Outdoors

Tepui's new roof-top tent carries gear and camps out

Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
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Inside, the White Lightning features a high-density foam mattress
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Inside, the White Lightning features a high-density foam mattress
The removable fabric can change the warmth of the tent and turn tent into cargo box
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The removable fabric can change the warmth of the tent and turn tent into cargo box
The integrated roof rails make it easy to mount racks and gear
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The integrated roof rails make it easy to mount racks and gear
The White Lightning makes it easy to carry gear and a roof-top tent on your car
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The White Lightning makes it easy to carry gear and a roof-top tent on your car
Closeup of White Lightning mounting
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Closeup of White Lightning mounting
Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
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Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
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Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overaldn Expo 2016 in May
The prototype still had a rough, work-in-progress design at Overland Expo
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The prototype still had a rough, work-in-progress design at Overland Expo
Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overland Expo 2016 in May
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Tepui shows the Project White Lightning prototype at Overland Expo 2016 in May
We tried opening and closing it, and it was a true breeze
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We tried opening and closing it, and it was a true breeze

Last month at Overland Expo, Tepui previewed its all-new hard shell tent. It was so fresh from the manufacturing plant that it didn't even have a name, outside of "Hard Shell Tent." The company has now labeled it Project White Lightning and put it up on Kickstarter. The new tent offers the most comprehensive feature set we've seen on a roof-top tent, including integrated roof rails, the ability to double as a roof-top cargo box and a low-profile design that shouldn't take away too many mpgs on your campground commute.

Tepui calls the Project White Lightning the first rack-ready, ultra-low-profile hard shell roof tent, and a look around the market shows a lot of competitor hard shells that stand between 12 and 14 in (30 and 36 cm) when closed (versus a listed 8 in/20 cm for the White Lightning), along with a lot of smooth tops with no rails. The White Lightning's rails run the length of the thinned out mid-section, allowing you to attach cross rails and racks for carrying things like bikes and water sports equipment.

We tried opening and closing it, and it was a true breeze
We tried opening and closing it, and it was a true breeze

To make the design even more convenient, Tepui has built the tent to open with the gear still mounted. In fact, it says that with the proper gas strut supporting the weight of the roof, racks and gear, you can sleep inside under your bikes and surfboards. The interchangeable gas strut design allows you to match the strut to the weight of your load.

Many people will only use a roof-top tent in the warmer months, meaning it will sit on the roof without a purpose for part of the year or need to be pulled off and stored. Tepui is aiming for more year-round versatility with the White Lightning. The tent canvas can be removed, turning roof-top tent into watertight roof-top cargo box. The slim design will be a disadvantage in packing up gear, but being able to camp out in the summer and carry things like ski equipment in the winter is a nice selling point.

The removable tent fabric can also be swapped out. Different weights of fabric could be used for lighter, cooler summer configurations and heavier four-season layouts. Tepui's "Platinum" Kickstarter package includes mesh, nylon and aluminized Mylar fabrics for more versatile roof-top camping.

Inside, the White Lightning features a high-density foam mattress
Inside, the White Lightning features a high-density foam mattress

Having tried the prototype gas strut system out at Overland Expo, we can attest to the fact that the gas struts make it super-easy to open and close in a matter of seconds. Inside the fiberglass shell, the White Lightning sleeps two on a 2.5-in (6.3-cm) thick foam mattress.

We've seen roof-top tents with some of the features of the White Lightning before. For instance, the Camper Case from Wild Boar Products has roof storage, and the Roost tent has removable fabric and cargo box functionality. We've never seen the entire feature set integrated into one streamlined tent, though, and the White Lightning definitely looks like a versatile, all-season tool.

Tepui is currently hosting a short Kickstarter campaign to raise the money it needs for production tooling. It's offering the basic White Lightning for a pledge level of US$2,850 and the White Lightning "Charged" with 7 W solar panel, 30 Wh battery pack and LED camping light for $3,230. The $4,000-level White Lightning Sky includes the solar kit plus an operable skylight, while the flagship $7,500-level White Lightning Platinum (available as a 1 of 1) includes the skylight, a larger solar package with 20 W panel and 58 Wh battery, internal LED lighting, the three aforementioned interchangeable fabrics, two sets of gas struts customized to your desired load rating, and a custom vinyl wrap of your choosing.

Tepui plans to build the White Lightning in the USA, having developed the prototype in Hood River, Oregon. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in November.

Sources: Tepui, Kickstarter

3 comments
sutski123
No new innovation here that I can see. My Autohome Columbus Roof-tent is almost identical, but has way, way more headroom. You can also attach bars for gear carrying to it and in the winter (in Switzerland) I take out the mattress and use it to carry my skiis in. It also comes with integrated/removable mosquito nets, two access doors and a MASSIVE openable front end, ideal for those high-level daytime siestas :) - Not sure what is so good/new about this box mentioned here. It is also certainly NOT the first rack-ready, ultra-low-profile hard shell roof tent (Mine is only 12" high when closed!) Check it out here: http://www.autohomeus.com/roof-top-tent/columbus-variant-tent.php - Cheers!
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is really nice. I have seen similar ones; roof top tents. It looks like something that could be placed on a trailer and towed. I think that would be a good idea for smaller cars that can not hold that much on the roof and it would make it easier to get into and out of for those who don't want to climb on the roof of a car.
GlassHalfEmpty
@BigGoofyGuy Are you suggesting a dedicated trailer for towing the roof tent? That is the funniest thing I heard in long time. How about, um, just dropping a tent in the trunk!