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I'm all for doing as you please with your money. After all, this is America, and you're free to do so—to an extent. Besides, as the owner of a 1969 Dodge Charger that's driven daily, I don't have much wiggle room to tell anyone to do the practical thing.
Still, there are some trends that I just don't get. Rooftop tents on pickup trucks are a chief example. It’s not because I don’t understand the concept as to why you’d sleep on the roof. I just don’t get spending thousands of dollars to do it. Especially when there are far cheaper options to convert that precious bed into your sleeping quarters, which provides all the same benefits.
This is something I’ve said for years. I knew, at some point, I’d have to put my money where my mouth is and actually sleep in the bed of a truck. So, when the folks over at Quadratec recently reached out to see if I'd be interested in testing out its custom two-door Gladiator JTe built for the 50 for 50 trail cleanup project, complete with a Lost Canyon bed tent and air mattress, I went for it. I’m happy to say that a good night's sleep has only reinforced my opinion on the matter.
Though this is a totally custom vehicle, we aren't reviewing some irrelevant piece of gear. Quadtratec's JTe is actually a four-door Wrangler converted into a two-door Gladiator using crash parts. Therefore, the bed is a run-of-the-mill Gladiator bed, and the Lost Canyon tent and air mattress combo is a readily available part for it.
It's a simple pop-up tent that's built to match the parameters of the bed. The air mattress within is the same ordeal in that it's specifically meant for this bed on account of the size and reliefs on the bottom that the wheel wells fit into. That, paired with the extension that covers the open tailgate makes for a spacious sleeping area comparable to a queen-size mattress. This does mean the only thing protecting your precious little tootsies is a flimsy piece of fabric, but you're still up off the ground, away from most critters and creepy crawlers.
At a cost of around $500, it really is impressive what you're walking away with. It's also kind of a no-brainer option when compared to a rooftop tent that costs thousands of dollars, even if it means having to clear the bed before setting up, which we did have to do.
Preparing the tent was straightforward and the whole process, including clearing the bed, took no more than a half hour. The tent relies on collapsable tent poles sliding through channels that give the tent its shape. The only gripes I really have with it involve the poles binding on the fabric from time to time, but that's pretty much the nature of the beast.
As per the rep's recommendation, I did set the poles up in the tent with it outside of the truck bed. From there, my girlfriend and I lifted it up and installed it on the bed. Doing so was simply setting it in place, then running a few hooks to anchor points to secure it. The bed bar on this Jeep did interfere with that part slightly, but it was really easy to work around.
The mattress was no challenge, either. It exists in two portions. The easiest to set up is the primary section that sits in the bed itself. It's equipped with a built-in electric pump. All you have to do is turn the knob to the inflate setting and let it fill the mattress until it's done, then turn it off. The smaller portion that covers the tailgate does require the use of a manual air pump that takes a little longer. Though, it's such a small piece that I spent no more than a few minutes pumping it up.
Once everything was in place, we just had to level it all out. Quadratec sent us off with some Res-Q recovery boards for this very purpose. This isn't a necessary step, but it's something that will make the night's stay that much more comfortable if you’re parked on uneven ground.
Staying the Night
Unfortunately, I don't have access to much land that'd allow me to go out and get the authentic off-roading/overlanding/glamping experience legally. But I wasn't about to set up shop in the driveway to review this combination. I at least wanted to attempt to do it right, and we did camp in it overnight at a nearby state park.
I have to admit that I really was skeptical at first. At six feet tall, I figured I'd be a little cramped in the Gladiator's 5-foot bed, especially with the full-size spare and PowerTank tire refill station mounted permanently to the bed. It really wasn't an issue, though. In fact, I fit perfectly inside the tent.
The mattress was also surprisingly comfortable. Now, I'm not the type to have trouble sleeping anywhere. I could, and have, slept in a gravel driveway. So, take my input with a grain of salt. However, I really don't have any complaints. I was able to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night with no discomfort.
The only real issue I ran into was the height at which the bed was off the ground. Now, it is in a lifted Jeep sitting on 37-inch tires, but the mattress adding almost another foot to the equation didn't help anything. Still, I'd take that problem oversleeping on a bare truck bed any day.
I woke up in the morning feeling refreshed, no different than if I’d slept at home. Tearing down was no chore either. It took about the same amount of time as setting up did, with the only hiccup being folding a tent into a small storage bag, but even that was easy enough for someone, like myself, with no practice to get it done in two tries. Once that was out of the way, we tossed everything back in the bed and headed off to grab some coffee before more road testing.
You can’t go wrong with the Lost Canyon bed tent. It does everything you’d ever realistically expect a tent to. It’s comfortable, it gets you up off the ground, and it’s easy to set up. And at $500, I really can’t see skipping over it for a rooftop tent.
Now, that’s just my take on the matter. I’m just one guy who tends to lean toward the simpler things in life. I totally get it if that’s not your dig. And if you are the type to favor a rooftop tent for whatever reason, I suggest you pop over to check out what my managing editor, Jonathon Klein, got himself into in the Utah wilderness.