I have been following with great interest, how the Tepui rooftop tents have turned from the mixture of raised eyebrows and stuck-out pinkies into sought-after, popular products among overlanders. However, especially among old-schoolers, they still have a reputation of being bulky and awkward to use due to quality issues, so I wanted to see what a Tepui looks and feels like; and how they compare to other popular rooftop tents, like the Tuff Stuff Ranger or the Arb Simpson 3
Disclaimer: I tried to write this review without any pre-conception, and I was as curious to find out as you are if the Tepui Kukenam is a good deal.
So first things first, the Tepui Kukenam Explorer SKY 3 is available on Amazon. It comes without the annex (unlike the Tuff Stuff Ranger for example). This leads us to the first hurdle: if you would like an Annex for you Tepui, make sure you check the stock availability for the color of your choice for both the tent and the annex (or the awning). Your Olive Green Kukenam would not look great with a Siberian camo annex; although I have seen worse combinations…
Tepui Kukenam Explorer SKY 3 on Amazon: click here to see
Tepui are based out of Santa Cruz, California; an outdoor adventure company that offers high quality roof top camping tents since 2010. You may have heard that Tepui are not a family-owned company anymore, in December 2018 Thule bought Tepui. The management remained the same, so the enthusiasm is still there. The acquisition may enhance the seamless securing of the Tepui tents onto Thule crossbars. Tepui are well-known for their soft-shell canvas roof top tents and now they also have a hard-shell roof tent called the HyBox (see my review here). When they started out, Tepui tents were a bit chubby and heavy, but their product line has seen at least 2-3 upgrades since: they have tents in all sizes and for all purposes from the light-weight Baja Series, to the most popular Explorer series and the heavy-duty Ruggedized series.
The Tepui Kukenam 3 sits on an insulated 56″ x 48″ fibreglass base and weighs only 130lbs. It is only 12” tall when closed so the effect on fuel consumption and road noise are kept to minimal; but do expect a slight 2-3 mpg increase on your travels. Thanks to its A-frame construction it has plenty of headspace – 46” in the centre and 34” on the sides.
The Kukenam SKY is well under most vehicles’ dynamic loading capacity of 165 lbs, and with the universal mounting brackets that come with the Kukenam, it can be mounted by 2 people on the top of virtually any vehicle (larger estates upwards) with any crossbars. Tepui also includes the rachet wrench to tighten the bolts.
Windows / Doors
The Kukenam SKY has tight no-see-um mosquito netting on all windows and doors, the canopy is made of durable canvas with a waterproof coating and the PU coated rainflies with quick release clips. There are two roof windows that can be opened, and with rainfly removed you can enjoy falling asleep while gazing at the starlit night sky. But beware that the SKY panel zippers are not 100% waterproof and a sudden thunderstorm can cause unpleasant moments if you have fully removed the rainflies.
The canopy is made of 260 g Polyester Cotton 600D ripstop fabric with water resistant ventilate coating. It is also UV and mold resistant. The rainfly is 420D Polyester Oxford PU coated fabric. There is a 3 inch gap between the rainfly and the tent, which provides really good insulation and helps keeping a constant temperature inside.
Ease of Use
If you have managed to mount it onto your vehicle you have absolved the greatest challenge using the Tepui Kukenam. It folds open easily and 1 person can set it up in 5-10 minutes – once they have figured out how to set it up correctly cause the manual does not help a lot. You should head straight to Youtube where there are plenty of assembly videos to help you in the process.
A large telescopic ladder comes with the tent that is long enough for taller / bigger vehicles. The steps don’t have a rubber coating though, so be careful, they will be slippery when muddy or wet.
What is not included either are the levelling jacks so make sure you get one or find a level surface to park your car.
The Kukenam 3 offers a 56″ x 96” sleeping footprint, so it is slightly wider than a standard double size bed. Tepui sell the Kukenam as a 3 person tent, however I am not so sure that 3 person could sleep comfortably over a longer period in this tent. The high density foam mattress is 2 ½ inches thick. Your bedding AND the mattress can be stored inside the tent when the tent is folded.
There are 4 pockets inside to store your things and generally it feels roomy inside thanks to the plenty of headspace.
Sadly the Kukenam 3 does not come with an annex, but everything can be bought separately (the Annex for example starts from around $320). As mentioned before, do check that they are available in the color that matches the color of the tent.
You can buy an anti-condensation mat for the Kukenam 3 for $149, however it was sold out the last time I checked.
Internal insulation is available for the Kukenam 3 but, unfortunately it was out of stock too when I was writing this article. It costs an extra $179.
Tepui provides a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty on all material, craftsmanship, and parts. This covers manufacturing defects and they will repair or replace defective items at no cost to the customer during this 2-year period. Many customers have commended the good customer care team for their speedy and helpful manner to sort any issues out.
Tepui Kukenam Explorer SKY 3 best price is $1425 + shipping on Amazon.com
Tuff Stuff Ranger
The Ranger sits on a 58” by 48” insulated aluminium base (slightly longer / bigger than the Kukenam). Although the Ranger is slightly heavier with its 132lbs, it is still light enough to pop it on smaller vehicles. It is 2” higher than the Kukenam, so expect a bit of a wind noise and increased fuel economy when travelling. Initial installation can be quite a challenge: it needs 2 people and takes over 1-2 hours. The space inside the Ranger is identical to the Kukenam SKY 3, the mattress is 2 ½ inches thick too. Set up time takes to 2-3 minutes without the Annex – that needs to be zipped onto the Ranger after it opened. The fabrics used are breathable, UV and mold resistant: the tent fabric is made of 280g ripstop Poly-cotton with PU coating and 420D Polyester/Oxford rainfly with PU coating for water resistance.
The Ranger comes with the Annex included in the price, which adds another 90” by 90” useful space to the footprint of the tent. Its price is very competitive, still under $1.5k, especially if you take into account what is included. View more details on Amazon
Smittybilt 2783 Overlander Tent
Another interesting alternative – especially if you have a Jeep – is the Smittybilt Overlander roof top tent. Featuring the same specs as the Kukenam (including the removable roof windows!), plus extra wide ladder, 12V adapter and LED strip inside the tent, but lacking the choice of colors. It comes at a really low price of $739 ($950 with the matching annex). The accessories are pretty cheap too, you only need to pay $79 for an anti-condensation mat for example. Customers, who bought the Smittybilt 2783, are very satisfied with it. Although there are some examples of poorer quality finish, it still provides outstanding value for its price: you can take it home for less than $750. (View more details on Amazon)
Front Runner FeatherLite If you are not that impressed by the flashy details of the Tepui and happy with a smaller roof tent, you may be interested in the Front Runner FeatherLite. It is slightly smaller, but is ultra-light (only 93 lbs) and ultra-compact. It has everything you need for your adventures, and its slightly cheaper as well. Click here for the detailed review!
Tepui have grown up and now sells quality rooftop tents with the matching price. The Tepui Kukenam SKY 3 Explorer is no exception: it has everything that is needed for an overlander: space, comfort, easy setup, durability, waterproofness and the added luxury of sky windows. It is lightweight, there is plenty of add-ons available and comes in funny colors too. What else do you need?
On the other hand….the accessories are way too pricy, and I am not that convinced that Tepui have sorted all their issues regarding quality control. The extended 2-year warranty and the fact that Tepui is now owned by Thule gives a little peace of mind.
My final verdict is that the Kukenam 3 SKY tent is RECOMMENDED because it is not a bad rooftent, and it is not irrationally priced. Everyone who has a Kukenam 3 loves it, recommends it and sings odes about its built quality and robustness.
Tepui Kukenam SkyTent Explorer 3 review Summary
|Exteriors||4 / 5|
|Ease of Use||3.5 / 5|
|Interiors||4 / 5|
|Customer Care||4 / 5|
|Value for Money||3 / 5|
|Overall||3.7 / 5 Not Bad|
|• Low profile, less road noise|
• Aluminium poles, quality materials used
• Plenty of accessories
• 2 years warranty
• Easy set-up
|Best Price (Click to check current price)||Amazon.com $1425|
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