Roofnest Sparrow Rooftop Tent Review: Raising The Bar For Comfort And Convenience

The car tent to beat them all?

[Photos and words: Grant Davis for TFLcar]

The Roofnest Sparrow rooftop tent is a smart solution to the one aspect of camping that will make or break the experience: Your ability to sleep well. The Sparrow, at $2,895.00, is not cheap, but after the first night in it, you may, like my family, never look back. We spent a weekend in it at 9,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies, and unlike past camping trips, my family is already jonesing to go again—as long as the Roofnest is available.

[Note: Roofnest gave TFL this tent for our “No Pavement Needed: TransAm Trail” series that kicks off later this summer. Stay tuned for more on that soon!]

How Roofnest puts “nest” into the Sparrow

Roofnest Sparrow
Set up takes mere minutes. Same with takedown.

The sleek, hard reinforced fiberglass bottom and top creates an aerodynamic case that easily secures to the crossbars on a vehicle. The 130-pound Sparrow needs at least three, ideally four, people to put it on top of a vehicle. Once there, the two-person tent stays out of the way. It only really makes heft known on winding canyon roads or off-road tracks that fling a vehicle from side-to-side.

Popping the tent is a simple as unlatching the top from the bottom and pushing up. The gas struts in the four corners of the tent do the rest, raising it to full height. To pull the tent down, you simply tug on the front and rear straps [this is best as a two-person job], tuck the tent fabric into the box and snap it back down. Inside the box, the Sparrow leaves enough space for you to stow your sleeping bags and pillows, making set-up and take down even faster.

Speaking of set-up, all you need to do is pull your vehicle onto a level, or semi-level, spot and pop it. No need to waste time looking for rock- and root-free level ground, clearing it of tent-piercing debris, hauling out the tent and then putting it all together. The Sparrow makes late-night and/or foul-weather campsite arrivals stress-free and fast.

Instant guest house

Roofnest Sparrow rear
Awnings and ladder placement sprout from 3 sides.

The interior space works out to 83 inches long by 49-inches wide. In mattress terms, that equates to longer than a queen size mattress in length, but about a third less wide. And speaking of the mattress, the Roofnest comes with 2-plus-inch thick memory foam bed covered in a soft, removable cover fabric for easy cleaning.

The square box tent looks a odd compared to classic slope-walled tents, but the genius of the design becomes apparent when you climb inside. The interior space and the ability to sit upright anywhere inside elevate the comfort-level in ways you never would have considered until you try the Sparrow.

Thick nylon walls keep the weather and moisture out. The insulated fiberglass roof keeps rain or, worse, hail from pounding at–and shredding–the fabric. Three of the sides can be cantilevered out for better airflow. The front panel serves as a simple adjustable air-flow inlet for those times you want to batten down the tent due to weather or cold.

One other positive aspect to vertical tent walls and a hard-shell top: Morning dew or an overnight rain will not stall your camp breakdown the next morning. There is no need to wait for your tent to dry out before packing it away. The vertical walls of the Sparrow prevent moisture from sticking to the outside of the tent and dew or water on the fiberglass shell up top is harmless. Until experiencing this Roofnest, we had not even been aware of this benefit.

The verdict

Upon arriving at the campsite next to a tiny A-frame cabin we were visiting, the Roofnest was immediately commandeered by my teenage son and his best friend. It became their clubhouse, away from the boring adults, which if you have teenagers, you know can be a win-win situation for everyone.

My son, who is six feet tall, and his buddy spent two nights in the Roofnest. I asked him to compare the quality of sleep in the Sparrow compared to a classic tent/air-mattress set-up on a scale of 1 to 10. He would not give it a 10, saying that the Roofnest was not just better, but “infinitely” better, and the best sleep he had gotten all week, even though the overnight temperature dipped below freezing.

I do have one issue with the Roofnest: It spoiled my family from putting up with a classic tent for car camping. Any future camping plans now start with, “Can we take the Roofnest?”