Tepui rooftop tent owned by Sioux Falls, SD based landscape landscape photographer Paul Heckel.
The first “deployment” at a local park took 20 minutes with 2 people. After a few uses, we shaved that time to 15 minutes. Notice the custom boxes in the rear that I use as steps to climb on top of the roof rack.

T Minus 15 Minutes Until Rooftop Tent Deployment

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I mentioned before that, from start to finish, it takes approximately 15 minutes to deploy the tent. Packing the thing up takes a little longer since it’s necessary to stretch and zip the heavy-duty rain cover over the folded tent structure. With two people, this process took about a half hour. I have used the tent solo on several occasions, and in total it takes about 30 minutes longer to setup and take down by myself. But it can be done easily.

In my opinion, The Tepui Kukenam 3 Ruggedized rooftop tent is well built and engineered and I was mostly happy with the purchase. However, because I am german and that linage forces me to over engineer everything, I did modify the tent slightly. First, the tent weighs in at about 170 lbs. Add sleeping bags, a couple of blankets and pillows, you’re easily at 190lbs. I’m sure that a Tepui engineer, figured out the math for the number of attachment points and hardware needed for the load. I am also certain that the CAD design specs were adequate.

Germans Be German

Out of the box, the Kukenam 3 Ruggedized tent includes two aluminum mounting rails that mount to the tent base, four u bolts‌ and eight washer/ lock nut combinations. The rails and hardware are used to mount the tent to your roof rack. I was able to find replacement parts on the Tepui website and ordered an additional aluminum mounting rail and six more u-bolts with hardware. What started out as four attachment points became ten.

I know, way overkill, but in my defense, you would need to use a cutting torch or explosives to remove the tent from the vehicle. Seriously, at the time, another $100 seemed like a very small investment for piece of mind cruising through the mountains at 70mph.

Speaking of cruising at 70mph, the 12 inches of additional unaerodynamic ride height and tent weight, decrease full efficiency. I wasn’t able to keep mileage records, but I’m guessing somewhere close to a loss of four miles to the gallon. Wind noise was minimal and not very noticeable. I use a Thule cargo carrier occasionaly and didn’t notice much difference in added wind noise between the two. Other cons:

The Cons

1) Rooftop tents are expensive as compared to their ground-dwelling counterparts. During my research, I found rooftop models that could be had for $1200, but for that price you could purchase four higher-end traditional setups.

2) Rooftop tents are heavy. It took three, fairly strong guys (and a six pack of good beer) to position the tent on top of our vehicle for mounting. And the same number to remove it. Add another couple of hours to attach the u bolts and to tighten everything down good and snug

3) I found that once the tent is securly mounted, it’s a pain in the butt to take it off. Although, I’ve seen docking hardware from the Front Runner company that may make this process easier, it is still much more difficult than throwing a smaller tent in your vehicle. Because I was camping frequently, it remained on my vehicle from May 5 through October 30. Not ideal for everyone, especially those who may not have adequate garage door clearance.

My Biggest Rooftop Tent Concern

The biggest disadvantage for me is that you’re sleeping in a tent that is mounted to your vehicle. I know that’s what a rooftop tent is all about, but, let’s say you’re camping at the lake for a week. You’re having a great time, sun is shining. Your tent is nice and comfy, but you’re out of ice. You have to pack up the tent so you can drive your vehicle.

Or, let’s say you’re a hard working, slightly scruffy, landscape photographer and you need to get up at zero dark thirty to catch that epic sunrise shot. Yep, you guessed it. Alarm set 45 minutes earlier than it needs to be. You get the point.

Final Thoughts

I found our Tepui rooftop tent to be well made, easy to deploy and pack, rain proof and very comfortable. I think any purchase decision ultimately boils down to your budget and how you like to camp. If you have access to another means of transportation, or intend on camping in one place for a length of time, a rooftop tent may be a great investment.

While researching rooftop tent reviews, several people answered several questions regarding mounting, construction etc. So, if you’re considering a purchase and have your own questions, feel free to email me here.

This post is in no way sponsored by, paid for or influenced by Tepui. Just the experiences and opinions of a slightly scruffy, Sioux Falls, SD-based landscape photographer who has used this particular Tepui model extensively. All measurements and weights in this rooftop tent review are approximate. Please do your own research.