SleeperConverting a Disco into a Camper I’m not fond of ground tents, roof tents, or any other piece of canvas-walled silliness—such shelters should be tolerated when the destination or mode-of-transport leave’s no other option, not adopted as the go-to solution. I hate rattles. I can’t stand clutter. I abhor loose, unsecured gear. I don’t have kids and I don’t take prisonerscarry passengers. I do prefer the comfort of hard walls, lockable doors, and a well-equipped galley…so long as they don’t limit my options on a journey. I also happen to have a Discovery II at my disposal, essentially a trail-ready postal truck disguised as a luxury station wagon. The rear of a Discovery II is downright cavernous, especially when gutted. 46 inches from carpeted floor to headlined ceiling, 63 inches from wall to wall, and nearly seven feet of length to work with over the center console (front seats forward). The Discovery II is why I don’t own a teardrop trailer. The Cargo (and on-board systems) The goal was to keep weight low and clutter non-existent, with a full camping load-out below the deck. In practice there is also room for clothes and personal gear, except for hanging jackets/shirts and my camera gear of course. The cubbies from top to bottom, left to right contian: driver’s clothing and personal gear, water tank, passenger’s clothing and personal gear, standard sleeping gear (pads, pillows, blankets), more water tank, complete toolkit (everything I need for every task on a Discovery), optional trip-specific gear (cold-weather sleeping gear, Little Red Campfire, shower mat, etc), slide-out galley (and food), and freezer/fridge (beverages and food). On-board water flows from an 11-gallon tank riding low and center under the deck. In the rear passenger footwell hangs a SHURflo 3.0GPM water pump, water distribution lines, and a back-up gravity fed tap (just in case). Taps are located at the rear passenger door and above the galley. The rest of this space holds recovery tools so they can be accessed without opening doors (just move the seats), and to keep weight low. It’s also a good place to stuff flip-flops and muddy boots while sleeping. Sleeper and galley systems are powered by a secondary Group 31 battery behind the rear left wheel, which recharges via solar or while the engine is running. This placement is opposite the spare tire and main battery to help maintain weight balance. 12-volt extension cords, fold-up solar panel, and other accessories are also stored in this…
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…
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…
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…