Automhome Columbus Variant - Review

Beowulf

Expedition Leader
I truly feel the Columbus Variant is one of the best built tents on the market. However, the one thing it needs is power. AND, now power it has. Sadly, not from the factory, but from a little DIY.

Run power up to the tent using a semi-prototype method. I just grab a cable and plug it into an Anderson Power Pole plug I have in the rear of the jeep. Running it under the lift glass is easy. Later I'll install a drilled permanent passthrough in the body of the tent floor. Probably using the Aqua Signal
1584930711500.png

For now the manual method works. The 14awg wiring has a full braided loom from end to end. Routing is under the mattress to the front two corners. Along the way, it runs to BlueSea USB ports, and terminates at the beginning of a 16' strip of and RBB LED strip.

The main reason for the power was the lights. The on supplied by Autohome, although adequate, was inconvenient to access....especially if you sleep with your head on the hinge end.

The LED hardware was purchased from SuperBrightleds.com. Wanting either person to be able to operate the lights while lying down, I did not want to use a switch on just one side. This lead to acquiring an RBG remote controller.
1584931241231.png

I just clipped the connectors off of this one and soldered the wires to the power and LED contacts. Again all of this was hidden under the mattress in the corner of the tent floor full wrapped in braided sleeve.

The best thing about the new LEDs is being able to switch to RED on lowest brightness before turning them off. The memory of last setting stays, and when you need to make a night time Bio-break the low red glow is just enough to see everything but does not hurt your eyes or wake up your wife.

The colors are nice, but I really like the Warm White on medium brightness for general reading. However, if you want, you can go full party mode like my dog did when I was not looking.

1584931636206.jpeg

1584931577477.jpeg

1584931786876.jpeg


From my dog: "The boy just installed these LEDs in my Roof Top Dog house, I mean Autohome. I like the red for when I have to go potty at night. But I have all the party colors for when the pack drops by."

1584931678311.jpeg

1584931698663.jpeg

1584931716169.jpeg

1584931748760.jpeg
 

Attachments

  • 1584931617477.jpeg
    1584931617477.jpeg
    367.9 KB · Views: 14

BrewsterII

Member
The Power set-up looks good!

Back in the old days (1990's) my Columbus just had the power cord that you would drop down to the vehicles acc. outlet. That power was for the dome light back then. They then went to the LED lighting with the batteries in the light.

The Columbus was and still is her favorite RTT. I switched over to the Extreme and I am happy with that. I liked it with the Cherokees I had back then as I ran the 31" tires. They would fit on the RTT's rack. With the JKU I have now the bigger tires do not fit. Oh yes! I am getting older and the tires are heavier so only the Kayaks ride up there now.

Looks like a nice setup. Enjoy!

Da Frenchman

FrenchieXJ

This is kind of off topic but ............. were you working the Autohome booth at Overland Expo West in 2017?

This all sounds so familiar from the discussion I had with "someone" in the booth that weekend. I did indeed end up buying a Maggiolina Extreme and I'm very happy with it.
 

BrewsterII

Member
Hi Bruse,

Yes, that was me at their booth.

When the Autohome RTT came to the U.S in the 1990's I got one of the first RTT's brought over. People did not know what it was back then including myself. Some people thought it was a storage container at first. I was getting questioned everywhere I went. The RTT lived on my vehicles. With my business I would spend over 250 nights a year sleeping in them. I put them to the test, over and over. From overlanding with them to rock crawling with them.

I have seen the evolution of the RTT's in the U.S. grow and I feel lucky to have been a part of the growth. This is why I volunteer every year to work in the Autohome booth. First I get to talk about a product which I have found through my use and testing (abuse) and have given little recommendations for changes to fit the American life styles.

One of the things I like the most is the fact that I get to meet the many people who have bought and used the Autohome RTT's. It gives me satisfaction when I here back from the people who have got to use them, and they exceed their expectations.

Before anyone thinks that I am a paid employee from Autohome for saying this, I am not. I contact Autohome and ask If I can help in the booth. To be honest, I do get compensation. I get my vender fee paid, to enter the Expo's and at the end of the show we get a dinner. I have been given the chance to see and test some of the new tents before they are released to the public. I was asked for 3 years to try the new "Maggolina Extreme" before I finally said yes. My old Extreme was out of date. They had slight changes with the additions of accessories that mine did not have. When people would look at it I would have to point out that the new model had some changes from what I had. I did not want to part with the 8 year old "Extreme" it was still young and had about 2,000 nights in it. The newer "Extreme's" had the window's in the doors, the hanging net storage in the top, the battery operated light and the two mesh hanging double pouches for storage. My expense was covered, so I got compensated. That was more then I felt I should get.

I really enjoy meeting people and sharing my experiences with others. Those who have met me know that I like to talk about Autohome RTT's. Granted, since my retiring, I am falling short of my number of 250 nights a year in my Autohome Extreme. This year I do not know how it will turn out but it will be down a bit more, do to the virus. Do not worry I have plans to use it when everything settles down.

Da Frenchman

I don't want to derail this thread but I guess I already did that.

Anyway, this is my Extreme that sits on my FJC due to your honest, knowledgeable, low pressure RTT discussion. I really think Autohome builds one of the toughest, strongest RTT's out there.

And ........... Thank you !!

IMG_1003.jpg
 
Last edited:

alia176

Explorer
I don't want to derail this thread but I guess I already did that.

Anyway, this is my Extreme that sits on my FJC due to your honest, knowledgeable, low pressure RTT discussion. I really think Autohome builds one of the toughest, strongest RTT's out there.

And ........... Thank you !!

That's a good looking setup amigo! As far as the "toughest, strongest RTT" out there, not sure how you came to that conclusion unless you've owned all kinds of RTTs already and have personal experience to pull from. Seems like the alum shell tents would out tough a fiberglass tent, no? I have the same tent but just playing the devil's advocate :)
 

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
Good point, it is subjective, each material has it's strength and a lot has to do with it's construction. Fiberglass composites can be surprisingly strong, in Vietnam Swift boats were fiberglass and depending on the laminate can be bulletproof. Hummer uses a lamination system for their hoods that Grumman developed called Scrip technology that is really strong.

What is needed is to be field reparable. AutoHome uses a lot of aluminum, some even laminated into the shell. I was surprised by one of their more basic tents, the OverCamp, it uses virtually no aluminum but instead uses steel because almost anywhere you can weld steel. I don't know about AutoHome's new tents but the old ones were designed intentionally to be repaired anywhere in the world.

I been helping a buddy over the years to restore an old SeaBee amphibious airplane and the aluminum used is incredibly soft. He has to use a special media blasting technology to clean the panels. The reason is a very pure aluminum to handle salt water corrosion, stronger alloys corrode much faster. My point is that the strength of aluminum is really in the alloy used. In "The Nature of Boats" Richard Gerr has a whole chapter on material strengths and his conclusion is that wood wins hands down. It is probably just me but I'm still trying to get my head around using aluminum panels in a roof tent. It would seem to me that to get the required rigidity, the tent would end up weighing a lot more because of the thickness of the material.

Land Rover commissioned a series of Columbus Variants and I was able to get one. Yes, it is stronger, lighter and stiffer but I prefer my old one because even though the material is better on paper, it just seems colder, and I miss my old fiberglass one.
 

BrewsterII

Member
That's a good looking setup amigo! As far as the "toughest, strongest RTT" out there, not sure how you came to that conclusion unless you've owned all kinds of RTTs already and have personal experience to pull from. Seems like the alum shell tents would out tough a fiberglass tent, no? I have the same tent but just playing the devil's advocate :)

If you would have READ my post, I said "one of the toughest".

It's a short sentence Skippy, slow down and read it! :)
 
Last edited:

Beowulf

Expedition Leader
They are pretty tough. I bashed mine into the garage door header and stopped my jeep dead. Old habits of parking in the garage die hard. Just a little paint transfer, but no damage to the Variant.

I think my next modification will be a wrap. I'd like to keep the scratches down as much as I can on the gel coat. A nice satin black wrap will have it matching the rack and jeep hardtop.
 

Lemsteraak

Adventurer
Beowulf, at the time we thought it was really over the top when Land Rover commissioned 100 special Columbus Variants made with carbon fiber instead of normal glass fiber. These have become the carbon fiber tents, and we were surprised because there was a market for them and sold out for a couple years. Yes, they have advantages in terms of weight and strength, but the added cost hardly justifies the cost. There is a new movement to use more sustainable materials and it turns out that woven linen is a good replacement and makes a beautiful strong laminate. Looks like wood, how cool would that be?

AutoHome is set up to make very specialized tents. In Europe, you can easily order custom tents from them. They built a few very pretty tents for a special campaign for Mini. They put a Columbus Variant on a little Mini and called it their new "camper". It came out April 1st, and if you looked closely in the ad on the license plate was "HO8X", it was a joke. But the joke was on them as they had to go into production on the special "Mini" tent as there was a market for them.

I like your idea about wrapping your tent if you want a darker color because it is reversible. Color it turns out is really important. Years ago, AutoHome created the AirLand tent and it came standard with a special gray fabric. I really liked it and asked them why don't they change their standard Maggiolinas to gray also. They explained that it was the color of the light. Blue light is soothing so all the expedition tents used a blue fabric for the quality of light. I think it is pretty difficult to beat the standard white shell, the darker colors absorb heat. If you don't like it, you can reverse it easily.
 

VTJKU

New member
Deleting my own comment because I just learned the answer to the question I asked.
 
Last edited:

carolcoo

New member
Hi everyone,
I'm new here and this is my first thread on this forum. I've just purchased Columbus Variant small version. During installation I've encountered minor issue that could potentially become serious. I'm talking about required torque for mounting bolts. In the manual they show the following picture:
col.JPG

I don't know what value of "6 NW" refers to but it does not look like torque value. Maybe it should state "6 NM"?

Can you share your experience with installation and what torque you used? I've contacted Autohome US web site but no answer so far. I have hand tightened using provided hardware and used blue thread locker to avoid any looseness of the nuts in the future. Tent is sitting tight and after driving several miles on highway I did not see and movement. Honestly I'm afraid that I could tightened it too much and could make stresses in the fiberglass and potential cracking - this is my biggest concern. So any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

TCM

Adventurer, Overland Certified OC0006
I have a small Columus Variant and simply torqued the fasteners snug in combination with blue thread locker. I did not tighten to a specific torque. The tent has been mounted for 18 months and has not moved or come loose. Yes the 6 NW should be 6 NM. I have a torque wrench and could have hit this mark for the fasteners but it it seemed unnecessary. The most likely consequence of excess torque would be to bend the plate that mounts under your cross bars. Higher torque will not stress the fiberglass of the tent given how the recessed metal track in the base of the tent takes all the load.

It is a great tent. So easy to deploy and stow and much lighter than most of the competition. But be sure to wax it at least every six months especially if stored outside. The gelcoat finish otherwise oxidizes very easily. This is my only criticism of the tent.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
185,248
Messages
2,871,979
Members
224,251
Latest member
griffthecar
Top