Getting out of the city, away from the job and into the outdoors can really make you feel relaxed. That’s why I love camping. I can turn off my mobile, light a fire, and sit and contemplate the stars.
I’ve been a tenter from the beginning; no fancy RV’s for me! I’ve had a couple different tents over the years, and had a hand in setting up even more for tag-along friends and family, so I was excited to try out a whole new type of tent. The Napier Sportz Two-person Truck Tent was along for the ride as I took a two-week road trip through the northwestern USA.
Napier Truck tent features
The Napier Sportz Truck Tent fits into the box of a pickup truck, and has straps that keep it anchored and in place. The tent is tall enough to stand up in, and has three large, wide windows with both screens and covers, plus a wide door opening at the tailgate. There’s also an included gear loft, plus a rain fly. A couple of pockets on the inside also allow you to stash small items where you can reach them easily.
Setting up the truck tent
As with any tent, setting it up the first time is always a learning experience. The Sportz Truck Tent has six poles that require assembly and insertion, compared to my regular ground tent which has two. I learned it’s very important to follow the instructions exactly, as the poles need to be inserted in a very specific order.
The two main poles (blue) form an “X” across the tent, and each one slides into a correspondingly coloured sleeve. The poles are fibreglass with aluminum collars, and from the first use, I found these bulky collars getting stuck on the sleeves (photo at left) as we tried to feed them through. That, unfortunately was a frustration that didn’t really improve with practice.
Once you have the two main poles in place, you’ll add in the top cross pole (gray), the rear window pole (green) and finally the longer pole for the main entrance which is also green. With each of the poles in its sleeve, you begin to lift the tent, and tucking the ends of the poles into small pockets. Again, this must be done in precise order, or you risk damaging the tent. The last pole to go in (black) goes inside the tent to hold it open, but only after the tent is upright and in place.
I found this set up was definitely a two person job. While I suppose it could be done solo in a pinch, the tent is so large and unwieldy as it begins to take shape that I think you’d risk damaging it by trying to do it one corner or pocket at a time. The first couple of times I set up the Napier Sports Truck Tent it took about 15-20 minutes, but after that it was do-able in less than 10 minutes.
Want to watch the truck tent set up, or see video of this review? Click below.
Testing the tent
While I did a test run with this tent in my driveway, the first real outdoor experience with it was in Oregon’s Painted Hills. After climbing in for the night, there was a torrential downpour that lasted hours, and it was quite cold. While the enormous air space of the tent meant we weren’t as warm as we tend to be in our smaller tent, the Sportz tent kept us bone dry. I found only a small spot of leakage under the tent when we packed up in the morning, something similar to what I get from my regular ground tent.
One other tip I learned is that you’ll want to open some of the windows as you’re taking the tent down or it can be like waiting for a giant balloon to deflate.
I used a queen size air mattress inside the tent, and it was not a great fit, but that’s no fault of the tent; the wheel wells make the available space very narrow, so my advice to anyone wanting a tent like this would be to get an air mattress with notches specifically designed for a truck bed. I’ll also add that with a queen sized air mattress in the box, there was nearly no room for gear bags inside the tent.
Trouble in the Wilderness
I ran into trouble with this tent after just five uses. One of the sections of the folding/articulating main fibreglass poles (the large green one that holds the door open and much of the front of the tent up) began to split. Initially I duct taped the pole thinking it was an anomaly and I had a bad section of fibreglass.
Then another section of the same pole split, and another, until much of the pole was weakened and inserting it amounted to using a pool noodle to hold up that part of the tent. I was disheartened when a second pole began to split as well. About this time I also noticed the elastic straps that hold the tent to the truck bed were also badly stretching out and beginning to fray.
Customer Service response from Napier Outdoors
I reached out immediately from the road via social media to Napier, and got a response back the next day providing me a customer service email address. I got a response back from a rep almost immediately, asking for details.
The company shared that sometimes problems can arise by setting the tent up incorrectly, but that they could see from my Twitter feed’s photos (@ErinLYYC) that this was not the case.
I was told the tent was under warranty and the poles would be replaced ordinarily, but since the straps were loosening too, they would just replace the entire tent.
I will say Napier’s customer service response was quick, helpful and as a customer I’d be satisfied with the resolution. My only concern going forward would be that I’d be a little apprehensive about the problems repeating. Due to time constraints on this review, I was unable to put the second tent through similar paces (i.e another 5 set-ups) to see if mine was a bum unit or this tent just has a bad design.
Napier Truck Tent – Pros & Cons
One of the biggest cons of this tent is that once it’s set up, you can’t use your vehicle. That means if you need to dash off to grab some firewood, hit the general store or want to drive to a trailhead to go hiking till the sun goes down, you’ll want an alternate mode of transportation, like bikes, or another vehicle, or you’ll need to be prepared for set up and tear down daily.
A pro for the Napier Sportz tent is that it’s tall enough you can stand up inside it, but with a mattress taking up most of the floor space, that’s unlikely. I suppose you could forgo an air mattress and use a Thermarest but you definitely need something to soften the ridged metal truck bed you’ll be sleeping on. Though at the same time, that height is a con for me, since a bigger air space is harder to keep warm.
Another huge con for me is the poles. In my opinion, aluminum poles are far superior to fibreglass for this use, and that was proven to me in testing. With two poles splitting after just a handful of uses, I have serious concerns about durability and longevity.
Another pro? I liked the fact this tent can still be set up if you have a tonneau cover on the bed of your truck. While it obviously works best with the roll-away and multi-fold variety of cover, it was a huge plus that we didn’t need to fully remove the cover to set it up.
I’d say that having a back window on this tent which opens onto the back window of the cab of the truck is also a pro. It allowed us to run an air pump to an air mattress through the windows, meaning we could inflate our air mattress right inside the tent with ease.
While I’d love to see a re-invented version of this tent with some more durable materials like stronger elastic and aluminum poles, I don’t think this version is ready for primetime. I liked how durable and waterproof the tent itself was, even as the materials were being stretched to odd proportions as the poles collapsed.
I certainly appreciated Napier Outdoors’ quick and satisfying customer service response to my problems, but unfortunately this is not a tent I’d get for myself at this time, both because of the poles, and because I like the flexibility of being able to still use my vehicle while camping. If I do get a chance to re-evaluate the tent, I’ll definitely post an update.