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Subaru Outback Roof Top Tent
If you’re like us, your vehicle takes you to some of the most beautiful and rugged terrains in the country. Traditional tenting has its perks, such as not having to climb down your vehicle to use the great outdoors as your restroom in the middle of the night. However, since purchasing our roof top tent for our Subaru Outback, “car camping” is our latest outdoor camping adventure favorite.
In this review, we’ll cover our Subaru Outback roof top tent experience using the iKamper Skycamp Mini.
Subaru Outback Roof Top Tent: @iKamper Skycamp Mini mounted to @YakimaRacks Skyline System Roof Rack
Are Roof Top Tents Worth It?
In an ideal world, when camping traditionally, you encounter a flat, dry spot to pitch your tent, the tent assembles easily, and a rainy night doesn’t equate to water seeping through your poorly secured rainfly or it pooling beneath you. Even camping newbies likely know that this traditional camping situation is hard to come by. That’s where roof top tents come to the rescue.
As you’re weighing whether roof top tents are worth it, below are some factors that might help you seal your “car camping” deal.
Staying off the ground.
Let’s face it—when there isn’t rain threatening to muddy up your camping site, your camping pal’s fear of wild animals may have you waking up throughout the night when they stir from nature’s noises. By having a roof top tent, you’ll get to enjoy a mud-free tenting experience and peace of mind for anyone fearing that a bear will claw down their ground-level tent.
Less tenting equipment to carry.
Gone are the days when you need to worry about packing (and forgetting) your inflatable camp mattress. Most roof top tents have built-in mattresses. In many (but not all) cases, those roof top mattresses are more comfortable than your old sleeping pad. An added bonus? You can roll around without having to worry about falling off your mattress.
We’ve all seen a sitcom or movie showcasing campers comically struggling to set up a traditional tent. Sure, it’s funny to watch from the comfort of your home, but if you’ve been in the situation yourself, you know that battling with poles, hard soil, and rain flies is anything but funny at the moment. All you have to do with a roof top mattress is unzip the tent, flip it open, and latch the guylines.
When you use a traditional tent, choosing the right campsite is crucial. Camping on rocky or uneven ground is uncomfortable at best and can damage your tent at worse. Furthermore, you’ll want to avoid muddy areas and may have to battle it out with other campers to pick a tenting spot with a good view.
By using a rooftop mattress, you can sleep wherever you park your vehicle. You’ll also receive incredible views by being perched off the ground.
Enjoy more room.
Roof top tents are surprisingly spacious. Furthermore, a tent’s weight isn’t always as much of a problem with roof top tents compared with traditional tents. Therefore, you can even set up a four-person tent on the roof. If you’re traveling alone or with a partner, you can appreciate just how much extra space you’ll have!
Why Choose a Roof Top Tent Hard Shell for a Subaru Outback?
Hardshell roof top tents are an excellent option because of their aerodynamics. By tapering from the front to the back, they encourage wind to move around your tent instead of blowing directly into it. That, coupled with hardshell tents folding down and offering excellent stability, equates to you using less gas on higher-speed road trips.
Roof top tent hard shells are also easier to set up than the soft-shell varieties. A quick unzipping and securing the tent to your roof typically takes only a few minutes. Most of these roof top tents come with mattresses already inside, so you don’t have to worry about finding space inside your vehicle for them and lugging them onto your roof at night.
Hard shell roof top tents also tend to hold up better with inclement weather. In addition to a potentially longer lifespan, most of these tents have nearly vertical walls versus soft shell roof tops where the walls slope. By having vertical walls, you’ll increase your living space and mobility within your tent.
Cost and Features / Benefits of iKamper
The iKamper is all about high-quality material and designs that make your camping life as simple as possible. In fact, their flooring is strong enough to withstand the weight of a 1.8-ton Jeep Wrangler!
While all iKampers share the same general qualities, there are four iKamper varieties to accommodate different budgets, vehicle sizes, and the number of campers. They include:
Skycamp 2.0: Sleeps up to four people (two adults and two children or three adults). Weighs 160 pounds and fits on most vehicles.
Skycamp Mini: Sleeps two people. It fits on any vehicle and weighs 125 pounds.
Starting from $3,899
Starting from $3,199
Starting from $3,499
Starting from $3,199
Despite their differences in size and carrying capacity, all four of these iKamper tents have the following benefits:
Interior lining to reduce condensation
Strong honeycomb aluminum flooring
Two layers of fiber-reinforced plastic to maximize insulation
Includes a polyfoam mattress (we’ll talk more about this shortly)
Has a water-resistant poly-cotton canvas and waterproof zippers
Stainless steel hardshell locks so that nothing gets in or out unless you want it to
The Skycamps share an impressive feature—they only take one minute to set up. The X-Cover takes three times as long at a whopping three minutes. We’d say this is still an incredibly fast setup time, wouldn’t you?
All iKamper tents come with the brand’s signature world map. So, as you’re lying in bed staring at the stars through the overhead skylight window, you can start planning where you want your next camping adventure to take place.
Below are some other unique features that the iKamper includes in their tents.
Campers know that tent fabric gets beat up easily in the wilderness, even if you strive to take good care of it. What’s great about iKamper is that you can remove the tent’s outer layer and replace it with a new one when the inevitable time comes. Alternatively, you can save money by having someone repair the original layer before popping it back onto your tent.
Fits Most Vehicles
A quick look at iKamper’s website is all you’ll need to see how they boast about their Skycamps fitting on most vehicles. In fact, our iKamper Skycamp Mini can fit on any vehicle. The weight of the Skycamps isn’t what makes or breaks the ability for a vehicle to use them—it weighs less than many people, with the heaviest tent totaling 165 pounds. Instead, it’s the vehicle’s ability to handle a wide rack size that determines its compatibility.
Not only does iKamper design its tents with sturdy hardshell fiber-reinforced plastic, but the double layer of this plastic has approximately one inch of space between these shells. The air acts as an extra insulator.
Additionally, that air prevents your tent from heating up when you’re driving around. If you’ve researched other roof top tents, you’ll know that many come with a ventilation fan. With iKamper, those fans aren’t necessary due to its outstanding insulation design.
The iKamper comes with excellent rain-resistant properties, like waterproof zippers. However, you can toss on a rainfly for good measure when you hear a thunderstorm rolling up. When it’s not raining, you’ll be thankful that the rainfly is easy to remove, for it will expose the wonderful Skyview overhead window. Removing the rainfly in dry weather is also a great option on hot evenings, as it’ll encourage more airflow.
Mounting a Roof Top Tent
Setting up a Subaru Outback rooftop tent is easy, but you also can’t just toss the tent up on your vehicle’s roof and call it an adventure. Instead, you’ll need to install a mounting rack to secure your tent.
We purchased a mounting rack with Yakima. Although Yakima is a trusted brand in the vehicle accessory industry, we didn’t like how high it made our Skycamp Mini sit off our Subaru Outback.
In a twist of too late fate, we discovered the Spider Rack after we already purchased the Yakima. Specially designed for Subaru Outback vehicles, the Spider Rack sits blessedly lower to the vehicle. You can also adjust the crossbars according to the weight of your roof top tent.
Regardless of the type of roof top tent rack you choose, below are the specifications you’ll need to keep in mind according to the iKamper you purchase.
Crossbar Minimum Distance
Crossbar and Roof Dynamic Weight Limit
Below are some important factors to note when getting ready to mount your iKamper to your Subaru Outback:
Never mount your iKamper directly to the roof of your vehicle
You don’t need any fancy mounting racks—two normal crossbars are sufficient
If you plan on using your iKamper with a vehicle aside from a Subaru Outback, check the vehicle’s manual to ensure it can support your tent’s dynamic weight
Now, you might be wondering—how exactly do I mount a roof top tent? The good news is that it’s easy, and the following steps are general guidelines. You should always double-check the user manual for your particular tent and mounting rack. Please note that these instructions assume that you’ve already installed a mounting rack on your Subaru Outback.
Gather up your friends because iKamper recommends having four people lift your Skycamp onto the top of your vehicle. Stand to the side of your vehicle. Trust us—it’ll make your lives easier!
Lifting up the Skycamp and making sure you don’t scratch your vehicle along the way is easily the most challenging part of the mounting process. So, make sure to have a steady hold of the bottom panel. Lift up from your waist, then to your shoulders.
Once the four of you have pushed the tent above your heads, slide it onto the crossbars.
Center your tent, then slide each of the four bracket pieces on the Skycamp inside the rail. You’ll need to lift the Skycamp a little to make sure the pieces slide into place.
Make sure the angle portion of the brackets faces the crossbars.
Insert the bolts between the brackets and use an Allen wrench to fasten them.
That’s all, folks. It’s truly that easy!
Opening up your roof top tent is a breeze at this point. Simply unlock the hard shell locks (we’ll talk more about these locks shortly) and pull down the metal case to release the strap. Then start pushing up the hard shell, letting the gas struts finish the job for you. From there, grab the ladder, pull it to the ground, and latch the canopy to the ladder.
Voila! Your iKamper is ready to use.
Roof Top Tent Mattress
There’s no doubt about it—iKamper’s mattress beats the average sleeping pad that many people use in traditional tents. The mattress is a 1.6-inch high-density polyfoam. It has an R-Value of 6.4, which is a fancy way of saying that it offers decent insulation, preventing heat from leaving on cold evenings.
Nevertheless, we are side sleepers, so the mattress that came with the iKamper wasn’t ideal. We replaced it with two Thermarest MondoKings. It was a tight fit but SO comfortable.
That said, keep in mind that we own the iKamper Skycamp Mini. If you have a larger model and are just two people, space shouldn’t be an issue for you if you decide to spruce up your Skycamp with a Thermarest.
The Thermarest MondoKing is a twin-size inflatable mattress that measures 77 x 25 inches. It has a comfy 4.5-inch thick sleeping pad and quick inflation and deflation thanks to a TwinLock valve.
Roof Top Tent Lock
You don’t need us to tell you that purchasing a Subaru Outback roof top tent is an investment. While in a perfect world, you could park your vehicle anywhere and not have to worry about someone treating themselves to your tent, it’s hands down a safer option to secure your Skycamp with bracket locks.
In fact, we lock both the rack and the iKamper individually for good measure. The iKamper comes with two custom hardshell locks that you can attach to each bracket.
While the locks are solid, you’ll need to keep an eye on them since years of ultra-violet exposure and normal wear and tear can wear them down. If it gets to the point where you feel the need to purchase a new set of bracket locks, iKamper offers them on their website. The locks include a 1 Year Warranty from the date of your purchase.
Roof Top Tent Heater
Camping in cold weather often comes with fewer camping crowds, a crisper view of the stars, and, well, shivering nights as you wonder how you had the bright idea to camp in chilly weather. Thankfully, modern technology not only makes roof top tent camping in cold weather tolerable but a warm enough experience that you’ll feel like you’re in front of a fireplace at home.
Currently, in colder weather, we turn on the Mr. Heater Buddy Heater to warm our tent before sleeping. We love the Buddy Heater because it heats up to 225 square feet of space (more than enough for our Skycamp Mini). It also has an auto shut-off if it gets tipped over or detects low oxygen levels.
Nevertheless, between safety reasons and not wanting to sleep in too warm of an environment, we turn it off at night. By the time morning rolls around and we crawl out of our sleeping bags, we turn it back on. We want to be toasty warm as we get dressed into our hiking gear to go hiking.
Keep in mind that, like most portable tent heaters, you’ll need to carry a small propane tank to run it. Thanks to how spacious the Subaru Outback is, we always find room to fit it in with our other camping supplies.
Roof Top Tent Lighting
Regardless if you use a roof top tent or a traditional tent, having good lighting when camping is essential. Proper lighting improves safety, ensures you don’t trip when climbing up the ladder to your tent, and provides a more comfortable experience if you need to use the restroom at night.
Because we love a well-lit tent and campsite, we carry four different kinds of lighting equipment with us. First and foremost, we secure Luminoodles to the interior of our Skycamp. These multi-purpose light strips have LED lighting and wireless adhesive string. They use AA batteries, and unlike typical LED lighting, they offer a warm white light—perfect for getting ready for bed.
Another must-have light we carry with us is this LE outdoor camping lantern. It’s a great option when we want to use a smaller light around camp without pulling out our big lights. It has a large handle for easy carrying and four modes (two daylight whites, warm white, and flash mode). Since it has a long battery life, you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing the three 1.5V D batteries very often.
Sometimes, you need both your hands when rummaging through your tent, suitcase, or the outdoors in the dark. By wearing our Petzl Actik Core headlamp around camp at night, you can achieve just that. A huge benefit to the Petzel is that you have the option to recharge it to full in only three hours or keep it charged with three AAA batteries, depending on your energy options and needs while camping.
Finally, we have our eye on this rechargeable surface area light for illuminating up our entire campsite. Its three-face design fills up dark spaces with light more effectively than one-sided lamps. The dust and splash-proof Claymore offers an impressive 78 hours of use when fully charged. You also have the option to switch between cool, natural, and warm light settings.
Conclusion: Ready to Try out Roof Top Tenting?
The Subaru Outback is an excellent vehicle for roof top tent camping. It’s compatible with all four models of iKamper’s tents, allowing you to take camping to the next level. Whether you’re seeking to camp off the beaten path on rocky terrain or get a better vantage view from your cliffside parking spot, roof top tenting is a great fit for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts.
We sold our Subaru Outback! We now use a Roof Top Tent Trailer for our iKamper and pull it with our new Toyota 4Runner. Find out why we made this switch and the pros and cons of each.
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.