The inflatable tent specialists at Austria's GentleTent have been on quite a tear since they started moving their tents from the ground to the tops of wheeled vehicles. They've put blow-up tents atop car roofs, pickup truck beds and bike trailers — and they've even thrown them in the water for a lazy float. This year they're back with their most dramatic vehicular effort yet, an XL inflatable billed as the world's largest roof-top tent (RTT). It sleeps up to five people, has two separate rooms, offers glass house-like views, and still packs lighter than many smaller RTTs.
We're not sure what's going on over in Europe with massive camping structures atop vehicles. The GentleTent GT Sky Loft debuted at Abenteuer & Allrad, the show that also hosted the massive Queensize Galeria ForFour Volkswagen camper van. We reckon it's more a coincidence than new trend, but that's still a surprising amount of roof-devouring mobile habitation for one show.
Since the GT Sky Loft packs down for travel, its large size is more of an attribute than the Galeria ForFour's. When set up, it easily takes up the entirety of the Volkswagen Transporter's roof and spills off the back. Mounted horizontally, it extends off the sides of an SUV like a pair of wings. In short, it's huge, and that extra size is put to good use in creating a 134 x 79-in (340 x 200-cm) bed to sleep up to five people — truly a family size roof tent.
As for GentleTent's "largest in the world" claim, most major RTT manufacturers seem to top out around the 4- to 5-person mark, if not lower. Of those with which we're familiar that do advertise 4-/5-person tents, we found less bed area than the GT Sky Loft — and it's not really close. For example, the 4-adult Eezi-Awn Family 2200, 4+ person CVT Mt. Denali and 5+ person 23Zero Walkabout 87 all have 96 x 87-in (244 x 221-in) bed areas and the 5-person Tuff Stuff Elite has a 95 x 79-in (241 x 200-in) bed. All sleeping-berth ratings are as advertised by the manufacturer.
Every time we think we've seen every roof-top tent manufacturer out there, we stumble upon three more we've never seen before, so we're not going to outright declare GentleTent the world's largest RTT, but it sure is well larger than other manufacturers' range-toppers. In fact, it's so big that it splits into two rooms, giving parents a little space away from the kids (and vice versa). The 55-in (140-cm) height offers plenty of room to sit up.
GentleTent's newest isn't only about size, either. It also offers better views than the average roof tent. Some RTT manufacturers have been integrating transparent panels as more of an available and standard feature, and GentleTent takes it to another level. The rear of the Sky Loft is a "sky room," opened up with weatherproof transparent roof panels, mesh windows and a full-size roll-up transparent door/window. There's more transparent construction than tent fabric in this area, and the fly even has built-in dark transparent panels to line up. The tent has four mesh windows overall, all of which can be zipped shut in bad weather.
Another interesting feature unusual to roof-top tents, the Sky Loft offers two entrances when mounted laterally. The second ladder needs to be purchased separately, but having two entrances is a nice advantage, making it easier to get in and out (just compare to the person farthest away from the single door of a standard RTT climbing over everyone in a five-person sleeping arrangement to pee at 3 a.m.).
Despite all that size, the GT Sky Loft still packs light and small. It measures 65 x 57 x 6 in (165 x 145 x 15 cm) when all deflated and packed down. That 6-in height makes it well sleeker than the average RTT. At 108 lb (49 kg), its weight is more in line with 2- and 3-person roof tents.
That's not to say that inflatable design doesn't come with some potential pitfalls. We do question how GentleTent RTTs fare in high winds and how long it takes to squeeze all the air out and stuff all the fabric into the cover. And, of course, leaks. But while we previously considered inflatable RTTs more of a novelty, the GT Sky Loft's combination of interior size, compact packing and low weight has us intrigued and we're wondering if other manufacturers will dabble in inflatable RTT design.
The €3,390 (approx. US$3,850) GT Sky Loft is available for preorder now, and GentleTent plans to begin deliveries in December 2019. Each tent will come with a single ladder, mounting hardware, stakes, guy lines, repair kit and 12V pump. An awning will be available as an option.
You can see the GT Sky Loft in use below — they even throw it in the water.
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