The experts at InTents Adventures put together a thorough and honest review of our Black Series Aluminum Hard Shell Tent. Read below to see a quick take on what they had to say or follow the link to read the full article.
I am constantly annoyed by “reviews” posted by people who have been using a piece of equipment for about 13 milliseconds. You’re not qualified to review something unless you’ve really put it through it’s paces and seen the good and bad of it.
This is not a 13 millisecond review… this is a comprehensive review of the Area BFE Aluminum Hardshell Tent based on several different trips over this summer. I have used (and packed) the tent in multiple heavy rainstorms. I have knocked it on branches and trees along the trail. It’s been up mountains, to the beach, and everything in between. This is my independent review - I paid retail price for my tent and am not being compensated in any way for this review.
Area BFE is relatively new in the rooftop tent game. These tents were previously sold under the “Adventure Vehicle Tents” label, and my tent still carries the previous branding, though it was sold by Area BFE. New tents rolling off the factory now have revised branding to reflect the Area BFE name.
The outside of the Area BFE tent is made out of aluminum. It’s not just a single piece of aluminum — the exterior is several pieces of aluminum over a “waffle” pattern inner core. I wouldn’t normally know about the insides of the tent, except mine arrived damaged in shipping (not the fault of the Area BFE or the retailer, Spirit of 1876) and I got an up-close view of the guts of the tent.
The clamshell is operated by two gas struts. Once you open the tent about 1/3rd of the way, the struts take over and hoist it the rest of the way open.
Area BFE includes the following hardware with the tent: 2x locking latches, keys for said latches, mounts for spring-tension awning poles, ladder mount, a handle, and the mounting hardware.
The fabric of the tent is a heavy-duty canvas that has a water repelling treatment on it. There are three doors on the tent — one at the rear and one on each side of the tent. In addition to a fabric cover to keep rain out, each door has a fine mesh fabric to allow for ventilation while keeping bugs out. The back door also has a small awning cover for it; this awning does a surprisingly good job keeping rain out of the tent. We had the back door open completely for ventilation overnight during a heavy downpour and no water ever got into the tent because the awning kept the door dry. Gotta love that.
Setup and Break Down
This is why we switched tents. Our old CVT tent, while a nice tent, had two major flaws: it was very tall even when closed down and it took forever to open and close. Opening the tent was faster than closing, but getting the tent closed took more time and effort than it was worth. We had to do laps around the Jeep to tuck fabric, secure straps, run zippers… it was exhausting.
Adventure gear should aid in the adventure, not hinder it. The Area BFE tent elevates our adventures.
Mounting to Vehicle
Area BFE’s tent mounts to a roof rack like most of the others on the market — slides, bolts, nuts.
We mounted ours to the Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform. As far as I can tell from internet research, the Area BFE is 1000% times better than competitor tents in this regard. The RoofNest Falcon and CVT tent both require you to either drill the Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform or use a 3rd party bracket to attach the tent to the rack. That sucks. Drilling the rack requires you to…well…drill your rack. Considering how much we pay for a Pioneer Platform, that’s not super palatable. Using an after-market bracket like the ones made from Front Runner raises the tent off the rack, meaning everything isn’t as low-profile and streamlined as it could be.
Pros and Cons
After an exhaustive shake-down of the tent, I’ve come up with the following list of pros and cons to help you with your own shopping decisions:
Tent comes in a variety of dimensions (some sizes also include optional skylight)
Mounts to Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform without drilling or modification
You’ll stay dry in the rain. We’ve had it on at least two nights of heavy rain, and stayed nice and dry
Opening the tent is a breeze
Closing the tent is also a breeze. It’s all very breezy
Thin aerodynamic design. It’s a Jeep, but the road noise isn’t noticeably more with the tent than without it
Thin design again! My old tent was 15” tall and prevented me from getting into a lot of drive-throughs and parking lots
Several colors to choose from
Tent has proven to be waterproof
Opportunity to carry cargo, mount solar panels, etc
Holds up to trail abuse
Ability to mount accessories from the extruded aluminum side rails
Mattress could be improved
Zippers could be a little more beefy; requires more maintenance to prevent problems
Shoe bag mount is a bit of a joke
Handle for closing the tent gets really hot
Like I said earlier in the review, your gear should elevate your adventures, and the Area BFE aluminum hardshell tent does exactly that. We’ve found our fair share of areas to improve the tent, but that’s to be expected. Everyone will have a different experience and values different things; we value the size, ease of setup and breakdown, and versatility of this tent to carry cargo on the roof.
Of the issues we’ve identified with the tent, the mattress is really the only one that is of any substance. Fixing the hot grab handle or working around the shoe bag (Update: they fixed the shoe bag issue! See above 8 September update!) is all picky and small stuff. Easy to fix stuff. The mattress is a bigger challenge. We’ve now used three different mattress options in the tent and are hopefully close to a solution that checks all of the boxes.
At the same time, mattress softness is a bit of a personal preference. Some people might like sleeping on what feels like a slab of concrete. Others want a super smushy sleep. We want middle-of-the-road mattress. And we want a water-resistant cover for the mattress even more.
But here’s the thing — I can fix the mattress. There are so many things about this tent that would be a massive pain if they were any different from the way they are now (like the fact that I didn’t have to drill the Pioneer Platform to mount the tent!), and I have to give credit to the engineers at Area BFE for getting so much of the tent’s design just right.
All things considered, I give the tent a solid 8.731 out of 10. A few small tweaks and an improved mattress, and this tent will consistently hit home runs.
If you are in the market for a rooftop tent, I’d encourage you to give the Area BFE tent a hard look.