Feldon Shelter roof-top tent review
ACCESSING productive fishing spots often means overnight stays. Camping is usually the best option. It’s cheaper and simple and most of the best spots are out of the way and camping is usually the only option. However, if you're not organised, camping can be a hassle. Finding tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, etc, takes time and I'd rather spend that time fishing.
I was looking for a simple solution to make camping hassle free. I also wanted something which would allow quick, spur of the moment trips away easy. A van would be the obvious choice and setting up a simple camping set up would work great. Plenty of fishos and surfers have done just that… But I wanted a 4WD to get off the beaten track and tow my boat.
A roof-top tent was the next best thing. Doing some research I found there were, with a few exceptions, two different types. The simple to set up hard shell roof-top tents. These could be set up in seconds with bedding already inside. They usually popped straight up with an even roof across the length of the roof, or others would open at one end like an A-frame. While absolutely nothing beats the simplicity of these hard shell roof-top tents, the problem was the real estate they took up on the vehicle.
I’d recently bought an old Nissan Navara with low kms and needed something to go on top of the tray. This would free up much needed space on the roof. I discovered a company in Queensland called Performance Suspension. The Gold Coast company custom built roof top tent racks for dual cab 4WDs. The heavy duty racks would sit above the tray, but lower than the roof height. Depending on the roof-top tent, this would mean it would sit flush with the roof. Another handy feature is the rack tips up on gas struts, allowing access to gear underneath. It then locks in place for driving.
With a rack such as this and a dual cab ute, the best option was the canvas fold out variety of tent. These tents, probably the most common, are kept under a cover and pulled out with the ladder to create a spacious place to sleep. The downside is they’re slightly more time consuming to set up than a hard shell, but are far more compact when stowed This is because they’re folded in half. My one - a Feldon Shelter from New Zealand - measures just over 1.4m square when packed away. That means it sits snugly above the tray. If I really wanted, I could even buy a second one for the roof and have them sitting side by side.
This was my first roof-top tent and I was looking for a mid price range model. The last thing you want while camping in bad weather is a leaky tent or to break something when you’re off the beaten track. I heard about these New Zealand Feldon Shelters and also heard there was a place in Sydney selling them. Adventure Merchants sells the range of Feldon Shelters, plus a range of outdoor accessories. But more interestingly, the same company has a 4WD camper rental business and uses the Feldon Shelters on many of these rentals. That sort of trust in a product speaks volumes for the quality of the tents.
Mounting the tent
I opted to mount the tent so it would unfold on the passenger side. You could choose either direction or even out the back. The problem with unfolding out the back, and especially with the lower height, is it restricts access to the ute's tub.
I also have ARB awning on the passenger side for additional shelter in bad weather. On that note, almost every camping trip I've done with the family since buying this tent has been raining. The good news is the tent and awning does a fantastic job of keeping everyone dry and warm.
The tent can be mounted on and off with two people. I mostly leave it on the back to save the hassle of mounting it before heading away. It only weights 55kg, but the size and weight combined makes it fairly cumbersome for regularly taking on and off.
Having the tent sit lower above the tray means there are no issues with wind resistance for regular day-to-day driving.
I also got a Rhino Rack Pioneer Tray which allows me to store additional gear on the roof and doubles as a sturdy roof rack for carrying canoes and kayaks. It sits a few centimetres above the height of the packed tent. Obviously I need to take the kayak or canoe off before setting up the tent, but it's still a great system.
The perfect combo
Another option for getting off the beaten track is a camper trailer. While camper trailers are incredibly popular and functional, they do have limitations. The main one being you can't tow a boat and camper trailer simultaneously. The roof top tent option means I can head away for several days with a boat in tow.
I recently camped on the foreshore of a NSW lake with the boat attached. The windy conditions meant I had to store the boat on the trailer each night and launch again in the morning. It was a simple matter of quickly folding the tent down each morning with bedding still inside. I used the velcro straps to hold it in place, but didn't bother with the cover for the short ride to the ramp. At the end of the day I did it in reverse. It literally took 2 minutes to set up camp again each evening. It's that simple.
As I mentioned, all bedding stays inside all of the time. That means last minute trips are some easy. There's a spacious and comfortable mattress, big quilt, two pillows and a couple of blankets. It's very spacious for two people.
There are vents inside to stop condensation and windows on all four sides which can be unzipped. There are also awnings on all four sides on the fly which allow some air to come through. This is a great option in summer. In winter the tent keeps you nice and warm, being above the cold ground.
All up I've found the Feldon Shelter and dual cab 4WD combination ideal. I can carry a kayak, tow a boat, carry plenty of gear in the tub and it's cost effective. The tent sells for about $1900, which sure is a lot cheaper than an offroad camper trailer and much more versatile. And while it's more expensive than a swag or a simple tent, the all encompassing package is so simple for quick getaways and doesn't take up the same amount of space compared to carrying mattresses, sleeping bags, tents etc.