Last month at Overland Expo, Tepui previewed its all-new hard shell tent. It was so fresh from the manufacturing plant that it didn't even have a name, outside of "Hard Shell Tent." The company has now labeled it Project White Lightning and put it up on Kickstarter. The new tent offers the most comprehensive feature set we've seen on a roof-top tent, including integrated roof rails, the ability to double as a roof-top cargo box and a low-profile design that shouldn't take away too many mpgs on your campground commute.
Tepui calls the Project White Lightning the first rack-ready, ultra-low-profile hard shell roof tent, and a look around the market shows a lot of competitor hard shells that stand between 12 and 14 in (30 and 36 cm) when closed (versus a listed 8 in/20 cm for the White Lightning), along with a lot of smooth tops with no rails. The White Lightning's rails run the length of the thinned out mid-section, allowing you to attach cross rails and racks for carrying things like bikes and water sports equipment.
To make the design even more convenient, Tepui has built the tent to open with the gear still mounted. In fact, it says that with the proper gas strut supporting the weight of the roof, racks and gear, you can sleep inside under your bikes and surfboards. The interchangeable gas strut design allows you to match the strut to the weight of your load.
Many people will only use a roof-top tent in the warmer months, meaning it will sit on the roof without a purpose for part of the year or need to be pulled off and stored. Tepui is aiming for more year-round versatility with the White Lightning. The tent canvas can be removed, turning roof-top tent into watertight roof-top cargo box. The slim design will be a disadvantage in packing up gear, but being able to camp out in the summer and carry things like ski equipment in the winter is a nice selling point.
The removable tent fabric can also be swapped out. Different weights of fabric could be used for lighter, cooler summer configurations and heavier four-season layouts. Tepui's "Platinum" Kickstarter package includes mesh, nylon and aluminized Mylar fabrics for more versatile roof-top camping.
Having tried the prototype gas strut system out at Overland Expo, we can attest to the fact that the gas struts make it super-easy to open and close in a matter of seconds. Inside the fiberglass shell, the White Lightning sleeps two on a 2.5-in (6.3-cm) thick foam mattress.
We've seen roof-top tents with some of the features of the White Lightning before. For instance, the Camper Case from Wild Boar Products has roof storage, and the Roost tent has removable fabric and cargo box functionality. We've never seen the entire feature set integrated into one streamlined tent, though, and the White Lightning definitely looks like a versatile, all-season tool.
Tepui is currently hosting a short Kickstarter campaign to raise the money it needs for production tooling. It's offering the basic White Lightning for a pledge level of US$2,850 and the White Lightning "Charged" with 7 W solar panel, 30 Wh battery pack and LED camping light for $3,230. The $4,000-level White Lightning Sky includes the solar kit plus an operable skylight, while the flagship $7,500-level White Lightning Platinum (available as a 1 of 1) includes the skylight, a larger solar package with 20 W panel and 58 Wh battery, internal LED lighting, the three aforementioned interchangeable fabrics, two sets of gas struts customized to your desired load rating, and a custom vinyl wrap of your choosing.
Tepui plans to build the White Lightning in the USA, having developed the prototype in Hood River, Oregon. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in November.