Picture this: a rooftop tent that goes up and down with the press of a button. When I was on the Gold Coast recently, the prospect of seeing such a tent in the flesh was too much, so I arranged to catch up with Bundutec Australia to see the South African-made Bundutop in action. I saw more than I’d bargained for — two tents, one on the white Land Rover Defender belonging to Ian, who runs Bundutec Australia, and the other on the black LandCruiser of well-known personality Luke Eglin, who you might recognise from Married At First Sight.
Well-versed in the ways of reality television, Luke is also fluent in offroad, be it in the Victorian High Country or along Queensland’s white sand beaches. Nor is Ian a stranger. After clocking 30,000km in a Defender equipped with a Bundutop tent on a journey through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique (not necessarily in that order), Ian now views the tracks throughout Africa as “a combination of Cape York and the Canning Stock Route, but with wild animals.”
MODS AND FITMENT
Bundutec’s signature Bundutop tent consumes a majority of the roof rack space, but it’s compatible with roof-carried accessories in a way many other hard-lid tents are not.
A solar panel of up to 300W can be drilled and bolted to the roof, which can take a dispersed 25kg. There’s a pre-wired Anderson plug to receive the charge, its wiring threaded discreetly down the tent’s internal arm to come out at a second plug, itself connected to a solar regulator feeding the car’s auxiliary battery. If you park outside, a large roof-mounted panel ought to keep the battery sufficiently charged to run the car fridge 24/7.
The riveted aluminium of the Bundutop is also strong enough to have awning mounts directly attached to it. This is a lifeline for owners of certain roof racks or utes with canopies who can’t have a rooftop tent and shaded outdoor area simultaneously any other way. If you mount an awning this way, your distributor may be able to relocate the over-centre clips securing the tent lid down so that there are none on the awning side.
Bundutec also make various other tent add-ons, such as ‘The Added Room’, an $899 shelter to expand the living space. They have released a few such additions and are working on a few more. Many attach with sail tracking, which is to be epoxied on where required.
The underside of the tent has six north-to-south structural aluminium bars responsible for bearing the load, which continue right to the ends. These bars sit flush against horizontal crossbars after installation, with no immediately obvious means of connection — at first glance, it appears superglued on. In reality, the tent is connected with bolts through direct captive holes in the tent base, secured underneath within the hollow interior of the roof rack rails with a cam lock nut.
These installation procedures do require confidence on the tools. If you’re handy yourself, you will manage, but if not, have a discussion with your local dealer to see if they can assist.
ON THE ROAD
The tent is put together with riveted aluminium, with black paint on the sides but the roof left as raw aluminium sheet so it can reflect the heat rather than absorbing it, keeping the interior cool. This makes a nap during the day or a morning sleep-in easier.
Tucked inside during travel mode is the 300gsm military-grade UV-treated rip-resistant canvas connecting the lid and base. Rubber seals line the underside of the lid. Four over-centre latches press these tight during transit, keeping wind and dust out of the interior. A protruding downward-angled lip around the lid adds additional shelter over where the two halves meet.
The tent presents a 30cm-tall flat slab to the wind, making it comparable to side-folding rooftop tents, but less aerodynamic than fibreglass moulded hard-lids. However, it compensates for that with its healthy 74kg, some 25kg lighter than other clamshells out there. Shaving off 25, or even just five kilograms, reduces the impact the tent has on vehicle handling, mitigating tilt when rounding corners, and increasing safety in offroad environments. It also opens up the tent to some smaller 4WDs.
SETTING IT UP
It’s not unusual to have to work hard to set up a rooftop tent, but the Bundutec Bundutop boycotts this physicality with its easy, winch-operated opening, which ensures all travellers are capable of set-up and pack-up, maintains a good mood in the morning, and makes it more feasible to rock up to camp late.
The German-supplied Adendorff winch is operated with up and down buttons on the base of the tent; full open to full close takes approximately 20 seconds, and vice versa. The winch drum winds on and off narrow dyneema rope. From its drum, four threads run to a protected hub in the ceiling where four pulleys then direct these threads to the elbowed metal arms in the tent corners; here, the dyneema threads into a series of bearings and pulleys, such that winching in and out opens and closes the arms, and therefore the tent.
When set-up, the tent features an integrated 360-degree hat-brim awning with a 45-degree downward-slanting angle. The tent’s internal corner arms bear rods pointing outwards which exit through holes in the canvas to connect to the corners of this awning. Narrower dyneema rope connects these awning corners and is also threaded through loops in the underside of the awning and connected to flat aluminium bars in internal canvas sleeves, such that when the arms fold or unfold with the winch, the awning sets up automatically as well. The awning dyneema also helps to pull in the fabric during pack-up.
The winch is 12V-powered via an Anderson plug on the tent body fed by an auxiliary battery in the customer’s car. You can connect to power each time or have it permanently hardwired. In my mind connecting each time is the best option. That way, you’ll never accidentally turn on the internal fans, and you’ll never be able to instantly press the up button without thinking. If you did that without first undoing the four over-centre latches you would risk bending the internal arms or damaging the latches.
Readers may have a few anxieties about the electrical automation of the tent, but Bundutec have addressed these pretty well. Limit switches stop the tent from trying to open or close further than it should, so you needn’t fear holding the button for too long. Ian says there hasn’t been a winch failure in the last eight years. He also notes that, should the winch’s electricals play up, there are covered positive and negative terminals next to the up and down buttons that can be directly attached to a battery, like a car jump start. The fuse is clearly labelled and easily accessible for replacement (you’d need to carry spares when travelling remotely). All other circuitry is located internally, in a protected box that can be opened if needed. There’s no means of manually cranking the tent opened and closed, but if it came to it you could push it down if it was playing up while you were out bush, then deal with the problem back in town.
The tent can close with pillows and a doona inside, which not only saves time but frees up car space and keeps gear clean and organised. On pack-up, all windows have to be unzipped and folded onto the mattress, so they don’t protrude and to help let air out as the lid compresses. It pays to pause when the tent is almost closed and ensure all canvas is tucked in before forming the seal.
THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
The two-part ladder is not permanently attached to the tent. While it can technically be stowed under the mattress, many will end up storing it in its canvas bag in the car. At 135cm long when folded down, it will slot into most vehicles width-ways. Having to pack it away each time is an effort, but it does keep the tent’s weight down.
Any of the tent’s four windows are eligible doors and the ladder can be mounted under whichever one the bracket mounts are fixed. The side windows will be the most logical ladder location for most 4WDs, but this being a non-expanding hard-lid tent, the ladder may block whichever door it is nearest.
On one end the ladder has hooked ends which slot into holes in the bracket mounts; to be removed, the ladder must be lifted upwards, meaning all weight applied in climbing holds it yet more firmly in place. The ladder does not, as standard, lock at various fixed lengths like other ladders — rather, the feet are left without rubber guards so they will dig into grass or dirt. However, some sites at caravan parks and free camps may have you camping on concrete, where the dig-in feet won't work. The solution is to drill a hole so the ladder can be locked at a fixed length by a carabiner on both sides.
The ladder has flat-topped rungs that are parallel to the ground, not angled with the ladder. However, the ladder can be reversed, to bring rounded rungs into play, if that is your preference. When in place, the two sides of the ladder rest firmly against each other, allowing for no flex or bowing as weight is applied. Anti-slip grooves veritably grasp your feet.
Inside the tent, there’s 93cm of headroom all around except a few lower parts. The mattress measures 200cm long and 125cm across. With the non-slanted ceiling, the length will be sufficient for those around 6ft to lay in, without leaving much room for shoes or loose items. However, compared to the rest of the market, the width of the mattress is a tad narrow. For an individual 125cm is plenty, but for a pair, it will come down to how much space each needs to spread out. There’s a king-sized Bundutop available for additional cost if you feel you need the space.
The high-density foam mattress, at 100mm thick, is thicker by 20 to 50mm than 95 per cent of others on the rooftop tent market. It makes a big difference and you’ll be able to have a good night’s sleep without waking up with a bad back and pins and needles. Underneath the mattress, the surface is solid and flat as it should be.
There’s four or so bolt heads against the material, but you won’t be able to detect these. To increase the comfort even further, you can pick up a fitted cotton sheet from Drifted Off Linen, who make them specifically for the Bundutec range.
There’s one pocket on either end of the tent, so there’ll always be a pocket handy whichever side you lay your noggin. A cigarette point provides 12V power inside. The 12V connection also powers a magnetic light placed on the central hub of the ceiling, which alleviates the need to wear a headtorch or carry up a torch or phone light while also trying to climb a ladder and carry gear. Being central, it won’t work well for reading on your back while lying down.
Inside where the poles holding out the awning enter the canvas and connect with the internal arm, there’s no eyelets. This is a deliberate decision by Bundutec, who say that eyelets form a weak point due to crimping. Instead, the holes here are burned with a hot spike, to make the canvas hard.
WITHSTANDING ALL WEATHER
The insulation in the ceiling lining will retain body heat when it’s cold, and its foam backing will help to reduce condensation above the mattress. On the other hand, for hot, humid nights, the tent features two switch-operated 12V brushless fans down one end. Even without these, airflow is impressive, with the four large windows letting in not just 360-degree views, but a nice cross-breeze.
In a lot of tents, the mesh and canvas layers of the doors are separate flaps. However, with the Bundutop, the two are part of the same flap, which has an inner and an outer zip. The outer zip opens the entire door, while the inner zip peels back the canvas from the mesh. Both layers are connected to the main fabric at the bottom, making the zips upside-down U-shapes.
This arrangement is clever for a few subtle reasons. One, it allows you to unzip just one zip to enter and exit — most tents require you to undo two. Two, there’s no point rolling up the mesh but having the canvas zipped up, and Bundutec have eliminated this pointless option. Three, it enables comfortable wet weather camping. When a window flap is connected at the bottom, the zips can be zipped partway up the sides and the canvas folded over. Having the windows partly done up like this allows airflow while also preventing slanting rain from coming in under the 360-degree awning and penetrating the lower half of the windows.
The risk with any awning or window shelter is that it’ll flap noisily in the wind. However, the taut dyneema cord threaded to the awning’s underside and the metal rods holding out the corners prevent the canvas from rustling against the tent body, while the relative narrowness of the ‘hat brim’ also prevents the canvas from truly catching the wind and cracking like a whip. The absence of a poly/nylon fly removes a common cause of sleepless nights, too.
In Australia, the Bundutop comes with a one-year warranty. Ian, however, backs his product beyond that timeframe. It’s best to discuss with individual dealers the specifics of the warranty and what will happen if issues arise beyond it. Ian says most parts are replaceable locally, at stores like Bunnings and Jaycar.
The tent commonly costs $4990, not including any necessary freight. The main business is based in Queensland’s Gold Coast, with delivery Australia-wide, but there is a dealer in Tully, plus dealers in NSW’s Hunter Region, Blue Mountains, Coffs Harbour, Bathurst and Tamworth, and in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Five grand gets you a much more comfortable mattress than a lot of the competition, takes the hassle out of afternoon set-ups when you’re not in the mood, and gets your day off to the right start with a quick getaway. The Bundutop would be a great upgrade for those who’ve done their time in a cheaper fold-over RTT or those with a sense of how important comfort is in keeping you motivated to see the country — be it South Africa or Australia.
Shell material Riveted aluminium
Canvas material 300gsm military-grade UV-treated rip-resistant canvas
Ladder Two-part aluminium, 135cm when contracted
Roof load capacity 25kg
Style Hard-lid box with automated opening
External size (closed) 2100mm (L) x 1350 (W) x 300mm (H)
External size (opened) 2100mm (L) x 1350 (W) x 1030mm (H)
Mattress 100mm thick high-density foam measuring 2000mm x 1250mm, fitted cotton sheet available
Internal headroom 93cm, even throughout
2 x 12V fans, internal cig point, ceiling light, pre-wired Anderson plug allowing for the addition of a roof-mounted solar panel to charge the car’s auxiliary battery, automatic opening powered by Anderson plug using German-supplied Adendorff winch and dyneema rope in pulley system
Phone 0414 500 430
Gold Coast Address 17/225a Brisbane Road, Biggera Waters (Call or text in advance to arrange a time)
Other States For more information, dealer listings are on the Bundutec Australia website, or you can call Ian directly on 0414 500 430