I’ve been threatening to get a new roof top tent (RTT) recently, but I wasn’t sure quite what I wanted. We’ve been enjoying our Smittybilt Overlander XL, but after the last trip I took realized I needed more room. Two adults, 1 kid (11) and a baby? Should fit just fine, but with the amount of room the baby takes up flopping and rolling I ended up sandwiched between the baby and the 11 year old. Can you tell the difference between getting elbowed in the face by a baby and slapped by an 11 year old? I couldn’t, but I woke up every dang time trying to figure it out.
Time for a bigger tent.
But do I try and go for a hardshell tent? They’re faster and easier to set up, should allow me to keep everything in them (sleeping bags, pillows), but they’re smaller. A LOT smaller. Should I get two? They’re expensive, that seems unnecessary. Oh, and the annex. We use ours a lot. Plus how would I even mount them? I wouldn’t be able to fit two on the rack unless I did widthwise which makes no sense. I guess that’s a no for the hardshell rtt’s.
Before exploring some of the larger options on the market, let’s review the Smittybilt Overlander XL. We’ve had great success and use with this tent, and it was a great way to get started in the rtt world. The “best” thing about the Smittybilt Overlander XL is the cost. You get a lot for the money. But the cost factor has some limitations in quality and overall construction. The aluminum floor bottom isn’t as strong or rigid as other models, the fabric is thinner, and the aluminum poles for the structure of the tent feel sort of flimsy. I never had an issue with them, but you can it won’t take much to bend them. Oh, and for those of you in places with wetter weather, there is no support for the poles between the overhang and the annex, so water or snow can pool up there and ultimately bend the thin poles. The sleeping platform is generous in size, and definitely on the larger side compared to most tents (one of the perks of the Overlander XL). Coming in at 72×94, you can sleep comfortably with 3-4 people, although 4 full-size adults may be rather comfy. You and your buddies are pretty tight, right?
To help improve a night’s sleep, I ended up adding a 2″ memory foam mattress topper. The factory mattress in the Smittybilt is about 2 inches and the added foam topper really improved things. In fact, the first night after adding it in the family reported that it was, “the best night of sleep camping, ever.” I’ll take that, the more comfortable everyone is, the more likely I can get them to go out. The downside of this added comfort was I was now unable to fit the sleeping bags inside the tent because it just wouldn’t close up. For those wondering, no you cannot just jump up and down on the tent to close it lol. You will more than likely damage the roof or the hinges on the tent.
With that said, all of these things are very tolerable or borderline workable. Creature-comforts can be added in, and the cost of this tent can’t be ignored. Like I said before, you get a lot for your money. Seeing how much use we get out of our tent, I knew it was time for an upgrade; but not just in size, in heavy-duty-ness too. Luckily once you start looking at the very largest tents available, most of them already arrive “tougher” and ready for the elements.
When looking at my options for large(est) rtt’s available there are only a few. The first I’ve been seeing is from 23zero, the Walkabout 87 (Sydney). Featuring an 87×96 sleeping area, this (claimed 5+) giant tent popped up when searching for “largest rtt” on facebook and the forums. The 23zero has a lot of the features users expect from a higher-end tent, and their newest rendition features LST, Light Suppression Technology. Check out a video showing LST in the daylight here.
I haven’t seen it in person, but the videos they’ve posted show a massive improvement in light penetration inside the tent. I know many campers are early risers, but it sure is nice to wake up when you want to and not when the sun is up.
Spoiler alert (didn’t you read the title?) I went with the CVT Summit Series Mt. Denali. I found a great deal on one local to me and promptly picked it up. I did a lot of research before buying and had already selected the CVT Mt. Denali as the tent my family and I needed.
Next up is the CVT Mt. Denali with a sleeping platform of 87×96, on par with the 23zero. This tent is also available in the “Summit Series” which is the more rugged version of the CVT tent lineup. This is a great looking tent and fully built to handle the elements with ease. Before opening it up you’ll find a heavy-duty cover which is attached by a hefty zipper. Now I’ve seen things both ways for zippers vs velcro, but the general consensus is most guys want the zipper. On the bottom and floor of the tent is a very heavy-duty aluminum diamond plate honey-comb floor. This thing is BEEFY. Which is a great step-up from the Smittybilt Overlander as well as most other rtt’s. If you own another tent, go ahead and push on the floor in one spot. It will flex. Is this bad? I’m not sure, but time after time of flexing can’t be good. Let me reiterate, the floor of the Summit Series CVT Mt. Denali is SOLID. CVT already has quality tents, and after seeing the floor alone I was sold.
Unfolding the CVT Mt. Denali reveals thick tent poles covered in fabric which is a nice improvement in the aesthetics department, and some very heavy duty feeling fabric for the tent itself. My particular model is the Stargazer which features two giant windows on either side of the roof. The rainfly has plastic windows to ensure you never have any water leak in, but there is also an included rainfly that has no windows at all (I guess for ultimate light reduction?). If you lay on your back looking up, you’ll first see a heavy mesh screen with zipper, then fabric cover with zipper, then the rainfly with the “Stargazer” windows. This means that you still have decent “darkness” if you keep everything closed, even without the fully blacked-out rainfly. Nice. I really enjoy having the windows on there and find it unlikely that I’ll ever swap out the rainfly for the solid black one.
Another nice touch on the inside is the built-in LED light on the uppermost tent pole with a built-in dimmer. I had to add my own interior light to the Smittybilt Overlander XL which worked just fine, but having something already part of the design is an improvement. The CVT mattress is 2 1/2″ thick, plus you have an anti-condensation pad that adds another 1/2-3/4″ too. I actually added a memory foam mattress topper the first night, but I have since pulled it out since I really don’t think it’s needed. On our first night with the tent, it was below freezing and the memory foam pad was more of a brick. Oh well, lesson learned. I don’t usually camp in weather that cold anyway.
The rainfly and overhang on the CVT Mt. Denali is great too since the poles are thicker and provide much-desired strength for the overhang. In addition to being larger than many other tents, CVT has also included two extendable poles which are used as spacers between the rtt poles and the overhang poles. This alleviates the pooling of water or snow issues on almost every other tent on the market. Nice work, Cascadia Vehicle Tents.
Oh my gosh, I almost forgot the ladder. The ladders, I should say, are AWESOME. They offer much more confidence when climbing up and down, and slide and lock together much smoother than the Smittybilt ever did. The more basic and less expensive tents seem to come with the same basic ladder, and the more expensive tents receive the (pretty sure they’re the same) telescoping ladder. There is a reason the more expensive models include this type instead. You can buy a ladder from CVT, but depending on your tent model you may need to do some work to get it attached (my guess is just moving your mounting brackets already on the tent).
I look forward to many more trips with the Mt. Denali, and I’ll be sure to be posting updates as we go along or any mods that we make.
Other quality tents with great reviews I also looked included Tepui for their Ruggedized Autana 4 and the Roam Adventure Vegabond XL tent, but both of those only have a sleeping area of 72×96, a far cry from the more-than-a-foot larger(longer) 23zero Sydney and the CVT Mt. Denali. Tepui and Roam Adventure will have much better build quality compared to the Overlander XL, although they offer the same size sleeping platform. The Tuff Stuff Elite Overland tent comes in slightly larger than the Tepui and Roam Adventure at 77×96, but I guess if you truly want the largest rtt you only have a few options. My vote goes to the CVT Summit Series Mt. Denali.