I must admit that the Front Runner roof top tent has always been somewhat under my radar. I have always seen it popping up on Ebay and Amazon: it was cheap, but the product image was hazy, the description was short and generic, and lacked anything that would help distinguish the Front Runner from the competition. If you try to google their name, everything else comes up from running shoes to clothing outlets…
So, until I dug my head into researching more info and reviews about the Featherlight 1.3 for my post about cheap roof top tents in the UK, I can honestly tell you that I had easily overlooked the Front Runner.
What a mistake!
About Front Runner, the company
My heart started to soften when I found out that Front Runner manufactures in South Africa. Yes, I know, the materials could be brought in from anywhere else in the world (most likely from China)…but the fact that they have a factory in SA suddenly gave much more credit to them. Still not a lot of info, but better than nothing…
Front Runner FeatherLite 1.3M Roof Top Tent
I must also admit that I am bit surprised that Front Runner only have one (1) roof top tent in their entire product line. They have all sorts of stuff – mainly camping gear & roof racks – but only one roof top tent. Credit to them, they have a matching awning and an annex (a.k.a ‘shower skirt’ – damn they are making it difficult…).
The Featherlight 1.3 – as the name suggests – is 1.3 metres / 4.3’ wide, making it suitable for 2 adults. The other distinguishing features are the low weight (43kg / 93 lbs) and the low profile (200 mm / 7.87“)
Dimensions (L x W x H):
Opened: 2.5m x 1.3m x 1.4m / 96” x 53” x 55”
Closed: 1.25m x 1.3m x 0.2 m / 49” x 53” x 7.97” incl. ladder
Ladder: 45.3” – 80.9” x 13.8” x 3.5” / 115cm – 205cm x 35cm x 9 cm
Total weight of all components: 43kg / 93lbs
The whole tent sits on an insulated aluminium base. The canvas is made of 400 Dernier Oxford tent fabric, making it strong, breathable, mould resistant and most importantly, waterproof. The rainfly is made of a similar weather-proof material, but it is only 200D thick.
The whole tent seems very well constructed, the materials used have a feeling of quality and the zippers don’t feel cheap either. Maybe because how the whole tent functions, it gives you a sense of trust: everything is thought through, well designed and well made.
I can certainly feel the benefits of the fact that Front Runner was founded by people who actually lived this lifestyle and their main drive was to design gear that would not fail.
These are small things, such as the doors and windows that close upwards, so you only open it depending on how much privacy you need. Or that the tent opens up seamlessly and despite the tight measurement it folds down with the same effortless manner. Or that you don’t need to install additional extrusions as it comes standard with an aluminium extrusion for securing the annex.
It just gives the impressions that these guys at Front Runner know what they are doing.
The only area where the FeatherLite falls a bit short – compared to itself – are the straps that secure the cover: the sliders are made of metal but they look rather flimsy, like they can break any time. If there is one suggestion how to make an improvement: I would replace the sliders to decent ones straight away.
Despite using thinner materials than other, more popular brands, customer reviews highlight that it is a 4-season tent with good insulation capacity.
Ease of Use
First off, thanks to its compact size and low weight the FeatherLite is much easier to handle than most other roof tents. It is easier to pop onto your vehicle – and it fits on most vehicles! The tent rails come loose that gives you the flexibility to adjust them to any crossbar on any vehicle. If you use it with the FeatherLite roof rack you need to get hold of the matching brackets too.
You can fit it in any direction (sideways, front entrance, rear entrance) and you don’t need to leave it on top of your car when you don’t use it: it is easy enough to remove it.
As mentioned before, folding it open is a one-man job: unstrap and remove the cover, grab the ladder and fold the tent open. The alu ladder has pre-drilled holes that secure it in place – it should be long enough for most vehicle, but you can order a ladder extension if required. The body of the tent erects automatically so you only need to insert the hooks into the eyelets on the top.
It should not take more than 5 minutes, and the instructions that come with the tent are pretty straightforward too.
You and your better half can rest on a 64mm 2.5” High Density foam mattress. It comes with a removable washable canvas cover, so it is easy to keep it clean. As said before, the windows and door privacy panels zip closed upwards, so that the size of the opening can be adjusted according to privacy needs or weather conditions. The windows and the door are screened so they can be opened or closed without letting insects in.
You can find a roof ventilator opening with a mosquito screen on the top of the ceiling. It helps reducing condensation while providing a steady source of ventilation.
In terms of pockets there are two. It is not a lot, but it is better than nothing, at least you can store some gear inside. There are velcro loops overhead that could be used for to hang lights and other items.
The full height of the tent is 140cm / 55”. The useful headspace inside is slightly less, but the Front Runner is high enough to sit up comfortably.
Customer reviews commend the helpfulness and professionalism of the on-call staff. So it is good to know that whatever issue comes up there is someone who can help you sort it.
On the other hand there is one thing I did not like: it is the complete lack of (information on) manufacturer warranty. None. Nada. So it is only your Amazon / Ebay money back guarantee if there is something wrong with it…Sad.
What I liked about the FeatherLite
There is quite a lot to like about the FeatherLite but the most important for me is, that despite its low weight and lighter canvas it remained weather-proof. It easily withstands a sudden thunderstorm with heavy winds without letting a drip of water inside.
What I did not like about the FeatherLite
It is a shame that it only comes in one colour and one size. Secondly – although there are two compatible awnings and one annex – the Front Runner also lacks other accessories such as an anti-condensation mat or an extra inner insulation.
For UK buyers the most obvious alternative is the Ventura Deluxe 1.4: it is not just bigger, but – at the moment – it is cheaper as well. For more alternatives please have a look at this article.
For US buyers it is a bit more complicated. The Tepui Kukenam Baja series roof top tents are in the price range, they are similar size too. But even the ultralight Baja Kukenam 3 is heavier than the Front Runner, despite using much thinner 70D canvas. The Expolorer Series starts from $1150 (Explorer Ayer 2), however the Ayer 2 is much smaller than the Frunt Runner.
The Kukenam 3 is slightly more expensive, however the materials are slightly thicker too. The whole unit is considerably heavier (130lbs). The Kukenam 3 is a great little roof tent (please see my review here), but perhaps I recommend it for those who’d like to customise their roof tent a bit more, there are more colors etc.
The Yakima roof top tents come with a low price tag too. The Yakima SkyRise Small is much smaller than the Front Runner, while the Medium is much heavier (and more expensive).
Where to Buy the Front Runner FeatherLite
The lowest price for the Front Runner FeatherLite is on Amazon, however, do check the links for the current price:
Amazon UK £819 + shipping, OR
Ebay UK £1120 + shipping at the time of writing this article, but do check the price.
Amazon US – approx. $1,263 + shipping, but it changes all the time
Ebay US – approx. $1475 + shipping
So, is the FeatherLite an underdog? I do believe so. If you are looking for a practical, good-quality, yet cheap roof top tent without the ‘fanciness’, then the FeatherLite is for you. It has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Cheaper then the competition while most if its features are way better.
Front Runner FeatherLite Roof Top Tent Review Summary
|Exteriors||4 / 5|
|Ease of Use||4 / 5|
|Interiors||4 / 5|
|Customer Care||2 / 5|
|Value for Money||4.5 / 5|
|Overall||3.7 / 5 Not Bad|
|• Low profile, low weight|
• Quality of materials used
• Plenty of smart ideas
• Easy set-up
|• No warranty (??)
• 1 size, 1 colour option
|Best Price (Click to check current price)|
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