The bearded, long-haired bro drove up next to our 4-car caravan in his bright green work truck with the name of a local plumbing service painted across the side. He laid on his horn and punched the air with a rock-on formed fist shouting, “Yeah!” at the top of his lungs. As the guy finally sped past, we all joked that we’d never seen someone so stoked. That is until we ran into him again a couple miles later. This time he was pulled off the side of the freeway, filming us as we drove past, rock-on horns held high in the air.
That’s the power of a Tepui Tent.
I can’t tell you the number of people that approached us over the course of our three day adventure to California’s Lost Coast, either wanting to talk about the rooftop tents, the fully tricked-out cars, or to just let the Tepui team know they were one of the tribe. The only other product I can compare this cult-like following to might be Yeti mountain bike owners.
The Lost Coast of California sits roughly 200 miles north of San Francisco. Once home to a booming lumber industry, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges along this stretch of coastline made it too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. This is Sasquatch country.
“The Sinkyone lets you go when it wants to let you go.”
The adventure was sponsored by Tepui Tents and Four Points Adventures — an overland adventure company that runs these kind of luxury camping trips all over the West. I had the chance to chat with Tepui founder, Evan Currid, during our trip to find out the origins of the company. While traveling through Venezuela with his wife, Evan noticed everyone loved to drive somewhere for the weekend and camp using rooftop tents. Upon returning to the U.S., he first decided to try and import the tents to sell. After struggling with all the import hassles, he finally found it easier to build tents himself — and Tepui was born.
An ultralight backpacking trip this was not. We headed into the Lost Coast with fully kitted out Land Cruisers and 4X4 trucks, all topped with a variety of Tepui Tents, including the new hard shell White Lightning that everyone eagerly awaits. Not to mention trailers loaded with kayaks, inflatable SUPs, and even more tents.
Heading west along Hwy 1 from Leggett, we turned off on a blink-and-you-miss-it dirt road that takes you 6 miles over and down to Usal beach, part of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. This is a primitive camping spot – no facilities beyond a couple pit toilets scattered throughout the park and fire rings. You’ll find no potable water apart from what you can filter out of the creek and whatever you bring in, you have to pack it out. And forget about posting those Instagram selfies, as you will find no cell service here. While this remoteness might deter your average camper, it is heaven on earth for the rest of us.
We circled up our caravan and created camp near Usal Creek, a couple hundred yards back from the beach in an open, grassy area. We got to share our campsite with the Roosevelt elk that roam the grassland here — they don’t seem too bothered by humans as long as you let them do their thing.
When not competing in cutthroat rounds of cornhole or SUP racing up and down the shallow, yet fast-moving creek, we spent the days hiking up and down the surrounding coastal trail. Usal beach sits along the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail. The trail heads 22+ miles north from here to Whale Gulch at the northern end of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. About a mile north of Whale Gulch, the trail enters the King Range National Conservation Area and continues north another 30 miles to the mouth of the Mattole River.
The trail generally follows the rugged coastline with its constant changes in elevation, at many times forcing you on to the beach itself. You need to be well aware of tide schedules if you don’t want to get stranded on a cliffside for hours on end or wake up to find your tent filling with ocean water.
Each night we would head to the beach for sunset and watch the hand net fisherman bring in their catch before retiring to the campfire for another 5-star meal and night of stories. Filet mignon, wild Alaskan salmon, grilled asparagus, thick cut bacon, blueberry pancakes, fried eggs, and ice cream — yes, ice cream — among other delicacies. I could get used to this overlanding business.
Weather along this section of California coast can be nasty, with wind, rain, and almost always fog. We lucked out with three bluebird days and little wind. It was California at its best.
While we may not have found Sasquatch, we saw plenty of other wildlife — deer, elks, bobcat, the coolest gray whales just off the beach, surfing sea lions, snakes, sea otters, tiny little voles, banana slugs, ducks, and owls, just to name a few. Oh and ticks. Beware the ticks.
If You Go
Vehicle: For the most part, you need a high-clearance 4-wheel drive car to make it in to the coast. A Subaru would probably be fine when conditions are favorable but I haven’t tried it yet in this southern section of the Lost Coast (I have taken my Subaru in the King Range section). The dirt road is tight, steep, and winding, with plenty of car eating pot holes and very few places to safely pass another car. You don’t want to head in when the weather is foul, as mudslides and fallen trees could leave you stranded for days. As one park ranger put it, “The Sinkyone lets you go when it wants to let you go.”
Map: This map covers both the King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. It shows all roads, trails, camps, creeks, and locked gates in the area, and includes driving directions, trail mileages, campground details, precautions, and regulation. It also highlights the best day hikes in the region.
Full-Service Option: If you would rather someone else do all the planning and heavy lifting, I can’t recommend enough Four Points Adventures. Owner Todd Rogers went out of his way to make sure we had a great time.
Tepui Tent: These rooftop tents are so much more comfortable and fun than sleeping on the ground. Not to mention you get better airflow and the elevated views are hard to beat. Tepui makes a wide variety of tents — from 2-person to 4-person — and accessories such as annexes and luxury mattresses to up the glamping factor.
I slept in the 3-person Kukenam SKY Ruggedized rooftop tent — it offered plenty of room for two of us to stretch out with lots of storage pockets, bedding straps, and plenty of anchor points to hang my mtnGLO tent lights. If it’s super windy, you can easily remove the rain fly to cut down on flapping noise. Needless to say, I need to get myself a Tepui for the Subaru.
Tepui Expedition Series Duffel: You need a burly duffel to protect all your gear from rain, mud, and dust. As rugged as their tents, these bags will stand up to whatever abuse you throw at them for years to come. The Four Points gang used the monster Expedition Series Gear Containers to store all their camping supplies — I need to get myself a few of those.