Today, we're going to start by heading back to the classroom and learning something. Remember English lessons? I do, kind of. Well, I must have been OK at it, because you're all reading my words now!
For our lesson today, we're going to learn a couple of definitions.
The first one is ‘Nest’. This is defined as follows: A structure where some creatures lay their eggs and keep their young safe and warm. Alternatively, it can also be a snug retreat or refuge, a resting place or a home.
Our second definition is more of a term. It is ‘True Blue’. Straight from the Oxford Dictionary, this is its meaning for Australians: very genuine; very loyal; expressing Australian values; and Australian. If that still doesn't clear it up, have a listen to John Williamson’s classic tune.
Let's start with 'nest.' Or should I say, ‘the 360 Nest’ from Bushwakka.
If you look back at our earlier lesson, you will see a pretty apt description of the 360 Nest. A snug retreat or refuge; a resting place; a home. Well, that sums it all up very nicely, and I'm sure you could hazard a guess at what the 360 means? That's right, from perched up high you have 360-degree views.
GETTING IT ON (THE VEHICLE)
The first thing you need to know is that you just can't go putting one of the Bushwakka rooftop tents on any vehicle. They weigh in at 90kg, which is by no means a lightweight unit.
So, you are going to need a vehicle that can handle that sort of weight up on the roof. A larger four-wheel drive should do the trick. And you're going to need a solid roof rack or heavy duty cross bars to mount it on. If you choose the roof bar option, I would recommend going for three.
The underside of the rooftop tent has four ribs running along the entire length for maximum support. These ribs are used to mount the tent to the crossbars or roof rack with stainless steel brackets.
One thing to note is that, with most rooftop tents, you do lose all of your available storage space up top. However, this is not the case with the 360 Nest. An aluminium rail runs around the perimeter of the lid, allowing for storage space on top of it. Perfect spot for a solar panel or a kayak.
In fact, the top of the rooftop tent is rated to 100kg when it is closed. When opened, the heavy duty gas struts will still support a load of 40kg on the roof.
Opting for an oversized cross bar will still allow you to fit other accessories such as a shovel holder, a pair of MaxTrax recovery gear or an awning off the side.
LET’S START THE SHOW
OK, so you've got it all fitted up to your roof and you're heading off for an awesome time away.
You're going to notice the weight on the roof and you'll also notice a little extra drag which will make a difference when you're at the bowser.
While every effort has been made to make the aluminium shell as streamlined as possible with a tapered front edge, the tent still sits 350mm high and disturbs a lot of air while in transit. It still won't be as much as if you were towing a trailer, though.
That's the other benefit of a rooftop tent. Not having to tow means that you only have to worry about the vehicle, and whether it can get past, over or under an obstacle. Actually, getting under the obstacles is probably going to be your biggest hassle. Best to keep away from undercover carparks! The good thing is, you don't find many of them in the bush.
ARRIVING AT CAMP
Here's another bonus of a rooftop tent: you only have to find a spot for your vehicle. No more worrying about whether the trailer will fit or having to reverse it into a tight spot.
Because the tent rises straight up above the vehicle, you are not increasing your footprint. Except if you decide to put out an awning, of course. More on that later.
Once you've found your spot, setting up is like a scene from a magic show — “Hey Presto!” and you're done. It really is that simple.
With the help of your side steps, rear steps or a tyre for a bit of extra height, open the two rear latches first to allow for the back to rise up thanks to perfectly valved gas struts. Then, moving to the front, repeat the process and watch the tent erect to its full height. This double-action opening gives plenty of head height inside.
If you had your stopwatch going, you'd barely be in double figures.
Next, grab the telescopic aluminium ladder and attach it to the side of the tent and climb on up inside. On our test vehicle, the tent is fitted up 'back to front' and only allows access from the side. As standard, you can enter via the side or one of the ends.
When you crawl inside, you'll notice that the bed is already made up, pillows and all. Being able to travel with all of your bedding inside the tent and not taking up valuable space in the vehicle is an absolute must with rooftop tents.
All you have to do now is erect the awning that would normally cover the rear access and roll up the canvas windows to let in the smells of the Aussie bush. There's big windows front and rear, and four triangular windows on the sides give plenty of cross ventilation.
Flyscreens on all of the windows will keep the big bugs at bay, but you may still find an annoying sandfly or two makes their way past the defences.
Keeping you comfy is a 75mm high-density foam mattress. I had a bit of a lay down (for testing purposes only) and even with it only being 75mm thick, it felt pretty good underneath me. If you were chasing a bit more cushioning, a mattress topper could be added.
A nice touch was the removable cover on the mattress, so after a few weeks in the desert,
you can take it off and try and wash the red dust out of it.
The double sized mattress will easily handle two adults and doesn't feel cramped at all. That's due to the open style of the tent, plus the fact there is heaps of headroom. Fully opened, the tent is 1200mm tall, so not much chance of banging your head here!
If the need for an arvo snooze ever comes your way, you'll be happy to know that the roof of the tent has been insulated to keep things cool. There are storage pockets on both sides for a head torch, book or your mobile phone, which is only with you to wake you up before sunrise! Or is that just me?
Making sure your phone stays charged so your alarm goes off, the Nest comes pre-wired with a pair of USB outlets in the corner. There's also a bi-colour LED light in the roof for a spot of reading before bed.
After a cracking sunrise and an awesome feed of bacon and eggs, it's now time to head off for another day of adventures. Thankfully, the 360 Nest packs down in not much longer than what it takes to set it up.
When packing down, there is no need to zip your windows up first. You just need to drop the front awning and pull the elastic bungee cord up. These are provided on both openings and help to draw the canvas in when closing it up.
A long nylon webbing strap is used to pull the rear down first, before latching it up and then doing exactly the same at the front. It really is that simple. And quick!
HEY, TRUE BLUE
Completing this fully vehicle-based camping setup is the brand new True Blue awning from Bushwakka. Unlike the 360 Nest which is manufactured in South Africa, the True Blue is 100 per cent proudly Australian made.
It's been a labour of love for Bushwakka's owner, Johnny Loots, but he reckons he's nailed it with his final design after a couple of prototypes that didn't quite hit the mark.
Attaching to the roof bars via a pair of custom stainless steel brackets, the True Blue is a fully self-supporting 270-degree awning. Just like the Nest, it's also quick and easy to set up.
Unzip the PVC bag, release the three velcro straps, grab the end of the aluminium arm and start walking to unfurl the 275gsm (8oz) Wax Converters Ripstop Canvas awning. Conveniently, the end of the arm already has a quickdraw ratchet strap attached to make securing, and tensioning the awning a simple process.
If there isn't a lot of breeze around, your job is done. Grab the chairs out and kick back. This self-supporting style owes a lot to the strength of the aluminium used as well as the design of the hinge.
When a breeze is blowing, or you're just super cautious, then the True Blue comes equipped with a single leg that can be dropped down and secured with a guy rope. The leg simply attaches to one of the arms with a velcro loop. Additional legs can be attached at the owner's discretion, but are not required.
If the heavens open up, each canvas panel has a tab sewn in the middle which can be pegged down to create a low point to aid in water run-off and prevent pooling. A full wall kit is also available to provide shelter from both the wind and rain.
Launching soon will be a tent that can be attached to the awning. Due to the fact that each section of the awning is the same length, the tent can be attached to any side.
An issue that I have always had with 270-degree awnings, is that the storage bags never seem to be big enough. Especially on cold and frosty mornings. While we didn't have to pack the awning up on a chilly morning, I can report back that the bag seems a more than an adequate size to handle a slightly less tight roll.
THE FINAL WORD
When it comes to getting away for a quick overnighter, a long weekend away or if you are having to set up camp on a daily basis on a trip around Australia, the ease and convenience of a rooftop tent would get my nod. What's not to like about a setup time of less than a minute, and a pack-up time of maybe double that?
Add in the 270-degree True Blue awning and you really do have a simple camping solution that will ensure you have the maximum amount of time to enjoy and explore the great outdoors, and not have to spend hours on an arduous setup and pack-down ritual.
Shell material Aluminium
Canvas 380gsm Wax Converters Ripstop canvas Mattress 75mm high density foam with removable cover
Roof Load Capacity 100kg (closed) 40kg (open)
Style Rooftop tent
Travel size 2100mm x 1400mm x 350mm
Open size 2100mm x 1400mm x 1200mm
TRUE BLUE AWNING
Cover material PVC
Canvas 275gsm Wax Converters Ripstop canvas
Style 270-degree Vehicle-mounted awning
Travel size 2500mm x 180mm x 150mm Open size 11sqm of cover
PRICE AS TESTED
$4500 (Rooftop tent); $1600 (Awning)
5/2 Kohl Street