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Larry Printz: Overlooking Technology

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

VAILLE, Ariz. -- It's all too easy to overlook how technology has made life easy and comfortable -- until you no longer have it. This is why I've never liked camping. If you have a comfortable home or hotel room that's climate controlled with hot and cold running water, not to mention a roof and walls, why would you prefer to sleep in the wilderness, protected only by a piece of canvas?

I was reminded of this after having spent the night at Under Canvas in Vaille, Ariz., a short drive away from the Grand Canyon. The concept is a new twist on the old tourist cabin idea, except instead of a collection cabins you stay in the aforementioned tent.

Call it camping for the pampered, Under Canvas is a purveyor of glamour camping -- aka "glamping," which provides a spacious tent with a soft bed topped with snuggly comforters and fluffy pillows. There are nightstands with battery-operated LED lanterns. There's even plumbing, but no electricity or Wi-Fi. It sounds great, especially since I hate camping. But, of course, the devil is in the details.

This glampground was in the desert, which means once the sun sets, the temperature plummets to an overnight low of 38 degrees. To counteract this, you have a heat source that's centuries old: a wood-burning stove. Small and unimposing, it transforms the tent into a Mini Bake Oven. The problem is that it runs out of wood once you're asleep, which means that if you toss off the blankets in the beginning of the night, you'll be a popsicle by 3 a.m.

Exacerbating the problem were the 50 mph wind gusts that caused the tent's canvas to flap in many different directions, creating a deafening cacophony and sending vibrations through the cabin's structure strong enough to vibrate the bed and make you wonder if the tent would be ripped apart. Given the small propane tank that's hooked up underneath the cabin to heat water, that would be no small matter. And of course, a tent is not airtight, so the winds ensure that the whole cabin is covered in a fine film of sand.

There's a reason that we no longer sleep in tents; it's more comfortable to sleep in a building. It's like paved roads, which not only ensure a more relaxing ride but also provide more traction for our SUVs and pickups, vehicles that are designed for unpaved roads.


That's why the 2019 Nissan Titan is the perfect vehicle for bringing civility to what is arguably uncivilized. That's certainly true of the Grandview Trail, the old stagecoach unpaved road that once served as entry to the Grand Canyon. Named for a hotel that no longer exists, it's still traversable by car or truck and looks much as it did more than a century ago. There's little sign of any hint of human civilization, as the two-lane trail winds its way through a stately poplar forest that pays silent witness to the unfairly underrated Nissan Titan that I'm driving.

Among full-size pickups, the Titan is anything but a titan when it comes to sales, coming in last place after the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra, mostly because full-size buyers are some of the most loyal consumers of any vehicle segment, which is why many Titan buyers are new to the segment, and what these buyers get is a truck that matches some of the best trucks in the segment.

To underscore the point, Nissan unveiled the Ultimate Parks Titan at the 2019 Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Ariz. earlier this month. Nissan donated the modified Titan to the Grand Canyon Conservancy for use by Canyon Field School, a partnership between the Conservancy and the National Park Service. The truck follows two specially modified Titans built by the Japanese automaker for national nonprofit organizations. The first one, the Ultimate Service Titan, was built in consultation with the American Red Cross, while the Ultimate Work Titan was created for Habitat for Humanity. The trucks not only fulfill a need; they prove what's possible for owners looking to customize their trucks.

Nissan started with its Titan XD PRO-4X Crew Cab powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine rated at 390 horsepower will all-wheel drive and an electronic locking rear differential. Next, Nissan added an Icon three-inch lift kit, Hellwig air suspension and 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires for traversing rocky terrain, as well as a AMP bed steps for easier entry into the cabin. The steel box frame was stretched to hold a 55-gallon fuel tank, a fuel cell for refueling, a welder, an air compressor, and a generator that powers equipment in remote locations, and for recharging the Titan's battery if necessary. Up front you'll find a Warn Zeon Platinum 12-S Winch, custom lighting and a steel front bumper. Atop the bed, you'll find a sliding metal cargo tray, a bed rack, and a hard shell tent.


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