ARB powered rooftop tent brings RV luxury and ease to car camping

Long known for making rugged, simple gear that just works, Australian overlanding company ARB has really been upping its design game in recent years. Last year, it followed up its awesome flip knife-like camp kitchen with a unique spin on the go-anywhere small trailer, and this year it's bringing some extra comfort and class to the world of rooftop tent camping. The all-new hardshell Altitude is loaded with RV-style upgrades not often seen individually on an RTT, let alone packaged all together. These include a push-button electric lift system, staircase-inspired step ladder, and neatly integrated auto-shutoff lighting.

As with its Earth trailer, ARB clearly didn't set out to design just another basic rooftop tent, approaching the build more holistically to create an all-around convenient, comfortable room in which to spend the night ... or many consecutive nights. First up among its objectives was to automate the setup and breakdown process to make it as fast and user-friendly as possible. lightest roof top tent

The crew on the ground will still have to do a little legwork in setting up the ladder, and they'll want to do it before raising the tent roof because the ladder stores neatly away in its own roof-integrated compartment.

It's not just any ladder, either, using a step ladder-style folding design with large, stable treads and fold-out railings for a surefooted ascent to bed and back down again.

The ladder hooks onto user's choice of left or right bar mount, each of which features an integrated LED light strip with warm-amber and cold-white settings. Those lights provide integrated safety when using the ladder in the dark and double as area lights around camp. The standard adjustable-height ladder works with vehicles up to 6.8 feet (2.1 m) tall, and ARB offers an extension kit for taller vehicles, like those with portal axles or high-lift suspensions.

With the ladder in place, the tent is ready to be pitched. ARB outsources the task to a pair of electrically actuated scissor lifts that take care of it without manual intervention beyond unlocking the tent via the keyed dial locks. After that, a quick push of the "up" button on the tent base and campers are free to watch the tent rise into perfect form in under a minute.

The Altitude closes just as easily and quickly. ARB credits its two-part collapsible "SmartFold" hinges integrated in the tent frame with ensuring that the fabric folds inward and doesn't get stuck between the closing roof and base. ARB also equips the tent with a manual failsafe system for use if the electric actuation fails.

The Altitude isn't the first rooftop tent to feature a power-lift system, but it's definitely a cleaner design than the last one we checked out. It also brings along the advantages of a hardshell construction popping straight up into a roomy, vertical-walled living space.

ARB further capitalizes on its tall, cube-like tent form by creating a photogenic panorama with mesh doors and mesh windows that wrap all four corners. Of course, those windows also zip closed behind weatherproof panels when the conditions take a turn for the worse.

At close to 3.9 feet (118 cm) high inside, the Altitude offers plenty of space to sit up. It comes stocked with a 2.8-in-thick (7-cm) dual-density foam mattress that provides 54 x 74 in (137 x 187 cm) of sleeping space. Also part of the cabin design are a fabric headliner, upper storage nets for gear/pillows, water bottle and EDC holders, a central control panel for the integrated interior LED lighting and two-way ceiling fan, and USB/USB-C charging ports. The tent even has a ceiling tablet/smartphone mount for conveniently enjoying movies inside.

The Altitude doesn't include its own battery, instead wiring into the vehicle battery via a 9.8-foot (3-m) electrical lead that connects the tent's Anderson plug to the 12V connection at the rear of the vehicle or directly to its battery. A red power isolator button lets occupants cut power to external controls to prevent tampering from outside during the night. The system also automatically cuts power when the tent closes, ensuring that a forgotten light or plugged appliance doesn't continue suckling away at the battery.

The Altitude comes standard with a set of roof rails rated for loads up to 44 lb (20 kg). The roof can still pitch at camp with a full-capacity load in place. ARB plans to offer crossbars and a 120-W roof-mounted solar panel as options.

With all those added features, the fiberglass hardshell Altitude certainly isn't the way to go if you're looking for something compact or lightweight (or cheap), weighing in at a hefty 232 lb (105 kg) before any accessorizing and measuring just under 15 inches (37 cm) high when closed.

ARB announced the Altitude this month, and while it hasn't added it to its US website, American retailers like Nomadic Supply Company are advertising it for April release at a base price of US$4,950. In Australia, it's AU$7,249, including GST. Additional planned accessories include various vehicle-specific mounting kits, a side awning, and a vehicle hitch step for accessing the ladder compartment.

tents and accessories You can watch the Altitude get down to business to the tune of a dramatic soundtrack in the quick minute-long introductory promo below.