Four Corners, Four DaysWhen they offer to pay wandering fuel, take the job. It amazes me the lengths a person will go for that extra mile-per-hour. Even more surprising is how long it takes some folks to figure out that I’m going slower than they are, and maybe just maybe they should use that wide-open passing lane to, you know, pass… Mile twelve-hundred-and-eleventy-something of my new employ with Ye Olde Overland Shipping Company. No sooner do I get one trailer disconnected and another is hooked up—when Adventure Trailers offers to cover your fuel for a long weekend of wandering, if you can get a trailer to Durango by morning, it’s tough to say no. It’s nearly 8pm, and the lingering summer sun is closer than it appears. In spite of the tailgating, slow-to-pass speed demons, I’ve safely traversed Navajo territory with a nicely apportioned Horizon trailer silently in tow. The glow of Farmington, New Mexico is dead ahead. It’s midnight. I have Motel 6. I’m going to bed. Running late. Arriving early. The drive time into Colorado is a lot shorter than I imagined. The trailer delivery went off without a hitch (sorry, couldn’t resist). Mission accomplished, now it’s time to satisfy that wanderlust. That all too familiar Land Rover “ding” fills the cabin as I’m rounding the tight curves of the Million Dollar Highway somewhere above Silverton, and I glance down to find my speed reading zero. Speed pops up on a digital readout, intermittently, after a few button presses on the ScanGauge—much more helpful than an orange “check engine” light and a dead gauge. A check of the error code shows a wheel speed sensor is on the fritz, the Discovery is just old enough to not care so I press onward. It’s interesting how the things we stop and see or choose to skip can change when traveling solo. Without my wife’s love of old-fashioned trains and small towns to keep me company, Silverton just doesn’t have the same hold. After a brief lunch and an Americano in hand I’m anxious to hit the road. Ophir Pass appears quickly out of Silverton, and I’m reminded of that cliff-side gnome village spotted during the only other visit I’ve made to the San Juans. I’ve never been over 10,000 feet, at least not for any length of time. Slowly up the winding road toward the pass, ever cautious for signs of acute mountain sickness. Instead of the anticipated headache and dizziness the low pressure of altitude clears my sinuses more quickly than any pill ever could. Spectacular vistas swing… NSFW · Explicit
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… NSFW · Explicit
Kukenam XL RuggedizedWe spent an evening zipping, latching, clipping, and weathering out a storm in the biggest and baddest Tepui available. I’ve never been a fan of rooftop tents, and frankly, I’m still not. Oh they’re an excellent solution in an area where wildlife is a concern, but I’ve always preferred either the stealth afforded by a ground tent or the warmth of a hard-walled camper. I suppose that’s why this review was handed to me—disliking the general concept means I have no bias toward or against any particular manufacturer’s tent. Tepui is an example of a manufacturer that listens: they’ve done a great job accepting customer feedback over the years, and answering that feedback with a continually improving product line. The Kukenam XL Ruggedized is one such creation, its feature list reads like the wishlist from a certain forum thread. If my feelings on the matter of roof tents ever change the Ruggedized line of Tepui tents will be on my short list. The Kukenam XL Ruggedized is no lightweight. It’s a massive tent that weighs in at over 200 pounds (with annex) and provides more than fifty square feet of sleeping space when open. Even closed, the tent’s sizable 76″ x 48″ x 12″ bulk has a staggering presence, and it looks right at home on a large overland vehicle or trailer. The first thing to catch my eye when we sliced open the box was the Kukenam XL’s shiny metal floor. Most manufacturers use wood here, and though I’ve never seen wood become a problem it’s nice to see the added durability of aluminum finding it’s way onto roof tents. D-rings are present at each corner of the aluminum floor and make a great place to hang lanterns or muddy boots in camp. The next thing I noticed was the sharp looking black transit cover. Tepui included generously sized Velcro corners to ease zipping and unzipping of the cover, which double as a catch to keep the zipper pull tidily tucked away while on the road. The zipper is heavy duty, but it would have been nice to see a ratchet-and-strap method used for securing the cover (in fairness, most manufacturers use zippers here). Removing the cover reveals not two, but four compression straps securing the clamshell shut. Enough space is provided to keep bedding in the tent when folded up. An additional strap runs down the center of the folded tent to keep the ladder from bouncing around on the trail. A half-inch anti-condensation mat is included and does an excellent job keeping the underside of the mattress dry even in foul weather. Setting up the Kukenam XL… 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
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… NSFW · Explicit
Understanding Weights and Ratings When planning to tow a trailer there’s more to consider than just the rated towing capacity of the vehicle. Hitch rating, tongue weight rating, payload capacity, unbraked towing capacity (if a brake controller is not installed), aftermarket accessories, cargo, and passengers all affect the maximum trailer weight that a vehicle can safely tow. Adding to the confusion, manufacturers often exaggerate the tow ratings they give their vehicles in an effort to one-up the competition. Understanding how to calculate accurate values and how they’ll affect handling off-pavement is the key to knowing if your vehicle can safely tow that fancy off-road trailer you’ve always wanted. First, a few definitions to clarify the common acronyms: Curb Weight (or Dry Weight): the weight of the vehicle when empty Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): the maximum safe loaded weight of a vehicle or trailer including all passengers, cargo, and accessories Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): the maximum weight each axle is rated to carry, typically different for front and rear axles Towing Capacity (or Tow Rating): the theoretical maximum loaded weight of a trailer the vehicle can safely tow—payload capacity and tongue weight ratings are more often the limiting factor; ratings are usually provided for both braked and unbraked trailers Payload Capacity: the maximum weight of passengers, cargo, and accessories a vehicle can safely carry, including the tongue weight of a trailer Hitch Class: hitches are divided into general classes based on the weight they can handle; this rating is for the hitch hardware only, the vehicle may be rated lower or higher Gross Trailer Weight (GTW): the weight of a trailer when fully loaded Tongue Weight (TW): the amount of weight a trailer places on a vehicle’s hitch Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): the maximum safe combined weight of a vehicle and trailer including all passengers, cargo, and accessories Payload Capacity The first thing you’ll need to determine before hitching up and hitting the road is how much weight your vehicle can safely carry on it’s own axles—also known as payload capacity. You’ll rarely encounter a clear rating in the capacities section of the vehicle owner’s manual, simply because there are so many variables that can affect it. However, all manufacturers will provide you with the vehicle’s dry weight (or curb weight) as delivered and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is all you need to determine the payload capacity of a vehicle. Typically these will be listed in the owner’s manual and on a decal affixed to the driver’s door. Note: pay careful attention to options or packages included with… NSFW · Explicit
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,… NSFW · Explicit
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… NSFW · Explicit
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… 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
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… NSFW · Explicit