YOU’VE got to admire the optimism of some 4x4 owners. Pushing through the air what could only be described as a folded apartment, bolted to some equally optimistic roof racks, while valiantly striving for country speed limits.
Possibly the greatest idea since poles and canvas were invented, the rooftop tent (RTT) has given the masses a simple above-ground bedding alternative with quick set-up and pack-down times. They have, however, suffered a bit of a middle-age spread with bigger and more complex examples increasing their size, while increasing the fuel bill for good measure.
Motop decided a simpler approach was needed, and took a razor to the norm, shaving their overall packed height to a slimline 160mm.
Two widths are available with the narrower MT-120 spanning 1200 x 2170mm internally, and the MT-135 giving you and yours a bit more wriggle-room at 1350 x 2170mm. The raised internal height is a generous 1450mm across the range. External measurements add an extra 80mm to the width and length.
BUYER'S GUIDE: Rooftop Tents
The first version of the Motop was launched to the Australian market just over a year ago, but Motop has listened to customer feedback leading to several tweaks and improvements. Currently in its third incarnation, these improvements have included storage netting, a carpeted ceiling, easier to close compression locks, anti-condensation mat, thickening the breathable canvas from 265gsm to 285gsm, and increasing overall length an extra 100mm.
Consisting of two 20mm-thick powder-coated panels, the internal honeycomb structure remains light but adds strength. Joined by three stainless-steel hinges, an extruded edging runs along all four edges of each panel, with a central channel holding captive nut plates which allow mounting of the gas lift struts, compression locks, ladder mounts, handles, or just about anything you’d like to bolt to the sides.
Two mounting rails run the full length of the lower shell, with clamps included to mount to an existing roof rack. Keep in mind your roof-rack’s loaded capacity on and off road, however. While Motop tents are relatively lightweight at 69kg and 73kg respectively, once off road most racks have a reduced load-carrying capacity due to the extra stresses.
Once at camp it’s a simple matter of attaching the 2.3m collapsible ladder, unlocking the latches, and gently pushing up. The gas struts do the lifting until the top panel pulls the canvas tight. A pair of stainless-steel flex poles are inserted into holders to stretch out the rear awning and you’re good to go. After using the tent for several trips I’ve found it seals well in wet weather, whilst keeping the amount of movement in the canvas to a minimum when it’s blowing a gale outside.
Entry windows are available on three sides via the lightweight collapsible ladder, with zipped midge netting keeping insects at bay. The main canvas gives an almost total block-out of light should the need to sleep-in be greater than catching the sunrise, and inside is a large storage net on the ceiling good for magazines or clothes once you’re ready for bed. There’s also small storage pockets on each side, handy for easily misplaced items like keys or phones, and a shoe bag to hang off the ladder.
With such a low profile, the high-density foam mattress comes in at 70mm. The firmness isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I personally found it okay, being identical in thickness to my longtime swag. Motop has again listened to feedback and provided a solution to this (see breakout). If storage is more important than a slimline height, then the MT Plus+ range may interest you. Just announced with an extra 40mm worth of closed space on both models, this can accommodate most bedding and the ladder internally.
Our own standard example had the optional Motop roof racks installed, with an aftermarket solar panel attached between. Motop has since released its own 219W 1050 x 1170mm PV with brackets designed to match the sides and width of the Motop, allowing fitment of up to two PV panels. The beauty of the tent design means I was able to accurately angle the PV towards the sunrise, efficiently recharging the auxiliary batteries from first light.
Since release, the Motop has proved popular amongst campers of all kinds, and importer MW Toolbox Canopy & Trailer has distributors in every state with supplies frequently sold out before shipment arrivals. The strong slimline design combined with the client-driven improvements and comparatively low price compared to other hard-shell designs, sits it well in the marketplace as a great option that works.
MT-120 $3099; MT-135 $3299; 219W solar panel w/ brackets $350.
Roof racks: MT-120 $199 pair; MT-135 $219 pair.
VERSION 4 due for release at the beginning of autumn, comes with a ra:ft of upgrades and optional accessories after taking onboard suggestions from its worldwide customer base:
* 60mm self-inflating mattress allowing some storage of bedding when packed down
* Internal LED light strip
* Rivets deleted along the roof top for better weather sealing
* Six canvas storage pockets to replace the ceiling net
* Custom designed solar panel with brackets (optional)
* Shower tent (optional)
* Awning brackets (optional)
The good news for early adopters is that all upgrades (except the rivets) can be retrofitted to previous iterations of the Motop.