I purchased the Feldon Crows nest in 2017. Like anything, this resulted from a long bout of researching and pondering how to solve a problem. In this case, a quick set-up, mobile shelter for trips by myself and with the family.
By memory, I had not long had the Ford Explorer (everyone needs a V8 for a touring vehicle!), and the Feldon sat nicely on the top of the truck, deploying sideways.
I got the extended version because I liked the idea of extra coverage – opening up the potential to, as I eventually did, add on the annex to provide another room ‘down below’.
It worked as expected, though, to be fair, I struggle to remember some of the early trips with it. This is more a result of my memory these days rather than the trips themselves. It did, however, travel a fair way around the country (as did that truck)
The kids quickly developed a love for it – it was essentially their mobile tree hut – and we would often find them, and whatever new friends they had made, up in the tent with bags of toys and books.
It also quickly became a good option when headed around to a mate’s place, deciding driving was not an option, but not having to share a lounge with other, equally not driving, snoring lads.
Of course, then I picked up the Defender!
This required the addition of a ladder extension, and I was able to twist the tent around to deploy off the back – the extended section now providing some excellent cover for rear access into the truck! It’s almost like rooftop tents and defenders were made to go together!
While it was certainly a match made in heaven, it also meant the tent was now really high, so it involved a bit of clambering around on the truck to open it up and more so to close it back up.
While various turns in life have meant it didn’t get to go as far or as remote with the setup as I would like, it worked well – and with the addition of a tarp – became a very cool camping setup. I was, however, starting to recognise a couple of issues.
Once it’s set up… you are not going anywhere.
Especially if I was also using a tarp to create some living space under it, once I had opened up the tent and tied up the tarp, you were no longer popping up the road anywhere. Say – to the local takeaways, liquor store, or even the beach up the road. The vehicle was the camp – so once setup, you needed to pull it all back down to move.
This eventually got to the point when I was going somewhere solo and just crashing for the night remotely – that I would often just sleep in the back of the truck and not even bother setting the tent up. If I wanted to get up early and head off somewhere else (say, to fish), then I certainly wasn’t going to be ‘pulling down the tent in the dark if I didn’t need to.
How about on a trailer, then?
I did consider the idea of a camping trailer that held the tent, cooking kit, etc – you are starting to see more of them floating about. I certainly like the idea of being able to unhook it and not be ‘tethered’ to your campsite as much. However, with a recent interest in fishing springing back up, there is one major issue. I would not be able to tow both a trailer and a boat.
Though it was never that bad, the height of the Defender, in combination with some tired shocks and springs, meant the truck would rock quite a bit when you were in the tent. If it was windy (I mean blustery, not just a wind), the wind was sometimes enough to rock the truck.
The ‘Spare Room’ on a Defender is a bit of a pain.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome but also a pain.
I had always wanted the ‘spare room’ for the tent. As the girls got bigger, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fit in the tent with them, so while I slept in a bivy on the ground for a time, I was quite keen also to have a bit of shelter and privacy of my own.
However, I only used it about three times in the end.
Setting it up is a pain. You can’t leave it on the tent – so it’s a big extra bag that travels in the truck. You need to remove the waterproof cover from the tent, put the tent up, and then install the annex and peg it down. It’s cumbersome, especially with the height of the truck.
Even spending a few hours at home trying to devise a quick and efficient way to put the annex was always a bit of a pain. I never had to do it in the rain, but it certainly made setting up camp much more complicated than just the tent’s relatively simple and quick setup. Bearing in mind, the rooftop tent was always quicker to set up than any other tent – with me often arriving after others and already being set up and having a beer while they were still sorting out their standalone tents.
The height of the truck, and the way it doesn’t really seal around the back of the truck, means it basically a huge wind tunnel. That flaps around a lot in the wind. Like, enough to stop you from sleeping. The tie-down straps on the side don’t help much – and I ripped one off under its first use, trying to get it tight enough to stop it flapping around.
It was getting a bit old, and needed TLC
The tent had been used. It was showing wear and tear, the zip stitching had started to come apart in places (not the zips, I never had a single zip issue) – and it had been back for some TLC once or twice. Because the truck lived outside, the top of the tent cover often had a pool of water sitting on it, and at some point, it went away a little damp (not intentionally, but it obviously was) – as there was a bit of mould developed on the inside. It also seems at some point that a wasp colony decided to take up residence inside it. A couple of fittings had broken; it was just getting a little old.
So. I took it off, put it up on trade me, and, unsurprisingly, given the current popularity of these things, it sold very quickly. Of to a young lad with plans of many adventures. Excellent!
What would I have done differently?
Not a lot. I really enjoyed owning and using the tent. Especially when the kids were young, and we could all sleep in the tent together, it was simple and great.
Given the option (meaning space) – I would have loved to have set up a simple way of taking the tent off when we were not going to be using it for a period of time. Sitting it down in the corner of a garage and opening it up would have kept the tent aired out nicely and likely helped with the fuel bill a bit (not that a Defender is considered economical at the best of times).
The plan now is to replace the roof rack – the OEM one is also starting to show its age. I have the Yakima Platform rig ready to go. On top (or the side) or that, I will likely put a 270 awning.
The intent of the awning is to create a quicker way of creating a ‘base’ shelter around the truck. One that can be set up at the beach, at a campsite, anywhere where I want a be of shelter and shade that provides a backbone for the ‘camp’ if we stay a bit longer.
From there, I am playing with the idea of a couple of small tents for myself and the kids, or one big one.
One thing that has dawned on me over the years (it took a while) – is that if I am camping ‘from the truck’ – then I can afford to also not to apply my ‘lightweight’ camping mentality to things. Meaning I could get a heavier, easier to set up tent instead of trying to do everything with a tarp!
As much as anything, I am keen just to try something a bit different. I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy trying to refine things as much as I do reaching ‘that perfect setup’ – much like life – I think that is a bit of an illusion anyhow – and you could drive yourself mad trying to get there! 😉
Who knows, a rooftop might turn up again at some point. Never say never!
So. Cheers to the old Feldon – you have served me well. And I imagine you will also continue to serve your new owner!