Yes it costs a fortune, but boy is it ever a blast.
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.