We are now in the thick of the overlapping boom. Rooftop tents are back-ordered, campsites are packed to capacity, and van and truck prices are in the stratosphere. Yet still, the question of the ultimate form of overlander hasn't been settled. Rossmonster, creators of the over-the-top Baja overlander, have just announced a new contender: the Lagom Series.
Ahead of its reveal today, we spent three days with a Gladiator Lagom in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park to find out if the idea holds up. And by sheer coincidence, we encountered the best situation to prove its thesis.
The centerpiece of the build is the hard-sided pop-top, available in sizes to fit the Jeep Gladiator, current Toyota Tacoma, or 2016-2020 F-150. Life a rooftop tent, it's an elevated sleeping area that keeps you away from the cold ground and doesn't intrude on your cargo space. Unlike a rooftop tent, though, the Lagom offers occupants solid walls, giant windows on either end, and a direct pass-through to the truck's bed.
That bed is also fully enclosed by the Lagom's frame, giving you a giant, lockable, covered storage area. Rossmönster also fits a Decked brand sliding storage drawer system in the bed, so your camp kitchen and recovery gear can stay tucked away in easy-to-access compartments while cargo, food, and the available Yeti Zero power system go in the general cargo area. Bedding will have to live there, too, as the topper cannot be closed with anything but the mattress on top of the vehicle. Finally, optional extras like the solar panels, Molle-style custom side panels, and an LED light bar rounded out our loaded Gladiator Lagom tester.
The tester, it must be said, looked sensational. From downtown valets to campsite neighbors, droves of people complimented, gawked at, and asked about the Lagom. One couple, in a Tacoma with a tent mounted above the bed, came over to ask about the build and ended up hanging around our fire all night. It's easy to make friends when you show up looking this cool.
Still, I wasn't sure whether the package makes sense. I'm not even convinced I need a rooftop tent, and if I did want to have one, it's easier to stomach three to four grand for a comparably sized RTT than the eye-popping $14,000 that Rossmönster asks for a Lagom upgrade. That doesn't include the integrated interior LED lights, fan, solar panels, and Yeti power system that come only on the $17k Base Plus models, nor the roof rails, Molle panels, and light bar that come as part of the $4,000 Expedition Package. I probed Paul, the owner of the Tacoma, as to whether he saw his RTT as worth it.
Sure, he said, especially when you're spending a lot of time on the road. The only real complaint he and his partner Becky have is that the thing is a nightmare to sleep in on windy nights. Buffeting nylon isn't much of a lullaby. We shared expedition stories and country songs with Paul and Becky until the temperature dipped into the thirties, May in the Rockies offering no semblance of summer. Our new friends retreated to their tent, saying goodbye and that they'd depart for Texas around eight.
My friend Faraz and I sat around the fire a bit longer, until the flaring wind burned up our last bit of firewood. We retreated into the Lagom, our hands growing numb and the rest only spared by copious layering. There we met the first two downsides of the Lagom. The first is that climbing in through the cargo area means you are inherently climbing over your cargo, so whatever you stack in the bed must be arranged to ensure safe passage. A borrowed Dometic powered cooler served as our makeshift step up, not that it was intended for that purpose. Rossmönster includes a step stool, but that was buried under our clothes and groceries.
The second one is far more irritating, which is that there's no good way to close the tailgate or the topper access panel from inside. Rossmönster suggests you climb in with the tailgate closed—easy for the young and limber, less so for others—and then climb in. From there, while you can close the rear access panel, the lifters won't allow it to stay closed unless it's latched. And it only latches from outside, which means you have to swing open the giant plexiglass window, crane yourself over the edge of the topper, and latch them closed from the outside before closing the window. The way out is to repeat the same maddening process in reverse. Rossmönster says that the company is aware of the issue, and that customer Lagoms will have a better solution for closing them from the inside.
Once you're in, the Lagom's quite a lovely place to be. The high, solid walls make it both airier than a typical truck camper and far more secure than a rooftop tent. The space is tall enough to sit up in and wide enough to comfortably fit two adults, with a thick mattress that proved plenty comfortable. Insulation is also far ahead of what you'll get in any tent, with the spacious cabin trapping a surprising amount of heat over a cold night. If it does get too hot, the giant swing-open windows surely provide more airflow than you'd expect out of any tiny tent windows.
The biggest advantage, however, revealed itself as the wind picked up. As we heard the trees around us shaking and saw other campers' ground and roof tents alike get battered by the icy mountain winds, the Lagom barely seemed to notice. Had we been parked with the plexiglass to the wind surely more would have intruded, but in winds far beyond what is comfortable in a tent the Lagom exhibited no creaking, wobbling, flapping, or shaking that disrupted our sleep. Only when we needed a 3 a.m. bathroom break did we realize the intensity of what was going on around us.
By day two, after adjusting to the altitude, I got perhaps the best night of sleep I've ever gotten at a campsite. The Lagom was warm, quiet, and secure feeling. Faraz, less accustomed to camping in general, tossed and turned yet still came away impressed by the setup. Only when clambering out of it in the morning or having to do a pull-up to close the topper did either of us express any real complaints.
Once you've got the topper down, the beauty is it's quite easy to go back to using the Lagom as a daily driver truck. You still have a ton of room for cargo, except now it's lockable and weather-proofed. You still have the full cab and a roof rack, too, so there's plenty of space. The only real indication of any modification from the driver's seat is that, at altitude, a mid-size truck's V-6 rarely feels potent when hauling hundreds of extra pounds up a grade. I'd likely build mine on an F-150, just because I hate the feeling of straining the truck.
And I would, in fact, like to build one. Trouble is, I can't afford to, and I'm not sure I could convince myself to swallow the bill if I had the money. For those that are younger, more budget-constrained, and focused on flexibility, a traditional overland truck build with either a ground or roof tent will get you to all of the same places at a fraction of the cost, just with the penalty of less comfort and more hassle. If you're older and monied, I'd imagine there's a lot more appeal in something that requires fewer contortions and pull-ups to operate, even if that means sacrificing off-road capability or simplicity. But for those that are willing to pay up for the ultimate form of the rooftop tent overlander, the Lagom offers the solidity and hominess of a truck camper with almost none of the capability trade-offs.
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