ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Detailed Review

Tent Construction

Tent Body

The fabric is a heavy ripstop cotton polyester tent canvas. All fastening clips are nylon and the window and door zippers are self healing coil.

I found the construction of the tent to be top notch. All the seams are very well stitched and are sealed with seam tape on the inside. 

Tent seams and seam tape

The base of the tent is attached to the platform using a channel in the base edge. There is then a flap that folds down to cover and protect the edge of the platform and to shed water away from the tent.

Platform Corner

There are dual flaps at the platform hinges. One flap is on the inside that I tucked under the hinge. The other is a Velcro flap that is closed to cover the hinge area once the tent is open.

Hinge cover

Tent Fly

The fabric is nylon tent fly material.

The fly construction appears very durable and reinforcements are added in the corners where the grommets are. The fly is held away from the tent body with additional poles that inserted into sleeves in the tent body.

Fly support

On the end opposite the ladder the fly can be held away from the window with the same poles that are used for the window awnings.

Tent Pole System

All the poles are 1″ anodized aluminum.

Side window and poles

The poles are beefy enough to stand up to the abuse that the tent will see over extended use.  The hinge is large and durable and is assembled with stainless steel bolts and Nylock nuts.  

Platform hinge

The door awning pole is run through a nicely stitched sleeve that keeps the area sealed. This pole does have a tendency to flex and is then hard to pull out. ARB is addressing this issue.

Awning pole weather sleeve

The knobs used to fasten the adjustable poles have a tendency to become misaligned. The knob is a set screw that tightens against the adjustable portion and only works when aligned with the hole in the outer pole. ARB is working to fix the problem with the pole lock.

Pole adjustment knob

The poles are positioned correctly with two straps that run from the back to the front of the tent with loops around each pole. Before tightening the inside support pole I found that the position of these straps needs to be checked.

Pole alignment strap

Tent Platform

Unlike many rooftop tents that use a plywood platform the ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent platform is constructed of an ABS Plastic Foam Sandwich which is light weight, very durable, immune to water damage and able to support the weight required. The platform is trimmed with both aluminum and durable plastic.

Platform center support

The hinge section of the platform has an aluminum brace on each side that forms a rigid joint when the platform is open.

Ladder

The ladder is constructed of anodized aluminum and will retain its attractive appearance for years.

Extended ladder

The ladder is the support for the extended portion of the tent.  If the ladder is not long enough ARB has extensions available as an option. I was able to add additional holes to make a shorter ladder for when my trailer rack is not raised. I did find it hard to pull the release knobs out to stow the ladder. ARB recommends lubricating the ladder with a dry lube.

Mattress

The mattress has been upgraded from the Simpson II tent and is constructed of a dense foam that should last for years providing a firm bed. It is covered by a durable nylon that can be easily cleaned off. The Nylon is reinforced on each side where the hinge is. However this patch should be wrapped around the side to be fully functional.

Mattress Velcro

The mattress has Velcro stitched on the bottom in each corner that attaches to a strap to keep it in place when the tent is unfolded.

Platform corner and mattress Velcro point

Overall I found the mattress to be firm and comfortable. However, I will be adding a sheet to cover the nylon.  With the mattress being 8 feet long it is going to be hard to find a fitted sheet that will fit it. I am going to take a king-sized sheet and modify it to fit the mattress.

Windows and Ventilation

Tent fly extended

The tent has a door located at each and and a large window on each side. With the ladder only on one end the second door is more of an emergency exit.

Looking at exit door

The windows awnings should keep all but the most driving rain out when the windows are left open. All opening are covered with fine screening which should keep out small gnats.

Side window

The awnings are supported by 2 flexible poles which are inserted into the metal rim off the platform. In the Simpson III tent these poles now fit through a nicely stitched opening in the tent material.

Awning support

The corners of the awnings have been well reinforced with brass grommets for the poles to hook in.

Window awning corner

Peak ventilation

There are 2 ventilation ports located on each side at the peak of the tent which are held open by a semi rigid Velcro strap.

Peak ventilation

Other Details

The tent has 2 pockets on each side for stowing small items like keys and flashlights.

Storage pockets

Stowing and Cover

Once removed the small poles used to hold the awnings out are stowed in a bag then placed inside the tent.

Storage bag

Prior to closing the tent there are 4 elastic cords that are attached to each side of the tent that help pull the sides in as the tent is closed. When stowing the tent there is a fly pole that has a tendency to stick out and makes getting the cover on more difficult. The pole needs pushed in along with the excess tent material. After stowing the tent a few times this task becomes very easy. Once closed there are two Velcro straps that hold the tent closed so the cover can be placed over the tent.

Tent ready for cover

The cover is made of thick waterproof fabric with all of the seams heat welded.  The zipper used to close the cover is very heavy duty and should last for years.

Tent cover inside seams

I did have one seam start to fail after a few uses of the cover.  ARB is addressing the problem with the cover seam failure by riveting the corners of the cover where they are prone to stress. Once the new cover is available I will get a replacement from ARB.

Cover problem corner

 

Tent stowed with cover on

Use

I spent a weekend by myself camping in the tent. There was lots of room for my gear and the Annex provided a dry place to cook and get away from the bugs. During the weekend we experienced high winds which destroyed a number of sun shelters and tents. The ARB tent was barely even moving around while the winds were blowing.

Over Labor Day we used the tent as a family. We slept 3 of us in the tent: my wife, 12 yo daughter and I. We found the tent to be a little small for 3 of and would not recommend it. In a pinch we can use it for the three of use but I will avoid it for regular use.  We set the tent up in the dark and it  went without a hitch.

LJ Looking out the window

Storage

It is recommended by ARB that the tent be stored in a dry location with the cover open. Be sure that you open and dry the tent after each use to prevent mold and mildew problems.

Summary

The overall construction of the tent exudes quality and thought. The revised pole system for the awning is much more durable than the Simpson II tent used.  The tent is easy to setup and stow. 

As mentioned ARB IS already addressing some of the issues with the current design making small changes where needed to make a great tent even better.

ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Installation
ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Setup
ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Annex (Coming soon)

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tomas

Tomas has lived in Colorado since age 5. Having grown up on the Western Slope of Colorado lots of time was spent in the Desert Southwest. Tomas' father introduced him to the love of 4 wheeling at an early age in the high mountains around Aspen, Colorado. While an avid Mountain Biker, Tomas and his Family enjoy adventures in the mountains and desert in the remote locations that can only be reached by 4wd. Day hikes are always a must when on the family trips. While enjoying outdoor activities he wants to share his love as a certified 4wd trainer and ski instructor. Tomas also enjoys caving and cave exploration. Tomas currently resides in Colorado Springs. 

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  26 comments for “ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent Detailed Review

  1. R. Prather
    October 2, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    Thanks for the review. I’m looking into a camp system (Flippac or roof tent) and your review has helped move me toward the roof tent. I’m a plein air artist and spend time in the back country and would like to stay on location instead of a hotel. Any new thoughts on the tent? Still happy with it?

  2. ross carter
    January 2, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    A very good review , thanks !
    There’s a company advertising on ebay saying that their tents come from the same factory as ARB . They’re half the ARB price , have you had any feedback from users of these ?

    Cheers

    Ross

    • January 7, 2010 at 9:51 AM

      I am talking with ARB about this.

  3. Jody
    January 19, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    Thanks for the great review, I purchased one of these yesterday, it came with 4 screw/washers, I still can’t work out where these have to go. Any idea’s.

    • January 19, 2010 at 8:10 AM

      Off hand I can’t think of what they might be for. A quick call to ARB should help resolve the issue.

  4. jody
    January 28, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    Thanks anyway will keep looking.

  5. jody
    January 28, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    We used our rooftop on the weekend, had a great time, very roomy, plenty of ventilation.
    We did have a problem though, when we set up it was getting quite late so we didn’t attach the annex, the wind was blowing but we weren’t to stressed, a gust went under the back, the ladder flew up folding the tent over, the stitching completely came apart at the seams where we had it anchored to the ground, we were then unable to put the annex up as there was no way of attaching it as the seam was undone from one side to the other. I approached a canvas repairer and he said that although rooftops are generally well made they use very cheap thin cotton to stitch, we now face the challenge of getting this problem fixed. We are very grateful that we weren’t in bed when this happened. Am currently in discussion with the seller of our unit.

    • February 3, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      Who manufactured this tent?

      • jody
        March 24, 2010 at 2:58 AM

        I bought this tent through a wholesaler in Melbourne, sold as Simpson III (although I could not find any branding on product) I returned the problem tent and after a short discussion it was replaced with a brand new one. We went camping at Wonnangatta Station on the weekend and after an uneventful setup had a great weekend. The tent was set up in about 30 minutes including the annex. This annex is very roomy, you could certainly sleep two in in comfortably. We loved the room in the rooftop and am looking forward to our 3 month trip to the Kimberleys later this year.

  6. Mathew Stokes
    February 3, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Based on this review I bought this tent. Sadly we have so many issues I have had to return it! The cover zip gave way prior to taking delivery! The aluminum poles seized up to be impossible to close & so could not drive the vehicle! The poles had to be cut off, by the dealer, to get us moving again. The cover anchor nylon tore! The blue pole covers came loose! The ladder Jams! The mattress slips out of the join on opening the tent!

    All this occurred with in 10 days of purchase!!!!!!!!

    I WOULD NOT EVER RECOMMEND OR BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!!!!!

  7. Bob
    March 11, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    What about the quality… I have owned ARB Air-Lockers in two rigs and have been very happy with them. They have served me well for several years and when I did find metal in the differential oil they were very helpful and sent an upgrade kit. Will the construction of the tent frame and ladder stand up to use by a 250+# man (and 120# wife) climbing up and down? Will the plastic floor remain strong?

    What about the fabric, in the photos it looks very light weight. Should I worry about tearing it during setup or it wearing a hole while going down the highway?

    I have not seen one but like the design and was just about to order one when I read the comment above.

    • March 13, 2010 at 9:03 AM

      ARB works very hard to make the best product. They have already revised the Simpson II tent to fix the issues that people have been having.

  8. Jason
    April 12, 2010 at 7:16 AM

    Hi Tomas,

    It looks like the improvements over the ARB Simpson II roof top tent make it quite a package.

    My wife and I had the Simpson II for about 3 years and it was an excellent purchase. We spent two months travelling the Kimberley region in Western Australia for our honeymoon in 2007 and slept in the tent for most of those 2 months.

    We have just recently sold the roof top tent and purchased an Oztent RV4 (the 30 second tent) ground tent as our 2 year old Labrador, Lucy, does not like being locked in the car at night when we go camping. Now she gets to lay on our feet in the tent :)

    Have loved reading your reviews and I may need to purchase an ARB Simpson III for a camping trailer I’ve been planning on building!

    Cheers,

    Jason.

  9. Bob
    October 12, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    I’m just completing a camping trailer in Los Angeles area.Looking for “reasonable” roof top tent. is everyone happy, have problems listed above been addressed?

    • October 13, 2010 at 5:47 PM

      ARB has fixed a number of the issues with the Simpson III tent.

  10. jody
    October 23, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    We travelled around Oz for nearly four months and loved our roof top, we had no problems, and could be set up and sitting down with a drink in our hands within 20 minutes! We did purchase an eggshell mattress as we found the supplied one a little thin for an extended travel, this did the trick, made the whole thing a little bulky but we worked around this issue. We experienced gale force winds at Port Gibbon SA, then torrential rain the next night same place and the tent withstood both. Not so sure about the occupants!! We had 2 days of solid rain near Broome and we found ourselves spending a lot of time in our annex. Whilst we remained relatively dry the tent did get quite wet (although it was solid rain) and it did remind us that it is still a tent. Once the rain stopped the tent dried out very quickly and this little glitch did not stop us from having the trip of a lifetime.

    • Christine
      March 5, 2011 at 10:00 PM

      Were you able to fold up tent with bedding left in tent? Have been told that it is not possible as the cover is a snug fit & will not allow any extra’s.

      • March 8, 2011 at 5:54 PM

        I have packed the tent with a few sleeping bags and had no problem.

      • Jody
        March 28, 2011 at 10:14 PM

        Christine, we were able to leave the eggshell in the roofy, it did make it quite snug, & we did take out the other bedding, pillows, doona.

  11. stan (macka)
    February 6, 2012 at 3:17 AM

    we would like to know how to remove mildew and stains from the canvas on a ARB Tourer rooftop camper

    • March 7, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      Took some time to get a reply back from ARB:

      Mildew can develop any time your tent is stored wet. It looks bad, smells bad and can damage your tent’s waterproof coatings. DON’T LET IT START.

      Alas, if it already exists, here’s how to approach it:
      – Try some light scrubbing with a sponge during a regular cleaning session.
      -If mildew is still apparent, mix 1 oz. of MiraZyme® (or similar product) to 20 gallons of water in a bathtub and dip the whole tent.(Note: Lysol® also works, but its scent is attractive to bugs and critters and is thus not recommended).
      – For spot treatment, use 0.5 oz. of MiraZyme® (or similar product) per 1 gallon of water and thoroughly scrub afflicted areas by sponge.
      – Set up the tent in a shaded spot and allow it to air dry.
      – Then, mix 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of concentrated lemon juice with 1 gallon of hot water.
      – Rub the solution into the visible mildew and once again, allow the tent to dry.

      This procedure will stop mildew growth and eliminate the odor, but it will never remove the stain.

  12. June 7, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Looks good. Thx. for review. Did you figure out how to raise and lower the platform the tent rides on or is it fixed? Looks like a winch handle on back corner of trailer.

  13. Heather
    January 26, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Are there any hints on a trying to get cover zip to do up easily and smoothly

    • February 5, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      I used to use silicon spray on the zipper. Also be sure to keep it clean.

  14. Marc
    July 26, 2016 at 8:01 PM

    I am very seriously considering this ten for my 2007 FJ Cruiser. The BIG question is will this mount to the stock roof rack or is the ARB rack needed ?

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