In 2016, Chevrolet teamed up with Realtree to offer a crew cab Realtree Edition Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71. Dodge had partnered with Mossy Oak on a Ram 1500 trim, and Chevy responded with its own camo truck. Realtree and Chevy are back again in 2021 with the new generation Silverado, only this time it catered the truck to the blue-collar audience that’s more aligned with Chevy’s customer base.
Compared to the 2016 version, the new Realtree Edition Silverado does a better job of meeting the needs of American hunters. It’s also more affordable. The original Realtree Silverado was based on Chevy’s high-end LTZ trim with the Z71 off-road package, an option with plenty of features, lots of luxury, and a high price tag.
This time around, the camo-themed Realtree Special Edition builds on the more affordable Custom Trail Boss trim line, priced around $42,000. Chevy tailored the Custom Trail Boss for backcountry adventures with a two-inch lift installed at the factory and General Motors’ well-established Z71 off-road package. Throw in weather-resistant interior touches and towing upgrades, and the new Realtree Silverado is an ideal choice for hunters who are looking for a new truck.
First Impressions of the Realtree Silverado
When I first drove the Realtree Silverado, I immediately noticed its size. The Trail Boss trucks dwarf the older early 2000s Silverados and SUVs. I grew up driving a 1999 Suburban 2500, and this pickup felt like a monster truck in comparison. If you’re not a truck guy or gal, driving the Trail Boss trim can seem a bit overwhelming at first. It sits high on 20-inch wheels and the 2-inch factory lift, so getting your bearings is a bit more difficult if you go from an SUV to the Realtree 1500. The short bed (5.75 feet) gives it a similar overall length to an old Suburban, but the truck is both wider and taller than the old-school SUV. This gives the driver a very good view of the road, minimizing visual obstructions both on the road and off it, unless you are trying to see something in close proximity to the truck that’s below the height of its wheelbase.
The extra size also gives the Realtree Edition Silverado a very spacious interior. The truck I drove was wide enough and long enough to comfortably fit six grown men.
Realtree Edition Specs
Here is a quick look at the standard features that come with a Realtree Edition Silverado:
- 2-inch factory suspension lift
- 20-inch black wheels
- Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT On-Off Road Tires
- Silverdao Z71 Off-Road Package, which includes: Monotube Rancho shocks; Hill Descent Control; Automatic locking rear differential; Skid plates; AutoTrac® 2-speed transfer case
- 5.3L V8 engine with an 6-speed transmission or 6.2L V8, 10-speed automatic transmission
- Realtree camouflage graphics on exclusive exterior
- Realtree camouflage graphics on interior door trim
- Realtree logo integrated on standard bedliner
- Black Silverado and Z71 badging
- Black rectangular dual-exhaust tips
- 4-inch black round assist steps
- All-weather floor liners
- Silverado Durabed
What Are the Advantages of the Realtree Silverado?
The truck I tested fit the mold of most new rigs: a crew cab paired with a short bed. It does come in a 79.4-inch bed option as well, but the corresponding cab only comes in a crew cab configuration. The Realtree Edition boasts a fully boxed frame, like all Silverados, and is available in two drivetrain options: a 5.3-liter V8 with a six-speed transmission or a 6.2-liter V8 with a 10-speed gearbox. My test truck packed the standard 5.3-liter under the hood with its factory-measured 355-horsepower and 383 foot-pounds of torque. By contrast, the 6.2-liter engine puts out 420-horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque.
The Realtree Silverado is simply a Custom Trail Boss in camo with one or two convenient, non-performance extras. All Custom Trail Boss trucks include a 2-inch factory lift, standard 3.42 ratio rear axle for better torque (i.e. grunt) at lower speeds, and GM’s signature Z71 off-road package, which includes a collection of off-road, towing, and cargo upgrades. Off-road features include a two-speed transfer case with four modes and shift-on-the-fly capabilities, skid plates, a transfer case shield, an Eaton automatic locking rear differential (a big advantage on slick surfaces), Rancho twin tube shocks, electronic Hill Descent Control and all-terrain Goodyear Duratrac or Wrangler Territory tires. My test truck came with the optional 20-inch wheels and upgraded Wrangler tires. The towing side of the Z71 option features a hitch, four-pin and seven-pin connectors, a hitch alignment system integrated into the infotainment system, and a 7,000-pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
In terms of cargo and trailering features, the Realtree Silverado’s 7,000-pound GVWR translates to a max payload of 1,682 pounds, and Chevy’s steel-bottom Durabed with an included spray-in bedliner provide a tough, durable cargo space. This truck sports a maximum conventional trailer weight rating of 9,400 pounds and 8,800 pounds for a gooseneck trailer. All told, the maximum trailering weight for the Realtree Chevy is 15,000 pounds (truck, trailer, and cargo, including the driver and passengers). In practical terms, this truck is rated for a lighter weight two-horse or possibly even three-horse trailer, a good size camper trailer, or an ATV trailer with four rigs and a good amount of extra fuel and gear. Anyone planning to haul trailers on any sort of regular basis would probably benefit from GM’s integrated trailer brake control system, a $275 upgrade.
What Chevy Got Right with the Realtree Edition
When it comes to serving hunters, the team at Chevrolet got a lot of things right on the 2021 Silverado Realtree Edition.
- In terms of overall drivability and performance, the Realtree Silverado handles very nicely both on and off-road. It turns in a smooth, quiet ride with limited noise from the upgraded all-terrain tires, and thanks to its electric power steering system, it almost drives like a massively oversized sedan. It provides good forward and rear visibility and decent visibility out the passenger side. The central and driver’s side control panels are laid out in a simple and straightforward manner, making them relatively easy to navigate while minimizing distractions on the go.
- Under the hood, it comes with two V8 options, both with good horsepower and torque ratings, automatic transmissions, and a two rear axle ratio options with the standard gearing providing better low-end torque for more towing grunt and better off-road prowess. The 5.3-liter V8 earns an EPA rating of 18 MPG on the highway without Active Fuel Management, a number I was able to verify during testing. With a full 24-gallon fuel tank, you can expect to get over 400 miles per tank without any serious cargo or trailer loads.
- This Trail Boss-based Silverado uses Powertrain Grade Braking and Cruise Grade Braking to help control its speed while driving or simply rolling downhill. These features use engine braking and downshifting to limit speed gain, keeping you safe and in control at all times. While driving down a mountain road during a test drive, I shifted my test truck into “Low”, and the Powertrain Grade Braking system limited my top coasting speed to about 18 miles per hour, automatically shifting between first and second gears. This boosted my control of the vehicle, my situational awareness outside the cabin, and the engine’s fuel economy. I found this feature to be one of the truck’s most useful off-road features, at least in mountainous or hilly regions.
- When on the trail, this Silverado benefits from good visibility and additional ground clearance, thanks to the 2-inch factory lift. It’s no Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco, but it’s still plenty capable.
- This truck has front and rear anti-lock disc brakes, a big advantage in both the safety and maintenance departments. Also, the protected oil pan is easy to access thanks to its position and the truck’s factory lift, a DIY maintenance bonus.
- When it comes to maximum payload and towing capacities, the Silverado Realtree Edition should perform well thanks in part to the standard towing package which includes an accurate backup camera with a handy trailer alignment feature. Its 1,682-pound payload, 7,000-pound GVWR, 15,000-pound Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), and max trailer weight ratings offer plenty of capability, and optional features such as a trailer brake controller will make hauling loads a breeze.
- Like many modern trucks, the Realtree Silverado boasts an incredibly spacious cabin. It features front and rear bench seats both wide enough to fit six full-grown men. The front middle seat includes a convenient, fold-down back that doubles as a low-capacity console.
- Chevy thought through a number of features when designing this truck, including six in-bed tiedown points, a spray-in bed liner, LED bed lighting, easy-to-clean floors and mats, and automated cabin lights with ambient light sensors.
Where the Realtree Silverado Missed the Mark
Every vehicle has its pros and cons, and the new Realtree Silverado is no exception. There were a few downsides to this truck that you should consider before buying.
- This Silverado is neither a Jeep Wrangler nor a Ford Bronco as evidenced by its long, wide dimensions. It’s no rock-crawler or Baja racer, but an upgraded working pickup with all the strengths and limitations that come with such a design.
- Due to its styling lines, finding the front corners on this truck is a challenge. The slope of the hood makes the center and driver’s side corner difficult to see from the driver’s seat, and the passenger side corner is completely invisible, making it difficult to determine the truck’s exact position on the road.
- Driver’s side visibility suffers a bit thanks to the large B pillars between the cab doors. In city traffic, I had a 10 to 12-foot trailer in the next lane completely disappear behind the B pillar. I also found the interior rearview mirror a bit too small for my taste.
- The buttons and switches for the Cruise Control and Hill Descent Control where not particularly intuitive and took a bit of fiddling and quality time with the driver’s manual for me to understand.
- The 2-inch lift on the Trail Boss Realtree Edition made access to the engine bay a chore. For most folks of average height, merely checking the oil is impossible without a step stool. This also means that accessing the bed without the optional Multi-Flex Tailgate could become a real chore. Thankfully, Chevy’s CornerStep rear bumper comes standard.
- While Chevrolet did include several much-appreciated extras, the manufacturer failed to provide some major options. I found the lack of an optional diesel engine and the limited array of color options—white, black, and brown—to be the most disappointing. My test truck also lacked rear wheelhouse liners, a common feature on off-road-ready trucks.
- GM’s designers whiffed on some electronic features as well: Both the seats and the steering wheel must be manually adjusted. Also, the front middle bench is quite tall and hard, which means your buddies will be picking straws to avoid the dubious honor of riding in the middle. Finally, the center console was ill-conceived. There’s not a ton of storage space and really no place to put your phone.
- The 2021 Silverado line landed on Consumer Reports 10 Least Reliable Cars List. While CR may not be the end-all-be-all authority on cars and trucks, its reliability ranking tends to be based on cold, hard data from actual vehicle owners.
Do You Need a Realtree Silverado?
Now, we get to the heart of the matter: Is the Silverado Realtree Edition right for you? From a hunting perspective, this truck is well designed and has more than enough capability to handle most hunting tasks both on-road and off. Whether you need to pack in some ATVs or simply want an easy way to transport your gear into deer camp—and your buck out—this Silverado will do all you demand of it and then some. If you plan to tow anything, make sure you know just how much you plan to haul both in the truck (payload) and behind it to avoid overloading this Silverado. It may boast plenty of upgrades, but it’s still a light-duty 1500.
If this truck can get your job(s) done, then the question ultimately comes down to price. The Realtree package for the Silverado Custom Trail Boss will cost you a cool $2,585, and to get a Custom Trail Boss with all the same options, the same truck sans the Realtree additions and black badging, you can expect to drop about $1,200 less. In comparison, you could snag a similarly configured Silverado 1500 WT with the Z71 off-road package and the same cab and bed layout for roughly $5,500 less than the Realtree Edition, although you will miss out on the Trail Boss family’s 2-inch factory lift and a couple other goodies, including the Realtree decals and snazzy black badges.
Build the Perfect Silverado Realtree Edition
If you decide to go the Realtree route but want to keep the cost down, there are a few extra features you might want to skip. First, forget about the optional 3.23 rear axle. Sure, it may save you money at the pump, but you will lose out on low-end torque, an absolute essential for both off-roading and towing. I also would suggest thinking twice before adding the $445 Multi-Flex Tailgate to your truck. Unless you plan to be in and out of your bed often, plan to transport heavy or bulky loads on a relatively frequent basis, or you’re a short person, the extra cost may not be worth it. The corner steps built into the rear bumper should be plenty capable for most people. On the flip side, if you plan to tow regularly, consider adding the $275 Integrated Trailer Brake Controller.
Honestly, the Realtree Silverado was designed with backcountry big-game hunters in mind. As such, rigging it for the Rockies or Big Bend may be the way to go. To start, I would probably add some external lighting, such as some Baja Designs LED A pillar lights ($269) or a Baja Designs 40-inch LED light bar ($1,079) and the necessary $129 wiring harness. Inside the truck, I would install a Tuffy Under Rear Seat Lockbox, a lockable bin for storing extra ammo, jackets, first-aid kits, automotive tools, and other smaller pieces of gear. It runs $489, and the three-digit combination lock means you never have to worry about losing the key.
For shorter hunts, I would probably pick up a lockable tonneau cover to go with my truck. Chevy offers a handful of tonneau cover choices, but I would opt for an aluminum retractable hard top, an upgrade in the $1,800 to $2,400 range. For longer hunts, skip the tonneau cover in favor of the Putco Venture TEC Rack ($1,989), ideal for overlanding. This rack should provide plenty of real estate for a rooftop truck top tent and other gear, and Putco also offers plenty of accessories for a custom rack configuration.
If you are sold on the Silverado Realtree Edition, you can visit Chevrolet’s Build and Price webpage to get started. Make sure to select the Custom Trail Boss option during Step 2 and the Realtree Special Edition package on Step 4 to ensure you get the right truck.