I think one of the best applications for the rooftop tent is on a tow rig. I used it during an off-road event where I towed with, then parked, the Cruiser and headed out wheeling in my old trail rig, Clampy. The tent folds out easily and can be set up to fold over either side or the rear. Plus the tie lines kept it secure all day long while I was out wheeling. The cotton poly ripstop fabric is sturdy, waterproof, and yet still breathable, and the aluminum ladder makes access simple. The windows can be closed or opened and have insect-proof screens. ARB also offers an enclosure to go around the ladder for getting dressed upright.