Expert Review: Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
This review is my honest opinion of the tent, which I purchased with my own money in June of 2021.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the tent, which I purchased with my own money in June of 2021.
The Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent is a fun, roomy option that has kept my partner, dog, and I warm and dry through some freezing and wet nights of camping.
About the gear
- Product Model: Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam Rooftop Tent
- Size: 3 person
- Height: 5’3”
- Weight: 115 lbs
- Experience: 25+ years of backpacking/camping
- When I bought the tent: June 2021
- Days tested: 25
- Number of occupants: Two people, one dog.
- Used for: Car camping, overlander.
- Where I’ve used it: Utah desert; Flaming Gorge, Utah; Big Sur, California.
- Seasons I’ve used it in: Spring, summer, fall.
How it performs
What I was looking for
I purchased this tent at my partner's request, who wanted an easy way to camp in his Toyota 4Runner without building out the back of the car. We tend to have a ton of gear when we camp, so a buildout was not a viable option, but it’s nice to have something a bit more sturdy and weather resistant than a regular tent.
Why I chose this gear
He wanted this particular model because it has a three-person option, so it can comfortably fit two people and one dog without being too large as a four-person tent would be. It was also supposed to be one of the easiest tents to break down and set up in the rooftop tent category. Though it is not cheap, it is much cheaper than any other tent of this style, so that was another consideration.
What I love about it
- Ease of setup: This tent is pretty easy to set up. It just unfolds, and I put two stakes on either side to hold the rainfly out and lower the ladder, so I am set to jet.
- Performance in the rain: We have had some terribly stormy nights in this tent and never gotten wet. The outer fabric is really thick, ripstop polyester with a thick water repellent coating. It makes for a really sturdy, dry layer of protection during even the wettest nights!
- Performance in the wind: The windiest camping night I have ever had was in Goblin Valley with this tent. It was our first time using it, and we needed to set it up, which was a pain because we didn’t really know how to do it yet, but once we got it up, it was awesome in the wind. It didn’t flap around as some tents do in the wind, and we didn’t feel like we were going to fly away since this tent was so heavy and literally attached to our vehicle.
- Performance in the snow: Similar to the performance in the rain. There have been about five nights we have slept in this tent and woken up to snow. Every time this has happened, we didn’t realize it snowed until we got outside because the tent held up in the weather really well. It still gets a bit chilly, but there has not been any water leakage or ceiling caving as people might get in some tents when it snows.
- Performance in desert areas with no trees: It does better than many tents in areas with no trees. The heat is a bit of an issue since the rainfly is dark, but it doesn’t need shelter from wind or elements as many other tents do since it’s so sturdy.
- Performance when camping with a partner or group: This tent is awesome for camping with a group or a partner. I sleep in it with my partner and dog, and it’s so spacious. It’s also nice to use in groups if I want to go to bed a bit earlier since the walls are thicker than regular tent walls. It dampens the outside noise quite a bit more than regular tents.
- Special features: This tent has plenty of pockets and a mat, so it’s pretty comfortable. I still usually bring a sleeping pad, but it’s definitely not needed. It is nice to worry about one less thing when packing.
- Stability: This is easily the most stable tent I have ever slept in since the wall material is so thick, and the tent is so heavy.
- Durability: So far so good on durability. There are no rips or punctures or anything like that. Since it’s off the ground, it's a bit less prone to many issues that regular tents are inclined to have (rips from being set up on rocks or cacti, etc.).
Issues I’ve encountered
- Breakdown speed: It takes forever to take down. That is my main qualm with it. It needs to be folded just perfectly, and the cover goes on with a zipper. It’s easy to get it wrong, requiring us to set it up and try to break it down again.
- Weight: This tent is so heavy that it needs at least three people to put it on or take it off the car. In addition, it decreases the gas mileage of the vehicle it's on quite a bit because of the weight and because it sticks up off the top of the roof when packed up.
- Performance in the heat: The rainfly is navy blue, so it retains heat, but it offers some shade, and since it's so roomy, it doesn’t feel like I'm “cooking” as much as I've felt in smaller tents.
Favorite moment with this gear
My favorite moment with this gear was driving back from a desert trip shortly after getting this tent. We saw a river and had all of our fishing gear, so we decided just to stay another night. It was late, but the tent was so easy to set up. Although it snowed that night, we were super warm in the tent all evening. Before my partner and I had gone up to the tent, we heard my dog whining. We turned around to see that she had her paws on the ladder's rungs to the top of the tent and was trying to climb it herself.
We laughed hard because she had never shown any particular interest in the tent. She just decided it was time for bed that night, I guess. So we helped her climb it (carefully), and she made it almost to the top by herself! We have talked about making a ramp so she can come and go as she pleases.
Value for the money vs. other options
There's no way around it. This is a pricey option for camping. It’s around $2,000 and not super versatile. It’s good for car camping in bad weather, but if I want to backpack, I need another tent anyways. It’s for sure a “glamping” experience. Unless someone uses it constantly in terrible weather (such as for hunting in the winter or something of the like, which my partner uses it for), it’s unnecessary. They would be better off with a regular tent for a tenth of the price.
However, for bad weather camping and glamping, this is a good deal compared to other options. The GoFastCamper version of this tent is closer to $8,000, and most iKamper models are closer to $4,000.
It is a great tent for a niche purpose. It is roomy, super awesome in inclement weather, and cool to have a higher view from my tent windows. But it is expensive, heavy, and takes a long time to break down, which my partner and I need to do every time I move my car during our camping trip.