Hi this is mike I’m an adventurer and a dad and today I’m going to talk about Roof Top Tents. Specifically the Overlander II Roof Top Tent from Smittybuilt. This particular example was provided by Smittybuilt and 4 Wheel Parts for the purposes of this review and an article with photos by Harry Wagner, who is here behind the camera today.
This is the Standard Model Roof Top Tent which is 55 inches wide and it sleeps 2 and retails for $1149.99
Harry’s article will answer a lot of questions you might have about this product so click the link in the description to read that over on The Dirt. I’ll be talking about my experience with the Overlander gen 2 tent on my 2017 Tacoma and showing you how it sets up and some of the features I like.
First let’s talk about how you’re going to mount a Roof Top Tent to your truck. The tent weighs about 100 pounds by itself, a little more if you leave gear inside it. That’s some serious weight for a small truck or SUV especially with wind load going down the highway.
Make sure you have a good roof rack. My Tacoma has Yakima rails, towers and cross bars. Those rails mount through the fiberglass canopy with 7 bolts each that hold it securely down.
This canopy is a SnugTop GB Sport Sportsmen. The sportsmen model is made with thicker fiberglass and is rated to hold 500 pounds. Most canopies have weight ratings of half that and loading them with this much weight, and then piling a couple people in addition can make the fiberglass flex and wear out over time.
The load rating really only applies to when the vehicle is in motion. When you deploy the tent and climb inside you may be over the weight rating, but since it’s a static load you’ll be OK.
Another concern with Tacomas in particular is the fact that the bed is plastic and the bed sides have a tendency to flex out with this much weight on top. So I’ve installed Total Chaos Bed Stiffeners for Toyota Tacoma here to prevent that. I chose these because they are the lowest profile design I’ve seen and they’re the only design that ties into this high bolt at the top. As a result of that and the welded design they’re a bit more expensive. You drill these three holes and access the back side by taking out the tail light. It uses the existing bed mounting points here.
The tent attaches to the rack with 4 clamps that key into the extruded aluminum support tracks. You can mount the tent to open on the left, right or to the rear. Attaching is is fairly easy, but you should check the bolts before each trip as the metal straps here can bend causing the whole thing to loosen up.
So here’s the key feature and one thing I suggested Harry change in his article. They are fast to deploy, but roof top tents are not necessarily easy to deploy. By the second or third time setting it up I had it done in 9 minutes. That’s pretty good. 9 minutes and you can crawl in a go to sleep. But it’s not easy per se.
First you have to undo the main straps holding the vinyl cover on. They’re velcro with a double D-Ring buckle. The velcro makes it hard to get off the buckle. What I’ve found makes it easier is to peel the velcro, and reattach it with a loop loose, then use my thumbs to force it loose. Then repeat.
Next you unzip the cover. The zipper starts on the driver side front and we’ll call this station 1. You can reach about halfway across then walk around to passenger side front (station 2) and reach the zipper and walk it back through passenger rear (station 3) to where it ends at driver side rear (station 4).
Then you go back to station 2 to peel off the cover, do the same at station 3 then go to driver side and pull it all down. You can zip it off if you enjoy trying to re-attach zippers on big heavy dusty things, or just leave it hanging if you just want to be done faster.
Next there are 4 more velcro straps with double D-Rings securing the RTT in the folded position. I’m sure it’s recommended to always double buckle these, but I haven’t been. It’s the only way I can keep my times under 10 minutes. As such, these are easy and require you to hit station 1, station 2, station 3 and station 4 again.
At this point you can deploy the ladder. The ladder has a strap and quick clip to hold in securely on the tent. To get this you either have to stand on the passenger tire, or the tailgate and reach over. If you’ve guessed that I don’t strap it in because, “where’s it going to go under that heavy vinyl cover,” give yourself a gold star.
The ladder on the Overlander gen 2 telescopes like many other popular roof top tents, so you just pull it out and use the leverage to open up the tent. Then you just collapse the top sections as needed for the tent to lie flat.
At this point the tent seems droopy and weird like it’s half out of its prom dress. That’s the window awnings and the rain fly. To tighten this up you need the 8 wires that you’ll find in a bag inside the tent somewhere. These fit into holes in the framing, then bend up to hook and hold the rain fly tight. You need to do this twice at station 1, station 2 station 3 and station 4. It’s awkward and hard to reach them all.
The last step is to lock the tent flat by closing the locks at the main hinge points. This is also where you might notice that you let a flap of canvas get stuck in the hinge channel and now you can clear that out by lifting the ladder and retrieving the offending canvass.
Setting up a toof top tent is NOT EASY
So remember how I said it was not easy? Well, I’m 6 foot 1 and this Tacoma is on stock tires and suspension. If you’re shorter, or your truck is taller or both, It’s going to be much harder.
But once you’ve done that, and hopefully you’ve gotten it under 10 minutes, you can straighten up the ladder, unzip the main door and climb on in, If you’ve left your sleeping bag and pillow inside, like I’ve done here you’re ready to go to bed.
Overall, the fit and finish of the Overlander Gen 2 is pretty nice. The main tent fabric is thick ripstop cordura with heavy duty zippers and gromets. It has 4 doors / windows that all open with opaque flaps and mesh netting. With all of them open, it makes for great visibility and ventilation. Being 6 feet off the ground will get you more air flow which is great on hot nights.
This tent has not one but 2 skylights that unzip from the main body. The rain fly has clear panels that let you see the stars. This seemed like a novelty at first, but it is actually really cool.
There are several pockets around the tent for phones and flashlights. There are also toggles and loops to secure the flaps and screens when not in use.
The mattress is low profile. I do not sleep well on it. I intend to get a memory foam mattress cover. Hopefully that helps.
When you get up in the morning the take-down is reverse of the set-up. You can leave your bedding inside it should fit. I’m using an Exped Mega Sleep duo bag we use fits perfectly and still allows the tent to fold up flat.
The fly rods go back in the bag and on top of the mattress, not under. If you try to hide them underneath they’ll fall right out. If you’ve used the shoe bag, you can stash that on the mattress too. Another option for storing the fly rods and shoe bag, and probably any number of other things, is to just leave them up next to the ladder and cover them with the vinyl cover. It gets strapped and zipped so it should be secure enough.
There are bungie cords can hook to the loops on the sides and help pull the fabric in as you fold it up. There’s just a little bit of stuffing to do and then you can strap it down. Flip the cover over and then pull it down on the corners. Zip it around and fold in the closure flaps. The last step is to secure the main straps over the top with the double d-ring and head on down the trail.
What I have to say here is going to be true of all fold-open style roof top tents, not the overlander 2 specifically.
It’s heavy: It’s a lot of weight on top of your truck. Because of that it’s not super east to get on and off. If you don’t want this on your truck for your daily life, then getting it on and off and finding a place to store it is going to be a challenge.
It’s big: Sitcking up 13 inches over your rack, it pushes a lot of wind. It’ll cost you 2 or 3 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency at least.
It’s attached to my truck: If you’re big “O” Overlanding and you’re moving camp every night, then it’s great. Setup is much faster than a ground tent. If you’re big “C” Camping and you’re staying several nights in one place and you want to day trip in your truck, then you have to pack up and re-deploy every time you do.
So overall my impressions of the Overlander Gen 2 Roof Top tent from Smittybuilt is that it seems really nice and as well built as any roof top tent I’ve seen. Check out Harry’s article over on The Dirt for all the details on this new product and check back here for the adventures we take in this new tent!