Gadgets: Step Right Up to The RV Side Tent Circus

On our last outing to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I got a LetsGoAero ArcRV side tent. This is a first off-the-line toy; it's the only one of its kind that's not at the factory. They sent it to me and made me promise that I would pitch it in Michigan during our winter campout at Tahquamenon Falls.

Yan hates having to read the instructions

Yan hates having to read the instructions

The shelter has much promise; it's a part of Lets Go Aero's modular shelter line.  It can be extended with the ArcHaus for more room.

True to my word, Saturday morning I hauled the ArcRV outside to set it up.

Shock cord poles must be assembled

Shock cord poles must be assembled

It's huge. It's designed to be used either over the back doors or the side door or a Sprinter or similar vehicle. Since the Sprinter is 9 feet tall, the tent has to follow suit.  More on that later.

A skeleton emerges

A skeleton emerges

I dumped the poles out; it's a big bundle of shock corded poles and at first glance it's a lot.  However, the poles are color coded, which makes things a lot easier.  There are two metal runners that form the base and two main arches.  Once you put those up you realize that this thing is 9 feet tall.  It's impossible to reach the top, making it a challenge to get the structure built.

The pole frame is not free standing.  This is a big problem during assembly; it doesn't stand up without the fabric skin and you can't put the fabric skin on until the frame is up.  You end up much like the proverbial monkey and the football, trying to hold the frame together while getting the fabric up, again, 9 feet in the air.

It really is a two-person assembly job

It really is a two-person assembly job

It was quite cold while we were doing this, and we snapped two of the plastic clips that snap the poles together.  This was probably half due to the plastic being brittle in the cold and half due to the assembly technique (or lack thereof) that we used.

Replaying the assembly in my head I've come up with several ways to make it easier in the future.  There really isn't much LetsGoAero can do about the height; the shelter has to be 9 feet tall to get it over the doors. But we should be able to assemble this on the ground and raise it and the frame should be free standing.

Once we got the frame up and the fabric over it, the shelter was quite roomy and very solid.  The fabric is heavy duty, the stitching is first class, and the shelter feels very sturdy.  All of the seams are double stitched and taped with rip-stop nylon. This shelter is built to last and to withstand some serious wind.

RV side tent Assembly success!

Assembly success!

Since this is a first run (in fact, a first off) unit, I expect minor issues like the connectors snapping. These things will be cleared up in production if they are a problem.

I would suggest to LetsGoAero that they change the shock cording and assembly to build the upper  5  to 6-foot section first, put the fabric on it to hold it together, and then add the legs to raise it.  Maybe this is in their instructions, but as a real man (TM) I don't read the instructions.

And ultimately, it's a testament to the ease of assembly – when I can build the shelter in 15 or 20 minutes, in freezing cold, with only a glance at the instructions, LetsGoAero has done a great job.

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1 comment

  1. Walt Huemmer

    Reminds me of the old Jeep Tent I used on my minivan but it took too long to put together and take down. Now I just carry a Coleman instant screen house for those times you need to keep bugs away from your picnic table. Coleman instant screen houses and tents literally go up and down in less then a minute. It would be super cool if Coleman could make an instant tent specially for RT’s or vans that would seal tightly against the side of the vehicle. Then it would be even cooler if you could tie a screen house and tent together, kind of like modular living spaces.