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Instant Camping With ARB’s Simpson Car Top Tent
  |  First Published: September 2009



Quality construction, ease of setting up and the blessing of convenience are apt descriptions of the ARB car topper. Roomy enough for two adults this very handy unit is right where the car is when it's time to set up sleeping quarters for the night. What's more it can be set up from start to finish in mere minutes.

Naturally, with the tent carried outside the car there's more room inside for carrying all of that handy equipment we need for our fishing expeditions, plus whatever camping gear we might additionally need, of which I have no shortage of.

Quick set up

The Simpson tent is fixed to a car top rack and when not in use the unit presents as a quite compact package around a half metre high and about the width of the car. To keep things tidy and in place at all times, the tent is secured within a neat dust cover set up with strong and easily secured straps. Consequently, travelling at highway speeds or in dusty conditions won't bother the Simpson at all.

Setting the unit up for use will see the dust cover removed from three sides via heavy duty zippers and then allowed to extend down along the inside of the vehicle. At this point there's free access to the hinged (outer) section of the unit's floor that is going to fold out from the car to make up half of the 2.4m x 1.4m bed.

The floor section is actually sitting right on top of the main body of the tent and is ready to be pulled out to the side for use via a ladder that is located handily right on top of the folded down floor. With the ladder locked into a dedicated bracket on the floor it's used as a lever to pull the bed out and away from the vehicle during set up and in practice this is a very easy procedure. One simply brings the ladder down after hooking it up and by walking away and applying a small amount of pressure the sight of the tent floor coming over to the inside of the vehicle will be quite gratifying.

The tent is now free standing and ready for bracing via internal bows which are much the same as we see on most camper trailers; being telescopic with locks to ensure that they stay in place while extended. With the ladder set into its special bracket at the tent's entrance the user can then climb into the tent to extend the bows, open either of the two side windows, or perhaps even the rear door to allow some more flow through ventilation.

What you get

This well constructed car topper offers very comfortable sleeping quarters for two on a firm mattress with plenty of ventilation via side windows and doors (all are equipped with finely meshed screens) but for those times when rain threatens there's also a smart overfly which can be extended over the windows. The fly can actually be extended out over window areas for additional weather protection if necessary.

The tent has an extended section that comes out over the ladder access point to protect the entrance area quite well against the vagaries of weather. While you need to climb up the ladder to get into the tent area there's excellent shelter during the process.

Another advantage of this unit is that it is well and truly up and out of reach of ground based nasties and with air flowing under it as well as on all sides it will be cooler than a tent placed on the ground.

Remembering that the Simpson car topper is basically a bedroom the user might also like to consider setting up an annex and to facilitate this ARB offer a dedicated unit to compliment the Simpson quite nicely. It sets up around the outer perimeter of the bed's base via a special sail track and when in use it allows the user to have a two story camp set up with sleeping quarters on top, eating area below.

All material used throughout the Simpson car tent is very heavy duty with the actual tent material very waterproof. Eyelets and zips are of strongest construction and obviously, like other ARB products, designed for the long haul.

Folding the unit away will see the bows reduced in their size while a set of rubberized straps inside the tent are hooked up on respective loops to pull the tent in as it folds down, thus making it into a far more compact package than would be the case if one had to go around and manually push each section of material in out of the way. Once all is neatly stowed the floor comes up and over, the ladder is reduced in size and slipped into place. It's then only a matter of zipping up the three sides. Yes, it took longer than set up but not by a very great margin.

Summing Up

ARB has done a lot of work on these Simpson car toppers and what the buyer is getting these days is the result of a fair bit of R and D.

I liked the concept of the unit as a highly mobile, quick set-up sleeping area that takes up virtually no more space than a vehicle. And, of course, the user is not tied to places where a conventional tent might be set up so far as level ground and the like is concerned.

While it may not suit folk wanting to set up an extended long term base camp and then use the car for other purposes my view is that campers involved in touring as the major objective with perhaps a bit of fishing while on the move are going to see the practicality in the Simpson. As a quality item I saw it as good value for $1800.

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