Here's a bunch of questions that I get asked frequently, and are intended to be helpful for owners, potential owners and enthusiasts alike.
The Blazer seats two in the cab, and up to four, sideways, in the camper. (There are only seatbelts for two in the camper, likely due to weight limits.) The camper seats fold down to sleep two, and some units came with fold-out upper bunks to sleep two more. These upper bunks are pretty narrow, so they're best for kids ;-)
Inside you'll find a propane heater and stove; water tank and sink, and either an icebox or a fridge. Shelves, closets and a removable tabletop round out the furnishings. (They did not, however come with a shower or toilet.) In short, it's a home away from home, for a couple of people for the weekend. It's not suited for large families or long-term camping; consider it a weekend camper and not a full-fledged RV.
The Chalet is surprisingly roomy inside; due to the headroom provided by the camper unit's extra height, even tall and/or wide people find the interior quite comfortable. As a matter of fact, the comment I get most after "what IS that?" is that the camper is much larger inside than it would seem (which bears comparison to the Tardis -- and no, I'm not a Whovian. Really.)
Note that there are other aftermarket brands -- notably the "Four Wheel" brand -- of popup camper inserts for Blazers which ARE removable. They're lightweight, don't necessarily have the appliances and so forth, and haven't been made in 20+ years either ;-( See Other Campersfor pix of other similar camper units.
The camper will fit on any full-size Blazer/Jimmy from 1976 to 1991. In 1992 GM switched to the new body style with the attached roof (sigh, the end of an era.) After 1977, however, the rear floor changed, so you'll have some drilling to do to bolt the camper down, on a 1978 or later vehicle. Unless you can find a rust-free 1976-77 model (for best fit), my recommendation is a 1987-1991 truck. I pick those years as they have the TBI fuel injection and get decent fuel economy (relatively ;-).
On your new truck, you'll need to remove the top, the tailgate, and the rear seat and interior panels.
Seriously, it depends on what you mean by "off-roading". The Blazer, and hence the Blazer Chalet, is quite capable on logging roads or fire trails. If your idea of off-roading is the Rubicon, the Chalet will take you there, but you'd better have another truck for the trail itself. The Chalet is a great way to go hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking, or whatever other outdoor activity you enjoy -- it will get you from here to there, and then let you sleep in comfort when you get there!
This depends on if you're used to driving a full-size rig to begin with. For those folks used to driving a Blazer or other full-size truck, it's very similar. They brake a little slower due to the weight and its distribution (lots more weight on the back, unlike most trucks). Handling is the biggest change; the added wind resistance can be challenging, and the camper raises the center of gravity up considerably. There are things you can do to address these concerns; see the Techsection for details.
If you're not used to driving a full-size rig, however, you have two learning curves -- one of driving a seven foot wide, three ton truck, and one of driving that truck with the aforementioned wart on it ;-) Fear not, the Blazer is actually a very nimble vehicle. Friends and family often express their surprise at the places my Blazers can fit, both off-road and in the urban jungles of parking lots and highways. The steering radius is not much greater than the car you drive now, and the truck sits high enough to give you a comfortable view of the road ahead, without being impossible to get in and out of. The big engine provides reasonable acceleration, to merge into traffic and so forth, and, given the size of the vehicle, braking is adequate as well. While you can't expect it to handle like a Corvette, the Chalet isn't an eighteen wheeler either.
Another concern is the rear overhang -- get comfortable with your side mirrors; backing up can be fun! I compare it to driving my Suburban: it takes some getting used to but it's fine once that sets in. You may find that side visibility is improved by leaving the side cushions down in the back; obviously if you have human passengers back there this isn't an option. The rear window is microscopic; while it works OK on the highway to show you who's behind, it's not very useful in parking lots.
Ride quality will also differ from your passenger car -- this is a TRUCK, and has leaf-sprung solid axles front and rear. While sturdy and ridiculously simple, this suspension means that you shouldn't expect a Cadillac ride from a Chalet. I personally find great comfort in my Blazers and Suburban; they're very roomy, and if driven calmly, quite relaxing. You will not, however, get anywhere quickly in a Chalet. (For several reasons, not least of which is being stopped at every gas station to talk about it -- expect absolute strangers to want to chat about it! From the inspector at the Motor Vehicles Department to the guy at the tire shop, everybody has to ask "Is it supposed to look like that?" ;-)
I would not, however, recommend taking it through the drive-through car wash. It's too damn tall and funny shaped. Splurge and take it to a hand-wash place, or just hose it down yourself.
For extra storage, you can get a tray that plugs into a receiver hitch [pic] (though in the back, you have to be careful not to block the door :) I am not aware of any off-the-shelf fronthitches for this era trucks (only for the 1981+ models), but you could have one custom-made. There's a Chalet with a fantastic fishing set-up on the front for coolers (bait and munchies! :), rod holders, etc. I don't think I'd drive with stuff on the front -- the spare is big enough -- but it'd be a great aid once landed.
Alternately, you could tow a little cargo trailer (see next question).
This means that a small boat, utility or travel trailer is within the weight limits. As with any towing, drive carefully and allot extra time. Be sure your brakes and steering are in tip-top shape (see the Techsection), and install the biggest auxiliary transmission cooler you can find. The TH-350 in your Chalet will handle the camper fine, but needs help to pull anything more.
Why such a low limit on towing with the Chalet? The reasons are likely threefold: the overall handling of the vehicle (steering and brakes), weight limits on the axles, and the mounting of the hitch. The overall handling is addressed above and on the Tech page. The half-ton axles of the Blazer, while stout, are at their rated maximum on the Chalet with the additional weight of the camper unit. Finally, the hitch on a Chalet is mounted to frame extensions, not to the frame itself. While they are thick steel and bolted to the frame of the truck itself (presumably with grade 8 hardware ... gulp, I hope!), this is another weak link in the chain which has limits.
This includes fuel economy. Between a big V8 engine, and an aerodynamic coefficient of a brick, you should expect single-digit mileage. Driving style also affects mileage; above, say, 65MPH, you can watch the gas guage drop. Stick with rolling double nickels (driving 55MPH) and you'll do much better. (The three-speed auto tranny lacks an overdrive, which means that you're spinning pretty fast at highway speeds.)
This does not mean that I necessarily advocate changing anything about the truck -- those that are so inclined may swap over to the GM TBI fuel injection system, for instance, or potentially install a TH700R4 tranny. The cost of such upgrades might well outweigh any potential benefits, so in saying all this I'm just trying to set your expectations. In short, this is a bloody great 1970's truck, which is a good thing. Just don't expect it to be anything else. If you want a better ride or better fuel economy, you can buy a late-model pickup with a slide-in camper shell or a Volkswagen camper [pic]. (You'll likely spend more money, though, and I guarantee you won't have that kitzchy 70's feel that the Chalet has in spades :)
I've torn that shell down to the bare fiberglass and started repairing it as I put it back together. I may chop up a Burb someday and mount the camper to it, making it a 3/4 ton Blazer crew-cab camper ... but then the prospect of building up a TBI Chalet is kinda nice too. Hmm, so many options.
In the meantime, I also bought another (mostly) complete Blazer Chalet. This one came from Las Vegas after spending its life in the desert, so it's rust-free, but dusty. She's more or less road-worthy and I'm looking forward to using her in the interim while I work on the other shell. Should you be parting out a Chalet or know where there's a parts unit available, please let me know. I'm always looking for bits and pieces for my campers, or can find someone who needs them.