Max and I have been living on the road for over eight months now. We’ve tackled some crazy tracks, survived extreme weather changes and had one hell of an adventure so far. We set off in our fully loaded Nissan Patrol, Darche Panorama II Rooftop Tent on top and a boat in tow. We knew we did not have the perfect setup, no one does, but you move on with what you have got, make changes as you go or just grin and bear it. We lasted nearly seven months in that rooftop tent, but the last month nearly had us tearing at each other’s throats.
We will get round to writing a full product review for the Darche Panorama II once I can honestly say I am unbiased in my opinions. Let me tell you a story…
( Or you can just watch the video review HERE )
It was August, we had just finished travelling through the Red Centre of Australia and we were heading south. The days were fairly warm but each night reached new lows, 5°, 2°, -3°. After driving over 500km we stopped on the side of the road, just in a gravel pit in the desert, hoping to free camp. It was freezing and there was no hope of starting a safe fire with the wind gusts reaching 85km/hr. So as we do when the weather is particularly sh**, we seek out a caravan park with some creature comforts.
We drove another 100km in to Coober Pedy and found a caravan park sheltered between old mine shafts. The wind kept on blowing, stronger every hour, and we could not escape it. We ate dinner early and went to bed. We slept on and off for about 3 hours and then did not sleep a wink more. The noise that wind created when the fly of the tent hit the canvas was unlike anything else, or maybe it was like a crack of thunder that hit every 2.5 seconds. Finally when we were both completely jacked of it, and could see no other option, we climbed out on to the rook and took the f**king thing off. Ahhhh peace. So maybe I lied before, we did catch a wink of sleep, but it does not count when you hear what comes next.
Thirty minutes of blissful heavy sleep, that’s all we got. At 4.30am we awoke completely drenched. See, the Darche Panorama has a dumb star gazer window that you will just never use. Cause you can’t use it with the fly on and, as we learnt, you just shouldn’t take the fly off, for a number of reasons. The rain poured through the zipper of that window, straight on to our faces and woke us up in the middle of a thunderstorm. Still pitch black, the two of us sleep drunk, we climbed back out there and put the fly back on. Angrily holding metal poles in a shower of lightning on top of a metal box is a dream of mine I never thought would come to fruition. This all then lead in to weeks of sleep deprivation and cold weather that made us bitter.
So with that I give you our Bundutec Bundutop review, our new and improved bedroom:
The Bundutop comes with a pretty lovely 100mm foam mattress. We did try to put in a mattress topper as well to really get luxurious but we could not fit it in with all the bedding. In the end we realised we didn’t really need it and have had great sleeps on the mattress provided. The floor space in the Bundutop is a little smaller than our Darche which is a bit annoying cause there isn’t really anywhere to put you stuff/clothes/shoes. In the Darche you could store those things quite easily. Why do we want our shoes inside? Cause of rain and snakes and toads. I think at some stage we will cut a few inches off of the end of the mattress to make a little slot at the end of the bed. This may not be possible or comfortable if you are tall.
Otherwise this tent is really quiet, especially in comparison to the Darche, in high wind and heavy rain. There are two small fans installed and a cigarette lighter to charge your 12v items. The fly screen on the windows is pretty large, as in the holes seem big. We are yet to have a mosquito join us inside though, but will update you on that now that the hotter wetter months are ahead of us. We can’t really comment on the ladder as we already have one installed for when we needed to get on the roof to unpack our Darche RTT. It was however very compact and would need to be stored somewhere.
Size & Weight 8/10
There is not really much difference in weight, the Bundutop is about 4kg heavier. The Darche tent, if you didn’t store anything inside, was about 5cm shorter when folded up. We found that we needed a self-inflating mattress on top of the one provided as it was so bad. And we could only just fit that in when it was fully deflated for pack up. We also ended up using inflatable pillows so that we could deflate them and keep them up there. The Bundutop has allowed us to store pillows (normal, comfy pillows), sheets and two big doonas. This has saved us time and space.
Set-up & Pack-up 10/10
Such a dream. Just unclip four clips, one on each corner, and press the button. In 18 seconds the tent is up, the bed is already made and you are ready to go. Same with pack-up, just in reverse. We store a pillow along each of the longest sides to avoid the mechanics. You just need to leave one window open when you pack up to prevent a suction effect when opening it.
Max did the installation pretty much single handedly. So it can’t be that hard right?
Unlike the Darche the Bundutop does not come with any fixing materials. But unlike the Darche installation, the Bundutop is very simple and so is the instruction manual. Four to six evenly spaced bolts is all it takes. The hardest part is lifting it on to the roof.
The top of the tent can hold up to a 300w solar panel, which you can either pay the stockist to install or do it yourself. They are generally stuck down with Sikaflex, which we did the first time but ended up loosing the solar panel on the highway. We would suggest Sikaflex and some small screws. But if you do decide to use screws be really careful not to screw in the way of the magic pulleys and ropes that raise and lower the ceiling. There is an Anderson plug connection available on the tent and you will need to find a way to connect the wiring to your battery.
Quality & Durability 9/10
We are really impressed with the build, strong arm supports and heavy canvas. The hard top is made of aluminium, strong but lightweight. The roof lining prevents moisture build up, but I wonder why they didn’t do the same to the floor. A common problem is condensation under the mattress. We have managed to solve that problem with two pieces of shade clothe layered underneath. The fly screen is heavy duty, as are all the zips. There are just a couple of suspicious looking patches/paint on some of the canvas that looks like hole repairs.
We were trying to get our hands on a Bundutec Bundutop for two months. We were originally in contact with the main supplier in Queensland and felt we got messed around quite a bit. We were emailing back and forward for a number of weeks. At the start we were told we could get on within the week but then that quickly extended to nearly four months. The supplier told us in August that we wouldn’t be able to get one till December from any of his stockists, this was in August. Luckily we persisted, called around (a lot) and found a supplier in Adelaide with tents available at the ready. Gareth from Challenge Camper Trailers was great to deal with.
Value for money 8/10
These tents are not cheap. We paid $4790AUD and they don’t seem to be getting any cheaper. We are happy with almost every penny spent.
The Bundutop is a great quality rooftop tent and has been well engineered to provide seamless setups and pack ups, however the price tag is a reflection of these efforts. Our previous tent was great quality also and would be well suited to traditional touring setups however for prolonged trips the setup and pack up, which at the start seemed reasonably painless, began to feel quite arduous i.e. deflating the mattress, removing the sleeping bags, deflating the pillows, folding the tent over and securing the cover. The Bundutop solves all of these issues with a setup of undoing four clips and pressing a button. Not to mention the space saved in the canopy/car by means of having a fixed solar panel instead of a portable panel and bedding remaining inside the tent at all times.