Tembo 4×4 Rooftop tent
We’ve all seen the pictures of Land Rovers and Toyotas equipped with a rooftop tent traveling through Africa. Some say it’s the perfect image of adventure. You know why? Because a rooftop tent gives you the best bedroom view on the campsite, it provides you with a ventilated bedroom, comes with a king-size memory foam mattress and saves you valuable space inside the car.
So a rooftop tent is easy and comfortable, but it also opens up your holiday for more adventure. For example, you don’t have to worry about uneven ground or a campsite. After a full day of adventure you just look for a horizontal spot in the middle of nowhere, park the car and flip the tent open. So when you arrive at the ultimate campspot your basecamp will be set up in minutes, leaving more time to enjoy the birds, the beer or the bonfire. Reasons enough for us to look for a rooftop tent!
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Why a rooftop tent?
It’s clear that we were all in for a rooftop tent. The only two questions we had when looking for one were: which type and which brand. First you should start looking at which type you want. This can be a hard-shell pop-up or a soft-shell fold-open type. The first can be very expensive and takes up a lot of space on the roof, but is easier to set up and causes less wind resistance when driving. The latter type is normally a bit cheaper, takes less space on the roof and has more inside space, but has more wind drag and it takes a few minutes longer to set up. We went for the soft-shell rooftop tent primarily because of the price, but you don’t hear us complaining about the huge bed and the fact that it can open up over the back of the truck, which creates a dry working space to prepare dinner.
Which brand to go for wasn’t an easy decision. Brands like EezyAwn, Hannibal, Maggiolina and Howling Moon are very commonly mentioned, yet they are fairly pricy (at least to beginning overlanders). But as with every trend, imitations soon flood the market to offer a similar product for a smaller price. During the last couple of years mostly Chinese brands have evolved into developing rooftop tents, with now nearly every outdoor specialist having their own brand. It sounds crazy to us, but it did give us more options to look into. The choice however wasn’t easy, as every imitation brand has something to make them stand out. Nonetheless, almost all imitation tents lack the high quality canvas that would give us peace of mind during the windy nights.
Why the Tembo 4×4?
Tembo 4×4 has been on the market for a long time and therefore has lots of experience in the overlanding world. Only recently they added the rooftop tents to their product range and that’s for good reason. They took their time to improve their tent to give you the best value for their fair price. Their tents fall in the same price range as the Chinese ones, but they come with the high quality fabric of the American and South-African brands. For us this was the match we were looking for!
The tent itself is made of a poly-cotton mix with a brownish color, which gives it a natural look and doesn’t heat up quickly in the morning. Covering the top of the tent is the green 420D polyester flysheet, which acts as an extra rain barrier and creates a double roof that keeps the inside of the tent cooler. The tent has two entrances; one on the side of the ladder and one on the opposite side, both of which are provided with roll-up mosquito mesh. The two sides have windows that are also covered with mosquito mesh and are covered by small awnings which keep the rain out.
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Now let’s talk about reality and how this rooftop tent holds up in nature. Particularly the daunting experiences that really make or break a product and your adventure with it. Can it handle the weather? Let’s find out!
The cold never stopped us
No matter the weather, you can always find us out camping! For us it doesn’t matter if it’s 35+ °C, or -15 °C, we will be fine. We will admit it can be quite the hassle to set up or fold in the tent when it’s raining or snowing, but it is very doable. It’s just that a rooftop tent on a 4×4 is much more adventurous and will, in many cases, provide you with a more unique experience. It’s the type of travel we linger for!
Up to now, we’ve conquered the cold many times. As long as you take your warm sleeping bag with you, you’ll be perfectly fine during the night. We’re happy to say that the Tembo 4×4 rooftop tent has held up very well during numerous snow-storms. It can handle the weight of the extra snow well and water doesn’t leak through. The only problem that arises during rare situations is when ice is forming on the flysheet, which makes folding it in a bit more fiddly. We found that it’s better to remove the ice before folding in the tent. Normal snowy conditions are luckily no problem at all. We love to wake up in the morning, surrounded by a white blanket as far as the eye can see. What a feeling! And all of that from the comfort of your own memory foam mattress. Five stars anyone?
Then there have been quite a few times when rain struck our camp. Luckily for us we are always high and dry. In 2018 we were camping in Southern France when disaster struck. The huge amounts of rain flooded many villages, campsites were evacuated and people even got missing. So there we were… well asleep till the morning, until we woke up with a tremendous noise. A storm was passing over and it was raining incredibly hard. There haven’t been many times in our lives that so much water came pouring down. The hours that followed were intense with no end in sight. The water level of the river was rising fast and the stream of water coming from the adjacent hills flooded the campsite.
Due to massive amounts of water many tents flooded. People were taking shelter in the reception area and the police and fire department were on standby. And then there was us, high and dry. We were still warm and comfy high up in our Tembo rooftop tent. Of course we noticed the heavy rain and saw the layer of water running down the campsite, but up in our tent everything was fine. We decided to take out the laptop and watch a movie until the rain passed. No worries and problems there! After 8 hours and 65 mm of rain it cleared out and we were able to explore the area around the campsite.
The tent handled the huge amount of water well. It did not really leak through. The flysheet is waterproof and got rid of any water that landed on it with ease. But after hours of rain the canvas sidewalls of the tent were getting damp. This single-layered canvas is impregnated with a water-repellent, but logically it will absorb some water after hours of rain. It surely won’t leak through, but the fabric will get damp.. It’s a very good compromise between waterproofing and breathability if you ask us. Newer versions of the Tembo rooftop tents even come with a mattress that has a water-repellent cover on the bottom and sides, thus preventing moisture leaking through by contact. Just make sure your sleeping bag doesn’t touch the wet fabric and you’ll be fine.
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- High quality 380 gram Rip-Stop canvas resistant to tearing, behaves well in high winds and keeps the sun out in the morning
- Green cover made of hard-wearing PVC, which is a great color to reduce the heat in and on the tent cover
- Sliding stairs instead of telescopic ones, the latter tends to clog up with sand and the souplesse will surely disappear
- Great color combination (looks & practicality)
- Extra horizontal pole above the ladder to prevent a sag
- Very good ventilation
- Mosquito mesh
- Easy to set up
- Improved matress & matress cover
- Improved fabric
- Improved flooring
- No window in the cover above the stairs, but this feature is unique to a very select few tents.
- Aluminium base/floor in stead of marine-ply that breathes. Be aware of condensation in some climates. Although the new matress cover compensates for this!
Would we buy it again?
It’s good to know the tent can handle our way of travel and the elements we encounter on the road. Having a rooftop tent is great and provides us with amazing adventures. In extreme conditions we would advise you to buy a condensation mattress which is placed under the memory foam mattress and prevents moisture from building up. It’s great in very cold conditions to get rid of condensation, perfect in hot climates to get rid of perspiration.
Would we buy this tent again? Yes we would! Would we still buy it when we compare it to other brands? Why? Because it’s made of great quality materials, has a supportive company behind it, and has a superb price to quality ratio. Unfortunately, due to a shift in focus, Tembo has stopped producing the rooftop tents. If you however find one in someone’s garage, don’t let it go to waste!
Safe travels and find your new adventure!
Disclaimer: we’re not sponsored by Tembo 4×4. But we do like to work with (and for) companies that stand by their products and offer great support when necessary. Great relationships keep us on the road with peace of mind. We hope you did like this equipment review.