Want to turn an undersized hatchback, wagon or SUV into a cozy, pop-top camper van alternative? California startup Reform makes it easy with its sleek Nesty roof-top tent (RTT). Bolt it onto your vehicle roof rack, fold it out and enjoy a cozy, organized shelter with built-in lighting and clear views of the sky.
The Nesty story started out with a familiar #vanlife tale. Disillusioned with corporate life, company founder Ryan Minarik realized his passion was really his 1980 VW Westfalia and adventures enjoyed therein. So in 2016, he began paring down his life's belongings, focusing on van life/tiny home-style minimalism.
Minarik also became interested in the simplified living experiences of others and began having conversations with such "more with less"-type folks, starting a blog and community called Reform Life. He used what he learned and took the plunge into full-time road living a year ago, leaving his job and everyday life behind to split time between cruising the coastline in his Westfalia and venturing into the mountains in his 4x4 truck.
Since hitting the endless road, Minarik and Reformed Life have continued sharing experiences and encouraging others to find simplicity and happiness on the road and in the outdoors. The Reform brand and the Nesty tent launch as an extension of that objective.
While van life freed him, Minarik realized that not everyone is up for engine fires and never-ending wrenching on decades old vans. Nesty is designed to promote all the passion of open road adventure while doing away with the headaches of restoring, upfitting and maintaining classic campers.
"Van life requires a bigger leap of faith in time and money to renovate or buy a vehicle, which I know is not for everyone," Minarik explains. "It's a real commitment. My goal with the Nesty was to recreate that atmosphere I found with my van but in a format that works with most vehicles and for much less."
Like a camper van, the roof-top tent is always at the ready, turning a standard passenger vehicle into an adventure camper full of possibility. Unlike a camper van, the roof-top tent is affordable and free of DIY headaches, save for some basic hoisting and bolting.
Roof-top tents have existed for a long time, so Minarik isn't really inventing the wheel. But he has applied his own on-road experiences to the Nesty tent design, going so far as to rhyme it with "Westy," the tool of his own van life trade and, generally, a timeless icon of road trips and van living the world over.
Minarik's first order of business was to address the bulkiness of the RTT in order to make the Nesty easier to manage and more aerodynamic than average, a roof-top tent for all types of vehicles. When packed up, the Nesty stands 8 in (20 cm) high at the sides and 10 in (25 cm) down the middle of the package, where the ladder sits.
Reform says that's roughly 33 to 46 percent slimmer than other roof-top tents, and while there are a couple outliers that are as slim or slimmer, a look at this rather comprehensive guide shows that RTTs from major brands tend to measure between 11 and 16 in (279 and 406 mm) tall when packed. Exceptions include the Arb Kakadu (8 in) and the simply named Front Runner Roof Top Tent (7.9 in).
Slimmer is always nice, but we're not sure a lost inch or two will persuade many buyers. But the Nesty has some other nice features, starting with the integrated lighting string that comes standard. Some other RTT manufacturers offer integrated or accessory lighting, and it's not exactly hard to set up on your own, but as a simplified, plug-and-play package, the Nesty eliminates that potential side project or accessory purchase, giving you light straight out of the box.
The Nesty also comes standard with a feature that has grown popular in other RTTs, from brands like Tepui and Treeline Outdoors – a skylight panel. Gently relaxing away to sleep while looking up at the star-filled skies is one of the real joys of camping, so it's nice to see RTT manufacturers incorporating these panels into their tents. Reform's transparent PVC panel also brings in natural light during the day and can be closed off with a zip shade.
Beyond the skylight, the Nesty has mesh windows on every wall, keeping the sunlight, breezes and 360-degree views flowing in. The flexible waterproof window covers can be rolled out of the way to open up the bare mesh, secured down to protect occupants from inclement weather, or set up like awnings for a combination of airflow and shade. The support poles used in awning configuration store away neatly and accessibly in a sleeve on the outer front of the tent.
Other features include purposely sized interior pockets for essentials like water bottle, smartphone and 15-in laptop and handy D-rings on the underside of the tent floor for hanging and drying items at camp.
The Nesty is made from breathable poly-cotton ripstop fabric set on a sturdy aluminum base. A 420 D polyester removable rain fly adds waterproof protection. The tent weighs 110 lb (50 kg) and can hold up to 660 lb (300 kg), though the latter number will also depend upon the rating of your vehicle roof. The integrated 93 x 53 x 2-in (236 x 135 x 5-cm) foam mattress provides a comfy night of sleep for two or three people.
Reform is hosting a Nesty Kickstarter campaign now. The lowest early bird pledge level has expired, but the tent is available at the US$1,450 level until April 30, after which it will bump up to $1,650. Retail is estimated at $2,250. Shipping is only available in the US, for a $275 flat rate (Lower 48), and LA-area pickup is also available. If all goes along as planned, deliveries will begin in July.
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