Yakima SkyRise HD rooftop tent: Tested
Everything camping is hot right now and rooftop tents are the latest must have kit for the intrepid duo, or even family. Rooftop tents deliver portable accommodation in an easy-to-use package and keep users high, dry and tucked away from everything uninvited, from dingoes or crocs to slithery or stingy creepie-crawlies. A plethora of options await those wanting to do the ‘camp-on-ya-car’ thing, from cheap and cheerful to “you may as well buy a Winnebago”. There are three-season or four-season offerings all delivered in options from hinged-hard-tops to pop-up or folding soft-tops. Over past, and coming months, our AGA test crew are begging, borrowing, and stealing some of the latest and greatest rooftop tents. Our intent is to let you, the readers, short-track your knowledge on the good, bad and ugly of rooftop camping, starting with Yakima’s SkyRise HD, its four-season roof-borne bush accommodation option.
In Early 2017 Yakima entered the rooftop tent (RTT) market with a SkyRise rooftop tent. The tent immediately won over users looking for an easy to install, easy to set up, lightweight alternative to many of the existing (often heavier) RTT’s on the market. The SkyRise was a hit with the only real downside being the super-light 210 denier ‘back-country style’ fabric was not as durable as heavier denier tents.
Rather than rest on its laurels and pat itself on the back for producing a popular lightweight RTT offering, Yakima instead listened to its wilderness-wandering clientele and delivered up all the features of the original SkyRise tent, but in a more durable offering. The Yakima team didn’t beat around the bush on the name, either: it is called the SkyRise HD (Heavy Duty) and it steals all the best features from its popular SkyRise tent but delivers them in a burlier more durable four-season package, with even more accessories to boot.
In the field
What is immediately evident on installation of the SkyRise HD is that it is extremely lightweight for a three-person, four-season rooftop tent. In fact, most four-season rooftop tents weigh somewhere between 55 to 85 kilograms while the Skyrise HD weighs in at a mere 52kg. Unlike the original SkyRise, the new HD has not sacrificed fabric durability for weight-saving but rather has replaced the Ripstop Nylon face fabric of the original design with a burlier 3000mm waterproof coated, 600 Denier Ripstop polyester. In doing so, Yakima delivers a tough four-season tent, but shaves grams elsewhere to retain its 52kg overall weight. This frees roof-load for alternate gear and eliminates concerns of exceeding maximum rooftop load limits.
Yakima’s universal tool-less SKS locking mounts also hit our ‘favourite feature podium’. The tool-less mounts clamp to a vehicles roof-bars, or crossbars, via an easy-to-use threaded clamp-mount, and simply lock with a key. This system allows for stress-free attachment or removal of the SkyRise HD in matter of minutes. The only downside to the tool-less mounts is a lack of compatibility with many roof platforms. We were able to mount the tent to Yakima’s LockNLoad E-platform, but it was not an easy job and once fitted the tent sat rather high on the platform, negating both the benefits of the low-profile roof-tray and the tent’s rapid-mount system. Once affixed to our trusty Prado 120 however, the SkyRise predominantly sat secure for the duration of our test period. After a month we found two mounts had loosened a little, but a dab of Loctite alleviated any concerns we had on long corrugated roads.
When on the move the 680g PVC cover kept the entire tent and ladder tidy and secure in a 122cm long x 142cm wide x 41cm high package. The 41cm height does mean the tent catches plenty of wind, reducing our Prado’s fuel efficiency by close to 15 per cent. Such a reduction in fuel economy sat right on what we’d expect for such a roof load however. We were pleasantly surprised by how little wind noise we copped inside the vehicle and the bonus of a rather hefty 41cm is plenty of space to allow for bedding to be folded inside the tent when on the move.
One annoyance with the compacted tent is the quick release buckles on the cover that simply slide straight off their webbing compression straps. Fortunately, the fix is only a few 50-cent plastic tri-glide buckles away, or by stitching strap ends back on themselves. It’s a small annoyance, but one that baffles us how it ever got through testing. Where the Yakima excels, however, is on arrival at camp. The removable cover unbuckles with six quick-release buckles, then the unzipping of two small corner zips before releasing the Velcro seal all the way around. The cover then rolls away to be secured by two tabs while the tent is in use.
The multi-height concertina style extendable ladder acts as a lever for opening the tent and a single person can have the tent ready for use in a couple of minutes. There is no fiddly extending of poles and the 600D Ripstop polyester fabric has taped seams and a 3000mm waterproof coating. The extended floor acts as a shelter from rain or sun and the extendable ladder doubles as support for the overhanging tent. Our only gripe with this extendable ladder is its lack of barefoot friendliness. Exterior side tracks allow the fitment of optional accessories such as the SkyRise Annex. For our setup we added a SkyLoft hanging storage net, SkyHook hanging carabiners (great for hanging a lantern) and SideKick storage bags for shoes and drink bottles etc. If the heavens properly open a 210D Ripstop polyester 3000mm PU waterproof rainfly can be easily attached but importantly folds away on breaking camp, without a need to remove it from the tent. Two guy ropes attach to external D-rings on the overhanging tent floor to secure it to the ground if the weather turns properly nasty.
Internally, the SkyRise HD offers a solid 272kg weight allowance and a roomy 243cm x 142cm x 122cm of volume. There’s plenty of space for two people, or you can even throw a munchkin in the mix, but it would certainly be a squeeze if you were to attempt sleeping the advertised three-person capacity. The 64mm foam mattress is a blessing and far more comfortable than many competitive folding rooftop tents, and comes with a removable cover for easy cleaning. Stash pockets exist in each corner of the tent, offering stowage for keys and phone while the optional Sunbelt 32-inch USB-powered light strip we installed delivered an easy and efficient lighting solution powered that folds away with the tent.
With large doors at both ends, two full length windows on the sides, and two roof windows, all with insect-screens, airflow is a non-issue and campers can gaze at the stars all night long. Importantly the side windows can open and close without a need to unzip the insect mesh and so venting and water protection can be adjusted without concerns of mozzie infestations. Additionally, the front door panels double as awnings when the flysheet is not in use, great for sun/rain protection whilst retaining airflow and without installing the rain fly.
If the fly needs to be fitted then it importantly offers two see-through windows to allow campers to peer even at a rainy sky whilst keeping internal roof windows open, even in a downpour. The flexible tensioning poles of the flysheet, like all similar systems, threaten to either take an eye out or tear the flysheet until you nail your technique. We’re now well versed in the nuances of the flexi-pole-flick, but we hope for a better system in the future.
The final word on the Yakima SkyRise HD
Like most rooftop tents the SkyRise HD excels in some areas and slips in others. Its ease of attachment and setup is a win alongside its simple tri-pole design offering enough space without the downside of an elaborate setup. The comfort of the mattress is a huge win and so is the bundle of accessories that adds to the usability. Whilst the bulk of the tent when packed away leaves a little to be desired, the weight saving and extra space for bedding helps negate this frustration. Yes, there are some stupid annoyances, such as the buckles that slide off the straps, or its inability to easily fit to a roof platform, but all in all the Yakima SkyRise HD will be a great camping companion for the majority of users.
RRP: $1999 See Yakima Australia for stockists.