It’s Friday night, the weather forecast looks good, you haven’t got any plans for the weekend and the call of the campsite is beckoning. But then you think about the faff of getting the tent set up, the blowing up of airbeds and the hammering in of tent pegs and you wonder if perhaps a quiet weekend at home would be better? But, before you totally give up on your love affair with impromptu camping, let me introduce you to Somerset based Latitude Tents. Designed by Charlie Evans, these roof top tents could be the game changer that you seek - all thoughts of poles and tent pegs will be cast aside as you welcome the promise of a proper comfy mattress and a maximum set up time of 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes (well, that’s what it took us and with practice you can get that time down even further)

Great British Life: Frome born and bred, Charlie Evans is the product designer and owner of Latitude Tents. Frome born and bred, Charlie Evans is the product designer and owner of Latitude Tents. (Image: Latitude Tents)

Frome born and bred; 29-year-old Charlie first got the idea for designing Latitude Tents after touring Europe with another brand strapped to the top of his car: ‘It fell apart after 3 weeks. The design was poor, and their customer service was poor. I’d studied Product Design at UWE (University of West England) and so I knew I could do a better job.’ Charlie returned home and got to designing a few prototypes: ‘and then Covid hit. So, I focused my time on the pre-launch. I got my website ready, social media up and running, and prepared to bring Latitude Tents to the market in July 2020. The roof tent sector hadn’t blown up at this point so by the time we launched we were lucky, and I’m pleased to say everything has been really positive.’

With three models to choose from you can sleep between 2 to 4 people with the main benefit (aside from the speediest set up) being that you never need get soggy from morning dew or heavy rainfall again. Each model comes with a built-in ladder which gives you the ultimate tree-house type accommodation and when you stretch out on the luxurious mattress all memories of lumpy or hard ground so frequently associated with summer campsites are forgotten. ‘The best bit for me is seeing where our customers go with our tents,’ says Charlie ‘we maintain a close relationship with our tent owners - probably because we offer free fitting and demonstrations here in Frome - so we get to know a lot of them. When they tag us on their social media posts and we see our tents across the UK, up in Scotland or in Europe it’s really great.’

Great British Life: Latitude Tents pack down and can be affixed to all types of vehicles. Latitude Tents pack down and can be affixed to all types of vehicles. (Image: Latitude Tents)

In addition to always being contactable for his customers, Charlie invites all Latitude Tent owners to join his organised road trips if they wish. ‘Customers are welcome to sign up to our email list where you get notified of future road trips, these could be 4- or 5-day road trips across Exmoor, The Elan Valley in Wales or the Lake District. We take any stress away by recceing the route beforehand, booking campsites and recommending optional places to see along the way. It’s really good for people who haven’t ever really camped before, as well as being useful for people who don’t know where to go in certain areas of the UK. The majority of our customers are in their 40’s and 50’s and we’ve created a community, so a lot of our tent owners are all networking on social media too. The tent might be the product you purchase but with Latitude Tents you’re also buying in to a lifestyle.’

As Charlie and his colleague Rich attach the Latitude Pioneer model to the top of my Landy they tell me how their tents will sit atop any car. ‘You definitely don’t need a 4x4 to own a Latitude Tent. We’ve fitted old school Minis and Porche 911’s with our tents, as well as VW Campervan owners who want more living space. That’s the beauty of Latitude Tents they will fit any car for year-round adventures.’

After a quick demo (and it is quick as the set up is so simple) Charlie sends me on my way to test drive the tent on Exmoor. The forecast for this weekend now looks awfully wet ‘You’ll be warm and dry in there. If you want to get technical, we have an industry leading HH (hydrostatic head) rating of 3000 with our 320g rip-stop poly cotton.’ I look a bit baffled, so he shows me a video on Instagram where he blasts the tent with a power hose which proves the point. With that reassurance in mind, I wave him goodbye, collect my partner Richard and some supplies for the weekend and head for the campsite near Exford.

Great British Life: Westermill Farm is connected by plentiful footpaths with access to incredible views across Exmoor National Park. Westermill Farm is connected by plentiful footpaths with access to incredible views across Exmoor National Park. (Image: Rachel Mead)

The Test drive.

‘Well, you’ve certainly picked a weekend for it!’ laughs Oliver, the farmer and owner of Westermill Campsite which Charlie has recommended we visit. ‘You’ll have to park on the hard standing otherwise we’ll need to tow you out!’ After a couple hours drive to Exmoor National Park, the weather front has well and truly come in and the meadows set aside for camping on Oliver’s farm are looking soggy. In normal circumstances I know we’d pack up and head home; we may like to think of ourselves as hardened campers, but the ground is just waterlogged everywhere. However, we are of course approaching things a little differently this weekend and because we’re not sleeping on the saturated ground and our bed, rather smugly, will be 2 metres off the ground, we’re happy campers.

‘Right then, set the stopwatch, let’s see how long this takes!’ says Richard. We unzip the waterproof travel cover, undo a couple of buckles and then pull down the telescopic ladder. As I lever the ladder down, the clamshell folding system of the tent opens effortlessly. Hey presto, our bed for the night has revealed itself! ‘Is that it?’ says Richard, impressed with the new toy ‘Pretty much! We just need to affix the canopy pole into its elbow joints and then we’re done.’ If we had been blessed with a dry evening, I would have also opened the windows and pinned them back to take in the views but as it is, the rain is horizontal. ‘Well, that was easy – time for the pub then!’ With a satisfied look over our shoulders we wander down the lane and order a couple of pints of Exmoor Ale.

On realising that the rain clouds have thankfully exhausted themselves, we drain our glasses and head back to Westermill. Exmoor is doing what it does best, and the sky is lighting our way back to the campsite with the most incredible starry show. As the first designated International Dark Skies Reserve in Europe, the minimal light pollution on Exmoor reveals thousands of stars and on a really clear night you can even see the Milky Way with the naked eye. We get back to the Landy, unfold our camping chairs, set the campfire alight and sit to enjoy nature’s TV with the sound of the river bubbling by. Perfect.

The next morning, we are awoken by the tip tap of raindrops on the canvas, but both agree that we’ve slept really soundly. A night on a proper mattress of high-density foam has taken away all those usual discomforts associated with camping – no deflating air bed or lumpy ground to grumble about here. We climb down the ladder and unpack the folding table and chairs and, due to the drizzle, set up our cooking zone in the dry using the Latitude Tent above our heads as a roof. This has to be another perk compared to traditional camping, if we were in our normal tent, we wouldn’t be able to cook with gas inside, so having a cover overhead works perfectly for a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Great British Life: The meadows at Westermill Farm campsite, Exford, are within the International Dark Skies Reserve and offer an ideal place to base yourselves for a camping adventure.The meadows at Westermill Farm campsite, Exford, are within the International Dark Skies Reserve and offer an ideal place to base yourselves for a camping adventure. (Image: Rachel Mead)

The low-down

So, over 3 days of camping on Exmoor how did the Latitude Pioneer fare? To say it was tested against extreme rainfall is no understatement. When it rained, it poured, and we can 100% confirm that we stayed completely dry. The quality of the materials match the high-end look and finish; this is a premium bit of kit and you can tell that no corners have been cut; the zips are tough wearing and the framework in the tent is robust against the high winds (which we experienced through the valley on night two) These roof tents are definitely made with a road trip in mind. The quick set-up and pack-down suits a one-to-two-night stay. If you’re after a longer break in a Latitude Tent you’d need to bear in mind that if you should need to nip out for some milk in the car, you have to pack down your bed to do so. Though of course, in a Latitude Tent that only takes 5 minutes or so to do!

Unit 1, Manor Furlong, Frome, BA11 4RJ
INSTA: latitude_tents

The Tunnel, Exford, Somerset, TA24 7NJ
INSTA: exmoorangus