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The Roofnest Sparrow Rooftop Tent Review

Camping got a major upgrade when rooftop tents came along.

One of the early outings with my baby Sparrow. Water Canyon, New Mexico, near Socorro, NM.

You've seen them around, but maybe you didn't realize that you were seeing a tent! Rooftop tents have blown up in the past few years, especially since the pandemic took hold. There are many brands to choose from, with prices varying by quite a lot. Today I'll talk about my Roofnest Sparrow rooftop tent and how I would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking about investing in one.


The year was 2018. I had decided to leave my secure, well-paying oil and gas job to take time off before moving to Austin with my partner, who was about to start a degree program at UT. My vision of time off meant living out of my 4Runner for several months, just hiking and exploring the days away. I had heard a little about rooftop tents, and I soon became obsessed with finding one.


One thing of note - I'm not a glamper (although I wouldn't turn down the chance to glamp). I love getting dirty, sleeping on the ground, and traveling minimally while in the outdoors. BUT the allure and convenience of the rooftop tent were palpable - here's what convinced me to get one:


Silver Toyota 4Runner with Roofnest Sparrow rooftop tent
Day 1 of the Sparrow! The tent weighs about 125 lbs, so it definitely took two of us to hoist it up. But the assembly on the Thule racks was straightforward and a breeze!



PROS of the Sparrow

  • The ease with which you can pull over and pop up the tent dispersed camping.

  • The Sparrow opens in just a few seconds. It is SUPER easy to open and close. Hydraulic arms at each corner of the Sparrow make using it so easy to push up from the closed position and bring on down when it's ready to shut it down.

  • The cost relative to competitors. The current version of the Sparrow comes in at just under $3,000. It sounds like a lot, but imagine the money you'll save from foregoing hotel stays!! Compare this to, say, a James Baroud tent (a similar style to the Sparrow will start at just over $4,000), and the Sparrow will seem like a smoking deal.

  • Spacious shelter away from the elements - the tent is waterproof, and you can sit up comfortably without your head hitting the top of the tent. Two people (and even a small animal) can sleep comfortably side-by-side.

  • The two doors have both an inner mesh flap (think bug protection) and an outer waterproof flap. Both zip up tight and keep bugs and the elements in or out, whichever you prefer!

  • Interior hooks and pockets on each side of the tent are great for storing away phones, glasses, clothes, etc.

  • Sleek design - not bulky on top of the car, my gas mileage didn't seem to be affected by it, and you can get into *many* parking garages (with a 2017 4Runner).

  • Amazing customer support. I've always had super quick and helpful responses from the Roofnest crew.


Lots of headroom space, big enough for my full/queen comforter, and lots of windows! I added an extra 2" foam pad on top of the original for extra comfort. The 2020 version of the Sparrow has an upgraded, thicker mattress!



I do have some cons, many of which have been addressed since I bought mine in 2018:


CONS of the Sparrow (2018 version)

  • The fiberglass shell of the tent (I bought the black) will deteriorate over time due to prolonged sun exposure. I recently sanded my Sparrow down and applied Raptor Liner all over it to prolong the shell's life. This was a suggestion from Ben working at Roofnest!

  • The foam pad that came standard with my nest was okay, but after several uses, I could feel the frame of the tent below me.

  • The closure hardware for the tent has held up, but it could definitely be more secure - to keep this latched, 4 small carabiners were included with the tent. Those have since deteriorated and aren't usable! BUT this design has been updated since.


NEW FEATURES


Since 2018, Roofnest has listened to their customers' suggestions! Per the website, the 2020 Sparrow has "a built-in gear storage area (with included storage bag) and solar panel mounting area, 4″ more headroom, and three larger doors and window with ladder mounts on three sides." These are HUGE improvements - some I didn't even realize I wanted.


I still love my Sparrow, but I'd be even more amped to buy a 2020 version if I were still in the market for one. The solar panel mounting area and extra ladder mounts are excellent additions. And who doesn't love bigger windows and doors? And the updated clasps for closing the tent are a great addition. Basically all of my design gripes have been addressed, so the new version is dang near perfect.


The long story short is, if you're in the market for a new rooftop tent, Roofnest is a solid company that makes a great product at a competitive price. I 10/10 recommend the Sparrow for your camping adventures.


Do you have a rooftop tent? Which one did you pick and why? Let us know in the comments!

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