Which tent is best suited to you - The Alu-Cab Gen3 or Mudstuck Soft tent? There are many pros and cons of a hardtop aluminium tent vs the traditional soft tents. We sell them both, and so we decided to do some serious investigation. Here we have put together an exhaustive list of the benefits of both to help you choose what would be most ideal for your specific needs and adventure plans.
Soft top tents: potential for constant wear and tear.
This issue isn't often mentioned, yet is one of the biggest cons of soft top tents. The potential for wear and tear when left on the vehicle, not in use.
Soft top tents will always be slightly wearing, even while on a moving vehicle. This is because you cannot completely stop all movements inside the shell (even with unlimited straps). All the tiny movements create friction between the fabric and the components that will eventually wear down the tent fabric. This can take some time and will be affected by the type of driving and the roads you are on.
Don't be fooled. No soft tent is capable of no driving wear. They are all the same. It's just a consequence of the type of tent. With that said, you will get a good life out of the tent regardless. If you kept the tent on your roof and drive/sleep in it every day on rough roads, you will probably still get a good four years of use out of it. It is recommended with a soft tent to garage it during any season of inactivity.
A massive pro of the Alu-Cab tent is that is it solves and eliminates this issue. She seals down tightly, stopping all moisture, dust and grit getting in. Furthermore, there are no internal or external friction points when the tent is properly packed down so no matter how rough the driving conditions are, in theory, you will get no wear. Something to think about if your horizon for use is ten years or more. If somehow the fabric of the Alu-Cab tent does get damaged (falling tree etc.), we can provide full fabric replacements which are easy enough to install. Pretty epic.
Weather proof or not?
You know the age-old saying: weathering the storm. Let's take a look at how these tents fare when facing some hectic weather.
The soft rooftop tent is a big, bulky, large windbreaker. The very design will flap around in the wind and shake, which is in part due to the fly. Although nearly indestructible, it is still a tent and feels like one. In the torrential rain (meaning a massive amount of constant heavy, prolonged rain) these tents are get hit by the storm on all angles. So although technically waterproof, in these extreme conditions, a small amount of water can make its way in and become collected in the tent. As the old saying goes, no tent is completely waterproof. Although rare, let's face it, in New Zealand these conditions do sometimes happen. It's not an issue by any means, but something to keep in mind. Make sure you always buy a quality soft rooftop tent if you are going in that direction.
The Alu-Cab tent is a different game altogether in storm conditions. Technically a tent, but more like an army bunker with sides. In a storm, all you do is point the front of the tent into the wind, zip it up, and you are in paradise! 100% waterproof. The hard aluminium case reflects almost all of the wind over the tent. With minimal parts and no-fly - you won't even notice the weather outside. It is a game changer. If you take it to the next level with the 270deg Shadow awning, the whole rear of the vehicle is protected from wind and rain for cooking etc. and depending on the wind levels the whole (or most) of the side of your vehicle is rain-free as well! This takes remote camping to a whole new level.
Space, weight and ladder may decide it.
Probably the overwhelming advantage of a soft tent is the space! You get a ridiculous amount of internal room to be comfortable in, whether out any storms that crop up or simply to enjoy panoramic views from a spacious viewing platform. It's higher, has leg room, is in no way a squeeze and comes in multiple sizes - depending on your requirements. This is the ideal option if you are planning on spending long periods of time without moving your vehicle.
A soft tent also allows for easy access and good ladder support. The ladder is on the end of the tent where your feet would naturally be, with a wide opening and rain protector.
Additional roof room may also be a factor. Allowing for a cage in front of the tent for more storage, fuel or accessories. Offering the ability to set up this tent on a smaller SWB or town car. No need for a 4WD for this tent.
Finally the weight issue! This can be a real advantage to light SUVs and smaller vehicles. Simply put, a light truck cannot safely support the full weight of the Alu-Cab GEN3 so soft tent may be the only safe solution.
The Alu-Cab has an incredible roof capacity. How can you use this to full advantage?
Your future expeditions are unknown. Although we've covered the racking feature and tent storage in our Pros and Cons it's worth getting a little deeper into the topic of how to use the roof with the Alu-Cab tent.
As we began to embark on our personal rooftop tent journey, we never imagined putting a full inflatable boat on the roof! Always disappointed in not being able to take the boat on expeditions, this finally came about from some creative thinking.
When we figured this one out it opened up possibilities of incredible trips of remote exploration with a boat not having to being able to come along, firmly strapped to the roof. This way we could hit up the Milford Sounds in the south island, finally able to get those elusive giant crayfish. Remote boating access became an option in places such as Tapotupotu Bay and 90-mile beach. Many more surprise trips became possible!
These new possibilities offered by the roof capacity of the Alu-Cab are not limited just to a boat of course. Transporting building supplies, surfboards, snowboards, bikes, recovery gear such as sand tracks and backup fuel can be strapped on top also. Even additional roof storage boxes. Just about anything is now possible. You can use your tent as a daily roof rack. Depending on what you do, this added value is tremendous.
Soft tents have no roof racking capabilities. Some people do strap on top of a soft tent but this is not recommended, nor it is considered safe and will damage the tent with long-term use. So its good to think about future use and possible expeditions you may have in mind when choosing which tent is ultimately the best long term option.
To sum it all up for you...
Alu-Cab Gen3 Pros:
- 17-second setup & pack down.
- No motion tent wear and tear.
- Fully insulated for all seasons and all temperatures. Warm and cozy in winter, cool and breezy in summer.
- Loves a good storm! Almost silent even in strong weather (does not feel or sound like a tent).
- All bedding able to be kept inside the tent with a storage area for laptops, books etc.
- Top opening, meaning the tent does not require additional opening space around the vehicle when setting up (such as a another metre for the other half of a soft tent).
- Fully mosquito and bug proof!
- Has roof rack attachments for carrying as usual. The tent racks can manage 40kg when fully opened and safely supported while you are sleeping. If you are not sleeping in it, the racks can handle over the 50kg spread.
- Full dark blackout when the tent is zipped up inside.
- A solid one-piece ladder which can handle very heavy weights (the support you want when getting out at 2 am to use the bathroom).
- Electronics. These tents has built-in LEDs, charging and electronics which are easily connected through a watertight connection.
- Quick and easy drying time when wet. Only has 3 small sides, pop it up let it dry then put it down. Too easy.
- It's lockable! You can put a padlock on the opening latch to stop any uninvited intruders when left on the roof.
Cons of the Alu-Cab Gen3 tent:
- Takes up the entire roof.
- It's heavy! Double the weight of a soft tent.
- Expensive. Around 2-3x the price of a soft tent.
- Requires a heavy duty rack solution to mount.
- Limited inside room, especially around your feet. Will sleep 2 adults snug with a maximum adult height of 6.3ft.
Pros of traditional Mudstuck softshell tents:
- Much cheaper than the Alu-Cab tent.
- Lighter and easier to move on and off.
- More size options available.
- Larger and more spacious inside.
- Can accommodate 2-4 people per tent and can run 2 tents on a vehicle roof (depending on SUV size).
- Takes up a smaller space on the roof.
- Creates a natural weather shelter under the tent doubling as a small awning.
- Good summer airflow.
- Windows all around so amazing light and views when open.
- Some people find the ladder on this tent to be very stable and accessible. We think this is due to the sizeable extrance opening at the feet. In the Alu-Cab tent, you may have to crawl over someone depending on where you face your ladder, and the opening is somewhat awkward.
Cons of traditional Mudstuck softshell tents:
- 6-10 minute setup and pack down (with pegs & bars). Needs a full setup and dry out when packed down while wet.
- Can let Mosquitoes in. Soft tents do have some minimal gaps where the two halves meet. It may be small but the mightiest of mosquitos can get through in extreme conditions (only experienced this once in the far north of 90-mile beach throughout all of my expeditions).
- Raining/wet pack down is super annoying.
- Flaps around like a normal camping tent in the wind.
- Wear and tear give it a shorter life. More parts and fabric which can cause problems.
- Will produce more condensation inside the tent than the Alu-Cab tent.
The biggest considerations when buying any rooftop tent is the quality of the tent. Some of the key things to look out for are:
- Zips! Only purchase tents with Genuine YKK Zips.
- Quality hardware. Marine grade stainless steel or aluminium hardware is crucial in New Zealand.
- Sheet aluminium. Both layers outside and inside should be specified. We have found using checkered sheet aluminium is the ideal material for this job as it is durable and light enough. Many tents use 1-2mm sheet aluminium which will tear with little more than a dropped knife.
- The fabric material is important. Make sure it is good quality and is heavy duty to withstand all conditions.
- Replacement parts! You will need replacement parts at some point. So be sure the company you are buying from will still be making these tent for another ten years.
- An important feature is the comfort! Mattress density and thickness play a part here. Go for thick and dense. Your back will thank us later.
- Only buy from a reputable company that has a long-standing history. Anyone can make a tent, but quality and reputation are what matters. It sounds cliche, but it is important. We predict many companies will start trying to get into the tent market only to discover how difficult it is to produce a quality tent. Our first Rooftop tent (a hard shell at that) we first made was back in 2010. So we've had a long history of design and testing and improvement in design and functionality.
We do sell both of these tents mentioned at Mudstuck, so we've tried to be as unbiased (if that is possible) and honest as we can. We have spent many many nights in all the tents we sell - testing, perfecting and adventuring. If you want to break the decision into 3 easy categories, they are weight, price and space. We hope this helps you out and please leave us feedback so we can improve our designs and this page for you guys.
We love rooftop tenting! We've designed and sold 1,000s of tents. It is a passion of ours. Rooftop tenting is the ultimate way of spending time outdoors and enjoying the country and places only available to 4WDs. We hope this helps guide you with your decisions.