Reigning Australian Motocross Champion, Todd Waters, lives a fast life on and off the track. When he isn’t competing in motocross or supercross, he’s training, fine-tuning engines in his mechanic’s workshop, brainstorming new clothing lines, catching barrels on his surfboard, thumbing emails at lightning pace, or modifying his beloved red Land Rover Defender using Snap-on Tools.
For Waters, camping is the one opportunity to truly escape the fast-paced, adrenaline-laced, entrepreneurial lifestyle he calls his own.
“When I need a break from it all, I go camping,” he tells me when we meet up on the Gold Coast. “My fiancé and I tend to head down to the beach, wake up at 5am with the sun, go for a surf, make breakfast, maybe have another nap. My phone’s off, I get away from it all and I reset. It’s good for the soul.”
But it seems that, even when camping, Waters can’t fully take his hand off the throttle. Because above his Defender’s 2in lift on progressive Kings Springs and Gabriel shocks, its timber floor fitted with Boab drawers and slides, and its black kangaroo leather dash lining and velvet hoodlining, his beloved fourbie features an Eezi-Awn Stealth rooftop tent — one of the most rapid tents to set up and pack-down on the market.
EXTERNALS OF THE TENT
The black powder-coated aluminium lid of the Stealth has flat surfaces, angled from a lower front end towards the 32cm maximum height at the rear. The facets fall into a neat diamond pattern, with the tip pointing forward, which parts the air, encouraging it up, over, and away to the side.
The tent tips the scales at a reported 90kg, a common weight for clamshells, which will exceed the recommended roof loads of certain vehicles, such as my Mitsubishi Challenger, while being well within the means of others, such as Waters' Defender or a LandCruiser. At 1.45m wide, the tent won’t protrude over the bodies of most vehicles and, at 2.2m long, it will consume most if not all of the roof rack space.
The Eezi-Awn Stealth is made to secure to the Eezi-Awn K9 roof rack, via K9 Stealth Rooftop Tent mounting kits. There are three possible types of mount. Firstly the ‘elevated’ type, which involves four brackets shaped like top-hats. The upper part of each bracket has a hole that admits a bolt, enabling each to be secured to a plate sitting in the channel on the underside of the RTT. With this achieved, two lower ‘hat brim’ parts of the bracket secure to two east-west channels of the K9, to which the brackets run perpendicular.
I imagine this elevated bracket would work with an ordinary crossbar as well if the crossbar had a channel for securing add-ons and the lower brackets were flipped 90 degrees to align with this channel.
The second mounting style is called ‘low profile’, but what I saw on Waters' setup was the third method using the ‘flush’ mounts. Each flush bracket has two rectangular parts, which slot together and clamp around a rail of the K9 platform after being joined with bolts. On the flat top of the upper rectangular part, there’s a slot that allows the plate that fits into the RTT channel to be bolted on.
None of these connection methods are commonplace and sadly it was impossible to take images of the flush mounting kit once installed. You might find the images at equipt1.com/products/tent-mount-set helpful.
POPPING THE TOP
In transit, the Eezi-Awn Stealth is held down by four toggle latches clamping down on wide catch plates. In addition to the natural pressure of such a system, these latches feature cut-out holes that slot over springy, folded aluminium protrusions when closed. These protrusions must be depressed with a finger so that the cut-out hole in the latch can pass back over them. They are fiddly to use, but add safety, which can be further enhanced by the addition of a carabiner or trailer pin to one or even every latch. Placing a small padlock would achieve the same while also giving the necessary peace of mind to leave valuables, like a laptop, up top during the day.
Once all four latches are promptly flipped up, a gentle shove on the back end of the tent awakens the two gas struts, which extend the tent into its clamshell position. The lower, hinged end is ‘stepped up’ from the base unlike with most clamshell tents. This is achieved not through a second set of gas struts but by interconnected cross-over scissor arms on each side.
The role of these arms is to determine and limit how far the hinged end raises. All joints of these arms articulate within their axis on bearings, such that the arms automatically unfold and pivot as the gas struts expand and, similarly, re-fold back down and within each other as the lid closes. But there’s no need to worry about any of that — it’s all automatic!
COMPLETING THE SETUP
Most hard-lid tents require the ladder to be stored in the car or to be packed away under the mattress upon pack-up — which is a pain given that mattresses always fit tightly into RTTs. However, the Stealth differs in that it has a dedicated, marine-carpeted slot for housing the ladder during transit. Having the ladder up top takes a potential missile out the car and means you don’t have to pile the ladder onto other gear or dig that other gear out to put the ladder where it belongs.
This slot is within the tent base and is accessed from the rear of the tent, which is invariably at the rear of the vehicle. During transit, the ladder is secured with a heavy flat tab that pivots up and out of the way like the lid of a cigarette lighter. The marine carpet also adds friction to retain the ladder, but the tab can be — and ought to be, in my opinion — secured with a lock or pin through the aligning holes provided.
At camp, this ladder slides out completely and then connects to the tent on the sides to allow entry through either of the windows there. A tongue on one end of the ladder fits under a long flat horizontal slot on the flat-topped aluminium edge of the tent base. In my books, it’s not the best connection, because outwards pressure away from the tent is able (though unlikely) to edge it out. Such pressure is typically applied when exiting with your back to the ladder, which isn’t a good idea but may be tempting depending on your position in the tent (eg. after putting on socks while sitting out of the window) or what you’re carrying (eg. a camera on a lanyard). Coming down normally, with your chest to the ladder, pushes the ladder in more firmly.
The ladder is height-adjustable by a clever mechanism on either end and, given the fixed height of the point RTT ladders connect to, height-adjustable also translates into angle-adjustable. To release the spring-loaded pins that slot into various paired spaced-out holes and fix the ladder’s height, one simply pulls a rope attached to each pin. This experience is vastly more pleasant than the common experience of pulling on a swivel ring to release a spring-loaded pin, and the Eezi-Awn pins seem to find home more easily than on other tent ladders, too.
Being adjustable both ends allows the ladder to extend further than ever before, to 230cm, so it can cater to vehicles with 2in suspension lifts, such as Waters' Defender.
The ladder is quite flat in one dimension, which allows it to travel in the carpeted slot but also makes the rungs and rails quite narrow front to back. Perhaps because of this there’s some flex in the ladder, which bows as weight is applied. Furthermore, the rungs are rounded — which some readers may like, but I’d prefer them to be flat-topped — and the bottom one is not closed off on the top but presents two vertical aluminium strips. But it’s not a biggie as the second step is sufficiently low that this lowest one can be avoided.
A final step to set up is to fetch the two spring steel rods from inside, slot them into the holes on the tent’s aluminium lower half, bend them back and hook them into the eyelets to hold out the canvas awning over the large rear window (at the bedhead).
At this point I’ll note this is actually a newly released version of the Stealth we’re reviewing. At time of writing Waters had just put this one on after using an older version for a year, hence the plastic wrap on the mattress in some photos. The earlier version had these spring steel rods slot into the canvas, not the metal body. I didn’t see that version, but I welcome the change as I imagine the canvas sleeves would’ve been vulnerable to tearing when the wind was throwing around the awning. This new version ought to hold together really well.
The Stealth features multiple bungee cords that click together with side-release buckles to pull in the canvas and prevent it from jutting out of the seal as the tent lowers during pack-down. The elastic is properly taut when extended so, unlike some slack bungee cords I have encountered in RTTs previously, it gathers the canvas well.
The capsule-like shape of the upper and lower tent halves allows room for a light blanket when you pack the tent away, while the raised rear end allows two pillows to remain inside. Being able to retain this gear in here saves you from travelling up the ladder with your hands full every time and frees up storage space in the car; plus, it’s more hygienic than tossing bedding in with dirty gear, like camp chairs.
A SENSE OF SPACE
The Stealth’s lined ceiling slants down from a peak of 123cm of headroom to 32cm at the stepped-up toe-end. Paired with the tent’s generous 215cm interior length, this lifted toe allows plenty of room for your feet and, being raised, makes the slant of the ceiling less acute, thereby increasing the amount of headroom overall.
It’s easy to assume that headroom is superior in boxy rooftop tents that raise to an equal height on both ends, but realistically, such tents can only be engineered to go so high. Whereas, in clamshells, the gas strut can be joined closer to the hinged end, from which position the struts can hold the tent lid on an angle that produces one exceptionally high end.
The gas struts cross over the corner of the side windows but not in any problematic way. Entry in and out is easy, accordingly more spacious than with a box-style rooftopper, and does not require unpleasant bending of the neck or body to fit in.
STORAGE AND ACCESSORIES
At each side at the foot of the bed, two storage pockets, each about 30cm wide, hang on the walls. These would be a good spot for your phone, wallet, keys, book, iPad, shirt, socks or tissues. You can’t access them while lying down as you would to sleep or relax but must wriggle around or sit up. With the slanted roof and proximity factor, the pocket closest to the bed-goer’s head will prove the more practical.
A DC plug on the tent base can be hooked up with the car’s cigarette lighter (if this is rewired to run off the auxiliary battery) or be permanently wired to the auxiliary battery, to provide 12V power to the tent. The wiring is
run discretely and is out the way at the foot of the bed.
Below the pockets on the left (the vehicle’s passenger side), the mattress has a cut-out edge to allow access to a double USB charging point — ideally positioned to keep your devices at 100 per cent, so that the morning alarm works, and you’re not having to travel around with a flat phone the next day. There’s also an in-built ceiling light protected within hard plastic for when the tent is closed. This light spares you from impromptu lamp or headtorch arrangements and generally making life easier than in the Stone Ages.
The interior is satisfactorily bug-proof. While the upper half of the fabric is fitted into sail tracking, necessitating unattached corners, an internal flap with a Velcro edge completely closes off each corner, so that outside can’t come inside. Similarly, when the tent is packed away, the two halves lodge together firmly and don’t allow entry of any critters.
The mattress is 8cm-thick foam with a poly-cotton cover, providing par for the course of high-end rooftop tents; it’s certainly an improvement on the 5cm thick pancakes that are sometimes dished up, as if you’re training for warfare at Kapooka rather than camping.
In more good news, the Stealth mattress never has to fold over like in some fold-out rooftop tents, so it won’t wear thin in the middle, which matters as it’s where your hips go. At 215cm long by 130cm wide, the mattress is longer than many other tents by a touch, and narrower by a slither.
Under the mattress and above the flat base of the tent, there was a thin material covered in marine carpet which constituted the immediate floor; I would guess this to be thin ply or aluminium sheet.
On the review model as I saw it, this material was not perfectly flat but flexed upwards in places near the edges. I found that weight applied on the material pushed it back flat.
HANDLING THE WEATHER
The midge mesh and canvas screens of the front and side windows are connected to the canvas at the bottom, where they can be rolled and secured with three loops and toggles. The strengths of this arrangement are that the windows will not hang in the entry when unzipped, which saves you from pushing them aside as you enter, and that you’ll also be able to zip the canvas part-way up to really tailor the airflow. The weaknesses are that you have to fold the doors in or roll them so they don’t drape over the ladder, and that gravity will not dangle them in a convenient position when you’re zipping them up.
The angled ceiling helps with water-run off during rain and the hard lid prevents any possibility of water pooling and coming through seams in the ceiling. The large canvas flap at the bedhead window can be left open during rainy weather thanks to the window’s overhanging shelter, but the canvas side windows will need to be fully closed. Even with every window closed, there’s a bit of freshness let in by the vents high on the sidewalls on either side.
ALL IN ALL
The South African-made Eezi-Awn has a 12-month warranty on Australian shores. Costs vary, depending on distributor discretion, but prices ranged between $4900 and $5145 at time of writing. The brand’s agent in Australia is AE4A (Automotive Electrical & 4WD Accessories), which has two Australian offices, one in Ormeau, Queensland (which is the head office), and the other in Welshpool, WA. The tent can be purchased through distributors — such as TentWorld, Outback Equipment, 4WD Industries, Opposite Lock Rothwell, Remote Travel Products and TJM Adelaide — but they may not keep any in stock, so depending on where you live, the Stealth might prove a hard tent to set your eyes on before you buy.
Overall, the Eezi-Awn Stealth is an impressive bit of kit. Its setup speed takes the hassle out of camping in an RTT, bringing it more closely in line with the freedom-to-move ideal that RTTs were always meant to embody; and if its speed is a trait shared with the wider clamshell market, then the Stealth’s ability to store the ladder up the top and the stepped-up hinge are not. Like Todd Waters, the Eezi-Awn Stealth is no ordinary speed demon.
Weight 90kg including ladder
Shell material Aluminium
Canvas 280gsm heavy-duty ripstop
Ladder Extends to 230cm
Style Clamshell with raised hinge
External size (closed) 1450mm (W) x 2200mm (L) x 320mm (H)
External size (set-up) 1450mm (W) x 2200mm (L) x 430mm/1400mm (H)
Mattress 80mm-thick high-density foam, 215cm (L) x 130cm (W)
Internal headroom 123cm at high end, 32cm at lower end
2 x USB point, ceiling light protected in plastic, powered by an external DC
point when connected to vehicle’s auxiliary battery
Varies depending on dealer — around $4900 to $5200
Eezi Awn Australia
Ph for Eastern states: (07) 5540 7877
Ph for WA, NT and SA: (08) 9358 7000