1961 Apache Chief Tent Camper
I found the tent camper pictured above in the want ads for $200.00. I won’t say when, but I will say I have owned it longer than the original owners, so that would make me older than the camper. They took great care of it and their main advice was never put it away wet. I took that advice and after all these years the canvass is still 100%.
It’s a great piece of engineering. It has an aluminum box on wheels with doors on the side for storage, a mattress on top of the box, and a full size tent with attached collapsible tent poles that fold over the mattress for storage. The mattress keeps me off the ground in cold weather, it absolutely doesn’t leak, there is room for two more guys on the floor plus an aisle down the middle so it’s roomy enough for three if need be. The storage compartments handle all my camping gear including sleeping bags, a screen tent, tarps, cookware, tackle and tool boxes, etc. In bad weather, which can happen at either end of Michigan’s trout season, it stays warm inside with just a propane lantern.
There is a coolness factor to owning and using something this old. People ask about it at campgrounds and want to look inside. Apache had a great idea. I guess the popularity of dinette campers convinced them to abandon the idea. That’s really too bad since it is such a practical design.
Around ten years ago Feral bought a similar used camper of a different brand. Feral painted some Ghost Brown Trout on the box, inspired by a humorous rewrite of the classic cowboy song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
(see youtube for the video “ghost brown trout.” Feral does some mean electric mandolin, Luther on vocals.)
Update: This camper is a 1960 JC Higgens, manufactured by the same company (Vesely Mfg.) for Sears. It is very similar or identical to the 1960/61 Apache Scout.
If you see these tent campers together at a campground or remote spot somewhere in northern Michigan, stop in and say hello. We’re friendly. If you like to eat trout we may have some extra in the cooler you can take home for your dinner.