Thule Tepui Kukenam 3 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversion
Cons: No entrance awning, no added extras
Manufacturer: Thule Tepui
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Thule Tepui Kukenam 3
|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
$1,100 at Backcountry
$1,326 at Amazon
|Pros||Durable canopy, telescoping ladder, versatile, quick conversion||Very comfortable, durable, has entrance awning, great weather protection, included annex||Rectangular design allows for more room on the rack, quick installation, durable canopy||Light, more affordable, breathable||Wide and sturdy ladder, boot bag, LED light strip, spacious|
|Cons||No entrance awning, no added extras||Longest conversion time (though not by much), side window awnings don't roll up, pricey||Thin mattress, longer conversion time, Cordura cover may be less durable||Questionable durability, bulky for a two-person model||Ladder 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 seasons||A versatile rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to do||A rooftop tent that leaves lots of room on the rack for extra toys||A decent two-person rooftop tent with a breathable canopy great for warmer nights||With 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%)|
|Ease of Conversion (20%)|
|Ease of Assembly and Installation (15%)|
|Cover Convenience (10%)|
|Specs||Thule Tepui Kukenam 3||Thule Tepui Autana 3||Thule Tepui Foothill||Thule Tepui Explore...||Smittybilt Overlander|
|Weight||130 lbs||130 lbs||122 lbs||106 lbs||144 lbs|
|Max Inside Height||52 in||52 in||38 in||38 in||51 in|
|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|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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