Camp Anywhere: ARB Simpson Series III Rooftop Tent Review
Expanding our lodging options with ARB & A.R.E.
Long before overlanding became a trend, going off-road and sleeping in a tent was simply called camping. When we were young, we often slept in the back of our 4x4s to save money on our off-road adventures. Most of the time, we had little more than a sleeping bag and a handful of clothes rolled up into a ball for a makeshift pillow. As our adventures have progressed (and we've gotten older), we've looked for ways to better our off-road camping digs without overcomplicating our setup.
While camping can vary wildly from one person to the next, the goal is all the same—have a sound night of sleep in the great outdoors. As we've continued to build our '18 Chevy Colorado ZR2, we've made upgrades that have increased the truck's off-road prowess and functionality. One of these improvements came by way of a Z Series bed cap from A.R.E. Optioned with roof rails with Yakima crossbars, the cap has become an excellent tool to help us tote our off-road gear.
This setup has also become home to our latest upgrade—the Simpson Series III tent from ARB. This particular tent is what's commonly referred to as a rooftop tent. The idea behind the Simpson Series III is to provide you with a quality, easy-to-use tent, which will keep you out of the elements (and food chain). Designed to deploy in just a few minutes, it allows you to set up camp anywhere you can find level ground.
Sure, at 154 pounds, it's far heavier than a conventional backpack tent. However, the fact that we can now utilize camping spots that would be otherwise unusable with a traditional two-person tent has equated to a solid investment. Add in the fact that tiny humans are a part of the equation, and the rapid deployment becomes something you and your kiddos will appreciate for years to come.
So, what's it like actually like using (and daily driving with) our new setup? Read on to find out.
One thing worth mentioning is static versus dynamic load ratings. A.R.E. and Yakima list their dynamic load ratings. This is the maximum amount of weight the company states should be attached while moving. In Yakima's case, that's 165 pounds. Static figures are often much higher, although companies are not always willing to share these figures publicly. We haven't had any issue with having the tent and a few hundred extra pounds sleeping on top. While we wouldn't push the limit in regard to hauling any extra gear up top, sleeping two adults should not be a problem.
There's nothing aerodynamic about this tent. That being said, we don't notice the aero-robbing attributes until we get over 60 mph. The ZR2 actually handles the added weight extremely well. The bummer is that it's a bit difficult to take on and off given the size. You can store it vertically in your garage, which saves a bit of space, but make sure it's secured to the wall. You also may notice that our tent is slightly offset to the passenger side. We did that to allow room for an awning on the driver side and to align with the ARB mounting rails more easily.
Having used a rooftop tent on other vehicles in the past, we will say that we prefer this setup on our pickup. Why? Our ultra-flexy suspension on our previous rig made the tent sway as you moved around. Our ZR2 doesn't shift around nearly as much. If you move around a lot in your sleep, you might want to bring something to stabilize your rig (if the motion bothers you). Two bottle jacks with a couple pieces of cut 4x4 wooden blocks under your rock sliders are easy body stabilizers.
It may seem like a sizable investment (around $1,499 at time of print), but you're getting a lot of tent for the money. With so many well-engineered design features throughout to ensure it remains leakproof and user friendly, this isn't a throwaway tent that you'll be tossing after one season. As is the case with most things, a little maintenance goes a long way. Don't put a tent away wet and forget about it!
For those who like to take their family camping, the tent is an excellent addition. Given setup time is so quick (few minutes), it will make impromptu camping trips a bit faster and easier. While "overlanding" might be the buzzword of the moment, making memories with your family outdoors will never go out of style.