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Client projects and other published content
Jackwagon BasecampA first look at Jackwagon Off-Road’s flagship model: the Basecamp. Jackwagon Off-Road Trailers is a small manufacturer based right in or own back yard, who produces a bling-free and relatively inexpensive option for hauling more gear out on the trail. Shortly after speaking with the owner, JR, about what we had in mind, a beautifully modest black-and-green Basecamp showed up at our door for testing. We’ve spent a few weeks with the trailer so far, and it’s made a good first impression. At first glance the trailer feels much longer than the mere 11-feet it measures. A 6 x 4 x 2-foot aluminum cargo box rides centered over the axle providing 48 cubic feet of secure, weatherproof storage space, with a 4 x 2-foot open air cargo rack and spare tire mount sitting farther forward. Empty, the Basecamp weighs in at 950 pounds and has a 1,050-pound payload capacity. An additional 2-inch receiver is provided out back for bike racks or other accessories. When paired with 33-inch tires the ground clearance is about 17 inches (to the frame). Access to the cargo hold feels endless—with a tailgate, strut-assisted lid, and a drop-down hatch at the front of each side loading and unloading cargo is very convenient. Inside the box, adjustable tie-down rails run down the sides for securing cargo and double as extra reinforcement for the fenders. The floor is fitted with an easy to remove, easy to clean, protective mat. A pair of crossbars are bolted to the top of the lid for mounting a trailer-top tent or handling additional cargo such as a canoe or bikes. All points of access are lockable. As if the cavernous cargo box wasn’t enough, an additional exterior rack is nestled between the box and the spare tire for coolers or any dirty gear you don’t want on the inside. The spare tire carrier doubles as a High-Lift mount, a shovel mount, and an extra layer of security for the front rack’s cargo. On the rear of the trailer an integrated channel accepts the included counter-height work table. Despite the extra chassis length required for the forward cargo rack, our first experiences with the trailer on obstacles left us pleasantly surprised. The Basecamp proved just as nimble as our tow vehicle, and met every challenge without complaint. At higher speeds it follows along smoothly and predictably. In-camp convenience is on par with the better off-road trailers on the market. Thanks to the low-slung stance the Timbren Axle-Less suspension affords, minimal lifting is needed to get…
Lightforce LED 180Lighting the way with Lightforce’s rugged LED driving light. I’ve long been a fan of LED lighting on vehicles. Spending a great deal of time behind the wheel at night, the usefulness of a color-rich, long-lasting, low-current solution for running lights, dash illumination, and indicators was an easy sell for me. Like many fellow campers and wheelers I even went so far as to use them for rock lights on the trail and work lights around camp, but found the early examples of main driving lights to be laughable at best (“dangerously lacking” would be a more accurate statement). As recently as two years ago even the most expensive LED auxiliary lights barely achieved “almost as good” status when pitted against their halogen cousins, unacceptable when paying ten times the price. Needless to say, I was biased against the very idea of an LED driving light, and skeptical that anyone would be bringing even an adequate model out anytime soon. Still, when I heard Lightforce was confident enough to put their name on a new set of spot- and combination-beam LEDs I jumped at the opportunity to see what they came up with. Breaking open the boxes to reveal the new lights I was immediately impressed by the clean, subdued looks and solid feel of the black and gray metal chassis. The included pedestal-style bracket mounts vertically or horizontally to the vehicle with either one or two bolts, and supports a wide range of angles when attaching the light housing. Additional mounting holes on either side of the housing are provided for direct mounting, as well as a top mount for attaching a stabilizing bar if the lights will be used for racing. Like most of Lightforce’s lights, the LED 180s are ruggedized against dust, water, impact and vibration (IP68 and mil-spec standards)—so they can handle the stress of being mounted low on a vehicle’s bumper. The LED modules are rated for a service life of 50,000+ hours. With the flexibility of the mounting options, installation and final adjustments are a breeze. Since the vehicle we would be testing the lights on had not been decided yet, we received a generic harness with the basics necessary to wire up the lights. Lightforce does offer harnesses with several different plug options for a plug-and-play connection with a variety of OEM vehicle wiring setups. Output from the LED 180 is nothing short of amazing—Lightforce has done a fantastic job bringing so much light out of an LED system while minimizing the negative effects typically found…
Kitting It OutA Budget Overlander, Part III Wrapping up the Forester Project with a few simple upgrades to both vehicle and driver. The first time I packed up the Forester for an overnight camping trip the rear end sagged down to the bump stops, it clearly wasn’t the kind of “truck” I’m used to driving. Building this car has been a long lesson in keeping things simple and light. Though Subarus are built like Legos, modifications and cargo have to be carefully planned out to maintain a good balance between weight, handling, and power. Mechanical Upgrades The Forester’s brakes are adequate out of the box, but if you’re the type that enjoys long “spirited” drives through the mountains you might find them just a bit lacking. Brake fade is a particular endurance problem on the base model, which has drum brakes out back. Fortunately the fade can be minimized without the complexity of swapping in rear disc brakes. After looking at the Brembo option (which would have cost as much as the car itself), I decided to take a chance on the off-brand but highly praised Power Stop set of drilled and slotted rotors with high performance pads. The gamble paid off: for about $125 the brake fade is all but gone and the car now stops with confidence. The only other mechanical weak point we’ve run into are the front CV axles. Fortunately, even with the suspension lift they’re good for at least 50,000 miles. At first blush that might sound nuts, but bear in mind they only cost $45 and about 2 hours of work to replace. Electrical Upgrades A 90-amp alternator comes standard in the Forester, which seems perfectly matched to any reasonable accessory load for a vehicle this size. We’ve had no trouble running a variety of accessories simultaneously, from air compressors to radio equipment, so we chose instead to focus on preventative and convenience upgrades. First up was a DieHard Platinum Group 35 AGM battery (essentially an Odyssey PC1400) to replace the original lead-acid unit and ensure reliable power in the field. The DieHard features 850 cold cranking amps, plenty of reserve power for in-camp use, and a 4-year warranty. I love drop-in upgrades… Next we addressed communications. Though surprisingly capable, the Forester is more about adventure outside the vehicle than inside, so we opted for the flexibility of a hand-held radio. The Yaesu VX-8R ruggedized handheld allows for the convenience of a mobile unit when pared with an external mic and antenna, while retaining…
Power Wagon PerfectionUsing the KISS method to strike the perfect balance between useful truck and comfy camp. A completely self-contained camper—whether a slide-in, pop-top, or a custom built box—is a wonderful thing to have if you’re in the position of dedicating an entire truck to your adventure duties. For the rest of us, some sort of compromise between a home-on-wheels and a daily-driven truck needs to be found. Randy’s 2013 Power Wagon Tradesman is one such way to find that compromise. By opting for as many “factory original” options as possible and installing only essential modifications he’s created a reliable (and warrantied) tool that serves as a workhorse for the daily grind, and much more than a tent when out adventuring. At first glance the Power Wagon portrays a neat and tidy profile, with only subtle details revealing the capability contained within. From the factory the truck comes with a 5.7-liter HEMI, 4.56 axle gear ratio, trailer brake controller, front and rear axle lockers, front swaybar disconnect, heavy duty Bilstein shocks, underbody skid plates, and enough room to easily clear 33-inch tires (BF Goodrich all-terrains in this case). The HEMI generates 400 lb-ft. of torque, ample power to match the truck’s capacity: a 6.4-foot bed rated for 1,900 pounds of payload, and a nearly 12,000-pound tow rating. On closer inspection, a pair of Aluminess bumpers can be seen protecting the truck front and rear, with recovery points, winch and light mounting, and additional hidden storage out back for a mere 220-pounds of total weight gain. Up front a set of PEDIA fog lamps ride in the stock location, and a 44-inch Baja Designs LED light bar provides 30,000 lumens of separately switched spot, flood, and amber foul-weather lighting. Auxiliary floods and the factory reverse camera aid in night-time backing, and a “stubby” antenna stays out of the way on tight trails. Underneath the truck hides a commercial-grade, 12,000-pound WARN heavyweight winch designed specifically for the Power Wagon, with custom fairlead and 90 feet of 7/16 wire rope rated for 18,000 pounds. All vulnerable bits are protected from the factory by skid plates, and a pair of White Knuckle rock sliders keep the truck safely off the rocks. A Snugtop Rebel with full insect screens transforms the bed into a cozy and bug-free place to crash after a long day of adventuring. The shell has storage cubbys, clothes hangers, and lantern/gear hooks for in-camp convenience. The bed of the truck has been fitted with thick padded carpet for additional insulation and significant cushion. The truck also features clever storage cubbys throughout the interior, perfect for stowing recovery gear and tools. The…
Ironclad Ranchworx®A look at Ironclad’s flagship leather work glove Let’s face it, the six-dollar “railroad engineer” gloves so many of us have been carrying around are quite dated. They’re clumsy, uncomfortable, and lack the durability to survive the abuse our hands routinely face in the field. Their unnecessary bulkiness makes a good grip all but impossible, leading to dropped tools and damaged gear, or worse: injured hands when we throw off the gloves in frustration so we can actually get the job done. It’s time for something better. Enter Ranchworx®, a durable, extremely comfortable, well fitted glove from Ironclad. The glove is loaded up with old-school ingenuity and modern technology alike: Bullwhip™ leather, Kevlar® and Duraclad® reinforcement, Exo-Guard™ impact protection for the fingers, terrycloth sweat wipe, and a clever design for the stitching arrangement—dubbed Rolltop® Fingertips—which maximizes dexterity. All this adds up to a grippy and comfortable glove that’s tough enough to handle winching and trail work, yet provides enough control and tactile feedback for wrenching or driving. Bonus: the gloves are also machine washable and clean up well after a hard day’s work. So how well do the Ranchworx® hold up to prolonged torture? The team at Expedition Portal has been beating on these gloves for the last six months with everything from engine repair to chopping firewood, moving boulders to vehicle recovery. In spite of our continued abuse the leather and fabric are still in great shape, and the gloves continue to fit like a glove should fit. We like them so much they’ve become standard equipment in all of our vehicles. Consider the Ranchworx® gloves an investment in personal safety and convenience. Though a bit more expensive than those old engineer gloves, you can expect them to last for years instead of months. Pick up a pair directly from Ironclad, or for a limited time free with a one-year subscription to Overland Journal—your hands will thank you. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on October 29th, 2014.…
So-Cal TeardropsWe head to California to see first-hand how teardrop trailers are built. There’s no disputing the cult-like following “teardrop” trailers have managed to achieve, and placing the little campers onto an off-road chassis for some backcountry fun seems only natural. So we headed out to California to pick up the next Expedition Portal camper project, spend the morning touring the So-Cal Teardrops facility, and chat with Gabe Pari to find out just what makes these little trailers so great. Q: When was So-Cal Teardrops started? A: We started the company back in 2004 and have been growing ever since Q: Who started the company? A: The Pari’s: being Mike, Gabe & Sierra Q: Why did you start it, and what were the driving factors? A: We wanted a teardrop trailer for camping, and we knew we had the skills and capability to build one. Building them for sale was not a part of the plan, until friends and family kept telling us how cool they were, and asking “How much to build a teardrop for me?” The rest is history. Q: How long did it take you to perfect your teardrop design, and how did that design change with the introduction into the off-road market? A: Our first teardrop took about 8 months to build, working nights and weekends. During that time we had to source a great many quality parts, and design and refine CAD programs for fabrication. Once we decided to produce an off-road teardrop, we started from the ground up. We knew our off-road teardrops had to be tough, rugged, and rival or exceed the capabilities of well equipped off-road tow machines, and our “Krawler” and “XS” models do just that. Q: I noticed you’re celebrating a decade in business, how has the company grown and changed in that time? A: Our company has grown to nine employes in our main facility, and we continue to do business as we started: on a personal basis, with a smile, a handshake, and a goal of perfection. Q: I’ve seen other teardrops that seem to be identical to yours, I assume these are part of your Regional Manufacturing plan. How many shops do you have and how many do you plan to expand to? A: We have four manufacturing facilities, including our primary plant in Upland and three RMF’s: Petaluma, CA; Phoenix, AZ; and Lowell, MI. Our plan is to have fourteen regional manufacturers nationally, enabling us to effectively service all areas of the USA with our top quality teardrops and service. Q: In your opinion what makes your products…
Slow Car, Fast HouseMike and Geneva build a Ford-powered VW AdventureWagen for life on the road. The 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia rested alone and unwanted in a field, baking under the Arizona sun until Mike and Geneva rescued the little camper from her gloomy fate. It wasn’t long before the modifications and updates started, including a hightop AdventureWagen conversion, Bostig Ford engine swap, and a multitude of clever alterations to enhance comfort and convenience for the long run. Dubbed Alta (Spanish for “tall”) for obvious reasons, she’s begun her new life as a home on wheels to Mike, Geneva, and their three dogs Seri, Zeb and Mango while they travel to points unknown. To say the Vanagon is well equipped would be an understatement—as I peek inside the cabinets and cubbies I can’t imagine not finding the right tool on board for any situation. External modifications include an original 8-foot awning and 10-foot Fiamma awning (both with attachable walls), cavernous secure storage boxes fore and aft, swing-out bike and spare tire racks, ladders for roof access, storage for tools and spares, and tables and racks for outdoor living. On the mechanical front, a Bostig engine conversion places a reliable Ford 2.0l DOHC motor where the 1.9l Volkswagen used to live. The transmission, axles, CV joints, cooling and brake systems have been replaced or rebuilt, and the electrical system has been updated to a stout dual-battery system with high-output solar charging. A practical selection of recovery gear stands at the ready, awaiting the inevitably muddy roads in Central and South America. A custom 20-gallon water tank replaces the factory unit, and ample spare propane allows for comfortable extended stays off the grid. A heavy duty GoWesty suspension with Koni shocks provides a smooth ride. Living and storage space abounds inside the spacious hightop. Cabinets and racks for cookware, dishes, food and spices surround the coveted Westfalia kitchen. Other additions and alterations include storage areas in the front and back of the hightop, blackout curtains for the windows, lighting, fans, and even a small library. Stretch netting serves double duty as cargo and canine management, and an impressive collection of Volkswagen paraphernalia decorates Alta inside and out. We look forward to reading about Mike and Geneva’s adventures on the road as they work their way south. Read more about Alta’s build or follow along with their journey at It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on October 7th, 2014.…
Jerome Jamboree XXVIA gathering of Volkswagens and enthusiasts at a gold mine outside Jerome We set off from the safety of Prescott early in the morning to brave the steep, winding tarmac of Highway 89A over Mingus Mountain. The tantrum throwing, oil dripping Vanagon we’ve affectionately come to know as “Lana” was being uncharacteristically well behaved as we made the climb, caffeinated elixirs in hand (for lack of cup holders), toward Jerome, Arizona. Our destination: the 24th Jerome Jamboree put on by the folks at the Arizona Bus Club and hundreds of fellow Vdub aficionados. Some of our travels are best accompanied with narration. Other times, the storytelling is best left to the photography… Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on September 23rd, 2014.…
Running the RimFour days of wandering along the Mogollon Rim and eastern Arizona’s Coronado Trail. Winding through dense forest for 120 miles atop the most prominent section of the Mogollon Rim, the Rim Road (FR300) crosses the eastern half of Arizona from north of Payson to Apache country at the White Mountains. With a maze of roads twisting through the pines on top of the rim FR300 is a little tricky to follow on a map, but it’s fairly easy to stay with it on the ground. A few miles of pleasant driving through the trees reveal little, until the road reaches the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff as it turns sharply east. Starting out on a Tuesday, we’re able to explore in solitude and our focus stays with the scenery for much of the drive along the smooth surface of the Rim Road. In the entire length of FR300 between Highway 87 and 260 the face of the Rim is breached only once, where the Arizona Trail climbs to the top of the rim at Big Dry Wash. Good camping and lunch spots dot the sides of the road, some in the cool shade of dense pines, others with wide-open panoramic views of the lowlands to the south. In dry weather most of the Rim Road and historic locales are accessible by a 2WD vehicle with good ground clearance. The most scenic and secluded of the campsites on the Rim are hidden down the many side roads, but be warned: most degrade to rutted, rock-strewn trails shortly after leaving the main road. Lakes, ponds, and streams litter the countryside and support a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, mountain lion, and black bear. Camping is not allowed on the shorelines of most vehicle-accessible lakes in the area, but we had other plans… One of the many rutted, rocky and overgrown side roads designated FR764 leads south not far from Bear Canyon Lake. With a little patience and perseverance, the trail leads out from the Mogollon Rim to the edge of a 7,800-foot high mesa known as Promontory Butte. There, a small fire ring overlooks Christopher Creek and Highway 260 some 2,000 feet below. The road continues on for another 60-65 miles as the valley below gains elevation and the Mogollon Rim slowly disappears from sight outside the town of Pinetop, where the Rim Road rejoins Highway 260. Our route continues east, the pines giving way to groves of aspen, high plains, and blue lakes below the 11,421-foot peak of Dził Łigai (Mt. Baldy). Knowing sunset was just minutes away,…
Photographic Faux-pas9 common mistakes, and how to avoid them Are you an aspiring photographer dreaming of getting your imagery published, or an author suddenly tasked with shooting your own photos? From a guy who gets stuck fixing all your photos, here’s a list of the most common—and easily avoidable—photographic mistakes made by both novice and experienced author-photographers alike. We’ve all done some (ok all) of these at one time or another, often without even realizing it. Watch for these mistakes every time you shoot and the quality of your photos will improve dramatically. Dust, Dirt, and Stains on Product No one wants to buy a muddy tent, a hair-covered jacket, or dust-covered kitchenware. Contrary to how easy a good photo editor makes it look, sweeping up your dirty floor while keeping the scene realistic takes an incredible amount of time, concentration, and skill—it’s far easier to simply wipe it down before shooting. It’s a dusty planet, so get in the habit of checking before each press of the shutter. A mini-broom, soft cloth or feather duster works well for dust; a damp rag or small mop comes in handy for difficult spots. In a pinch, I’ve even used my Rocket. Exception: deliberate filth to show how dirty something is, such as a blown shock leaking oil or a mud-covered trailer in a “torture-test” article. Inappropriate Scenes or Backgrounds I was working on a camp oven review when, about five shots in, it dawned on me there was a fuzzy-but-unmistakable roll of toilet paper in the background (the perfect garnish for medium-rare filet mignon and garlic mashed potatoes). Likewise, if your subject is a camp chair review, your chairs should be in an environment that at least somewhat resembles a camp, not your downtown apartment balcony. You can’t rely on a shallow depth-of-field here either, make sure anything that detracts from the subject is completely out of the frame. Keeping the scene realistic and true-to-purpose helps legitimize a product review. Would you trust the “stability rating” of a camp chair when all of the photos show it placed on a solid, flat balcony? A note on pets: we love animals, but it is best practice to keep the dogs and cats (and other pets) out of the background unless they are relevant to the story. Even then, do so sparingly—Fido should not be the subject of every single photo from your trek across South America. Inappropriate or Incomplete Props True story: during a table review for a certain…
Understanding Weights and Ratings When planning to tow a trailer there’s more to consider than just the rated towing capacity of the vehicle. Hitch rating, tongue weight rating, payload capacity, unbraked towing capacity (if a brake controller is not installed), aftermarket accessories, cargo, and passengers all affect the maximum trailer weight that a vehicle can safely tow. Adding to the confusion, manufacturers often exaggerate the tow ratings they give their vehicles in an effort to one-up the competition. Understanding how to calculate accurate values and how they’ll affect handling off-pavement is the key to knowing if your vehicle can safely tow that fancy off-road trailer you’ve always wanted. First, a few definitions to clarify the common acronyms: Curb Weight (or Dry Weight): the weight of the vehicle when empty Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): the maximum safe loaded weight of a vehicle or trailer including all passengers, cargo, and accessories Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): the maximum weight each axle is rated to carry, typically different for front and rear axles Towing Capacity (or Tow Rating): the theoretical maximum loaded weight of a trailer the vehicle can safely tow—payload capacity and tongue weight ratings are more often the limiting factor; ratings are usually provided for both braked and unbraked trailers Payload Capacity: the maximum weight of passengers, cargo, and accessories a vehicle can safely carry, including the tongue weight of a trailer Hitch Class: hitches are divided into general classes based on the weight they can handle; this rating is for the hitch hardware only, the vehicle may be rated lower or higher Gross Trailer Weight (GTW): the weight of a trailer when fully loaded Tongue Weight (TW): the amount of weight a trailer places on a vehicle’s hitch Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): the maximum safe combined weight of a vehicle and trailer including all passengers, cargo, and accessories Payload Capacity The first thing you’ll need to determine before hitching up and hitting the road is how much weight your vehicle can safely carry on it’s own axles—also known as payload capacity. You’ll rarely encounter a clear rating in the capacities section of the vehicle owner’s manual, simply because there are so many variables that can affect it. However, all manufacturers will provide you with the vehicle’s dry weight (or curb weight) as delivered and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is all you need to determine the payload capacity of a vehicle. Typically these will be listed in the owner’s manual and on a decal affixed to the driver’s door. Note: pay careful attention to options or packages included with…
Kakadu BushRanger SEThe comfort of a cabin tent with the convenience of a roof tent, all packed into a light-weight adventure ready trailer. We departed this year’s Overland Expo with the newest member of the Kakadu Camping family in tow: the untested BushRanger SE. Our first destination was southern Utah, where we spent 11 days slogging through mud, fording streams, and bracing against wind storms. Next we turned south, to pull the trailer over the granite-strewn trails of northern Arizona. What’s our impression after two weeks on the road with the Kakadu BushRanger SE? Read on… The Trailer At first glance the trailer might look very familiar, and it should: the BushRanger SE was built in partnership with AT Overland Equipment, and is essentially a stretched Chaser platform. 7 extra inches have been added to the length of the cargo box and frame, which accommodates the large trailer tent while still accepting many of the usual AT Overland accessory options. Two other key features set the BushRanger SE apart from the Chaser: the domed lid is completely replaced by the trailer tent, and the TAAS air suspension is replaced with the low-riding Timbren Axle-Less off-road suspension. While the lower height does place a limit on tire size (33 inches), we found it also improved comfort and convenience when performing tasks on and around the trailer as the fenders and nose box sit near the standard kitchen counter height of 36 inches. The Tent The BushRanger SE features an all new OZtrail Outer Ridge Venturer trailer tent which can expand to provide up to 175 square feet of living space (including the optional awning and sun room). The base tent’s interior features a queen size bed and 13.5 x 7 feet of floor space at ground level. Two entry doors with screens and ample screened windows provide excellent ventilation, while insulation cleverly placed inside roof pockets helps keep the interior at a reasonable temperature in hot and cold weather. Setup and tear down of the base tent is surprisingly easy given the massive size of the tent’s cabin, and with little practice can be done by one person in under 5 minutes—even in high winds. The queen size bed’s flat no-fold storage allows bedding to be left in place when it’s time to break camp, along with the ladder and all tent poles. The Towing Experience The little trailer’s handling is excellent on firm roads, and cornering stability benefits greatly from the low ride height the Timbren suspension provides. Tracking is predictable and confidence-inspiring with very little consideration needed to negotiate turns. The BushRanger SE does track very straight in reverse,…
XVENTURE XV-2 The latest addition to Schutt Industries’ line of severe duty consumer trailers, the XVENTURE XV-2, further expands on the capabilities of the XV-1 with new features and accessories. Most notable among the new options is the 7.5-foot Chef’s Galley, complete with three-burner stove, commercial-grade hot/cold water tap, and plenty of work space. Also new to the XV-2 is a flush-mount hard tonneau cover. This lockable shell, which can be folded up from either end to access cargo, or removed completely, provides safe and secure storage for all your equipment in any environment. It’s also notable that this sealed cover won’t just protect your valuables from theft, but from damage due  to heavy dust and water as well. (A Velcro-attached soft tonneau cover is also available). The 59.5 x 89 x 18 inch bed carries over from the XV-1, maintaining its generous 49-inches between the wheel wells. Concealed within the bed are the freshwater fill port, 12VDC power outlets, hot water heater, and storage for the galley system. In keeping with it’s military background, the removable tailgate is rated for the same weight capacity as the trailer itself. (We’re told that in military tests, this gate held more than the weight of some cars. We’d tell you the exact number… but then we’d have to kill you). So why is this so significant? It means that your quad, dirt bike, adventure motorcycle, and yes even your beer cooler, can be supported solely by this gate. No more worrying about removal to prevent damage. Just roll the ramp and cargo right onto the gate and you’re good to go. The XVENTURE doesn’t skimp when it comes to tongue storage either. The full width nose box is large enough to fit a 50 quart ARB fridge/freezer, and is divided into compartments for organization. A protected area holds the dual battery system, switches, shore-power chargers, solar controller, fuse block and other electrical wiring. There’s also a center compartment sized to secure two 5-gallon jerrycans of fuel or water. A 20# propane tank sits forward of the nose box and provides fuel to the hot water heater and galley stove. Clearly, with all the valuable electronic equipment up here, Schutt took the time to make sure this front box was completely sealed from water and dust. The adjustable-height roof rack is large enough to handle the biggest trailer-top tents, awnings, or other adventure gear. Our test unit was equipped with a brand new…
The ADAK Outpost Castias, Scamps, and the smaller Airstream models… I’ve often been caught staring at such travel trailers, lost in thoughts of welding on custom suspensions, fitting larger tires, and enjoying the weeks of in-camp luxury these cabins-on-wheels could provide to a basecamp deep in the wilderness. ADAK Adventure Trailers out of St. Augustine, Florida has made this dream a reality with their 116 square-foot Outpost. The Outpost isn’t going to be running many rock crawling trails—at 23’6″ long and 8’6″ wide it’s far from small—but with ample ground clearance and underbody protection it can handle most forestry access roads with ease, and is manageable on easy-to-moderate trails. Dry weight comes in just shy of 5,000 pounds, so chances are you’ll be pulling this trailer with a full-size vehicle. The armor continues over the roofline, with protective bars ensuring branches won’t strike the air conditioner and skylight on the roof of the tall trailer. After arrival at camp all systems are conveniently placed and easy to access for setup. Storage for propane, a generator, and fuel is provided by a sturdy shelf at the nose of the trailer, along with a ladder for roof access. Tall stabilizer jacks in the rear help to level out the trailer on practically any terrain, and a section of rock rail underneath the door drops down to reveal a convenient step. The teardrop-style exterior galley compartment opens up from the rear of the trailer, and it’s massive door becomes an ample awning to cover the work area (an interior galley floorplan is available as well). All of the essentials are present, including fridge, freezer, sink, stovetop, and enough storage for a fully kitted kitchen. Additional storage for tools, bbq, or outdoor gear is provided in compartments along the left side. Moving inside the cabin reveals a posh interior that rivals an EarthRoamer for comfort, complete with full wetbath, ample storage compartments and closet space, oversized 4-person dinette and two large sofas—all with thickly padded leather seating. All seating surfaces transform into sleeping spaces, and bunkhouse floorplans are available if additional sleeping capacity is required. Headroom throughout the trailer is a generous 6’8″. On the exterior galley models a wetbar is available inside complete with sink, small fridge, and microwave. For survival in harsh climates a 13,000 BTU furnace and 13,500 BTU air conditioner maintain comfortable temperatures inside. The freshwater supply carries 43 gallons, and an optional 4-seasons package is available for cold climates. The base model Outpost…
Utah: Sand and MudSometimes it’s best to put away the maps and just wander. There are few places in the world quite as spectacular as southeastern Utah. Pinnacles of stone tower over a parched red desert floor, dusty backroads wind thousands of feet up narrow switchbacks precariously cut from vertical rock walls, and aspen forests reach for 11,000-foot snow-capped peaks. Late spring is my favorite time of year, when the summer thunderstorms are just getting started but the roads are still dry enough to be passable. With a canoe on the roof and a prototype trailer to test out we wandered north from Overland Expo in search of that picture-perfect mountain lake. As the first decent camp beyond the Navajo Nation, Valley of the Gods has become a kind of obligatory tradition when traveling north from eastern Arizona. That’s not to say it isn’t worth a visit—it’s only slightly less impressive to behold than Monument Valley, a campsite and campfire are practically guaranteed, and it’s absolutely free. Our first night’s camp greeted us with fierce wind-driven sand that blew well into the evening, but our spirits would not be diminished. As we huddled inside the massive canopy of the Kakadu tent sipping Corona and waiting for the storm to pass, the only smart member of our expedition mocked us from his clean, comfortable lair. Eventually the wind subsided and we settled into a fire-lit evening of tall tales and tall plans for the following day. I awoke to the smell of bacon and poked my head out into a calm, overcast morning to see if the scent was a lingering dream—it wasn’t. Adding to the delightful smell, bits of left-over filet mignon from the previous night’s dinner were joining the bacon, along with eggs, veggies, cheese and hot sauce. Minutes later, the Bacon Filet Mignon Breakfast Burrito was born. Departing from our mile-high camp we climbed higher up the Moki Dugway continuing our search for the perfect lake. Pulling in to the tiny Mormon settlement of Fruita we made a quick stop to top off our water tanks, and grab a bite for lunch… and pie. Ignoring the signs warning us of road closures and impending doom, we turned south to follow Pleasant Creek in hopes of winding our way up the massive form of Boulder Mountain in the distance. The first water crossing was little more than a trickle and a fun off-camber exit this time of year—while Google Maps will send you over Lippincott Pass in a Camry without a second thought, the slightest hint of water is enough to…
1816 Safari Jacket For the better part of a week I’d been sifting through piles of search results, weeding out cheap knockoffs and overpriced fashion statements trying to find a quality, mid-weight field jacket for less than $400. We were going through a warmer-than-usual winter, and with only a parka on hand I was ill prepared for it. I was hovering over the confirm order button on Filson’s Tin Cloth Field Jacket when our editor walked into my office carrying the 1816 Safari Jacket for review, it was precisely the jacket I had envisioned. I’ve worn the Safari Jacket frequently over the last several months around town and in the field, and the fit and finish are spot on for tasks in both environments. I find the pockets plentiful, but not overdone, and they’re sized just right for a phone, small notebook, pen, passport, wallet, or just about any other gear you’re likely to need (the hidden zippered “security” pocket is a nice touch). I questioned the choice of a double-layer waistband over a traditional belt-and-buckle at first, but in practice it’s just as comfortable and far more convenient. The jacket’s 8.5-ounce cotton twill is just right for a crisp spring morning or a cool fall evening. The fabric is very soft to the touch, yet surprisingly durable and stain resistant. In spite of traveling with me across desert and forest on everything from day hikes to canoe trips, it still shows no sign of wear. I have no doubt the Safari Jacket will provide many years of reliable service. For detailed specifications, more information, or to pick one up for yourself view the Safari Jacket at Remington 1816’s site. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on June 19th, 2014.…
Bacon Filet Mignon Breakfast Burritos Few things make mornings in camp quite as pleasurable as waking up to the smell of bacon, steak, and eggs. But all too often long days filled with hundreds of miles on the road make dragging out the cast iron for a proper breakfast an impractical luxury. Here’s what you’ll need to enjoy a hearty breakfast burrito in the morning without washing a single pan. Ingredients (serves two) 2-4 flour or corn tortillas 4 eggs 1/4 pound of crumbled bacon A left-over steak (use filet mignon… worth it) Shredded cheddar cheese Bell peppers, onions, hash browns or other veggies to taste Cholula, Tapatia or your favorite hot sauce A boiling pot of water 2 quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags Start in the evening with a bacon-crumbled steak dinner, and cook up one extra steak. When the steak is finished cut it up into small cubes, toss it in a bag with crumbled bacon, and store it until morning. Of course, you can always pre-cook the meat before the trip, but then you’ll miss out on a bacon-crumbled steak dinner. In the morning fill a large enough pot for two freezer bags with water and set it on the stove to boil (a 2-liter JetBoil pot is just large enough). While you’re waiting for it to boil, crack two eggs into a freezer bag and whip them up until ready to scramble; repeat this step for each breakfast burrito you’ll be making. Next dump in bacon, steak, veggies and sauce to taste. Add in the cheese if you prefer it cooked in, or save it for later to sprinkle on top after cooking. Squeeze the air out of the freezer bags, close them up tight, and drop them into the boiling water for about 10 minutes while you pack up camp. Once the eggs, meat, and veggies are done cooking pull them out of the water, scoop out the contents onto your tortilla, and enjoy!…
By Land or Sea A capable and dependable workhorse, AT Overland Equipment’s Horizon has proven itself time and again to adventurers the world over. So how does one push this platform over the top, transforming it into an all-inclusive, ready-to-roll, adventure support system for extended excursions into the wilderness? A pair of custom-built Horizon trailers bound for Australia have been loaded up with everything and the kitchen sink to create just that. Built for Unhindered Exploration To prep the trailers for service in the harsh coastal environments where they are headed, the basic Horizon chassis were first dipped in a zinc bath for galvanization. Additional protection from debris is provided by Line-X on all leading surfaces. Marine-grade hardware was used for all fasteners, hinges, and latches. A MAX Coupler and Aero silent hitch pin provide peace of mind and a quiet connection to the tow vehicle. Tread plate fenders offer additional grip when wet, and high-powered LED floodlamps make finding camp in the dark that much easier. The forward end of the cargo box provides enough storage for a Folboat packable boat, while still leaving enough space for two drawers and a massive dual-zone National Luna fridge/freezer to the rear. A custom swing-out spare tire carrier also acts as a platform for carrying the boat’s outboard motor. Several Rotopax cans provide additional fuel for the boat and tow vehicle, as well as extra water, first-aid kit, and a tool kit. Built for Extended Field Use A large Odyssey PC-1800-FT 190 amp-hour battery stores power for the trailer’s systems, and recharges via a combination of dedicated 4-gauge connection to the tow vehicle, solar panels, and a wind turbine. Power is managed by an array of battery maintenance, charge controllers, and status panels located in the galley. A Xantrex Prosine inverter provides clean and reliable AC power. A custom 31-gallon tank replaces the area normally taken up by a 19-gallon tank and two 20L jerrycans, and ensures an ample supply of water is on-hand for weeks of boondocking. Dual 11-pound propane tanks provide fuel for the on-board water heater and galley stove. When needed, on-board air is provided by an Extremeaire Jr. with a 2-gallon air tank. Built for Comfort and Convenience Comfort becomes an important factor with long periods of time spent traveling. An Eezi-Awn Globedrifter tent tops the trailer to provide a good night’s sleep, and the attachable Add-A-Room creates cabin-sized interior square footage. On the galley side of the trailer a Fiamma F35 Pro…
ProtectionA Budget Overlander, Part II With the necessary capability upgrades sorted, our focus shifted to protecting the soft underbelly of the Forester. Subaru did a fine job keeping most of the vehicle’s components tucked even with the frame rails, but not so well offering skid plates for the vulnerable oil pan, transmission and rear differential. Fortunately, the simplistic design of the chassis makes aftermarket protection both affordable and easy to install. I have a confession to make: when I accepted this assignment I had serious doubts. Before this project I had never thought of a Subaru as anything more than gravel-flinging fun. I found the idea of a mere Forester attacking moderate trails laughable, and I pushed forward expecting to gain little more than a rally-inspired softroader. During a recent trip over the Mojave Road the little Foz shattered all doubts with it’s nimble capability. In the sand and washboard it was the speed demon we expected, cruising along comfortably at around 50mph. On the rocky hill climb after Fort Piute, a trail which rates nearly a 3 after recent storms, it was shockingly unstoppable. We managed to run the entire 140-mile trail in under 24 hours (sight-seeing and camping included) without a single issue. Primitive Racing There are two big names in the Subaru off-pavement aftermarket, but Primitive Racing is the only manufacturer to offer comprehensive protection for the SG Forester (model year 2003-2009). Their full armor package includes three thick aluminum skid plates which provide ample protection to the most vulnerable areas on the undercarriage for about $500. The front skid plate is formed like an upside-down 3/16ths hood, and provides complete protection for the bottom of the entire engine bay. Integrated vents allow for airflow, and options are available for an extra-length “stinger tail” and oil drain plug/filter access ports (we opted to skip the access ports for the best possible protection). Installation is extremely easy: remove the factory mud shield, then install the new skid plate onto the pre-existing threaded holes in the frame. Removing the plate for service is an even simpler four-bolt process. The 4EAT transmission skid plate takes a little more thought to install: an area on the forward corner of the plate is pre-notched for easy removal, as some Subaru exhaust systems can interfere with the plate (ours did). Otherwise, installation is fairly straightforward using existing bolts on the transmission housing. Ample venting is provided, as is a convenient opening to access the drain plug. The rear skid plate is the most difficult…
CapabilityA Budget Overlander, Part I My first introduction to Subaru was a rally-ready “bugeye” WRX I happened upon while visiting a Jeep dealership many years back. It looked like a blast to drive, but I was too wrapped up in the rock crawling thing to give it a second thought. Somehow, that bugeye stuck in the back of my mind, and years later when Scott asked if I’d like to take over the ExPo Forester project I immediately thought “oooh, FUN!” It’s All Yours, Now Make It Go The first order of business on our little project was to get the vehicle running. The 2003 Forester had been flogged hard for the first 100,000 miles of it’s life, and the rebuilt EJ251 motor sourced to replace the original motor turned out to have the exact same problem—disintegrated bearings. Our little project was not off to a good start, but clinging tight to Subaru’s reputation for reliability we pressed on. With a little help from our friends at AT Overland I was able to pull the motor and tear it down for rebuilding, then build it back up on the new block over two weekends. The post-rebuild fine tuning tasks such as adjusting the valves and replacing the broken valve guide rod proved simple enough to do in an afternoon. Replacement parts for the EJ251 motor are both cheap and readily available. Do I still recommend the vehicle as a budget-minded overlander, after putting in the work to get the car running? Absolutely: it’s very easy to work on with a minimal tool kit and little knowledge, a valuable trait for any adventure vehicle to have. I have complete confidence I’d be able to find and fix any problem I’m likely to encounter in the field. Note: I am not a mechanic—this was my first experience with anything more complicated than a fluid change. The Most Boring Fun Car I’ve Ever Driven I’d be lying if I said the Forester was nothing but fun. Driving the twisting mountain roads outside Prescott, tires squealing out in pain through the torture of every turn is fun; launching over cattle guards at foolish speeds is fun; drifting around dusty backroad switchbacks is fun. But when it’s parked, it is one of the most generic looking vehicles ever created… A tastefully built-up SG Forester is a true sleeper. Simple, subtle, and unassuming in it’s appearance; devoid of anything flashy that…
BorregoFest 2013 In mid-October each year, Outdoor Adventure USA’s BorregoFest brings together a small gathering of adventurers for a long weekend exploring the scenery and history of the Anza-Borrego region. Highlights of the event include trail runs from easy to intense, a delicious potluck, and the chance to visit with like-minded folks from all over. Most of the group arrives Friday afternoon to set up camp, take in a lecture on the history of the area, and enjoy the sharing of drinks and stories around the campfire before Saturday’s outings. This year we had the privilege of joining the OAUSA-exclusive Julian Mine Tour on Saturday for an up close look both around and inside the region’s most noteworthy mines with local historian and author Leland Fetzer. The “hike” was not the easiest, but the trail’s end was well worth the effort. Back at camp the scent of barbeque fills the air to signify the start of the official potluck. Wine and beer tastings make for the perfect refreshments after a long day in the field, and a wide variety of vehicles and equipment go on display for the ogling. Sunday morning caps off the event with a raffle of gear, tools, and swag, followed by an amateur radio testing session. For those that stick around after lunch, a short exit run offers one last taste of the region before heading back home. On-site camping for the three-day event runs $55-65, which includes access to the shower facilities, swimming pool, and one raffle ticket (additional tickets may be purchased). Swing by the OAUSA Forum to check out photos and stories from previous events, or to sign up for the next BorregoFest. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on November 15th, 2013.…
Weather & Ruins12 Days across the Navajo Nation Practically every form of precipitation in Mother Nature’s arsenal was being thrown our way. White-out conditions gave way to freezing rain, then fog, a little sun, then more snow. The Navajo had reopened the roads just weeks before our departure, with words of caution that the weather might close them again any day. With optimistic fingers crossed, we pressed on under breathtaking skies expecting to encounter the unexpected. A belly full of omlette-in-a-bag, we began our introduction to the Tséyi’ (Canyon de Chelly) region with a crisp morning hike down to the Three Turkey ruin. The somewhat difficult access to the site preserves the small cliff dwelling in pristine condition for the few adventurers able to make the climb. Following the climb, a relaxing afternoon drive winding through the rugged Navajo backcountry brought us to the ancient multi-colored graffiti of Painted Cave. Handprints and pictographs depict the history of the many Navajo who once called this settlement home. Daniel, our guide for this leg of the journey, led us to his aunt Winnie’s hogan for a demonstration on Navajo weaving. The techniques and tools used to produce the rugs create an impressively tight fabric which is far more durable than modern machine-made versions. Leaving Winnie’s hogan, Daniel informed the group that he had a surprise in store for us. Due to the harsh second winter the floodgates of Tsaile Lake had to be left open, keeping the water level too high for vehicle access in the canyon. Instead of our planned campsite, Daniel brought us to the edge of the slickrock overlooking Spider Rock… and by edge, I do mean edge. The first rays of the rising sun brought with them the scent of Frank’s Fresh French Toast—why is it we seem to eat better on the trail than we do at home? With the canyon floor still flooded, a rim-top tour of Standing Cow, the Spanish Invasion, and the Navajo Fortress followed, binoculars and long lenses were key. Back at our own cliff dwelling, Daniel regaled us with the legends, stories, and songs of his people. A late start the next morning set us on a spirited but beautiful drive through the still snow-covered Lukachukai mountains. Arriving hours later than intended we managed to track down our next guide, a surprisingly difficult task in the tiny village, just in time to set up camp at the foot of the mountain.…