Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Fri, 28 Aug 2015 07:28:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 HOW TO AVOID BEING EATEN BY A BEARhttp://expeditionportal.com/how-to-avoid-being-eaten-by-a-bear/ http://expeditionportal.com/how-to-avoid-being-eaten-by-a-bear/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 07:28:50 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30304 The usual way to scare off bears on North American hiking trails is by wearing a bell. Seriously, it sounds as if it may as well be a dinner bell. Tilin-tilin! Here I am! Tilin-tilin! I’m fat and juicy! It’s absurd. Personally, I prefer to walk in the woods singing Austrian mountain songs. It’s creepier and less embarrassing. 

 

“Do you know the best way to avoid being eaten by a bear?” Anna, my travel partner, asks right after scaring away my first bear by menacingly wielding a spoon and a metal mug, the one we use to drink coffee every the morning. The real Anna, the one with a sharp and slightly evil spirit, was resurfacing.

 

“To avoid being eaten by a bear you have to walk in a group… and run faster than the slowest person!”

 

Then, she looked past my shoulder and ran away.

 

There wasn’t a bear about to scratch my back behind me, but her reaction was sufficiently unexpected to make me feel nervous for a while. Let’s be honest here: Anna runs faster than I do. In the last 15 years on the road we’ve seen lots of wild animals. Llamas, bucks, truck drivers, snakes, bus drivers and some crocodiles in South America. Monkeys, sloths and taxi drivers in Central America. But carnivores able to use your fingers as toothpicks? Only in Africa and at the zoo.

That’s why, while devouring hundreds of kilometers along the green tunnel, the road to the Arctic in Western Canada, we started gathering some brochures on what to do in the event we encountered a bear during a hike. All of them recommend making noise while hiking. They all tell you to leave your food locked in your vehicle, or hanging from a rope on a tree branch at least 3 meters up and at some distance from the tree trunk. Then, they give you some practical advice which appears to be written by an undercover bear.

 

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If you encounter a bear that comes towards you growling and salivating, keep calm. It might be stressed by your presence. Hold on.’

He-he. In a situation like this, the one who’ll be stressed is me. I’m not at the office, I’m in nature!

 

‘You have to stand up on a big rock or on a fallen tree and slowly move your arms up and down and to the sides while you speak in a soft and friendly tone of voice.’

Ey yo… everything’s ok. Duuuude. Peace and love. I’ll go my way, and you’ll go your way. Let’s pretend we haven’t seen each other… Understand? Do you speak English?

 

‘If the bear runs towards you, it is most likely a defensive charge to frighten you, and it will probably stop a few centimeters from your face. You have to hold your position. If you run away, it means you are scared. And if you are scared, you are prey.’

That’s it, just to make it clear who is the boss. Like in Africa, if you see a lion while walking in the jungle, you have to remain calm, stand still, and wait for it to leave. It works at noon, their lazy time. If you find one at dawn or at dusk, your only chance is to become invisible. You can try to influence it by saying ‘I’m a bush, I’m a bush and you don’t see me because I’m a plant, and you lions are not vegetarians…’

 

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‘If the bear only wants to make it clear who’s the boss, you will be able to move slowly away. Never turn your back to it.’

Remember, you have a bear growling at a short distance, less than a meter away from you. You know it hasn’t brushed its teeth since its’ last meal. That must have been a long time ago. If you haven’t shit your pants yet, you’re my hero.

 

‘On the other hand, if the bear is looking at you and keeps its ears up, be ready to defend yourself.’

Yes, you keep an eye to its ears. If they are pointing to heaven, remember bears need protein, too. They hunt for cattle, goats, deer, elks and… what was your name, again?

 

‘In this case, you have to fight for your life. Your backpack will protect your back. You have to point the bear spray at the ground because bears run and charge on four legs. Pay attention to the wind direction.’

The bear spray! The wind! What pocket is my bear spray in?! The wind!

 

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‘If you are not carrying bear spray and a black bear attacks you, hit its eyes. If a grizzly attacks you, play dead, let it shake you for a while until it gets bored and goes away.’

Yes. Yes. Play dead. Sure. Think of it as a giant soft Teddy Bear. In any case, you are likely going to die on the next 5 minutes of natural causes; a heart attack, for example.

 

Usually, when a bear hears you’re around (or sees your coffee mug), it will hide in the forest. We, human beings are the most dangerous animals in nature. If you are in its way, you have to allow room to let it pass. But if it’s hungry or feels you‘re a menace to it or its cubs, be prepared. Go back to page 1.

 

Go hiking in bear territory with someone that runs slower than you do.

 

 

 

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Blood Runs Coldhttp://expeditionportal.com/blood-runs-cold/ http://expeditionportal.com/blood-runs-cold/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 07:43:38 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30238 Most English speakers are familiar with the cliché ‘my blood ran cold’. It occurs to me that for such a phrase to get worn out, many writers had to have been in situations where they were impaled to the spot by terror, rigid with fright, or paralyzed by indecision. Still as bone-old as it may be, I can find no better words to use to describe what I endured on the first night of my solo trans-Kalahari expedition.

From the time I departed my home to my arrival in one of Africa’s loneliest places, the idea for a solo expedition was less than a year old. Still. I had got used to the idea of ten days in an area where it was possible and, in a strange way preferable, not to see any other human life.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, located in Botswana in Southern Africa, is one of the world’s largest conservation areas. There is one main, rough and sandy double-spoor track through the reserve. From it, more tracks lead to remote shallow valleys with names like Sunday Pan, Deception Valley, and Pipers Pan. The landscape is mostly flat, with sparse bush scrub, or lonely tree islands, which draw one closer with the promise of shade.

 

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After a struggle through traffic in the capital Gaborone, and another four hours on rough gravel as I headed west, I entered the southern portion of the vast, empty Central Kalahari. Mid winter and in the middle of the week, I was alone. I drove a further 20 miles from the entrance gate to ensure privacy because I was eager to find out what being totally alone in the wilderness would feel like. I was making a TV show of my expedition, but this time I would have no help. I would have to do everything myself, including filming myself telling the story.

The first sensation of being isolated was a strange one. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.

Dusk settled over my campfire and frying pan, in which a shop bought lasagna, pulled from the fridge, lay steaming. Soon, belly satisfied, I pulled out my laptop to write. Now obsidian blackness wrapped around me like a cloak. Sitting in the silence, the rustling of my shirt became deafening, drowning out all night sounds—of which there were none. No birds, no wind, and no insects cheered the air. I sat motionless in my camp chair, listening to the blood pumping rhythmically through my ears.

 

Then a lion roared.

 

And this is where the English language fails in its descriptive duty.

 

My vehicle doors were all open. I hadn’t yet tidied up or organized the vehicle for the night. I had not packed cameras away or even closed the tail-gate. And here was a lion. Now, a lion’s roar can carry for tens of miles across the savanna. But this one hadn’t. I know that for a fact because if you can hear it breathing , it’s not miles, but feet away from you.

Fear induced indecision passed and my blood started flowing again—with it, the strange instinct of the storyteller kicked in. I grabbed my video camera and ran the tape. Even now, I marvel at how odd it was that my first reaction was to ‘roll tape.’

 

Madness!

 

But instinct refused to be denied. It screamed me that whatever happened, even if it was only the sound track that was usable, the events I was capturing would be significant. And I was right. My wide-eyed, adrenaline spiked hysteria was to become the highlight of the entire series. Not to mention my twenty years of travel writing in Africa.

 

Watch the video now. This is part-1

Unless you just can’t resist the temptation, I recommend not reading further until you’ve watched the first video.

 

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Second attempt

My second attempt at crossing the Kalahari alone came a year later. (If you have not watched the video, as suggested, after the lion incident, I had a catastrophic tire failure) When I returned home, I had researched the reason for that tire failure and, while I had yet to come up with a sound conclusion as to why it had happened, I was not going to trust that brand a second time. As a result of the video, I have received hundreds of theories ranging from the stupid to the down right sensible. So I chose BF Goodrich ATs for the second attempt. I am still running BFs even today.

My second attempt was successful and infinitely satisfying. So satisfying, in fact, that I have since done numerous other solo trips across southern Africa.

What I learnt from both these expeditions is that solo travel offers an unsurpassed, memorable experience—not to mention a great sense of accomplishment. While I would not recommend any first attempt to be as ambitious as mine was, do give it a try.

My advice to anyone wanting to travel solo:

  1. Prepare more and better than you would for your normal expeditions.  Even on the second attempt, I still could have done more to prepare for the unexpected.
  2. Make sure you have something to keep you busy in the evenings. That’s when the loneliness can become tough to handle.
  3. Identify the biggest risks and address them before setting off. Mine were fire and falling. Fire would deprive me of shelter, protection from wild animals, and water. Falling off the roof rack ladder could be just as disastrous, especially if it resulted in broken bones or a concussion. I was very careful about my footwear, and took every step with particular care.
  4. Don’t take easy communications like mobile phones with you. The idea is to be cut off. It is only by being completely cut off that one can experience the remoteness fully. With good comms, this experience is just loneliness. There is little point to it. But do have emergency comms at hand.
  5. Always let people know where you are going and when you will be back. If something happens, there has to be some backup plan, so you will be found. Without this, its very high risk, which could also spoil the experience.
  6. Go somewhere you really love. Preferably somewhere familiar, especially for a first attempt. Although I had never driven my planned route, it didn’t matter as I once lived in the Kalahari, so I knew what to expect.
  7. Carry more water and food than you think you will need. The sense of comfort is really worthwhile.

Finally, I have to share the most troubling, but also the most delightful part of being totally alone in a wild place: I call it benign insanity. When you start speaking to yourself —and expecting someone else to answer, or telling yourself bad jokes—and laughing at them, then perhaps it is time to head back to civilization.  Enjoy the next video, which will tell you more of what a lone traveler can expect.

 

Watch the video now. This is part-2.

 

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Videos and text by Andrew St Pierre White

More of Andrew’s videos can be found on 4xOverland.com

 

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The Overland Festivalhttp://expeditionportal.com/the-overland-festival/ http://expeditionportal.com/the-overland-festival/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 04:26:22 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30480 Each summer, Main Line Overland and Touratech host the Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival and Touratech Adventure Rally, an enthusiastic gathering of adventurers from throughout the east, all descending on the Henwood Farm in Pennsylvania. I have attended dozens of overland events through the years, but this festival is something special, attracting a wide range of attendees, all excited to learn from others and share their adventures. The sense of hospitality was universal and it was common to see participants sharing food and drinks well into the night. Follow along as we showcase the best of the Overland Festival!

DSCF8570The event is held on a 220 acre farm, lined by forests and lush canyons. The event site was immaculate and the organization was professional yet welcoming. Motorcycle and 4WD routes line the property, providing everything from mild to wild. Catering was available for every meal and Main Line Overland even sponsored live music on Saturday night.

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Adventure Motorcycles:
Touratech brought the adventurer riders in by the hundreds, providing day rides, classes and presentations. Each evening they held some form of “shenanigans” with difficult (yet accessible) challenge courses. It was also great to see the wide range of motorcycles present, with everything from DR650s to brand new 1200 GSAs.
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Touratech brought their new KLR650 project bike- sweet.

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The event included all flavors of motorcycle, with BMWs, KTMs and Yamahas making up the bulk of the crowd.
Training
The hallmark of any good overland event is the training and roundtable presentations. The festival did not disappoint with dozens of classes held through the weekend. Overland Experts is always the consummate 4WD training organization, engaging the crowd with real-world scenarios and hands-on tasks.
Overland Experts: CLICK HERE
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Overland Experts and Touratech provided numerous classes, topics ranging from vehicle recovery to suspension tuning.

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The Touratech challenge course was super fun to watch, with spectators and participants engaged in the hilarity and victory. Watching the two-up team win was epic

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The variety of vehicles was part of the fun. A winch on a Forester? SURE!
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This impressive Dodge diesel/flatbed/4WC combo was ready to travel. Overland Experts brought their RTW Prado
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Even the attendees caught my attention, this visitor building a super clear rear drawer system using two fridge slides.

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Two wheels were represented, including a rare NX650 and a Surly Fat Tire bikepacking beast


Vendors
The festival was not only packed with attendees, but vendors too, including big industry names like AT Overland, Touratech, Clothing Arts, ARB, Fourwheeler, OK 4WD (James Baroud) and others. Local vendors also attended, like Purple Lizard Maps (super cool people), Vermont Overland, and ADV Moto Magazine (plus many more). I was impressed by the quality of components and vehicles on display and the degree of knowledge and experience presented by the booth staff.

For the full list of vendors: CLICK HERE
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AT Overland brought their impressive JK with Habitat. Mario, co-founder of AT was present to conduct classes and share his perspective on trailers, campers and vehicle builds. 
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RB staff from Florida was also in attendance, bringing an adventure-prepped Ford F350, a JK, and a drool-worthy Land Cruiser 200. This event is also the host to the Fourwheel Camper East Coast Owners Rally

 

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Purple Lizard maps is a local icon, providing travelers with hundreds of miles of trails.
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American Adventurist was also in attendance with a big crew, all having fun and willing to share a few libations once the sun set.
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Clothing Arts was an exciting addition, as they make some of the highest-quality travel clothing in the industry.

Main Line Overland
Being one of the host vendors, Main Line Overland was at the farm in force, bringing more cool trucks than I could count. It was great to get to know the Henwood family and hear of their travel experience and modification philosophy. It is rare to find a preparation and logistics company that so values function and form. Every one of their vehicles was an exercise in functionality, simplicity and performance, all while retaining the spirit of the original platform. In particular, their Defender 110 and Unimog were standouts, both ready to drive around the world.
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Main Line Overland also specializes in motorcycles and their shop has full moto service and modification capabilities.
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The Unimog was perfect, a fully functional restoration. The 350 was an exercise in performance and comfort, combining a Fourwheel Camper with 40″ tires.

Resources:
Overland Festival
Main Line Overland
Touratech 
   
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Road (And Trail) Tested: 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limitedhttp://expeditionportal.com/road-and-trail-tested-2015-subaru-crosstrek-2-0i-limited/ http://expeditionportal.com/road-and-trail-tested-2015-subaru-crosstrek-2-0i-limited/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 07:54:28 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30418 Travel to the far ends of many remote roads and you will often find––a Subaru. It has as much to do with the spirit of the typical Subaru driver as it does with the off-road aptitude of the vehicle itself. The undisputed king of the trailhead for decades, the ever present Subaru can be found portaging skis, kayaks, bikes, and all sorts of outdoor kit. They are, and always have been, vehicles for adventurous people.

 

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to test Subaru’s flagship wagon, the Outback, and it was an eye opening experience. With its powerful 6-cylinder engine, leather wrapped interior and impressive 8.7-inches of ground clearance, it was a pleasure to drive over every surface I encountered. With a distinct bias towards the pavement, I wondered how Subaru’s newest platform, the Crosstrek, would perform off-road. Not prone to just test a vehicle by taking in on a few laps around town, I loaded up a brand new 2015 XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited and headed for the big peaks and bumpy trails of southern Colorado.

 

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The XV Crosstrek was introduced in 2012 as a sporty alternative to the brand’s popular, but somewhat pedestrian Forester model. With progressive styling elements and an approachable entry price, it is aimed at the growing market of younger buyers. This is a space with heavy competition which now includes the Jeep Renegade and other small wagons and SUVs.

Similar to the Outback, the Crosstrek has a surprising 8.7-inches of ground clearance, but unlike its bigger sibling, has a shorter 103.7-inch wheelbase. With a much smaller front overhang and the rear wheels placed nearly all the way at the back of the chassis, the approach and departure angles are vastly improved over the Outback. The turning radius (34.8-feet) is extremely tight and allows the Crosstrek to pick its way around obstacles other vehicles have to attack head on.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter aluminum-alloy 16-valve Subaru Boxer engine with Dual Active Valve Control. Tiny as it is, it produces 148 hp with 145 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm. Those are not overly impressive digits, but they are sufficient for the needs of most drivers. The Crosstrek isn’t a rocket ship, but it does scoot along in traffic swiftly enough to not feel like it’s a liability. What it lacks in oomph it more than makes up for it with fuel efficiency and range.

According to the window sticker, the Crosstrek is estimated to achieve 26 mpg in town and 34 mpg on the highway. Over the course of 1,300 miles of mixed driving on and off the pavement, I believe those numbers are decidedly conservative. With a light foot on the highway, I was able to squeeze over 36 mpg out of the first two tanks of gas. With its large 15.9 gallon tank, I made the 450 mile trip from Prescott, Arizona to Durango, Colorado on a single tank of gas with a gallon to spare.

Much like the Outback I tested earlier in the year, the Crosstrek has the feel of a refined car, at least at this modest price point. Gone are the days when Subarus felt like they were crafted of thin layers of tin. The doors no longer close with a wimpy clang, but are solid and demonstrate that Subaru has elevated their game. Inside, soft-touch materials used in the trim create a comfortable space, again belying the sub $30,000 asking price. Some critics have castigated the Crosstrek as having a cheap interior, but I find that to be untrue. This particular car was wrapped in leather and featured Subaru’s Starlink 7-inch navigation and entertainment system as well as their impressive EyeSight Driver-Assist System. The latter might be more technology than I need, but I don’t find having it on board to be a detriment. Other amenities included an electric sun roof, roof rack rails, and rubberized mats for the floor and cargo area. All of the above brought the final sticker price to a respectable $28,521.

 

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The interior of the Crosstrek is well appointed and comfortable. I particularly like the adaptive cruise control and premium sound system. It helps the miles melt away.

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Driving Impressions

 

On the highway

As I knew it would, the Crosstrek provided a comfortable ride quality on the pavement. Nimble on twisty mountain roads, it also tracked straight and true on long open sections of Interstate with little need for continuous steering inputs. Even with a roof rack and bicycle mounted up top, wind noise was minimal as were audible intrusions from the road. The Crosstrek is if anything, a fantastic road tripper. The two eight hour driving sessions I folded into the week were comfortable and the miles were dispatched quickly at cruising speeds between 70-75mph with plenty of velocity left to be had.

 

If I have a complaint to levy, it is with the CVT transmission. When rolling over mountain passes at highway speed, the CVT whined loudly, the tachometer needle rising and falling almost randomly as the transmission searched for respite. It’s a loud process with a cacophony of engine and transmission noises that are at best annoying, at worst almost concerning. My other niggle would be with the addition of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Employing the paddle shifters in manual mode is anticlimactic and only offers the driver vague and mushy transitions from “gear to gear.” As much fun as they were in the 3.6-liter Outback, the paddle shifters in the Crosstrek seem pointless.

 

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On the trail

The question on everyone’s mind, at least within our demographic, is how does it do off-road? In an effort to find a definitive answer, I decided to pilot the Crosstrek around the Alpine Loop outside of Silverton, Colorado. This is not a difficult route, one I would classify as a perfect Subaru road. This is not to say it doesn’t have a few technical sections, a few of which put the Crosstrek right at its limits.

 

With just a quick walk around the vehicle, the obvious challenges are presented with the 18.0 degree approach angle and the long snout designed to give the Crosstrek favorable aerodynamics. The 27.7 degree departure angle is a saving grace, but the break-over was my biggest concern, and in one obstacle proved to be the aspect of the car most likely to be damaged. Fortunately, I managed to navigate the entire loop over Cinnamon and Engineer Passes without so much as a single issue. Only the rubber touched the trail, despite many an onlooker in a rented Jeep telling me I was sure to destroy the Suby.

 

 

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Images below shot with a Sony 4K Action Cam. Read more about that camera [Here]. 

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For what it is, a car, the ground clearance is impressive and gives the Crosstrek access to places that would stop other cars dead in their tracks.

 

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Image shot with a Sony 4K Action Cam. Read more about that camera [Here]. 

 

Working in the Crosstrek’s favor is its compact size and maneuverability. I was able to wiggle around many rocks and holes, finding multiple lines to choose from. Another strong aspect of the Crosstrek is the Symetrical All Wheel Drive system which affords the vehicle superb traction in nearly every setting. And with that, the positives are exhausted and off-roading a Crosstrek becomes more about managing the limitations of the platform.

Although few trails in the US reach the heights of the Alpine Loop, the CVT transmission protested repeatedly when trying to roll up and over the two 12,500 foot high points on the route. At one moment the transmission temp light flickered on briefly. I wondered if the CVT would permit the car to reach the summit, but with some sympathy for the car and a little patience, it did make it up and over. The lack of a low range, or even a virtual low range as used by Jeep, would have been a benefit.

It also goes without saying that this is a car, and as such has limited suspension travel. As comfortable and compliant as it is, even small dips and bumps had a wheel, or even two, airborne. Getting the wheels safely back on the ground is the key, particularly as to not damage the unprotected lower aspect of the vehicle. Another minor consideration when traversing rugged terrain is the small amount of tire volume wrapped around the rims.

 

 

Conclusion

All in all, the off-road performance of the Crosstrek not only surprised me, but the many other travelers I encountered. I don’t know that I would make a habit of pushing a Crosstrek to these limits with regularity, but for the occasional romp to a remote camp or trailhead, this little Suby will get you there––and back.

 

For a sport-inspired vehicle designed to offer a reasonable amount of backcountry access, I think Subaru built a car worthy of their storied reputation. Expect to see Crosstreks at the end of roads you wouldn’t think possible––for a car.

 

 

Additional testing considerations

It’s important to point out the other elements introduced into the test. Not only did I add a bike to the roof, I had the radio tuned to the Grateful Dead channel. I did much of the driving in Birkenstocks and had a bag of trail mix in easy reach at all time. I may have even stopped to hug a tree or two. All part of the Subaru experience.

 

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Specs and details

  • Width: 70.1-inches
  • Length: 175.2-inches
  • Wheelbase: 703.7-inches
  • Ground Clearance: 8.7-inches
  • Fuel Capacity: 15.9-gallons
  • Fuel Mileage: EPA 24/34 (36 mpg as tested)
  • Weight: 3208 pounds
  • Approach angle: 18-degrees
  • Departure angle: 27.7-degrees
  • Rear Cargo Capacity (aft of seats): 22.3 cubic feet
  • Rear Cargo Capacity (seats folded flat): 51.9 cubic feet
  • Horsepower: 148 @ 6200
  • Torque: 145 @ 4200

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Subaru EyeSight System

 

 

 

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La Aduana: Steve McQueen’s 1952 Chevrolet Pick Up Truckhttp://expeditionportal.com/la-aduana-steve-mcqueens-1952-chevrolet-pick-up-truck/ http://expeditionportal.com/la-aduana-steve-mcqueens-1952-chevrolet-pick-up-truck/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 13:35:47 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30432 He was arguably the one of the coolest individuals of his, or any other generation. Revered by men of all ages for his motoring exploits on two wheels and four, Steve McQueen was a legend long before his last day, which came all too soon. Over the years, various vehicles once belonging to McQueen have popped up at auctions across the globe. Few are as unique as his 1952 Chevy pickup fitted with a custom camper. And if you act quickly, it can be yours.

 

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From the eBay auction: [Click the title link to access the auction page]

 

Steve McQueen’s fully documented 1952 Chevrolet Custom one ton Pick up truck.

 

 

McQueen mostly used the truck for cross-country camping trips. A partial view of it can be seen in the Santa Paula barn in a photo from Grady Ragsdale’s book “Steve McQueen: The Final Chapter.”

“Removable custom camper top built by Harold Van Hoosen, a sheet metal fabricator from Yreka, California. Van Hoosen built the camper (named “Dust Tite”) in October 1952. The camper, made of galvanized metal and aluminum, includes a double-sided bed, storage cabinets, drawers, shelves and heavy-duty diamond plated bumper and tow hitch.”

“This truck’s significance takes on greater historical importance as it was the last vehicle to transport McQueen from his Santa Paula home to the Ventura County Airport on Nov. 3, 1980. From there he would be whisked to El Paso, Texas, for his final cancer surgery in Juarez, Mexico.

Accompanying McQueen in the camper was the Reverend Billy Graham. According to Graham, McQueen peppered him with questions of the afterlife on this ‘last ride.’ When they arrived at the airport, Graham read a number of passages of Scripture and they prayed several times. After “Amen,” Graham instinctively handed over his Bible to McQueen, which became his proudest possession. He was clutching the Bible when he passed away a few days later. As Graham turned to leave, McQueen proclaimed, “I’ll see you in heaven!”

The truck was first sold as Lot 626 at the Steve McQueen Estate Auction November 24-25, 1984 at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. It includes the original engine, body, frame and Forest Green paint. Other noteworthy features include a 6-cylinder engine, 4-speed transmission, 5-gallon gas tanks on running boards, a driver’s side spotlight, sun visor and two toolboxes. Also includes the original mattress and license plates.

Sold with the Original California Title in Steve McQueens name and the certificate of authenticity from The Steve McQueen Estate Sale in Las Vegas 1984.

With Mcqueen Motorcycles and automobiles selling into the millions of dollars this proves to be a worthwhile investment you can drive..

A portion of the auctions proceeds with be donated to The Boys Republic in Chino Hills California.. ( a school McQueen attended and supported throughout his life )

 

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Basecampedhttp://expeditionportal.com/basecamped/ http://expeditionportal.com/basecamped/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 07:11:52 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30324 The one quality I appreciate most about a manufacturer, beyond making a good product, is their willingness to listen to customer feedback and continually improve the product based on that feedback. Jackwagon Off-Road is just that kind of company: when we returned the first trailer JR spent the afternoon chatting with us about our ideas. A week later he invited us to swing by and check out the new improvements. You already know how we feel about towing the Basecamp—here’s our take on packing and camping with this nimble and versatile trailer.

Packing the Basecamp

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As mentioned previously, the cargo hold of the trailer is cavernous. We opted to pack as the name suggests: with a full set of oversized “basecamp” gear, plus two full sets of backpacking gear for an overnight hike away from the trailer. The basecamp gear consisted of: one huge cabin tent, two winter-weight sleeping bags, two camp mattresses, two ARB camp chairs, eight-foot camp table, dual-burner stove, full kitchen kit (in a Pelican 1550), cast-iron cookware, lanterns, and the “expedition” sized medical kit (in another Pelican 1550). The backpacking kit consisted of two full sets of: Nemo two-person backpacking tents, Nemo backpacking sleeping bags and pads, lightweight JetBoil-based kitchen kits, and a few pouches of dehydrated food. Sure, we didn’t have actual backpacks handy, but you get the point: all this gear filled just over half of the cargo hold.

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In it’s stock configuration the Basecamp features a simple twist-lock rail down each side for securing cargo. While it works well enough, I much preferred the optional L-track system, or the super beefy E-track option pictured above (rated for 6,000 pounds). If your cargo leaves a mess, the trailer also features a drain hole for easy clean-up. While it seems like a no-brainer, Jackwagon is the first manufacturer to offer this feature.

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Up front on the cooler rack we added a large cooler. We also tossed yet another Pelican 1550 (filled with charcoal and lighter fluid) next to the cooler, but a few bundles of firewood would fit much better here. Generous spacing between the floor and the frame allows for drainage, and easy lashing of cargo to the frame rails. Optionally, the cooler rack can be bordered with L-track. Our Hi-Lift and shovel tuck in neatly below the full-size spare tire.

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The tent bars bolt onto the sturdy reinforcement of the lid, and can handle even the largest trailer-top tents. Optionally, tie-downs can be added to the lid and the tent bars extended to handle a canoe/kayak. There’s also an optional longer tongue to ensure your watercraft clears the tow vehicle—we highly recommend this option if you have a Toyota FJ Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery as it allows the vehicle’s rear door to open fully with trailer attached.

Camping with the Basecamp

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Riding on a Timbren Axle-Less suspension and 33-inch tires, most of the trailer sits nice and low for convenient in-camp access. The one exception is the kitchen counter out back. With my six-feet of height I found it quite comfortable to use, but it was a bit of a stretch for my five-foot-four traveling companion. Thanks to the new counter leg design, access to the tailgate remains unhindered even with the kitchen counter set up (pictured below).

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The Basecamp is designed with simplicity and utility in mind: no plumbing to leak, no power systems to short out, and no complicated racks or awnings to fiddle with. It’s the perfect match for folks needing a little extra cargo space, and who prefer the center of camp not be attached to the vehicle. It excels at hauling bulky camping and adventure gear hassle-free into the backcountry, then blending into the background so you can focus on what really matters: getting out there.

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The base model Jackwagon Basecamp starts at a modest $6,500, and can be had nicely loaded for less than $9,000. Visit Jackwagon Off-Road for complete specs and customization options.

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Featured Trailer Build: Midog’s Base Camphttp://expeditionportal.com/featured-trailer-build-midogs-base-camp/ http://expeditionportal.com/featured-trailer-build-midogs-base-camp/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 10:00:34 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30365 It’s that time again for us to look at another cool and drool worthy build from Expedition Portal’s forums. With all the awesome threads in the trailer section, it can be hard decide what to feature, but this builders attention to detail and ingenuity made him a clear choice this time.  The idea stemmed from an owner who needed a LARGE hard walled off-road trailer like those in Australia, but couldn’t find one to suit his needs.  He based the design on a teardrop and then using some excellent fabrication skills, scaled it up to create this epic beast. Built for light off-road and fire road use, this pop-top camper has everything you could need to support a family of five on the road.

 

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In the back a hidden slide-out kitchen boasts enough equipment to serve up some serious grub, while extra compartments leave room for the group’s gear. When fully deployed you’ll find comfortable accommodations inside with two queen beds in the back and a bunk bed up front, which doubles as a couch for seating. In bad weather, campers can kick back inside the living quarters and watch TV or enjoy the climate controlled cabin while reading a book. Up front there is plenty of storage for water, fuel, and propane, along with a solar powered battery setup for long trips. We could go on and on about this build but we will just let you see for yourself below. Be sure to check out all the details in the build thread here!

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Field Tested: Fenix HL25 Headlamphttp://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-fenix-hl25-headlamp/ http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-fenix-hl25-headlamp/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 07:30:57 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30062 If I had to put money on it, I’d wager that almost every overlander owns a headlamp. I know I’ve owned dozens over the last 20 years, most of them produced by a brand I’ll just say rhymes with the word––pretzel.

 

Earlier this year our Overland Journal editorial team started discussing the idea of compiling a review of headlamps and that in turn got me looking into the market’s current offerings. One of my mountain biking friends, a paid professional rider, is sponsored by Fenix. He made a compelling argument for the brand by saying, “Even if they hadn’t given them to me, I would have bought them at full retail.” We mountain bikers never pay retail for anything, so that declaration carried some weight.

With a quick trip to the Fenix website and a dispatch of $45, I had their HL25 LED headlamp on route. That was about four months ago and I have had the chance to use it extensively. I dare say I’ve even abused it with almost malicious intent. As a loyalist to the pretzel brand, I wanted the Fenix light to be lousy.

 

Not to spoil a good product review; it’s anything but.

 

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The HL25 is unlike nearly every other headlamp in this price point and is constructed of aluminum. Not just a little bit of aluminum, but effectively all-aluminum. The mounting plate that retains the lamp is made of high density plastic, but the lamp itself is good old metal. With a tightly sealed battery and lamp compartment, the HL25 is even submersible to 2 meters, and judging by my ham-fisted abuses, is more durable than any plastic bodied lamp I’ve used.

Built around a Cree XP-G2 R5 LED powered by 3 AAA batteries, the 3 output modes produce 4 lumens for 140 hours, 50 lumens for 12 hours, and 150 lumens for 4 hours. The burst mode, not something I use very much, produces an impressive 280 lumens. Fenix claims the burst mode can throw light out to 223 feet, but I haven’t actually confirmed that measurement. It is certainly bright.

Over the course of testing the Fenix headlamp, I came to realize there are elements to my once preferred lamps that I now dislike. Toggling through the various modes of some lamps is complicated and annoying. The Fenix has one small rubberized button that is easy to locate, even with glove hands, and cycles through the settings predictably with a tactile click. It is also recessed enough to not inadvertently get turned on inside my pack or pocket. Adding to the user features, it has an “Intelligent Memory Circuit,” which automatically enters the previously used light level when switched on. That seems like a non-benefit, but it is handy.

Considering some headlamps of similar performance push well beyond $200, I have to concede the Fenix HL25 is a smoking value and every bit as good as any headlamp I’ve ever used.

 

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For more information, click on the banner below:

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Pros:

  • Excellent value
  • All-aluminum construction
  • IP68 Rated to 2 meters
  • Excellent battery life
  • Projects a nice even light pattern with no dark spots
  • Easy to operate rubberized button
  • Superb durability
  • Uses easily found AAA batteries

Cons:

  • A few grams heavier than similar lamps in the category
  • Replacing batteries in the dark is nigh impossible with the unusual configuration
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OLD HAT. Not to me, it isn’thttp://expeditionportal.com/old-hat-not-to-me-it-isnt/ http://expeditionportal.com/old-hat-not-to-me-it-isnt/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 07:26:31 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30191 The Mohave Road Trail must be old hat to most US 4×4 nuts. But not to me, it’s not.

 

People who know me will tell you that my number one passion is crossing deserts in a 4×4. Then they will say that my second passion must be the 4x4s themselves. They would be right. And what better way is there to indulge these than by combining them in a not so familiar country? I’ve been to the US eight times now, I think, but on only one other occasion did I venture into the wilderness. This time, driving a vehicle born and modified in the US, I was determined to do the wilderness properly in the five days I had available.

So, in May this year (2015), after attending Overland Expo West in the rain and snow, I headed for sunny California in the driver seat of a Ford E-Series with a full-spec Sportsmoble 4×4 conversion.

 

And what a surprise it all was.

 

Firstly, the van seems the ideal way to enjoy the vast distances and varying weather conditions in the US. Not just a Ford truck with some bits bolted on, it is a thoroughly tested and developed customization. It turns a dreary delivery van into a truly awesome piece of off road gear. Its major components have been either heavily modified or, in many cases, replaced with newly designed hardware.

I loved it, despite its bulk and thirst. I loved that I could cruise all day in effortless comfort on the Interstate, and then clamber nonchalantly over rocky crags. I loved the fact that when it snowed, I could be really comfortable inside.

Some may say I’m getting soft. To which I reply: why shouldn’t one be comfortable if you can? Is it really necessary to suffer the outdoors to enjoy the outdoors?

The off-road ability of this Sportsmoble is genuinely outstanding. I mean, really good. Its width and sheer size seem to have little or no affect on its ability to climb and grip.

 

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Its transfer gearbox is unusual, and is one component not adapted from the existing Ford gearbox. This is a simpler, lighter and considerably stronger unit. They tossed out the chain drive design, a component built into transfer cases to reduce cost, because it has no other advantages. The wonderful old-fashioned-shift-with-a-stick transfer box they replaced it with allows front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive. The rear diff has a limited-slip system and the front, a pneumatic locker. It drives solid axles on leaf springs, with Fox dampers on all four. These make the ride surprisingly stable. I expected it to lurch about like a drunken bison. But no. Off road it does take a bit of getting used to, mainly because of the height above the ground and the width, which for us Europeans is a bit like taxiing a Boeing.  It was altogether a big surprise.

My only significant criticism is the van’s thirst. Its 6,8L V10 petrol engine is no slouch, but the consumption is heavy by any standards.  Range is okay, but that’s because the replacement tank is over 45 gallons (about 170L).

 

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So what did I think of the trail itself? Magnificent. Some of the terrain reminded me of the deserts of Northern Cape in South Africa, and southern Namibia. Other parts were refreshingly new. I was touched by something very specific, though. Around the world, challenging passages and tough trails that require a bit of effort are often marked with a traveler’s pile, usually a pile of rocks where one places a stone in symbolic gratitude for the trail’s gifts.

The Mohave Road has two such places. One is indeed a pile of rocks—with a twist. It bears a plaque, the words of which can only be shared with those that have been there. But it was the other ‘pile’ that touched me the most. The Mohave Road Post Box, indicated by a flagpole and a weatherproof box, was, in my experience, unique and very special. Travelers are encouraged to sign the visitor’s book and leave a gift. On the day I visited, people had left water bottles, a tin of snuff, a few books, even a can of Red Bull, and some strange ornaments. There is also a tip jar. It was crammed with some quite large bills.

 

“Only in America,” I smiled to myself.

 

What an apt phrase that is.

 

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Following the trend of all great classics, the video I made is my classic style! I don’t take things overly seriously, enjoy the wonders of nature, the environment, and, in this case, a healthy dollop of American eccentricity. I loved every minute of it.

Enjoy the video. I really enjoyed making it!

 

 

Video and text by Andrew St Pierre White

More of Andrew’s videos can be found on 4xOverland.com

 

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High Passes and Rain Stormshttp://expeditionportal.com/high-passes-and-rain-storms-a-trip-through-southern-colorados-famous-trails/ http://expeditionportal.com/high-passes-and-rain-storms-a-trip-through-southern-colorados-famous-trails/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 07:22:09 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=29906 Wrapped in bacon and pan fried with plenty of salt and butter, James and I were furiously consuming what may have been the moistest steaks either of us had ever eaten. It’s difficult to say though, it was pouring with such force that much of that was likely just rain flavored with steak juices. But no matter, this is just part of the fun and we had our tents set up before the rain came. One great advantage of eating in the rain? Mother nature does most of your dishes.

This was only our first night of six planned for southern Colorado. Despite the downpour that began the instant our steaks were done, the days drive from Prescott to our camp north of Dolores had been quite uneventful. With a new 5 speed transmission in the old FJ60, 80 miles per hour was pleasantly possible despite the factory 2F motor. Saturday morning greeted us with a continuing threat of rain until we reached Ophir, where the weather broke and we were had our first views of the Rocky Mountains and Ophir Pass. Though Ophir Pass was just a quick out and back for us it was well worth the drive. Another quick detour was had through Telluride and up to Bridal Veil Falls for lunch on the tailgate.

 

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There was a music festival going in Telluride, but despite the tourist crowds in town we only encountered one other vehicle climbing Tomboy Road. This was just fine by us, giving plenty of opportunities to ogle the views before reaching the Tomboy Mine. At  Imogene Pass the dogs had the time of their life bounding through snow drifts. I pulled up to an overlook just east of Imogene Pass looking to stretch our legs a bit more. Two days in the driver’s seat had left me itching to get away from the truck for a bit, so I walked up to snoop around the old Army lookout hut at the peak. James changed shoes while I was checking out the hut and we then walked down to Ptarmigan Lake. I had dreams of loading my pack and spending the night on the lake, but James was a little more skeptical and insisted on leaving the packs behind; and he was right. The walk was harder than I thought, especially at 13,000ft and deep snowdrifts crossing the road didn’t help any. Despite the amazing views from the old miners cabin, I finally relented and we returned to the Land Cruiser. On the way down we met a Phoenician named Marty who had sank his FJ Cruiser in a snow bank. Good thing we happened along when we did, otherwise a Jeep might have had to pull him from the snow and that wouldn’t be good for any self respecting Toyota owner. Not too much further down the road James and I made camp in an old cabin at Upper Bird Camp.

 

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By noon Sunday burgers and a pint were had at the Ouray Brewery while James and I studied the maps for Engineer Pass. By this point we were both getting leery of the trip reports we had read from others. Not that the FJ60 was having any trouble, or the roads were beyond our comfort levels, but the reports claimed things such as Subaruable for Imogene; Bollocks. That said, the only trouble we had getting to Engineer Pass was convincing the Range Rover Sport driver and his friends in their side by side to reverse 20ft up the trail rather than our reversing a quarter mile down the trail. Personally I feel it should be a flexible thing based upon location of pullouts but if they are reading this; No, the rules of the road aren’t randomly different in Colorado, those going uphill do have right away. After the short detour to Engineer Pass, we returned to the large mine near Mineral Creek for the night. Again camping in an old mine cabin we moved in before the rains began, enjoying our drinks of choice with our pipes. Soon the sun was setting with a spectacular double rainbow over camp and a light sun-shower.

A Dark and Stormy and a Mojito made with Silverton distilled rum seemed like a good way to finish off the Alpine loop Monday afternoon. The day had been filled with more spectacular scenery on the way down through Animas Forks, including a tailgate lunch while watching people drown their Jeeps in a nearby ford. The plan was to camp near Clear Lake, then backpack into Ice Lake for two nights of spectacular scenery. Our first clue of that plan’s demise was while enjoying the rum looking at NOAA. 60% chance of rain the next two days and starting tonight. That played out as scripted soon after making our way to Clear Lake and setting camp. The weather thankfully broke long enough for some spectacular views to be had however, so I got plenty of exercise running all around Clear Lake with the camera. By morning the rains had returned in full and we agreed a new plan was needed. Based upon weather, we opted to make a pavement run up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

 

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For anyone thinking of going––do. Montrose is nothing to boggle the mind, but the National Park is pretty stunning; and the routes (the Park Service doesn’t see fit to call them trails) to the river are pretty epic. I arose at 5:45 for a good breakfast and the mile walk down to the Visitors Center to fill out my back country permit. Why such an early start for a measly two mile round trip hike? Because, that one mile route from Visitors Center to the river drops 1,800 feet, that’s why. That is the easy route too! Again, for anyone thinking of going, do. It’s only two miles, just try not to think about 3,600 feet of total elevation change in that two miles. For obvious enough reasons, I had no interest in putting forth the effort to find another campsite outside the park, so stars were again gazed from the South Rim Campground.

Montrose’s inability to impress largely had to do with my inability to find a decent breakfast there at 9am on a Thursday. We finally stopped for a breakfast burrito made fresh to order. Too bad it was made with Kraft cheese, Jimmy Dean sausage and they didn’t have any coffee. Such is life I guess, not everything can be perfect. Coffee was had at a barista across the street and it was now time to head for home. Being homeward bound doesn’t mean the fun is over though, Black Bear Pass is on the way and had just opened that week. This lead us to some more amazing views, fields of wild flowers, and the only mud bog of the trip. Nothing 33 inch Mud Terrains can’t handle, but it’s worth a thought for anyone with lower vehicles since even my lifted FJ60 was dragging the frame most of the way. After another lunch near Bridal Veil Falls, James and I met a friendly family with quite the story to tell; The parents had been born in Telluride. Grandpa had worked the mine at Via Ferrata, and Great Grandma had been brought down from the Tom Boy in winter where her husband worked through the mines and trams to give birth in Telluride.

 

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Our final camp of the trip was had west of Dunton on the Dunton Road. The dogs ran and played until they dropped while James and I sipped some Bundy rum and smoked our pipes around the first campfire of the trip. With visions of the Milky Way fresh in our minds we crawled into our mosquito proof tents. Fridays drive was of course long, made worse by a fierce west wind badgering the poor 2F motor down to 55mph. We did, however, make a quick scouting trip through Canyon de Chelly National Monument on our way, a must see site to return to on another trip.

 

 

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Head to Head: Sherpa 50 Solar Kit vs. Anker E7 14W Solar Chargerhttp://expeditionportal.com/head-to-head-sherpa-50-solar-kit-vs-anker-e7-14w-solar-charger/ http://expeditionportal.com/head-to-head-sherpa-50-solar-kit-vs-anker-e7-14w-solar-charger/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:56:56 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30087 I have lost track of just how many solar panel and battery pack reviews we’ve completed in the last few years, and given how rapidly this technology advances, I assume this won’t be the last. Although we have evaluated some rather large systems, it seems most consumers are interested in smaller solutions for charging the myriad of handheld devices we’ve come to depend on in our daily lives. This usually includes phones, tablets, GPS devices, and now things like electronic wearables and even drone batteries. With that in mind, I set out to test two popular products, one from Goal Zero and one from Anker.

 

Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Solar Kit $399

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This comprehensive system contains three primary components. At the heart of the kit is the Sherpa 50 power pack with 5200mAh of power provided by a Li-NMC battery pack. This versatile unit has a multitude of output ports including a 5V USB port, 12V laptop port, and a 12V output to power most small accessories. There is a large LCD screen which displays charge levels, and even an LED light for nighttime use. Adding to the power pack’s utility is the add-on 110V AC output inverter.

To facilitate the recharge of the power pack, the Sherpa 50 is paired to Goal Zero’s own Nomad 13 solar panel. That 13W panel uses two separate panels which employ Monocystalline cells to generate power. Output options include a 12V plug which connects to the Sherpa 50, but also includes output plugs for USB, Goal Zero’s own Guide 10 power pack, and there’s an additional plug which can be used to chain multiple solar panels together for maximum power generation.

 

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Anker E7 Power Pack and 14W Solar Panel ($86 on Amazon)

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A relative newcomer to the segment, Anker has quickly become one of our favorite brands. I have used their power packs to keep my devices charged while in the interior of Iceland and in the remote corners of the Rockies and they’ve never let me down. Anker’s claim to fame is their ability to cram huge amounts of power in tiny packages and the E7 raises that bar ever higher. With a whopping 25600mAh of juice on tap, this is an incredible power source. Although it doesn’t have the variety of output ports that the Sherpa 50 has, most users only require USB outputs and the E7 has three of them. With Anker’s PowerIQ amp-adjustment technology, it can identify which device it is attached to for optimal charging efficiency.

The E7 is not only extremely compact at only 6.5 x 3.1 x 1 inches, it weighs in at just a hair over a pound. I would go so far as to call it pocket-size if you have a slightly bigger pocket than usual. I tend to like the clean aesthetic of the outer case as it slips easily into pouches and pockets for easy transport.

The 14W solar panel has four individual sections mounted to a heavy-duty nylon backing. The dual USB output ports also feature Anker’s PowerIQ technology for fast and smart charging. At 11 x 7 inches when folded, it is slightly smaller than Goal Zero’s 13W Nomad, but not by enough to be a distinct advantage. The 27 ounce weight is respectable and close enough to that of the Nomad to be a wash.

 

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Performance

Goal Zero Sherpa 50

The question most consumers want to know is: How much power can I squeeze out of these things? Goal Zero claims the Sherpa 50 will charge most smartphones up to 7 times. This shouldn’t be a lofty goal for most compact chargers, but the Sherpa 50 failed to hit that digit no matter how many times I conducted that test. Whether charging iPhones or Android devices, the best I could ever coax out of the Sherpa 50 was 5-6 charges. This was starting with phones powered down to between 5% and never more than 10%.

On the upshot, the Sherpa 50 itself could be charged via the 110V wall charger in as little as three hours. Unfortunately, that wall charger is massive and a hassle to carry around. With the included Nomad 13 panel in good sun, I could get to full charge in as little as 9 hours, but the average over the course of several months was between 12 and 15 hours. This in the summer sun of Arizona. That may sound like a lot of time, and it is, but it is respectable performance within this category of solar kits.

 

Anker E7

I anticipated big performance out of the little E7, and it delivered on my expectations. After testing a variety of smartphones, I was able to consistently get up to 10 charges out of the E7. What was even more impressive was my ability to charge my iPad Mini more than two times. As is often the case, I found myself in a situation whereby my phone, tablet and Delorme inReach device were all nearly dead. I plugged all three devices into the E7 and had them powered up to full charge in less than 120 minutes. As power packs go, the E7, as is true for all Anker power packs, provides fast charges again and again.

 

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The Good Stuff

Goal Zero 

  • I like the versatility of the Sherpa 50, particularly with the inclusion of the 110V inverter.
  • The LCD readout is convenient
  • The time to charge the Sherpa 50 via the wall charger or solar panel is impressively quick.
  • Charge times were swift when charging my various devices.

Anker

  • The size to power ratio is unparalleled.
  • I liked the ability to charge three USB powered devices at once with minimal loss in charge speed.
  • The clean design is ideal for travel and allows the unit to fit into small pockets and pouches.
  • I like that the E7 comes with a small padded carrying case.
  • The price is unbeatable. The average Amazon price for the E7 with the 14W panel is under $90.00. That’s less than a quarter of the asking price of the Goal Zero system.

 

The Bad Stuff

Goal Zero

  • The Sherpa 50 is on the big side and clocks in at a pound and a half with the inverter attached.
  • I expect more power out of a power pack of this size and certainly at $250 with the inverter.
  • As a Mac user, the 12V laptop port is only slightly more useless to me than the 12V accessory port.
  • I can’t get over the expense of this combination. $400 is a lot of cheese for a humble charging solution.
  • The AC charging block for the Sherpa 50 is huge and adds to the overall bulk of the combination. When traveling with the 50 and it’s charger, I feel like I should expect more stored power than I’m getting in return.

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The Sherpa’s charging block is too big for my liking. 

 

Anker

  • Because of its big power, it takes an eternity to charge the E7. If using a standard smartphone USB charging plug to import power, it can take 28 hours to fully charge the E7. A higher output tablet charging block (for tablets, etc) reduced that to 14 hours. Using the 14W solar panel, it took over 32 hours to get the E7 fully charged. That turned out to be a three day affair. It’s almost better to use the solar panel as a stand alone solution and charge devices directly from the panel.
  • The Anker solar panel seemed to require more direct sunlight than the Goal Zero panel which meant it required more frequent repositioning.

Conclusions

Not that I would want to, but I could geek out on testing these two systems for another several weeks, but it wouldn’t change my verdict.

 

I prefer the Anker system, but with a catch.

 

Given its small size and huge reserves of power, I like the E7 over the Goal Zero Sherpa 50. I also only use a solar panel as an infrequently used backup, so shucking out $150 for the Nomad 13 kinda stinks. The Anker panel is more than enough to fit the needs of most consumers, including mine, and at $60 it’s a screaming deal.

 

The only thing that has me on the fence with the Goal Zero unit is the ability to integrate it with other Goal Zero power packs and solar panels. I just wonder how many people are really inclined to do so.

 

At any rate, If I were to make a recommendation to a consumer, I’d either buy the Anker E7 and solar panel if you genuinely feel you will need to make power, or better yet buy two E7 units for less than the price of the Sherpa 50 and stick all that power in your pocket.

 

Verdict: Anker

 

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Ruffwear Dog Gear: Preventing Dogstruction on tripshttp://expeditionportal.com/ruffwear-dog-gear-preventing-dogstruction-on-trips/ http://expeditionportal.com/ruffwear-dog-gear-preventing-dogstruction-on-trips/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=30116 Overlanders seem to love dogs. Whether its their undying loyalty, endless spirit of adventure, or just how friggin cute they are, they’re here to stay as our travel companions. Despite how much we enjoy them though, I’d be willing to bet that few of you have ever said ” I’m sure glad I get to clean hair out of my truck for the next hour”, or “isn’t it great having dog toys and treats all over the car”. No, most of us prefer a clean vehicle, a safe dog, and secured gear, which for me, is where Ruffwear comes in.

If you haven’t heard of them before, consider this outdoor dog 101. Ruffwear makes durable and effective gear for your pet, from harnesses to collapsible bowls, and even sleeping bags, they have everything and more for the adventuring critter. We’ve selected a few products we thought would be most useful to an overlander and handed them off to our dog product specialist Paxton, whose qualifications include four legs, plenty of fur, and a knack for getting things dirty.

Ruffwear Load Up Harness

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A dog wearing a seat belt had never crossed my mind, but on my way home from the office recently a Honda ran the red light in front of me and changed that. I slammed on the brakes and to my horror I watched my poor dog soar into the front seat. Though we missed the car, I dread to think where he would have gone if we hadn’t. If you have any concern for your dog in the car I can say this harness is worth the money, but for the sake of knowledge I’ve shared my other thoughts below.

 

Positives

Ruffwear took their usual level of quality and really bumped it up a notch for this one. Lifting the Load-up to put it on our dog the harness feels sturdy and comfortable with no plastic bits or cheap mesh. Thick padding covers all the critical areas and metal hardware adorns every connection. For what I can only assume is durability in a crash, Ruffwear skipped the traditional buckles and designed something entirely new. It’s an easy to use system which eliminates most failure points. Instead of making a fool of myself trying to describe it, I’ve included pictures below.

I also included a picture of a fantastic feature which is so often overlooked by manufacturers, the strap tie. I can’t stand having loose straps hanging around and your dog won’t appreciate it when they snag one on a passing branch. Ruffwear built their velcro system right in and it has held tight since our first test.

Images from Ruffwear.com

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The Load Up uses the standard car seat belt as an anchor for ease of use and optimum safety; simply pull the belt through the loop and your dog is set to go. Of course it’s one thing to claim safety, it’s another to prove it. This harness system was dynamically tested at MGA Research Corp (a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contracted test facility) under the conditions outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 and passed. What does all that garbage mean? Basically it’s about as safe as dog gear gets.

Although it’s really meant for use in the car and rest stops, we were curious to see how it would perform as a full time harness. During our last trip to the great white north, we used this system exclusively. On the airplane Paxton was able to maneuver and lay comfortably under the seat without any discomfort from straps or buckles. He seemed to handle long distances walking without trouble and largely didn’t even notice it was there. We give it another thumbs up for comfort and use-ability and a huge thumbs up for safety.

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Negatives

There really aren’t many negatives to this product. We were overwhelmingly happy with it and only had one possible flaw throughout our testing. Despite being designed primarily for vehicle use, we felt the harness should have a front buckle or loop near the dogs head. Guiding an impatient or distracted dog by the tail end is not very effective and can cause big headaches for owners in tight quarters like cities or in our case airport security. The other “negative” is really open for interpretation and can be avoided with training or just being careful. The first time I used this harness my dog had no idea he was still connected to the seat. When I opened the door he leaped out and to his surprise was yanked back and fell down against the car with his back end in the air. He wasn’t hurt but as I’m sure you can imagine there is potential there for older or smaller dogs.

 

More information on the Load Up harness can be found here. 

 

Ruffwear Haul Bag

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Nothing is worse than loose gear and dog toys bouncing around your truck on the trail, which is why this may be our favorite product so far. The Haul Bag is exactly what it sounds like, a dedicated bag for hauling your dogs stuff around with you. On trips only lasting a few days we found that this versatile little unit was enough to hold everything we needed including food, bowls, treats, medicine, toys, lint rollers, and more. On longer trips we simply pull out the food and the bag becomes a permanent home for everything our dog could need.

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Positives

By this point you have probably figured out that quality is a consistent theme with Ruffwear. This product is no exception and feels well made with a lot of great design features, including a rather unique wide mouth top to allow full access into the bag. In typical overlander fashion, our favorite feature is the variety of pockets placed throughout the bag. This setup made it exceptionally easy to insert and remove all the little oddities that accompany many dogs. Everything can have its place which eliminates the endless search through the bottom of the bag for that one little treat or toy.

 

Negatives

We did not find sufficient fault with any part of this product to consider it a negative. The closest we could get was that the strap was a little flimsy, understandable with the low load requirements of such a product.

 

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More information on the Haul Bag can be found here.

 

Ruffwear Dirtbag Seat Cover

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Image from Ruffwear.com

If there is one thing our dog does well on a trip, it’s destroy a back seat. This seemingly innocent Shepherd mix is actually a super breed developed for shedding, leaving muddy paw prints, and covering every surrounding surface in crumbs from his treats. Combine that with a black cloth interior and you can understand why a seat cover is a good idea. Based on my previous experiences with this style seat cover, I admit I was expecting to throw it away. What I found however, was a pleasant surprise.

 

Positives

The first thing you notice when inspecting this product is the packaging, yes that’s right the packaging. Most covers in the marketplace are stored by balling or folding them up and then throwing them into the nearest corner where they proceed to unravel and get in the way of just about everything. The Dirtbag however, uses a creative design of a zipper pocket which allows the entire cover to fold into itself. The end result is a small bag that you can tuck beneath the seat when not in use. Simple storage and deployment earns a big thumbs up here.

Next comes the always fun installation, which usually involves folding of seats and running around to every corner of the vehicle to tighten straps. Once again, the Dirtbag impressed. After unfolding the cover from the zipper pouch, hey did we mention how much we like the zipper pouch?, owners find a pretty straight forward process. Buckle the ends around the seats, slip the “anchors” between the seat top and seat bottom, and tighten, voila! This is certainly the easiest cover we’ve ever installed and it makes daily removal a reasonable task.

Features include waterproof fabric for those rainy days and long muddy hikes, non slip fabric to help your friend stay upright, and the ability to be machine washed in times of serious dirt. The cover also has slots for seatbelts and the ability to be set up in a hammock or bench configuration, however we don’t feel that many passengers will enjoy sitting in the mess you’re trying to keep off your seats.

 

Negatives

We do think that some sort of velcro strap running along the underside of the seat could be helpful. During extended use our Shepherd was able to shift the cover to one side exposing the seat to his utter dogstruction. While it was a quick fix, a strap running side to side would eliminate the need for adjustments all together.

 

For more information visit Ruffwears website here. 

 

Other Noteworthy Products

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We weren’t scheduled to review the following items, but I actually purchased them myself almost a year ago and felt they deserved to be mentioned here. The Knot-a-leash is the first Ruffwear product I ever bought and the reason why I trust their gear now. After my dog broke his leash running for a squirrel, nearly being hit by a car, I decided I had had enough of low quality dog products. Believe it or not I have a few friends in the outdoor world and almost unanimously they pointed me to Ruffwear. Fortunately for me the local hike shack had a Knot-a-leash in stock.

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My first thought was that this is way better than the typical leash. The body is made of a thick kernmantle rope laced with reflective trim for visability. It’s not exceptionally heavy, but certainly strong. The connection end skips the goofy clips seen on nearly EVERY dog leash out there and instead uses a locking carabiner. I love this for its strength and versatility, allowing owners to use it in various situation without worry of failure. We have even used it to tie off equipment in a bad storm when our dog was inside with us. The leash took it without worry.

More information on the Knot-a-leash can be found here. 

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The second product I purchased isn’t ground breaking by any means, but just a great thing to have while camping with your dog. Simply dubbed “The Beacon” this lightweight watertight light clips to any of Ruffwear’s harnesses, collars, bags, life jackets, and apparel. We purchased this product to allow our dog to safely roam around at night after a long day in the car. The LED light is impressively bright and made it easy for us to keep track of him even at long distances. We haven’t had the chance to really torture test the beacon like the leash mentioned above but we’re confident that it will hold up to anything our Shepherd can put it through.

 

More information on the beacon can be found here.

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