Since the early 90s, Napier Outdoors has carved out a name for itself in the vehicle tent space. If you’re ever wandering around the Mew Lake or Achray campgrounds and you see a tent attached to the bed of someone’s pickup or SUV, odds are it’s a Napier tent. While a tent that you can drive away has some benefits, there are a few drawbacks as well, particularly if you want to do anything in the backcountry. SUVs don’t portage all that well.
Enter the Napier Lite Pack Camping Bundle.
Napier recently launched a standalone camping kit that includes a (spacious) two person tent and footprint, along with two sleeping bags, designed for people who want to leave their vehicles in the parking lot. They very kindly reached out to me to see if I’d like to try it out, and I got to do exactly that on a recent two night trip down to Pen Lake.
Long story short, as a first entry into the backcountry camping space, this is a solid package. There were aspects of this tent I liked, and aspects that could maybe use some refining, but you know what? Let’s do the long story long and really dive into it.
The package includes two -4 celsius rated sleeping bags, a free standing two man tent (with fly) and a tent footprint. The tent is a fairly typical design for this capacity, with three shock corded poles that have reinforced sleeves where the poles connect. The tent footprint attaches to the bottom of the tent, meaning you can move both the footprint and tent around at the same time if you’re testing out a couple of different tent spots. There’s a clear set of instructions for setting up the tent attached to the bag that contains the entire bundle. This is both good and bad. As long as you’ve got the bundle bag you’re not going to forget the instructions. However, if you’re like me, you may not want to use the bundle bag for your trip. While the bag does come with a carrying strap, I found it more efficient to pack the various components separately into my canoe pack. This meant that if I hadn’t taken a picture of the instructions I wouldn’t have had them with me. The good news is that a lack of instructions wouldn’t be a deal breaker. The tent set up is fairly intuitive. In fact, let’s talk about that now.
This is a three pole tent, and one that can be easily set up by one person. There are two longer poles that form the bulk of the tent’s skeleton, and a third shorter pole that crosses the center of the tent and gives it a roomy, rounded shape. The two longer poles feed through sleeves across the top of the tent, and slot into eyelets at the corners. It took me two tries to get everything aligned properly. I’m used to pole set ups that cross the tent body in an X from front to back. In this case, the poles slot into the front and back eyelets on one side, but go through the sleeve on the other. Once I realized the set up, I liked it. It seemed to provide a wider peak, and gave the impression of leaving more room to move around.
The fly buckles into the corners of the tent, and can be stretched out with two guy lines at the front and back. The guy line anchor points are one thing that could be improved with this tent, and by this I mean adding more of them. Ideally I’d like a couple extra guy lines, or even just ground level straps, to peg sections of the fly further from the walls of the tent. There are a couple of spots where the fly is loose and rests against the tent wall, with no way to stretch it out, and I wonder how that would do in a rain storm. Speaking of rain, the weather was maddeningly (for tent review purposes) perfect on this trip, so I didn’t get a chance to test the fly out in wet weather. Next time!
The only other thing I’d add about the overall structure of the tent is that it does not have a vestibule. There are zippered flaps in the fly across the doors that can be closed to provide protection against the elements, but it means that you’ll either be storing your gear in the tent with you or you’ll want to have a tarp on hand to cover whatever’s not in the tent. My main concern here is what this would mean if you’re entering or exiting the tent in the rain. My guess is you’ll end up with some water in the tent, which isn’t ideal. Might be worth it to find a more sheltered spot for the tent if you’re expecting weather.
I typically find that a tent that calls itself a three person shelter is more like a two and a half person. A tent that says its a two person is actually an oversized solo and so on. In this case, and unusually, it’s the opposite. At just over 7 feet long and just under 7 feet wide, there’s a decent footprint to work with. The tent is four feet high at its tallest, leaving more than enough room to move around comfortably inside. Napier bills the tent as a two person shelter, and I would agree that two people would be the ideal fit, but it’s a roomy two person. In a pinch, or if you’re travelling with a kid (human kid, not a baby goat) you could probably fit a third without getting too cozy. I was sleeping solo on this particular trip and felt like I’d won the gear explosion lottery. There was room for everything I could possibly want inside the tent, and then a bunch more stuff on top of that.
This is not an ultralight shelter. I weighed the packed tent at just under 10 lbs. This is heavier than comparable backcountry-centric tents, and in line with more front country oriented options. Despite the extra weight, it packed up reasonably well. The fly, tent and footprint roll up nicely, and the tent comes with a couple of adjustable straps that you can tighten around that roll to get things as compact as possible. The tent fits horizontally in my canoe pack, meaning that it slots in well to my packing system. The biggest drawback here would be the extra weight. A few extra pounds doesn’t sound like much, but over a long, portage heavy trip it can add up. That said, if you’re using this tent with a partner you’ll be able to share the gear load in a way that would compensate for the added shelter weight. TLDR, the tent is on the heavier side, but for shorter, portage-lite trips, or trips with a partner, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
The walls of this tent are mostly mesh, allowing for great air flow with the fly off. With the fly on, there is a flap on one side that can be pegged out to provide ground level air flow. There are two doors, each with storm shields that can be unzipped to reveal a couple more mesh panels, and leaving one of these open helped keep the tent cool for me despite being set up directly in a sunny patch on a hot day. At night, with temperatures dropping into the low single digits, the tent did not seem drafty. Once I’d zipped up the storm flaps and closed the fly over the door, the tent did a decent job of trapping some heat.
I liked the interior set up of this tent. There are a couple of mesh pockets at the head and toe for storing things like flashlights and (if you’re me) all the little stuff sacks whose contents you’ve just finished unpacking and spreading all over the tent floor. The double doors mean you wouldn’t be disturbing your partner if you needed to leave the tent in the middle of the night, and there was room enough to maneuver inside the tent that I never felt cramped while I was setting up my sleep area or packing up at the end of the trip.
The Napier Lite Pack Camping Bundle isn’t just a tent, it’s a bundle! And what that means is that along with your tent you get a couple of -4 degree celsius rated sleeping bags in the package. These bags are made of ripstop polyester with a hollow fiber filling. This is a synthetic fill made of polyester, designed to trap heat in the (hollow) centers of each fiber.
These bags certainly pass the eye test. They’re thick and quilted and look like they’ll be warm. They come with a curved flap at the top to trap heat against the top of your head, and are very comfortable. Their length, at just over 7 feet long, also helps in the comfort department. I know tapered, shorter bags probably do a better job of trapping heat, but I find they can feel constricting around the feet, and that’s certainly not the case with these bags.
That said, I was curious as to how these bags would hold up in cooler temperatures. In my experience, a sub zero temperature rating doesn’t always mean you’re going to be comfortable when the thermometer drops towards zero. The answer here is mixed. The overnight temperatures got down to the low single digits on this trip, and I did end up breaking out my sleeping bag liner in the middle of the night for some extra insulation. I wasn’t freezing or anything, but I wasn’t toasty either. The next night it was a couple of degrees warmer, and I didn’t need anything extra.
In general, I’d say that these bags get top marks for comfort, and a more average mark for warmth. In my opinion, these bags are well suited for any time from late spring to early fall, and are going to give you a comfortable sleep with a bit more paddling than you might get from another sleeping bag. I’d be a bit more cautious at the start and end of the paddling season, and likely bring some kind of extra insulation just in case.
I liked the Napier Lite Pack Camping Bundle. If you’re looking for a spacious front country tent, or one that you can take in for a base camping trip a few short portages into the interior, this is a great starter option. It’s very reasonably priced at $279.99 for the package. For that cost you get a pair of comfortable sleeping bags and a good-sized tent. Both the tent and sleeping bags fit well in a standard canoe pack (although you might want to use a compression sack with the sleeping bag, it rolls up thick) and the tent set-up is easy and intuitive. While there are a couple of areas for possible improvement (a small vestibule would be welcome), overall the Napier Lite Pack Camping Bundle is well worth checking out if you’re looking to get a bit further off the beaten track on your next camping trip.
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