Car rooftop tents are becoming more and more popular. This is my review of the Thule Approach M Rooftop tent, which was sent to me to test by the brand.
Features of Thule Approach M Rooftop tent
- Spacious interior
- Panoramic skylights and windows
- Lockable mounting brackets secure the tent to your roof racks in “half the time of traditional rooftop tents” (I can’t comment on this as it’s the first roof tent I’ve tested)
- “Torque limiting tool” for safer installation
- Removable rain cover with three different Modesto suit a range of weather
- Quick to set up: Unzip the travel cover, unfold the base and you are ready to camp “in under three minutes”
- Thick, dual-layer foam mattress has a supportive bottom foam layer and a soft upper layer
- Compatible with an annex or awning (sold separately) that provides even more sheltered space
- Sleeps 2 adults and 1 child, or 2 adults comfortably.
- Dimensions (Open): 240 x 143 x 102cm
- Dimensions (Closed): 124 x 143 x 28cm
- Sleeping footprint: 240 x 130cm
- Peak internal height: 102cm
- Weight: 58kg
- Static weight capacity: 300kg
- Minimum barspread: 80cm
- Base construction: Welded aluminium tube with insulation and aluminium cap sheet
- Canopy fabric: Breathable, water-resistant 600D polyester ripstop
- Mosquito screens
- There is a small and large option, too.
- M size is priced at £2499.
- See Thule rooftop tent.
The first install.
On test: Thule Approach M Rooftop tent
You need to make sure you have the right roof rack and attachments for the tent. The website takes you through the needs but you may well need to buy extra bits and pieces on top of the rather hefty price tag of the Thule roof box tent.
Also note that this is not a lightweight tent but once it’s installed on the roof rack, it’s a brilliantly robust and sturdy tent that is very easy to like.
To start with you need to lift the large, 58kg box up on to your car roof. The weight is the same as a small female and the shape is awkward. We achieved this with two strong men. (One strong husband and one fairly strong wife could not manage this.)
It took about an hour for the first set up, from lifting on to the car, working through the instructions and learning how to fix it to the rack and put all the relevant pieces together. This requires two people. However, once this is done the first time, it is much easier on the next install.
For the next install, from garage to car roof, it’s about 10 minutes and, again, this requires two strong people.
Once the tent is on the roof and installed, it is very simple to use. You need only one person to lift and open the tent for use. This take les than a minute. It takes about two minutes to return the tent to closed position on the roof rack and ready to drive the car.
The price is eye-watering but actually you get a very high quality and roomy roof tent for the money. Many people will be looking at roof box tents as an upgrade from on-the-ground tent camping and as an alternative to a much more expensive campervan. In this sense, the price seems reasonable.
There are cheaper rooftop tents on the market and I have not tested these so I am only commenting on the Thule.
The tent fabric is very high quality. It is not thin and lightweight like a ground-based tent but more like a thick canvas. As a consequence it keeps out the wind and rain very well and oozes confidence and security. Many people will be worried about how open and vulnerable they feel sitting and sleeping in a tent on their roof, but I was surprised by just how sturdy, robust and comfortable this tent is.
You access the tent via a fold out metal ladder. It feels a bit wobbly on the first go but after that my confidence grew. You do also need to be quite agile to get from ladder to inside the tent or from tent to ladder but it became easier the more I tried.
The build quality, including poles, mesh and windows are also very high quality. I guess that there is not so much need to keep down the weight of a roof-tent, compared to the weight of a tent that you need to carry in a backpack, so Thule have been able too utilise thicker, heavier and better quality materials. This is part of what you are paying for.
The size of the roof tent is very impressive. It is easily big enough for two adults and you could add in a child or a dog as well. I am not sure how manageable it would be to get a dog up the ladder but I am sure there are solutions for that.
The tent feels very solid and stable and the internal base has a wonderfully thick and comfortable full-size mattress. You can easily sit up in the tent and there is room to move about freely. It’s a joy to relax in and for sleeping.
The interior os very “cream” and clean. My advice is to add a waterproof mattress cover and to make sure you remove outdoor shoes as son as you get inside the tent.
The elevated position feels like a novelty, too. The only hassle is that you need to get in and out via a ladder and that makes going to the loo in the night a bit of a hassle.
You also need to make sure you have properly set up the tent and that the fabric is taut because if it’s a windy night you might get some irritating flapping. Take your time at first set up to endure everything is in the right place and then you won’t suffer annoying fabric flapping.
There are big windows so you can enjoy great views, or you can cover the windows for a darker inner space for sleeping.
There are various different options to suit various weather conditions, so you can add a fully waterproof rain cover, for example, or not bother if it is going to be dry.
It’s not as quiet as sleeping inside a van or motorhome but if you already camp, you’ll be used to the noises of wildlife and traffic etc.
It might be useful to add the annex (an extra purchase) around the ladder and base of the roof tent to create a place to put a portable camp toilet.
Driving with the box on the roof is noticeable but not overly so. The weight sits high on the car, so you do notice this when cornering but it’s not a huge issue.
Fuel consumption is increased due to the drag of carrying the tent but it would be the same if you were travelling with kayaks on the roof and the tent is meant for holiday use only, rather than everyday driving.
I’d recommend the roof tent if you are planning a few nights away, rather than just one. It’s a bit of a hassle to install for only one night.
No midges got in although the tent has not been tested in high midge season on Scotland’s west coast. I am presuming the mosquito mesh will also be effective against the midges.
Note that if you fold down the tent after a wet night, you need to make sure you open it later when you stop so that the fabric can dry out.
I was surprised by how much Hubby G and I liked the Thule Approach Rooftop Tent but it is expensive. It might be that you decide to buy the tent as part of a group and take turns to use it so as to spread the cost. For the money, though, you do get an extremely robust and comfortable place to sleep and with very little hassle of set-up after the first install.