Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:53:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Tiktaalik Releases new products for the Land Rover Defenderhttp://expeditionportal.com/tiktaalik-releases-new-products-for-the-land-rover-defender/ http://expeditionportal.com/tiktaalik-releases-new-products-for-the-land-rover-defender/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:53:36 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26295 It would seem illogical for any startup company to make accessories specifically for a vehicle entering its final year of production, but Portland based Tiktaalik has recently released two new products aimed at the Land Rover Defender. To be fair, the Defender is one of the most coveted vehicles in the world, their owners willing to do anything necessary to keep them on the road. To that end, those owners need to protect their trucks from the hard knocks of travel and Tiktaalik’s new grill and light guards do just that.

Constructed of Type III anodized aluminum to resist warping and distortion, the Tiktaalik grill and light guards retain the utilitarian aesthetic of the classic Defender without sacrificing durability. The anodized finish resists fading and the mounting holes pair to the vehicles original mounting points for a quick and clean installation.

 

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For Tiktaalik’s founder Carl Jonsson, an expat Swede and long time industrial designer, these guards are a labor of love, or rather a love of his own Defender. Carl has an appreciation for the finer things within the overland world, which is why he also offers a full catalog of premium products from Alu-Box, OJOP, Benchmade and select items from Fjallraven amongst others.

 

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An industrial designer by trade, Carl has assembled a beautiful website full of stunning images, high quality products and a blog that promises to keep overlanders informed and entertained between their own forays into the wild. It’s nice to see such dedication to quality in the overland space and we look forward to following the adventures of Carl and his crew.

 

www.tikaalik.com

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36 Hours of Adventure – Exploring Washington’s Weirdest Islandhttp://expeditionportal.com/36-hours-of-adventure-exploring-washingtons-weirdest-island/ http://expeditionportal.com/36-hours-of-adventure-exploring-washingtons-weirdest-island/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 07:31:48 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26258 I almost forgot that Washington is not the year-round rideable state to which I’ve grown a great bitterness. It does at times offer a beautiful mid-winter’s day with the sun out and the skies blue, the temperature an outstanding 54 degrees. After weeks of relentless rain, I was stoked to jump on the XT and get the hell out of Dodge. Then Justin and I hit the freeway. There is nothing like riding 75 mph into strong headwind to remind us it’s damn cold. Nonetheless, we had been cooped up for way too long, and this was a rare opportunity to take out the bikes. And so began a 36 hour adventure to one of the weirder islands in the Puget Sound.

 

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In some places on Whidbey, or Weirdbey as it’s sometimes called, you can see the U.S. and Canada at the same time. The largest island in the county and home to a Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island was originally inhabited by the Lower Skagit, Swinomish, Suquamish, Snohomish and other native tribes. Not unlike most of the other islands in the Puget Sound, there isn’t a native left in sight. Instead, Whidbey seems to be a hotspot for elderly couples and bursting families in search of an easy getaway. The contemporary locals are proud of their ‘weird’ reputation and go above and beyond to display their oddities – which by no means is unpleasant.

Our first stop after a short but consistently brilliant ferry ride across the water was Langley, a quaint, kitschy town ten minutes from the ferry. The visit was met by large crowds of foot traffic because; unbeknownst to us, this weekend hosted some sort of amateur mystery festival. We hadn’t a “clue” (har, har) what was going on. Being the most orthodox town on the island, Langley boasts cute shops, 100 plus year-old establishments, a modern broad-spectrum cafe, pubs and a square-mile golf-cart zone (sans nearby golf course). All of that in addition to the fact the people are not shy about wearing costumes year-round. There’s not much for off-road exploration, but the highway extends for miles adjacent to the surrounding sea. The fresh smell of pine filled my helmet, not the familiar dull wafts of a Christmas tree dying in the living room, but sweet, pungent, water-rich scent of evergreen. I swore I smelled color. Or maybe, the icy cold of the day was freeze-drying my brain. Either way, where it lacks in excitement, it makes up in beauty.

 

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With the morning still young, we briefly met up with Justin’s father, the Captain. An accountant amidst his most busy season, he had made the trip to Whidbey as well, to get some locals’ taxes in order. We waited patiently in the stark white waiting room of the shoebox he uses for an office. Moments from heading out the door to eat, a local lady came through the door to have what turned out to be a confrontation;. a conversation not hidden from the other room. She introduced herself as the owner of the neighboring business in the complex, a space the Captain used to inhabit for a good 20 years. Long winded and without point, she went around in circles about an exaggerated $20 electric bill that he happily offered to pay. She then continued with some nonsensical rant, topping off with a “you haven’t even come by to check out my hair salon which is not very neighborly of you…” I beckoned Justin outside before my eye-rolls became so loud she could hear my irritation.

Finally free and famished, we headed to the new restaurant across the street and proceeded to consume the largest bowl of $10 mussels ever created and some burgers. The Captain inquiring on our lodging for the night informed us that recently, though not so surprisingly, Whidbey had passed a law stating that camping on the island outside of designated campgrounds is strictly forbidden. Even on private property. Typically, that wouldn’t be an issue because Fort Ebey has plush camping sites set against a watery green backdrop. Unfortunately for us, they didn’t open for another week. Scrambling for ideas and ready to break some rules, we searched for another option. Luckily, a friend of Justin’s had just moved to a “cabin” near Coupeville and would be happy to have us on his property, which worked out perfectly. We spent the rest of the day searching for single-track.

 

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The road off the highway leading to Christian’s cabin didn’t host a soul save for ours. Any last hint of light was disappearing into the tall evergreens. A “Private Road” sign approached. With shoulders shrugged, we went on and found a property that was completely unexpected. Setting up a tent in the dark is one thing. Setting one up in the dark, after riding down an incredibly steep decline and into a gully hidden by pine trees was a whole other thing. The property was vast; I mean acres upon acres vast. With our “mobile home” pitched, the trudge back up took our last bit of energy, but beer needed to be drank and stories needed to be exchanged, so trudge up we did.

 

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If the property was unexpected, the “cabin” itself was more so. The image we formed in our heads of this cabin was something humble, worn, and maybe quirky. This, however, was the literal definition of an architectural dream. Looming, practical, and extremely modern, the loft our privileged friend inhabited boasted efficiently used surface areas with radiant heated hardwoods throughout, a floor to ceiling expanse of artfully paneled windows, a one-wall kitchen layout with stainless steel appliances and counters, a full ceramic pedestal-insert sink, built-in cabinets galore and an openness the melded with the outside. Oh, and it over-looked the ocean.

 

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As our jaws were gathered up off the floor, Christian invited us in for the aforementioned beers and stories. Around an industrial-art outdoor fireplace, he told us a story about an interaction with a Whidbey Island local. At a nearby pub, a man named Moon Thunder  approached Christian and the two started playing a game of pool. Two games and four beers later, Mr. Thunder turned to Christian and said, “I have a gun in my back pocket and I don’t like you.” Taken aback and less than amused, Christian’s retort was, “If you take that gun out, you better shoot me…” After a moment’s thought, Moon Thunder announced that he should probably get going, and then turned and walked away. Whidbey Island in a nutshell.

 

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Back on the motorcycles, we continued our explorations. I can’t tell you where in Whidbey, but there is plenty of dirt riding. After getting stuck in the mud just a few hundred yards off the two-lane highway, we got lost down a poorly constructed road. It was all fun if not a bit risky. After we packed up and got ready to tool around for our second day on the Island, Darth, Justin’s “trusty” XT225, decided not to start. He suspected it was a fouled plug or a flooded carb which was an easy fix. He drained the float-bowl and we looked for a hill. Fortunately, the property was made up of one steep hill after another. Unfortunately, we were at the bottom of it. So, over and over, again and again, we pushed Justin’s motorcycle up a hill, then shoved him down it, so he could try to bump-start the bike. When that failed, we tried a bigger hill and shoved a little harder. We were on the brink of exhaustion and feeling hopeless when Darth finally fired up.

 

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When we got to Fort Ebey, we found it had a pretty beach with plenty of hiking trails. Any other activities on these trails can get you one hefty fine. What we discovered on the island, if you’re savvy, are non-motorized bike trails that lead to the water through open fields. Gravel roads lead to dirt paths that lead to double-track that threaded through dense timber past the occasional residence. Most of these roads would culminate in a dead end. The fun to be had was in the unknowing, discovering the secrets at the end of these roads.

 

As our time came to an end, we looked back on our weekend. The brisk ferry ride, good eats, blinding cold wind chill, peculiar towns, even more peculiar residents, enticing adventures protected by unreasonable laws and, best yet, the ever present risk of a fine, this is what makes Whidbey Island weird. And weird is what makes it so cool.

 

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About WESTx1000

WESTx1000 was conceived in a coin-op laundry room in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. What started as an excuse to ride dirt bikes in Baja has become an online portal into the lives of two overzealous individuals, both love drunk and eager for their next motorcycle adventure.
Whether documenting the infamous Baja 1000 off-road race, exploring the back roads of the Pacific Northwest, circumnavigating Japan on small sport bikes, or riding dual-sports from Barstow to Vegas, the idea stays the same: “If you get far enough away you’ll be on your way back home.” – Tom Waits

 

 

 

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Nissan to Pull the Plug on the Xterra?http://expeditionportal.com/nissan-pulls-the-plug-on-the-xterra/ http://expeditionportal.com/nissan-pulls-the-plug-on-the-xterra/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:27:39 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26250 In what can only be interpreted as another death knell for the overland-ready SUV, Nissan is expected to no longer offer the Xterra after the 2015 model year. For Nissan, the reasons to kill off the Xterra are simple enough. Sales numbers have dipped well below 20,000 units for 2014, a continued decline over the previous year. Perhaps most disconcerting is Nissan’s assertion that demand for capable off-road platforms is being usurped by desires for more fuel efficient and road-biased wagons and crossovers. That sentiment is being echoed by manufacturers across the board.

Further compounding the Xterra’s challenges were tightening emission and safety standards which would have required a comprehensive redesign. Like the now defunct Toyota FJ Cruiser, no plans have been made for a revised Xterra. It will only be replaced by an empty void and heightened demand for well-kept used models.

 

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Many automotive analysts are quick to cite this as one more example of the closing of an era. The Xterra was originally offered as an alternative to the Nissan Pathfinder and was built on the Frontier pickup platform. This gave the Xterra excellent off-road prowess at a small sacrifice to road worthiness. Modern consumers not prone to venture beyond the tarmac are less forgiving of the Xterra’s modest road manners and are snapping up vehicles like Nissan’s Rogue. The sub 20 mpg efficiency of the Xterra also contributed to the decline in demand as more fuel efficient options came into the mix.

Although oft lauded as an exceptional value for a proper off-road SUV, the updates required to keep the Xterra in production proved insurmountable, or at the least beyond Nissan’s inclination to do so. It had a good run spanning 16 model years.

 

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Overlanding with kids – going beyond “normal” educationhttp://expeditionportal.com/overlanding-with-kids-going-beyond-normal-education/ http://expeditionportal.com/overlanding-with-kids-going-beyond-normal-education/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 07:54:12 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26021 Kids, like ships, are outward bound and ready to leave safe harbor to explore the globe. Why not board the ship, or in our case the Land Rover, and set sail into adventure. Instead of wasting time sitting in a classroom, kids might as well make the whole world a classroom. Where else could a family experience all that can be had by living on the road? Not only the will the children grow through travelling, the nomadic lifestyle will make the parents grow as well, and the family will create an unbreakable bond in the process.

Although traveling with small children sounds harmless, the reactions you will get as parents of young children when you tell friends, colleagues and family about your overland plans are quite often highly critical. This is made more so if you want to go to the “danger zones” of Africa, South and Central America and Asia. Reactions range from “Oh, how interesting,” to a direct, “This is irresponsible.” Certainly after one has crossed the Rubicon and has decided on this radical change in lifestyle, one will automatically be confronted with critical comments. Instead of leaving the wonderful idea of long overland travel with kids, this made us focus on clearer goals and led to a more constructive thinking concerning our “travel school”. The more we thought about it, the more convinced we were that overland travel is extremely important for children’s personal development and might provide an answer to many educational issues.

 

 

The Landy

Overland Reunion 2014 bDenmark 2012 Juliane and Anouk then one and a half

 

Are overland parents egoistical?

Think about it…a lot of parents with young children simply want to relax on their holidays. In our “normal” routines, the children have to simply be functioning and adapt to the adult’s working life. On holiday, in the hotel or club, the parents make use of holiday reps while they do sports, go on a bus trip to the next volcano or go out for dinner.  Parents of overland children invest time in their young ones and in the family as a whole. Traveling together gives an immense amount of time – especially evenings around the campfire and even the long hours when driving can be used to talk and interact with each other. You would be impressed what children notice of their surroundings and what questions they ask.

 

Sóley is tired Addis Ababa

 

Will my children miss subject matter in kindergarten, preschool and school?

Worldwide, educational scientists, parents and even some politicians criticize schools arguing that teaching methods are far too theoretical, out of context, not lively, far too less playful and timetables do not follow the children’s biorhythms. Schools in general rarely are child-oriented and more like mass processing institutions instead of being individually supportive, as there simply is no time for individual character shaping, developing soft skills or fostering a sense of responsibility.  Overland-parents who are aware of what their children’s intellectual needs are can provide a wonderful solution to all these criticisms There is a vast amount of time that can be used for educational purposes while overlanding. Overlanding provides a great chance to use an immense wealth of every day situations schools can never provide: shopping in a foreign currency (mathematics), communication between people sharing no common mother tongue (intrinsically motivating to learn a second language), route-planning includes reading (language) and navigating on maps (mathematics, geography), travel documentation includes photography (arts), writing (language), painting (arts) and using modern media (media literacy) and so forth. We could go on endlessly here, but needless to say the educational opportunities are many.  All this knowledge is interdisciplinary and cross-linked with real-word application. Apart from “traditional” school subjects, the daily life on the road provides more down to earth situations children can immensely profit from. During our long dreamed-of overland journey through parts of Asia and East Africa, our daughter Anouk, for example will be responsible for checking the Landy every morning. This leads me to the point of developing the responsibilty that is so important to child development.  In our culture(s), adults pass on responsibility to their children only at a very late age and then they do it immediately, actually without any real training. While overlanding, children will through daily activities take more responsibility for certain things which are important to the whole family’s success.

In many situations the parents will have a large amount of knowledge they can teach their children and so the kids learn from people who are their natural role models anyway. But, for us one of the most important aspects is that there are many situations when the normal “top to bottom” teaching situation is broken up and children and parents alike learn together. So, travel becomes continual education, all day long.

Traveling becomes a secret curriculum that without any notice of children and parents just happens. Overland kids have a rare chance to learn that nature is to be respected,  to become more open minded, and self-confident. They learn not to be critical of other cultures and people and to be more accepting of global differences. Traveling can also reduce egoism and western-centric world views.  All their experiences will subconsciously influence their further development. The older they are the more impact traveling will have consciously as well.

 

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Won’t my kids be bored?

Going on an adventure together with the parents reduces boredom to almost zero. Only long periods of driving, which are also reduced to a great extent if you slow travel, might be little tiresome, but can be made entertaining. We listen to music, but don’t allow earplugs and listen to everything together. Every once in a while we discuss who can choose the program for the next few hours. Just think about how many hours daily your children spend in front of television, internet, playstation, iPods, iPads, or using the telephone. Traveling children have little time for these distractions and the time without these devices can be used for learning and family time.

 

Pyrenees Spain 2013

 

But everything we need as a family won’t fit into that small Land Rover, right?

Yes, it will, don’t worry. In our modern world with more than one children’s room, TV etc, it is indeed possible to reduce material things. Herman Zapp told the story of the people living on floating islands on lake Titikaka, who can only take a few things otherwise their island would simply sink. Our kids get one box each which they can fill with whatever toys they think they need on the trip. The whole world is full of toys. I constantly have to empty the Landy of all the stones, sticks and plant seeds Anouk collects. In addition to that, we have pens and pencils, paper, cameras, computers, which all can be used for an interesting life. Clothes can be reduced as well. Everything else which is important fits into our small Land Rover, believe it or not, and what we can’t fit we live without.

 

Romania 2014

 

Will my children become social loners? Will they become alienated from their friends or family members? Will they lose their roots or sense of home?

From our point of view, home is not a place, but intensively dependent on people. Home is where the heart is, s the saying goes. Traveling children will meet hundreds of people on the road and learn how to approach people from other cultures. They are never alone, have their parents around them constantly and just think how rare that is in our modern age. As for roots, they’ll soon become citizens of the world, something they will cherish when they have grown up.

 

Family in the mountains Ethiopia

 

Will our relationships stand the test?

It’s not uncommon for such closeness during a long trip to strain relationships. Living together so close certainly is and always will be a challenge. Going through difficulties  only consolidates personality, partnership, family bonds and incidentally strengthens the ability to argue smartly in conflict situations and establish self-confidence. As Juliane and myself met while sailing on traditional tall ships in close-knit community we had the chance to learn how to best get along.

 

Travel Friends Ethiopia 2014 b

 

What about danger, crime and illnesses?

During our travels so far we have observed that we often get preferential treatment and that people want to help our young family. The value of family is really treasured in most parts of the world in a way unexpected by westerners. In addition to that, traveling families will most certainly get respect from the people they meet just because everybody knows that traveling with young children is sometimes really challenging.

Still, one cannot easily dismiss all the potential dangers. Sometimes one has to opt against traveling to certain places due to the security situation. But sometimes the locals will be a great help in that, especially if you travel as a family with young children. With regard to health, there are things to strongly consider, but traveling is not really more dangerous than staying at home or compared to “normal” travel. Mozzies, viruses and bacteria don’t stop at European borders or in front of five star hotel doors. An attentive way of dealing with hygiene, food, vaccinations and any kind of prevention sometimes is really vital to overland travel. And, don’t forget that this might be a learning field for children that might be essential for survival as the children grow into adulthood.

 

Sóley Ethiopia 2014Juliane and Sóley in traditional Ethiopian clothes

 

During the process of planning our long-term overland trip to Africa and during shorter trips we experienced as a family, we became conscious how precious and unique the privilege to be able to go overlanding is and that it would be a shame to waste it. Go out parents, be brave and take the kids with you!

 

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How a Subaru Conquered Baja!http://expeditionportal.com/how-a-subaru-conquered-baja/ http://expeditionportal.com/how-a-subaru-conquered-baja/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 07:42:14 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26220

Okay, maybe “conquer “ is a little grandiose – how about “survived with honor?”

 

It all began after returning from my second year of racing the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally on a vintage motorcycle when my wife said she wanted to go to the next year’s race. “To chase?” I naively asked. “To race,” she said matter-of-factly. Well, since Laura doesn’t really enjoy riding motorcycles, I suspected she meant racing something with four wheels. Being a big fan of the entire build process of any cockamamie motorsports idea, I set out to find the perfect donor vehicle.

 

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The Race

The Mexican 1000 Rally is the reincarnation of the original race that transformed into the World-famous Baja 1000. It is a race steeped in history, where actor-cum- racer James Garner went bumping steering wheel to handlebar with the likes of motorcycle legend Malcolm Smith. The “new” Mexican 1000 was deemed the the happiest race on earth by its promoters and had a focus squarely on reliving the roots of Baja racing – what’s not to love? I first showed up in 2011 on a 1972 Honda SL350 twin motorcycle, an appropriate (if not painful) choice considering the M1K’s vintage vehicle focus. The draw of the M1K for me was that it was more about fun than intense competition, and racing old and eclectic racecars and motorcycles was more than just accepted, it was encouraged (how else can you explain seeing a ’58 Edsel drifting around a corner on a washboard gravel fire road). Learn more here: https://www.norra.com/norra.php.

For my wife’s first racing experience, I decided I wanted the ride to be slightly more plush than a VW buggy or open-air Bronco. It also had to be cheap, due to that fact that my race budget is usually closely tied to our tax returns, which is to say, not enough scratch to buy a real racecar and also pay the entry fee and other expenses. The car I was driving when I met my wife was an old Subaru station wagon, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest, the Subaru capital of the universe (Colorado and Vermont notwithstanding), the choice seemed to make itself. Beside, what’s more fun than watching amateurs race 1200 miles in Baja, mostly off-road, in a pretty near-stock Subaru station wagon?

 

The Car

Based on my 2 previous successful M1K attempts (winning our class), I knew that the M1K was more about survival and endurance than actual speed, at least for those at our sponsorship level. We also needed to carry spare parts, tires, camping equipment, provisions and tools in the racecar, as we would be traveling in places where it could be 10-15 hours before a chase truck could come to our aid. Therefore, I always thought of the build as more expedition vehicle than rally car. After all, we would be driving over the 3-foot-tall whoops and silt beds at close to expedition speeds anyway (ie; slow).

 

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We started with a 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback I found for $700 on Craig’s List, which is also where I also found my Zen-master Subaru mechanic, David King, and his home-based Apple Automotive in Vancouver, WA. Dave has a knack for building reliable Subaru motors and a soft spot for lost causes. Dave sponsored us by only charging me for parts, his hundreds of hours of labor were gratis. The rules for that year called for non-turbo engines only, which was fine because I didn’t want to deal with the complexities of a turbo, nor did we need the speed. Dave built up a normally aspirated 2.5-liter stock motor into a true race motor, using Delta cams, ceramic tri-coating on the pistons and an external oil cooler. The complete engine build is detailed on Dave’s website here. The car was dubbed “Dirty Dorothy,” nickname in honor of a particularly spry elderly patient of my wife’s.

 

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Although she looked like a ubiquitous grocery getter, Dorothy still needed the required safety equipment in order to enter the M1K. Luckily, my friend Ray L’Hommedieu is one of the best welders in the Northwest specializing in stainless steel and aluminum, and in between fabricating cheese making and brewery equipment, Ray TIG welded one helluva safe NASA Rally Sport spec roll cages for Dorothy. She also got race seats, 5-point harnesses and window nets. We gained ground clearance by lifting the car 2 inches via lift-blocks on the struts and installing taller 215/75/15 10-ply off-road tires on the stock aluminum rims. The airbags were removed, and we added a racing steering wheel, LED driving lights, emergency lights, a siren, and a custom navigation system. Cool graphics by my friend and artist Lonnie Ortiz rounded out the off-road racecar conversion for an otherwise ubiquitous Subaru Outback.

Although Dorothy was trailered down to San Diego and then driven to Mexicali for the 2013 M1K Rally, we decided to go hardcore expedition-style and drive Dorothy from our home on the North Oregon Coast down to the starting line in Ensenada for the 2014 running. The plan was to race the 1200-plus miles to Cabo – and then drive the car back home.

 

The Team

Luckily, I have a knack for getting the best people available to sign-on to my crazy ideas, and building Dorothy was no exception. I have already mentioned David, Lonnie and Ray. But we would never have achieved any measure of success without the participation of Tim Roach of Prevailing Communications (lights and radios), Super-Chaser and back-up driver Cory Burkhead, and chase team members Ted Sumner and cousin Mike. One should never underestimate the power of having an amazing team and/or support crew onboard whenever trying to accomplish a daunting task. For me, meeting and working with these people has been the most rewarding aspect of Dorothy’s whole existence. Not to mention how effective racing with your co-driver/navigator spouse down the length of the Baja Peninsula is at keeping a marriage fun and exciting!

 

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So…how did we do? One thing can be said about Baja – its appetite for suspension is ravenous! We initially broke our cheap-aftermarket struts, then the following year, bent every one of our two-thousand dollar coil-overs before realizing that new KYB struts and a set of King lifting springs would probably be sufficient enough for our purposes (especially if running the car in Expedition mode). But, we not only finished both years we raced in the M1K, we also won our class twice (so what if we were the only ones in the class!). For us it was always about survival and having fun. If we wanted to be truly competitive, we would have raced a buggy or a truck, not a station wagon. In those two years of racing, the car never had a single engine or major mechanical issue despite 2400-plus miles of racing in harsh conditions in 100-plus degree Fahrenheit and with huge variations in elevation. And this was all while having the air conditioning on, using low-octane Mexican pump gas, and occasionally maintaining speeds of over 100 miles-per-hour for many miles – oh don’t forget the 10,000 highway miles just to get to the races and back.

 

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I’m still writing the story of our four-years of racing in Baja, but the story of Dorothy is not close to being over. We believe there are still a few races left in her, including another Baja run or two, a stage rally, a TSD rally and maybe even the Alcan 5000. However, her main duties for this year will be to serve as our desert exploration/expedition vehicle. That said, we most likely try and sneak in the Cortez Rally – Rally Raid taking place this April in the Sonora Desert – mostly because it looks like an interesting challenge, and I doubt they’ll be anyone else stupid enough to try and race a Subaru Outback.

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New Adventure Rider: Selecting a Motorcyclehttp://expeditionportal.com/new-adventure-rider-selecting-a-motorcycle/ http://expeditionportal.com/new-adventure-rider-selecting-a-motorcycle/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 07:38:40 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26112 For the new adventure rider, or one returning to the bike after a prolonged hiatus from riding, bike selection is the single most important decision to be made. Choosing the right bike not only ensures riding enjoyment, but it certainly influences rider safety. There are a number of considerations to carefully evaluate, some carrying more importance that others.

 

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Displacement

In a nutshell, displacement is simply a measurement of engine size. This is not to be confused with engine power, although there is a strong correlation between the two. Traditional wisdom has encouraged new riders to embrace smaller, less powerful motorcycles, something that is actually mandated by law in some countries. It’s not a bad idea, as giving a new rider a fist full of big horsepower may not be the safest idea. Whereas a small bike can have as little as 45 hp, a full-blown big bike can churn out a neck bending 120 hp or more. More is not always better for obvious reasons.

It’s also important to note that even some experienced riders prefer small bikes. Lois Pryce has ridden extensively around the world with her rather humble 250cc bike. The other reason for starting with a smaller displacement motorcycle is relative to it’s more manageable overall size, lower weight, and frankly, they’re often cheaper. A common starter platform is usually in the ballpark of 650cc or less. Bikes like the Suzuki DR 650 or Kawasaki KLR 650 afford the rider ample power for highway sessions, without the intimidating power of bigger machines.

 

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Overall size and weight

If you are new to riding, the last thing you need is a hulking 600 pound wrestling partner. A modestly sized beginner bike can be as light as 350 pounds. A fully loaded adventure bike of larger displacement can easily approach 700 pounds with a full tank of gas. When that 700 pounds starts to succumb to the grip of gravity, nothing is going to stop it. If you ride solo, you might also want to give the bike weight plenty of thought. When, not if, your bike falls over, you have to be able to pick it up.

Because not all riders and motorcycles are of the same size, choosing a platform that accommodates your stature, big or small, is important. Some bikes like the rather tall Honda XR650 are a tough match for those with shorter legs. On the flip side, a rider well over 6-feet tall might not be ideally paired to something like Ducati’s new Scrambler. Be sure to swing a leg over your prospective purchase to ensure it will be a good fit.

 

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Design purpose

The adventure bike category has ballooned over the years to encompass bikes of all shapes and sizes with a widening spectrum of intended applications. While some motorcycles are carefully engineered to excel in the dirt at the sacrifice of highway performance, others display the inverse attributes. Identifying where you want to ride, and how you want to ride, should have a large influence on the bike you select. If you don’t particularly like riding off-road, and don’t see yourself doing it very often, then by all means purchase a more road-biased motorcycle. Plenty of adventure can be found even on paved roads.

 

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Even if you don’t touch dirt, you can still find ample adventure on the pavement.

 

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Carrying capacity

Most of the people drawn to adventure riding will eventually extend their rides over the course of multiple days, and will need to portage the necessary gear to do so. We will cover luggage solutions in the weeks to come, but suffice it to say, not all motorcycles shoulder luggage with equal efficiency. If for example you intend to ride around the world someday, a 200cc bike may not accommodate the weight of the necessary loads. Conversely, if all you plan to do is the occasional overnighter in your local woods, having 85-liters of hard case storage just might be overkill.

 

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Serviceability

This might be a minor concern for some motorcycle owners, but it will influence the purchase of many. If you buy an Italian exotic for example and the nearest dealer is 500 miles away, that could complicate your repair and servicing options. This shouldn’t discourage you from owning the motorcycle of your dreams, but keep it in mind.

 

 

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X-Factor

This is the one aspect of motorcycle ownership that really should get more attention. Motorcycles will never fall under the auspices of practical transportation. Save that for the Honda Civic. Motorcycles, and the experience of riding them, is visceral and exhilarating. If the motorcycle you’re about to purchase doesn’t really speak to you, don’t buy it. If you don’t love the bike you have, you won’t ride it. If however, you love your bike so much it makes you leave work early just to get an extra five minutes of ride time before the sun sets, then you have chosen well.

 

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In the end, you want to select a bike that meets your immediate riding needs, but also offers a platform you can still enjoy as your skills develop. One last little bit of advice: Your first bike, particularly one used off-road, is eventually going to get damaged. It’ll hurt a lot less if that first bike is an inexpensive pre-owned bike and not some $25,000 showroom beauty. If you do buy the latter, just get it over with and put a scratch in it right away.

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Build of the Month: Apache Raven Tent Trailerhttp://expeditionportal.com/build-of-the-month-apache-raven-tent-trailer/ http://expeditionportal.com/build-of-the-month-apache-raven-tent-trailer/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 10:00:27 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26130 We feature a lot of high quality and sometimes pricey trailers on our site. Why? Because we believe that quality should be key on anything you rely on in the back-country. If you lack the fabrication skills or the time to invest into a big trailer project, purchasing one of the ready to roll models is probably your best option. If you like to get your hands dirty however, and you’re good with a welder, then a home build could be right up your alley. This month we’re taking a look at one of the coolest examples we’ve seen so far. It’s a 1966 Apache Raven Tent Trailer, and it started as this $400 box.

 

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We’ve watched as this trailer quickly transformed from an ugly blue caboose to a tuned, and very cool, trail machine. Features include an A-arm suspension, spare tire and fuel can holders, overhead rack, and more. Check out the photos below and then head to the following link to read through the whole process. Check out the thread here.

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Retrospective: The Toyota 70 Series Land Cruiserhttp://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-the-toyota-70-series-land-cruiser/ http://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-the-toyota-70-series-land-cruiser/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 07:19:33 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26164 Many makes and models of vehicle can perform admirably for the vast majority of overland travel, and some have proven to be more popular than others. Fewer still have risen to iconic status; having shown themselves to epitomize the ruggedness, reliability and efficiency necessary in the harshest of environments. One such vehicle is the 70 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

 

Introduced in 1984 with a new, updated body style from the previous 40 Series Land Cruisers, the 70 Series was offered in three wheelbase designations with the 70/71 indicating short wheelbase models, the 73/74 mid-wheelbase units, and the 75/77 long wheelbase. In 1999, both 2-door wagons and 2-door pickups were released to the market bearing the 78 and 79 Series designations, respectively.

 

As with other Toyota Land Cruiser models, a letter prefix continued to indicate engine classifications; early models having the 3F 6-cylinder gasoline and 3B 4-cylinders. A naturally aspirated 6-cylinder diesel was also common, the 2H. As the years progressed, more modern turbo-diesels became the most common, although some markets (in gasoline-rich areas) received additional gasoline options. Current models sport the fantastic 4.5-liter V8 turbo-diesel, which combines excellent power with stellar fuel economy.

 

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The 70 Series retained the ruggedness expected from its predecessor, but made significant strides in comfort without going so far as the 60 Series and 80 Series wagons. More modern plastics were blended into the dash and interior, while items such as front suspension seats, clad in breathable fabrics and fold-and-tumble rear seats offered users cargo options, even in the short and mid-wheelbase 70s and 74s. Retaining front and rear solid axles, strong power brakes with front disks and power steering reduced driver fatigue, and further modernized the line.

 

Regardless of the comfort upgrades, the success of the 70 Series platform world wide was a result of what Toyota did not, and has not, changed from the 40 Series; the vehicles’ utility. Short wheelbase models retained the nimbleness and efficiency of the FJ40 and BJ40; however, the medium and long wheelbase Land Cruisers became a pinnacle work and exploration platform. 70 Series Land Cruisers are commonly used around the world as ambulances and public and military service vehicles; not to mention the multitude of non-governmental organizations for which these trucks have been customized and configured to serve almost any conceivable purpose.

 

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Having owned one of the few legally imported 70 Series trucks in the U.S., a 1985 BJ70 with the 3B 4-cylinder diesel, I can personally attest to the reliability of the platform. Stout mechanicals and simple electronics were always welcome. The 3B diesel, given a warm enough environment, would happily outrun just about any diesel available, with cooking oil always a backup. (Plus, giving me the opportunity to learn to make my own biodiesel.)

 

Other friends have had similar experiences, having driven these prized machines quite literally around the world, with excellent, trouble free results. With that personal history, combined with the long pedigree, the new Expedition Portal BJ74 Land Cruiser project is a welcome addition to our fleet. We hope you enjoy following the build and the adventures to follow!

 

 

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Field Tested: Primus ETA Lite+http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-primus-eta-lite/ http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-primus-eta-lite/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 07:52:50 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=25981 Personal cooking systems have become increasingly popular over the last many years and with travelers of every kind. For those with tight size and weight restrictions, the efficiency of a solo cooking system is tough to beat, and even for those with ample storage space, the convenience is reason enough to buy a compact cooker. Primus, arguably the most storied and well known purveyor of backcountry stoves, has their own solo system, the Primus ETA Lite+.

At only 14 ounces with a packed size of just 4-inches by 6-inches, it is slightly smaller than a one-liter Nalgene bottle making it just a tad more compact than many of its contemporaries. The entire system includes a .5-liter cooking vessel, a burner, lid, leg supports, and even a very simple hanging kit. Designed to accommodate a 100 gram Isobutane/Propane fuel canister, everything nests inside the cooking pot for easy transport.

 

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The key to these small systems is not just the design of the burner, but how well it works in conjunction with the cooking vessel. The ETA Lite+ has one of the most ingenious pot/burner interfaces I’ve ever seen and used. The triangular retainer on the burner is designed to mate perfectly with the triangular recess at the bottom of the pot. Once in place, a simple rotation of the pot locks it in position for secure cooking. It’s a fluid process whereas other stoves seem to require more fiddling and care to get everything locked tight.

 

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The base of the cooking pot features a heat exchanger ring, something we’ve come to see as a standard feature in solo cooking systems. The Primus heat exchanger appears to be stoutly built and contributes to the stove’s 2:30 minute average boil time.

One of the attributes I appreciate most about the ETA Lite+ is the solid construction of the burner. It has a stout feel to it that other stoves fail to achieve. It is built like a genuine backcountry tool ready to endure adventure’s worst. The piezo igniter has yet to fail to light the stove and the estimated one-hour burn time of a 100 gram cartridge seems to be right on the money.

The cooking vessel has an insulated cover, again, made considerably nicer than most, with a full size handle and easy to use lid. The strap features three threaded posts that can be removed from the handle and threaded into the top of the burner to serve as very small, but completely functional, pot supports for use with any standard flat-bottomed pot. That––is pure genius.

 

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Although I haven’t had much time to use the ETA Lite+ in the backcountry, the few times I’ve used it I have been completely impressed. It fires up every time on the first click, boils water quickly, has excellent control of the heat settings, and will undoubtedly live up to the brand’s reputation for reliability and performance. Fitted with the optional French press kit, it will forever earn a spot in my backpack or motorcycle pannier.

 

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Riding Skills: Crossing Deep Waterhttp://expeditionportal.com/riding-skills-crossing-deep-water/ http://expeditionportal.com/riding-skills-crossing-deep-water/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 07:18:00 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26152 Being a desert dweller, I don’t get too many chances to cross small streams and rivers. Not to say I never get the opportunity, but it is infrequent enough I often have to remind myself how it’s done. I tend to jog my memory about mid-stream with an audible, “Eeeeks!” For those of you who have yet to cross water with two wheels, here are the finer points I should make a better habit to remember:

 

Stop and assess the crossing

If there’s even a little doubt in your mind about the depth or speed of the water, stop and scout it out. Look for ripples in flowing water that might indicated submerged rocks or deep holes. Rippled water surfaces moving quickly often mark the shallow portions of a stream whereas the deepest parts usually have slow and calm movement at the water’s surface. If you’re really unsure about the crossing, just commit to wet feet and walk in. It is far better to get your feet soaked than your whole body––and bike.

If the water is over your knees, that’s starting to get properly deep and you may want to reconsider. Deep water, if moving slowly, can be fine if the river bed is smooth. Fast water over a rocky river bed starts getting tricky. As you scout the crossing, even if just from shore, don’t forget to assess your exit on the other side. Pick your line, commit to it, and if it all looks doable, hop on your bike and think positive thoughts. Self fulfilling prophecies are, well, you get it.

Stand and attack

Most river crossings don’t permit the rider to see all the potential hazards lurking below the water’s surface. Just as you would for any rough section, stand and prepare yourself for unexpected bumps and deflections of the front wheel. As you approach the water’s edge make sure you are attacking the water head on. If your wheel is slightly turned, once it hits the water’s inky depths it will dart in the direction of the wheel’s trajectory. The greater the speed, the more violent that “slicing” effect will be. Ask me how I know.

 

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In this shot from Ecuador, I got my front wheel a little sideways and sliced hard right. I saved it, but it could have ended badly.

 

Easy on the throttle

You want to maintain just enough forward impetus to maintain your balance and to allow the wheels to overcome small obstacles. That forward speed also needs to offset any forces applied by the passing current. Modulate your throttle carefully, using the clutch to maintain appropriate engine revs. Too much speed simply multiplies the forces that might otherwise work against you if things go pear shaped.

 

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Who needs a jet ski? Scott Brady has a fondness for water sports and never misses a chance to test the depths.

 

Keep your eye on the prize

I love my front wheel, only slightly less than the two feet of earth in front of it. I can’t help it, but unless I remind myself not to, I find myself admiring my front hoop and riding head long into trouble. The smarter approach is to make target fixation work for you, and keep your eyes locked on your exit point on the far side of the river. It won’t help looking down into the water. There’s nothing to see there.

 

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Moments after reaching the other side, Scott said, “Uh, that was deeper than I expected.” Deep it was, but he remained balanced, managed his momentum carefully, and made it look easy. It also helped having 800 pounds of bike and rider cutting through this pond like a battleship.

 

Be prepared to put a foot down

It has only happened to me a few times, but dabbing a foot mid-stream has to be done with some forethought, particularly in swift moving water. If you put your upstream foot into the water, it will possibly be forced firmly against the bike as it is pushed into a downstream lean. Putting your downstream foot down first will often be more successful, if you have a choice in the matter.

If it gets really bad, kill the engine

If all of the above has failed you, and you feel that unfortunate tug of gravity as your bike lists like a torpedoed frigate––kill the engine. The last thing you need is a bunch of water ingested into your engine. If you anticipate multiple crossings, have the tools and skills handy to de-water your engine.

 

Water crossings can be a lot of fun and add an extra element of adventure to the day. They can also turn a good day of travel on its ear. In Iceland this summer, as I crossed a river with a bicycle on my shoulder, I watched a BMW GS rider safely navigate 50 feet of water only to dump his bike in the final 10 feet. Although his bike fired up once we got it ashore, he was soaked through. I’m sure he’s still telling the tale of his splash-down at every opportunity. Even when it goes badly, it makes for a great story.

 

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2015’s Top Five Overland Vehicles for North Americahttp://expeditionportal.com/2015s-top-five-overland-vehicles-for-north-america/ http://expeditionportal.com/2015s-top-five-overland-vehicles-for-north-america/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 07:45:42 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26197 Knowing their vehicles are destined to be used with a certain degree of abuse, many overladers tend to purchase pre-owned trucks. It also represents a better value, but buying used comes with an undeniable level of risk. For that reason some prefer to start with a clean slate and buy new. The advantage, aside from knowing the complete history of the vehicle, is the added security of a full warranty, and let us not forget the alluring perfume of new car smell.

The discussion about new trucks recently got us thinking about which vehicles we’d buy from the selection of 2015 models currently parked on dealer lots across North America. To make the selection more interesting, we culled out some of the exotics less apt to be used for overland travels. This is not to say the Mercedes G-Wagon isn’t a wonderful machine, but at an average price of $127,000, it isn’t likely to be found bumbling around your local backwood. Below are five vehicles we feel can be purchased, mildly modified if at all, and used for almost all of the popular overland routes in North America. These vehicles, presented in no particular order, can also be used as daily drivers, something that has become increasingly popular as vehicle prices continue to climb.

 

Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro $42,195

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It was just a couple of years ago when we bestowed the 4Runner Trail Edition with our SUV of the year award, and looking back on that decision, feel even more convinced it was a smart choice. For 2015 that platform seems to have improved even more, making it one of our top five picks for this year. Fitted with a 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, an electronic locking rear differential and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select Control with Crawl Control, the TRD Pro is a formidable off-roading SUV. An aluminum front skid plate is standard as are 17-inch wheels with Nitto Terra Grappler AT tires. If it was designed to compete against the Land Rover LR4, it may have won the contest; at least on some metrics.

The appeal of the 4Runner for many buyers is the harmonious blend of on and off-road performance. As a daily driver it is quiet and comfortable, the highway miles ticking by in complete car-like comfort. Cargo capacity is better than average with a generous 6300 pound GVWR. Driven as-is, the 4Runner with the top tier off-road trim provides more than enough capability for most overlanders. It’s a great vehicle that lives up to its long legacy.

 

 

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon $41,170 (With premium options)

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This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Jeep’s pinnacle vehicle, the cornerstone of the entire Jeep brand. The Wrangler is an icon of off-roading and to many, a platform without peer. The 3.6-liter 6-cylinder 24-valve VTT engine when paired to the 6-speed manual provides a visceral driving experience that is increasingly rare these days. The Rock-Trac 4WD system with 4:1 low gearing, Dana 44 front axles and electronic sway bar disconnects make this the best 4×4 in its class––by far, not to steal a tagline from Land Rover.

Although the Wrangler is commonly used as a daily driver, and does admirably on the blacktop, it is purpose built for off pavement use. Once in the backcountry, its colors really shine. The Achilles heel to the Unlimited Rubicon however, is the abysmal load carrying capacity. Should your adventures fill all four seats, each occupant will have to pack lightly to stay under the 1,000 pound payload allowance. Not just light, but really light. Despite Jeep’s efforts to soften the interior space and fit it with more creature comforts and features, it is still an austere space befitting the “Jeep thing” vibe. That is not intended to be a pejorative as many owners are drawn to that spartan design as a hallmark of the Jeep ethos.

 

 

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro $35,725

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If we put an emphasis on off-road performance, which we always do, it would be hard not to give a nod to one of the most proven pickups in the American market, the venerable Tacoma. In the TRD Pro trim level, the Tacoma rides on 16-inch rims with BFG AT tires and TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks. The 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine can be paired to a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic. The 4WDemand part-time 4WD system has an electronically controlled transfer case and automatic limited slip differential. The Active Traction Control system keeps the wheels planted for optimal off-road performance. Simply put, this is an off-road inspired pickup with all the greatness that it implies. Load it up with gear and go.

For those looking for a platform on which to build a custom camper setup, or for those simply wanting maximum utility from their vehicle, the Tacoma is hard to beat. The lower weight of the Tacoma helps it achieve better than average mpg numbers with the highway performance pushing into the mid 20s. The Tacoma is oft discounted as being boring and uninspired, but few can deny how effective it is. It’s no Defender 130, but it’ll get you there and most importantly––back again.

 

 

Ram 1500 Outdoorsman EcoDiesel 4×4 Crew Cab $46,350

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According to a statement released by Chrysler just this week, sales of the new EcoDiesel Ram 1500 are continuing to surpass expectations with the platform now representing 20 percent of total Ram sales. The driving force behind those numbers is the diesel Ram’s 29 mpg fuel efficiency rating. Combined with the 26-gallon fuel tank, that lean burn gives the Ram an impressive 550 to 600 mile average range. Those digits have been confirmed by real-world reports from braggadocios owners.

Although not as capable off-road as the JK, 4Runner, or the Land Rover LR4 below, the Ram 1500 makes for an excellent platform for a slide-in camper or shell. There is no doubt the truck and camper pairing lacks some of the cache of a Sportsmobile or other self-contained camping setup, but it is considerably less expensive. For those not sold on the benefits of the diesel engine, the total bill can be reduced by over $4,000 by selecting a gas burning power plant. With the popularity of full size pickups on the rise, we felt the Ram 1500 deserved a place in this short list. The buzz around the Overland International table has recently included talk of more pickups entering our fleet, and the Ram 1500 just might be the truck we fold into the mix.

 

Land Rover LR4 $50,170

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No list of overland vehicles would be complete without the green oval being represented. Despite declarations by critics that Tata ownership would destroy the brand, the Land Rover star is rising. With record sales perpetuated by their more gentrified offerings like the new Evoque, their already up market brand is getting even more posh. This is not to say their off-road predilections have been diluted or compromised. For nearly two years, the Overland Journal LR4 proved time and again that it is an admirable performer beyond pavement’s end.

Although some modifications were ideally required to maximize the potential of the Overland Journal LR4, those alterations were modest. Swapping out the tires on our LR4 was a must, and while we certainly went well beyond that particular modification, little else was needed to allow the vehicle to get us where we needed to go. Every vehicle in this list of five has their own alluring attributes, and the LR4 is without question the most well appointed and luxurious of the bunch. More than once our LR4 conquered many hard trails, the driver and passengers of the wrapped in heated leather with all the interior refinements of a fine saloon or estate car. We would be remiss not to acknowledge the x-factor of Rover ownership. Land Rover owners are loyalists and for years bought their vehicles almost knowingly against better judgment. With reliability and resale improving with every year, owning a Land Rover no longer has to be cause for nagging regret.

 

 

In compiling this list, we knowingly omitted some long standing favorites, and for good reason. The Nissan Xterra, not a bad option by any stretch, is long in the tooth and sorely in need of updating. The Toyota Land Cruiser, a crown jewel of overlanding, is the worst selling SUV in America, primarily due to the $80,000 asking price. All of the vehicles above have their individual pros and cons, but fit the needs of most overlanders with minimal modification. From the luxury of the LR4 to the utility of the Ram, 2015 has provided solid options, even a diesel powered solution. Make your selection, hand the man your cash, and drive into the sunset.

 

 

Author’s Notes: This is a tough one for me. If given a blank check to buy a new rig for the year, I might have to grab the keys to the Ram 1500. Even with gas prices projected to be low for the coming months, fuel costs will continue to be a decided factor for my longer travels. The Ram 1500 Rebel scheduled to arrive this summer looks positively awesome, and I am usually not a pickup kind of guy. While I’m amongst the many quick to lament the cars and trucks we can’t get in the States, we can’t complain too much. I’d be more than happy with any of the five vehicles above.

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Field Tested: Tepui Tents Gear Bagshttp://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-tepui-tents-gear-bags/ http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-tepui-tents-gear-bags/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 07:24:30 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=26092 This may not come as a surprise to many of you, but overlanders are very rarely accused of being minimalists. We do love our stuff and can cram even the most sizable vehicles with hulking amounts of gear, some of it even occupying the overflow real-estate atop the roof. It is what it is, right? Our copious amounts of kit keep us safe, comfy, and well supplied for our protracted travels. It does however invariably create challenges for how to store all of that gear.

Tepui Tents, seeing the need to offer overlanders more variety and utility with storage solutions, recently launched a new line of soft bags. Available in four sizes, their Expedition Series bags are constructed of a synthetic resin coated polyester, effectively the same material used in the construction of many expedition-grade inflatable boats. The large gauge zippers and heavily bar-tacked nylon webbing grab and shoulder straps speak to the brawn of these durable haulers, and even the orange color suggests they mean business.

 

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Some of our product tests happen with serendipitous timing, and our Tepui Expedition Bags arrived only days before I hit the road for the entire month of December. I am admittedly a chronic organizer, and after a quick review of the four bags, realized I had to reassess my gear selection. These are big bags, and I needed to find more stuff to put in them.

The smallest of the four bags is the Day Pack, a compact and padded cube ideally suited for storing food items, kitchen supplies, or perhaps a six pack of suds. The shoulder strap makes for a comfortable carry and the cross-hatched elastic cord front makes for a nice place to stash wet towels and other essentials.

 

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Stepping up in size is the Tool Case. The long and shallow profile and clam-shell opening make it ideally suited for storing all of those camp accessories best kept close at hand. For me that includes my lamps and headlights, knives, toiletries and other things I might like to have isolated from the rest of my gear.

 

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For hauling clothing, shoes, and other similar supplies, the Duffle offers roughy 60-liters of volume in a familiarly shaped bag that to me, is reminiscent of a Base Camp Duffle from The North Face. This is not a negative comparison as Base Camp bags are some of the best in the business. The Tepui Duffle has a padded shoulder strap, grab handles on either end, and a heavy-duty carry strap over the main compartment. Easy to load and unload through the large opening, the Expedition Duffle Bag is well designed and built for the rigors of overland travel.

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The biggest of the four, and my personal favorite, is the Gear Container. The most unique element to the Gear Container is the placement of the primary zipper which runs the perimeter of the bag right at the upper edge of the side walls creating a trunk-like opening. This gives unobstructed access to the main compartment. The vertical walls of the bag make loading and organizing my gear quick and easy, and the two wheels at the base of the bag make it a snap to transport, even on rough ground with heavy loads. I should point out, our test bags did not come with the additional grab handles now made available on current iterations of the Gear Container. Two heavy internal dividers help manage gear and pockets inside the lid keep key items close at hand. With 120 liters of storage capacity it swallows gear. In some of my travels, this is the only bag I needed.

 

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Although none of these bags are officially waterproof, I would consider them highly weather resistant, and depending on the climates you travel in, could do fine strapped to the outside of a vehicle. The materials and quality of construction are excellent and in my candid estimation, the prices represent a solid value.

Tepui Tents has done a brave thing by entering this particular category of products, one with lots of fierce competition, but their Expedition Series of bags are an impressive first effort. I foresee these bags joining me on many adventures to come.

 

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