Manta100 Square Feet of Shelter You read that right: 100 square feet of canvas hides inside a thick black cover, ready to deploy a generous amount of shade or shelter in a moment’s notice. These are my impressions after four years of enjoying the Manta’s shade from the blazing desert sun, sheltering from storms underneath it, and putting it through tortures that have ripped lesser awnings to pieces. The Basics When fully deployed, the Manta’s shape provides a larger than 7-by-7-foot rectangle of coverage off the side of a vehicle or trailer, which wraps around the rear with an additional 14-by-7-foot triangle. When it’s time to hit the road, the entire mass of sturdy 260-gram waterproof ripstop canvas rolls up into a UV-resistant PVC cover that’s no bigger than an awning half the Manta’s size. The Manta’s chassis is made entirely of lightweight anodized aluminum. Adjustable legs with integrated stake holes recess inside C-channel rafter arms, which pivot away from a stout length of aluminum extrusion on stainless steel hinge bolts. All of this combines to create a structure that is sturdy, lightweight, and highly corrosion resistant, and easily repaired with basic hand tools and commonly available hardware. That’s not to say the awning is easy to damage—quite the contrary as you’ll read below—but I take comfort knowing that if the Manta gets damaged all of it’s components (including the canvas panels) are field-replaceable. The awning can be mounted to most roof racks or even load bars, thanks to standard 8mm hardware that can be placed nearly anywhere along the Manta’s 90-inch frame. Of course, if you’re running an Eezi-Awn K9 roof rack there is a convenient kit available to match. The legs are adjustable in height up to 92 inches, so it sits nicely on even the tallest adventure mobiles. Setup or Teardown in Seconds (yes, really) That’s not just marketing hype. The first time I set up a Manta I skipped the directions and took just under two minutes. Today I could do it in 30 seconds, or under two minutes with stakes at all four legs. Teardown—which is the messiest and most time-consuming task with most awnings—is just as easy. Better still, you can pack the Manta away without getting the canvas all up in your face. If you’ve ever covered yourself in the previous night’s dust and campfire ashes you know just how important that is. Of all the awning systems I’ve…
Editorial IntegrityA plea to my fellow authors We hate to admit it in our industry, but manufacturers—especially advertisers and sponsors—will have some influence over what, and even how, we write. We are human after all: they may inspire bias for or against the wares they peddle, but they will inevitably make an impression. Anyone who claims otherwise is either lying through their teeth or a robot. It’s impossible to write completely without bias, and even if it were possible, we shouldn’t. Be biased. The audience is where we owe our allegiance: without them we are nothing. When writing an article our goal should not be to write without bias, doing so would only be a disservice to our audience. Our readers are our readers because they identify with our style and value our opinions (or at the very least find us entertaining). Our audience wants to know what we love or hate, and why. Be fair, but don’t water down your true impressions to the monotony of a dictionary just to avoid offense. Be fair. Never allow an advertiser or sponsor to gain a hand in your editorial process. Correct factual errors, of course. Profusely thank sponsors for being awesome, sure. If change for the better occurs as a result of your feedback, then by all means praise the manufacturer for their willingness to listen. Don’t allow them to effect change to the meaning of articles: doing so sets a dangerous precedent for dishonest action, scares off viewers and manufacturers alike, and like a bad infomercial only truly serves to undermine an author’s credibility. Be honest. I challenge my fellow authors to write with bias, fairness, and honesty. And, I challenge editors to approve and publish more of the concepts that arrive on their desk with these principles intact. In this strange new age of manufacturers-turned-publishers it’s the only way we can stand free from their purse strings to create trustworthy and independent content.…
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,…
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.…