Over the years, this writer has had the benefit of travelling to some of Australia’s most remote and beautiful destinations. Whether it was a TV filming trip or family leisure, one thing’s constant – the need to house oneself at the end of a long day.
The options are generally ground-based in the form of a tent or swag, towable like a camper trailer or caravan, or an RV motorhome. When the annual dad’s camp at my daughter’s school came about, we got to thinking about choices.
Our JL Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a distinct lack of a towbar, so trailers were out. While swags were available, the sergeant’s orders were that the kids sleep in the same space as dad. An inexplicable dislike for tents as a kid meant a bleak forecast for yours truly.
A brief look at RV’s was fun, but for a two-night stint it just seemed excessive. And then, our pleas were answered by an old mate that I’d crossed the Simpson Desert with on one of the earlier mentioned TV trips.
TOYTUF Adventure Gear came to the party and offered to lend us one of their roof top tents, or RTT if you prefer, in the form of their ST1600 model. For the uninitiated, it’s literally a tent, mounted to the roof of a vehicle.
I’ve always had an affinity for them, particularly given the ease of setup, the clever use of space on the roof, and the fact that it distances one from ground-based elements. Getting it onto the Rhino Rack Pioneer platform on the roof of the Jeep was a simple affair.
Thanks to the appropriate mounting kit, it was as easy as aligning the pins in the predrilled slots and bolting it down. Although pleasantly surprised that I couldn’t really feel the 60kg heft of the tent atop the Jeep, I was certain to practice caution while driving to camp.
Setup was a breeze once we found a relatively level spot. Funnily enough, we were able to use the diagonal and horizontal level available in the Jeep’s off-road system for something more than bragging about the angle we found up a rocky hill!
From removing the 680G heavy duty PVC cover, to pegging down the entry point, it took about 12 minutes all up. Then it was time for a cold brew while watching the rest of tent city go up around us.
One thing that an RTT affords guests is the ability to catch a breeze – and the TOYTUF ST1600 did so in spades. The windows are huge, which makes the space feel much larger than it is; and the mesh screens do a great job of keeping even the smallest of midges out.
There is a moonroof for stargazing, but we chose to leave the tropical cover over the tent for added protection, given the dismal forecast. The unit is rated to carry 300kg and once folded out measures out to 3.1m (length) by 1.6m (width).
It’s a decent size, but at 184cm and with two daughters who seem to be carrying the height gene, it was a little tight at times. It’s either a one kid and a parent, or two adult job. Luckily, a 2.2m unit is available that would house three with ease.
Once you’ve climbed the 2.3m adjustable aluminium ladder, stored your muddy footwear in the shoe bags that hang by the entrance and got settled inside, it’s pretty darn comfy. A range of storage pockets ensure you don’t lose your valuables overnight either.
Some clever drawstrings that run across the space to dry clothing in inclement weather add to its practicality, and the included non-deforming 6cm foam mattress did an admirable job of keeping the occupants comfortable overnight.
It did rain – at about midnight on the final night. The deluge that had held off came all at once, and didn’t stop till a day later. With the strong winds howling around us, it was comforting to know the tent is constructed on a heavy-duty checker plate steel base.
That’s paired to an aluminium frame and 300gsm ripstop canvas. Despite the storm, we had no water or condensation get into the living quarters at all, an impressive achievement given the windows were also open.
Having travelled remote with an RTT in the past, what you usually dread is the pack-up. It’s not a deal breaker, but getting everything in the bag while climbing all over a dirty four-wheel drive is just painful.
I was pleasantly surprised that even with all our sleeping gear (three sleeping bags and three pillows) left in the tent, pack-up was much easier than expected. The secret was a cover bag that is slightly larger than the tent frame itself.
It’s simple stuff when you think about it, but it made a very welcome difference given the downpour under which all this was happening. At $1,869, it’s not cheap, but comparable against similar options.
If you like the idea of an easy setup and pack down, being off the ground and away from wildlife, are limited on space inside your vehicle to carry a big tent, and like to catch a breeze while enjoying the view, checkout TOYTUF’s range of roof top tents.
Pros – slightly oversized cover makes pack-up a breeze; massive windows aid airflow; shoe bags.
Cons – increased fuel consumption due to weight and size of roof top tent; it was hard to give back.
Exhaust Notes Australia has not been paid to review this product.