The scraping started at around 3AM. My wife woke up first, then the dog. I could sense the presence of something…vicious. The hair stood up on the back of my neck.
Our dog, a border collie mix who still has emotional connection issues after living in a ditch as a puppy, whimpered and whined. “Not gonna help you on this one,” she seemed to say, cowering in a dark corner of our tent. “I’m kinda out of options here.”
I yelled out: “Hey! Hey!”
There was a scampering sound, then a whizzing sound. We’re not 100% sure, but we think a raccoon was trying to get into our tent and then, irritated when it was not successful, decided to take a whiz on a nearby rock. Something smelled like a Las Vegas bar in the morning.
Thankfully, I wasn’t that concerned. I’ll tick through a few things that were running through my mind, half delirious but alert enough to avoid barging out into the wilderness of Minnesota in my skivvies. I knew our tent was attached to a 4,317-pound sport utility vehicle, a test to find out why anyone would do that in a million years. I had a large knife, although as a journalist I mostly use it to open FedEx envelopes and cardboard boxes with free coffee inside. And, the tent was zippered as tight as a drum, impenetrable to harmless gray bandits the size of my thigh.
Back to the tent. It makes sense now. It’s made specifically for the 2016 Honda Pilot, a family-sized vehicle that doubles as a tent and sleeping bag hauler for two people. When I arrived at the park, I set up the tent on the back of the SUV. There are straps that connect all the way over the vehicle to the windshield wipers to hold everything in place. You can also use side-straps, but I didn’t bother. The tent fit snugly over the lift-gate. The manual says you should avoid leaving the hatch open all night, but I wasn’t that concerned—we went to bed pretty late.
Once everything was configured, I unzipped the flap on one side of the tent that was attached to the car and moved the sleeping bags and pillows, a cot, and some other items onto the floor of the tent but left everything in the rear compartment, including a Keurig coffee maker, a few flashlights, our suitcases, and a few books. I liked camping this way. I could also see someone tailgating with their cooler in the back of the Honda Pilot as well. Everything is easily accessible.
You can easily zip up the flap and move the Pilot out of the way and use the tent normally. That large opening has a screen as well, and it’s big enough that it looks more like a patio door.
My only slight complaint is that, at 6-foot-2-inches, I bumped my head a couple of times on the liftgate. (You can’t see it from inside of the tent, although there’s a slight bulge.)
It was a big hit in the campground, though, and with the park rangers. That same night, we heard coyotes off in the distance. They seemed to be surrounding us, because they could be heard from three different directions. Around 5AM, we heard what sounded like an owl landing on and grabbing a small animal. In case you’re wondering: We didn’t get much sleep that night. It was comforting to know you could escape into the car in case of an actual man-eater or maybe a thunderstorm.
And, it’s conceivable you could have two kids in the back of the Pilot and sleep eight people total. My only word of caution there is that, while the seats in the Pilot fold down quickly and easily, there’s a gap between a couple of the seats. In other words, if you sleep there, bring a firm sleeping pad.
The six-person tent costs $382, which is a bit more than what you’ll find at Target in terms of a dome tent without the extra opening and straps. The Honda Pilot base price is $30,345. Not bad for a night of abject terror in the face of a wild and whiz-happy raccoon.