I know there’s the eternal debate over the superior camper bus—Westfalia or Riviera (and the answer is Riviera). But when it comes to the tent tops, the distinct advantage of Westies is that they have abundant manufacturers. Finding a decent tent for a Rivi is hard. Sure, there are a couple, but the best reviewed and reasonably priced came from Bus Depot. Before you order, you need to know the length of your old tent. To get the length, remove the old tent and measure it flat on the ground. Don’t take chances. Besides, you’re not going to reuse your old tent, right? (At least I wasn’t going to reuse mine that was cracked with age, mildewed, and with busted-out screens.)
Removing the old one: The old tent was installed using three methods simultaneously: caulk, screws (at the bottom), and staples. The installer was apparently paid per staple. Keep a good strong magnet around to pick up all the rusty fragments. The screws around the bottom posed an issue. I didn’t want to remove the tracks for the lift, but the screws holding the canvas in were wedge only accessible in between. Since the rails are aluminum and not load-bearing, I drilled access points for each screw (which came in handy during the installation of the new top). Around the top of the pop-up I had some seriously groovy brown vinyl trim that I saved for reinstallation once the new tent arrived.
The new one arrived and it felt good. It had the appropriate amount of flex and it smelled new. Bus Depot offers two colors—yellow and white. I went with white because it matched my aesthetic. And it feels bigger (the clearance in a Rivi dormer is only 24 inches). One drawback is that it gets smudges on it fairly easily.
Now, for installation: Gather up your tools—staple gun, screw gun, waterproof caulk. Make sure you have a friend to help you. You’ll want that extra set of hands. Start in a corner and work top to bottom, stapling in the upper seams and making sure the corners meet on all four sides. Then begin caulking around the bottom (because that is where water is more likely to get in). I applied the caulking quite liberally before using rivet screws to hold the canvas in place. When it was all done, I added the vinyl trim back (which covers the rough edges of the headliner I had installed). Let the caulk cure overnight for the best results.
With the Rivi-style tops, you will have to unscrew the rear supports to tuck the tent down between the bus and supports. Have a couple of 2x4s handy to prop up the top and it makes life much easier.