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…
Canvas, meet AluminumGetting acquainted with Eezi-Awn’s new hard-shell roof tent, the Stealth. Rumors of a hard-shelled Eezi-Awn had been crossing my desk for months when the confirmation hit my inbox, in the form of an ad request and a photo of the new tent. Pictured was a thing of beauty—a sleek, wingless fighter jet hovering over a snowy landscape—but we all know photos on the internet are only half of the story. As fate would have it, Paul May of Equipt was driving right past a photoshoot I was on in the Mojave Desert, so I arranged for us to meet up in camp to check out the Stealth personally. Full disclosure: yes, Equipt is one of my studio’s clients. If you know me, then you know that’s the strongest endorsement I can give—I’ll only work with businesses I believe in. First Impressions Flipping open four latches releases the lid of the matte black shell, which is raised and lowered easily by one person thanks to the aid of gas struts and conveniently placed handles. The golden light of dawn gleams and sparkles off the metal of massive scissor-lift hinges as the roof rises, stark contrast against the darkness of the Stealth’s chassis. This new tent makes an impression, towering nearly five feet above the roof rack once open. A ladder slides out from integrated storage in the floor, and can be placed for entry through any of the tent’s three doors (or anywhere along the roof rack). Quick-release bungees run along the front, rear, and side walls so that they’ll self-tuck when packing up the tent. Intended or not, rear latches and roof supports double as convenient hooks to hang your shoes…so long as it doesn’t rain. Vents are placed above either side door, and the lack of any sign of condensation proves their effectiveness against the usual cold-weather tent problems. As is typical with most hard-shell roof tents, the walls remain tight and silent in the wind. Thick olive-drab privacy mesh screens adorn all three doors, and canvas makes up the door panels themselves. Zippers are large and easy-moving as expected, and each panel has it’s own set of lashings so they can be easily tied open independent of each other. The rear door features a generously sized awning held out by quick-release legs, which Velcro into place both deployed and when packed. The awning is a separate panel from the door, so the door can be fully closed while leaving the awning set up. Climbing Inside Despite the shell being cold to the touch in…
Awn a Subaru?Sir Clax-a-Lot gets some Shade Eezi-Awn introduced a high-quality, entry-level awning to their lineup a few years back, with a price point low enough you’d be hard-pressed to compile the tarp/poles/clips/stakes/lines setup for less (especially once you consider setup/teardown times and a frameless tarp’s general lack of longevity). The problem was, to mount the awning you either had to make a sizable investment in a matching roof rack or be handy enough to fabricate your own brackets. This, along with the low roof line of the Foz, kept an awning off the build list for the original Budget Overlander project. I love awnings. If I had to pick a single most beneficial item the overland trend has brought to our shores it be a toss-up between the vehicle-mounted awning and efficient 12-volt freezer/fridges. Summer is upon us again, and I wanted some shade for several upcoming Forester-based trips to the desert. Enter Bomber Products: they machine a sturdy bracket out of solid aluminum that will bolt to just about anything, Yakima and Thule bars included. Even with all of the mounting hardware in it’s lowest position, the car-side edge of the awning is five-feet ten-inches off the ground—plenty of height to keep the bulk of the awning well clear of my six-foot frame. As an added bonus, the back of the awning sits just behind the side rails of the Forester, so rainwater running off the awning will pass through the roof’s drain channels and not down the side of the car. Now I just need to talk Bomber Products into producing a universal MAXTRAX mount adapter……
Swing-outWrapping up the Bumper Project At long last: here’s the details on Ulysses’ rear swing-out. This swing-out carries a full-size 285/65R18 (33×11.50) spare, Hi-Lift Jack, small Eezi-Awn K9 Table, 42-liter Alubox to store water/propane hoses and the water heater, and a 10# propane tank to fuel the stove, water heater, and fire pit. License plate lighting is provided from a set of LED bolt lights. The framework is made almost entirely from upcycled steel salvaged from a friend’s old teardrop frame, and it all rides on an A-to-Z Fab Mega-Duty Hinge. Building the swing-out atop the already squared and straight bumper was a much simpler feat than building the bumper, so on to the fabrication photos……
Rear BumperSometimes you just have to D-I-Y After two years of waiting for either delivery of the rear bumper I purchased, or a full refund of the rather large deposit, I’d had enough: it was time to look elsewhere. Discovery II rear bumpers are a tricky thing—a combination of unusual curves and angles, lack of frame tie-in points on the long overhang, and the general lack of symmetry on these trucks creates many challenges in the design process. As a result, most bumpers on the market are either prohibitively expensive or extremely ugly. RTE Fabrication’s rear bumper is arguably the best looking of the bunch and has a beautifully near-factory appearance, but I couldn’t get over the jungle gym they use for their swing-out. It was clear there was only one way to get what I wanted: a custom build. Once again I enlisted help from the exceptionally talented Dave Argust to design and fabricate all the little (and big) parts necessary to pull this project off. Prototyping on something like a Jeep can be fairly easy—straight lines and a body tub that ends cleanly before the bumper mean you can bolt on practically anything from the frame back. While the mounts are similar on a Discovery, the body is blended into the (frame mounted) bumper through several pieces of molded plastic, all designed to flex and bend just enough to allow for body movement. This meant building much of the bumper in place on the vehicle, and installing and removing the bumper dozens of times to check clearances…tedious work. I’m not a huge fan of the ubiquitous 2 x 6″ oval lights found on so many aftermarket bumpers, but I do understand now why they are used so often: few DOT-legal brake lights exist that are small enough to fit on a slim 4-inch bumper. I wanted brake lights, not for legality, but because I needed the “high” lamp to restore the rear fog functionality Land Rover gave us. Fortunately, just as the bumper was nearing completion Grote released a brand new tail/brake lamp with integrated reverse lights dubbed the “2-in-1.” Installation hardware attaches via the original bumper mounts on the frame. Access to the bolts hides underneath the new lights, which sit almost exactly where the original reverse and rear fog lamps once did. As an added bonus the trailer wiring is now safely up and away from trail obstacles, with 4- and 7-pin connections built in. Building…