In the past we have interviewed both the owners of Odin Designs and Tepui Tents, and this time around we wanted to know a little bit more about Roost USA. For those who don’t know them Roost is a small company based in Iowa, that specializes in hardshell roof top tents, but with one game changing characteristic: they are made in USA.
Yes, you’ve read it right, made in USA. And not only, but all their materials are also USA made, which is quite a refreshing piece of news in a time when most items are manufactured in Asia.
It was a very interesting interview we had with Kevin Christensen, the owner of Roost. He was very open when it came to the manufacturing process, as well as really honest about the challenges he has had to overcome or deal with in a daily basis. Time to dive into Kevin’s answers.
Interview with Kevin, owner of Roost USA:
We started off with the basics, going to the core, when was Roost founded, why it was founded, and why was it named Roost?
“The idea started by liking the outdoors and camping but wanting a simpler and quicker method of setting up and taking down a tent. We also wanted to work on the product together as a family”, explained Kevin.
He wanted to mix a passion (in this case for the outdoors) with the idea of creating a family-bonding project. And so, when he was looking for a source of fiberglass shells back in 2016, he came across the sale listing of Roost. He decided to buy the company to carry out and succeed with his project.
“We wanted a dual purpose product, one being the tent and one a cargo carrier. Quicker setup and take down was important due to wanting a product that very quickly could be setup and down”, he added. By the time he bought the company, Roost had a similar concept and it made sense to invest on it and add the personal family touches they wanted to improve the tents.
Roost itself had its “First tents sold in 2012. Design, prototype, and production prep over a couple of years before then (2010)”, said Kevin.
As to the name, an interesting meaning lies behind it.
“The name was supposed to be different and stand out from the rest. I don’t know how the idea first came to light, but living the country and raising chickens in the past, we thought that the name worked for us since chickens would produce best when the Roost rests off the ground. Even at night, the chickens will spend their time perched up off the ground. Our Roost tent does the same, the Roost is mounted on a trailer or vehicle up off the ground. We are “roosting’ up off the ground”.
At Off Road Tents we certainly are fans of roof top tents and the concept of sleeping on car tops rather than on the ground. Many overlanders seem to agree, and certainly Kevin is one of them.
However, he wasn’t going to stop at just the idea or the concept of creating RTTs with better designs, he also wanted something more ambitious: better quality rooftop tents. And that meant sourcing USA made materials, and assembling them together at home, Iowa. And this was one of the improvements he wanted.
Kevin stated that since the beginning they knew they wanted a product that was made in the USA. He thought it was more important to get it done at home, rather than sourcing materials or importing from Asia. They wanted something local, something that supported small American businesses, as well as giving other Americans the chance to acquire products made here. That was another reason why he initially invested in the company.
Challenges came along the way, especially when it came to understanding the quality of the materials.
“Not having a background in fiberglass was a challenge in the conception and design phase. Once we identified our fiberglass partner, we used their background and experience and created the shell that we have today” admitted Kevin.
He then proceeded to tell us how the manufacturing process takes place:
“The fiberglass shells (top and bottom) are currently being made by our fiberglass partner Tripper Craft in Fort Valley, GA. The tents (sides) are made by Big Country in Chiefland, FL.
Both of these companies are small, family owned businesses and have been in business for several years. Once I bring the shells and tent to my location in Iowa, I complete the process. I finish the building process by adding the trim, hinges, brackets, shocks, and locks to each unit. I then add the logos and prep the unit for shipment. The tents are polished and waxed, wrapped, and then crated for shipment to customers around the country”, he said.
He also added that his family helps out during the whole building process in Iowa.
The partnerships with both Big Country and Tripper Craft have been a positive experience for Kevin. Not only have they been efficient and helpful, but have developed into a solid relationship.
“I enjoy sourcing all the individual items that make up the Roost tent because I know how the purpose of each item in the final product. That is what makes the manufacturing process so interesting, sourcing all the individual components and then seeing how they all function together in the final product”, said Kevin.
Plans For The Future
When we asked about future plans, Kevin told us they have a new design in the early stages (it will hopefully be available in 2019), a smaller version of the Roost with a sleeping area of 49” x 80”. He added him and his family look closely into all the details, not wanting to rush anything, but to come up with the best possible product to offer to the public.
Not for nothing that’s what sets them apart: quality and attention to detail. Kevin and his family were willing to go the extra mile, put that additional drop of sweat in the effort of producing a roof top tent made in the US in a time where manufacturing them in Asia might seem simpler.
“We knew that when the Roost tent was created that it wouldn’t be the least expensive tent available. We wanted a tent that was made in the USA, have a multiple use purpose, and built to last. The fabric for the tents was chosen because of the strength and durability of the fabric. The fiberglass shells are made using a hand-layered process. It is more important to us that the product have a longer life than being the cheapest”.
At Off Road Tents we are proud of working with Roost, not only for the quality and design of the hard top tent itself, but for the story behind it. For the effort and passion that Kevin and his family have put into this project.
It became a reality and grew into something special, but in Kevin’s mind he still has a purpose behind every Roost he makes, and that is helping all of his customers enjoy the tents:
“In the mountains and anywhere away from all the lights so you can experience the sky on a clear, star filled night”.