Quick take: Freespirit Recreation’s (FSR) Odyssey aluminum hard-shell rooftop tent is a slim, crossbar-capable, and side-hinged clamshell rooftop tent. It boasts a relatively low weight at 134 pounds, despite its impressive spec sheet. Although we found it easy to use and rugged, we did feel it could benefit from slightly smoother-operating hardware and a comfier mattress. That said, for those wanting a slim, light, roomy, and utility-rich aluminum hard-shell rooftop tent, the Odyssey is hard to beat.
Over the years, members of the Overland Expo staff have owned and tested dozens of rooftop tents. Each team member has their own preferences, from soft-shell to hard-shell to the sub-variants like foldout, clamshell, and pop-up. None of us, however, had tried a side-hinged clamshell.
So, when the good folks at Freespirit Recreation (FSR) asked us if we wanted to try the brand’s Odyssey tent, we jumped at the opportunity.
There are many benefits to a side-hinged clamshell rooftop tent. Chief among them is the interior volume it offers over a front-hinged clamshell. Rather than opening like a wedge, the Odyssey offers pop-up levels of interior space. It’s able to create a square-ish interior space thanks to a u-bar that folds off the side.
Essentially, instead of a triangle-shaped interior, it’s virtually square. And we likely don’t need to explain the benefits of a square over a triangle in terms of volume. The side-opening design means the primary entry and exit point for the tent is the side of the rig. We were particularly pleased with this because the Bronco’s rear end isn’t particularly ladder friendly with its door-mounted spare.
Another benefit of the side-hinged clamshell is the ease with which it is closed. Pop-up rooftop tents, which offer similar interior volume, need to be closed from all four sides. And all four sides aren’t easily accessible on all rigs — especially long, tall, lifted rigs. So having a single point from which to leverage it lifts the closing burden.
Given its relatively compact footprint compared to its internal volume, added to the benefits of a side-hinged clamshell, we were quite keen to test the Odyssey. So, we bolted it to the top of a 2023 Ford Bronco 4-Door Black Diamond and spent a few months testing it on the trail.
The perfect fit
The Odyssey is far from one of FSR’s latest designs. That title goes to the impressive Evo V2, which we recently reviewed. Nevertheless, it seems as though it was perfectly designed for the all-new Bronco. The Odyssey’s 52-inch exterior closed width is almost exactly the same as the Prinsu rack mounted to our test Bronco, which, too, fits the truck perfectly. The trio (Bronco, Prinsu rack, and Odyssey) seemed to be a match made in heaven.
What’s more, or less, we suppose, is the Odyssey is only 7.1-inches tall, which makes it delightfully slim. Plus, it is capable of crossbars, which we added for additional gear-carrying capabilities. On top of the Odyssey, we mounted four MAXTRAX, a shovel, and an ax. Sometimes, we also throw a rolled-up Mad Mats Casbah Camp Rug up there, too.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Odyssey, especially for the new Bronco, is its weight: 134 pounds. Ford recommends no more than 150 pounds (dynamic load rating) be mounted to the Bronco’s roof. The Odyssey, Prinsu rack, and extra gear just squeak over that limit. Most other hard-shell rooftop tents with comparable interior space and crossbar compatibility are much heavier. That’s not a knock on them; it’s just a fact.
Among many reasons, one key feature that enables the Odyssey to have such a low base weight is its slotted aluminum floor. This is in comparison to the standard honeycomb aluminum flooring that most aluminum hard-shell rooftop tents boast.
To summarize, the Odyssey promises to be lightweight with a big interior, a novel but smart hinge design with easy ingress and egress, and the ability to carry extra gear. It feels like the perfect rooftop tent. But is that how it played out on the trail?
Living with it
In short: mostly. The Odyssey proved very voluminous indeed. But it’s a bit lacking in its other touchpoints.
Since metal slats form the floor and not a solid piece of aluminum, the mattress has to be mostly rigid. This, as you might intuitively understand, makes for a less-than-comfortable sleeping experience. If the mattress’ toughness weren’t enough, it’s also slim. That’s because it needs to be to enable the 7.1-inch compact height. A slim, rigid mattress doesn’t make for the best night’s sleep, sadly.
To compensate for this, we initially threw a 2-inch inflatable mattress into the Odyssey at night. That proved insufficient, unfortunately, forcing us to go to a 4-inch inflatable. Due to the tent’s slimness, the 4-incher couldn’t be stowed in the tent. This meant it had to be kept in the Bronco, which is already small inside. We essentially traded compactness on the roof for less space in the rig, which is not a trade we would have chosen if given the option to begin with.
The sky has an unlimited ceiling. The Bronco has a finite one. We would have happily traded four inches of rooftop tent height in order to gain several cubic feet in the Bronco.
Although the Odyssey opens easily enough, the u-bar proved finicky. The u-bar, once folded out, needs to be extended upward. This requires wrestling the bars into the fully extended position. We found ourselves standing on the Bronco’s left rear tire and pushing up with all our might just in order to seat the u-bar in the fully opened position. To our chagrin, this process never eased — no parts wore in. It was as hard to fully extend the u-bar the first time as it was the 20th time.
These were the biggest, if not niggling, issues with the Odyssey. Sure, it could benefit from a thicker mattress, thicker tent material with black-out coating, and slightly nicer hardware. But no tent is perfect. For being slim, light, capable of carrying gear, and the perfect fit for the new Bronco, it was a rock star.
We realize that finding that balance between not being overladen with weight (especially on the roof), capability, and livability is hard. The Odyssey comes pretty darn close, though.
If you’ve chosen a compact rig like the new Bronco or a Wrangler for your overland rig, we recommend you consider the Odyssey. Just make sure you carve out and dedicate some interior storage space to an inflatable mattress.
What to know:
- Interior Opened Dimensions: 48″W x 83″L x 43″H
- Exterior Closed Dimensions: 52″W x 87″L x 7.1″H
- Weight: 134 lbs
- Sleeping Capacity: 1-2 people
- Weight Capacity: 750 lbs.
- Shell: Aluminum Honeycomb Plate
- Tri-Layer Body: 3 Layers of 150D Poly-Oxford with 90g/M2 Poly-fil
- Rainfly: 210D Poly-Oxford with Silver Coating and 3,000mm Polyurethane coating
- Mattress: 1.25″ High-Density Foam
- Flooring: 1.5″ EPE
- Frame: Patented Aluminum Gas Strut-assisted
- MSRP: $3,295