Search CarGuide.PH

February 11, 2023

Out Of My Comfort Zone: Taking The Mazda BT-50 Camping And (Sort Of) Loving It

Try something new, for once—that’s the sort of inspirational content your Gen Z friends share on Facebook, second only to your tita and her daily Bible quote. While that makes for a great excuse to spend their life savings on “experiences,” not even a GIF of Morgan Freeman or Daenerys Targaryen staring stoically will convince me. I’m a man of routine, and that doesn’t bother me at all.

In the forty or so revolutions our planet has had around the sun, I’ve formed habits; habits that include taking my coffee black, wearing my socks first before my pants, and preferring a window seat on an airplane. This is my comfort zone, and for as long as I’m in it, I’m as happy as Leonardo di Caprio with his 19-year-old girlfriend. I could say the same thing about the sort of automotive ride and drives that I prefer: I arrive, I drive, I ride (must be someone I get along with), I get fed, I leave, and I churn out a story. Easy-peasy.

Once in a while though, someone—typically a Gen Z marketer—thinks it’ll be good idea to jumble up the formula like adding an arduous physical activity like rappelling or white water rafting or hiking. Good god. I’m a writer, not a Survivor contestant; the only physical activity I do is sprinting to the buffet line. What about camping? Never done it, not even as a kid, and it’s not something I’m exactly dying to try.

So, when the Gen Z team of Mazda Philippines approached me and said that we’re going camping, my initial reaction was, “Camping? Oh, you mean, glamping, right? The one where we’d be sleeping in tents but with mattresses and Wi-Fi, right?” Apparently, no.

To be honest, Mazda isn’t the first carmaker to come up with the idea of camping as an event. Others have invited me, but because it’s outside my comfort zone, I’d find a reason, or ten, to decline. Plus, as my Baby Boomer colleagues can attest to, they don’t make for the coziest of experiences.

What changed my mind? Well, if I was going to give it a go, it might as well be in a place known for its natural beauty and air conditioning—Mt. Pulag—and do it with people I consider as friends. But this time, for some reason still unbeknownst to me, I looked at Morgan Freeman’s stoic face (in the meme) and was actually convinced. Must be the prayers from my Bible quoting Tita.

As a bit of a background, the camp site is situated by Lake Tabeyo in Kabayan, Benguet. It’s approximately 335 kilometers north of Manila, and 85 kilometers northeast of Baguio City. It’s reachable by car (preferably one with a generous ground clearance like a pickup truck or SUV due to the road conditions), but no hiking necessary. Hurray. On average, temperatures there in February go as high as 13 degrees Celsius during the daytime and 4 degrees Celsius at night. Probability of rain? 42 to 46 percent.

Presented with these facts along with a checklist and briefing from professional mountaineer, Coach Manny Batungbacal, sent my brain into overdrive. What was I going to pack? What movies should I save on my phone in case there’s no Netflix there? Should I write my last will?

Overpacked and with no movies stored on my phone, I set out on this journey using the Mazda vehicle most appropriate for this sort of lifestyle: the BT-50 (read our review of the BT-50 Pangolin Edition II). Now, I could segue on how it’s well-suited with its torquey 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine, obstacle-clearing 235 mm ground clearance, and sure footedness thanks to its shift-on-the-fly 4x4 with rear lockers, but I won’t. Trucks ferry vegetables to the Baguio City market on these very roads on a daily basis and a Mazda CX-9 AWD can make it to camp too. Declaring that the BT-50 is the only vehicle that could make it up there isn’t just doing a disservice to the people who make a living plying that road in Benguet, but as a motoring journalist, I’d be telling you a lie.

What I will tell you is this: pickup trucks, especially those with waterproof bed covers like the one found on the BT-50 Pangolin II make for great campers because you can fill it to the brim with stuff. Tents, chairs, tables, stoves, provisions like vegetables and meat, and even bags can all go straight onto the bed without worry. All that and you can still fit up to four people (five in a fix) in the comfy cabin. I could also tell you that it performed as advertised. The entire experience was comfy by pickup truck standards, and because gas stations are few and far between beyond Baguio City, the BT-50’s 76-liter fuel tank and excellent fuel economy—10.1 km/L during our entire drive—meant it went up and back down without refueling.

The route itself was straightforward and easy to navigate since it’s all on Waze (including Lake Tabeyo). Mind you, you can’t go to the lake directly and just indiscriminately pitch a tent. All visitors must register with the Mt. Pulag Visitor’s Center in Bokod, Benguet first. Here, you won’t just know the birthyear of your colleagues, but their physical condition too (securing a medical certificate is a must). All while you wonder if all the photos you see on the walls are that of missing people (spoiler alert: they’re of people who actually “survived” their climb). From there, the roads can turn treacherous because of the sharp rocks pelted by the mountain during rockslides. A working spare tire and knowledge on how to change a flat is a must.

Upon reaching the camp site, there was one thing that surprised me a bit: it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere as I presumed. All you needed to do was to turn your head to the right to see a flourishing cabbage farming village complete with electricity and running water. Heck, there was even a two-floor hostel with bunk beds and a toilet that flushed.

With rain threatening to pour down, a decision had to be made: do we stay in a permanent concrete structure that mankind has perfected for more than a century, or do we stay in a flimsy tent made of polyester and nylon? We decide it’s all in on the flimsy boy.

To be fair, the entire experience was way better than I expected. Prior to zipping myself up in a sleeping bag, I reflected through a barrage of emotions. But in the end, the entire experience was quite recharging. With no cell signal and no power outlet at the camp at least, people had to turn off their phones and engage in actual conversation. I can’t speak for the rest of my colleagues, but for me, because the conversations were good, the evening went by so fast. With social media forcing people to always be connected, this sort of genuine interaction was quite refreshing. Who knew that what the doctor ordered was a digital detox.

Some of my colleagues couldn’t sleep through the cacophony of snores that night, so others tried to wait for the skies to clear up (they did past midnight). But I was out cold. I actually overslept that I “accidentally” didn’t wake up in time for the morning hike. However, I was up and ready for breakfast. And by that time, I was refreshed; I didn’t know I needed that break. Is camping something I’d like to do again? Let’s just say at least I managed to tick that off my To-Do list. I’m not sure if the novelty will wear off, but at this point, I’d say it was quite an experience for sure.


  1. Its easy not to worry when you're driving a car that's borrowed

    1. Actually, I end up worrying MORE. You sign a lengthy agreement and there's a lot of stipulations involved. It's actually more stressful than driving my own car.

  2. Nice for you Sir Uly :) It is still a kind of relaxation. More camping in the future :)
    Hope you can review the new Foton Thunder (for the future camping)..

    1. Naku ipapahamak mo pa si sir uly sa outing gamit ang unreliable foton!

    2. Hindi naman. May expertise naman sa truck-making ang Foton :)

    3. Madali malaspag ang foton and very low resale value, magdagdag nlang kunti mag ford ranger nlang o navara


Feel free to comment or share your views. Comments that are derogatory and/or spam will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to moderate and/or remove comments.