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Review: James Baroud Evasion Evolution rooftop tent (after 3 years)

We purchased our James Baroud Evasion Evolution rooftop tent in 2014 after several uncomfortable camping trips in a $40 Big W tent.  Since then, the tent has been on plenty of adventures, including holidays and work trips.

After three years of moderate to heavy use (on average at least one trip a month),  I finally decided to review our James Baroud – and see how it has held up.

Note: This review is not sponsored by James Baroud. The rooftop tent featured was purchased at the full retail price for personal use. The video is of our personal tent. Images are of the Apollo Motorhome Holidays Vivid Camper.

Setting up a James Baroud Evasion Evolution

Let’s put it this way: I’ve been known to struggle with simple padlocks, but I can set this rooftop tent up easily.

James Baroud claims the Evasion Evolution can be erected in 5 seconds. I’m not that quick, as it takes me that long just to walk to the other side of the vehicle! I suspect if you set it up daily (or work at a James Baroud showroom), you might be able to whiz through the process.

Like others in the Evolution range, the tent has a hard shell which clips together. Once unclipped, struts automatically expand the tent. Then, you climb inside and simply click them in place. Pulling the tent back down isn’t as easy; I’m 166cm tall (5’5.5″) and find it quite challenging to reach the first corner. However, I do have weak spaghetti-like arms. People with normal arms may find it easier!

I asked my brother-in-law Jarred to set up the tent on camera as he’s never done so before. This video is in double-time and has been edited – it took him around 1 minute and 30 seconds to set up the tent, excluding popping out the interior struts. Pack-down took a little longer at around two minutes.

Sleeping in a James Baroud Evasion Evolution

There is a huge, obvious advantage of choosing a rooftop tent over a traditional tent; the real mattress inside! You can keep your bed assembled permanently, complete with sheets, doonas and pillows. This ensures a luxurious sleeping experience, just like home. You can also store all kinds of other random stuff up there if you choose, freeing space inside your vehicle.

The supplied mattress is perfectly comfortable and made of high-density foam. It’s no tempur-posturpedic, but since it isn’t slept on nightly, it retains firmness longer than an equivalent household mattress would.  My bad back has not been aggravated by the mattress whatsoever. If you do require a better mattress, I imagine it would be relatively simple to purchase a replacement.

Because of the ample vertical space inside the tent, it’s not too painful to strip down your bedding and throw it out the “window” when laundry day comes around.

The rooftop tent’s height, durable canvas construction and built-in ventilation provide oodles of air-flow. Our tent also features a tiny solar-powered fan in the ceiling, which is strangely very effective. The fan and weatherproof canvas keep condensation at bay.

There’s a certain bunk-bed, tree-top feeling which appeals to my inner child when I spend a night in the rooftop tent. It also feels surprisingly stable and secure; we’ve had a couple of windy and wet nights in the Evasion Evolution, and remained safe and dry. The tent is rated to withstand 120km per hour winds, although naturally, I haven’t tested this using a wind gauge.

There’s plenty of space in the Evasion Evolution. This particular model is equivalent to a queen-sized bed and feels quite spacious.  I don’t mind admitting we’ve slept in our rooftop tent with our two pomeranians. There was plenty of room to spare – they are tiny though!

Most importantly, there are pockets. Generous storage pockets in strategic locations (including the roof) ensure there is plenty of room for a change of clothes, a torch and possibly a midnight snack. It’s also easy to get changed inside the tent – about 1000x easier than changing in a traditional tent

Climbing into the tent is a simple matter of using the supplied ladder, which is stowed inside the tent while you are driving. You can also use the ladder on the back of your vehicle if it has one. Entry is possible from any side of the tent. For uneven or slippery surfaces, we keep a piece of foam in the back of the car to place underneath the ladder.

Descending the ladder to exit the tent in the middle of the night can be mildly scary, depending on your comfort with heights. However, you’ll get used to it.

There is one caveat I must add; if you have significant mobility challenges, a rooftop tent may not be for you.

Driving with a James Baroud Evasion Evolution

The James Baroud Evasion Evolution tent is attached to your roof-racks via a number of bolts and screws. The type of racks you will need depends entirely on your vehicle. The slimline profile of our James Baroud doesn’t slow us down much on the road. We have a classic Landrover Defender which is shaped like a box on wheels – not exactly aerodynamic in its natural state.

Although it is not too difficult to do so, we rarely remove the tent from our car. There’s probably a slight fuel-efficiency penalty to pay for this laziness, attributed to the tent’s 65kg weight (like having an extra person in your car).

The other disadvantage of leaving the tent on your vehicles is, of course, the height. Take note of your clearance and say goodbye to your carefree days parking underground at your local woolies. As our vehicle was already too high for most underground carparks thanks to the roof-racks, this was not a major consideration for us.

How does the James Baroud Evasion Evolution hold up?

Our James Baroud Evasion Evolution shows little to no external wear after three years.

The shell itself has a 5-year warranty, but I expect it will last much longer. If the mattress inside the tent wears, replacement is simple.

Price of a James Baroud Evasion Evolution

James Baroud is Europe’s market leader in high-quality rooftop tents. You’ll see plenty of look-a-likes;  many imitate the sleek design and high-quality fixtures you find in a James Baroud. I can’t speak to the quality of competing products,  but I can certainly vouch for the durability, comfort and convenience of the Evasion Evolution.

Currently retailing at around $4850, the Evasion Evolution certainly isn’t cheap. You can, of course, pick one up more affordably second-hand. We factored in the frequency of use and also the longevity of the tent when we decided to make this substantial investment. In our case, the tent replaced more traditional accommodation options such as hotels, motels and cabins at caravan parks.

To us, it’s absolutely worth it.

If you’re not a regular camper or wish to try before you buy,  you can always rent! Our partners at Apollo Motorhome Holidays have recently launched the Vivid Camper in Australia and New Zealand. This campervan is fitted with a James Baroud Evasion Evolution and sleeps four people (two in the van and two on the roof).

 

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