Poler expands the horizon of rooftop camping
By C.C. Weiss
May 14, 2014
The roof tent provides a functional cross between the natural, breezy experience of tent camping and the easy set-up of a vehicle camper. The all-new Poler Le Tente promises to bring that cross-segment function to a new generation of car campers.
The Le Tente is made from heavy-duty, waterproof canvas structured by aluminum poles. It mounts to standard Yakima and Thule roof-rack bars, offering shelter for two people. Pitching is a simple, five-minute process involving unstrapping the package and folding the tent and aluminum ladder out. An integrated queen-size foam mattress adds extra comfort. While the Le Tente is designed to work with any vehicle that can handle the 140 lb (63.5 kg) dwelling on its roof, Poler seems particularly excited about the prospect of adding it to a van, highlighting a large van with front and rear Le Tentes in its introductory video.
The Le Tente isn't breaking any new design ground. There are many rooftop tent kits available. Heck, you can even find roof tents small and light enough to fit a MINI Cooper. Poler did tell us that it is building the Le Tente itself, not simply rebranding a third-party roof tent.
What is interesting about the Le Tente is that it moves the concept of a roof tent into a slightly different market. We've been attending the Outdoor Retailer, North America's trade show for all things camping and general outdoors, for several years. Each summer and winter, the show has tents of every shape and size – from ultralight backpacking tents and hammock-tents to huge base camp tents. They even have an entire "tent city" set up outside for exploring pitched tents from the different manufacturers. What we can't recall ever having seen at Outdoor Retailer is a vehicle roof tent.
Roof tents have more of a niche in the RV/camping trailer market, despite some clear advantages for car campers and general outdoors enthusiasts. That's true in the United States at least – the situation is a little different in Europe, where car-camper hardware like the Yatoo and QUQUQ appear at both the Outdoor Friedrichshafen Show and the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon.
Poler is not a traditional camper hardware brand and is the type of brand we'd expect to see at OR, not a caravan/RV show. In fact, it's one of the more urban outdoor lifestyle brands on the market, designing gear for "people that have adventures all over the world while wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers," not for those that "pretend they are going to do first ascents on alpine peaks." That gear includes things like its arm-freeing Napsack and the old school modular Rucksack.
In other words, the Le Tente is floating into a market of city dwellers looking to escape to the outdoors for a weekend or vacation, not one of hardcore overlanders, outdoorsmen and road trippers. It'll be interesting to see if more car-top tents start showing up in local gear shops and campsites as a result. They make perfect sense as a simple, streamlined camping alternative, pulling campers high above the cold, hard, creeper-crawler-infested ground and taking some of the time and effort out of camping preparation and set-up. The four-figure price tags, on the other hand, are sure to be a deal breaker for some when compared to much lower ground tent pricing.
The Le Tente is available for order now and costs a penny under US$1,000 before you get to the estimated $250 US shipping. It measures 96 x 56 x 50 in (244 x 142 x 127 cm) open and 48 x 56 x 14 in (122 x 142 x 35.5 cm) when folded for driving. You can see it in action in the goofy, retro video below.
Gizmag and Poler will both be at this week's Overland Expo, so hopefully we'll have the chance to get a hands-on look at the Le Tente. Stay tuned for more coverage on everything from motorcycle camping gear to bus-sized off-roading shelters.