Hinterland Industries Rincon Roof Top Tent Review

Jun. 26, 2017 By Sean Michael

Rooftop tents have captured the imagination of off-road explorers in North America since first gaining attention through the overlanding movement.  Their comfort, ready-to-use presence, and off-the-ground mounts makes them a popular addition to 4x4s and the off-road trailers we tow.  That attraction has resulted in many new arrivals to the rooftop tent (RTT) marketóboth buyers and manufacturers.  In studying the growing number of RTT options at the 2016 Overland Expo West I was drawn to the booth of newcomer Hinterland Industries Tents. 

Hinterland's owner, Graham Holloway, greeted me, and proceeded to answer my questions as I probed the newly released models they were displaying.  As he showed me each one I was struck by the build quality of the Hinterland tents versus many I had seen previously.  The tents' robust construction and thoughtful design led me to wonder why more word hadn't gotten out about the full line of Hinterland Industries Tents (HIT).

READ MORE: Our Five Favorites Products from Overland Expo 2017

The answer, as so often happens, is that Hinterland is a small, family-owned business, whose products aren't supported by the large marketing budgets of better-known competitors.  Hinterland Industries is based in Southern California, with its roots found in exploring trails from the rock crawling of the Rubicon to the vast deserts of Baja.  Seeing them in person, however, convinced me that they deserved an in depth review.  As an owner of a venerable Eezi-Awn, I'd learned the benefits of RTT camping years back.  The Eezi-Awn brand (along with fellow South African manufacturer Howling Moon) helped bring such elevated tents to the world, and has set the bar for top quality in the market.  As a result, it was also my basis for comparison.

In early summer of 2016 Graham had the company's top-of-the-line Rincon CT (curved top) shipped to us for testing.  The Rincon, like most RTT's, is readily shipped via standard freight, and it arrived in stout cardboard boxes [Note: all HIT models are now shipped in hand-built wooden crates].  Assembly is minimal, with the ladder boxed separately, and the optional condensation mat packaged with it.  Hinterland also sent their most popular accessories, the Rincon's attachable annex and a retractable awning.  Assembly for each was minimal, as well as fairly self-evident, though a set of rudimentary instructions were included.

Build Quality

Specifications matter in differentiating one RTT from the next, in part because it's not uncommon for the same overseas factory to produce tents for more than one brand.  Unfortunately, some RTT companies do not describe the materials they use, or list differing metrics (e.g., denier vs gpsm) for their models.  Despite the confusion this can cause, the difference is evident when you compare a dozen or more models first-hand as I have done in recent years at Overland Expo and the Outdoor Retailer Show. 

In comparing RTT construction (structure + fasteners + fabric + stiching/seams), models tend to fall into one of 3 build categories: lightweight, medium weight, and expedition quality.  The platform, hoops/frame and wall fabric are keys to a tent's categorization, along with mattress density/thickness and joints.  Ironically, durability does not directly translate into weight.  In fact, only a handful of 2-person RTT's tip the scales at under 100lb.  The HIT, at 130lb, is in the middle of the pack in weight.  Despite that fact, it provides expedition grade construction and key components throughout, saving weight where materials can shave ounces without compromising function (e.g., rain fly). 

The heart of the HIT is its sandwiched construction (aluminum/foam) platform, which offers both insulation and rigidity, coupled with its tough 400gram* per sq meter polycotton canvas.  By specifying these materials, along with the taped, double-stitched seams and reinforced mounts/connections (e.g., 304 stainless steel hinge), the HIT is situated squarely among the market's top-end offerings.  Similarly, the construction on other key features is competitive, with other expedition grade tents (e.g., using 1" diameter frame vs. ¾"), or exceed their spec's (e.g., the HIT line uses the toughest cover I have yet seen at 1200D PVC), and in several instances has been upgraded from the early production model we reviewed (e.g., switching to YKK zippers, replacing D-rings on cover with quick release buckles, mattress upgraded from 2.5" to 3" thickness).

The same durability is offered in the matching construction of the HIT annex.  The floor is sewn from rugged 1000D PVC, and heavy zippers and window covers maintain that level of sturdiness. It packs into the provided duffle for storage or transport, weighing just over 30lb.  The 79" wide awning by comparison is lighter in its build, and similar to other roll-up offerings on the market [Note: since our review HIT has updated the awning to a more rugged model].  While we did not test it, the awning can be augmented with HIT's optional awning 'room', creating an enclose space with 6'6" clearance.

Despite being a very early production unit, the only issues we noted with our test's Rincon CT were minor fit and finish aspects from the factory.  Each of those (e.g., chamfering of aluminum edges, correcting Velcro strap lengths), HIT assured us, have been addressed in its full production models.

The Rinconís removable annex provides privacy and shelter from weather.

* 280-300gpsm canvas is typical in medium weight RTTs. Lighter weight models typically use 250gpsm or thinner fabric.

Mounting

The Rincon CT features a simple, two-track mounting structure, which makes for easy alignment, and bomber attachment to racks.  Stainless steel hardware and brackets for the mounting tracks are heavy duty, and accommodate a wide range of cross-member sizes thanks to the two sets of different length stainless bolts that come standard with all HIT models.  The act of mounting the Rincon is thus simple once the task of lifting the 130lb unit over the rack (in this case the 2" square tube frame of our Dinoot trailer) has been accomplished, in our case with an electric ceiling hoist made it a quick and simple process.  It is truly a 20-30min process thanks to the mount's design. 

The stainless steel brackets and bolts will accommodate a range of rack cross-members, and can be adapted for most any atypical shape.  After some 15,000mi of driving, including lockers-engaged trails, we have yet to need any tightening or adjustments to the mounts.  Similarly, the awning has needed no maintenance other than a bit of silicone on its zipper, a preventative step that also helps with smooth operation of the RTT's travel cover when trail dust is encountered.

Performance

Since receiving it, our Rincon CT has seen about every weather condition short of a hailstorm.  From freezing nights in the Tetons, to mountain snows and Grand Canyon monsoonal rains, to blazing desert heat and Mojave sand storms, we were able to experience its features in nature's best and worst.  Its features provided for all conditions, including basic sun/rain protection with the optional awning, and a stormproof escape in the tent and its fully-sealed annex.  As with all RTT's, the HIT must be properly set up to provide proper performance (e.g., awnings opened for ventilation).  Given their design, most models require that you be mindful of wind directions and guying, particularly if heavy rain/snow is forecasted.  The protective overhang of the Rincon and Rincon CT models performs best when secured, either by lines (via the heavy corner D-rings) or the annex, and ideally to the leeward side.

In summer's heat or winter's chill, the HIT has proven itself.

Opening and closing the HIT follows a mostly typical one-person RTT sequence.  To open it, remove coveróa more involved design than most, with its several straps plus zippered closure, yet it is very secure and exceptional at sealing out dust and moistureó, extend ladder, lever open tent using the ladder, and then adjust ladder length.  The CT model adds the step of attaching the arched entry hoop, which is nested on the mattress when stowed, along with bedding you choose to leave in place (thanks to offset hinge design).  This sequence takes me 4-5min total.  Depending upon how many windows are opened, another 3-4min is needed to fully take advantage of the tent's generous venting.  In terms of condensation, the 7mm anti-condensation mat (optional) effectively allowed moisture that inherently builds between RTT platforms and the mattress to more quickly evaporate.

When it comes to sleeping, the HIT distinguishes itself from our Eezi-Awn 1600 by its mattress, arguably the heart of any RTT.  The Rincon models have a much better mattress, being both thicker and much firmer, and supported by a more rigid platform.  With dozens of nights in the Rincon CT, I can attest that it sleeps nearly as well as our Tempur-Pedic mattress at home.  The overall interior experience of both of these expedition-grade tents is very good.  Ample pockets, room to sit/change, and venting/privacy are strong points.  The one difference in favor of the South African brand is its proprietary heavy mesh screen material, which yields an even darker interior than the HIT (impressive, since we almost missed 6 moose in our Tetons camp from sleeping in too late!).  This comparison is reasonable because the Eezi-Awn Series 3 is, along with the Howling Moon Tourer 1.4, the most similar tent to the HIT Rincon/Rincon CT feature-for-feature.  That is significant, considering the price differences between the three models. 

The HIT annex for the Rincon expands functionality and protection.  It features the same construction as the tent, along with a tough PVC floor.  Uses include as a changing room, to house a cot, for two-person gathering out of the weather/bugs, as a shower (simply zip off the floor), or porta-potty enclosure.  Coupled with a portable heater like the Mr. Heater we've found the annex comfortable down to the upper teens.  If there were any criticism of the annex it would be that its build quality makes it bulky to store, and means a second person is helpful in attaching it (via its #10 zipper) to the tent.

Conclusion

In a market that sees several new RTT companies emerging each year, most fall within the light or medium weight construction, and focus upon features such as color themes, skylights and accessories.  In contrast, Hinterland Industries has taken the challenge of bringing affordable expedition-grade tents to consumers.  By integrating the essential elements that made RTT's so popular, while prioritizing durability that's ready for serious trail use, the company has made the rugged end of the market affordable.  As importantly, Graham is an owner and builder who continues to push the quality of his products, listening to users, and rapidly implementing improvements to the HIT line of gear, which is another key to what distinguishes Hinterland from the competition.

For more info, visit the Hinterland Industries website by clicking here.

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