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Front Runner Roof Top Tent Review

If weight is the absolute deciding factor for which tent you want, this is the one for you
Front Runner Roof Top Tent
Photo: Front Runner
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Price:  $1,263 List
Pros:  Lightweight
Cons:  May require drill to adjust ladder, thin mattress, only two pockets, poor durability
Manufacturer:   Front Runner
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 3, 2019
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 7
  • Space and Comfort - 30% 5
  • Durability - 25% 3
  • Ease of Conversion - 20% 4
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation - 15% 4
  • Cover Convenience - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Front Runner Roof Top Tent is the lightest rooftop tent that we've tested. At a mere 93 lbs, it's one of the easiest tents to move around and install. However, where the designers shaved weight, they also shaved functionality and durability.

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Price $1,263 List$2,300 at REI
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Pros LightweightVery comfortable, durable, has entrance awning, weather protection, included annexDurable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatility, quick conversionLight, affordable, breathableWide/Sturdy ladder, boot bag, LED light strip, spacious
Cons May require drill to adjust ladder, thin mattress, only two pockets, poor durabilityLongest conversion time (though not by much), side window awnings don't roll up, priceNo entrance awning, no added extrasQuestionable durability, bulky for a two-person modelLadder may require drilling, Velcro cover not the most efficient cover system, heavy
Bottom Line If weight is the absolute deciding factor for which tent you want, this is the one for youA versatile rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to doOur top recommendation for most people provides excellent quality and comfort across all four seasonsA decent two-person rooftop tent with a breathable canopyWith a durable design and many handy features, this model competes with the top models while costing significantly less
Rating Categories Front Runner Roof T... Thule Tepui Autana 3 Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Thule Tepui Explore... Smittybilt Overlander
Space And Comfort (30%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Durability (25%)
3.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Ease Of Conversion (20%)
4.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Ease Of Assembly And Installation (15%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Cover Convenience (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Front Runner Roof T... Thule Tepui Autana 3 Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Thule Tepui Explore... Smittybilt Overlander
Seasons 3 4 4 3 3
Weight (in lbs) 93 lbs 130 lbs 130 lbs 106 lbs 144 lbs
Max Inside Height 55 in 52 in 52 in 38 in 51 in
Pockets 2 4 4 4 5
Windows 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof
Floor Dimension 52 in x 98 in 56 in x 96 in 56 in x 96 in 84 in x 48 in 56 in x 96 in
Floor Area 35 sq ft 38 sq ft 38 sq ft 28 sq ft 38 sq ft
Room Divider No No No No No
Vestibules No Yes No No No
Vestibule Area n/a 26 in x 56 in n/a n/a n/a
Packed Size 12 in x 48 in x 53 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 11 in x 42 in x 48 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in
Floor Materials Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Main Tent Materials 400 D PVC 420 D 420 D 260g polyester cotton 420 D
Rainfly Materials 200 D 600 D 600 D 600 D 600 D
Number of Poles 6 6 8 8 8
Pole Material Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel Aluminum/spring steel
Pole Diameter 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in 1/4 in
Design type Fold-out Fold-out Fold-out Fold-out Fold-out
Extras Velcro loops on roof for hanging gear Awning over ladder n/a n/a Interior LED, extension cords, boot bag

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Front Runner is a nice tent, but unfortunately, it did not hold up to the OutdoorGearLab testing standards. For this much money, you'd be better off buying a rooftop tent that is built to last, based on our experience with several models in this category.

Performance Comparison


After thorough testing, our experts deemed the Front Runner a step...
After thorough testing, our experts deemed the Front Runner a step below the other models in our review.
Photo: Ross Patton

Space and Comfort


One of the main ways that the Front Runner comes up short is in space and comfort. Although it does have the highest maximum inside height at 55", it doesn't offer the length and width in floor space of the other tents that we tested. Also, most importantly, this tent comes with the thinnest, smallest, least comfortable mattress that we've seen.

Durability


In the durability category, the Front Runner came up short in our tests. The floor dented and creased after only a few uses, which is a huge disappointment after investing this much money. The stitching on the corners of the cover gave out after a dozen conversions, and worst of all, the upper corners of the roof tore after one night of what we would consider moderate wind.

The floor on the Front Runner became dented and bent from normal use.
The floor on the Front Runner became dented and bent from normal use.
Photo: Ross Patton

The stitching on the cover began to tear after only a handful of uses.
The stitching on the cover began to tear after only a handful of uses.
Photo: Ross Patton

The Front Runner canopy tore two corners after a night of light to...
The Front Runner canopy tore two corners after a night of light to moderate wind.
Photo: Ross Patton

Ease of Conversion


The Front Runner is reasonably easy to convert from travel to camping mode. One way where it fell short is that the sliding ladder has limited settings as opposed to a telescoping ladder. At one campsite, we ended up having to dig a small ditch underneath the ladder so that our tent would unfold to the proper, safe height.

Because the Front Runner ladder lacks adjustability, we ended up...
Because the Front Runner ladder lacks adjustability, we ended up having to dig a hole in the hillside for the feet at one campsite so that it would be at a safe angle.
Photo: Ross Patton

Ease of Assembly and Installation


As far as assembly and installation, the Front Runner is pretty easy. We did run into a speedbump — the ladder only came with one set of holes drilled from the factory, which did not end up being a safe height for our test vehicle. We ended up having to drill another set of holes into the ladder to get it to the right height. This isn't a problem as long as you have a drill, the right bit, and are comfortable drilling into metal, but no other model required us to do this. However, if you're on a long trip and you end up camping on a hill unexpectedly, you might end up with an unsafe or unstable ladder angle.

Before drilling new holes, the ladder wasn't quite steep enough to...
Before drilling new holes, the ladder wasn't quite steep enough to be safe. With too low of an angle the ladder can bend or fold with enough weight.
Photo: Ross Patton

After modifying the ladder it was at an angle that was safe to use...
After modifying the ladder it was at an angle that was safe to use, provided that the vehicle is on level ground.
Photo: Ross Patton

Cover Convenience


The cover on the Front Runner is fairly easy to deal with. It has the three-sided zipper and two D ring strap system that we've come to love on other models. It lacks a system to keep it out of the way when not in use, though. We'd like to see a way to keep the cover out of the way while camping, a few extra ounces on the overall weight is worth the added convenience.

Best Applications


The best application for the Front Runner is to be used in situations that require the least amount of weight possible. It's very light, which truly is its only strength.

Value


The Front Runner is not the most valuable tent. For less money, you can get a roomier, more comfortable, more durable tent that includes more features.

Conclusion


This tent performed poorly during our durability test and landed at the bottom of our score sheet for space and comfort. Based on our experience with this model, we cannot strongly recommend this rooftop tent to our readers.

Ross Patton