If one thing was crystal-clear at the recent RVX show, it was that the RV industry is pushing hard to attract young, adventurous buyers, from full-time van-lifers to hard-charging weekend warriors. Those folks need off-grid shelter, and they need a way of carrying bikes to the trailhead, or SUPs to the shoreline. But they don't always have the budget for a $150,000 4x4 camper van with convertible garage or a $60,000 toy-hauler trailer. The new Roofnest Sandpiper is a simpler alternative for turning an Outback or 4Runner into a gear-hauling mini-RV for two. A roof-top tent with factory-mounted roof rails, the Sandpiper offers flexibility in carrying shelter and gear deep into the wild.
While bikes and skis are compact enough to ride in various places in and outside the vehicle, long, single-piece vessels like canoes and stand-up paddleboards tend to demand roof space ... or a hitched-up trailer. And if your vehicle roof is already gobbled up by a roof-top tent (RTT), your options get limited fast.
More and more, though, roof-top tent makers are integrating gear-carry solutions into their hard-topped tents. Roofnest enters the fray with the Sandpiper, giving the Tepui White Lightning (now simply called Lightning) and iKamper X-Cover some competition in offering outdoor adventurers the chance to have their cakes and eat them too.
The Sandpiper is a low-profile, two-person RTT with a fiberglass-reinforced ABS shell. It sets up in seconds by simply unclipping four latches and lifting swiftly with the help of inner struts. After climbing up the telescoping ladder and inside the polyurethane-coated poly-cotton walls, campers will enjoy the comfort of a 2.8-inch-thick (7-cm) high-density foam mattress. The shell itself is insulated with quilted padding for added comfort, and included storage pockets can be clipped inside or out to hold anything from shoes to personal carry like phones and wallets.
The Sandpiper is equipped for deep, reliable breathing thanks to doorways on all four sides, each with its own zippered mesh screen. The included anti-condensation mattress helps the screens keep air moving and condensation retreating. The four-door set-up also provides some flexibility in entering and exiting, and the standard mesh ground mat waiting below puts a buffer between chilly bare toes and cold, dank dirt.
Unlike the average roof tent, the 150-lb (68-kg) Sandpiper has integrated tubular aluminum rails for mounting up racks for bicycles, skis, kayaks, paddleboards and other equipment. The rails can carry up to 100 lb (45 kg) when closed, and the tent can pop open with up to 35 lb (16 kg) or so mounted up top.
As compared to the very similar Tepui Lightning, the Sandpiper weighs 45 lb (20 kg) less but also carries 50 lb (23 kg) less on its roof. Floor dimensions are comparable, but the Sandpiper shell is about 3 in (7.6 cm) thicker, at just under 12 in (30 cm), when packed up for the ride. The Sandpiper lacks some of the Lightning's more technical features, like the ventilation fan and interchangeable fabric and struts, but it also promises plenty of natural ventilation with the four-door design and costs significantly less at US$2,795, compared to the Lightning's $4,200 sticker. Roofnest ships all over North America, and Sandpiper shipping starts at a $249 flat rate for any destination in the US Lower 48.
Given the mix of pros and cons, both the Tepui Lightning and Roofnest Sandpiper seem worth a hard look if you're shopping for a gear-hauling RTT. The $2,999 iKamper X-Cover is one to consider for more interior space, as it folds out to sleep three adults or a family of four. After taking more than 600 X-Cover preorders earlier in 2019, iKamper plans to launch regular online ordering in June.
Roofnest started Sandpiper sales earlier this year and is preparing to get its second round of deliveries rolling in mid April.
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