After our first child came along we needed more room for our growing family. After convincing my wife to test drive a Ford F-150 she was on board with getting a full sized truck as the family vehicle. We love it. Since getting the truck I’ve been able to do more DIY work around the house and yard. It’s enabled a lot of self-sufficiency and has become part of my identity.
Some of my most enjoyable experiences as a kid were camping with my family. Now that I have two toddlers, I’ve made it a point to get them outside and into nature. I set up a place outside for afternoon naps in the shade. There is nothing more wholesome than watching your kid doze off to the sounds of the birds and rustling of trees.
Now that I own a truck, much of San Diego county is accessible. From the mountains and snow, to the desert and beaches a sedan was problematic to get to the good spots away from crowds. Anza Borrego and Cleveland National Forest are two treasures I’m lucky enough to have in driving distance. With four wheel drive and good clearance, we can explore the broken and neglected roads and find those special areas with nice views and privacy.
After camping with the kids on the cold hard ground, I decided to explore the Napier Sportz truck tent. I was easily able to find one that fit my truck bed, and it arrived quickly and well packed. My typical camping experience is with a six-person domed tent. I’ve done some glamping, but my preferred spots are on public lands outside of known campsites; no bathroom facilities, trash cans, or parking spots. You pack it in, you pack it out.
I was excited to try the Napier tent because I could utilize my truck for yet another convenience. My previous camping experience was marred by the cold and insufficient preparation. I simply didn’t bring something comfortable enough for the family to sleep on. With the Napier truck tent, I was guaranteed that we were going to be on a flat surface, and I prepared a full-sized mattress that fit perfectly between the wheel wells.
Armed with a packing list and plenty of preparation, my wife and I loaded the truck and kids up for a trip to the mountains. For this venture, we made a reservation at Cleveland National Forest. Due to COVID-19 my original plans were adjusted due to closures, but I was very happy with everything about our trip and the campsite.
The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the Napier tent is the colorful poles. At first I felt that it was going to be complex, but the instructions are sewed into the tent’s carrying bag. There are clear diagrams, and the poles are color-coded to the sleeves and pockets that they associate with, for the most part. If you follow the instructions, you’ll be able to set the tent up without much issue. I was able to do it myself, but if I was shorter I might have needed something to stand on.
There is one diagram that shows the poles and how they should be laying, and it’s clear enough to tell which poles are on top of which. I was pleasantly surprised because it would have been easier to have a graphic of two lines crossing without knowing which sits above the other. One thing I’d caution a new truck tent owner is to take your time and not get ahead of the directions. While you are sliding a pole in a sleeve, you’ll naturally want to snap the support straps, tuck the poles into the pockets, or pull straps tight. I ended up making a problem for myself because one of the poles near the truck cab wasn’t done right and I had to climb and reach up to fix it. It would have been frustrating to need to take down the tent because you did something wrong and can’t reach the issue.
Once the main tent was set up, it does come with a rainfly and awning. The instructions fall off a little for these other parts. You can figure it out, but it might take some trial since the diagrams on these two sections aren’t as illustrative. The rainfly was straightforward, but I had to reach far up and use a little bit of luck with the wind tossing it around the other side. Your mileage may vary, but depending on your height you might need something to stand on. If you set it up a little wrong like I originally did, you’ll have to take it down and fix your mistake unless you are able to get to the top of the tent somehow.
As of this writing I’ve set the tent up twice. It’s easier the second time, but it still has a learning curve and a few steps to go through.
The tent feels well made. The zippers fastened without snagging, and the tent fit well to the shape of my truck. It feels like a well-made product and I was surprised at how nicely the contours followed my bed. A big benefit to the truck tent is that it’s not exposed to rough ground. My six-person domed tent got a hole in the bottom on my second outing. This one still looks brand new after using it twice. The only thing I’m worried about is the straps that secure it to the bed of the truck. They are elastic, and that doesn’t hold up well with time. It’s very convenient to use since it’s new, and they secure the tent very well, but my previous experience with different products using elastic tells me it’s not going to hold up forever. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though, because the kind of material tents are made of in general probably have the same kind of lifespan.
I didn’t use the tent in the rain, but dew did collect and pool up in the inside the time I used it without the rainfly. Since then, I’ve used the rainfly and didn’t have issue. It seems like it should hold up in the rain, but I don’t have personal experience with it in snow or rain. I have used it in moderate wind and fog, and it’s done well.
The tent is very spacious. I have a 5.5-foot truck bed and it utilizes all the space and sits up fairly high. Napier provides gear webbing for the middle of the tent, and side pockets. The tent windows are large and generous, and the door is big as well. I was able to fit a full-sized mattress in the door of the tent, even with the awning set up. With any tent, you will need to adjust how wide you leave the windows open to combat any stuffiness. With a family of four in the tent, (2 adults and 2 toddlers), it did get a little stuffy with the rainfly, so I cracked the main door and it cleared right up. The doors and windows have the dual zippers for the bug screen and solid fabric like all tents do. My wife commented on the convenience of the pockets for holding her battery pack, cell phone, keys and other items. I simply stuffed the things in my pockets to a corner. The tent is big enough that both methods left room for us to sleep without issue.
I think the Napier Sportz truck tent is an outstanding product that now makes my truck the focal point of my future camping decisions. Instead of setting everything up out of the way, your truck turns into your shelter. And as long as my kids are comfortable and having fun in the outdoors, I’m a happy camper.