Last weekend we tried out our new four-person-with-annex roof-top tent (RTT) by Odin Designs and are so happy with all its features and performance! Circumstances being what they were, we decided to backyard-camp (which sounds more fun than it actually is, by the way, if you live in suburbia with traffic and siren noises galore). Nonetheless, the tent and our gear performed so well that we can’t wait to head into the woods!
When we decided to look for an RTT, we also had to decide on a rack for the top of the Jeep, on which to mount the RTT. We looked at many options and requested feedback and advice from different Jeeping forums, and from people who’ve already got racks and tents installed on their rigs. Ultimately we decided on the Rhino Rack because we heard great things about the quality of the product, and it’s got extra support bars installed down through the inside of the hard-top, into the Jeep body. Given the weight of the large tent we wanted, we were looking for the sturdiest roof-top rack possible and were not disappointed with the Rhino Rack. We managed to snag it on sale from Northridge 4x4 in February and also had them install it (given the mounting through the hard-top). The only thing my husband wished the Rhino Rack had was a ladder but they don’t have that option yet. Incidentally, we also opted to have the Rhino Rack Foxwing installed along one side of the rack when it was mounted. This provides extra shade and shelter from the elements and is super easy to use.
Then it was on to the tent. Initially we were going to go with an ARB roof-top tent, and Tepui makes some good options also. Then in one of the Jeep forums we heard about Odin Designs and learned that they’re local to Colorado in Castle Rock and they offered a four-person option with the annex that we knew we wanted (mainly because our older dog wouldn’t be able to get all the way up into the roof-top area, plus it's time for our son to have his own space at camp). My husband really wanted the room to stretch out, and we hadn’t found the four-person size anywhere else. Plus, we like to support local business where possible, so we ended up choosing the Odin Designs four-person RTT with annex.
Weighing in at a total of 170 pounds this thing was a monster and the guy who delivered it looked doubtfully at the Jeep when he removed the tent from his hand truck. “You sure that’s going to fit?” he asked, but I had checked the specifications of the packed tent to the Rhino Rack and I was sure. Nevertheless, mounting this beast to the rack was...well...challenging. But, after two full days my husband and I got the job done ourselves and I felt like we'd passed a test of some sort, later finding out that the installation directions for any RTT are “usually lacking.” The instructions with our tent consisted of just a few steps, basically: 1. Attach the mounting hardware to the tent base; 2. Install the tent on your vehicle; 3. Don’t drive with it open. Wow, really? It was trial and error for us and even though we removed everything except the actual tent to make it lighter, it was still a good workout as we lifted it on/off the Jeep several times because we had to figure it out as we went. It was a good experience, though, and I enjoyed working through the install with my husband. Between the two of us we generated enough ideas to figure it out.
Now on to the best part – setting it up, and using the space! Setup is a total breeze!! First we undo the heavy-duty ratchet strap we’ve got wrapped around the whole tent plus rack. (This is just an additional precaution we added to provide more support and security, especially for highway travel). Next, undo the cover straps attached to the tent base. Unzip the travel cover and pull that off (one side of the cover stays attached). Unfold the tent. Stake it down. Attach window awning poles as desired. Put sleeping gear inside. Relax. Wowee! Even with no practice setting this thing up all of this took just ten minutes. (Actual tent setup took about five plus then we put in sleeping gear so that added a few more minutes). Compared to the hour it used to take me to set up our standard tent at camp, blow up air mattresses, put in sleeping gear, etc., this RTT is complete bliss!
As far as using the tent, here are some of its awesome features!
Annex – an optional addition to the RTT is the annex portion, that zips on beneath the fold-out part of the RTT. The annex provides a totally enclosed space under the RTT, stakes down flush against your vehicle, and houses the ladder that goes up to the RTT. The annex consists of the same sturdy rip-stop material as the RTT, with a strong rubberized material bottom. I recommend using an additional tarp or tent footprint underneath before staking it down. The annex is also height-adjustable with cinch straps inside that create a custom annex height between 6.5 to 7.5 feet. After staking the annex down outside, cinch the straps up until the annex is taut beneath the RTT.
Roof-top Tent (RTT) – the actual tent area atop the Jeep folds out to a roomy 8 feet by 6.3 feet master suite (since ours is the four-person size). It comes with a 2.5 inch foam mattress, plus we added an additional 2 inch memory foam mattress on top of that, and can still fold the whole thing up and zip on the travel cover, with both mattresses stored inside. We did try leaving our sleeping bags in there as well but then could not get the travel cover zipped, so that’s a no-go. With both mattresses in the RTT it’s more comfortable than a hotel bed! There are screens galore in the RTT, to help with air flow. All of these cover with full-zip tent material flaps. All RTT doors and screens have loop hold-ups for both the screens and the tent flaps. There are two side windows, two skylights, and two doors. Two attached pockets beneath each side window hold valuables and small items.
Extra bells ‘n whistles, and necessities – Included are six window awning poles that can be used, plus several ropes that attach to the rain fly (which we’ve opted to leave on all the time given the good chance of no-warning mountain storms) and stake down around the annex and your vehicle. I will be curious to see how all this works in the mountain wind – more on that in a future post!
Takedown – while still quicker than the takedown and pack-up of our old standard tent, we need to figure out the best way to pack up this RTT plus annex. More to come on that. The last couple of takedowns took several tries because we forgot stuff (like unrolling and zipping up all doors and windows, removing and storing the annex support bar before folding up the tent, etc.). So, when we get more practice at it and figure out the best way to take this monster down quickly, I’ll post up a video.
At the end of the day I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend an Odin Designs tent. They sell other outdoor adventure items too… Reuben with Odin Designs was great to work with and he spent time answering all my questions up front and provided helpful info. Tent delivery was timely and really the only thing lacking were the installation instructions but I’ve heard that’s the way it is with any RTT you might purchase.
One thing we wondered about up front was the road stability of the Jeep with the large RTT atop. We definitely feel it up there when driving, but the Jeep isn’t hard to handle (except in heavy wind, of course). It does limit speeds on the interstate though – 70 mph tops is the recommendation per the RTT instructions. And, my husband doesn’t feel that he would want to take his Jeep plus RTT on any tough / steep trails, which I agree with (my Jeep’s the wheeler anyway – the intent is to dispersed camp his on a mild to moderate trail, then take mine out wheeling).
Do you have a roof-top tent? What brand did you choose? Do you have experiences to share? Comment below! For further info on our RTT, roof rack, or related items, contact us here!
Thanks for reading, and Happy Trails!