Crua rooftop tent creates a mini RV or modular camping village
Irish-American camping gear specialist Crua Outdoors already has a full line of ground tents, shelters and hammocks to its name, and now it builds its resume with its first rooftop tent (RTT). Incorporating some of the best features from Crua's ground tent line, the innovative AER RTT pitches atop a vehicle roof, on the ground, or in conjunction with additional modular tents to create a multi-story tent village. A hybrid hard-framed/inflatable thermal version of the tent can adventure-camp through the winter.
Most rooftop tent manufacturers are more than happy building and refining tried-and-true designs, but every once in a while a disruptor comes along and shakes up the market with something different. IKamper did it to great effect with its expandable hardshell tent lineup; GentleTent had some fun with its inflatable RTT-raft; and now Crua rolls some signature innovations from years worth of ground tent design into a newly versatile breed of RTT.
From a distance, the Crua AER looks just like any other soft-shell folding rooftop tent, albeit with a separate set of support legs out at the far corners of the base — other RTTs rely solely on the ladder for overhang support. Depending upon model size, the AER sleeps two to three people on a 51 x 89-in (129 x 227-cm) floor or four to five on an 82 x 98-in (209 x 240-cm) floor.
One way Crua sets the AER apart from the RTT pack is by designing it to double as a ground tent. We're guessing virtually no one will be buying the $1,849+ AER to use exclusively as a ground tent, which would basically be shredding money and throwing it into the wind, but the option could certainly come in handy for rooftop campers who want or need to change it up with good old-fashioned ground camping.
The AER removes from its fiberglass- and aluminum-honeycomb base to pitch as a ground tent. Crua says it can be used as a ground tent without any additional equipment but offers a ground frame, carry case and protective under-floor ground sheet for those who plan to do it regularly. The aforementioned GentleTent inflatable RTT can set up as a ground tent, but the AER is the first hard-framed design we can recall seeing with that capability baked in, no large, expensive accessories necessary.
Beyond multifunctional versatility, if we had to pick out two features upon which Crua has established its brand name — before it even had a brand name, in some cases — they'd be thermal construction and modular tent scalability. The company's first rooftop tent doesn't cut ties with those themes, incorporating them into its greater design.
For four-season use, Crua offers its Culla thermal-insulator inner tent as an option. The Culla inflates into shape with an air-beam design and serves as a fully ventilated thermal-regulating barrier for keeping cold out and heat in (or heat out in the summer).
As for modularity, the AER easily secures to other Crua tents to create personalized, expandable roof-to-ground camping spaces. Sleep the entire family or group of friends in a single multi-wing tent compound. The AER can also hook together with other Crua tents when used on the ground, but all forms of connection require optional connector components.
Inside, Crua focuses on maintaining a connection with the outdoors, adding a wraparound window array and dual skylights. A quilted mattress provides a comfortable sleeping surface, and the optional Culla creates a black-out environment for a better night of sleep. Included external boot bags and internal gear pockets keep the interior clean and organized.
We're a little skeptical about Crua's claims of 60-second setup (maybe if you're racing the ticks of a stopwatch), but the AER looks as straightforward to set up as similar folding rooftop tents. While it has the extra support poles below the fold-out deck, it lacks the individual poles often found on the awnings over RTT entryways and windows. The AER entryway frame remains in place and just requires some height adjustment and locking to set up.
Crua is currently hosting an Indiegogo campaign to get the AER off the ground (low-hanging pun fruit), offering the 143-lb (65-kg) 2-/3-person AER for pledge levels starting at $1,849. The base package includes the tent, adjustable ladder, adjustable support poles, mattress, two boot bags and vinyl travel cover. A $2,249 pledge secures a combo package with all those components plus the Culla thermal inner tent and pump. The 174-lb (79-kg) 4-/5-person tent is available at the $2,199 level, the combo at $2,649. All pledge levels are 33 to 35 percent off planned retail prices. Buyers will have the option of picking up their tents at Crua's Ault, Colorado or Kerry, Ireland locations or paying for shipping, which starts at $390.
Crua has raised around $150,000 on a $20,000 campaign goal and still has two weeks left to go. So long as things continue according to plan, it will begin shipping AERs in September — the tail end of summer camping season but a good time to bring that thermal Culla inner along and test it out.
Source: Crua Outdoors