Many rooftop tents can expand into ground tents with add-on awnings and sidewalls, but the all-new Magic Fort from startup Thecatal reverses the process. This massive inflatable ground tent serves as both a camper and a garage, creating a glamping duplex by housing the car or SUV inside and turning it into the cozy second floor of an expansive base camp. Campers will enjoy several individual rooms for changing clothes, taking in entertainment and just relaxing in nature, along with the option of turning the vehicle interior into part of the living space.
Thecatal is running a Kickstarter campaign now in an effort to launch its unique Boundary tent series. The flagship of the series, the Magic Fort is a huge ground shelter that sleeps up to 12 people and is designed specifically to house an SUV, pickup truck or sedan. The tent sprawls out to cover 431 square feet (40 sq m) of ground space – a footprint more like a studio apartment than a typical camping tent.
Most of the Magic Fort’s rooms and spaces are spread out around the ground below the 11.5-foot-high (3.5-m) tent canopy, but the last room is located atop the vehicle. After inflating the main tent body into shape, campers can back their vehicle through the large center entrance and set the inflatable drop-stitch mattress up on the vehicle roof. Tent flaps then secure around the vehicle to better close off the interior space.
The inflated mattress serves as the floor of the second-story loft, which sits below the apex of the tent roof behind a large mesh window. Retention nets help to prevent both children and adults from rolling off the sides.
A series of straps and carbon fiber poles reinforce the inflatable mattress positioning, adjust setup to different sizes and styles of vehicle roof, and keep everything in place so that campers can drive the vehicle away during the day without having to break down the entire loft.
The Magic Fort is a canopy-style shelter without a complete floor, but the various interior rooms, split via a series of divider walls and mesh, do include floors to fully enclose occupants. Beyond serving as bedrooms, Thecatal has designed certain areas for use as a changing room, living room and movie screening room. While the black fabric won’t do much to keep the heat of the summer sun at bay, it is designed to better black out the interior for sleep and movie viewing.
The Magic Fort can also be used without the vehicle as a large freestanding ground tent. Various doors and flaps can be flipped up and secured to work as awnings, providing a large canopy over 646 sq ft (60 sq m) of ground space.
Thecatal promises an insulated all-season design with special venting to increase airflow when desired. The silicone-finished 70D nylon body fabric offers 5,000-mm weatherproofing and is designed to block UV rays. Thecatal says the hybrid inflatable/hard-pole frame and guy straps will hold up to high winds. The roof includes a zippered stove jack that can be used to vent a tent heater or stove for winter camping.
The Magic Fort is a very big, multi-featured tent, but it’s only half of Thecatal’s Boundary Series. The other half is the Smart Shell, a tall, inflatable dome tent designed to sleep two to four people as a standalone ground tent or a hatchback camper-tent.
For the latter function, the Smart Shell works similarly to the Tentsla and other largely Tesla-based hatch tents that have flooded the market in recent years, attaching over top the lifted tailgate of an electric or gas vehicle to create a vehicle/tent camper that can be air conditioned and heated using the vehicle.
The connection port attaches directly around the tailgate load area, leaving the exhaust pipe of an ICE vehicle outside. That said, it looks like the traditional rear tailpipe will be firing exhaust directly at the tent, so using heat or AC will probably still be best left to an electric vehicle.
The Smart Shell can be used solely with the vehicle or inside the Magic Fort to turn the car or SUV into a two-story indoor/outdoor tent camper.
While Thecatal’s design is quite unique, it feels a little oversized, complicated and expensive for our simple camping tastes. The Magic Fort splits into two separate bags for a total weight of 122 lb (55 kg), comparable to some rooftop tents (RTTs) with much easier campsite setup. It’s available at an RTT-like super early bird Kickstarter pledge level of US$2,499, a significant discount off the planned $4,599 MSRP.
Those numbers do not include the Smart Shell, which weighs 26.4 lb (12 kg) and slides in at a $699 super early bird pledge level, with a planned $1,299 MSRP. Those who want both tents can get the full package starting at the $2,999 pledge level, nearly half off the planned $5,599 MSRP.
Those Kickstarter prices may or may not seem entirely out of line, but the MSRPs are pushing into expensive hardshell rooftop tent/entry-level minimalist camping trailer territory, which seems far too pricey for a fancy ground tent that looks like it could be a real pain to deal with on anything shorter than a weeklong single-location camping trip. It doesn’t look quite fancy or heavy-duty enough for typical glamping or resort use, either.
That said, Thecatal’s Kickstarter campaign is moving right along and has nearly quadrupled its $10,000 goal with over three weeks left to go … so maybe tent compound camping is the next trend in outdoor living and adventure.
The 4-minute pitch video below further unpacks the Boundary Series’ setup and usage.
Boundary Series Official Video-Magic fort&Smart shell
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