Mojave WanderlustSolitude on the Beaten Path Windows down. Sunroof open. Summer air rushes through the cabin. Tires screech in protest as they fight against another turn they’re simply not designed for. The engine roars back up through the power band, and the heavy beast remembers what continent it was born on as it catapults out of another curve. Ulysses is happy today, she wants to run. A glance in the mirror before I enter the next turn reveals no sign of the stock Discovery 3 running with us, either I’m hauling ass or he’s dragging it. I glance at the speedometer—it’s me. 33-inch mud terrains wail in anguish once more as they’re pushed to the edge of traction. I push the accelerator down farther and smile with a joy that only comes from driving a slow car fast. The Escape I’m relieved the event is over. Don’t get me wrong, I love the community and visiting with the people that bring it together, I just wasn’t wired for large gatherings in fixed locations. Three days is just about right, then it’s time for my cure: an equal number of days wandering. Soaring. Eastbound above the smog along Rim of the World Highway. Chris catches up as I roll to a stop next to the old, long abandoned Cliffhanger. I’ve known him since I was 14, but never would I have guessed he’d want to race down this twisted tarmac, hopping from tavern to tavern, on a never-ending quest to find the world’s best tuna melt. So go our conversations and revelations over a pint at the first of two bars in the entire town of Crestline. We hit the next bar, so we can say we’ve hit every bar in town—tuna melt ordered, and we watch as the attractive brunette behind the bar grabs a muddler and sets about making a proper mojito. She’s lived here her entire life. She owns the place. It dawns on Chris what she’s making for me. He orders one too, and she skips through the back door again for another bundle of fresh-picked mint from the garden. The tuna melt arrives, and all is right with the world. Conversations with more of the locals reveal the location of an “edge of the world” campsite just outside town. The view on arrival does not disappoint, not a bad end to the first (half) day. With Abandon Rounding the next bend I’m blinded by the full force of the rising sun.… NSFW · Explicit
Water System in a CanLife with Living Overland’s clever plug-and-play 12-Volt Overland H2O System The debate over stand-alone jerrycans versus integrated RV-style water systems has raged on since the first time a family went overland. Cans offer all the rugged reliability you could want and are easy to transfer from vehicle to vehicle, but lugging a full can out of the truck at each campsite is a pain. On-board water is the ultimate in convenience, but rough terrain can cause leaks and flood your interior or worse: leave you with no water. What if you could have your cake and eat it too? Living Overland’s 12-Volt Overland H2O System aims to provide just that. The Overland H2O System is available as a pre-assembled drop-in unit or as a DIY kit. The latter option is a good choice if you like to tinker or have any intention of customizing the setup (Anderson 12-volt connection, different style water tank, etc). I’m glad Beau sent us the DIY kit version, because popping a pre-assembled unit onto a jerrycan and saying “Look, running water!” would not have made for an informative evaluation. Yes, the completed assembly is really that easy to use. First up in building the kit is reading over the directions, then slicing off part of your beloved Scepter’s lid to make way for the faucet. The rest of the process reads like a Daft Punk song: drill it, tap it, splice it, solder it, heat it, thread it, fit it, fill it and in about an hour the assembly is ready for testing. I had doubts, but the grommet/wire combo seals quite well and passed the 5-gallons-upside-down-for-30-seconds test drip free. It’s a good idea to add a little silicone when you thread the faucet into the lid, especially if the hole wasn’t tapped cleanly. The finished product is ready for kitchen duty as quickly as flipping the faucet over and plugging it into a power point. The faucet folds nearly flat for travel, and transfers from can to can as easily as swapping lids. While the exposed faucet hardware does make the system a little more fragile than a regular can, that shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve properly strapped in your 45-pound can of water. The variable-speed Whale pump used in this system has plenty of pressure at over two gallons per minute, and at full-tilt will empty a can in just over two minutes. As a bonus, it also has a low enough draw to run directly off a 30-watt solar panel (at a slightly slower speed). Find the 12-Volt Overland H2O System in DIY kit or… NSFW · Explicit
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… NSFW · Explicit
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… NSFW · Explicit
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.… NSFW · Explicit
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… NSFW · Explicit
SimplifyLighten your Load, Lighten your Life Necessity. Convenience. Preparedness… Coffee. Left unmanaged, the pile of stuff we carry every day grows exponentially. The affliction has become so bad it’s caused the phenomena of the manpurse (aka “murse”) to appear on city streets world-wide—as an addition to the briefcase. Over the last few years I’ve been on a mission to reduce both the bulk and appearance of this clutter while still maintaining an acceptable level of function. After optimizing everything from banking habits to keychains only a handful of items remain on the “need to carry” list. The result is a shorter morning/evening routine, little or no complications when plans change, and a lot less crap to carry around (both figuratively and literally). Here’s what doesn’t fill my pockets: Kershaw Ken Onion Leek A gentleman should never be without a knife—arguably the single most important multi-purpose tool ever created. During the daily grind it’s a trusty companion for slicing through the jungles of cardboard delivered by the Brown Truck of Joy. When disaster strikes, it’s the ultimate survival tool capable of providing everything from fire to food (with the right skills). The Leek is elegant enough for a night on the town, durable enough to take on a hike or bike ride, and sleek enough to please any minimalist. It’s also inexpensive enough to carry (and risk losing). More info » Vehicle Key Immediate access to a vehicle is simply a smart resource to keep at hand. I frequently commute by bike, but always have the key to motorized transportation with me. Streamlight Nano You never know when or where darkness may fall—light should be part of everyone’s daily carry. The Nano is bright enough to light the way yet small enough to clip on a single key without adding noticable bulk. More info » Fisher Space Pen 400 TAD Edition I was skeptical at first, but in the end a pen has come in handy quite frequently. The Fisher Bullet practically disappears into a pocket, expands to the size of a normal pen, and will write on just about any surface—wet or dry. More info » American Bison Leather Money Clip Commerce is a fact of life, but not one that requires a fat wallet. Consolodation of my accounts down to one checking and one credit not only simplifies my finances, but allows me to slip into a slim money clip with just enough room for… NSFW · Explicit