CAMPING - TENTS & SWAGS
Roof tents can be a pain to erect and to pack away, but a hard-shell, electrically opening and closing unit eradicates all this hard work. We tested a Backtrax unit and were very impressed with it.
Backtrax roof-top tent units are Australian designed and feature hard-shell base and roof mouldings that separate vertically to reveal tent sides.
They mount to conventional roof racks and weigh approximately 65kg, which is within the roof-load capacity of most serious 4WD wagons and utes. Alternatively, they can be mounted on racks on camper trailers and that’s how we evaluated a Backtrax Ascent Pro model, fitted to a Track Trailer Mate.
The Backtrax Ascent range is manufactured using lightweight, vacuum-infused, gel-coated fibreglass, with air-textured polyurethane-coated nylon. These innovative materials are said to give the roof tent excellent abrasion resistance, high tear and tensile strength, and are also quick drying and water resistant.
The Ascent Pro features automatic, remote controlled opening and closing. An 18-amp lithium battery raises the tent roof and can charge laptops and other hand-held devices.
There is a 140cm-wide double bed, high-density, dual layer enviro-foam mattress and mosquito and midge mesh windows.
Other features include: internal LED light; two external LED lights at entry points for ladder on the right and left sides of the tent; key fob remote control opening and closing with backup manual toggles and crank-handle manual overrides; external Anderson plug for vehicle battery power; Bluetooth surround-sound speaker; two cargo pockets and cup holder; telescopic access ladder; roof rack clamping system with four stainless steel brackets; solar fan kit and an optional external awning.
The Ascent Pro has the following vital statistics: internal length 2120mm; external length 2150mm; internal width 1400mm; external width 1460mm; internal height open 1080mm and external height closed 380mm.
Pricing for the Ascent Pro is $6100 (manual model $5200) and there are wider-bed Summit models ($6760 and $5860, respectively) that have 1660mm external
Living with the Ascent Pro
Our testers were Sheree and Simon Martin, who towed a Track Trailer Mate, fitted with the Backtrax unit and slept in it for two nights. The drive to Snowy River Cabins in the NSW high country took in rough gravel roads and tracks, so the Backtrax spent quite some time in a cloud of dust, but no dust intruded.
They found the Backtrax Ascent Pro to be very spacious with good head height and enough room for two adults to sleep comfortably on the thick foam mattress provided. However, should they want to buy one, they’d spend the extra coin on the wider-bed, Summit model.
Four full-height windows made getting in and out of the unit very easy from any side and they also allowed excellent ventilation. The larger side openings featured mosquito-mesh screens and the two smaller end openings had midge mesh.
The optional small Redwing awning ($290) supplied with the test module would keep the bedding dry while getting in and out if it were raining. However, the optional extra awning and change
room ($895), mounted to the roof of the pod would be a better option.
The inbuilt internal LED lighting had low and high settings, providing enough light to be able to read comfortably at night before going to sleep. There was also LED lighting outside the hard shell that had a choice of white and orange colouring, to make it easier to see your way in or out in the dark.
There was a solar-powered fan mounted in the roof of the shell to allow better ventilation when the sides were closed and this also helped reduce the amount internal condensation that formed during the night. The roof was textured, so no drips fell on the bed.
The ease of setting up and packing up a hard-shell rooftop tent was greatly enhanced by the electric motor that could be powered by using a vehicle or camper battery, or the battery pack; with control via the remote control supplied or the switches on the side of the pod.
The four lifting arms operated in a sequence, raising and dropping one end first, and all that was required when packing it away was some tucking of the canvas walls over the arms as they folded down.
There was a manual winding handle supplied with the Accent Pro, for use in the event of power loss or motor malfunction.
Water and dust sealing of the closed unit appeared to be effective, with the top half of the shell being an overlapping, tight fit, clamped by four stainless steel, over-centre latches. Bedding was left made up, with the lid closed.
For those who want a modular roof tent that’s easy to live with and can afford a Backtrax unit, we reckon it’s the best rack-mounted bush bed we’ve come across.