We're used to seeing campers and trailers here at Gizmag. Typically, they're made for big, gas-drunk trucks, SUVs and vans - vehicles with the size and hauling capacity to spend the night in. What we're not used to seeing is campers made for small, fuel-frugal hybrids. But the Habitents is just that - a camper extension for the Toyota Prius.
Okay, "camper" might be a bit generous. The Habitents is really just a tent that you attach to the back of your Prius to give you enough room to lie out. But the Habitents isn't necessarily a design for "camping." While the designers do mention using it in state and national parks, the real inspiration is in cutting down the costs of road trips.
The Prius is one of the least expensive cars to travel long distances in thanks to its superior fuel economy. Unfortunately, some of that money saved is lost on overnight accommodations, since the compact hatchback isn't exactly an inviting place to spend the night. Big vehicles like RVs, campers, and even vans and SUVs can save you money on overnight accommodations, but they eat that saved money at the pump. It's a road-tripping dilemma.
The Habitents gives you the best of both worlds (or as close to it as you can expect to get in 2012). The tent wraps around the hatchback of the Prius, giving two people enough room to comfortably stretch out and catch a night of sleep. The company website claims the rig gives you 80 x 40 inches (203 x 102 cm) of slumber space. With Habitents, the Prius isn't only a cheap road wagon, it's a potentially free hotel room. Cheap gas, free accommodations - you can travel as far as your heart and mind want to go.
Now there's an angry, grunting elephant in the room that it's time to address: why not just camp in a regular tent? Well, that would seem to be a very good question ... if we're talking about camping at a campground. However, if the subject is a cross-country trip, the Habitents gives you the ability to pull over at a rest stop, set up quickly and get some shut-eye before continuing on your way in the morning. You couldn't really do that all too comfortably in a regular tent. Also, lying flat in the back of the Prius up off the ground is certainly more comfortable than either sleeping in the driver's seat or sleeping in a tent on hard ground.
Habitents doesn't use any poles and is able to roll up small enough to store in your glove compartment - also something you don't get with a regular tent. It basically hangs off your hatchback with a couple of simple tie-downs, so it sets up easily.
The Habitents looks like an innovative solution that could definitely appeal to some Prius drivers, though we're guessing that crowd is a small one. At US$90, it's cheap enough to justify even if you don't plan to use it often - keep it in your glove compartment and pull it out if you ever need a cheap night of sleep. Habitents also mentions that it has a patent pending that extends to all hatchbacks. It might expand its offerings to other cars in the future, and encourages interested parties to contact it with suggestions for other car models.
The video below is a bit slow, but it shows how the Habitents sets up.