Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Fri, 27 May 2016 10:00:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Overland Inspiration: Taking the Leap of Faith http://expeditionportal.com/overland-inspiration-taking-the-leap-of-faith/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-inspiration-taking-the-leap-of-faith/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 10:00:25 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=39282 Society tells us to be cautious with our lives and live by a set of rules laid out for generations. Work hard in primary school to make it to college, work hard in college to get a good career, work hard in your career to make it to retirement, and once you’re grey, then you can enjoy life. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us don’t fit this mold. We dream of a life on the road, finding new friends and experiences wherever we stop along the way, but the lack of stability is a scary thought. Instead we wait; for that next bonus, that reason to quit, or a life altering event to give us an excuse.

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For James Barkman, an aspiring 22 year old photographer, this model of thinking didn’t work. He realized that often times the perfect conditions will never arise, that’s why it’s called a leap of faith. If you don’t make the jump, you’ll never know what awaited you. Of course things don’t always go as planned, but it will certainly be an adventure along the way. Check out the full video below for a little more inspiration from the Praemio channel.

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Field Tested: The EFOY GO! — An Overland Power Pack http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-the-efoy-go-an-overland-power-pack/ http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-the-efoy-go-an-overland-power-pack/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 10:00:02 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38626 Time to switch the approach to autonomous electrical supply: our dependence upon electricity to power lighting, equipment, refrigeration, communications, etc. cannot be ignored. Solar is not practical in every hemisphere, even less so when the skies are clouded. A generator is cumbersome, noisy, smelly, uses valuable fuel reserves and (if positioned out of earshot) prone to theft. So what’s the alternative?

 

Fuel cells and lithium-ion power packs sound like unobtainable technology, a portable power system best reserved for NASA and Antarctic explorers. However, recent developments in both government funded research and private enterprises have made the future accessible today. Critically, a power pack and accompanying fuel cell provides an independent source of 12v and 230v power for adventure travel, powering communications, photographyic equipment and even the cold beer in the fridge. For this review, we explore the EFOY GO!, a lithium power pack that can be supported by EFOY’s fuel cells.

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Toward the end of summer 2015, I contacted SFC to discuss their most recent addition to the family, EFOY GO!. I had already seen the compact power pack at shows, read some reports and followed their page on Facebook. All the facts and features pointed toward a useful piece of gear and my expectations were high. SFC Energy AG is a German company with its head office in Brunnthal, close to Munich. Now celebrating their 10th anniversary, SFC has established themselves as a world leader of alternative mobile energy solutions and, with a series of awards under their belt, the company continues to develop state-of-the-art technology providing not only solutions for industrial applications, but also highly portable, robust and affordable power sources for those of us who take our traveling seriously and yearn for improved autonomy.

 

Under the brand EFOY, fuel cells can be found all over the world reliably supplying electricity in harsh environments such as Antarctica, or providing backup power supplies for early warning systems in geologically sensitive areas. With their field experience, the company continues to lead their market whilst also bringing portable power to yacht owners, mobile home owners and overland travelers who depend upon their vehicles and equipment in some of the most remote terrain and demanding conditions on the planet, being treated with an equal level of importance as water purification filters.

 

I should point out at this stage that one of my vehicles of choice is a patina-laden 1963 Series 2A Land Rover Station Wagon — a vehicle that is largely devoid of the comforts you expect to find listed under standard equipment in sales brochures. No aircon, no … in fact, nearly nothing. Four-wheel drive, high and low ratio gearbox, brakes that make you think well ahead, steering that ensures you remain alert at all times and ample space for people and gear, all housed in the unmistakeable classic body with its close set headlamps. But that’s what I look for: ‘if you haven’t got it, it can’t go wrong’ technology that has taken our forefathers to every corner of the globe and got them home safely. Speed is not the essence of getting me to my destination, rather the journey itself and venturing away from the populated regions. With that in mind and curiosity in my hands, a review of the performance and practicality of EFOY was kindled.

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With a trip planned to Sicily during the early autumn when temperatures still easily soar above the 30°C mark, running a fridge is important to keep food fresh and beer cold; not to mention supporting a small array of electronic equipment. As far as on-board electronics are concerned the Land Rover is fitted with a powerful OPTIMA battery for the sole purpose of reliable starting and satisfying the minimalistic demands the vehicle presents. I have designed an independent ‘domestic’ circuit to power creature comforts without relying on the vehicle’s electronics. However, the installation is not planned until mid 2016. As such, the EFOY GO! was a welcome companion for the long drive from Cologne to Bari where I met my family two and half days after my departure, before our journey across Italy, the Strait of Messina and onward to the south coast of Sicily.

 

The tasks expected of the power cell on this trip were clear: it had to run the Webasto compressor fridge (posing the biggest drain on reserves), the iPad tracking apps which ran all day, my GPS navigation, and maintain a full charge for my phone in case of emergencies. Nothing presenting any problems for a more aptly equipped vehicle. But things become more challenging when you consider travelling in something found in the history books and without the option to recharge the GO! via an alternator or shore supply. Stopping overnight on camping sites was not part of my plan on this first leg, so the capacity was put to the test with great results. By manipulating the consumption of the fridge (ensuring gaps between the contents were filled and turning it off during a very cold night in the Alps), I was able to stretch the lithium cell for close to three days.

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About the EFOY GO!

So, what’s in the box? A user manual, a mains power adapter, a 12v car adapter and the EFOY GO! battery pack. Essentially, the pleasantly designed and robust plastic case is packed with the latest lithium technology and an inverter. On the front panel there are:

  • a 230v socket for use with accessories of up to a maximum of 400w
  • a 12v socket
  • two USB sockets
  • Power in for the supplied 230v / 12v charging adapter
  • Power in for an EFOY fuel cell
  • On/off switch for the 230v socket
  • On/off switch for the 12v socket and USBs
  • LEDs to monitor the charge status of the battery

 

Other than that, the GO! is truly plug-and-play as well as being an absolutely silent and emission-free solution. Silent that is, except when it is charging from a main supply and the cooling fan switches on, but let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to use it as a pillow. So if you are charging at night, keep it at a precautionary distance for undisturbed sleep.

 

How has the EFOY GO! influenced my travel during the last six thousand km? Well, as I think I have made apparent, my vehicle is currently sparsely equipped, making the EFOY GO! an ideal accessory. Weighing just 5.8 kg (12.8 lbs) and measuring a mere 28.6 x 18.6 x 20.1 cm, the unit is compact making it easy to stow in any car, truck or boat. I wouldn’t want to miss the GO! on a future trip because it has proven a highly valuable backup and is great for recharging appliances or providing power even outside the car without the need for extension leads for people to trip over.

 

I would also like to shed some light on something that probably won’t spring to mind for a lot of us. There are an ever increasing number of people who have enjoyed the outdoor life for many years now, and due to health issues such as sleep apnea or COPD, they are hindered from getting away from enjoying a night under the stars by their dependence upon electrical medical aids. EFOY GO! is a solution for bridging the gap and making the inconceivable possible by powering that equipment. This power cell met my expectations during the trip to Sicily and remains my choice for future trips. On that note, do check the technical specifications for both products to determine their compatibility. www.efoy-go.com

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In a nutshell: the EFOY GO! is a practical, safe, easy to use portable power source for 230v, 12v and USB, fulfilling all the manufacturer’s claims and representing excellent value for money. Whether you require highly portable power-to-go for professional or recreational purposes, you are going to have to look long and hard for a comparable alternative.

 

Price: some people may baulk at the manufacturer’s recommended retail price of €899 (including VAT and shipping), but lithium batteries are expensive, and German engineering and manufacturing quality always comes at a cost.

 

So now you’re probably asking yourself ‘what about the fuel cell?’. Well, the EFOY Comfort comprises the center of my domestic-circuit, the installation of which commences as this review goes live. Watch this space for the next installment!

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A2A Expedition: How can you afford to travel the world overland? http://expeditionportal.com/a2a-expedition-how-can-you-afford-to-travel-the-world-overland/ http://expeditionportal.com/a2a-expedition-how-can-you-afford-to-travel-the-world-overland/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 07:36:26 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=39270 Back in 2011, while planning our cross continental overland journey, we came to the realization that we would most likely exhaust our resources in the pursuit of our dream. We were faced with a difficult decision to either commit and continue, or play it safe and abandon the idea completely and head home. If we did that, we could continue running our successful immigration firm and undertake month long trips once a year with regular camping trips to keep the overland addiction at bay. This was the sensible option, the safe and logical thing to do. It was also the option we eventually chose to ignore.

The overlanding addiction, however, was too powerful to ignore, the craving persistent and distracting, we were consumed completely by this one dream. The solution was to accept that we would have to reinvent ourselves and become proficient in many new skills. We had been financially successful in a country where we had to make your own opportunities and that we could do it again. We had to believe in ourselves and our potential.

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Four years later we were holed up in a comfortable little $15 a day cottage nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes, just south of Cuenca. I was putting the finishing touches to our first book, We Will Be Free, looking back at the trials and tribulations, the disasters and triumphs. Our young family had recently circumnavigated South America in our Land Rover. How many people can say that? I was proud of that accomplishment and of the book it birthed. No matter what happens in the future, those are two things which can never be taken away from us. Despite the satisfaction of those accomplishments, the cold, hard reality was that our resources were under pressure. The South African Rand had lost 60% to the Dollar since we had left home and we still had the drive across Central and North America, up to Alaska and back down.

The United States received us warmly, with open arms.  Americans were intrigued by our Land Rover and strange accents and astounded by our lack of tact as political correctness has not yet made it to South Africa.  We immediately felt at home, but somehow we knew that Baja, Mexico was going to be the soil upon which we would metamorphose into professional, full time travellers. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, Mexico is much more flexible in terms of visas. Secondly, it is often only at the end of a life changing journey that the lessons are learned and given sufficient time for reflection. It has always been that way for me. Writing that first book in Ecuador was a therapeutic and it changed my life, but we still had many miles to travel and a lot to learn.

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The first rule of success in business is to keep your overheads low and profits high. This strategy had always worked well for us and it serves as the backbone of our current financial philosophy. We have few responsibilities and almost no debt, having severed those umbilical cords before leaving South Africa in 2012. We can get by with very little and do not need much more than what we have. No, we are not hippy, vegan, communists. If we were we would be driving an old VW van (I am kidding of course!), not a Defender, but we do value experiences over possessions. The trick is to live cheaply without becoming a moocher and without lowering your standards for good living. House sitting is a great option for a long term traveller to get off the road for a while, get some work done, reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Luisa found a house sitting gig in Baja, taking care of a small ranch up in the San Pedro de Martir mountains. The ranch is completely off grid, has a small holiday cottage and campsite for guests and a four mile 4×4 only track leading up from the main, paved road. Our nearest neighbour lives six miles away and at night the heavens are full of stars. Our days are spent either taking care of the ranch, cutting wood, taking care of the solar and water system, growing vegetables and maintaining the grounds or working on two new books.

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The one book is a sequel to We Will Be Free and the other is an overlander guide, how to do what we have done while making far fewer mistakes. We paid the school fees so you don’t have to. We are also setting up merchandising opportunities, writing articles, selling photographs and looking into gear sponsorship and reviewing. The income from the work we are doing here on the ranch will hopefully be sufficient to fuel our planned journey across the planet, living rough but living free. It is a gamble of course. Russia may invade Turkey, NATO may retaliate, and Europe may once again be obliterated. The aliens could turn off their invisibility shields and mine the oxygen out of our atmosphere and the water from our oceans. People could stop reading books and rely on Buzzfeed and Netflix for entertainment and inspiration. All of those scenarios are equally horrifying.

We will do our best and if that fails there is always bank robbery or teaching English in Brazil. Either way we achieve our dreams. The addiction to travel is more wicked than ever but we now at least have the privilege of experience and know our dreams are completely attainable if we continue to focus on the future and work hard.

 

If you are a long termer like us and need a break from the road you may want to look into house sitting opportunities. Check out the following international websites:

www.trustedhousesitters.com

www.mindmyhouse.com

www.nomador.com

www.housecarers.com

www.housesittersamerica.com

www.luxuryhousesitting.com

 

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Overland Expo West 2016: The Mobile Abodes http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-2016-the-mobile-abodes/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-2016-the-mobile-abodes/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 07:41:48 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=39233 Overlanding in its many forms is in a constant state of flux. A few years ago the all-terrain trailer was at its peak popularity. This year’s Overland Expo proved that the live-aboard platform is gaining momentum with an increasing number of manufactures and travelers choosing to package their home and wheels into one mobile abode.

Although the Unimog, Unicat and Earthroamer are lust worthy things, they are massive in size, get single-digit fuel efficiency and fetch eye watering prices. The introduction of the 4WD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter platform last year has opened many doors for the live-in traveler as has the slide-in camper.

 

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Although it was trailered to the show this Hummer could likely conquer most trails you throw at it, provided it isn’t a narrow trail.

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This Unimog had an ever persistent crowd of onlookers. The “For Sale” sign in the window probably had a lot to do with the collective interest, but few even bothered to ask – how much. As the saying goes, if you have to ask….

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Roam is a new entry into the custom van business and their Sprinter looked fantastic.

 

 

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Overland Expo West: Day 3 http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-west-day-3/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-west-day-3/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 05:16:42 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=39079 It’s hard to believe that Overland Expo is already over, but after three awesome days the event has drawn to a close. Travelers and manufacturers came in from every corner of the globe to share their products and ideas, and everyone walked away with some new knowledge, experiences, and friends friends. It’s never really possible to summarize this eclectic group with a few words, so we’re posting just one more random gallery from the wonderful weekend here in Flagstaff Arizona. We hope you enjoy looking at this stuff as much as we did!

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Overland Expo West 2016 Day 2: Two Wheeled Adventure http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-2016-day-two-two-wheeled-adventure/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-2016-day-two-two-wheeled-adventure/#comments Sat, 21 May 2016 23:03:42 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=39047 Every spring, like a swarm of bees, they descend on an open meadow outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. They are the adventure riders of Overland Expo. With tags and stickers designating states from coast to coast and far beyond, they have come from thousands of miles away, their riding suits often sullied and, as I know from my own riding experience, probably a little ripe smelling.

As they have done every year since the first Overland Expo, they showed up in force to camp in their tiny tents on the fringes of the motorcycle venue. Some came to see old friends and to make new riding buddies and talk about trips past and future. Some came to hone their skills under the tutelage of the highly regarded instructors of RawHyde Adventures. All of them will eventually walk the row of vendors on scene to see what new products have arrived in time for the new riding season.

With some of the best riding terrain in the entire country just on the edge of the expo, hordes of riders will leave in waves as organized group rides launch several times a day. If you are a motorcycle traveler and didn’t make your way to the cool pines of Arizona for this event, you better put it on your calendar for next year.

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Two Wheeled Nomad: Killing it in Death Valley http://expeditionportal.com/two-wheeled-nomad-killing-it-in-death-valley/ http://expeditionportal.com/two-wheeled-nomad-killing-it-in-death-valley/#comments Sat, 21 May 2016 07:21:18 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38087 For sure, I read all the amusing Burma Shave advertisements from decades past—popping up on the roadside every few hundred yards, in between several pit stops on the Mother Road that is Route 66.  Scanning the sanguine slogans: “If you want a hearty squeeze, get our female anti-freeze”, “Pedro walked back home, by golly his bristly chin was hot-to-Molly” and the finale for me—Don’t lose your head to gain a minute, you need your head your brains are in it”, kept me riding miles of smiles.

Nipping into Nevada, Las Vegas saw the start of things to come: feasting until I was full as a tick on a hound dog.  Accompanying our new crew—a four man-strong seasoned expedition team in the business of overlanding and mapping unexplored areas, the irony of losing our whereabouts inside the park’s 3,000 square miles wasn’t altogether lost on me.  Still, Jason and I would be riding alongside two fully featured and breathtakingly equipped 4x4s.  Despite the vultures searching for carrion overhead, plunging into Death Valley alongside what felt like our personal support team for five days, gave me the confidence needed to get out there and kill it.

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Venturing into the national park from the south—the hottest, driest and lowest land in North America, which straddles Nevada and California east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains—we wended our way towards Shoshone, a town in Inyo County.  Impassable washes immediately prevented us from taking the faster route deeper into the interior, where diverting onto an off road route had ill-prepared me for just how soon I would need to jolt my muscle memory.

Let’s just take it easy on this road surface lottery; stabilising with a little gas is one thing but crashing in the thick, loose gravel is going to smart a lot less at my preferred snail’s pace, than 35 miles per hour even.  When contested on the point, Jason replied in a tone of willing but almost wearied patience.  Like a teacher facing his ten thousandth unpromising student, it must have felt like trying to knock down a concrete wall with his head.  I’m exhausting, I know.

“Please Lisa, just promise me you’ll stay in second gear once we head down this trail and give it the tiniest amount to stay positive when it feels twitchy,” he pleaded.  Knowing he was referring to both the gas as much as my temperament didn’t take a lot to unravel.  “Basically, you just need to suck it up, I can’t ride your bike for you,” was his pragmatic conclusion.  Looking back, I think it’s the reason you never hear the phrase ‘male intuition’.

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Impulsive thoughts veered my mind into strange territory: sneaky paddling or stealth walking my motorcycle came at me with speed and brawn.  Outmaneuvering and muscling out all other ideas, corralling me into a desperate corner.  But because the resultant outcome would royally slow us all down, to the point of stifling the expedition, such ideas lacked stamina and withered into a flimsy flirtation.

Off the map, my mind wandered into no man’s land—miles away from my muscle memory.  I’d run out of mental highway, the black dog of despair biting at my heels.  Fear steadily colonised my body so I dug a cave inside my head and hid inside.  Coaxed out and heartened however by Scott’s reinforced offer of riding my motorcycle over the technical sections.  It was the stone rolling back from the cave I needed to galvanize me into ‘Can do’ mode and spurred me on.

Pearl, we’re up!  But not you sweetie, you’re going down.  While Scott, the expedition leader strongly recommended that we air down, reducing our tyre pressures was something Jason had only paid mind to momentarily.  Honestly, he hadn’t wanted to invite a pinch flat caused by the inner tube getting “pinched” between the tyre and rim, out in the middle of nowhere.  Particularly when water is always in limited supply on two wheels.  Nor did Jason really believe it would make a significant difference in traction.  Mmn, it made the world of difference.

There are some bikes you come to trust implicitly. Pearl (my F650GS) is that kind of bike—a pathfinder not afraid of cracking.  She had long learned to dance the dance, she just needed a half-decent partner.  Her dancing is something to see.  And her sense of timing never misses a beat.  Her hips sway with a voluptuous certainty more graceful than clumsy, and her wheels cut their own brisk, surprising pattern through the tracks and washes.

After day one of the expedition, I knew categorically, more by feel and sixth sense than by appearance, Pearl imparted to the sandy gravel itself a sense of sureness and a generosity of spirit.  She exuded poise as much as purpose that took me in, urging to keep her steady on the twisting trails.  She told me just by the touch of her handlebar grips and reassuring body to which my knees assertively squeezed.  Despite fishtailing, we weren’t squirming.  Instead, the pair of us sewed our way around the hem of a rah-rah skirt of a route through Death Valley, without fraying any nerves.

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If you have been in its presence on two wheels then you know how anything loose commands your respect.  Trembling with fatigue or something a lot more human, thank goodness for adrenaline I thought.  And Larry, who seamlessly replenished my hydration levels while plying me with calorific energy bars.  Nutritiously delicious, if they’re good enough for the prized horses and dogs on his ranch, they’re good enough for me.

While the landscape is mostly bereft of plants and its climate severely lacks precipitation, Death Valley still displays incredible biodiversity.  Wild burros, red-tailed hawks and bighorn sheep can all be spotted without too much squinting into the distance; there are lizards scurrying all over; myriad birdlife and hundreds of springs and pools magnetizing the wildlife.  Not to mention areas home to forests of cottonwoods, willows and Joshua trees.  Moreover, when conditions are smack dab perfect, Goldilocks’ ‘just right’ no less, optimal rainfall combined with water from the regular snowmelt, contribute towards a once-in-a-decade super-bloom.

The odds of us witnessing such wonderment when the last one was reported to have occurred 11 years ago by the Los Angeles Times, wasn’t wasted on me.  When the earth warms slowly enough to meet the seed’s criteria in sprouting from deeply watered soil, coupled with a moist, El Niño weather pattern supplying a lifeline to the wild flowers, Death Valley becomes carpeted in magnificent meadows.  Beavertail cacti and Mojave Aster to name a couple magically spring to life.  Or so we’d heard.

But lo!—our timely arrival saw the tail end of Globemallow, a smattering of pretty reddish orange patches over the ground, far greener than expected.  The warm breeze fanned the Desert Gold flowers until they waved like a blanket of gold.  Implausibly that afternoon, Death Valley’s sparse backyard looked ripe with nascent possibilities.  If the future was a nation, this would be its flag: a blooming meadow amid a landscape of green.  The rare floral phenomenon in such a deep, arid desert basin, where the valley’s native plants had somehow managed to explode by the field load, blew my mind to bits in the process.

Having wove our way past Pahrump and onto Green Water Valley Road via dirt tracks and stony trails, we made camp.  Clusters of dust from the desert erupted in a fine spray that pirouetted around us as we sat watching the sun melt into the mountains.  Bright and early the following morning saw us back on the bitumen for a brief resupply at Furnace Creek; the spot in possession of the world’s hottest record at 134 degrees (dating back to 1913).

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Wheels singing to a song of an off road route, a 4,000 feet climb to more bearable temperatures and a long, straight series of sharp gravelly dips led us to Panamint Butte, on a spur road off Panamint Springs.  Battered by the elements and in need of a little polish, an old Cadillac sat adjacent to an old classic roof topped vehicle, just as clapped out and corroded.  Even the cars succumb to the Death Valley’s unforgiving nature.  In the very dreamy and earthly locale in which I now found myself, I perched on the wing of the sandblasted Cadillac before easing myself into its interior filled with rusting springs, jagged edges and sand.

As I lay on the moon-whitened desert floor, I paused to shine my dying beam of flashlight on whatever the dark couldn’t gobble up.  In every direction, the sere landscape stretched out featurelessly and farther than the eye could see.  Tired, I sank like a stone into sleep.

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The first pale fingers of light pried open my eyes.  I awoke to the sight of a pink dawn washing over the cars, our camp, rock and desert.  Post a dip into Salt Creek, a mile-long depression in the heart of the valley that supports pupfish, the morning saw us descend upon Badwater Basin.  A dry lakebed next to a spring-fed pool of salts from the neighbouring basin, giving rise to the name and leaving the water far from potable.  Standing at the lowest point in North America, we had plummeted 282 feet below sea level.

A moment where we just stopped and put down the cameras.  Looking up into the snowy mountains standing guard in the day’s searing heat, we absorbed our surroundings—pleased and perspiring in over 100 degrees—and mouthed “Wow”.  Perhaps the last place I stood that completely bowled me over.

Heading north, we pressed on past Beatty Junction and Stove Pipe Wells aiming for Death Valley’s hot springs, a closer encounter with the iconic sand dunes and Lippincott Mine Road leading to Racetrack Valley, only to come to an abrupt halt.  Rudely interrupting a wilderness of fun, Jason’s moto took a turn for the worse.  The stator’s waning ability to charge the motorcycle battery left much and more to be desired.  But aside from periodically riding my bike back to meet his, whose connecting leads transferred power into the engine and took some of the horsepower out of Jason’s frustration, there wasn’t much I could do.

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With the support of our two chase trucks, the team deposited us safely back into civilization at Lone Pine where the washing machine, hot water and a fresh change of clothes became my new objects of desire.  For us, the remainder of the expedition would have to wait; Death Valley had claimed Jason’s stator but at least we’d live to die another day.  I guess that was the way of it: the Pearl riders roll on, the vultures keep circling and it’s imperative that venturing deep into Death Valley isn’t to be taken lightly.

 

Follow the ride by clicking the banner below:

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Overland Expo West 2016: Day 1 http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-west-2016-day-1/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-west-2016-day-1/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 23:57:47 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38922 It’s been just over a year since “Snowverland Expo”, and to say this event is back and better than ever would be an understatement. The weather is warm and sunny, the crowds are bustling from booth to booth, and the smell of food and sounds of laughter are in the air. We walked around and shot just a few of the great vehicles in the vendor section today, and feel strongly that it might be the most impressive showing yet. From LS motor International Scouts to G-Wagen ambulances and Unimogs, there is something for everyone here. In all honesty it would take all weekend to list the great equipment on display, so instead just sit back, relax, and enjoy the photos. Check back tomorrow when we focus on cool gear, accessories, and of course more trucks!

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Company Profile: Nemo Equipment http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-nemo-equipment/ http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-nemo-equipment/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 07:00:44 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38871 The mission of the industrial designer is essentially to make existing products––better. That sounds simple enough, but few companies embrace that objective with as much zeal as Nemo Equipment of Dover, New Hampshire. Known throughout the outdoor industry as the vanguard of innovation, their ever expanding catalog showcases a level of forward thinking that is unfortunately, all too rare.

 

The genesis of the Nemo brand goes back more than a decade when company founder Cam Brensinger crawled into his bivy sack while climbing New England’s Mount Washington. With the peak’s infamous winds whipping at the nylon fabric, he struggled to get comfortable and wondered why a more habitable sleep system wasn’t available. He spent that night conceptualizing a better shelter solution and in the process laid the foundations for Nemo Equipment.

The manifestation of Cam’s tormented night on Mount Washington was a new tent design which utilized inflatable support beams in lieu of poles. Nemo’s Air Support Technology (AST) took the outdoor world by storm, garnered awards, and set a new standard of design that still resonates throughout the company today. Instead of simply reproducing the sleeping pad as it had been done before, they built one with an integrated foot pump. Breaking free of the traditional sleeping bag format, they carefully researched how people sleep and created at a spoon-shaped bag with a unique blanket fold. If you have yet to use Nemo’s pressurized Helio portable shower, you’re really missing out. It seems that every time they launch a new product the collective response is, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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Every company has to design to a particular end game. For some that means hitting a price point or cutting as many grams as possible. For the Nemo team, their efforts focus on the user experience and how a given product can make being in the outdoors more enjoyable. They scrutinize every tiny detail and it shows in the final product.

Another hallmark of the Nemo ethos is their willingness to design for niche markets. Whereas most brands pander only to the masses, Nemo is not afraid to address smaller outdoor segments like the nascent pursuit of bikepacking. One of their early shelters, the Moto 2P, was geared towards the adventure motorcycle audience and still has a loyal following. I’m sure most of you have seen the palatial Nemo tent perched atop AT Overland’s Habitat system.

Although it is a small company by many standards, Nemo’s products have become ubiquitous in the backcountry and used to access some of the most remote corners of the globe. From the South Pole to the immensity of the Mongolian steppes our Overland International team has used Nemo products on all seven continents. We use at least one Nemo product on every outing and for good reason––we trust them.

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Equally adept at conquering high peaks as well as the local state park, Nemo has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast. After visiting their headquarters in New Hampshire and meeting their small but growing staff, I can see what makes them so successful. The people of Nemo love the outdoors as much as anyone.

For years the outdoor industry languished with innovation moving at a glacial pace––if at all. That has all changed in the last few years as competing brands scramble for consumer dollars. With each successive season, new products are released placing higher demands on the designers and engineers at Nemo. Proving they’re up to the challenge, they manage to keep tempo and stay a step ahead, and it all started with a windy night on the flanks of New England’s tallest peak.

 

Nemo Equipment’s Head Quarters

After visiting Nemo’s facility in the beautiful hamlet of Dover, New Hampshire, it is evident that New England factors heavily into the brand’s culture. The mountains of New England provide the team ample opportunity to escape into the woods to test existing products and vet new designs. From their main offices they can create prototypes and evaluate new tents, bags,, and pads in a controlled environment.

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Cam explains the Nemo design process and how they often employ materials not commonly used in the outdoor industry.

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The on-site workshop allows the team to quickly create the fixtures and furniture used in the office and at trade shows. 

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Their custom-built rain chamber is used to simulate torrential downpours to test the weather resistance of their many tents. Wind testing is occasionally performed at a nearby testing grounds, the summit of Mount Washington where it all began.

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The in-house photo studio allows new products to be quickly added to the company website.

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Nemo’s products are designed and built for the rigors of hard use. As such, warranty claims are well below the industry average and repairs are carefully evaluated to assess if improvements need to be implemented. 

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It all starts with an idea. Test samples are made, evaluated, altered, and eventually tested where it matters most––in the backcountry.

 


 

To learn more about Nemo Equipment, click on the banner below:

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Hema Explorer Released for North America http://expeditionportal.com/hema-explorer-released-for-north-america/ http://expeditionportal.com/hema-explorer-released-for-north-america/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 19:30:26 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38889 For many people today, maps are just a way to find the nearest Starbucks, but for those inclined to wander they are as enchanting as any treasure. For us, the roads and topography are more than just features drawn in ink, but glimpses of adventures to mountain lakes, or the perilous shelf roads of long forgotten tracks. Of course these sorts of things don’t just show up on your average gas station map, and often times finding these great routes required changing from map source to map source to find our way. Thankfully, due some big news from Hema Maps, that may all be changing.

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As of this morning, Hema has officially released their North American Explorer app. This navigation tool is based on the same tried and tested platform used by thousands of travelers in Australia, but it has now been focused on four-wheel drive tracks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It features an easy to use interface with plenty of planning and recording options including QuickRouting, folder organization of waypoints and tracks, geotagged photos, real time offline tracking on your device, and of course a range of offline map layers which can be overlaid and switched to give you a full picture of the area.

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For us though, the big difference is Hema’s Explorer Cloud. This system allows you to upload and store all of your planned trips, recorded routes, and photos to their well established online database. From there you can make them public, send them to friends, or be greedy and keep them to yourself. The best part though, is that once you have become a cloud member (for free), you can search and download any track made public by other users FOR FREE. Hey, did we mention all those tracks are free? We love this community sharing concept and have already seen how it encourages people to get out and enjoy nature without the fear of getting lost.

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In addition to all the routes published by other users, you also get access to the trips completed by the Overland International and Hema Maps teams. So far they include several tracks from Texas to the California coast and even a route all the way to the Arctic Ocean, but they’ll soon be joined by two huge additions; New Mexico to the Arctic Circle, and Prudhoe bay to Cabo San Lucas. Each will be available in state by state sections where you can see the American, Canadian, and Mexican back country by dirt roads.

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With all these resources and the global sharing community, their app store price of $19.99 seems like one heck of a deal to us. It is currently available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple watch, with Android smart phones and tablets to be released very soon. We’re hearing rumors of the next few weeks.  To learn more about the app or make the purchase, check it out here on the app store, or read more on its features and capabilities here. 

 

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The Land Cruiser Heritage Museum http://expeditionportal.com/the-land-cruiser-heritage-museum/ http://expeditionportal.com/the-land-cruiser-heritage-museum/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 07:42:22 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38827 Tucked away in an unassuming Salt Lake City, Utah warehouse is an extensive collection of Toyota Land Cruisers – The Land Cruiser Heritage museum. This project is Greg Miller’s labor of love, and the result is truly impressive. I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the facility from Kurt Williams of Cruiser Outfitters (cruiseroutfitters.com) and took a few pictures to share with the ExPo crowd.

The collection covers everything from the first Land Cruisers that looked more Willies than FJ, to some brand new 70 series straight from Japan.

1 LC Museum FJ25

 

Years of Land Cruiser evolution is represented, starting with some clean examples of the 40 and 50 series, as well as a few rust free 60 series.

13 LC Museum Basic BJ70

This basic BJ70 was used as a Japanese country club vehicle. When I say basic, I mean it has only an AM radio and no tach – but I think I could live with that, right?

 

One of my favorite things about the museum is that some of the trucks have obviously lived a great life.

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There’s a lot of 70s in the museum – but man, I would trade my Tacoma in a heartbeat for this Venezuela-spec soft top FJ73.

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The collection continues toward the present and includes every Land Cruiser from the Expeditions 7 adventure.

 

However, along the wall things get interesting…

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No, that’s not a Humvee that snuck into the museum, it’s a BXD10, otherwise known as a Mega Cruiser. Originally a military vehicle in Japan, this example was cut into quarters, shipped to the US as parts, then reassembled.

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Nearby you’ll find a PX10, a small SUV commissioned by Toyota in the 1990s and only produced in small quantities. Some say it may have tested the market for a later retro/modern Toyota…

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Next to the Blizzards, you’ll find a Delta Mini Cruiser. These were handbuilt in the Phillippines using Toyota parts, and no two vehicles are exactly alike. This particular example made it to eastern Europe before joining the collection.

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And of course, if you look around long enough, you’ll find some easter eggs, like this lightly modified Proffitts crawler.

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Or this Frankenstein FJ45 that began life as a short bed, but was later modified to a troopy, with thermal and night vision to complete the owner’s dream bug out vehicle.

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And of course, the best section of the museum? The part you can take home.

 

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I wish I could have gone more in depth with every single Land Cruiser there – but it’s just one of those things you have to see in person. If you can, check out the museum when you’re in Salt Lake. There’s no way you’ll leave without a smile on your face and a renewed dedication to check for BJ73 funds in your bank account…

 

Visit www.landcruisermuseum.com to set up a tour or to learn more about the vehicles for sale.

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Turtleback Trailers – A Comprehensive Review http://expeditionportal.com/turtleback-trailers-a-comprehensive-review/ http://expeditionportal.com/turtleback-trailers-a-comprehensive-review/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 10:00:51 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=38634 Over the past ten years the off-road trailer industry has exploded in North-America. From the first home conversions of M416 trailers, nearly three dozen new companies have sprung up to produce their own version of an all-terrain tow-able. Each has a unique spin of course, low price, different suspension, cool shapes or colors, but by in large the concept has remained the same; a bare cargo box to be filled with gear and accessories. This setup is highly versatile and easy to recreate, but it lacks that degree of refinement and specialty which many people have come to expect in overland products.

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Dave Munsterman set out to change that with the Turtleback. Betting that many people didn’t really want an empty cargo bay, but rather something purpose built for luxury back country travel, he integrated a massive slide-out kitchen, compartmentalized storage areas, and all the amenities you would expect in a modern RV. Between the best practice assembly methods, high quality components, and painstaking attention to detail, the Turtleback has become one of our favorite trailers and basecamps.

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Building the Turtleback


 Before we get down into the details, there are two broad factors that truly set this trailer apart from many of its competitors. First, it was designed from the ground up with civilian camping use in mind, which means that the layout and functionality were the first priority, not afterthoughts. You won’t find a table that sort of fits in a corner and is difficult to take out, or an oddly placed compressor or water system bolted into place where cargo can smash it. There are no cooking surfaces at knee height or mounting brackets which rattle and shake over every bump, just a well meshed system of components that integrate smoothly together.

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Second, Turtleback is hopelessly focused on best practices for everything they do, and the reason is simple; experience. From building and wrenching on dune buggies and jeeps, to years of working in the RV industry, Dave has applied the culmination of his knowledge and hard learned lessons into these trailers. He only uses US made gxl wires with double crimp connectors because faulty wires left his dune buggy stranded in the desert. Rusted parts on VW’s taught him to always use stainless hardware, so each and every nut and bolt is rust resistant. After seeing water damage from busted pipes and connectors in RV’s, he opted for durable and expandable PRO-PEX lines despite their additional cost. Each step of this trailer’s design tells a story of improvement, and together they paint a clear picture of Dave’s dedication to quality.

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The Frame and Chassis

The key to making any great product is to start with a strong foundation, and an off-road trailer is no exception. That is why Turtleback’s process doesn’t begin on the shop floor, but in an office as a CAD (computer aided design) file. This type of program eliminates the guesswork when it comes to measurements, loads, and stress on components, allowing the product to be optimized before a single piece of steel is ever welded. Once the design is completed, it is dissected into components which are laser cut with accuracy between ten and thirty thousandths of an inch. This level of precision means that each piece of the trailer goes together easily on the first try, reducing production time and making the product more durable.

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Once the skeleton has been assembled, it leaves the shop to be professionally sealed. Since a standard powder coat or bedliner wouldn’t reach into every nook and cranny, a three step military grade process was chosen. It begins with a layer of rust inhibitor on every surface and caulk in every seam. Next a two part epoxy coating is applied on the top and bottom of the trailer, followed by a thick coat of Polyuria liner. After curing, a spray of UV protectant seals it against damage from the sun. Amazingly that is the abbreviated version of this process, and even more can be learned here.

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When the trailer finally makes it back to Turtleback’s facility, it begins the journey down their 5S production line. From attaching exterior panels to installing the electronics and water systems, every step is organized and clearly labeled. The process is clean and efficient, but more importantly it produces the same high quality product each time so the customer always gets what they paid for.

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 Living Systems and Accessories


 Building a great trailer on paper is one thing, but producing one that still performs well after hundreds of miles of washboards, stream crossings, and rocky climbs is another. Thankfully our borrowed unit had already seen years of use in the field, so we got a rare chance to see how it has held up under the tests of journalists and the wear of time.

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The Kitchen and Water System

Summary

Pros:

  • Tons of work space
  • Stylish Baltic Birch Cabinets
  • Many separate drawers for organized storage
  • 42 Gallon water tank
  • Good water pressure to faucet
  • Atwood water heater provides consistent hot water once warmed
  • Gas safety cut-off

Cons:

  • Top drawer slide detent wore out
  • Stove could use some more BTU’s
  • No fridge

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The first thing most people notice about the Turtleback is the kitchen, and for good reason. It is huge! Upon opening the back door you’ll immediately be greeted with two full width baltic birch drawers, each with sub drawers of their own. Additionally a stainless steel table can be deployed from the swing-out on the right to create the perfect space for chopping and mixing; while a thin cabinet on the door to your left holds bowls, cups, and other various sundries.

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In the main galley, the top drawer holds spices, canned goods, coffee, cutlery, and thanks to the removable dividers, darn near anything else. It slides in and out easily and is the perfect height for most small containers. Our only gripe with this part was the lack of slide-locks, which allowed the drawer to creep out when the trailer was slanting down in the rear. It does have a detent to hold it back, but the countless hard miles endured by this test model had taken their toll and ours no longer functioned.

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The lower slide out contains the backbone of this kitchen, the stove and sink. Of the two, the sink seemed to be everyone’s favorite feature, as it made cooking out of the trailer feel just like home. Sure it wastes more water, but with a 42 gallon tank you won’t be running out anytime soon. I found that we filled water bottles more often, cleaned dishes faster and more thoroughly, and even started making tea on occasion, but I have to say that it was the small daily task of washing my face that completely sold me on it. There’s nothing like turning on the faucet for a quick splash of water in the morning instead of having to pour it out of a container one handed.

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The water pump provided good pressure and didn’t spit or cough with air bubbles, and we’ve been told it won’t burn up when run dry. For cold morning and warm showers, Turtleback also tied in an Atwood heater for hot water on demand. Although it took about twenty minutes to get going, it was very effective once on. In fact with the small amount of propane needed to run it you can actually heat the trailer’s entire water supply overnight to prevent it from freezing.

The only minor issue we found was that the original pump used in this trailer was noisy, making early morning or late night use somewhat irritating to those sleeping in the tent. However, newer models have a quieter pump eliminating the issue.

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I’ll be honest and say that the stove didn’t overwhelm us like the rest of the kitchen. It’s a two burner Atwood unit, and in most cases it is adequate but average. Eggs and bacon cook easily enough in the morning, chicken will grill up okay though it takes longer, and overall there just never seems to be more than medium heat available. The most painfully obvious test of this was boiling water to make coffee in the morning, a time when twenty minutes feels like twenty hours. In general the stove can get any cooking job done, it will just take a bit longer to do it. 

We have been told that a new upgraded kitchen and stove setup will be unveiled at Overland Expo West next week, and based on the rumored components we couldn’t be more excited!

 

One thing we loved about the stove setup was the auto-cutoff safety feature. With the upper drawer so close to the stove’s flame when deployed, Turtleback decided to wire in a switch that disabled the gas when the shelf above the stove slid out. Thankfully they included an override switch If you have to access the spice rack while cooking. Simply hold the button next to the stove and the gas will stay on while you slide it out and grab what you need.

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Over all there was only one thing I felt the kitchen lacked and that was a fridge. While you can mount one in the storage area, it eats up a lot of cargo room. Dave’s thoughts are that the fridge should remain in your vehicle to stay with you on day trips, a good point. Often times we leave the trailer setup as a base-camp while exploring, and it stinks to leave your food and beer back at camp. For most people this works fine, but for those who can’t mount a fridge in their vehicle due to lease plans, or others that just want everything in a ready to roll hitch and go package, no fridge might be a hard sell.

 

The Tent and Awning

Summary

Pros:

  • Thick poly cotton rip stop canvas
  • Tons of features you would find in a more expensive tent including stargazer roof, snow support rod, etc
  • Thicker mattress than most roof tents – 3″
  • Easy to stow with intuitive cover design and strong elastic fabric straps
  • 270 awning provides plenty of protection from rain

Cons:

  • Tent cover draped over storage box unless removed
  • Fox wing awning zipper was really tough
  • Awning was hard to deploy and stow
  • Awning color absorbed heat increasing temperature underneath

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Details

Our Turtleback came with a brand new 23 Zero roof top tent, features and specs can be seen here. As this was my first encounter with the brand I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can say that I walked away impressed. In nearly every way, this is the tent that bridges the gap between the low end roof top tents and the top of the line South African imports. Though I would say it ranges closer to the South African tents. Made of 260gsm poly cotton rip stop canvas it feels thick and sturdy with an air of classic safari comfort about it. It has all the features you would expect to find in a more expensive tent like covered support poles, a stargazer roof with mosquito mesh, elastic straps to pull the walls in, an adjustable rain fly, heat sealed seams, and even one feature I have never seen before, a snow support rod to prevent accumulation! My favorite feature though is the 3″ thick mattress, which feels downright plush in a tent.

Stowing and deploying a soft-shell will never be as easy as a hard shell, but this is probably the easiest one I have used so far. While most tents require plenty of tucks and folds to the fabric before placing the cover, this one never did. Whether its in the design or pure luck I’m not sure, but everything always went perfectly into place without the least bit of coaxing. The cover itself also helped speed things up, as one side of it remains attached so you can just pull it back on. The downside is that it lays across the trailer’s side storage box when the tent is open, but we can live with it for the savings in frustration.

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Unfortunately the awning didn’t impress us as much at the tent, but let’s start with the positives. The Foxwing 270° model wraps around the side and back of the trailer providing extensive cover for you and your guests. It is affordable compared to similar products on the market, and provides expansive shade from both rain and sun. Deployment is easy, and once staked down we found it to be quite sturdy even in moderate winds. It also has optional extension sides which allows you to close off the awning as a living space. My reservations with the awning extends to the zipper, poles, and cover. The zipper is undersized for the application, which not only causes it to clog and stick when dusty, but also makes it easy to break while closing everything up. The cover is too small for the packed awning, which forces you to shove and tuck repeatedly to stow the fabric properly. The support poles are relatively thin-walled, leading them to dent easily and once damaged they will not extend to support the awning. Of additional note, dark green fabric readily absorbed heat, radiating it down on the shade-seekers below. In the winter and on brisk mornings, this might be considered an advantage.

 

Storage

Summary

Pros:

  • Organized and compartmentalized storage, not a big empty cargo bed to fill
  • Easy to access lighting for nighttime illumination
  • “Junk” drawers for those pesky camp items that never have a place
  • 12v outlets inside main box
  • Storage for long or bulky items under roof rack
  • Very little dust incursion
  • Quality latches to hold doors open

Cons:

  • Seals will need to be re-seated after a few years (minor)
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Details

I mentioned earlier that the Turtleback set itself apart by not being an empty cargo box with parts thrown at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on space. Instead of leaving everything to rattle around in one box, this trailer separates it into four different areas. Up front you’ll find a large nose box with plenty of room to accommodate dirty gear you want to keep separated from other equipment. Your electronics system is here though so you’ll need to be careful about proper placement. Behind that you’ll find two boxes on the sides of the trailer, each perfect for wheel chocks, leveling blocks, paper towels, marshmallow roasting sticks, flip flops, and all that miscellaneous crud you never have a spot for. Then of course there is the main box, which will house the majority of your bags and equipment. Once again Turtleback is all about the details, and you’ll find interior lights wired to switches on both sides of the trailer, making it easy to see what you’re doing at any time of night. There were also three 12v outlets inside this compartment, which will allow you to charge computers, fridges, and other gear on the go.

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Now you are probably thinking, all my camp gear won’t fit in that small box… but by the time you’ve allocated all your cooking equipment to the kitchen, your sleeping bags and pillows to the tent, and your recovery gear to the vehicle, you’ll find that things are becoming quite organized and spacious in that bay. Additional storage is found underneath the roof rack where you can secure and long bulky items that require more length. Our test trailer had two huge lifetime tables, as well as room for oars and fishing poles.

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Despite our best attempts to get dust or water into the boxes, the seals remained tight throughout our trips even in storms and heavy silt. The one exception was a few tablespoons of water which made their way into the side box after extended direct pressure from a hose. This was not surprising, as any trailer’s seals will compress after extended off-road use. A quick adjustment was able to fix the issue and reseal the box.

 

Electronics

Summary

Pros:

  • Organized layout
  • Manual with full wiring diagram for easy modifications
  • Dual deep-cycle batteries for extended camp periods
  • High quality components and best practice connections give long term reliability
  • Excellent lighting system with high visibility and low ambient options

Cons:

  • None found

Details

Wiring a high quality electrical system can be a tricky business, and we’ve seen malfunctions ranging from failed lights to faulty switch panels plague trailers. To say Turtleback’s system was a breath of fresh air then would be an understatement. Two deep-cycle batteries, a solar controller, pure sine wave inverter, easy access circuit breaker, Blue Sea switches, panels, and fuse blocks, all connected with double-crimped heat shrunk USA made wiring. It makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it. Despite my love of their best practice wiring methods, there was something I appreciated even more, their organization and documentation. As you can below, everything was mounted in an easily serviceable location without a tangled mess of wiring. What’s more they created a full schematic of the trailer so no matter what issue you have or who works on it, you can simply look at the manual and know where everything is.

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With all that power there’s no reason to skimp on lighting, and skimp they did not. From bright LEDs on the sides and back of the box, to the soft underglow for maintaining night time visibility, this trailer has some of the most useful coverage we’ve seen. Ill admit that the green color on the underglow wasn’t my favorite, however it does make a lot of sense for their branding.

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Field Performance


 In the few weeks we had this trailer, our team covered close to 700 miles of dirt and pavement throughout Arizona. We traveled long stretches of corrugation, made steep and loose climbs, traversed icy passes, and tackled cross axle ravines to try and find every strength and weakness of this great trailer. In the end we were very pleased with it’s performance, but that doesn’t mean it was perfect.

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On the highway the Turtleback is very well mannered, and tracks with the vehicle flawlessly. The stout torsion suspension keeps it low and well balanced and the additional width helps to increase stability. Our test model’s tent sat just above the roof line of our 4Runner, so while there was some additional wind resistance it wasn’t as significant as taller trailers. The LED lights give it plenty of visibility to other drivers at night, and even large bumps in the road didn’t cause much of a disturbance in handling. The one drawback on the highway was weight. At 1300-1500lbs dry, it can become quite heavy when loaded with water and equipment. The 4Runner saw a mileage drop about equal to that incurred by our So-Cal teardrop, and it performed best around 55-65 mph.

 

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Off-road the Turtleback really settled into its groove and the weight became less noticeable. Forest roads were smooth without as much of the side to side motion we experienced with other torsion axle trailers. This is mostly thanks to their special vulcanized cartridge which is sprung to 2700lbs with 3500lb components. The lower weight rating gives it a softer ride while maintaining the durability and serviceability of the torsion platform. Each axle is held on with a simple bolt up system which can easily be swapped in the field in less than 30 minutes.

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On rough roads we did find the usual troubles with this style of axle. Rocks, dips, and bumps all tended to cause the trailer to bounce as the suspension was not able to compress quickly enough, and the lack of a shock limited the ability of the system to dampen and control the compression/rebound cycle. The result was less stability and more jolting of the trailer and cargo. Fortunately its low stance and reduced weight rating improved the ride when compared to every other torsion axle trailer we’ve tested, but it still limits your travel speed on the dirt.

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Though bumpy roads weren’t this trailer’s forte, it shined on technical terrain and cross axle ravines. The wide stance gave the it tons of stability on off-camber sections of trail, and the low weight distribution given by the water tank and other equipment just improved it further. Clearance was never an issue despite the lower body and fenders, and the tongue length seemed to be perfectly matched to our 4Runner. One of my common complaints with most trailers is their narrow track-width which makes it hard to place your tires on rocks properly or see when backing up. Turtleback seems to have nailed it though, as I was able to easily guide it between trees, around boulders, and over ledges with ease.

 

Final Thoughts

Although the Turtleback may look like other off-road trailers, I walked away with a very different impression. It felt more comfortable, we used the features and accessories more often, and I enjoyed myself more than I had with many other products. It took me a while to pinpoint why, but I think it’s because everything was so easy that it became a home on the trail. Instead of having to rip open boxes and bags to assemble our camp kitchen, we simply pulled two levers and a stove and sink were waiting for us. We weren’t fiddling with tiny camp utensils and tables, because we had the space to use whatever we wanted. Our clothes and gear was easy to locate inside because there were convenient light switches wherever we needed them, and best of all each component worked smoothly because it was designed to go there, not adapted to fit. The culmination of Dave’s attention to detail with his team’s hard work has created one of my favorite trailers to date. While it isn’t perfect, it is good enough that I miss using it every time I head out without it in tow. If you’re tired of the same old cargo box formula and are looking for a purpose built four-wheel drive touring trailer, you might just find it in a Turtleback.

 

For more information and pricing, check out Turtleback’s website and blog here. 

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