ARB Simpson Series III Rooftop Tent Review


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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.

002 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo The Simpson Series III tent from ARB comes 90 percent assembled. The only parts you’ll need to attach are the aluminum base rails and the ladder. The tent base is configured so it can either open from the side or the back of the vehicle. We opted for the side given a rear setup might interfere without the back glass on our A.R.E. cap.

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.

003 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo Our Z Series cap is fit with the optional roof rails, which we’ve paired with a set of Yakima JetStream crossbars. These bars are rated for a 165 pounds (static), making them fine for the 154-pound tent.

004 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo ARB ships the tent with plates that allow you sandwich the crossbars between the provided plates and rails. These will work with many plate and tubular roof racks, but the JetStream crossbars are wider than most.

005 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo We had a feeling the provided plates would be too short, so we picked up some 1 1/2-inch, 1/4-inch flat bar from our local hardware store. After cutting them to length, we drilled the necessary holes and gave them a nice coat of black paint.

006 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo With the tent secured to the crossbars, you’re ready to set it up. Doing so only requires you to extend and twist two rods on the inside and two at the entryway on the outside. To actually unfold the tent, you’ll unstrap the two buckles, lock the ladder into the extension slots, and slowly walk it back. It’s an easy one-person job.

007 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo Speaking of ladders: Depending on how tall you are, you may find that you’ll need to haul a short stepstool or ladder to make setup and teardown go a little easier. If your 4×4 is taller than average, you can also pick up a ladder extension from ARB.

008 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo Inside, you’ll find a 2.5-inch, high-density, bonded-chip foam mattress with a removable cover. We found it to be a little on the firm side, so we’ll slip an air pad under our sleeping bag if we are out for more than one night.

009 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo We’ve found it roomy enough for two adults and a couple of very small kiddos. There are a few small pockets where you can easily tuck in gear, and there’s just enough room at the base of the mattress for a gear bag or two. Even better is that the tent can be folded up with the sleeping bags in place. The bungee cords you see are there to help keep the walls pulled in for when it’s time to pack up.

010 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo If you need some extra ventilation, ARB provides prop rods and four window openings (only three are usable, however, with the rain guard cover on). These allow you to unzip the canvas windows and allow air to flow through the screened windows. Given the small openings in the screens, they do a fine job of keeping the bugs at bay.

011 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo ARB understands that if you’re investing in this tent, it’s likely going to see some tough environments. This is why the tent is comprised primarily of a poly/cotton ripstop canvas material. It’s a 300GSM PU impregnated canvas. We’ve been lucky enough to not have a rainy overnight. We have, however, taken extra care to wash it after a few outings, allowing the tent to completely dry before folding it back up.

012 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo Having owned many tents over the years, we can’t stress how important a quality set of zippers can be. Though our sandy soil in the Southeast always seems to make its way in the tent, we’ve had good luck with the zippers all around. Even in some of the more frequently used areas (like the entry point), they’ve been trouble free.

013 2018 Chevy Colorado Zr2 Arb Simpson Series Iii Roof Top Tent Are Cap Photo The cover ARB sends with the tent is a UV-stabilized PVC vinyl material. It’s a little bulky but very thick, and (of course) it’s waterproof. Even dragging limbs across it, we haven’t hand any issues. To access the tent, you’ll unzip the cover three quarters of the way. If you’d like to remove the cover completely, you can slide it out of the holding groove. Given the size of the cover, we tend to leave it attached.

Load Ratings

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.

Practical Points

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.

Top Thoughts

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 4×4 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.



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