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- The Tepui Kukenam 3 is an all-around softshell rooftop tent that’s made for four-season camping and comfortably fits up to three people with extra space for gear.
- Pitching the Kukenam 3 takes just a few minutes and mostly involves unclipping the side straps and unfolding the tent to prop it up on the telescoping ladder. The ease of set up is great for those times when you’re tired after a long day of driving.
- The A-type design of the Kukenam 3 provides ample headspace while the high-quality memory foam mattress is an assurance that you’ll be warm and comfortable whenever and wherever you decide to spend the night. With large windows and sky panels, you can decide whether you want to sleep in privacy or with a full view of your surroundings.
- Although the Kukenam 3 is light enough not to compromise the handling of your car, the lack of an aerodynamic design means that it’ll contribute to drag when driving at high speeds. Gas mileage might be an issue if you’re planning to take the Kukenam 3 on long road trips.
- The mounting brackets that come with the Kukenam 3 feel a bit cheap – maybe something that Tepui can improve upon in the next iteration of this rooftop tent.
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Explorer Series Kukenam 3
Roof Top Tent
Vehicle camping, adventure travel
WHERE TO BUY IT:
Backcountry, Outdoorplay, REI
Roof Top Tent Details
56″ x 96″
56″ x 96″ x 52″ (open)
56″ x 48″ x 12″ (closed)
Sleeps 3 adults
Often, a comfortable night’s sleep is one of the first luxuries to go when one decides to go camping. From having to pitch a tent on uneven terrain to getting battered by heavy rains and wind during the night, there are so many elements in the great outdoors that can make you miss the comfort of your own bedroom. Fortunately, rooftop tents have made it possible to get a good night’s sleep even when you go on long camping trips in your vehicle. Rooftop tents are also incredibly light, compact, and obviously much cheaper than investing in an RV.
The Kukenam 3 from the Tepui Explorer Series is one of those rooftop tents that excels in most of the fundamentals. It’s a soft-shell canvas rooftop tent that’s designed to comfortably fit up to three people along with extra gear. It also looks great in all of its 5 available color scheme options (blue, olive green, haze gray, Siberian camo, and standard camo). With weatherproof construction and well-designed insulation, the Kukenam 3 is perfect for four-season camping.
Tepui is a relatively young company that’s been producing high-quality rooftop tents out of their facility in Santa Cruz, California. They’re now under new management, having been recently acquired by outdoor gear giant Thule. The acquisition feels like a step in the right direction, further raising the heights of what Tepui can achieve.
Weighing in only 130 pounds, the Explorer Series’ Kukenam 3 is well within the dynamic load capacity of most cars. It’s pretty big, so if you want something a bit more compact, then the 2-man Explorer Series Ayer 2 and Rooftop Sparrow Eye are both worth checking out.
The Kukenam 3 comes with all the brackets you will need to mount the tent on your rooftop rack. Tepui even throws in a ratchet wrench to make the mounting process easier. The mounting brackets feel a bit cheap and low-quality, though, especially considering the price premium of the Kukenam 3. Although it’s possible to use the Kukenam 3 with your vehicle’s stock rails, Tepui recommends using a stronger after-market rail setup for added peace of mind.
Folded up, the Kukenam 3 basically takes the shape of a large box. Measuring only 12 inches high, the Kukenam 3 is small and light enough to not affect the handling of your car. However, it’s very un-aerodynamic shape can result in reduced gas mileage — the drag caused by the Kukenam 3 will be magnified the faster you go, so you’ll need to keep that in mind whenever taking longer trips (check out the Roofnest Eagle if you want something a bit more streamlined). A travel cover made out of 1000g heavy-duty PVC drapes over the Kukenam 3, protecting it from the elements while you are on the road.
One of the best things about getting a well-designed rooftop tent like the Kukenam 3 is that pitching it can be done in just a few minutes. To set up the tent, just unzip the travel cover, unclip the side straps, fold open the tent, and extend the telescoping ladder to the appropriate length. There are no pegs to hammer to the ground, no guy lines to hold the canvas taut, and no separate rainfly that you need to install. When you’re at the end of a long and tiring day, we promise you’ll be thankful for the Kukenam 3’s ease of pitching.
But don’t let the size and weight of the Kukenam 3 fool you: this is an incredibly durable rooftop tent that was built for four-season camping. The internal frame of the tent is made from strong but light 5/8″ aluminum tubing. The telescoping ladder is also made from durable aluminum – a noteworthy detail, considering that the ladder of the Kukenam 3 is load-bearing. The base of the tent is made of a composite material of aluminum and insulated fiberglass, making it strong enough to support the weight of all people and gear inside the tent while also helping to regulate the internal temperature.
The main tent material is made with high-quality 600D rip-stop material that’s tear-resistant, mold-resistant, and provides ample protection from heavy wind and rains. Weather protection is further enhanced by a 420D Polyester Oxford PU-coated rainfly. A 3-inch gap between the rainfly and the tent draws moisture away from the tent walls while also helping to maintain the temperature inside the tent.
The rainfly can be opened up using a couple of quick-release clips, giving access to two extra large sky panels if you’re in the mood for sleeping under the stars. Large side windows can be opened up with the awnings held taut by metal rods. This design keeps the rain away while maximizing air circulation inside the tent. All windows, as well as the sky panels, are outfitted with no-see-um mosquito netting.
Fully opened, the internal space of the Kukenam 3 measures 96″ x 56″. Slightly wider than a double-sized bed, this feels nice and roomy even for three people with their gear. The A-frame design of the tent maximizes headroom so you can sit up comfortably. If you have any small items such as clothes, water bottles, and headlamps that you’d like to bring inside the tent, you can place them in any of the four internal pockets or elastic lines that run across its ceiling.
One of the best things features of the Kukenam 3 is the 2 1/2″ high-quality memory foam mattress inside the tent. The single-piece mattress is warm and comfortable throughout, so you’re not likely to miss out on the comforts of sleeping in your bed even while on the road.
Tepui rooftop tents are designed to extend beyond the roof of the car, which means about half of the Kukenam 3 is supported by the access ladder. This design may seem disconcerting for some people but the ladder is more than sturdy enough to hold up a fully-loaded tent. Getting the surface of the tent perfectly level can be tricky, especially on uneven terrain, but the telescoping design of the ladder definitely helps. Just make sure to engage the locking mechanism of the ladder unless you want to wake up hanging on the edge of the tent. The telescoping ladder extends up to 8’6″, which means that it’s perfectly possible to set up the Kukenam 3 in lifted vehicles without a ladder extension.
With the quality of materials and great design of the Kukenam 3, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s a pretty expensive rooftop tent. The sizable investment is best justified by considering the comfort that it can provide, especially compared to pitching a tent on the ground or contorting yourself to sleep inside your car. Other ways to stay comfortable on the road – such as getting an RV or checking yourself in to a hotel every night – are much more expensive and far less flexible.
The Tepui Explorer Series Kukenam 3 is a wise investment if you find yourself sleeping regularly in your car. It’s a one-time expense that’ll go a long way towards keeping you comfortable on the road. It doesn’t provide a lot in terms of privacy – for that, you might want to take a look at the Explorer Series Autana 3 with its private canopy entrance. If you’re looking for a good mix of value, comfort, and space – with a good view of the stars to boot – the Kukenam 3 is an outstanding option.
- Kukenam 3 rooftop tent
- Mounting brackets
- Ratcheting wrench
- Telescoping ladder
- Memory foam mattress
As a testament to Tepui’s quality standards, they provide a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty for all of their rooftop tents. This warranty only covers damage due to manufacturing defects. Damage because of improper use or storage and normal wear and tear won’t be covered by the warranty. Buyers of the Kukenam 3 can make a warranty claim for free repair or replacement of the product (or any defective parts) at no extra cost. Tepui requires that all products sent in for repair or replacement be cleaned accordingly and include prepaid postage.
Tepui also has a 30-day return policy that allows customers to get a full refund within 30 days of purchase. To file a returns claim, the original receipt of the purchase must be presented and the customer must cover all return shipping costs.
- The Explorer Series Kukenam 3 is a comfortable, all-around rooftop tent made for four-season camping. It’s light enough to be mounted on most cars but offers enough space for up to three people with gear.
- Pitching the Kukenam 3 is very quick and easy. This could a welcome relief at the end of a long day when you’re not in the mood to mess around with tentpoles and guylines.
- Featuring a high-quality memory foam mattress, large cross-breeze windows, and internal storage options, sleeping in the Kukenam 3 is extremely comfortable in all types of weather.
- The boxy shape of the Kukenam 3 reduces gas mileage due to increased drag. This effect will be especially prominent when you drive at high speeds.
- The mounting brackets that come with the Kukenam 3 feel cheap and a bit too light. We’re not confident that they can withstand heavy use for a long period of time.
- The overhang design of the Kukenam 3 may feel disconcerting for some. However, the durability and safety of the tent are unquestionable as long as it’s been properly set up.
Many campers and travelers are slow to warm up to the idea of buying a rooftop tent. Although it still may seem like a novelty item to some, a high-quality rooftop tent like Tepui’s Kukenam 3 is a product that will pleasantly surprise a lot of people. It’s easy to set up, durable, weatherproof, spacious, and comfortable. The softshell design helps keep the weight of the Kukenam 3 down, making it a versatile rooftop tent that will even work on smaller cars. We also appreciate how many color choices the Kukenam 3 comes in as it gives buyers the ability to choose something that fits their personal style.
While some components of the Kukenam 3, such as the mounting brackets, do feel a little cheap especially when viewed in the context of the rooftop tent’s premium price, we believe Thule’s acquisition of the company will lead to improvements in future iterations.
Click Here to Buy the Tepui Kukenam 3
After a few weeks with a Tepui Kukenam tent on top of my truck, I want one. Real bad. Once you stay in one, or look in one, or even just see one on top of a truck driving down the road, you're probably going to want one too. It may seem ridiculous to spend more than a grand on a tent that only works when tethered to your vehicle. It may be ridiculous, but if the Tepui fits your life, it’s hard to imagine anything better.
The truck-top Tepui tent pops up like an expensive birthday cards with a fold out display, except instead it's an expensive tent. The process is about as simple, too. After unzipping and unstrapping the cover, it is up in less than a minute with the rainfly deployed so it stays dry even if it’s pouring.
While the rest of the tent world is going for lighter-tech fabrics, the Tepui has the advantage of knowing you won't have to hoof it anywhere, so it sports heavy waterproof canvas that’s satisfyingly tough to the touch, reminiscent of Army Surplus Boy Scout tents. Its ruggedness makes it feel right at home on a truck. What’s more, its obscenely watertight. I fell asleep on a clear night and woke up to the tail end of a raucous thunderstorm. I hadn’t stirred, even though the tent’s doors were unzipped. The rainfly and bug screens were plenty of protection.
The built-in sleeping pad is firm at first, but not uncomfortable. I can imagine it lasting years of abuse. The inside is spacious, with plenty of room for two people and some gear or a third, smaller, person depending on your needs. Its steep walls mean you can sit upright almost anywhere inside. During a light rain, I huddled in with seven people; an eighth stood on the ladder and poked his head through the door, legs protected by the overhanging rainfly.
Just because it's built to stand up to Mother Nature's abuse doesn't mean it's only useful in the wilderness. It can come in just as handy in suburbia. I used it in a grass field at the end of a rough dirt road and while visiting a friend’s anniversary party—I popped the tent up in the driveway and left a couch in the house for another guest.
That you don’t have to put a tent on the ground also means you can expand your campsite locations: Use it in rocky trailhead for sunrise hikes, the back corner of an asphalt parking lot before ripping mountain-bike trails, or sleep above the muddy masses at a rainy music festival. Water can’t soak into your sleeping bag when you’re six feet above the ground. Uneven terrain? Easy, a few blocks of wood under your front tires and you’re golden.
By the end of my time with the Tepui I was thinking of it as my little RV more than a tent. If I was going anywhere, it was with me. The robust materials, the thick self-rising poles, the impenetrability to dirt, wind, water, and ground grubs made me feel like I was more secure than in a more traditional tent. It has the ease of a tent but the Tepui’s usefulness and effectiveness puts it in a league beyond standard tents, a league that just might justify the cost if you're in a position to get good use out of it.
The reality is, though, for most people the Tepui is going to spend more time closed up on your truck than spread out before some beautiful grassland. In the meantime though, the tent looks badass and makes any vehicle look like a mean overlanding rig. Plus, when a friend and his young son stopped by, the four-year-old kept talking about how cool his dad’s friend with the mobile treehouse was. I’ll take being that guy any day of the week.
James LynchField EditorJames Lynch is Popular Mechanic’s Field Editor looking for stories across the U.S.
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Tepui (pronounced teh-POO-ee) has built a reputation for producing some of the best roof top tents (RTTs) on the market. Since 2010 they have produced a variety of RTTs, including hard shell and soft shell tents that can sleep anywhere up to four people.
RTTs provide many benefits, including the fact that they are designed to mount onto nearly any type of vehicle and they allow you to camp almost anywhere and in any weather conditions.
The brainchild of a husband and wife team after a road trip across Venezuela, Tepui is now part of the Thule Group based in Sweden, although the Tepui brand is based out of Santa Cruz, California. Some elements of their tents are sourced internationally, although Tepui is working to transition the fabrication process fully into the United States.
‘Tepui’ is a Venezuelan word that refers to a mesa or tabletop mountain – a fitting name for their main product. By constantly taking into account customer feedback, Tepui strives for perpetual improvement.
First, we’ll look at an overview of the different models currently available from Tepui…
Soft Shell Tepui Tents:
Tepui offers three series of soft shell tents: Baja Series, Explorer Series, and Ruggedized Series. Each of these options offers different levels of versatility, weight, and durability. They also have a Low-Pro line of RTTs.
The Baja Series includes the Kukenam tents which come in both 3- and 4-person models, and the Ayer tents which have 2-person capacities. Both the Kukenam and Ayer tents are available with interchangeable Ultralite, Mesh, and/or Aluminized canopies.
Each tent comes with one canopy and a rain fly, with other canopies available for purchase separately. The Baja Series tents are some of the lightest and most versatile tents on the market. They are most suitable for weekend use or in situations where weight must be kept to a minimum.
The Explorer Series tents are slightly beefier than the Baja Series, offering more comfort and durability. Models include a 3-person Kukenam, a 2-person Ayer, and 3- and 4-person Autana tents. These tents are more suitable for long-term and year-round use than the Baja series.
Explorer Series tents include four large pockets inside for storing gear and accessories, a removable rainfly, and a 2.5-inch high-density foam mattress.
The Ruggedized Series tents are the toughest RTTs available. They are built for serious off-roading and include a diamond plate base, 40% heavier canopy fabric than the other models, an anti-condensation mat built in under the mattress, a heavy-duty ¾-inch internal frame, stronger hinges, and extra-large internal pockets.
This category of RTTs includes 3- and 4-person Autana tents with annexes, and 3- and 4-person Kukenam tents. These tents will stand up to the harshest conditions and gnarliest 4×4 roads.
The Low-Pro line of RTTs includes 2- and 3-person options, and features the lightest and most streamlined construction Tepui has produced to date. These tents are significantly more aerodynamic than other Tepui tents, starting at just 105 pounds and 10 inches thick when closed.
Hard Shell Tepui Tents
Tepui currently only offers one model of hard shell RTT, the HyBox. This unique design allows you to use the HyBox as either a 2-person RTT or as a roof top storage box. The 3-inch thick mattress is easily removable to convert it into a storage box, which offers 23 cubic feet of space.
You can easily pop open just the back of the RTT to access storage, or pop up both ends for the tent function.
The HyBox is a four-season tent so it can be used comfortable year-round.
Pricing and Wait Time
Prices for Tepui tents range from about $950 to upwards of $3,000, depending on the size and model you choose. If you buy through Tepui.com, you can opt for a financing option through Affirm, which will break up payments into 3, 6, or 12 month terms. Tepui tents are also available through other retailers, like REI.com and Amazon.com.
REI and other outdoor retailers also offer Tepui RTTs as part of their gear rental programs, so you can try before you buy.
Tepui sells used tents, blemished-but-functional tents, and demo models, which are sold as-is without warranties. This can be a good way to save a chunk of money, although all sales are final and these tents must be picked up at the Soquel, California warehouse as they are not eligible for shipping. All tents are inspected to make sure they don’t have major or structural damage.
You can browse available tents on their Garage Sale page.
All tent models that are in stock generally ship within two business days for a flat rate of $150 to the lower 48 states or for $650 to Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico. Expedited shipping can be arranged if you place your order over the phone with Tepui’s customer service team. If you are near Tepui’s warehouse in Soquel, California, you can opt for local pickup and/or installation of some tent models.
The installation fee is $80 for RTTs.
What Types of Vehicles Work With Tepui Tents?
Tepui RTTs will work with nearly any vehicle that has a roof rack. Your roof rack must have a Dynamic Weight Capacity that is at least the weight of the tent. Dynamic Weight Capacity is the amount of weight the rack can carry while the vehicle is in motion.
Many vehicles can only safely carry about 165 pounds on the roof while in motion, so be sure to check with your vehicle manufacturer as to whether your vehicle is suitable for an RTT before you buy a roof rack and tent.
Owner Q&A: What Three Tepui Tent Owners Had To Say
I asked three Tepui RTT owners, Liz (@lizlars), Karina (@lunacy__), and Matt (@taco.hog) for feedback on their tents, and this is what they had to say:
1. What model of Tepui tent do you have?
Liz: Explorer Series Kukenam 3
Karina: Kukenam Sky 3 (no longer available on Tepui.com, but still sold through REI.com)
Matt: Ruggedized Series Kukenam 3
2. How/why did you choose this tent over all others?
Liz: “We are avid campers, camping regularly at least once a month throughout the year with our three kids (and pup!) and were looking for something quick and easy for times when we want less of a camping experience and more of an adventure with a quick and easy place to sleep.”
“We chose Tepui because of their great reviews, great look and simplicity of design, large sleeping area, and fun community!”
Karina: “It was a tough choice between a CVT tent and the Tepui, but we made our decision on the Tepui because we were able to pick it up locally and we didn’t have to pay for shipping. There also was a sale at REI. We don’t regret our decision!”
Matt: “Tepui was having a scratch and dent sale at their headquarters, I was able to get a decent deal on a good tent.”
3. Have you owned any other RTTs in the past and if so, how did they compare?
Liz: “This Tepui tent is our first!”
Karina: “Nope, this is our first RTT! We daydreamed about it for about 2 years before we actually purchased it.”
Matt: “Yes. I used to have an iKamper Skycamp. Unfortunately it was stolen. I miss it, but I have an iKamper Skycamp Mini on order!” Matt elaborated that he prefers the iKamper tents because of their superior setup/tear-down time and the lesser amount of effort required for those processes.
4. What are some pros and cons of your Tepui tent?
– Super easy to both set up and pack away
– Great windows and skylights. Can be totally open to nature or totally private within minutes
– Roomy interior, with lots of headroom and space to stretch out
– Not a con as there are definitely larger tents available, only wish it was just a little bit wider on the long side! It’s a three person tent sleeping vertically to the entrance, but we can fit our family of five (kids ages 7, 10, and 12) inside if necessary by sleeping horizontally. That said, it’s a bit tight for my almost 6′ husband, but it’s perfect for kids (and shorties like myself LOL)”
“One pro is that inside the tent it is pitch black when it’s all zipped up. It keeps the tent cooler in warmer weather. It’s also well insulated.
The tent is pretty roomy with lots of head space, we went with the 3 person tent keeping our future dog in mind and we think it’s the perfect amount of space.
It’s very durable and rather easy to get in and out of.
The mattress pad is pretty bad, we had to buy a mattress topper to make it comfortable. Our first camping trip without it was….. rough.
The tent had a few problems with the zipper when we first bought it, but Tepui’s customer service was amazing and fixed everything for free.
The condensation can be bad occasionally, which can be expected with any tent.”
Good quality tent, and I was willing to pay the price they offered it for on sale. Condensation mat and mattress are great.
Zippers are weak. I have to replace the zipper for the top cover after having used it maybe 10 times.”
5. Was there a long wait time when you ordered your tent?
Liz: “We ordered our tent from REI and the shipping time got mixed up, arriving a day later than we had hoped, which was a bummer as we were planning to use it that weekend, but we ended up just using it for the first time in our backyard for the night which was great fun. Overall shipping time was under a week.”
Karina: “There was no wait time, we ordered our tent from REI and it was ready to pick up within a week. We ended up having REI hold it for another week because we hadn’t purchased our truck yet.”
Matt: “There wasn’t a long wait time, they had a list on their website of what was available and I was able to get the one I had picked out.”
6. Do you have any other relevant details or advice you’d like to share?
Liz: “Get out there and adventure together! We love that we can all pack in together for a quick night’s sleep, or that we can spread out and also sleep in the cabin of the car below, or in another ground tent, depending on our needs for different trips.
We are planning on doing a 10 day road trip from NC to the Florida Keys in April sleeping in our Tepui tent the whole way, stay tuned for how it goes! Pro tip: Don’t allow your kids to eat pretzels in the tent.”
Karina: “Roof Top Tents have changed the camping game for us and the Tepui has been a great first tent. I recommend this tent to anyone!”
Matt: Tear-down is time consuming, relatively speaking. After folding the floor over on itself the tent material usually doesn’t fold back down properly, forcing you to have to go around and shove the material back in. Easier said than done when your tent is mounted on the back of your truck.”
Bottom Line: Are Tepui Tents Worth The Investment?
While Tepui tents are some of the more expensive RTTs on the market, my overall impression is that they are generally worth the price. While Matt strongly prefers iKamper RTTs, Liz and Karina are quite happy with their Tepui tents. However, neither of them have owned other RTTs for comparison.
But, based on the overall popularity of Tepui tents, it’s safe to say that they are industry leaders and will continue to improve and hone their RTTs to perfection for many years to come.
Featured image (top of post): Karina @lunacy___
Up Next In Roof Top Tents:
4 Person Roof Top Tents: Our Top 10 Picks
Our 10 Favorite Soft Shell Roof Top Tents
Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tents? (10 Crowd Favorites)
Go Fast Campers: Owner QnA Plus Product Overview
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We’ve read the reviews across the web for the Tepui Kukenam Sky Tent: 3-Person 4-Season and summarize the results below:
PeakScore: N/A (out of 100)
User Rating: 4.4 stars
Expert Rating: N/A stars
Number of Ratings Reviewed: 49
Pros & Cons
Reasons to buy:
- Very convenient for car camping.
- Holds up well in high winds if tied down properly.
- Breathes well and ventilates efficiently.
- Provided with a decent and comfortable mattress for sleeping.
- Easy to set up and put away.
- The terrain doesn’t matter, allowing for versatility.
- Don’t have to worry about flooding or snow.
- Plenty of options for add-ons for customization.
- Skylight provided for added views and atmosphere.
- Safe from animals since it is raised off the ground.
- Allows for wind and breathability.
- Easy to set up by one person.
- Can be fully set-up in less than 10 minutes.
- Able to pack pillows and bedding inside the tent for added functionality.
- Easy to use anywhere, since you don’t need to find perfectly flat ground.
- Great views from the tent since it is raised off the ground.
- Heavier canvas fabric and aluminum account for durability.
- Cited as being very adaptable due to being able to use in any climate and providing a detachable rain fly.
- Features a ‘Zipper Gimp’ which attaches the canopy to the base and allows you to swap out the canopy based on the weather conditions.
Reasons NOT to buy:
- Some durability issues of the corners cracking over time.
- The sides can sometimes hang out over the side of the vehicle if they are not properly tied down.
- The memory foam mattress can get a little stiff in cold weather.
- More expensive than the average tent.
- Getting up and down is more difficult than getting in and out of a regular tent.
- Need to find somewhere level to park your car.
- The instructions for set-up are minimal, so you need to already know how to set up the tent or watch videos before the first time.
- The ladder can get slippery in wet weather.
- Takes some time to unfold and set up properly the first time.
- Will not be able to be carried by smaller and lower-weight vehicles.
- Might limit the spaces you can camp, since you will usually have to park at the trail-head and not secluded wilderness.
The Tepui Kukenam Sky Tent: 3-Person 4-Season is a great option for those who love car camping and have a durable vehicle to go the distance. The comfort provided make this a great option for those who don’t want to sleep on the ground or spend too much setup time, but still want the freedom to sleep outside and find some seclusion. The durability, breathability, and functionality make this a top choice.
Note: User and expert rankings were reviewed across the web. Some expert reviews include these: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Review tepui kukenam sky
Seems like forever ago when I bought this Tepui Kukenam Sky. So much has happened between now and then. Lots of camping trips and life events. Through all of it the tent was saddled up and ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, which is a nice feature of a tent that is mounted on the truck. I can’t begin to count the amount of last minute trips I have done.
I bought the tent at Mule Expedition Outfitters in Issaquah, WA in July of 2017 (Shout out to Mule). Immediately we took it out. Not that we needed a new excuse to take a trip as we had already been going all over the Northwest and California before the tent anyway.
Here we are, 2,730 miles away from Mule and 745 days later after purchasing. This tent has been on the truck (Sport Trac) for about 65k miles, 16 states, seen the Pacific and Atlantic, mountains and beaches.
Time has done a number on the tent but before I start talking about what we’ve learned, and the damages, I want to point out that we have not been kind to the tent or taken steps to protect it, like taking it off the truck during winters.
I am not affiliated with any company mentioned or sponsored by them.
This article is my opinion.
The tent is a 2017 Tepui Kukenam Sky. They have probably made changes in manufacturing since then, so I can’t speak for what they have learned through R&D. If you are planning on getting a tent, contact the manufacturer to see what they have done to prevent some of the cons I mention below.
Space savings. It saved us lots of space inside of our small truck. Now the tent and other sleeping stuff (blankets and sheets) can be out of the bed or cab and safely contained on top of the bed rack. If you have a small truck or Jeep, then you know storage is constantly a battle.
Safety and security. The Tepui definitely beats being on the ground in a thin plastic tent any day. Katrin loves that it’s up away from where bears and the bumps in the night could just walk through the walls. Also, when we hear something roaming around or the dogs start barking, we have a nice vantage point to see out like a tree stand. All of the windows open fully as well, providing 360 degree veiws.
Beating the rain, snow, and mud. The times when we have camped in the rain, we never woke up in a puddle which is a plus. Despite being a bit wet on the walls and edges of the mattress.
The rain fly for this model is good for a night or two in light rain but eventually all of the fabric being stuffed inside the rubber cover gets everything wet, it’s not water tight. Still better than most ground tents.
When it comes to snow and mud, you’ll be in the clear, since it requires no ground clearing to set up. Plus, you won’t be laying on top of the snow.
Durability. The materials have been mostly durable. Including the YKK zippers, mattress, fabrics, rain fly, and actual base of the tent, which has some small dents but remains solid. The ladder has also held up very well despite rain, mud, and a dog or two being carried up and down it. Once you see a roof top tent in person, you’ll notice that the fabrics and other materials used are not cut from the cheap stuff.
Great Support. If you don’t like the mattress, you can buy a plush one. Getting moist? They have a mat for that. Shoe bags to keep your dirt outside. Add on rooms/annex, a table for inside the tent, insulation, and replacement parts all on the website.
It’s cleaner than a ground tent. Less dirt and bugs get into the tent being up so high. The ladder itself helps knock off the crud from your hiking boots while you’re climbing up. If you get the shoe bags then you’re even better off. This is also great when we camped on the beach last year. We all know how sand gets into EVERYTHING.
Set up time. I have spent a great deal of time outside in lots of portable shelters and tents. I have even slept in nothing more than just a sleeping bag. The advertised time to set up on Tepui’s website is “just a few minutes” which is accurate to say. In my experience, set up time is invested in three steps. (1) Getting the truck/tent level (we like to use sticks, rocks, or preferably our GoTreads to drive the truck onto) (2) Getting the cover off/opening it, and (3) setting it up for use (making the bed and opening the windows).
What’s breaking or not going well?
The base. As mentioned above, despite being durable, the aluminum base has a few dents in it, which haven’t had any adverse effects on our use of the tent but I am keeping an eye on it. The ladder is wearing it out in a few spots too. None of the other aluminum components are showing wear. Despite 2 adults sleeping in the tent and occasionally a dog.
The ladder is beating the heck out of everything it touches. Both the rubber cover and the aluminum base that is sits on. The ladder is wearing a hole through the paint and maybe given a few more years the base as well.
Rain. After moving to Roanoke, Virginia from Seattle, there has been lots of water intrusion. Since the cover has a few holes in it, the nightly thunderstorms have been battling me keeping the fabric wet. Yes, I know, I will replace the cover soon.
Even with a new cover, the small rain fly that comes with the tent isn’t going to keep you perfectly dry in a heavy downpour. Tepui does offer better weather proofing, but of course this review is of the Kukenam as it is.
If you plan to camp in a prolonged manner though a few days of rain, plan for the mattress to get wet. Once you pack up the wet tent fabric, it’s all going to rub together and remain wet inside the rubber cover. When we camped out last summer the constant thunder storms were killing us. White mold or mildew started appearing on the fabric and blue looking mold is appearing in some spots as well too, which provided us with a smell too.
Weight. I have a vehicle specifically known for rolling over. I drive it with this in mind so it’s not a major concern for me. Still though, the Kukenam weighs about 130 pounds. Plus blankets. If you’re like me, that is not the only added weight. I built a custom bed rack that also changed the vehicles center of gravity. Just be aware that it may change the handling of your vehicle.
The travel cover straps have degraded severely. It is only 25 bucks to order a replacement set but the hook and loop on our straps has officially tapped out. I started putting strips of tape around them just so they stay in place when I drive down the highway.
The only defect upon arrival from the factory was a drill bit stuck in the hole for the window pole. I drilled a new one and moved on. This was the only factory defect to my knowledge. I didn’t really try to get in touch with Tepui about it. I had the tent already, I just wanted to use it.
All things considered?
If you are in the market, I would gladly recommend Tepui.
I have been on a few trips with other types of tents and from what I have gathered, Tepui, Free Spirit Recreation, and Cascadia Vehicle Tents are all likely manufactured in the same facility or get the parts from a similar supplier. The owners of these tents have all been very satisfied with the product and customer service.
After living in this tent and the many trips, I really do like the size(3 person), price, and overall performance. The Kukenam is in the lower end of the price range and it holds its own as a great tent.
In the future, I will be looking for a hard-shell type tent and maybe something that has better drying and water proofing. For example, the James Baroud hard shell series with the closed self-contained ventilation, not only good for hot nights but for drying the tent while closed. The price is much higher than our current tent though.
Comment below what tent you have or plan to have!
Have you had any issues with your tent?
First Look: Tepui ‘Kukenam Sky’ Rooftop Tent
Rooftop tents offer some of the simplicity of an RV (just park, fold down a ladder, and sleep) for a fraction of the cost. Here we quickly review a newly installed Kukenam Sky model from Tepui roof top tents.
Tepui makes some tough, well-designed rooftop tents. We’ve examined a couple in person, and will be putting one through some serious testing this summer on a two-month road trip to Alaska.
The Kukenam Sky is a 3-person model designed with large areas of mesh to enhance outdoor viewing and ventilation. The tent is modestly sized and should fit on pretty much any car or truck. For our first look, we installed it on an E-150 Ford conversion van.
Tepui Roof Top Tents, Kukenam Sky Model ($1,350)
First Impressions: The rooftop tent is an awesome concept, and these things are really well constructed with heavy materials; it is heavy, tipping the scales at 110 pounds. Thank goodness your car carries it! The bed, from a brief nap, seems really comfortable.
It’s worth noting you need a quality rooftop rack to carry these. If your car isn’t equipped with one, plan to add a few hundred dollars to the price of the setup.
Availability: You can find it on Tepui’s website and a few select 4×4 and outdoor retailers. REI has even added Tepui to its lineup for 2016.
Where To Test It: Anywhere you can drive to and park your car or truck! Alaska, the jungles of Central America, the American western desert such as Moab, or the Southeast.
Who It Is For: Those who want the convenience of an RV, but without the size, hassle, and expense. It’s a perfect fit for adventure touring rigs, bike racers, and family campers.
Installation: It takes a few people to install this bad boy initially and to remove it from the roof. Experienced installers took about 30 minutes to get mine in place. Plan an hour or so for your first install (it’ll go faster with practice). But once in position on the roof, one person can set up “camp” in just a few minutes. I’d guess it’s about a 10-minute process from parking the car until your head hits the pillow.
Tepui Kukenam Sky Tent Specs
- A-frame design; room to sit up or even stand up without the fly on.
- 600D rip-stop ventilate coated poly-cotton
- No-see-um mosquito netting in all windows and doors
- 4 large internal pockets
- 2.5” high-density foam mattress
- Includes 8’6″ telescoping ladder
- Includes universal mounting brackets for pretty much any rack
- Made In: Asia
Killer! The views from the top are awesome. It’s amazing how just getting a few feet off the ground opens up the vista.
Flaw: This is definitely a big item to have bolted to your racks, and does take a little bit of time to unfold and get set up properly with the fly arms and everything tightened up for a storm.
Who Should Buy It: People with pickup trucks or other overland vehicles that you cannot sleep in. The comfortable bed will be a bonus for those who have a hard time sleeping on the ground, but still want to get the camping experience. This also makes a solid basecamp for folks who want to road trip for climbing, cycling, competing in events like ultra-marathons — the list is pretty long. This setup competes with an RV for convenience and comfort, and opens up space inside a van otherwise used for sleeping for tasks like cooking.
Contact Brand/More Beta:Tepui Tents
Aaron H. Bible is an outdoor industry journalist based in Nederland, Colorado, specializing in cycling and snowsports, with a multi-sport background more than 15 years deep. He’s a former editor of Paddler magazine, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, Kickstand magazine, and Sporting Goods Business magazine; and he’s currently a contributing editor for Elevation Outdoors magazine in Boulder, Colorado. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @ahbible.
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With the advent of #vanlife and all of the sexy, young Instagrammers out there making us jealous of their wanderings and complete lack of financial responsibilities, it only seems appropriate that we look into ways we can approximate that lifestyle, even if only for a weekend. Buying a van is pretty much out of the question for most people. But, for those who want to buy a bit more comfort, structure, and safety than a normal backpacking tent provides, it may make sense to explore the latest rooftop tents to hit the market. Lucky for us, we got to borrow a Tepui Kukenam Sky for a few weekends to see if it’s worth the price of entry.
What is a Roof Top Tent?
Rooftop tents take a couple of forms. On one end of the market, there are the hard-case tents that look like extra-wide cargo boxes; on the other, the soft, folding tents, like the Tepui, that fold in half and sit under a waterproof tarp until it’s time to set up camp. Either way, a rooftop tent is a bed atop your car. Most will have a foam mattress of some sort to sleep on. They range in size from two-person to four-person or more.
Most rooftop tents have zip-up windows with mesh screens to keep bugs out. They’ll also have some canopy to protect you from the elements. Some, like the Kukenam Sky, let you remove the canopy and have skylights that let you sleep under the stars.
Rooftop tents are, for the most part, easy to set up. With a hard shell tent, the shell lifts up, either on a hinge or on struts, to give you access to the bed and some headroom. Soft tents unfold and use a hinged pole structure to give you headroom. Both styles will have an extendable ladder to give you access to the tent.
Why do People Buy Roof Top Tents?
It’s tough to track down the full history of these things, but it appears that modern roof top tents are an Australian creation. That makes sense, seeing as pretty much every plant and animal on that continent is designed to kill you in at least three ways, so it’s best not to sleep on the ground.
In a broader sense, rooftop tents work well in an expedition context. Because they’re vehicle-mounted, and not carried on your back, they can be made of sturdier materials than backpacking tents. They’re quick and pretty intuitive to set up and break down. If you’re driving to camp or driving between camps, rooftop tents make sense. They also make site selection a bit easier. You don’t have to worry about finding a place to set up your camping tent. The ground can be wet, sandy, muddy – whatever.
Rooftop tents also offer accessories that can make camping a more comfortable, luxurious experience. Annexes can act as bug-free changing rooms, living rooms, or porches. You can add an awning for sun protection. In fact, the rooftop tent can be an upstairs bedroom in what ends up being almost a canvas apartment on wheels.
Should you Buy One?
It all boils down to your needs and desires when it comes to camping. If rooftop tents were cheap, it would be a no-brainer to add one to your gear closet. Unfortunately, but understandably, rooftop tents are expensive. The cheapest ones start just under $1,000 and prices go well up from there. After accessorizing, you can easily drop $3,000 on a rooftop tent setup. At that price, #vanlife starts looking downright reasonable.
If you already have a backpacking tent that works for you and only head out car camping occasionally, a rooftop tent may not be worth the wallet damage. If you have outfitted your Land Cruiser with bumpers, sliders, and a rack and you actually take it places where other vehicles don’t or can’t go, a rooftop tent might be in your future. Somewhere in between? Try renting one for the weekend to see if you like comfort and convenience.
Tepui Kukenam Sky Review
If you’ve read all that and decided that a rooftop tent is right for you, the next question is, which one? The Tepui Kukenam Sky is a good tent for some people, though not all.
Tepui’s Kukenam slots in on the lower end of rooftop tent pricing at around $1400. That’s still a chunk of change. It comes with some nice features to ease the pain in your wallet, though.
The tent body is made from a burly, 600d, 260g/sqm cotton/poly blend fabric with a solid DWR finish. That keeps the weather out by itself. Then, Tepui adds a 420d Polyester fly with a polyurethane coating to make the top completely waterproof. That fly is easily removable so you can take advantage of the huge, zip-open skylights on the tent ceiling. Along with the two doors and two windows, there is plenty of ventilation. All openings are covered with no-see-um mesh to keep the bugs out.
Tepui makes the hinged tent base out of aluminum with fiberglass insulation. It creates a sturdy foundation that keeps some of the cold out. On top of that, you have a 2.5″ memory foam mattress with a washable, cotton cover. The tent body is held up with 5/8″ aluminum tubing. And the entire tent, when stowed, gets a PVC-coated cover that zips on and seals out everything. The cover feels like river raft material.
Setup is easy, even for someone who has never played with a rooftop tent before. Installation is also simple but requires a second set of hands and some patience. Tepui does not incorporate quick-release attachments, so you have to manually install eight bolts under the frame and cinch them down on your rack. It takes about 15-20 minutes once you get the tent up there. The second set of hands is useful because it’s slightly awkward to move 125 lbs of tent on and off of your roof rack solo.
Once it’s up there, setup is a piece of cake. You unzip the cover, extend the ladder, and use the ladder as a lever to unfold the tent. Each rung of the ladder locks in place as you extend it and has quick release buttons to collapse it down again. This makes adjusting the ladder length simple. As the tent unfolds, it is already set up inside. You don’t have to set up poles or attach the tent to the poles. Extend the window and door awnings with the included rods and you’re done. Total set up time, less than ten minutes.
Don’t get me wrong – sleeping pads for camping have come a long way in the last few years. But they can’t match up to the memory foam mattress in the Kukenam Sky. There are advantages to having everything bolted to the roof of your vehicle – weight doesn’t matter as much. Memory foam is heavy, but oh, so comfy. The Kukenam Sky’s footprint is 56″ x 96″, which is 16″ longer than a standard mattress and between a full and queen in width. So there’s plenty of room for two adults to stretch out. Three would be a squeeze, but you can do it if you’re really friendly.
Another advantage of a rooftop tent – bring your own pillow!
Tepui takes advantage of the rooftop tent format and uses burly materials to put together a solid tent. It provides a comfortable night’s sleep, is really easy to set up, and makes camping a breeze.
I noticed a 2-3 mpg decrease in gas mileage while the tent was on my car. That’s enough to make me want to take it off most of the time and install it only when it would be in use. It also makes me wish for quick-release installation.
If you think a rooftop tent is right for you, the Tepui Kukenam Sky could be a contender. It would be the right choice for someone with a large SUV who doesn’t care much for gas mileage. If you have a pickup with a bed rack that would place the tent out of the wind, all of my concerns don’t apply to you – feel free to whip out your wallet.
If, on the other hand, you’re on the fence about rooftop tents, or you have a smaller vehicle and gas mileage makes a difference, there are alternatives you may want to consider. Yakima’s SkyRise tents aren’t much lighter than the Kukenam, but they have locking, quick release attachments for your rack that make install and removal faster. Or, if the Kukenam Sky or some other tent really catches your attention, you can pick up a quick release kit from Front Runner Outfitters that should be compatible with most tents. The kit is not compatible with the standard roof rack locking cylinders, however.
The Kukenam Sky is available in regular and Ruggedized(!) versions. The ruggedized version adds diamond plate base, heavier fabric and frame, and some other features and costs $1950 to the regular $1400. You can also add an annex for $350 and purchase a sheet set for $135 to cover the funky mattress size.