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Baroud rooftop tent installation on 2015 Toyota 4Runner

Rooftop Accommodations

Bob CarpenterPhotographer, Writer

If tent camping seems like an attractive way of getting away from it all, but you don't want the hassle of setting up and transporting all the equipment, a rooftop tent is definitely worth considering. James Baroud makes hard-shell rooftop tents that pop up and are usable in mere seconds, and they go back together almost as quick.

The Explorer Evolution 2015 shown here has room for two adults and a child. Designed for maximum airflow with lots of screens, air circulates freely through the tent. A solar-powered vent is built into the upper hull for even more ventilation. The fan can also be reversed to draw condensation out of the tent.

Inside, two removable storage pockets and a ceiling storage net help keep your things out of the way and organized. There is a built-in luggage rack on top of the hull. It's designed to hold a 35-inch tire, but not the wheel, as there is a 65-pound limit. The outer shell is constructed of fiberglass fortified polyester. Aerodynamic ribs have been integrated into the shell to add strength and improve wind noise. The fabric is aluminized polyester with an acrylic coating that is 100 percent waterproof, breathable, UV resistant, non-perishable, and reflects the sun's rays. The 2015 model has additional windows for better cross-ventilation—this is critical when it's hot out. We've all been in stuffy, super-heated tents, and that's not going to happen with this James Baroud rooftop tent.

Opening the shell is extremely simple and takes maybe a minute. All you have to do is release the catches and then the top half of the shell lifts up and pops into place automatically, thanks to the four AL-KO gas struts. There's no rain fly to attach, no wire stays to worry about—nothing you have to do. Furthermore, closing the tent is just about as easy, something that can't be said for many similar products. You pull the shell down by hand and the sides are automatically drawn into the hull by the elasticized seam. There is a little tucking involved to make sure you don't pinch any fabric. After you secure the latches, you're on your way. It takes five minutes or less to do. James Baroud is a European company and builds their products to exacting ISO world standards. A five-year warranty on the fabric, hull, and mechanism adds some peace of mind.

The owner of this ’15 Toyota 4Runner went to Nomad Ventures in Escondido, California, to have a Baroud rooftop tent installed, and we tagged along to see just what's involved. Nomad Ventures has four stores in Southern California and prides itself on being the go-to store for outdoor enthusiasts. If you're into climbing, kayaking, mountaineering, trail running, or more, this place has all the right equipment. And it’s a dealer for James Baroud because outdoor enthusiasts have to sleep at some point, right?

Before the Baroud tent can be installed on a vehicle, there must be a rack mounted on top. BajaRack has the perfect racks for the job (they are even named “Camper Shell Racks” so Nomad Ventures highly recommends and installs them).

The ’15 Toyota 4Runner has a factory roof rack that's nearly flush with the vehicle, which isn’t good enough to mount a rooftop tent on, so we used it to mount the BajaRack camper shell rack. There are plastic corner pieces that can be removed and then the BajaRack mounts are installed in that location. Anti-seize on the threads of the bolts will ensure that the elements don't permanently attach the bolts to the vehicle. All of the hardware is supplied with the BajaRack. It should be tightened firmly but not forced.

Lifting the Baroud rooftop tent onto the 4Runner is definitely a three-person job. Unless you're quite macho and have something to prove, that is. It weighs about 150 pounds. The hardware supplied by Baroud turned out to be too long for our application so Nomad Ventures shortened the threads by about 1/2-inch.

Getting the mounts under the tent is a task that definitely requires help from at least one other person. The U-shaped clamps have to be slid into channels under the tent and then clamped onto the BajaRack. After all the clamps are in place and nearly snug, the tent needs to be positioned correctly. You will find yourself rearranging the clamps multiple times to get them in the right position.

The clamps that hold the top half of the shell down are nice and big, easy for even big meaty hands to operate. After releasing the clamps, the tent pops right up thanks to the gas struts from AL-KO. You can release the front or the back first, then walk around to the other side and release those clamps.

In mere seconds the tent is up and ready for you to board. The strap makes it easy to grab onto the top and yank it back down when you're ready to head out of camp. There are sturdy hooks on both passenger and driver sides of the tent for the included lightweight aluminum ladder that aids entry into the tent.

The supplied ladder is quite long and will be useful when there are terrain issues. All of the materials used in making the Baroud rooftop tent are top notch. It should last for a very long time. The warranty is five years.

Ample windows and lots of fold-downs allow for plenty of cross ventilation.

Storage locations are designed to hold a lot, and keep it out of the way. This ceiling net is perfect for lots of things.

Outside Dimensions (inches)
Length- 79
Width- 55
Height Closed- 13
Height Open- 38

Inside Dimensions (inches)
Length- 78
Width- 54.25
Height- 37