BASECAMPEDA look at trailer life with the Jackwagon Basecamp. The one quality I appreciate most about a manufacturer, beyond making a good product, is their willingness to listen to customer feedback and continually improve the product based on that feedback. Jackwagon Off-Road is just that kind of company: when we returned the first trailer JR spent the afternoon chatting with us about our ideas. A week later he invited us to swing by and check out the new improvements. You already know how we feel about towing the Basecamp—here’s our take on packing and camping with this nimble and versatile trailer. Packing the Basecamp As mentioned previously, the cargo hold of the trailer is cavernous. We opted to pack as the name suggests: with a full set of oversized “basecamp” gear, plus two full sets of backpacking gear for an overnight hike away from the trailer. The basecamp gear consisted of: one huge cabin tent, two winter-weight sleeping bags, two camp mattresses, two ARB camp chairs, eight-foot camp table, dual-burner stove, full kitchen kit (in a Pelican 1550), cast-iron cookware, lanterns, and the “expedition” sized medical kit (in another Pelican 1550). The backpacking kit consisted of two full sets of: Nemo two-person backpacking tents, Nemo backpacking sleeping bags and pads, lightweight JetBoil-based kitchen kits, and a few pouches of dehydrated food. Sure, we didn’t have actual backpacks handy, but you get the point: all this gear filled just over half of the cargo hold. In it’s stock configuration the Basecamp features a simple twist-lock rail down each side for securing cargo. While it works well enough, I much preferred the optional L-track system, or the super beefy E-track option pictured above (rated for 6,000 pounds). If your cargo leaves a mess, the trailer also features a drain hole for easy clean-up. While it seems like a no-brainer, Jackwagon is the first manufacturer to offer this feature. Up front on the cooler rack we added a large cooler. We also tossed yet another Pelican 1550 (filled with charcoal and lighter fluid) next to the cooler, but a few bundles of firewood would fit much better here. Generous spacing between the floor and the frame allows for drainage, and easy lashing of cargo to the frame rails. Optionally, the cooler rack can be bordered with L-track. Our Hi-Lift and shovel tuck in neatly below the full-size spare tire. The tent bars bolt onto the sturdy reinforcement of the lid, and can handle even the largest trailer-top tents. Optionally, tie-downs can be…
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…
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…
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…
RehitchedPhase One of the Mule's Refit nears completion The last of the painting was finished up last week. The body, tailgate, and lid now rest under an easy to touch-up, semi-gloss bedliner. For the first time in over two years The Mule is rehitched to the Disco (and riding almost perfectly level). There’s nowhere near enough time to tick off all the wishlist items and still have the trailer ready for the next Overland Expo, so our focus has been on getting the trailer lighted, legal, and liveable…