If you were looking over an SUV or truck trying to find the roof-top tent (RTT), the most logical place to look would be ... the roof. But California startup Rubicon Expedition Products wants people to expand their idea of what a roof-top tent is and where it belongs on the vehicle. Its Hitch Tent system drops the roof tent down to hitch level, making it easier to load and unload and freeing up the vehicle for day trips. The integrated frame stands the tent above the cold, rocky ground below.

One advantage of towing a camping trailer versus sleeping in a roof-top tent is that you can quickly unhitch the trailer and leave it set up at camp while you take day trips in your base vehicle. With a roof-top tent, you have to pack down the tent every time you want to use the vehicle — the flip side con to the convenience of having the tent always at the ready atop your truck roof.

You could solve the problem by buying a utility trailer on which to mount the tent, but that may just be more bulk than you want to tow and more dollar than you want to spend. So Rubicon offers a lighter, simpler solution: a hitch-mounted frame that holds your roof top tent vertically behind the tailgate during the ride, then quickly drops down and unhitches so you can stand the tent up at camp. The four legs fold out and adjust in height to level the tent out on flat or uneven ground, and the platform holds up to 600 lb (272 kg).

Beyond the advantage of decoupling the tent from the vehicle, the Hitch Tent design also makes the vehicle less top-heavy and wind-resistant and frees up roof space for other storage. Some drivers will undoubtedly prefer having the extra weight in back versus up high. At camp, the Hitch Tent provides easier ingress/egress for young children, pets and late-night nature calls.

The Hitch Tent is the same idea as the Hitch n' Pitch we looked at a couple years ago but close to market, which still doesn't appear to be the case for the Hitch n' Pitch. Just as we noted in 2017, the idea of a hitch-mounted roof-top tent frame feels way too much like reverse-engineering the simple ground tent while adding a whole lot more to the total cost. Even a large, heavy duty canopy tent should cost well less than the combination of roof-top tent and Hitch Tent and will basically end up providing much the same experience. At least something like the Hitch Hotel provides hard-sided trailer-style accommodations.

We suppose the Hitch Tent system will be more comfortable than a traditional ground tent on particularly hard, rocky, uneven or cold ground, and it looks the part of a cool freestanding shelter, but we just can't fathom many campers spending an extra $1,200+ to turn a three-figure roof-top tent into a ground tent when a standard ground tent with sleeping mattress would provide much the same performance for so much less price.

That said, the overlanding and vehicle camping communities do tend to obsess about tweaking their rigs and camping kits to perfection, making small changes to existing designs or building their own hardware from scratch to make tiny improvements. Small trailer company after small trailer company is born from a story of "I couldn't find the perfect design on the market, so I made my own and now I'm selling it to you." So maybe the Hitch Tent will have more appeal than we're seeing.

Rubicon will hold the official debut of the Hitch Tent at this week's Overland Expo West, where it will offer preordering on the $1,200+ kits. Each one is built from hot-rolled A36 steel and CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum and designed to work with 2-in hitch receivers and most standard two- or three-person soft-sided folding RTTs. Plans call for deliveries to start in September.

New Atlas is heading to Overland Expo this weekend and will be on the hunt for more info about the Hitch Tent and the other cool new camping and off-road products of the show.

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