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…
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…
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.…
Camp-spressoThe Moka Pot It’s Overland Journal’s fault. I’ve long appreciated the pleasures of the morning coffee ritual, an easy vice to maintain in the city, but one that is typically tolerable at best in camp. Working in an office with a well-stocked espresso bar has sharpened the addiction to such a point the instant solutions often served tent-side simply won’t do. As Scott Brady reflected while showing me how to work the espresso machine “Life’s too short for bad coffee.” Espresso is without a doubt the ultimate form of coffee, imbued with three key features we strive to find in our gear: versatility, durability, and performance. It’s concentrated nature makes for the maximum quantity on a minimum of water, with the right tools it’s nearly impossible to ruin espresso, and from espresso you can make practically any coffee drink (including the good ole hot cup of joe—just add water). Thanks to Luigi de Ponti, espresso can be a hassle- and mess-free pleasure in camp. Most commonly used on the stovetop at home, the Moka pot is equally capable of brewing on the trail with a backpacking stove, larger camp stove, or even over charcoal with care. Unlike the variety of portable espresso makers out there, the Moka doesn’t require special fuels, tools, or filters. In fact, you only need three things to run a Moka: water, fire, and coffee grounds. The Moka pot isn’t picky about the type of grounds you feed it either. A fine grind (slightly more coarse than espresso) works best, but even “percolator ground” beans will yield an excellent (though weaker) result. Espresso purists may point out that a Moka pot is incapable of reaching the precise 9 bar of pressure required for “true” espresso, but the end result is indistinguishable. Use is simple, just fill the base to the fill line with water (about an inch from the top), drop in the basket and fill it with grounds, then twist on the pot and place it over heat. In about five minutes you’ll have a pot of flavorful espresso. Clean up is just as easy—the brewing process tends to draw out most of the moisture, leaving a solid clump of grounds easily tapped out into the trash. Rinse out the few remaining grounds, dry the pot, and pack it away. The Moka is available as small as a 1-shot, but I find the 6-shot variety well worth the…
The WaterField Cargo Over the past several months I’ve been trapped in the seemingly endless search for that perfect balance between got-it-all, and the liberty got-it-all prevents in an “everyday” bag. You name it, I’ve carried it—from sleek and elegant Tumi to weighted-down MOLLE. Based on past experience, present occupation, and future aspirations I knew what I wanted in function: classic but subtle looks, comfort with convenience, and modularity without bulk. Finding a form that achieves this function proved a frustrating and exhausting challenge. It’s no secret that I love the products coming out of WaterField Design’s studio in San Francisco—their Ultimate SleeveCase continues to keep my iPad in pristine condition. I had never given their larger bags any serious consideration for fear that their simplistic approach to on-the-go storage would blend my kit, set adrift in the huge pockets, into a jumbled pile of chaos. After a month-long trial run with their signature bag, the Cargo (small), I’m pleased to report this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Quite the opposite has happened—my bag is now more organized and easily reconfigurable than ever, and with room left over to expand my everyday kit. Features and Organization At the core of the Cargo’s design is it’s slightly non-rectangular shape, which gifts the bag with a seemingly magical ability to swallow up gear while simultaneously making it easier to load and unload. Access to gear is quick and easy, and most pockets feature a bright orange “Gold Diamond” lined interior to aid in locating the contents. Where appropriate, cord-pull zippers provide a smooth opening, and zippers in more vulnerable locations are spring-loaded to keep them securely shut and out of the way. The outside of the bag features three pockets: a phone pocket at one end, a rear pocket which fits WaterField’s Cableguy (medium) perfectly, and a slip pocket on the flap. The phone pocket is sized ample enough to fit even the largest of modern phones, while still being small enough not to lose smaller phones (yes, it also fits the new iPhone 5). Alternately, it also comfortably carries a modestly-sized flashlight and multitool. The rear pocket has a velcro closure, and features a bottom-zip to allow slipping the bag over the handle of rolling carry-on luggage. The slip pocket on the flap is perfect for carrying a notepad or other slim items. Releasing the slick paragliding buckle from the leather flap reveals…
Swiss Army Stove The Swiss Army Ranger Stove is without a doubt one of the original “ultra light” cooking options. Compact, versatile, and easy to use, it continues to be a quintessential part of the classic kitchen kit. The complete package fits nicely into many of the “one liter” bottle carriers and pockets commonly available. Dry weight is a mere 15.2 ounces in the stove’s stock form, not bad for a pot/cup, 1-liter bottle, and stove. For comparison the weight of an empty Hydroflask 21-ounce bottle is 20.9 ounces. Additionally, if weight and space are of primary concern, one can forgo the bottle altogether and stuff the stove full of provisions and/or fuel. Without any bottle, the stove and cup/pot weigh in at 9.9 ounces. All testing was conducted outdoors, in the shade, on a windless day with an ambient temperature of 40°F. The water used in the test was left outside overnight to simulate realistic camping conditions. During the test, the included pot/cup was filled to the half-liter line. Testing was performed three times with each type of fuel, and the final score is an average of the results. Trioxane / Hexamine Tablets Trioxane was the fastest heating fuel tested, and brought the cold water to boiling in a mere six-and-a-half minutes. This was quite surprising considering this fuel’s dim blue flame and minimal ambient heat. The downside to trioxane is it’s highly toxic nature, the aforementioned low ambient heat and light, and the extremely nasty mess it leaves behind. It is strongly recommended that you wash your hands after handling the fuel, and it would be a good idea to place the tabs on a sheet of foil for easier clean-up. Two bars of fuel were consumed by each test with consistent results: the first bar heated the water hot enough for tea, but failed to reach boiling; and the second bar sent the water into a Jetboil-gone-mad style, dangerously violent boil. The tablet-style fuel is much better suited to this stove than the bars. Wood, Twigs and Grass A combination of twigs and kindling (grass) wrapped up in palm-sized bundles was used for the wood test to ensure a good, consistent burn. This is the recommended method of fueling the stove when using wood as it generates an optimal amount of heat without overheating the stove, burns fairly efficiently, and is easy to clean up. Boiling was achieved in a…