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Old 08-30-2016, 12:51 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 91
Add-on tents for a Chevy Express/SMB?

Our family is growing and space is getting tight so I'm looking for options to gain a little more elbow room.

I have a 2005 Chevy Express 4x4 that I built out similar to a SMB RB50 (standard roof height). This was great for 2 adults but now we have a 2 year old so I'm looking to gain some extra space. Buying a SMB with Penthouse or a travel trailer isn't in the budget.

I've seen a number of pictures of SMB or van owners using tents that connect to the rear or side doors of the van. I am hoping those who own them would be willing to share their experiences! I'm not sure what I'm looking for yet but here some initial criteria I'm considering:

Must Have's:
- can seal to the side opening or rear of the van to keep insects out (we are in mosquito country); docking to the side of van is preferred
- roomy enough for an adult to sleep plus a small table for limited cooking (e.g. heating water)
- freestanding (so the vehicle can leave camp and the tent stays)

Nice to Have's:
- any kind of integrated awning (for cooking outside in the rain or getting some shade) would be a bonus but not required
- having a floor would be a bonus (this is most likely where I will be sleeping and extra gear will be stored to keep the van clear/organized)

Some initial brands I've found are OzTent, ARB, BusDepot (Add-A-Room), and others. Just hoping to get some real-world feedback to what has worked well as I continue to research options and figure out what the budget should be.


2005 Chevy 1500 AWD
4x4 conversion, Ultralight RB50 floorplan,
Firestone Destination A/T, Silverado wheels, 3000w inverter, PIAA lighting
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:23 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 2,893
Thoughts that come to mind:

1. A Fiamma or Colorado Carefree Awning with an Add a Room as an option. These awnings are absolutely water proof as are the rooms. Pretty sure the rooms are available with a floor and screens. I would think this is important in Michigan. The Bus Depot, ARB, etc - Make sure to check the water repellancy / ability to stand up to weather for peace of mind. An ABS plastic panel between the awning and the van roof closes of the space from water intrusion over the door.

We find our Fiamma awning indispensable, especially in rainy weather. Having an 8 by 10ft covered space allows for a table to prepare and cook food, and extends the living area outside of the side doors. The awning material is a high quality acrylic (?) that is very durable.

2. Pop Top - This would greatly increase in interior volume on the same foot print as you have now. The CCV top would allow your child to sleep across the top of the cab until age 6 to 8. You would gain the rear double upper bunk for you and spouse along with space for bedding, etc. when the top is down. Consideration should be given to what weight you will have on the roof if considering a pop top.

Cool van you have. The doors on both sides of the GM vans is a col feature!

Beastie 3: 2002 7.3 EB Cargo: Agile TTB, CCV High Top, Custom Walk Through, Lots of stuff added.
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:33 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
Posts: 2,499
Looks like this might be a possible option. It says you can use it with or without their awning.

Base Tent 2500 - #32119 | Rhino-Rack
2005 E350 Chateau - V10 - Agile Offroad 4x4
2012 CTS-V Wagon - For the baby...
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Old 08-30-2016, 05:17 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Turlock Ca
Posts: 10,373
It's great having a base camp tent but for my use, something that utilizes the awning is less desirable because you have to roll it back up before driving out of camp plus (at least in my case) it is vulnerable to high winds. I'm guessing that most of those add-ons rooms made for awnings do help with wind. I'm looking at an add on room that can use the awning as a vestibule if necessary but stands on its own and made with lite material that packs to a minimal size. I've got a standalone screen room that closes up like a tent...its heavy, takes up a lot of room when packed up, is kind of a hassle to set up, and like the awning doesn't like high wind due to its design.

Is it that you have to keep the doors open at all times so the kids feel like they're near mom & dad?
2006 Ford 6.0PSD EB-50/E-PH SMB 4X4 Rock Crawler Trailer

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