Roofnest Sparrow EYE Review
Cons: Big while in travel mode, expensive
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Roofnest Sparrow EYE
|Price||$3,195 List||Check Price at Amazon|
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|$3,595 List||Check Price at Amazon|
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$1,281 at Amazon
|Pros||Effortless conversion, no assembly, tons of cargo space||Very comfortable, durable, has entrance awning, great weather protection, included annex||Aerodynamic design, effortless setup, lots of included accessories and options||Durable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversion||Wide and sturdy ladder, boot bag, LED light strip, spacious|
|Cons||Big while in travel mode, expensive||Longest conversion time (though not by much), side window awnings don't roll up, pricey||No room for ladder or additional bedding while in transport mode, expensive, considerable weight||No entrance awning, no added extras||Ladder may require drilling, velcro cover not the most efficient cover system, heavy|
|Bottom Line||A high-end hardshell rooftop tent that is comfy, spacious, and incredibly easy to install and set up||A versatile rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to do||The best option for those that want a top-tier rooftop tent with minimal wind drag||Our top soft-top recommendation for most people provides excellent quality and comfort across all four seasons||With a durable design and many handy features, this model competes with the top models while costing significantly less|
|Rating Categories||Roofnest Sparrow EYE||Thule Tepui Autana 3||Roofnest Falcon 2||Thule Tepui Kukenam 3||Smittybilt Overlander|
|Space and Comfort (30%)|
|Ease of Conversion (20%)|
|Ease of Assembly and Installation (15%)|
|Cover Convenience (10%)|
|Specs||Roofnest Sparrow EYE||Thule Tepui Autana 3||Roofnest Falcon 2||Thule Tepui Kukenam 3||Smittybilt Overlander|
|Weight||130 lbs||130 lbs||160 lbs||130 lbs||144 lbs|
|Max Inside Height||44 in||52 in||60 in||52 in||51 in|
|Pockets||1 detachable||4||2 detachable, gear grid with 5 pockets||4||5|
|Windows||2 side||3 side, 2 roof||2 side||3 side, 2 roof||3 side, 2 roof|
|Floor Dimensions||83 in x 49 in||56 in x 96 in||86 in x 48 in||56 in x 96 in||56 in x 96 in|
|Floor Area||28 sq ft||38 sq ft||29 sq ft||38 sq ft||38 sq ft|
|Vestibule Area Dimensions||n/a||26 in x 56 in||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Packed Size||6 in x 50 in x 88 in||12 in x 48 in x 56 in||11 in x 50 in x 85 in||12 in x 48 in x 56 in||12 in x 48 in x 56 in|
|Floor Materials||Fiberglass-reinforced ASA/ABS||Aluminum||Honeycomb aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Main Tent Materials||Polyurethane-coated polyester and cotton blend||420 D||320g poly-cotton||420 D||420 D|
|Rainfly Materials||n/a||600 D||n/a||600 D||600 D|
|Number of Poles||2||6||2||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|
|Extras||Matress, LED light, privacy tent, ground mat, anti-condensation mat||Awning over ladder||Matress, 8.5' ladder, anti-condensation mat, dual detachable pockets, privacy tent, and LED lights||n/a||Interior LED, extension cords, boot bag|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Where the Sparrow EYE truly stands apart is how easy it is to convert from travel mode to camping mode and back. If you ever felt the need, you could be comfortable in your mobile bed within seconds of parking your vehicle at a campsite. When it's time to leave, this tent breaks down in less time than it takes to stuff a sleeping bag.
Space and Comfort
If you're going to invest in a rooftop tent, you are most certainly going to want to be comfortable. All of the models in our review include memory foam mattresses. While very similar, there are some subtle differences in mattress quality from each manufacturer. The square footage of each sleeping area and cubic volume of the tents vary significantly from model to model. The number of people planning on sleeping in the tent and the amount of gear you want to stow inside are factors you should consider before purchasing. To determine scores for this metric, we took several measurements to double-check the manufacturers' tech spec claims and then spent a minimum of five nights camping in each model to add some subjective opinions to the mix.
Although the Sparrow EYE is not the highest-scoring model for this metric, it still had a respectable showing for this section of our review. Keep in mind that this two-person model has been subjected to a side-by-side comparison with three-person tents, including some with included annexes that effectively double the tent size while in use. Our team found this model to be substantially more comfortable than several of the two-person tents we've used.
The wedge-style pop-up action of this type of tent makes for tons of headroom on the high side of the roof. The low side gets tight, but we did not experience any knee-bashing, toe jamming, or anything of the sort. The memory foam mattress is ultra-cushy but firm enough to support bigger people to avoid sore hips or shoulders in the morning. The mattress comes with a soft cover that can be removed for washing. The EYE has lots of storage inside –- there is a large cargo net as well as two side pockets for books, phones, and flashlights. For added luxury, this model includes a thin layer of insulation inside the roof of the tent and a USB-powered LED light. The ladder stores inside the tent while not in use, and there is plenty enough room to leave pillows and sleeping bags inside the tent while traveling.
The gear storage capabilities of the Sparrow EYE are not limited to the inside of the tent. On the rear end of the hardshell top, there is an area dedicated to strapping extra items down with four heavy-duty metal eye hooks. The EYE includes a weather-resistant rubber bag custom-tailored to the tent, or you can strap whatever else you want up there so long as the total weight of your gear is less than 50 pounds.
In order to identify any shortcomings, flaws, or weak spots regarding the construction of the tents, we took each model camping at least five times. During our expeditions, we converted each tent from travel mode to sleeping mode and vice versa 25 times. We were sure to open each zipper and deploy each awning 25 times as well. We looked closely at the ladder design, and any buckles or straps that hold the tent closed while in transit. Any hinges, joints, pivots, and pistons were closely examined by our team.
The Sparrow EYE scored well for this portion of our evaluation. The fiberglass-infused ABS plastic shell is definitely strong enough to withstand pebbles cast your way by semi-trucks on the highway or the occasional Sierra Nevada pinecone at the campsite. The telescoping ladder included with this model is as strong and sturdy as any that we've seen.
The metal buckles that hold the tent shut while in travel mode are built for abuse. We appreciate the large metal slots that house the ladder hooks when it's time to camp. The pistons, straps, pockets, and cargo net are all of high quality and are built to last. The only reason the Sparrow EYE didn't earn a higher score for this metric is that the tent canopy material is a lightweight 320G polyurethane-coated polyester/cotton blend. Some models in our review have canopies made of 600D ripstop, which is simply stronger. That said, the EYE canopy material is more breathable, which may be a desirable attribute for many people.
Ease of Conversion
One of the best things about rooftop tents is how incredibly quickly you can convert them from travel mode to camping mode and back. Your free time is valuable, and it's nice to spend more time resting or playing rather than wrestling with your sleeping quarters. Any avid camper knows that finding a smooth spot, erecting your tent, and inflating a Therm-a-Rest takes some time and effort — and the process must be reversed in the morning. For this metric, we timed the conversion process for each tent and meticulously noted any steps or features that made this process more difficult or time-consuming.
The EYE is the fastest tent to switch from transit to sleeping mode that we've ever gotten our hands on. All you have to do is release two metal buckles and one safety strap, then gently separate the roof from the tent's base. At this point, the hydraulic pistons do the rest of the work. It is very similar to opening the rear door of a hatchback or SUV. Once it's open, all that's left to do is grab the ladder out of the tent, extend it, and hook it to one of the three open sides of the tent. The entire process takes under a minute, even if you're taking your sweet time. The main door of the tent doubles as an awning, so if you choose to use this feature, you'll need to insert the two poles into their slots and attach them to the open door. Again, this process takes less than a minute.
Converting the Sparrow EYE from camping mode back to travel mode is very simple too. If you used the awning, remove the poles, remove the ladder, and place them inside. As a bonus, this model has enough room to leave pillows and sleeping bags inside the tent while in travel mode, so you can completely skip worrying about packing them up. To close the tent, you grab a large strap and let your body weight and gravity do all of the work. As long as you are mindful about tucking the canopy into the shell as it collapses, this process takes no longer than setting the tent up. While others are busy deflating Therm-a-Rests and stuffing sleeping bags, you can hit the snooze button until about 5 minutes before it's time to hit the road and still have time to spare.
Ease of Assembly and Installation
One of the downsides of owning a rooftop tent is that they are semi-permanently attached to your vehicle. Some people take on the task of installing and removing them regularly, but for many people, they get left on for a longer period, if not the whole camping season. Also, some models require a time-consuming and difficult assembly process. For this section of our review, we carefully looked at each tent's included tools and hardware, what type of assembly is required to get them ready for installation, and how difficult the installation process for each one is compared to other models.
The Sparrow EYE is, once again, one of the highest-scoring models for this metric. This model comes pre-assembled and ready to install directly out of the box. All you need to do is open the tent one time on the ground to retrieve the hardware from inside the tent, and then it's ready to lift onto your rack. Align the tent however you see fit, crank the nuts down, and you're done. The only reason we didn't give this model a perfect score for this metric is that it is so bulky that it's a bit of a difficult task to install on taller racks with two people –- three or four people is the way to go.
Softshell rooftop tents have a rubber or ripstop cover that must be unfolded or removed from the tent before each use and put back in place before traveling again. With hardshell rooftop tents like the EYE, the plastic or aluminum upper shell doubles as the cover and the roof of the tent.
For the reasons listed above, we gave all of the hardshell models in our review a perfect score for this portion of the total score.
There's no way around it; the Roofnest Sparrow EYE is pricey compared to many of the rooftop tents available today. For a lot of folks, the benefits will not be worth the investment. If you don't care much about setup time, keeping your bedding in your tent, or don't mind a bit of extra time spent on assembly, then it probably makes sense to go with a more budget-friendly model. The person that will get the most value out of this tent is somebody that wants minimal setup time with top-tier comfort and ample storage.
The Sparrow EYE is our favorite hardshell rooftop tent. It's luxurious, can fit tons of gear, is easy to install, and its conversion times will be hard to beat. If you're in the market for a rooftop tent and you're ready to make the investment for a hardshell, this is the one.
— Ross Patton
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