Autumn isn’t what it used to be in Michigan. At least lately. We’re approaching on November, and yet, we’re still experiencing sunny 70-80 degree days. Call it climate change, call it whatever you want, but the fact is that things have been a little warmer over here. And while these recent Indian summers have stymied the beautiful collages of brightly colored leaves throughout The Mitten State, it does leave room for several extra weeks of summertime activities. And one of the more popular things to do around here is to disappear into the wild for days at a time with rationed provisions and limited hygiene products. Some of you know this as camping.
Aside from being surrounded by more fresh water than anywhere else, Michigan is also home to waterfalls, national forests, beaches, islands, mountains, caves, canyons and even sand dunes. It’s a rugged and wild corner of the planet, but one that cannot be imagined from those merely visiting the flattened and sprawling Detroit metro area. Which is fine by most of us residents. Let the West Coast, New York and Colorado deal with the crowding and the high real estate prices. Too much attention on us will ruin our good thing.
Now, to tackle all that Michigan has to offer, the proper equipment is required. Not just the right shoes and backpack, either. But the proper tent, and proper vehicle as well. In our opinion, there’s no better vehicle choice to explore Michigan’s might and magnificence than the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 pickup truck.
The main draw of the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is its sense of adventure. From the factory, it possesses the ability to go anywhere, far away from any roads, towns or people. Its capacity to roam the lands is virtually unrivaled by other automakers, save from Jeep and the Ford Raptor. But unlike the Jeep Wrangler, it has a truck bed. And unlike the Ford Raptor, it can penetrate some of the more cramped areas of the trail, and has an even greater advantage over the seismic Ram Power Wagon. You can read a more extensive take on the Colorado ZR2 in our recent first-drive review.
This particular 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 tester is not far from how we would spec one out for ourselves. A Summit White extended cab long box with a 181 hp, 369 lb-ft 2.8L Duramax diesel engine. This trail runner with a six-foot bed can be had for $44,655 with destination.
With its six-foot truck bed, the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 makes a great platform for overland camping. That means it can fit a camper, or even a tent in the back. For those on a budget, or just testing the waters, a tent is the way to go. One major benefit to putting the tent in the bed of the truck is in the case of unfavorable terrain. Setting up in the truck bed at least controls what the sleeping mat will lay over, and there’s no need to search for clean a clean and/or dry patch of land to lay a tent over. And of course, there’s the adventurous aesthetics that a bed-mounted tent provides. For our test, we’re going with a Napier Sportz Truck 57 Series tent, which retails for $269.99 USD.
Napier, based out of Ontario, Canada, makes tents that specifically fit in multiple vehicles. So while we pleaded Chevrolet to provide us with a Colorado ZR2 for this test, a truck isn’t exactly required. A quick look at their website reveals that Napier produces tents made to fit in SUVs, hatchbacks, and even minivans. Thus redefining the term “car camping.”
The Napier Sportz Truck 57 Series tent, as it’s officially called, weighs around 28-pounds, stands up to 5’8″ high at its center when fully pitched, and is made of varying types of polyester. The sides and roof are of a polyester taffeta, the floor of polyester oxford and the screen windows are of a polyester mesh. Napier recommends that the tent be used for three seasons, as the walls just aren’t made to insulate the winter cold. And for the hunters, the tent also comes in camouflage for $329.99 USD. The Napier Sportz Truck 57 Series tent will fit into most truck beds six-feet and longer. The width fitment will vary based on the size of the truck. So while the Colorado ZR2 is technically a midsize truck, the Napier tent will easily slot itself into a larger Chevrolet Silverado, as well.
Full assembly, from unboxing to stabilizing the awning, takes 20-30 minutes with two people. The instructions are attached directly to the carrying case to keep them from blowing away, and clear enough for a grade-schooler to understand. The differently colored and numbered poles made of fiberglass are clearly identified in the steps, as well as the order to install them. Without much effort, they frame out the polyester, 1200 PU waterproof canvas. If the mood strikes, Napier claims that the tent can be assembled outside of the truck, and then set into place. The tent is secured to the truck bed with adjustable nylon straps and plastic hooks that latch onto the body panels and bumper. How tightly the tent is secured in the tent is by the grace of the user’s work of the nylon straps. There are zippers on each side of the tent, which allow for semi-panoramic visuals, and a quick pass-through to the rear sliding window of the cabin of the Colorado ZR2.
With the Napier locked firmly into the bed of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, it was time to transfer the gear from the truck’s cabin into the tent. We brought with us everything we needed for a night or two of camping, including a small pillow, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, LED lantern, and even a laptop. Since the Colorado has OnStar 4G LTE WiFi, the laptop could be used for more than watching movies on the hard drive, depending on a strong wifi signal reaching the vehicle. Under the 4-foot-by-4-foot awning we placed our cooler and collapsable chair. It was a tranquil scene, parked in a clearing, overlooking a nearly still river surrounded by treeline shores beneath warm skies. As if summer is still here.