Gear Review: Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent
A Worth Alternative to RV Camping
As Colorado natives, getting outdoors is a huge part of our lives, which has led to prioritizing family camping trips. But with high gas prices and inflation this past summer, we found ourselves taking fewer RV outings due to the increased cost. Thanks to a reduced budget, we found ourselves limited in how far we could go and how long we could stay.
But recently, we found a solution that allows us to continue going on adventures while saving money and removing some of the time and hassle that can come with RV travel. We’d wanted to invest in a rooftop tent for our car for quite some time, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to try it out. We hope this review will help other campers determine if it’s a good solution to help them get outdoors more, too.
What is a Rooftop Tent and Why Would an RVer Want One?
A rooftop tent is a tent that attaches to the top of your car, truck, or SUV. These tents have grown in popularity in recent years, offering a great alternative to sleeping on the ground. Camping in a rooftop tent provides an added feeling of safety and comfort, thanks in part to its elevated position. And while it isn’t quite the same as camping in an RV, it is an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
As campers for most of our lives, we swore off tent camping several years ago after getting caught in a terrible rain storm that flooded our tent and broke all of our poles. We had driven two hours to get to the campsite and spent about an hour setting up camp, only to turn around and go home because everything was soaked and ruined.
We most recently spent several years traveling the country full-time in an RV and were so spoiled in our motorhome that we feared we would never be able to go back to a more traditional camping style. That said, we’ve missed the peace and quiet that comes with finding a secluded campsite all to yourself, which is much more possible when tent camping. We’d especially love to share that experience with our children, just as we enjoyed it when we were kids.
Having a rooftop tent can be the perfect middle ground between standard tent camping and RVing. It provides a little more luxury than sleeping in a traditional tent but offers the flexibility and versatility of car camping. And while we don’t necessarily plan to replace our RV adventures with a rooftop tent, we love that we now have the choice between the two experiences.
We decided to give Venture Forward’s rooftop tent a try because we’ve used and loved their camping products in the past. They make a variety of camping gear, including comfortable chairs, RV patio mats, and tents. This gave us confidence in the Venture Forward brand and its rooftop tent models.
Outer Shell and Canvas Design & Quality
The outer shell of the Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent is made of ABS + PMMA composite material. Not all rooftop tents have a hard outer shell, so this was a significant benefit, in our opinion. It keeps the tent protected from the elements when it’s not open. The sleek body also minimizes wind resistance, improving fuel efficiency and safety while on the road.
The canvas part of the tent is polyurethane-coated, which means it’s 100% waterproof, breathable, and UV-resistant. There are zippered entryways on two sides of the tent with mesh windows on the other sides, allowing for good airflow and lovely views in every direction. Another added benefit is the windows is that the mesh netting allows a breeze to pass through while keeping insects at bay.
Mattress & Comfort
The tent’s interior is much more spacious than it appears and comfortable enough for two people. Its floor is a thick foam mattress covered in a moisture-resistant cover that is easy to remove for cleaning. We found the bed quite firm but comfortable for one night, but on extended trips, you may want to add some extra padding.
Inside the tent, you’ll find storage pockets for small items, such as a cellphone, flashlight, and a set of keys. There’s also an LED nightlight that is surprisingly bright and comes in handy when crawling into bed after dark. Some rooftop tents have sides that extend much like slide-outs on an RV, but we didn’t feel the need for any extra space for just the two of us. However, individuals who are taller than six feet may want to look for a model that provides some extra room.
Quick Installation & Set Up
It took us about thirty minutes to install the Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent to the top of our Honda CRV. It’s important to note that the company recommends using it on vehicles with three-bar roof racks. If you’re like us and your car only has a two-bar system, you’ll just need to ensure the load capacity of each rack can hold the tent’s weight.
Speaking of weight, it took both of us to lift the tent high enough to get it onto the roof of our car. The brackets that attach the tent to the roof rails are a bit tricky to tighten due to the lack of space, but they feel very secure. Once locked down, we didn’t worry about it shifting around while driving.
Once we got the rooftop tent out in the wild, we were thrilled with how quick it was to set up. After unlatching the shell, the hydraulic support struts simply pop the tent up on their own. It was a bit trickier to close, though, requiring both of us to pull down on the sides. Thankfully, A pair of built-in straps made that process somewhat more manageable.
We also loved that the telescoping ladder is easy to attach and automatically adjusts to your vehicle’s height. The ladder makes it a breeze to climb up to the roof and conveniently stores inside the tent when closed.
Does the Tent Perform Well?
The Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent is perfect for camping road trips for couples or individuals. In our case, we would likely need a little more space to bring along our son, but it will be perfect for father-son fishing trips or getaways for just the two of us.
We were very impressed with the quality of the tent. The hard outer shell does an excellent job of protecting the canvas fabric, keeping it in good condition for years to come. The tent’s other components—including the zippers, mesh netting, and stitching—are also very durable and well made. We also love that the mattress cover is removable, making it easy to keep clean.
The only challenges we faced with the rooftop tent were installation and closing it after use. Its installation requires quite a bit of clearance between your roof and the rack. In fact, we couldn’t install it on the car we originally wanted to put it on because the roof rack design did not provide enough space. You’ll want about 3 ½ – 4 inches of clearance to make it fit properly.
Setting up the tent was quick and straightforward. However, we found that closing the tent is a two-person job, which isn’t what was advertised. We discovered that one of us could easily pull down one side of the tent, but then the closed side would pop right back up when pulling down on the opposite side. It required both of us to work together on either side at the same time. For us, that wasn’t a significant problem, but it could be a dealbreaker for solo campers.
That said, the Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent offers a great elevated tent camping experience once you get it installed and set up. The positives easily outweigh a few negatives, in our opinion, making this a fun and enjoyable alternative to RV camping.
How Does it Compare to the Competition?
There are a variety of rooftop tents on the market today, all with their own set of features and characteristics. We haven’t personally tried any of the models offered by Venture Forward’s competitors, but we did some research and found three very similar options to use as a comparison.
The most notable difference we found between the Venture Forward tent and its competitors was the price. Venture Forward is a great entry-level model and perfect for beginners, which is one of the reasons we selected it.
The first competitor we came across was the Roam Rambler. The biggest difference compared to our model is that the Rambler has a shell made of fiberglass, which is a more durable material. That durability comes at a price, however, adding over $1000 to the cost.
The next competitor was the Freespirit Recreation Evolution Hard Top Tent. This one claims that its mattress is exceptionally comfortable, and its tri-layer technology is suitable for use in four seasons. Unfortunately, it sells for about $4,000.
The most comparable competitor I found was a hard-shell rooftop tent made by Trustmade. The only differences we could find were price and weight, with the Trustmade tent coming in considerably heavier. The Venture Forward was hard enough for the two of us to lift onto the roof. We can’t imagine adding an extra 80 pounds!
Our research confirmed that the Venture Forward is a good starter rooftop tent. It offers very similar features and benefits at an affordable price tag. Whether or not it works for you will greatly depend on how often you’ll be using it and how experienced a rooftop camper you are. Your budget will also play a role, as some alternative models are quite expensive.
Should You Buy the Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent?
You truly can’t beat the cost of the Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent. But you also aren’t sacrificing much in terms of durability and features at that lower price. We can confidently say it’s worth buying this model, provided you know the tradeoffs that come along with it.
We’re pleased with the performance of this tent. If you’ve read through this review and are okay with the installation process and tear-down challenges, the size and sleeping capacity, and the possible need for extra mattress padding, we would recommend it.
Specifications and Details
The Venture Forward Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent’s capacity is listed as two to three people. However, in our experience, we felt it would be a little tight to have our toddler sleep in it with us. It is most comfortable for two adults or maybe three children. Venture Forward says that it has a weight limit of 660 pounds, which is more than enough to hold two adults plus bags and belongings.
As you would expect, the dimensions differ when the tent is open versus closed. Open it is 84.5″L x 51″W x 43.1″H and closed it is 84.5″L x 51″W x 11.6″H. The weight of the tent itself is 123 pounds.
Buy the Venture Forward Hardshell Rooftop Tent at Camping World. And Follow Dan and Lindsay’s outdoor adventures at FollowYourDetour.com.