For our second Gear Essentials article, we focus in on two necessary segments of overlanding: tents and awnings.
Whether you’re a ground-tent traditionalist, rooftop tent convert, an awning newbie or 180-degree awning devotee, we have something in this roundup to suit your fancy.
We picked our favorites from the overlanding tent and awning market and compiled them here in alphabetical order. In fact, we had so many favorites, couldn’t just pick 10 — this month’s Gear Essentials has 11 (we’ll spare you the “Spinal Tap” jokes).
So, let’s jump right into Overland Expo’s Tents & Awnings Gear Essentials roundup.
AT Overland — Habitat Truck Topper
For years, if overlanders wanted a vehicle-based sleeping solution, they had two options: a rooftop tent or a full-size slide-in camper. No doubt, these are great options. However, they left a sizable gap in the market — one AT Overland spotted and decided to fill. That’s how the Habitat Truck Topper was born.
When all folded away, the setup looks something like a rooftop tent atop a truck-bed canopy — most uninitiated onlookers might never suspect what is in store for them when it’s fully deployed. That’s part of the genius of the thing.
The AT Overland’s Habitat Truck Topper can be fully deployed by a single person in just three minutes. When unfurled, the spacious and plush tent sleeps two. But since the tent is integrated into the truck-bed topper, it affords full-height standing room inside the truck bed, creating a cathedral-like space inside.
The cantilever tent, designed by Nemo Equipment, is a true all-season tent — no rain fly is required. Climb in past the built-in awning and overlanders will find a comfortable and dense foam mattress atop an insulated sleeping platform. Carpet used throughout the interior, further underscoring the deluxe nature of the Habitat tent. More than just comfortable, the tent includes a gear loft and four side pockets for extra storage.
When it’s closed, other drivers on the trail might assume the Habitat is just a tough- but unassuming-looking canopy. However, cleverly hidden away is so much more; it opens up to reveal a large, lavish tent, a truck-bed-topping canopy and also a tailgate awning — all in one. That’s what we love about the AT Overland’s Habitat Truck Topper, its stylish but rugged design. Plus, it’s available for both mid- and full-size trucks, which makes it ideal for virtually any truck-based overland rig build.
Bundutec USA — Bundu Top King Roof Top Tent
If you’ve ever struggled with deploying or folding down a rooftop tent, maybe it’s time you go electric. No, seriously.
With the push of a button, the fully electric Bundu Top King automatically deploys — with awning — in 30 seconds. Now if that’s not immediately intriguing, we don’t know what is. And, yes, before you ask: The push-button opener has a manual bypass to avoid mishaps.
Getting into the Bundu Top King is virtually just as easy as deploying it. That’s because, unlike many rooftop tents, it’s accessible from all sides. Just attach the sliding aluminum ladder to the side of your choosing, undo the double-zipped doors, and climb in.
Inside, overlanders will find a technologically savvy and comfortable interior. Sleeping is incredibly homelike inside the Bundu Top King, as it is outfitted with a four-inch-thick high-density foam mattress.
The coziness of the thick mattress matched with creature comforts. The tent comes standard with an integrated electric fan, LED light, and USB/12-volt outlet. That means you can keep cool on warm summer nights and charge your favorite gadgets at the same time.
Oh and let’s forget to mention that the Bundu Top King comes pre-wired for solar. By tapping a modest solar panel array into the provided wiring, you can enjoy all your favorite electronic gear without draining your battery by harnessing the power of the sun.
The Bundu Top King Roof Top Tent is for overlanders who don’t want the bulk of a full camper but also desire some modern amenities. And that’s what we love about the Bundu Top King. It essentially eliminates all the annoyances of owning a rooftop tent — namely folding it away when you’re done with camp.
Done sleeping? Get out and push the button. In 30 seconds, you’re ready to roll.
Dometic — Kampa Dometic Tailgater AIR
Awning, tent, or full-height inflatable inclosure — whatever you call it, there’s no denying the Kampa Dometic Tailgater AIR is incredibly versatile.
If you’re looking at the Tailgater AIR and thinking, “Oh, I’ve seen those before.” We invite you to hold your horses and take a second look. This is not your uncle’s cheap tailgate tent that he strapped to the back of his Bronco. That’s because this one doesn’t utilize the traditional — and frankly annoying — tent poles; the Tailgater AIR’s frame is inflatable.
Despite weighing just 26.5 pounds, the Tailgater AIR inflates to seven feet tall. It’s just over seven feet deep by almost 10 feet wide. As the name suggests, the Tailgater AIR extends the living space of vehicles with a tailgate and includes a soft, weather-resistant awning that reaches over the back of the rig. Distinctively, it can stand on its own. That means you can leave it up and drive away, if you need to.
The inflatable frame makes it not only incredibly easy to set up, inflating in little time, but it also makes it rugged, flexible, and ideal for both hot and cold weather climates. And it deflates and packs down almost as quickly as it goes up.
We love the Kampa Dometic Tailgater AIR because it takes an older idea and improves it with new technology. What’s more, can play multiple roles in your overland adventures. It can operate as a weather-resistant lounge. Or it can be used as a large, spacious tent — with or without a vehicle saddled up beside it.
Given its relative light weight and accessible price point, it’s an awesome additional extra to any overland kit.
Front Runner Outfitters — Quick Release Tent Mount Kit
Many of the products in this list re-envision how a tent or awning can look or behave. The Front Runner Outfitters’ Quick Release Tent Mount Kit, however, redefines your relationship with a traditional rooftop tent, allowing you to easily remove and reinstall your tent.
Let’s be honest, rooftop tents are not only super convenient and comfortable, they look pretty impressive atop of your rig. Sometimes, though, you don’t want to have to lug your beloved rooftop tent around with you. Whether you want to increase your truck’s clearance or simply wish to lose some undue heft, uninstalling your tent from your rig can be a hassle.
That’s where Front Runner Outfitters’ Quick Release Tent Mount Kit comes into play.
Install the kit to the top of your Front Runner rack and torque the self-guiding bolts to the bottom of your tent. Front Runner includes with the kit three sets of nut plates to ensure the setup works with the channel systems of most popular rooftop tent brands — no modification of your tent is necessary.
Slide your tent on, the self-guiding bolts ensure you hit the right placement, and then lock it down by closing the latches. No tools are required to install or remove your tent from the Quick Release Tent Mount Kit.
The engineers at Front Runner Outfitters also designed the bottom of the tent at two different heights. You can set it to sit either 1.57 inches above your rack or down a bit more snug at 1.0 inch above the rack.
We love Front Runner Outfitters’ Quick Release Tent Mount Kit because it eliminates a pressure point felt by some rooftop tent owners: the laboriousness of removing the tent. Now, for less than $200, you can add some peace of mind to rooftop tent ownership, should you ever need to quickly snatch it off your rack.
Overland Pros — Anza Roof Top Tent
We couldn’t create a roundup of our favorite rooftop tents without throwing at least one soft-top tent in on the list. And Overland Pros’ Anza line of rooftop tents made the list because of their smart features, sizing options, rugged and waterproof construction, and accessible price point.
If you’ve been engaged with overlanding for very long, you likely know the basic ins and outs of soft-shell rooftop tents. So, rather than explain how they work, let’s jump straight into what makes the Anza so special.
First off, the Anza is crafted from poly-cotton ripstop waterproof canvas — not water-resistant, waterproof. This sets it apart from other entrants in the segment right off the bat. Secondly, the Anza is finished with heat-sealed taped seams. And when zipped up without the rainfly, it can withstand gusty winds without any materials left annoyingly flapping in the breeze, which is awesome.
Climb into the Anza, up the extra-long ladder designed with taller vehicles in mind, and overlanders will find a three-inch memory foam mattress over a closed-cell insulated floor. Together, these provide a soft and warm sleeping surface that won’t suck all your body heat out through the floor. What’s more, the interior sleeping space is 58 inches by 96 inches — larger than a queen-size mattress. So, yeah, you should have plenty of room.
The windows are roll-up style and don’t require additional spring rods. With the windows open, you are privy to 270-degree views. And, if you’re going to sleep on your rig, you might as well make the most of it and soak in as many scenic vistas as possible.
That’s what we love about Overland Pros’ Anza rooftop tents. They have smart features, like the exposed oversized aluminum frame that allows campers to hang LED lights inside their tent. Plus, it’s big, rugged, and built to last — without breaking the bank.
With the Anza tent, you can still enjoy backcountry exploration without making a huge dent in your bank account.
MSRP: $1,200 to $2,195
Overland Pros — Awning
Now, if you’re getting an Overland Pros Anza rooftop tent, you might as well pair it with their awning. After all, who doesn’t like a matching set of gear?
Overland Pros’ Awning is offered in driver- or passenger-side setups. Like the brand’s awesome rooftop tents, they are constructed from poly-cotton waterproof ripstop canvas. That means they’ll be as robust, long-lasting, and weatherproof as your tent.
The awnings are offered in two sizes: 86-inch (two meters) or 105-inch (2.5 meters). So, there is a size for virtually any overland rig.
You can add walls to any side and the zip-to-close PVC transit cover can accommodate up to two sides. So, it’s practically like having a whole other inclosure along for the adventure. As you’d expect, the awnings are easy to set up. And, if the weather gets really windy, guy lines can be hooked up to steady the awning and walls.
We love Overland Pros’ Awning because, for just a little more than a couple hundred bucks, you can totally transform your campsite. And you can do so knowing that your investment is going to last because it’s made from high-quality materials and sold by your fellow overlanding enthusiasts.
MSRP: $375 to $425
RLD — GhostAwn 360
It seems virtually everybody these days has an awning attached to the side of their roof rack — overlander or otherwise. But just because awnings are ubiquitous doesn’t mean they’re not super useful for adding much-needed shade or rain protection at camp.
For as useful as they might be, standard straight-forward awnings only offer a small swath of coverage. This leaves a great portion of the camp around your vehicle uncovered. This becomes painfully apparent as the sun moves across the sky from east to west or when a driving rainstorm changes direction, for example.
Delightfully, however, there’s a solution for this: RLD’s GhostAwn 360, which, as the name suggests, adds 360 degrees of coverage at camp. In fact, it’s the only true 360-degree awning available in the United States.
The GhostAwn 360 does more than offer full coverage around your rig. It is also fully UV resistant, waterproof, and capable of handling strong winds. And it can withstand strong winds due to its being self-supporting — a feature that makes it easy to deploy, too.
That’s what we love about RLD’s GhostAwn 360. Not only is it the only awning of its kind available in the U.S., it is also super rugged and easy to use. The first time someone uses an awning at camp, they’re sold; the value of an awning is immediately apparent. Now imagine owning one that offers all-round rig shade and doesn’t require setting up a bunch of poles around camp. Suddenly, it’s clear the GhostAwn 360 is a must-have.
RLD — Shower Cube
OK this one isn’t exactly a traditional tent … but it isn’t not a tent either, right?
Pedantism aside, RLD’s Shower Cube is downright cool. That’s because it’s the most innovative, stable, and lightweight instant privacy enclosure on the market.
Its lightweight but sturdy aluminum frame is supported — and stabilized — by gas struts. Not only does this make it more stable, it also makes the Shower Cube easier to set up and use. Speaking of stabilization, the Shower Cube has D-rings at the bottom. These can be staked into the ground, adding further stability to the Cube during windy conditions. I mean, you’re not trying to give your campmates a free show, right?
You can use the supplied universal mount. Or you can opt for one of the other available mounts. RLD sells one that attaches to the GhostAwn 360 listed above.
The Shower Cube weighs just eight pounds and measures 36 inches by 5.0 inches by 5.0 inches when folded. This light weight and compact size makes it easy to stow when not in use.
After more than a week on the trail, most self-respecting overlanders are begging for a shower — or at least for their compatriots to have one. That’s why we love the Shower Cube. It’s a really smart, simple, and stable way to set up a shower on the trail. You and your fellow overlanders will thank you for stowing one in your kit.
Rugged Bound Supply Co. — Ostrich Wing 270 Awning by Big Country 4×4, South Africa
When you think of truly tough overlanders, you think either Australians or South Africans. And the Rugged Bound Supply Co.’s Ostrich Wing from Big Country 4×4 hails from South Africa. So, you know it’s going to be durable and hardwearing.
The Ostrich Wing 270 Awning boasts being the first free-standing 270-degree awning on the market. Since 2008, it’s been giving other self-supporting awnings a bit of a complex. That’s because not only is it vast, creating 120 square feet of shade, it’s been cut from thick 13.3-ounce canvas.
If you need more coverage, well, Rugged Bound Supply Co. will sell you two optional zip-on walls that make a veritable estate-sized campsite compound.
That’s why we love the Ostrich Wing 270 awning. Not only does it come from one of the most hardcore overlanding countries, it’s proved itself with 12 years in the bush and lived to brag about it.
MSRP: $1,480 (with free shipping)
Rugged Bound Supply Co. — Penthouse Standard & XL Rooftop Tent by Big Country 4×4, South Africa
We know we just said that South Africans number amongst the toughest overlanders out there. But Americans deserve some credit, too. We are capable of roughing it as any other nationality. However, we also love our creature comforts. That means we demand our overland gear be able to both withstand some of the most severe weather conditions but also offer a touch of civility while doing so.
Realizing this, Rugged Bound Supply Co. had Big Country 4×4 of South Africa redesign their Penthouse line of rooftop tents specifically for the American market. Specifically, they updated the tents to include LED lights, interior storage, USB charger, and 12-volt auxiliary wiring.
Now we’re talking.
The Penthouse tents are available in Standard (82 inches long and 55 inches wide) or XL (90 inches long and 57.75 inches wide). The Standard can be optioned with two distinct roof styles: Slim or Aero. The height of the Standard Slim is a uniform 7.75 inches. The Standard Aero is 7.75 inches at the front and 11.75 inches at the rear. The additional space in the Aero enables overlanders to keep their bedding and pillows inside the Standard tent — even when it’s closed.
No matter the size, these hard-shell tents feature waterproof 260 GSM UV-treated rip-stop canvas and hot-air-tape sealed seams. And, thanks to their robust aluminum construction, both tents can support up to 176 pounds of external load on the roof.
We love these tents for their hardy origins. And it doesn’t hurt to know they’ve been thriving in South Africa since 2005. What’s also cool about them is that, even though they may be commonplace in South Africa, you are unlikely to see another one on the trail here in the States. And that exclusivity mixed with their backcountry bona fides makes them even more special.
Pre-Order MSRP: $2,200 (Standard); $2,600 (XL)
Sloop Imports — Camp King Industries Outback Series
We conclude this list in much the same way we started it: With a high-quality product that is defining a new segment somewhere between in-bed camper and rooftop tent. This one is from Sloop Imports, who is importing the Camp King Industries Outback Series.
Originally designed and built in Brisbane, Australia, the CK Outback Series is made to be tough enough to withstand the abuse of Australia’s bush. So, you know it’ll be stout enough for us in the States.
The bottom portion is carefully crafted from three millimeter-thick aluminum. The top is two-millimeters thick. The whole thing is CNC laser cut and TIG-welded by hand. It’s then powder coated inside and out for a uniform and long-lasting finish.
Twin stainless steel lockable latches keep everything together. These accept padlocks, so you can rest assured that your stuff is safely stowed and not easily accessible by thieves.
Up top is a tent roof, which is crafted from Wax Converters’ tear-stop canvas from Australia — a canvas well-respected across the continent. Wax Converters is known for its uncompromising performance in the harshest conditions.
Unlike other products in this fledgling segment, the CK Outback Series features a one-piece roof over its tent. That one-piece roof is finished with a 10-millimeter-thick closed foam cell. This ensures the tent remains thermally stable and comfortable while you sleep. Further ensuring sleeping comfort, the two piece mattress is three inches thick and made from high-density foam.
The tent itself is accessed through a 61-inch tall and 31-inch wide door. It’s flanked on either side by large windows (59 inches by 35.5 inches) that include insect-proof mesh.
Just by looking at Sloop Imports’ Camp King Industries Outback Series, you can immediately recognize the care and craftsmanship that went into it.
That’s why we love it. Walking up to the thing, you can see no detail was overlooked — nothing was skimped in its creation. It was made by overlanders with overlanding in mind.
Header image credit: Jacy Richards @fjexploring_chick