Roofnest Rooftop Tents – Real World Review
Roof tents are a growing tent category. With the ability to set up in about a minute, the Roofnest RTT (rooftop tent) offer several advantages. Read more in this detailed review of the Eagle from Sean Sewell of Engearment and Sandpiper from our friend Brian Myers in Texas.
What is a roof tent?
As it may seem obvious, but a rooftop tent is a tent that is on top of the roof of your vehicle. They can be made soft sided materials or, in the case of Roofnest, hardshell top and bottom with waterproof canvas walls. It is secured to crossbars on the roof and sets up very quickly. The Roofnest tents look like a wide cargo box when stored. Like a double wide Yakima that might carry skis.
Why would you want a roof tent?
As an avid tent camper, I was never really interested in a roof tent. A few years ago, we (well Dave) tested the Tepui rooftop tent and was not totally sold on the idea. You can see his review of that here. Being that I love to sleep on the ground, on the dirt or snow, I was curious what all the this RTT was all about.
The advantages of a roof tent are:
- you are off the ground – this can be good for safety from animals or weather
- ease of set up – we will go into that below
- built-in bed – a big perk
- almost #vanlife – for a smaller entry fee 🙂
There are several more advantages that you will be able to discern as you read this write up.
I went up to Boulder, CO to meet the owner of Roofnest, Tim Nickles. He is a great guy and we instantly hit it off. It took us under an hour to install aftermarket crossbars and Roofnest Eagle on my 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD. We were in no rush and enjoying conversation, so I am sure we could have got it installed quicker. Of note, the stock crossbars on the 4Runner are not wide enough, or high enough, for the Roofnest. No big deal, just move them out of the way and mount up some aftermarket crossbars such as the Malone Auto Racks Airflow 2.
The tent weighs in around 140lb. It was surprisingly easy for two of us to get it up overhead and onto the truck. Once on, we went around and secured the mounts to the crossbars. I suggest double checking all the mounts after you drive with the tent the first time. It is simple, just tighten up any loose ones and have some peace of mind.
First time using the Roofnest Eagle
My wife, two dogs, and packed up the camp gear and headed for one of our favorite camp spots. It happened to snow several inches as we got to the spot. I love camping in the snow. Like, really love camping in the snow. My wife, not so much LOL. No exaggeration, I camp in the snow at least 40 times a year. So this snowstorm was my kind of weather!
I let my wife, Sami, do the setup. No, I am not mean LOL. My goal is always to empower others to be able to do things. Without any instruction, she was able to pop the tent open, mount the ladder and install the poles for the window.
Winter camping with the Roofnest
As the sun set and the temps dropped into the teens, we stayed surprisingly warm in the Eagle tent. I always have 0-degree bags for winter camping but did not need to use them this time. Instead, we used the installed mattress and a double wide 20-degree sleeping bag with another lighter quilt on top for the dogs. This was actually overkill in the Roofnest! Even with the windows cracked for ventilation, we were all warm.
Happy wife = happy life!
After a great night of sleep, our dogs Riley and Chloe, and my wife and I got out of the Eagle and went for a little hike. The roof tent did an amazing job of keeping us all warm and comfortable. My wife said she would go winter camping more often if we had this tent. Score!
Roofnest Eagle Rooftop Tent Review
I took the Eagle out for several more camping trips over the next few weeks. From more snow storms to springtime conditions, the Roofnest impressed me. The ease of set up is key. The breakdown is almost as easy. Hint – make sure to attach the cross lines to expedite the folding of the sides. I often left the sleeping bag and pillows in the tent as I broke it down. This did not seem to effect the closure of the tent.
Rooftop tent and dogs
Unless you have some kind of stunt dog or a dog that likes to climb ladders, you will have to pick the puppy up and stick in the tent. Getting them out can be a little nerve racking too. I found that a few treats and grabbing them under the belly does the trick. A small price to pay to have them sleeping in bed with you!
There are several models in the Rooftop line. The model we tested was their biggest – The Eagle $2795. There is a smaller version, The Sandpiper $2795, which is reviewed below. Then there is the Sparrow $2595 and Sparrow EYE $2595
I would like to introduce you all to Brian Myers of Texas. Brian is a badass, to say the least. He is a StrongFirst Team Leader, SFG II, SFB, and NSCA-CPT. I met Brian and his wife at a StrongFirst SFG certification in 2015. We have several, strong, interests in common – strength training, fly fishing, camping, hiking, pistol squats on mountains, dogs and beer, to name a few. He and his wife have been using the Roofnest Sandpiper on their Toyota 4Runner Pro and have some very helpful insights. – Sean
Taking the camping experience to the next level.
The Sandpiper by RoofNest
When we first purchased our 2018 4Runner Pro, we knew right off that we wanted an RTT, (rooftop tent) but we weren’t exactly sure what style or brand to go with. So the research began. Initially, we looked at the soft shell tents because of price and size but soon realized that it would mainly be just my wife and I in the tent and we wanted something that would last and be a little more user-friendly.
So we started narrowing down our choices on the hard shell RTT’s. RoofNest had always stood out because of pricing and options for different styles and sizes. Right before we were going to pull the trigger, they announced an upgraded version of the Sparrow. This was when the introduced the Sandpiper, and it was glorious! It was a beefed up version of the Sparrow that had the option to mount up to 100 lbs. of gear to the top of the tent. Sold!
The price was nice as well, starting at $2800, we looked at it as basically one summer of not staying in hotels or renting cabins and it would pay for itself. So we went ahead and purchased it at the beginning of 2019, but had to wait a couple of months as they were still being manufactured. It arrived in March of 2019 and we couldn’t wait to get it on the T4R.
A little about the tent.
Weighing in at approximately 145 lbs., it’s not that heavy but does take a few times of putting it up on the rack and taking it off to get your technique down. My wife and I can now mount it and have it secured to the rack in about 30-45 minutes. Taking it off is even quicker.
You have the option of black or white as far as colors go. Mounting to most stock crossbars is obtainable, although I would recommend getting some crossbars that have a higher weight rating than stock. We had already mounted a FrontRunner SlimLine II rack to the T4R so that’s what we had to work with. A little more on mounting later.
Setting up and breaking back down
Talk about easy! There are four latches on the tent, two on the very front, and two on the sides near the rear. Unlatch all four, let the front up first then the back, or vise versa. Approximately 60-90 seconds and you’re up and ready to get in! Super easy.
There is an 8.5’ telescoping ladder that stores in the tent and hooks to the side for easy entry and the tent is set up. Breaking it back down takes a tad bit longer, but with two people it isn’t that bad at all. Just make sure and take your time tucking in all sides and making sure nothing is hung up between the top and bottom shell before securing the latches. So much nicer than having to mess with a regular ground tent, especially when it’s raining!
Built in bed
One of the big advantages is already having the bedding in the tent on the mattress ready to go when it’s opened up. So no messing around with setting up sleeping pads or bags, it’s all right there for you. Did I mention it has a 3” foam mattress inside? You’ll definitely feel the difference the first time you sleep in the tent.
We didn’t add any extras, but I know that people have traded it out for a 4” or some will put a little extra pad on top of the foam mattress for more cushion. Although you have to be careful not too put too much on the mattress or too much bedding, as this will cause the tent not to shut properly.
Inside the tent
The interior will comfortably sleep two adults with a few belongings that can be stored either in the interior pockets that are located on the side near the rear of the tent. Or you can put them in a conveniently located bungee storage compartment that is on the ceiling of the tent. They have also thoughtfully included two shoe/gear storage bags that attach to clips on the outside of the tent right by the entrance for wet or muddy items so you can keep the inside clean.
The Sandpiper measures 6”10’ by 49” on the inside, and 38” high on the interior when fully opened. Here is a link for more of the specs.
Testing the Sandpiper
Since we’ve had the tent it has been taking out and tested a couple of times, but we were blessed with nice weather. We did, however, take it to NM in early spring and the temps dropped to around 28 degrees all three night. We slept comfortably minus your face getting a little cold in the early morning hours. My buddy Sean who lives in Colorado has taken his out in the snow and was very impressed at how the tent did in those conditions
This is all with regular bedding, no sleeping bags. It comes with an anti-condensation mat that helps out a ton although you will still experience some condensation on the sides of the tent. Here’s a short walk through video that we did on our maiden trip.
Roofnest Sandpiper review
Overall we are extremely pleased with the construction and durability of the Sandpiper and are looking forward to this summer when we can test it out more extensively and really put it through the wringer. I’ll save the mounting article for another time as this will only pertain to people who have the exact same setup as me. To me and my wife, the thing that we love most about this tent is the ability to pull up to a sweet camping spot and be set up ready to go in under two minutes. The possibilities of where we can go are almost endless!