The Redwoods have always been awe-inspiring to me. It is truly one of my favorite places on Earth. I always remember some of my first big camping trips when I was kid at Jedediah Smith State Park among the ancient giants. I felt such pure happiness and excitement to be able to share the experience and grandeur of these trees with Gal, Girl and Dog. Hearing Girl tell me “The Redwoods are the coolest things ever” and “this is one of my favorite places” makes me one proud Guy. The time spent in the presence of these trees, hiking with my family down fairy tale like paths, dropping beats with our sporks while free-styling awful lyrics and rhymes around our nightly fires (Girl’s idea and it was a blast), biking loops around our Mill Creek campground and relaxing on massive old growth stumps catching rays of Redwood filtered light into our campsite was a magical time that we will reminisce about for years to come.
We camped in Del Norte State Park at the aforementioned Mill Creek campground. Jedediah Smith was totally booked, but I was pleasantly surprised by Mill Creek. The forest was mostly second generation growth, but there were definitely some spectacular old growth trees. The stumps of the ancients around the campground with the giant ferns and Sitka Spruces really made us feel like we were in the land of dinosaurs. The campsites here were awesome, there were many really private sites but we were able to land the best of them all. We got site 109, which is typically used and reserved for research scientists. We had more room than we knew what to do with under a canopy of trees that were as giant as any other ancient grove.
I’m pretty sure I drove Gal and Girl crazy by constantly pointing and saying “Wow, look at that tree” on our incredible hiking adventures, my neck is still sore from all that looking up. I have Redwood bark stained t-shirts and shorts from hugging as many giants as could. Until next time Redwoods! We have been diverted a bit on our adventure due to some crazy West Coast wildfires. We were planning on a few nights near Ashland, OR and on towards Mt. Hood. We ended up staying an extra night in our special Redwoods spot and went to Portland to visit Gals sister and Girls awesome aunt Moya and some childhood friends of Guys. Thanks for the hospitality Mark and Margarita, so fun to see great old friends and family!
Guy back again, and a few things have changed on the ‘ol Rig. A challenge with the Tepui tent mounted to the Tacoma was that once we got camp set up, our home was attached to our rig. It seemed daunting to have to tear down the tent just to take the truck somewhere. We felt stuck and didn’t necessarily want home to be right where we parked it. We wanted to be able to leave our tent at the camp spot and drive the truck to a trail head a few miles away or go grab a bag of ice back in town.
I said I didn’t want to pull anything. Good lesson here is to never say never! We are now pulling a small trailer. After much research and debate we went with a local company in Denver: Ruger Trailers. We found them through The Adventure Portal off-road trailer guide. We called and talked to the owner, Steve, and he invited us down to their production facility so we could check out the trailers and options. We always prefer to shop and buy locally when we can and Steve was so friendly and knowledgeable, it was an easy decision. We had them add a propane tank holder and an emergency gas canister to the sides. They customized the rack by increasing the height about 6″ so our Tepui would mount a bit higher. They also added bike rack mounts to the sides. With the two additional racks we added to the tongue, we can fit four bikes total. The trailer space is perfect for all our camping gear (inside dimensions are 72″l x 43.75″w x 24″t) which leaves the bed of the truck open for our personal and recreation gear.
Speaking of the truck bed, we added a storage solution which consists of 2 sliding drawers and a cargo slide. We have never been more organized and gear has never been easier to get out of the truck, even the stuff all the way back. Just like mom used to say, “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything”. Girl feels more empowered knowing where everything is and she can get what she needs without needing to ask Guy or Gal for help. Dog has no thumbs, so she can’t get anything and spends her time lying in the dustiest spots directly in the sun; to each their own!
Last weekend we went up to Lake Dillon, just outside Breckenridge. It was really fun and a great test run for driving with the trailer and canoe. The trailer is only about 60″ wide total, so I never had to worry about it veering into the other lanes. It pulled very smoothly and easily. Turning and corners were no problem either. We do need to work on our backing up skills though…we will have plenty of time to practice that in 11 days when we set off on our journey!
Guy here. I need to preface this blog post with this is my first “real” blog post. I also binge watched my first Netflix series over the winter; I guess I’m growing as a person!
I’m honestly not much of a “rig” guy. I like practical, efficient, reliable with a hint of ruggedness. I have always had a Tacoma since I inherited an old 2wd black Toyota truck (pre-Tacoma). My family used it for years before I ended up with it after moving to Colorado in 1996. I put a white aluminum shell on it, which made it look like a pretty crappy cop truck. There’s nothing like a truck to throw your stuff and dog in the back and head to the hills, even if I looked like the back country fuzz. I have upgraded 3 times since then. First with a 1998 TRD Offroad that I bought in 2005, then with an ’05 TRD Offroad that I traded up for in 2013. And now I officially own my first brand new vehicle, a 2017 TRD Offroad that I absolutely love! The bells and whistles are nice, but deep down it is the same truck that I have driven for almost 20 years. There is something nostalgic about hearing the rumble of the Tacoma engine picking its way up a rocky slope to find a majestic spot to pitch a tent for the night.
I’ve always kept my trucks stock and always beat them up “carefully”. What’s the use of a truck if you are not going to use it for truck stuff? I had some decisions to make when I purchased my new truck. I knew I wanted and needed some good tires that would get me to and fro on the highway and through the city, but would perform the minute I got onto some dirt. I went with the BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2’s. I had the old KO’s on my prior truck and they never let me down in snow, rain, ice, mud, dirt and rocks. I also upgraded my rims to the TRD rims, nothing I had to do but I liked the look. Again, I am typically not much of a “rig” guy, but if I am buying a new truck I might as well make it look like I want it to. I’ve always had a shell on my trucks. My 2005 had a Softopper made right here in Boulder, CO. I loved the versatility of it, kind of like a convertible, but there were some things I didn’t like. Firstly, there was a nasty blind spot because there were no side windows. Secondly, when it’s cold outside, it is an absolute bear to stretch the canvas and get it to snap onto the frame. Thirdly, mine was old, but the plastic windows became very hard to clean and thus very hard to see through. Lastly, the rear window became impossible to secure to the tailgate which allowed all manner of moisture and dirt to encapsulate everything in the truck bed. I had a pretty old model so I was unable to replace the rear window which now can be done. No bad feelings for Softopper, those guys are great and they make a great product, it just wasn’t what I was looking for this time around. After some research I ended up with a Snugtop shell, the Rebel model, with side windows that fold up so you can easily access anything inside the truck bed. Since I’m being honest here, I haven’t been 100% satisfied with this shell. It has leaked near the cab at the corners ever since I bought it. I brought it back twice to the dealer where I bought it and they claimed to have fixed it. However, when it rains, it still leaks. It is what it is, I will find a way to seal it myself. Aside from this, I really love it.
The big decision we had to make was where were we going to live as we travel across this great country of ours. I have never wanted to pull a trailer and there is something about camping inside a trailer that doesn’t feel like camping. The convenience is great, especially when the weather rolls through. The comfort is great, but it’s not sleeping in a tent. I grew up camping and backpacking. There is no escape in life like sleeping in the woods in a tent. This is the best vacation ever in my mind! The trailers made these days seem enormous, not to mention an eyesore, and I just don’t want something like that riding my rear while cruising the back roads of the States. A teardrop is much smaller, but it feels to me like you are just towing a bed cave. I know there are a ton of trailer options out there, but we quickly decided to go in a different direction.
A Camper Van was another thought, but DANG, those things are expensive and apparently everyone else wants one too. I would really like to try one, but I will save that for another day, another era, another drive. I did travel around the West in an old conversion van for about a month, but I still slept most nights in a tent. I have to admit the convenience of pulling off the road and being able to sleep was pretty nice.
A camper shell was another consideration, but the price tag seems very high and I can’t imagine living with Gal, Girl and Dog in the back of my 5′ pickup bed. There are many camper shell options to choose from. The Four Wheel Campers are incredible and top of the line. The AT Habitats look very cool and I like the concept. The Flip-Pacs are hard to come by, especially for the short beds, plus I never received any responses back about them after many messages and emails. I spent countless hours researching each option, weighing the pros and cons and ultimately deciding there has to be a better way.
So we come to the roof top tents (RTT). It was an option I never really considered…until I did. It really seemed like a great compromise. The price tag was much lower than all the other options. You are still sleeping in a tent, your tent is always on your vehicle and ready to go, no ground cloth or sleeping pads needed, no sleeping on rocks or sticks… I like the sound of this! After much more research, we came to the conclusion that the the Tepui tents were the way to go. We like a lot of room for the 3 of us. Our current ground tent is the Kingdom 6 from REI. There is way too much room in there even with the dog and all our stuff, we could probably rent out the second room or set it up in our backyard and AirBnB it for a pretty penny every night.
We decided to go with the largest Tepui Tent model they have, the Autuna XL Ruggedized Sky. This is a 4 person model with the following features:
Two built-in screened SKY panels which allow for a great view of the stars and surrounding trees when the rain fly is removed
– Diamond Plate Base
– 360g Dual Stitched Fabric (40% heavier than standard models)
– Anti-condensation mat (1/2″) under the mattress
– Fully wrapped 3/4″ heavy duty internal frame
– Heavy duty 3-bolt hinges and welded aluminum base construction
– Fully enclosed annex featuring the same heavy duty material used for the tent canvas.
This tent is heavy duty and rugged as advertised. One of the best features is the 3″ memory foam mattress that is custom formed around the base of tent. Basically you get inside and the whole thing is a mattress…NO MORE SLEEPING PADS! It is super comfortable and it has proven so far to be very warm at night with the windows closed. If you’re not careful you can sleep until noon with how well it keeps out the light when it’s all closed up. The 3 of us have plenty of space on the 72″ x 96″ mattress. It’s also really nice to not have to haul the sleeping bags and pillows in and out of the tent every time we set up and take down. Everything just folds up with the tent. It’s really convenient!
I bet you are wondering about Dog. Well, seeing as this is a roof top tent, you do have to climb a ladder to get up to it. Introducing the Annex! The annex is a fully enclosed “room” that zips onto the bottom of the tent when opened. This adds a ton of inside space with a zip up front door and 2 side windows with mosquito netting. It also comes with a zip on PVC floor so you are pretty much bomb proof in there…please note we did not test any bombs in there, BUT this is the perfect place to store your stuff and the most perfect place for Dog (Stella) to sleep. She loves it in there. When it’s buggy out she wants to go in and lie down. When she’s hot she wants to go in and lie down. After we come back from a hike or playing in the river, you guessed it, she wants to go in and lie down. She is now the first to bed and the last one up. She loves the annex and so do we!
We have camped 5 nights so far with this setup and we are all really loving the convenience and the comfort. We like the fact that we are still sleeping in a tent and it definitely still feels like camping with a tiny touch of luxury. There are some things we need to dial in, however, and we will tell you about all those things soon! Stay tuned, this is just the beginning.