***Disclaimer: As usual, this review is not one that compares data to all the others on the market, it is simply a review of MY personal experience with this tent, which I have put through its paces.***
For those unfamiliar with the brand, Smittybilt is a brand that makes a wide range of off-road and off-road related products at more affordable prices than other brands. Sometimes this results in lower quality of the products, sometimes it doesn’t.
As per the opening statement, my reason at the time to purchase the Smittybilt Overlander tent was twofold: 1 – price, 2 – local availability. I made the purchase through 4 Wheel Parts and bought the Extreme Warranty with it, which immediately alleviated any of my fears or concerns of buying a tent from Smittybilt instead of say Tepui, CVT or Wild Coast Tents, to name but a few of the higher end, more pricey tents. If anything whatsoever would go wrong with it, they would give me a brand new one to replace it with.
I bought this tent for NB Expedition Part 1, the prequel to what would become NB Expedition Challenge. The idea was to travel all of NB off-road and tow my DIY trailer with a RTT for comfort and ease of set-up.
The Negative Points
Right off the get-go during the initial assembly of the tent, I noticed a few things I didn’t quite like about this RTT. One thing I noticed is that while the cover is very solid thick rubbery material, the edges of the tent base were very sharp and would easily damage the cover through abrasion. So in proper off the cuff DIY fashion, bring out the duct tape!! I actually used the corner pieces of a rubber floor mat to cover the edges and taped them down with duct tape! It does the job and is still holding strong to this day, even if it doesn't look very pretty.
I think this is a shortcoming that could easily and cheaply be addressed by Smittybilt without raising the price of the tent. Sometimes it’s the little finishing touches that make all the difference.
Some reviews I read about this tent mentioned the velcro that holds down the tent cover. Some people were worried that it would get full of mud etc, but I have to shoot that theory down. Having towed it behind the trailer though torrential downpours while driving on dirt roads, through dust and mud and everything in between, my tent was always dry and clean by the end of it all. Even after the velcro fills with mud and dust, once it is dry it can all be easily vacuumed out during your post trip maintenance. Having owned both zippered options and velcro, while the zipper is better at keeping air out of the cover while driving, the velcro makes setup and tear-down easier. Some have mentioned the sound of the velcro as a negative point, I think that's really not an issue. At this price point, which BTW is close to HALF that of other very comparable tents, definitely not an issue.
I’d like to point out that I am not a fan of the straps that hold the cover down, as they are also velcro and metal loops, like those found on old school belts. In this case, the velcro will wear out and it does get dirty with dust and mud etc. But again, at this price point, not an issue, especially where this is a very easy DIY fix. All that’s needed is a set of buckles of your choice and you’re all set.
The ladder is not a telescoping ladder, but rather a sliding ladder. The only thing that this does, is make it a slightly larger profile underneath the cover. One thing I found about the ladder too was that the rubber plastic inserts at the ends aren’t all that good and tend to fall out. In my case, where I used the ladder on a trailer, the fact that it was a sliding ladder was actually an advantage as the ladder has predrilled holes for the sliding half to click into and set in place when almost fully extended. But at the height that my trailer is it at, there were no holes. Given the design of these sliding ladders, drilling 2 holes where I wanted them was a piece of cake.
There are lots of good things to be said about this tent. All in all I have to admit that I am not much of a Smittybilt purchaser other than for minor things like Seat Covers, but in this case, a major piece of equipment at the +-$1200 price tag, I am very impressed by it! It has held up through all sorts of weather, the zippers have kept working just fine, the poles remain strong, the mattress hasn’t collapsed or become compressed yet like I read in some people’s reviews. Although I have to say the mattress is a little stiff, at 2″ thick it isn’t the most comfortable, but sure beats sleeping on an air or foam mattress on the ground. That being said, a thick sleeping bag or a secondary layer of foam will easily improve the comfort. In my case I cut a piece of memory foam to the same shape as the original mattress, making it very comfortable.
It has never leaked! It was even dry inside after I put it away soaking wet after a night out in the rain. After setting the wet tent up again the next evening I was dreading a damp, if not wet tent, but to my surprise, it was DRY!!!
One of my favourite features of this tent is the built-in LED light strip that is attached to the tent via a thick strip of velcro. The cord it comes with is extremely long and even with my trailer detached from the Jeep, I was still able to hook it up and plug it into the 12V outlet in the trunk of my JK. They supply a USB 12V plug with dual USB outlets, so you can plug in the tent light and still charge another USB device.
The “sunroof” in this tent is another feature that only some models of certain competitors offer, and it comes standard on every Overlander tent. I can’t praise this feature enough. It has noseeums mesh covering, just like all the openings on this tent, as well as a solid flap to close it completely. However the reason why this is a great feature is because of ventilation. Condensation typically starts on the ceiling as warm air rises and meets the colder outside temperature. With these open, the air will keep rising up the rainfly and then run down towards the outside of the tent, keeping the inside completely dry. I have had zero condensation in my tent yet. Although, I admit I haven’t camped in it in the winter, when it’s that cold out, condensation might still occur. On those nights where the sky is clear and the stars are out, with the Milky Way displayed in all its glory, that’s when removing the rainfly and opening the sunroof really pays off!
If you don’t mind a little DIY work, customize your stuff and maybe sleep on a slightly stiffer mattress than some of the higher priced RTT’s, then I would certainly recommend this tent to anyone looking for an entry level tent or a solid RTT on a budget. After all, most of these RTT's are manufactured by the same manufacturers in China, catering to specific feature request by the vendors. Materials, feel and design of all these tents is very very similar, if not the same. Can it be improved? YES, absolutely! Are there better ones on the market? Certainly! But does it do its job of keeping your dry, comfortable, off the ground and provide a quick and easy set-up / tear-down? You bet!! I give this tent a 7/10.