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Testing Yakima’s $1,000 Rooftop Tent: What’s the Money Get You?

SkyRise 2

Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

Yakima is well known for its line of rooftop and bumper-mount products ranging from bike racks to storage pods, ski racks, kayaks, and more. But for such an outdoorsy company it hadn’t really ventured into the camping genre. Until just recently, that is.

Last spring the company unveiled prototypes of a new rooftop tent system, dubbed the SkyRise. We got our hands on one of the first preproduction units built for media evaluation and for the past 11 months have been putting it through its paces. Available in two- or three-person configurations, our test model was a small-sized SkyRise 2, which turned out to have the perfect dimensions for your average small SUV or pickup. We mounted it in our 2001 Toyota Tacoma using the company’s BedRock system and spent at least one night in it every few weeks, even if it was only in the driveway. And any time it rained even a little we ran outside to put the tent up because … SoCal.

So what’s the final word? We were able to take the SkyRise 2 on and off our Tacoma singlehandedly. Adding it to the roof of a taller SUV would no doubt take two people. It offers plenty of ventilation for warm-weather use, the 2 1/2-inch foam mattress pad was comfy under the author’s 175-pound frame without any additional padding, and it was quick and easy to set up and fold away. When stored, the vinyl cover cinches to the frame with Velcro around the entire perimeter, keeping the tent nice and dry inside when you’re driving through pouring rain.

However, we weren’t without gripes. The ladder system gave us fits. We didn’t like how it adjusted. The Velcro retaining strap wasn’t strong enough to hold it together when we were unfolding the tent during setup, which allowed the ladder to come crashing down to the ground, impeding tent deployment. Also, in stronger rains we found that water could enter the tent system. It didn’t happen in lighter rains, and you didn’t wake up with a constant faucet trip on your forehead, but there were wet spots on the foam mattress and sleeping bags. The rainfly could stand to be thicker and better sealed at the seams.

Overall, if you’re not inclined to go camping in very inclement weather and are looking for a lightweight above-vehicle sleeping system with a lot of factory mounting options, the small SkyRise 2 or medium SkyRise 3 are worth considering.