Roofnest Sparrow, 6 month review

Roofnest camping in Colorado

It’s been over 6 months since I bought the Roofnest and I thought I’d give y’all an update. I’ve used the Roofnest a good bit; weekend trips in the N. GA and NC mountains as well as a 3 week road trip out West. My Western trip  included visits to the City of Rocks in Idaho, the Moab Utah area, and a few places in Colorado. During that trip I spent all but 3 nights in the Roofnest. It has performed really well under all conditions of use. The speed and ease of setup along with the comfort factor has made car camping a much better experience for me. There have been a few things I’ve learned or changed and I’ll share those with you now.

The Mattress Upgrade

My only real complaint with the factory original Roofnest is the comfort of the mattress. The included mattress is well designed, fits neatly over the entire tent floor, and includes a zippered removable washable cover. The foam is what I would call a medium density open cell foam. The only downside is that it’s simply not quite thick enough for my liking. My mattress measured out at about 2.5″ thick. Don’t get me wrong…this thing is more comfortable than your average tent camping pad, I just wanted it to be better.

When adding mattress padding you have to consider several things. Obviously you can only add so much height to the mattress and still be able to close the tent.  Another thing to note is that the corner supports and gas struts require some room to move in order for the tent to be closed.  If you deviate too much from the factory design here, you are likely to encounter problems with closing the tent and it may put more compression stress on various parts of the tent. A thicker mattress also reduces headroom. I’m 5/5″ and can sit up in my Sparrow with some extra pads under the mattress, but there’s not much extra space. If you’re taller or headroom conscious you may want to consider the Sparrow Eye model or a similar design.

My first mattress upgrade was to add two,  high density, closed cell foam camping pads underneath. This helped a good bit with the comfort factor and only added about 5/8″ in additional height to the existing mattress. I used two Venture Outdoors brand pads, which can be found at some big box sporting goods stores, such as Academy Sports. Here’s what the packaging looked like:


The pad itself  (and my kitchen floor) looks like this :


One reason for choosing these pads is the size. The 24″ width per pad was about perfect for using 2 of them for the floor of the Sparrow. Even so, I did some trimming to keep the critical dimensions for strut and corner support folding the same. Here’s a picture of the pads installed and the foam trimmed to fit:


You’ll also notice that I’ve added some grey exterior grade carpet underneath. I used a very thin piece that’s about 4’x 6′. It’s full width but shorter than the tent floor. This adds some insulation and makes it easier to clean.

An Alternative Mattress Improvement

If you’re traveling with the Roofnest and are going to be doing some tent camping or backpacking you’ll likely be carrying some lightweight sleeping pads along. If they’ll fit, you can store them under the Roofnest mattress until you need them. This gives you more sleeping comfort with the bonus of more storage space in your vehicle.

Roof Racks

I’m running a my Roofnest Sparrow on a 2010 Subaru Outback. Initially, I installed the Sparrow directly to the Subaru factory cross bars. It was difficult to reach the mounting brackets for installation/removal with the factory rack, because the bars are so low. However, the main issue with the factory bars is the convex shape of the bars and the way they flex under load. This allowed the fiberglass tent shell to flex up and down at highway speeds and especially in the wind.  I replaced the factory cross bars with Yakima bases, towers, and cross bars. This is a much better set up and I highly recommend doing it from the beginning. The flexing issue was eliminated with the Yakima rack. The tent sits higher on the roof, which allowed me to center the tent front to back on the rack. This not only gives the best fit but it allows me to fully open the rear hatch without it hitting the tent. I can also use the sheltered space on top of the car roof to store shoes and similar items when camping. I once left some trekking poles up there and started driving off, but fortunately heard them rattling about as I was leaving camp. Obviously, if you put anything on your vehicle’s roof, its a good habit to check before you drive.

Roofnest on the Yakima Rack, Arches National Park

Setup/Take down Tips and Tricks

  • When closing up the tent, starting at the front is best if there’s likely to be water on the tent’s roof. I’ve learned to pull down the strap and be ready to step aside, to avoid getting an unexpected morning shower.
  • I like to pull the front down, fasten the straps and buckles loosely, then work my way around the tent, pushing in fabric. Then I do the same with the rear fasteners and take a final walk around to tuck in the tent fabric and tighten the straps.
  • For less stress on seams and zippers, arrange the zippers so that they are either fully open or fully closed before you close or store the tent. My preference is to leave the front and rear windows fully unzipped and the sides fully zipped. This gives a way for the air to escape as you close the tent and seems to make tucking the side fabric easier.
  • If you pack up in rainy weather, don’t forget to set up and air out the tent at a later date. If you wait too long you risk mold and mildew. I have had no issues with that so far, but after my biggest rainy weather camping trips have set up and dried out within a few days of the last use. This is less of an issue with the hard shell design, since the only fabric is on the vertical side walls.
  • Leveling the vehicle adds to the comfort factor. Rocks, firewood, off road recovery boards or traction mats, along with creative parking, are all some good ways to accomplish this.



One more thing you might want to consider is that, since my purchase, Roofnest has updated some design features. The changes include a thicker mattress (yay!) and a new shell that’s an ABS/fiberglass composite. The interior insulation has also been upgraded and I think the zipper configuration on the doors has been changed as well. I haven’t seen the newest model in the wild but these seem like sensible upgrades. I’ll let you know if I have a chance to check one out.

I hope you enjoy safe travels, fun adventures, and maybe I’ll see y’all out there!

To learn more about Roofnest, or to purchase one, you can click the link below: