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Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Review

Our top soft-top recommendation for most people provides excellent quality and comfort across all four seasons
thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review
Credit: REI Co-op
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $2,000 List | $1,498.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversion
Cons:  No entrance awning, no added extras
Manufacturer:   Thule Tepui
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 28, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Space and Comfort - 30% 7.0
  • Durability - 25% 8.0
  • Ease of Conversion - 20% 8.0
  • Ease of Assembly and Installation - 15% 7.0
  • Cover Convenience - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

An industry standard in rooftop tents, the Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 has earned its reputation. The innovative, self-collapsing telescoping ladder makes tearing down an easy chore, something any camper will appreciate. The 600-denier ripstop canopy is ready for all kinds of weather, so you can rest easy knowing that you will be dry even if the elements throw a curve ball at you. This tent is easy to convert from travel to camp mode, and the cover is also convenient to use. We would recommend this model to nearly any friend because it's versatile and high-quality.

Compare to Similar Products

 
thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $1,499 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$1,599 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$1,500 List
$1,100 at Backcountry
$1,300 List
$1,326 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Durable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversionVery comfortable, durable, has entrance awning, great weather protection, included annexRectangular design allows for more room on the rack, quick installation, durable canopyLight, more affordable, breathableWide and sturdy ladder, boot bag, LED light strip, spacious
Cons No entrance awning, no added extrasLongest conversion time (though not by much), side window awnings don't roll up, priceyThin mattress, longer conversion time, Cordura cover may be less durableQuestionable durability, bulky for a two-person modelLadder may require drilling, velcro cover not the most efficient cover system, heavy
Bottom Line Our top soft-top recommendation for most people provides excellent quality and comfort across all four seasonsA versatile rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to doA rooftop tent that leaves lots of room on the rack for extra toysA decent two-person rooftop tent with a breathable canopy great for warmer nightsWith a durable design and many handy features, this model competes with the top models while costing significantly less
Rating Categories Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Thule Tepui Autana 3 Thule Tepui Foothill Thule Tepui Explore... Smittybilt Overlander
Space and Comfort (30%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Ease of Conversion (20%)
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
6.0
Ease of Assembly and Installation (15%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
Cover Convenience (10%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Thule Tepui Autana 3 Thule Tepui Foothill Thule Tepui Explore... Smittybilt Overlander
Seasons 4 4 3 3 3
Weight 130 lbs 130 lbs 122 lbs 106 lbs 144 lbs
Max Inside Height 52 in 52 in 38 in 38 in 51 in
Pockets 4 4 2 4 5
Windows 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof 3 side, 2 roof
Floor Dimensions 56 in x 96 in 56 in x 96 in 87 in x 40 in 84 in x 48 in 56 in x 96 in
Floor Area 38 sq ft 38 sq ft 24 sq ft 28 sq ft 38 sq ft
Room Divider No No No No No
Vestibules No Yes No No No
Vestibule Area Dimensions n/a 26 in x 56 in n/a n/a n/a
Packed Size 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in 9.5 in x 24 in x 83 in 11 in x 42 in x 48 in 12 in x 48 in x 56 in
Floor Materials Aluminum Aluminum Welded aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Main Tent Materials 420 D 420 D 600 D 260g polyester cotton 420 D
Rainfly Materials 600 D 600 D 600 D 600 D 600 D
Number of Poles 8 6 6 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 n/a Awning over ladder Double level pockets, loop inside for hanging lights and gear n/a Interior LED, extension cords, boot bag

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kukenam is the standard of rooftop tents for several reasons. It's durable, comfortable, and affordable. The canopy is thick, the zippers are strong, and the mattress offers top-notch comfort. Thule Tepui has been in the game long enough to know that subtle details like the an easy-to-use ladder and cover really make a difference when it comes to performance. The Kukenam is a first-class rooftop tent.

Performance Comparison


thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review - there is nothing wrong with the kukenam. it's easily a tent to...
There is nothing wrong with the Kukenam. It's easily a tent to measure other rooftop models against.
Credit: Ross Patton

Space and Comfort


One of the primary advantages of a rooftop tent over a run-of-the-mill ground tent is that an included memory foam mattress is always stored inside the tent. Although they don't offer more cubic footage than family-sized tents, they are generally roomier than two or three-person versions of a standard ground tent. Another huge benefit of owning an RTT is being off the ground. An elevated sleeping zone means there's little to worry about when it comes to inclement weather, wildlife, or creepy crawlies. For these reasons, we chose to dedicate the largest chunk of our overall score to this metric.


The Kukenam 3 has a maximum interior height of 52 inches, which is among the best for this style of tent. It also has one of the most comfortable memory-foam mattresses of any model tested. The Kukenam 3 offers the exact amount of interior floor space as its cousin, the Tepui Autana 3, but without the added entrance awning. The floor dimensions are 56 inches wide by 96 inches long, leaving ample room for two large adults and gear or sleeping space for three people if necessary.

thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review - the kukenam mattress comfort and interior space are legit. we also...
The Kukenam mattress comfort and interior space are legit. We also love the star-gazing capabilities of this model.
Credit: Ross Patton

Durability


Durability is an important factor when considering which rooftop tent to purchase. The last thing you want is to be deep in the wilderness and have a canopy tear or zipper fail. To gather scores for this metric, we carefully studied the manufacturers' technical specifications to compare materials and water resistance ratings. We then did what we do best — went outside for some field testing. During our camping trips, we converted each tent between travel and camping mode 25 times and opened and closed every zipper at least 25 times as well.


The Kukenam 3 is strong in this department. After putting some heavy use on every zipper, this tent showed little or no signs of wear and tear. The 600D ripstop canopy is made to take a beating, and the fully taped seams partnered with the rugged 420D rainfly can withstand a monsoon. If durability is high on your list of purchasing factors, this is a great choice.

thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review - the tepui tents have the most durable canopies in our review.
The Tepui tents have the most durable canopies in our review.
Credit: Ross Patton

Ease of Conversion


One of our favorite attributes of a rooftop tent is how quickly it can be deployed when you get to your camp spot. If you haven't heard from a friend or seen the manufacturers' videos, we're here to tell you that converting between travel and camp mode with an RTT is much faster than setting up a ground tent. To gather some numbers for comparison, we timed the conversion process 25 times per tent during our camping expeditions. We also paid close attention to any gadgets, features, or innovations that helped make the conversion process as painless as possible.


The Kukenam is one of the easiest softshell tents to convert from travel to camping mode. Once the cover is off, the ladder easily extends to unfold the tent. The self-collapsing telescoping ladder is adjustable to heights up to 8' 6". Thule Tepui tents also include added internal bungees that help the tent fold up when it's time to tear your camp down. If you're going to use the rainfly, the poles need to be slid into their slots on the main canopy and removed when it's time to fold the tent up. The process is relatively easy, but it adds an extra minute to the conversion process.

The internal bungees on the Tepui and Smittybilt tents help the...
The internal bungees on the Tepui and Smittybilt tents help the canopy to fold up with ease.
The Kukenam telescoping ladder helps make it effortless to convert...
The Kukenam telescoping ladder helps make it effortless to convert from travel mode to camping mode and vice versa.

Ease of Assembly and Installation


There's no way around it –- rooftop tents are a pain to install. Many require a bit of assembly, which can be awkward and generally requires two sets of hands. These things are bulky and heavy, and even for smaller vehicles, you'll need to lift the tent to about shoulder height. Getting them onto trucks and SUVs can prove to be challenging and not a task that we would consider to be safe. For this metric, we carefully studied the included instruction booklets, links, videos, and included tools. We timed how long the installation process took for each model, from unboxing to travel ready.


The Kukenam 3 directions are clear and easy to follow, which makes assembly and installation easy. This model does require that you attach the mounting tracks to the floor of the tent yourself. This step gets a bit awkward, as the tent must be on its side and partially opened to get the bolts through their holes. Thule Tepui includes a ratcheting 13mm wrench with every tent, which means installing the tent on your rack takes less time than with an old-school wrench. The Kukenham 3 is about average for weight. At 130 pounds, it's not quite back-breaking, but it sure isn't something anybody should try to install alone.

thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review - the tepui tents that we tested come with ratcheting wrenches.
The Tepui tents that we tested come with ratcheting wrenches.
Credit: Ross Patton

Cover Convenience


The final piece of the puzzle for this review is a cover comparison. They may appear to be equal when you see one whiz by on top of a car on the road, but our testing team found that this is not the case. Some are rubber, while some are made of fabric. The ways that they attach also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Certain brands use zippers and straps, while others use velcro or plastic clips. Our team meticulously studied the covers for strengths and downfalls.


The cover on the Kukenam 3 is one of the easiest to deal with. A very durable zipper closes three of the four sides, and the remaining side is semi-permanently mounted so that you can throw the cover out of your way. The straps that hold the cover on when you're in travel mode double as a way to roll everything up when you're in camping mode.

thule tepui kukenam 3 rooftop tent review - with the tepui covers, the cover straps are also used to roll the...
With the Tepui covers, the cover straps are also used to roll the cover up when you're in camping mode so you can still access your vehicle from underneath the tent.
Credit: Ross Patton

Value


The Kukenam will keep you warm and dry anywhere in the world. For this reason, we think it has a large amount of value. This tent is great for any weather condition, the mounting system is strong, and Thule Tepui is a name you can trust. Another great feature of the Kukenam Explorer series is that you can buy additional interchangeable canopies. This allows you to have a four-season tent when the weather is nasty, but if you know you'll be spending time in the desert, you can go with a lighter canopy. Overall, while this isn't the cheapest rooftop tent on the market, the comfort, ease of use, and durability it offers make it a worthy investment.

Conclusion


The Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 is arguably one of the most popular rooftop tents in the world for a reason. It's durable, comfortable, and easy to use. You can't go wrong purchasing a Kukenam.

Ross Patton
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