We had the opportunity to test the iKamper Skycamp for over a year of use in four seasons before conducting this final review.
Follow the rooftop tent market and you will soon discover that the replica is the driving philosophy of most brands. This is understandable given the appeal of existing designs, coupled with the ability to have an overseas factory producing variations on existing popular models. Conceived and patented in Italy in the late 1950s, the rooftop tent (RTT) arose in open form, for Air-Camping , and in the form of a vertical elevator, to later become car Home . Its benefits attracted the rapid interest of explorers, safaris, and overland travelers. So it was in the wilds of Africa and beyond that the raised platform of the vehicle-based store was born in our imagination.
While the Italian design genius brought us the Ferrari, the domed architecture and, yes, the rooftop tent, it is Kickstarter that often brings truly new designs to modern consumers. iKamper grew out of the crowdsourced online investment phenomenon when, in 2017, it promised investors a reinvented RTT.
Based in South Korea, iKamper is the brainchild of Soon Park. A self proclaimed engineer creative and self-taught, Park began a design mission after a 58,000-mile journey through America with his family. Driven by that monumental adventure and the wavering team they trusted, Park's journey-inspired motto of “love people, love nature” gave birth to iKamper. The design of the Skycamp came from asking what would need a better RTT and what should make .
New rooftop tent manufacturers often differentiate themselves through unique color schemes, skylights, and opening strategies. In that sense, the Skycamp isn't exactly unique, incorporating several of those same types of changes. For example, its brown / black combination stands out from the competition, as does its distinctive logo. That's good, but it won't help you on the field. Similarly, its integration of a sunroof allows users to escape the claustrophobia of the store, which some users will appreciate, but is not unique. Where the iKamper Skycamp gets performance results is in its living space and ease of operation.Pros / Extremely fast set-up, spacious interior, numerous accessories, wind protection, allows to store compressible bedding inside.Cons / Side sleepers can increase mattress padding, cost, lack of built-in lighting, slight odor.Cover the bottom / One of the few innovative RTTs on the market, available in various sizes, and with a strong following of owners.
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To understand what iKamper brought to this rapidly expanding product sector, it is helpful to point out the two main groups of these tents. They are flip-top, soft-top, or use hard-top protection and open vertically (using lifting devices) or tilt up (via single-end hinge). In other words, the RTT market is made up of the same two fundamental designs that the Italians conceived and launched between 1957 and 1959. The rigid configurations remain fast, safe and less spacious. Flip-up lids dominate the market, cost less, require more setup steps, and still pack more space than hard shells, due to doubling their footprint when deployed.
However, the iKamper Skycamp promised "the best of both worlds." He did this by mixing a hard shell, using a gas strut assisted opening and a drop down floor. Its larger than average footprint when closed means the design can accommodate more mattresses and larger beds. The result is a unique aerodynamic shell that uses just two (lockable) cable latches to release / secure it, and that requires only a single hand lift of the shell (~ 9 ”) to activate the well-matched hydraulic action of the strut.
When it came to interior space, the designers opted to go big. The iKamper Skycamp folds out to provide a King mattress and a ceiling that reaches a maximum of 3 '6 ”in height. The result is a living space that is spacious for two, and can even accommodate a small family. That much touted interior immediately impresses. Its volume evokes the possibility of 4-6 people playing cards sitting inside, or the ease with which a couple with children (or dogs) could fall asleep. As the rooftop tents go, it's a wonderfully spacious cavity to sleep in or just relax.
In addition to speed of installation / storage and usable interior space, Soon and his designers also addressed other persistent needs in the rooftop tent market. First, a range of Skycamp accessories is integrated into the store, expanding its basic functionality. Our model came with a trio of those add-ons, including the store's two attachable shelters (Annex Room and Awning), cold weather insulation liner, and a pair of storage organizers. The latter can be hung from the practical adjustable metal loops attached to a track under the floor, allowing hanging access to shoes, clothing and anything else that is stored in the many pockets. These and other accessories expand the ways in which the marquee can meet user needs and help customize user options.
Less obvious are the design issues inherent in the open RTT designs that the iKamper Skycamp addressed. Rather than being hit by winds, the hard shell design allows deflection of gusts if facing into the wind. A roof "window" (also known as a "Skyview") offers interior light and star viewing without sacrificing privacy. If these options weren't enough, the body of the tent can be swapped out for a model that emphasizes breathability through mesh panels (and alternative color schemes).
The Skycamp we have reviewed is the 3 ª generation since iKamper launched its Kickstarter campaign. Raising more than $ 2 million, the company fulfilled funder requests in 2017 with the release of version 1. Since then, the brand has sold more than 7,000 units, with 55% in North America.
For such a new product, the iKamper Skycamp has already seen multiple improvements. The hard cover has been the main one among them. The deck was reinforced to add stiffness in version 2.0. For those hoping to test that toughness by bumping into tree limbs and worse, the Rocky Black option takes its cue from truck bed protection, giving the deck a thin Line-X coating. . This new option is intended for foreigners or anyone traveling in dense forests, and this is how our test model was equipped.
Once the exterior of a rooftop tent takes off, the core is your platform and mattress. Decks have evolved from simple cold plywood boards (Ex: Eezi-Awn) to rigid laminates. More than just flat foundations on which to place a mattress, platforms are what determine if you feel flex in the space under your bed. The iKamper Skycamp platform is constructed of a honeycomb aluminum sandwich, resulting in a hollow, insulating airspace below you. The stiffness of the material virtually eliminates any noticeable flex. How stiff is it? iKamper illustrates the strength of the material in its dramatic demonstration of a Jeep driving over a small bridge of the material.
Rigid platforms provide the foundation, but mean little without adequate padding over them. Starting with v2.0, Skycamp models were equipped with the brand's new thicker mattress. Composed of a 5 cm memory foam core and encapsulated by a quilted polyester cover with zip, the mattress is 25% thicker than the original version. Made of two sections, the mattress can be folded if you sleep alone. When presented as normal, the combination of the two sections produces a King size bed.
At 160 pounds, the iKamper Skycamp, like most RTTs, requires extra hands and confirmation of its rack capacity. Despite its size when open, iKamper has kept the weight in the range of tents from competing manufacturers. Due to their volume and weight, such tents require that the shelf to which they are attached has adequate capacity. This may exclude some factory systems. Like most brands, the Skycamp uses two aluminum tracks under its deck for added rigidity and ease of aligning the brackets to your rack's crossbars. The stainless steel hardware provided accommodates a wide variety of bars.
To lift the tent for assembly, we use a roof mounted electric lift. With this system, even one person can remove or mount large RTTs. In the iKamper's case, its rails easily bisected the Dinoot trailer rack bars, with the four sliding brackets positioned as the tent was slowly lowered. This approach has several advantages over gathering a small group of friends to lift a bulky RTT, among which are settings.
Living with the Skycamp
Convenience. Protection. Comfort. Above all, these three performance areas define the market expectations for RTTs. iKamper boasts that the newest Skycamp offers those in spades. To test the claims, we lived with 2.0 for a year, camping in it during all seasons and all types of weather.
Traditional flip RTTs seem convenient at first, but users soon learn that they require multiple steps, involve dusty covers, and lack automatic opening, either to open or close. Rigid tents require fewer steps, but their volumes are reduced. iKamper created a hybrid that offers much of the comfort of a hardshell case with more bulk than all but the largest flip RTTs. The difference has been significant in living with the Skycamp.
Claiming a simple 1-minute setting, iKamper isn't exaggerating when it comes to the stopwatch race for the basic setting. Rather than fighting their way around the outside of the tent to completely undo a cover, users can stay on the opening side of the Skycamp. The 5-step process is, in fact, literally a 60-second effort. That's hard to beat in today's market, although folding the tent still requires a manual pull and tucking in the fabric folds.
Quick drop shop ladder and entry / window awnings are quick and will look familiar to previous RTT users. The adjustable length ladder is comfortable for bare feet, offers flat rung surfaces, something other manufacturers should learn from, while handling heavy users (330 lbs max weight) with its post-lock hitch as each rung drops and clicks when gravity automatically opens. section until the ground is found. Strong and lightweight, the ladder's only functional flaw is how additional friction can result from sand or sand infiltration on the aluminum telescopic joints.
Once inside, the spacious iKamper Skycamp can feel a bit decadent for two, and embarrassingly empty for a single traveler (hence the new smaller and lighter 2x 40lb Skycamp and the newly launched 2-person Mini). The volume of the interior takes you by surprise, given its exterior appearance and its smaller folding platform. Is all that space too much for two? On the contrary, the Skycamp seems fair. It allows suitcases, shoes, and a laptop and its power source to not fill the occupants. Sitting down to read, write, or play board games feels natural (especially if you save a Crazy Creek chair to use at night). The entrance, along with both side windows, can be sealed from light and insects or left open depending on desired conditions.
You need that same generous volume when using the company's handy insulated “tent” during the freezing winter months. Similar to the tipi or "ozans" liners used by the plains Indians, iKamper liner creates a complete interior barrier. From our use on the frozen fall trips through the Tetons and the Northern Rockies, siding is a must have. Using an infrared thermometer we found that it reliably adds 7F degrees, as well as isolating condensation away from sleepers and their equipment.
The only difficulty we have encountered has been the closure when additional items (pillows, sleeping bags, etc.) are left inside the tent. Although much improved over other RTTs, the Skycamp can be a challenge to close when lying down and left as it should be; in and ready for the next night. Using light bags and thin pillows will help this problem, but don't expect to store thicker or denser items. To iKamper's credit, they have probably made more progress on this sadly overlooked need than any of their competitors.
When the casing closure meets modest resistance from stored bedding, the solution is twofold: use duvets and stack bedding neatly. This is not difficult, but requires special care. For example, when pulling the cover down is not enough to engage the locks, and it usually is, especially if there are two of you, applying the weight on the cover helps to press it down. Alternatively, when storing more items (for example, when winter camping with thicker sleeping bags), a little more oomph is needed. For that, I have found a simple loop strap that goes over the deck, attached to a shelf on the other side, provides an easy means of reducing pressure, allowing for easy closure of the secure cable latches.
Add in the practical interior accessories (and occasionally over the top) and the iKamper Skycamp offers a great escape from the outside. And that brings us to the main event: the mattress.
The mattress is the heart of the tent user experience, so if you're not sleeping well what's the point? Because RTTs pull you out of uneven terrain, rocks, and roots, they may use thinner mattresses. They just don't need to absorb as many bumps and knobs. IKamper Skycamp version 2.0 has added foam to the original mattress and measures a total thickness of 2 ”. It's a reasonable thickness, although not excessive by today's standards. As with any mattress, equally key are the characteristics of the foam material.
IKamper memory foam is a medium to light density variety. If you kneel on it, for example, the foam doesn't prevent your kneecaps from pressing and feeling the platform underneath. Similarly, if you lean on one elbow, you feel the aluminum below. Neither of those positions is the norm, although they do occur routinely, such as when climbing. So the real question is whether the memory foam's modest density provides enough support when sleeping.
At 6'3 "and 185 pounds, my body has plenty of bony points (hips, shoulders, and knees) to test cushioning. The low resistance of the Skycamp mattress to point pressure means that it yields easily when rolled over. Compared to the density of other RTTs we've had, the mattress on the Skycamp easily deforms on a prone body. Others have required an extra pad underneath (eg, Eezi-Awn), or have felt firm to the point of not compressing under non-bony contact points (eg, Hinterlands).
All of these mattresses use single-density foam, and in many ways that makes them more similar than different. And that is also why they are not particularly sophisticated. The iKamper Skycamp mattress leans toward the “too soft” end of the spectrum. Its responsive memory foam would benefit from an extra centimeter of thickness, provided it was a higher density material similar to a yoga mat or ensolite.
For comparison, when camping alone at the Skycamp, I have tried to double the mattress. The result of 4 ”of foam is pure luxury. However, the mattress, which is used uniquely, reflects more the Asian nighttime tradition of modest quilting. Do you want more filling but are traveling as a couple? Adding an anti-condensation mat under the mattress or a ½ ”foam pad will increase comfort.
When not extended inside the iKamper Skycamp, the numerous exterior accessories add versatility to camping life. The company's three shelter add-ons provide distinct benefits, with increasing levels of protection. The simplest, the vinyl canopy, simply protects the tent entrance from the weather; It's basically a clear, zippered fly. Designed for strong wind conditions, it offers no protection for gathering outside the tent.
In contrast, the expansive canopy, which also attaches to the store entrance via a sturdy YKK zipper, provides great shelter from the sun and precipitation. We have sat in the rain, snow, and scorching sun under its sturdy brown cloth. Relatively small to pack, the Canopy adds a lot of versatility to the Skycamp. Conversely, if conditions do not call for its use, the number of poles and connecting lines required to secure it will deter the routine established by some homeowners, especially those traveling alone.
Anyone who has used a pluggable room extension on an RTT has enjoyed the privacy and weather protection of these accessories. The iKamper annex room is no different. Larger than some competitors' rooms, the Annex Room uses the same sturdy, seamless zipper attachment as the canopy and vinyl canopy. Thanks to its wide openings, the annex can provide much of the outdoor shade offered by the awning. In cold / bad weather this shelter is fantastic and heats up easily with a Mr. Heater Buddy heater. In camps or large gatherings, the annex can function as a changing room, bathroom shelter or even as a display stand.
Equip the air camp
Completing the luxurious interior of the iKamper Skycamp takes two things: down and lighting . Using regular sleeping bags inside the tent feels restrictive and downright silly. Although functional, the sleeping bags belong to a backpacker shop. At Skycamp you want the blankets to really spread out. The best we have used are from Nanga, a Japanese brand that started in 1941, and is named after a notorious peak in the Himalayan range where their products have outfitted high-altitude mountaineers. Made in Japan, Nanga sources its team's heart, the down, from Europe.
Nanga produces bags suitable for 8,000M spikes. The Kake-Futon (or "top blanket" uses 770 padding and weighs 2 pounds, making these one-person covers feel weightless. Both the standard and Takibi versions provide ample coverage (59 " x 82 "), and we're going to spread out inside the Skycamp. The latest model features a lightweight Kevlar fabric on one side, flexible and resistant to fire sparks. The other side uses the same 15Dx15D water-resistant nylon that covers the model. standard.
Nanga's handicraft heritage continues today, bypassing the outdoor industry standard to outsource manufacturing to China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Your discharge undergoes an inspection in the United States by the IDFL (International Organization for the Inspection of Pens and Pens) to verify the quality and verify its specified fill power. Before use on your products, all wash is washed and sterilized, using ozone treatments and higher temperatures, as well as an antibacterial / deodorant application, in Japan. A hydrophobic treatment of Nanga down makes it competitive with current performance standards for such products.
Each Nanga blanket comes in an ultra-smooth material sack that makes stuffing a breeze, and features a two-stage webbing for better protection. With the iKamper, though, those bags see little use, as two of the super-lightweight blankets can easily be left inside when the RTT is around for travel or storage (a challenge with poly-fill blankets). Coupled with a set of sheets, this setup makes the Skycamp roll-ready and (almost) embarrassingly luxurious when crawling after a long dusty / snowy / muddy day on the road. With adequate heat at ~ 30F, each version of the Kake-Futon makes the Skycamp inside a relief when it's time to crash.
After more than a year of four-season use, we've seen how the Skycamp performs in rain, sleet, snow, wind, and desert temperatures. We love the overall speed and the simplicity with which it sets up. With basic sleeping gear already hidden inside, from turning off the engine to turning off the light can take less time than brushing your teeth. Does all this speed and comfort really matter? The iKamper is liberating when it comes to making camping quick and easy. Until you experience a minute-long tent, that freedom can be hard to fully appreciate.
And when camping is set up, I personally prefer to spend as little time as possible in a tent. But the reality is that the weather passes. And when you do (or when you arrive well after dark), you'll want a comfortable, weather-resistant shelter. What's more, when your RTT is your escape pod from snow, long nights, dusty wind, or crowds, you don't want it to feel limited. Throw in a Crazy Creek chair, an LED strip, and 12 volts of power, and the Skycamp offers enough room to hide inside for hours in comfort.
iKamper has also built an RTT that glides through the wind on interstates and through branches on its rig. Its construction is taut, wicks away wind and moisture, and blocks morning light to help you sleep. Although it is not the best equipped mattress, its interior is spacious and, with the world map, the most attractive on the market. Despite its smaller top protection when standing under the drop-down floor, the optional canopy and attachment give homeowners the option to easily expand the shelter on the ground as they please.
Innovative, highly functional, durable, and compatible with useful accessories, iKamper has effectively disrupted the RTT market with its designs. If you are buying such a tent, the Skycamp, Skycamp 2X and the new Skycamp Mini (March 2020 version) are worth checking out.