(The Gear Loop) - There’s something wonderfully liberating about pulling up at a beauty spot, opening a comfortable tent that’s attached to the roof of your luxury 4x4 and enjoying a restful night’s sleep, without the cold creeping up through your camping mat and freezing your backside clean off.
For some lucky folk, this is a reality, as Land Rover now offers a bespoke, state-of-the-art Autohome roof tent for its latest Defender 110. Simply order the Expedition Roof Rack, Roof Rails and this roof tent at dealer level and let the adventures begin.
Italian firm Autohome created the bespoke living quarters especially for this vehicle, and the system opens up via two supporting gas struts in around two seconds. It’s about as easy as tent pitching comes. Inside, you’ll find a plush mattress, pillows and an LED lighting unit and an aluminium ladder that allows owners to access their lofty perch.
We were lucky enough to be handed the keys to a Land Rover Defender Hard Top 110, part of its commercial range of vehicles that sees the typical rear passenger quarters ripped out in favour of rubberised flooring, myriad stash boxes and a toughened cage that seals the front of the vehicle away from tools and other loose, and potentially dangerous items.
It seemed fairly fitting to have a tent attached to one of the most hose-clean, rough-and-ready modern Defenders currently on sale, and decked out with bright white steel wheels and a muted navy paint job, it looked the business, too.
Wild Camping in the UK is still very much a touchy subject. We’ve written extensively about it here, and mentioned where you can and can’t do it, plus the legal grey areas that surround pitching a tent in the wilderness.
One place where it is fully permitted is Dartmoor National Park, or more specifically, certain parts of the Dartmoor National Park.
It seemed an obvious place to point the Land Rover towards on a frosty but sunny March morning. Although the reality of testing out a Land Rover with a large tent attached to the top wouldn’t be quite some simple and idyllic.
After a long motorway jaunt down to the South West of England, it soon became clear the latest Land Rover Defender has come a long way since its agricultural roots. Sure, some diehard fans feel it shouldn’t really wear the Defender badge, given it has heated seats, Apple CarPlay functionality and weighs about as much as a family home, but they’re plain wrong.
This is a throughly modern iteration that will still happily handle the rough stuff, but does so with all the mod cons. Windscreen wipers and lights that actually work, for example.
The drive was comfortable, with only the wind roar created by the hulking tent on the roof spoiling the otherwise tranquil experience.
Dartmoor seemingly appeared out of nowhere in a way it only can, as one minute you’re motoring along the busy A30 and then next you really are in the middle of nowhere. The closer to the west of the park you get, the more remote things become.
So remote, in fact, that really only one road slices through it (the B3212) and the ability to peel off and get a bit lost in a vehicle is negligible. This really is a land that’s best explored on-foot, whether that’s a long hike to tick off the many Tors, or a punishing trail run over the undulating and often boggy terrain.
The lack of minor roads made it very difficult to find a good (and legal) spot to park up and test the roof tent’s capabilities, away from the hum of traffic and away from the authorities.
Thankfully, we discovered a local farm offering basic wild camping pitches for a nominal fee. At this time of year, it doesn’t see a lot of trade, and the picturesque field, adjacent to a babbling brook, happened to be deeply flooded.
So instead, the farmer insisted we travel further along his tracks and seek some solitude on the vast amount of higher ground he called work (and home). "If you get stuck, I’ve got a tractor that will probably pull you out," he said as he pointed towards a general heading.
Meandering through cow fields, small copses and areas of thick bog, the Defender really had to put a shift in and it wasn’t long before we were reaching for some of its more serious off-road settings. Mud Ruts felt the most applicable, as did the hill descent control functionality, helping this three-tonne beast pick its way across rough, slippery and sodden ground.
Once over the worst of the terrain, the landscape opened out to vast hilltop, perched high enough to see for miles in every direction. The perfect spot to light a fire and get to grips with Autohome’s lofty camping creation.
Operating the Autohome/Land Rover roof tent is about as simple as things come. You merely release a plastic latch and push the top of the box upward. Hey presto, the gas struts do the rest and your sleeping quarters are ready in moments.
The mattress sits in the base of the fibreglass shell, so there’s no need to worry about additional bedding, while a small LED bar provides some lighting inside the tent. All you need is a good sleeping bag and a pillow.
Everything felt extremely well built and there is tough, waterproof fabrics for the exterior of the tent, with a mesh interior that can be unzipped and opened up, both at the front and sides, to create a fantastic amount of airflow.
The thermometer inside the Land Rover hovered around 1°C mark during our test, so we left the hefty fabric outer firmly in place, but can report the sleeping experience was incredibly comfortable and surprisingly warm.
Admittedly, it takes a bit of time to find the right camping spot, ensuring it is level is a good start, but the fact the tent is raised off the ground means you don’t have to contend with creeping cold from the ground below. And there’s always the option to seek solace in the heated seats should things get too frigid.
That said, there’s no obvious stowage point for the aluminium ladder that provides access to the box. It would be better to have something built onto the back of the Land Rover, or at least a bespoke location for it to live in the rear of the vehicle.
When it came time to pack away during the thick fog of a cold Dartmoor morning, it was merely a case of reaching for the handle and pulling the lid of the fibreglass shell closed. Tuck in the tent’s fabric sides, clip the latch in place and that’s it. Convenient doesn’t really do the experience justice. All you need to do is point it towards the next adventure.
The Autohome tent is priced at €3,081 (excl. VAT) and can be purchased from Land Rover retailers now.
Staying warm with Stanley
Stanley has gone back to its roots and now offers a collection of ultra-tough, hard wearing drinks flasks that sport colours and branding that hark back to the company’s inception in 1913.
Keen to test out the achingly cool range, we packed a large Stanley Classic Legendary Bottle and filled it with steaming hot tea to see if it would not only last the day, but remain warm throughout the night and perhaps into the morning.
The flask itself is chunky and feels as if it is hewn from solid steel, which it sort of is (stainless steel if you must know).
An insulated lid doubles up as a handy cup and this 250oz (0.75l) version holds enough hot fluids to quench the thirst a small group of back-packers. The Hammertone Green only adds to the tough look, but this thing isn't just for show, because it has been designed to protect against drops and dings.
And as for its warming abilities, it managed to stay piping hot from morning through until the late evening. The tea was still lukewarm when we awoke the next day, so fully trust Stanley when it says it can keep fluids hot for 20 hours. Bravo.