I used to be solely on Team Ground Camper, because it was relatively easy to pack the tent in the back of the truck and for the most part, you can find a flat, level surface at any campground—after all, they’re made for that type of camping. But, there is a whole other world of tents that is gaining traction among weekend campers and off-road campers alike … rooftop tents.
My husband Sean and I first considered purchasing a rooftop tent a couple years ago after they’d been on the market for a little while, but thought—we have a tent already that works for us, why spend the money on a new one? However, as we started planning a multi-state, month-long road trip, we reconsidered our plans.
While a ground tent is relatively easy for the reasons above, I’ve also had a few rough goes on prior camping trips. On one trip I woke up to a flood of water barreling through the tent thanks to our not-so-great campsite choice and the downpour we received overnight. On another trip we forgot our tent poles and had to try and figure out how we could rig the tent upright using paracord and a few trees. And on more trips than I can remember, I’ve woken up to jagged rocks poking into me because I rolled off my inflatable air pad onto the ground.
For this trip in particular, I wanted a tent that covered three main goals. First, it needed to free up much-needed space in the truck for all the food, gear, and clothes we’d need to carry with us. Second, it needed to be a cinch to put up and take down. And lastly—and I would say most importantly—it needed to be comfortable. Hell, if I was going to sleep in a tent for more than a month, I at least needed to be getting a good night’s sleep!
So after researching a variety of choices, we chose the Tepui Kukenam 3. It checks all the boxes:
Because the tent mounted to the top of the truck, we gained back storage space in the truck bed—not only from the footprint of the tent itself, but because we could now keep our bedding in the tent when it folds down rather than having to find a spot in the truck for them as well.
Set-Up and Breakdown Time
From start to finish, the tent is fully set up in less than five minutes. The first time we took it out on a trip with friends who were still ground camping, we had our tent fully set up, chairs out, beers cracked, and we were sitting around the firepit before they even finished setting their tents up. On top of that, because it sits off the ground and folds onto itself, you don’t have to worry about trying to keep out dirt and debris out when you’re folding it back up, because it doesn’t collect it in the first place.
The Tepui K3 comes with a 2½-inch high-density foam mattress which is so much better than any standard blow-up mattress or air pad you might use in a ground tent—it actually feels like you’re sleeping in a bed. And while that does the trick for most, we went ahead and added a 1½-in memory foam topper for added comfort. I sleep like a baby.
There are rooftop tents out there for whatever your particular needs are, but this is the perfect 3-person tent size for us. We—Sean, myself, and our 80lb dog #RooneyMurphy—all fit comfortably, and with room to spare! I can imagine too, that if you’re a small family (either two parents and a single kid, or a single parent and a couple kids) this would work perfectly.
The Tepui K3 has a four-season rating and holds up well in all the elements. It’s covered in a heavy cotton and polyester material that is treated in a water, UV, and mold resistant coating to keep us protected on the inside from whatever may be going on outside. And we’ve put this thing through the wringer—testing it in just about every element. It’s kept us warm after waking up to inches of snow in Canada, kept us dry after downpours of rain in the Pacific Northwest, and kept us sheltered through 30+ mph winds in Moab. That said, just be aware that heavy winds can lead to excessive noise inside the tent and in turn, a bit of a sleepless night. So be conscious of where you set up camp for the night and try to find a spot close to the base of a mountain or among trees if it’s super windy out.
The tent itself only weighs 130lbs—so it’s light enough for two people to install and move around as needed. And while it’s not always the easiest—it is a somewhat awkward shape—it’s doable. We used to have the tent mounted to our truck and would put it on and take it off for every trip to reduce the resistance and keep the truck’s MPGs up while the tent wasn’t being used. Since Sean uses the truck as his daily driver around town, having the clunky tent always sitting on top just didn’t make sense (gas prices here in California are no joke!). We have since moved it to the top of our offroad trailer where it lives permanently — sitting below our roofline and thereby reducing wind resistance. The nice thing too is that no matter if you have a car, truck, or SUV the tent has a universal mounting system and fits on almost any rated roof rack, no matter the brand.
Isn’t that what camping is all about? Climbing up the ladder and into the tent every night makes it feel like you’re sleeping in a tree-house, and that doesn’t get old no matter what age you are. And waking up to a birds-eye view of your campground and the surrounding area is an added benefit. This tent has sparked many a campground conversation from curious campers and travelers alike. And who doesn’t love to talk about their camping gear? Overall, the Tepui Kukenam 3 is one of the greatest additions to our camping arsenal. We’ve now used it for the last year and a half on over 12,000 miles of camping trips, and I can safely say I am firmly on Team Rooftop Tent, with no plans to go back.