With vehicle load restrictions, the rooftop tent market has focused mostly on two-person tents. But iKamper has figured how to make an easy-pop hardshell tent for four — without much more weight.
If you have young kids and want a rooftop tent (RTT) to share, options are limited. Because larger tents tend to weigh more, the lion’s share of RTTs is built for two to three people.
But there’s a market for larger options, and iKamper has been filling that niche since it burst onto the RTT scene last year. The South Korean brand’s original Skycamp four-person model raised $2.3 million, making it the most successful tent project in Kickstarter history.
In short: At $3,600, this hardshell RTT is pricey. But it’s a premium product for a reason. The sleek Skycamp’s weight-conscious aerodynamics coupled with simple setup and spacious design might just be worth it for your family.
As a mom, I wanted to see why families were geeking out about this newcomer.
We tested iKamper’s Skycamp on a family trip to Alta Lakes near Telluride. I expected this Alps-like area of Colorado to blow my kids’ minds. I also pictured an RTT experience taking this adventure to galactic levels of fun.
By the end of the trip, it did and didn’t.
Once we were in the woods, the Skycamp’s drawbacks were few if any. As advertised, the hardshell took about one minute to unfold to max capacity.
It was 70 degrees and sunny. But on a rainy night, with whining, overtired kids, setup speed is clearly one of Skycamp’s most appealing features. However, because it was so nice out, my kids spent more time SUPing, so the cartop tent quickly lost its novelty.
The cons — cost, storage, and size — were particular to our family.
Skycamp Tech Specs
- Closed: 54.3 x 85.8 x 12.5 inches
- Open: 82.6 x 85.8 x 43.3 inches
- Mattress: 82.6 x 74.8 x 1.6 inches
- Ladder length: 90.5 inches standard, 102.3 inches XL, 114 inches add-on
- Tent capacity: 900 pounds; weight limit is also dependent on your vehicle’s roof rack
- Ladder weight limit: 330 pounds
- Speed limit: 70 mph
- Roof rack/crossbars requirement: 165 pounds
- Wind resistance: 40 mph tested max, 20 mph recommended
What We Liked
Let’s start with weight, arguably the Skycamp’s most standout feature. iKamper has figured out how to build in a cushy, king-size mattress and a canvas tent in a hardtop shell at the industry target weight: 160 pounds.
That’s the rooftop load limit for most cars and trucks while moving at highway speeds. iKamper stressed that we shouldn’t exceed 70 mph with the tent on our Tacoma. That was a bit of a buzzkill for traveling six hours, which something worth keeping in mind.
However, the hardshell stayed on rock solid. I eyed it in the rearview while climbing a gnarly 3-mile dirt doubletrack to the campsite.
Either way, that’s a sleek, lightweight design for a four-person, foldout hardtop RTT. iKamper touts this design as an exception in the industry. The brand makes Skycamp in a South Korean facility, not in the same Chinese factory many other RTTs use.
The Skycamp comes with a universal mounting system. It fits on most vehicles, although there is a boatload of configurations, which is a whole other article.
I’ve touched on the tent’s quick “pop-ability.” iKamper has nailed this process.
- Unlock two hardshell latches, a newer feature that early adopters requested. (Urban owners were worried that vagrants would make the iKamper home.)
- Open the hardshell. The tent pops up with it.
- Fold down the collapsible ladder (83 inches standard; XL add-on to 105 inches). The sturdy thing can hold up to 330 pounds.
- Climb up and hook two fully detachable metal rods into small holes on the Skycamp platform to prop the awning.
Skycamp’s wipable (hello, sticky lemonade) king-size mattress is a plush 1.6 inches thick. You could sleep on it without a pad and sleeping bag — at least for a siesta. Max cushion on top of the thick platform raised on my truck roof immediately eliminated my struggles with sleeping in a ground tent (i.e., not sleeping). The Skycamp just felt more like a real bed.
The angled hardshell “wall” also made the RTT feel more secure against the elements. The Skycamp is tested to withstand 40-mph winds. The wall also gave enough headroom for four adults to easily play cards or six kids to use a Ouija board.
The poly-cotton canvas felt heavy, which I appreciated for cooler nights camping at 11,000 feet. However, I could picture the standard iKamper tent material getting too toasty at lower altitudes during peak hot months. For this, there’s a swappable summer-weight tent with better airflow for $490.
Walls and Windows
The Skyview window at the center of the tent top made for an inspiring perspective, but it didn’t fully unzip because it’s built into the tent outer. That was a little weird. I kept trying to unzip it for fresh air.
However, the tent’s two-layer system is one of its most functional features and sets it apart from other hardtop tents. The dual design added strength, insulation, and an essential condensation drip blocker, so we never felt damp. And mesh storage pockets are available for $25 each.
The zip-around canvas blackouts on the front portal, two side windows, and the Skyview were surprising features. With the dark-brown canvas and blackouts, we slept later. We’re early risers, but were camping with family on the opposite schedule, so this was helpful. It bought us an hour.
The Skycamp’s small but adequate front-door awning made reading a book inside the tent still feel connected to the outdoors. I could picture a rainy afternoon nap in there too.
Importantly, the Skycamp’s tent platform (lightweight aluminum strong enough to hold a 1.8-ton Jeep Wrangler) is offset, extending the tent to one side of the vehicle. That configuration creates a helpful covered “staging area” underneath.
We stashed things there like food and shoes that require easy access. To maximize this space, iKamper offers all kinds of add-ons: an entire annex room, a giant awning, and hanging and shoe storage kits.
What We Didn’t Like
There far too many ways to mount an iKamper to cover here. Lee Hoffman, the current exclusive Colorado iKamper dealer who also happened to be located near Denver, talked about these adaptations at length.
His partnership with Rhino-Rack also means he can attach an iKamper to almost any SUV, truck, or car. Configurations range from a mount pushed over the windshield to a truck bed to a pull-along trailer.
We decided the easiest way to test the Skycamp on our Tacoma was with an attachment over the topper via RLT600 quick-release legs and Vortex bars. Hoffman explained that most toppers are not technically rated for the load of RTTs.
That said, Denver’s largest outfitter, Suburban Toppers, told Hoffman that customers request this setup all the time and they have never seen a load issue. That put me at ease, and we didn’t experience any weight issues during our trip.
However, the roof setup created one of the biggest drawbacks to the iKamper for our family. (This may not be an issue at all for others investing in an RTT).
Storage: Big Garage or Park Outside
At 7 feet tall, it would never fit in our garage, which was built to 1974 height standards. We would need to park outside (not advisable while living at 8,300 feet) or invest in a conveyance system to remove and store the tent above the Tacoma (too expensive).
Skycamp has plenty of room for a young family with kids around toddler age. But my boys are now both in double digits. And while we’re all healthy, trim humans, the Skycamp borders on cramped when our family of four fully reclines.
At home, I have a king-size mattress for two, so squeezing in one tent with two boys-turning-men stacked head-to-head is, well, cozy. My temporary solution? Sleeping head to toe.
The Skycamp’s cost is an obvious concern for those on a budget, like us. At the $3,600 base price, we’re still not sure we’d use it enough to justify the investment.
Hoffman, who has a young family and road trips with a full trailer-kitchen setup (pictured throughout), is the ideal customer. That’s probably why he reps iKamper for a living.
We were lucky to find Hoffman to fix our rig and call with any questions. But others have told us that iKamper access is still a little tricky in the U.S. Hoffman addressed this issue.
“The U.S. is just so huge. I know that some areas of the county may be geographically distant from dealers with showrooms that have tents to see prior to purchase,” he said. “iKamper is currently working with a logistics company at the six locations around the USA to help fill this gap until more distributors are in place.”
This is a common challenge in the RTT industry, he said. “We are independent businesses, similar to the way car dealerships work.” Hoffman is helping several small dealers open shop in Colorado right now.
That said, Hoffman has sold 60 tents from Evergreen, Colorado, since opening his doors earlier this year. “I’d say at least 50 percent of my buyers have come from out of state,” he said. “They’re willing to travel here for full service, expertise, and installation.”