Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:19:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Shelter from the Storm: How to Select a Ground Tenthttp://expeditionportal.com/shelter-from-the-storm-how-to-select-a-ground-tent/ http://expeditionportal.com/shelter-from-the-storm-how-to-select-a-ground-tent/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:24:36 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35340 There is something uniquely gratifying about the sanctuary of a tent. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that torrential rain, crushing snow, gale force winds, and swarms of bugs can be so effectively held at bay with fabric and poles. In fact, the more desperate the conditions are outside a tent, the more comfortable it is inside.

I enjoy my tent-bound experiences only because the modern tent is such an impressive progression over the animal skin shelters our ancestors once lugged around. Many of today’s tents are built with cutting edge materials using computer aided designs to provide a layer of security unimaginable just decades ago. For the overlander, the offerings suitable for our type of travel range from tiny bivy sacks to walk-in enclosures that would make P.T. Barnum envious. Knowing which one is best suited for anyone’s unique needs, however, is not always obvious.

 

How do you select the right tent?

Tent architecture and design

The advent of flexible poles and lightweight fabrics marked a turning point in tent design, particularly when paired to the geodesic shapes pioneered by the likes of Buckminster Fuller and his contemporaries. This is not to say the age of the lean-to and teepee are behind us, but current tents employ a wide range of structures to achieve particular objectives. These elements can be broken down into various categories.

 

Single and double wall

All tents must achieve two diametrically opposed functions. They must prohibit the ingress of moisture while allowing internal water vapor to escape. Humans expel a tremendous amount of moisture with every breath creating the condensation that can wet a tent from within. To achieve a necessary level of breathability, tents must either rely on a double wall construction with a tent body and rain fly allowing for optimal air circulation, or a single wall construction that relies on a breathable fabric, and/or includes large ventilation features. Few single wall tent fabrics breath well enough to transfer enough moisture to not be plagued with condensation issues, but there are some that perform better than others.

Canvas was the first single wall fabric put to common use as it could be waxed or oiled to repel rain and snow, but remain breathable enough to limit internal condensation. Mountaineering tents, like those from Bibler, The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Nemo Equipment and others, rely on sophisticated fabrics which behave much like GoreTex. As a general rule, most single wall tents tend to be best applied to cooler seasons as ventilation features are limited.

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Double wall tents are by far the most common and have attributes unattainable by their single wall cousins. Most double wall tents have an inner tent body composed largely of mesh panels. This allows the tent body to be pitched on its own as a bug shelter with maximum air pass-through. It is even possible to pitch just the rain fly on some tents creating a weather proof shelter with minimal weight. That versatility is what makes double wall tents so popular.

 

Free-standing tents

The dome tent was amongst the first tent types to offer a free standing design, meaning it did not require stakes or guy lines to keep it upright. Over the years, this feature has held peculiar sway over the buying public. Many consumers assume that free-standing shelters are in some way superior to those that require the use of stakes and guy lines. Free-standing tents do have distinct advantages. They are easier to pitch on hard surfaces that don’t readily accept stakes. Once pitched, they can be moved around, picked up, inverted, and even shaken to purge them of debris and dirt. It should be noted that even free-standing tents will need to be staked to the ground to maximize their weather-thwarting properties.

As a final footnote, the North American tent market clearly has a preference for free-standing tents as they are the most popular and offered in a wider selection than their non free-standing counterparts.

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Non free-standing tents

There are many shelters that fit into this category. Single-pole structures like pyramids and teepees require stakes and guy lines to remain standing. Hoop tents are the most common of the non free-standing shelters in use around the world. There are noteworthy benefits to these types of structures. Hoop tents often have a low weight to space ratio and can often provide the most vertical walls of any tent design. They are also strangely resilient to high winds. The same can be said for teepees and pyramids, which also do well with heavy snow loads, although their sloped walls limit interior space.

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Floor plan and symmetry

It is an often overlooked aspect of tent selection but how floorspace is shaped is a critical concern. Some tents have an asymmetrical shape with a definitive head and foot orientation. Others are more symmetrical allowing the occupants to choose which end of the tent they wish to have at their heads. This seems incidental, but should the sleepers wish to sleep with their bodies alternating head to toe, an asymmetrical tent may not always permit that orientation. There are also times when you crawl into your tent only to realize you’re on a downward slope. Instead of sleeping with all of the blood rushing to your head, you can sometimes just flip your body around so your feet are at the low end.

Other aspects of tent symmetry come into play with general living space. I have a two-person tent with a rectangular floor plan. It allows the two occupants to sit at either end, facing each other. This not only adds to the elbow room of the tent, it makes small tasks like eating meals, changing cloths, or even just playing cards easy. Tents that force the occupants shoulder to shoulder can often feel more cramped than they actually are.

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Liveable space and wall angles

A tent can have a large floor area, but if the walls slope aggressively, that interior space will feel restricted and tight. As such, tent designers aspire to create shelters with walls that are as vertical as possible. As an example, teepees have great floor space, but terrible head room.

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Three or Four Season

It is one of the great misnomers in the outdoor industry, but a “four season” tent really should be called a one season tent––for winter. That fourth season requires a tent designed to endure heavy snow loads and high winds with other considerations like the need to store large amounts of wet or frozen gear outside the main tent body. Bugs are of no concern in the winter months, so mesh is kept to a minimum. Heat retention is an obvious benefit, but condensation mitigation becomes a serious issue. Because of these design constraints, four season, or winter tents, tend to be heavy, complex, and oddly enough, small and expensive.

Three season tents refer to the seasons most backcountry users enjoy, which is to say: spring, summer, and fall. These tents will have more ventilation for use in warmer temperatures and more bug mesh to keep the biting insects from ruining a good night’s sleep. The vast majority of tents on the market are designed for three season usage.

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Materials

The fabrics used in the construction of a tent have a direct correlation with its intended purpose. A shelter made of expensive and ethereally light Cuben fabric will be most useful to those with critical weight constraints like bikepackers and backpackers. Canvas is of no use to those people as it weighs a ton. That’s of minor consequence in the back of a 6,000 pound truck. Some tents employ exotic materials like Hilleberg’s Kerlon 1800, which is virtually impossible to tear or damage. Silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon is the ultra-light favorite while polyurethane coated nylon offers great performance for lower cost. Bibler’s proprietary ToddTex waterproof/breathable fabric is the best of its kind with condensation almost never a problem in a Bibler shelter. The choice of fabric will not only determine performance, but it will invariably effect the purchase price.

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Poles

It is a surprising number, but in some cases, the cost of the poles alone can represent more than half of the total price of a tent. The cheapest poles are made of fiberglass, like those that come packaged with price-point tents sold at your local big-box department store. When a fiberglass pole fails, it’s a mess and shatters into splintered strands. The better poles are made of extruded aluminum, with the best made by a company called DAC. It’s easy to understand that better poles make for a better shelter, and as such will be lighter, stronger, more flexible, and often include details like real rubber shock cords that won’t poop out after season number two. The lightest poles are made of carbon fiber, but only a precious few tents come with those exotic sticks.

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Features

In the last few years we have witnessed a number of interesting features enter tent desgin. Big Agnes released their MtnGlo LED tent lighting system, which I dismissed as a cheesy gimmick until I used it. Now I think every tent should have a little strand of party lights. They now have models packaged with Goal Zero charging packs. Yes, I think it’s genius.

The features that fall into the category of must-haves typically include things like well-placed pockets, gear organizers, reflective elements, ventilation ports, clear plastic windows, and other things that add creature comforts. Obviously, some features are more useful than others.

Door type and placement

I have given away tents with annoying door configurations. One of my near deal breakers of tent design is a non-hanging door. Doors that unzip only to lay on the ground make me nuts. They get dirty, allow debris to enter the tent, and always seem to get stuck under my pad, knees, or gear. Hanging doors which can be tied to the side, or left to drape, are often best as they seldom contact the ground.

Where the door is located on the tent body is another critical issue. A multi-person tent with one side door is a terrible design as the occupants have to crawl over each other to get in or out. Front and back doors don’t suffer that inconvenience. Doors that are too small, or are positioned awkwardly inside a vestibule can also be a negative. Lastly, doors with complicated zipper configurations can be frustrating, particularly in the middle of the night just as nature calls.

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Vestibules

A good tent typically includes one or two vestibules ideally large enough to protect the tent entrance from foul weather, and to make for useful gear storage. Tents with two doors and two vestibules are great as they allow one vestibule to be used just for gear, the other to protect the entrance. When weather turns ugly, a vestibule is a wonderful thing to have.

 

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In conclusion

Selecting the right tent for you needs is not terribly difficult once you understand what makes one tent different from another. If properly chosen, a good tent can improve your backcountry experience and provide years of use. Like many products, price often follows quality. A $75 department store tent will not perform nearly as well as a higher priced tent. The point of diminishing returns is tough to judge. The $800 asking price of a Hilleberg may seem outrageous, but if it is your home for several months of travel in hostile conditions, that might be the best value.

 

If you make your purchase wisely, and find yourself sequestered within it as the weather outside threatens to ruin your trip, having the right shelter will be worth every penny.

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VOTD: 2 Fat 2 Furioushttp://expeditionportal.com/votd-2-fat-2-furious-2/ http://expeditionportal.com/votd-2-fat-2-furious-2/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:14:34 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35825 We had way too much fun last year shooting our first fat bike freeride video, so this year we knew we had to do another. The goal of 2 Fat 2 Furious was to only ride things that would be harder or impossible on a regular bike. From waist-deep powder to drifty sled tracks to packed down jump lines, the boys achieved just that.

Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons, and Noah Brousseau got rad on their Blizzards all winter, and we’re excited to show everyone the result.

 

“We were having fun ripping around on the snowmobile tracks but looking at all the pow chutes surrounding us it was only a matter of time before we were dropping in—we just had to figure out lines that were steep enough to stay afloat!” — Wade Simmons

“I was pretty confident on the 3, it was just hard because I was scared to carve off the lip.” — Noah Brousseau

 

Good times, now get out there and freeride your fat bike!

 

 

Bike: Rocky Mountain Blizzard

Shot at the Coquihalla Lakes Lodge, Kamloops Bike Ranch, and Coastal Mountains, BC

Filmed & Edited by Liam Mullany

Additional Cinematography by Harrison Mendel

Produced by Liam Mullany & Brian Park

Photos by Robb Thompson & Kaz Yamamura

Special Thanks to Cory Leclerc, Bobby Brown at Maxxis, & Eric Simmons

Music: Jet Trash — Baby C’mon

 

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The Big Chill: Overland Journal’s Cooler Testhttp://expeditionportal.com/the-big-chill-overland-journals-cooler-test/ http://expeditionportal.com/the-big-chill-overland-journals-cooler-test/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 07:00:58 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35588 Electric fridge / freezers have become the rage in the past decade. Thy are efficient, don’t require the regular purchase of ice, and will keep ice cream in its solid form in the heat of summer. However, the cold fact of the matter is that coming up with the $800 to $1,600 price tag may require sourcing a second job or selling your first born. Though I’ve had an ARB fridge / freezer strapped in my Toyota Tacoma for years, when out in my ’82 Hilux I use an old-school steel-belted Coleman ice chest (purchased in 1983 when I bought the truck). After 30 years and hundreds of trips through the American West and Mexico, the time came for my trusted old friend to retire. The dilemma I faced was whether to replace it with another standard cooler, or spend several hundred dollars and step up to an über-cooler. The questions that arose were whether the additional investment would be offset by a longer life span, would I gain functionality, and ultimately, would it keep my coldies cold for a greater period of time? Assuming that I was not alone in my quandry, I set forth to determine who makes the best ice chests, and would the benefits offset the additional investment.

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Test Considerations


Ergonomics: Most of the companies in the cooler game offer product sizes ranging from micro to that of a small coffin. However, unless your overland vehicle of choice is a hearse, you probably need a cooler you can manage and that will fit with your other gear. My personal criteria are that the height does not exceed the bed rail of my truck, and I must be able to haul it in and out of the vehicle without assistance. Other considerations that weigh into the decision should include:

  • Are the handles easy to grip for a comfortable carry?
  • Are they concealed within the basic form of the cooler or do they protrude from the sides?
  • Is the footprint conducive to being packed efficiently with other square and rectangular items such as a toolbox, water jug, and storage bins?
  • Are the interior walls vertical or tapered, and can you utilize all of the available volume?
  • How much does it weigh?
  • How does the drain function? (Because I recycle cooler water for purposes such as chilling beverages, bathing, water for my dog, and general cleaning, how a drain functions is important)
  • Is the flow controllable, or does it erupt like an angry volcano?

Though each of these criteria is highly subjective, they were assessed and given a value.

15Fall_Coolers - Yeti 45 00115Fall_Coolers - Grizzly 001

Construction and Design: Coolers, at least in the hands of this user, are subjected to a lot of abuse. They are shoehorned in, and bounced around with, heavy and pointy objects, strapped on racks, loaded in and out of vehicles frequently, used as a seat and stepladder, and may need to defend my food from the occasional bear or coyote. A few construction considerations are:

  • Is the unit injection molded or rotational molded?
  • Is it fully insulated, and how thick are the walls and lid?
  • Is the lid hinge built for a long, hard life (thousands of cycles) or just a season of weekends at the lake?
  • Does it lock in the open position?
  • Does it seal completely when closed and keep fluid from splashing out when bounced around or tipped over?
  • Can it be padlocked closed?
  • Is the floor tapered to allow for full drainage?
  • Does it have tie-down hoops or grooves in the lid for lashing?

All premium units in this review are produced using a procedure known as rotational molding, or rotomolding. The process involves filling a hollow mold with polyurethane (PE) granules and heating it while it is rotated around two perpendicular axes. As the granules melt, centrifugal force disperses the liquid PE evenly within the mold. In the case of coolers, which require insulation, foam PE is pressurized and injected into strategically located ports. With regard to standard coolers, most are injection molded (thinner wall thickness) and utilize air as an insulator. Some have insulated lids, but often include drink caddies, which are thin areas susceptible to thermal transfer.

15Fall_Coolers - Pelican  00115Fall_Coolers - Engle 001

Product Selection


  With the above criteria in mind, the units selected for this review were the Canyon Outfitters 35, Engel DeepBlue 35, Grizzly 40, Igloo Sports-man 40, Pelican Elite 35, and Yeti Tundra 45. All were in the 35- to 40-quart range and white in color, which absorbs the least solar energy. We included two standard units, the Coleman’s Xtreme Wheeled 50 and Igloo MaxCold 50 (available only in blue), to determine whether spending the extra cash on a rotomolded cooler is worth it. Though these do not have individual reviews, their performance results are in the conclusions and data chart.

Primary Testing Procedures


Real-world Scenario: Most manufacturers represented in this review boast that their coolers will retain ice for a certain number of days in a controlled environment. However, the conditions our equipment face in the backcountry are rarely “controlled.” We decided to subject them to a worst-case scenario, one that a cooler might experience while mounted on the rack of a Jeep. Temperatures during the test ranged from mid-’90s during the day to mid-’60s at night. All were placed on an east-facing deck and received direct sunlight until midday, then shade for the rest of the day. The average open time each day was approximately 8 minutes (simulating a twice-daily routine for access at meal times).

 

 

Ambient Temperature: Each unit received a solid block of clear ice (approximately 10 x 10 x10 inches, 33 pounds) procured from a local event planner—think ice sculpture quality—and a plastic storage bin containing six beers. Though prechilling a cooler (river rafters freeze them prior to use) will add days to the life of your ice, most of us simply grab a chest from the garage, fill it, and go. Ambient temperature at the time of ice and beer insertion was 101°F; interior temperatures were 95°F.

 

Though my modus operandi is to drain an ice chest frequently (two to three times a day) into a small “beverage” cooler— this keeps drinks cold and eliminates the need to introduce warm items to my ice— the manufacturers I talked with unanimously insisted that ice will last longer when the water is left in. Being the obedient product tester that I am, the water stayed. To mitigate end-of-day coldie cravings, each morning I exchanged the cold beers for six at ambient temperature.

15Fall_Coolers_Coleman 00115Fall_Coolers_Igloo MaxCold 001

Ice Melt: Though many cooler tests evaluate how long a product retains ice, the exact amount used will inevitably vary. My focus would be on how fast it melted. Every 24 hours I drained the water, measured its volume, and poured it back in. To determine each unit’s ability to preserve perishables, temperature sensors were placed at the bottom of each bin as well as on the lid. When the ice melted to the point that the bins capsized, sensors were placed 1 inch above the water level. Readings were taken every 24 hours, as well as during exposure to direct sunlight and shaded afternoon conditions.

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Thermal Transfer: One of the things we learned during our sleeping bag comparison (Winter 2010) was that the transfer of thermal energy varies among seemingly similar materials and surfaces. To assess “cold spots,” or areas of thermal transfer, we photographed each unit with a FLIR thermal imaging camera. Images were captured prior to the test as well as during times of direct sun, shade, and in the cool of late evening. You can see in the comparable images that areas near the lid seal and drain (blue tint) are susceptible to thermal loss. Uneven coloring (blue versus yellow/orange) in the body could be the result of irregular wall thickness or distribution of insulation. Drink holders, a big no-no when it comes to energy loss, present themselves as dark blue circles.

 

Thermal imaging provided tangible evidence that drink holders (though handy) allow for considerable heat transfer (image on left). The same is true for areas near the lid and drain (right).

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Secondary Testing Procedures


Capacity and Seal Integrity: Secondary testing included filling each unit with water and measuring actual capacity (not all manufacturer claims are accurate). While full, they were set on their sides to check seal integrity. Results varied from slight leakage to monsoon
downpour.

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Structural Integrity: I have witnessed more than a few coolers tossed off of Jeep racks or out of the back of a vehicle (including mine). The result in each case was a beer, bacon, and egg smoothie dispersed far and wide. To evaluate structural integrity, including that of the hinge system, latch, and seal, each unit was tipped, while still full of water, off the tailgate of my truck (about 3 feet). I will save you some grief by informing you that a standard, off-the-shelf cooler will self-destruct under this type of impact (sheered hinges and latches). Fortunately, Coleman and Igloo offer inexpensive replacement parts.

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Grizzly Bear Rated: The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) issues a certification for ice chests that can withstand a thorough inspection by a hungry bear. Unfortunately, though I live in bear country, Yogi didn’t show up and renting a grizzly wasn’t in the cards.

Though I assumed that most rotationally molded coolers would be fairly equal with regard to thermal efficiency (one did arise as the clear leader), I was surprised at how well the Coleman Xtreme Wheeled 50 and Igloo MaxCold did in comparison. While they lack the rugged construction of the premium coolers, they were both within 36 hours of the best rotomolded unit when it came to ice retention/melt. Not bad when considering their low price.

Ultimately, cooler selection comes down to personal needs and budget. If your travels are limited to two or three days, a more economical cooler will work just fine while leaving some change in your pocket for fuel. If your backcountry adventures extend to a week or more, or you want an ice chest you can hand down to your kids, the benefits of a rotomolded unit may offset the upfront cost.

Test Results


thermal drain

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Canyon Outfitter 35  $240


Canyon, one of the newer entrants to the cooler market, was launched by longtime industry insider Jason Costello and has acquired a respectable position in the arena. Their Outfitter 35, which is on the smaller side of their offerings, features rotomolded construction and clean lines. The hinge system is incorporated into the body and is secured with a stainless steel rod. Latches are a two-piece design formed from polyurethane and attached to the body with stainless steel hardware. Two notches on the lid, which has a freezer-grade gasket, allow the unit to be cinched down securely with a strap. Canyon stated the tie-down/lock locations were placed strategically above the handles to eliminate warping under heavy loads. Carrying handles are molded into the body, easy to grip, and are accompanied by rope hoops on each end.

The Outfitter performed well in field testing. Ice melt was second in-class behind the Yeti through the duration of the evaluation. The threaded drain plug, which has a built-in retainer to keep it from coming out, was fairly easy to control and dispersed water evenly and with minimal dribble to the bottom of the unit. When full of water and placed on its side, it displayed moderate leakage. It also survived the drop test with minimal hemorrhaging and no damage. Infrared imaging revealed limited areas of thermal transfer, save the drain plug area and sections of the lid. The unit weighs 22 pounds and features nonskid rubber feet at each corner. We are told that Canyon is working on getting this cooler IGCB certified, but as of this time it is not. Made in USA. Four-year warranty.

Canyoncoolers.com, 866-558-3267

Pros

  • Recessed latches and handles
  • Dual handle system
  • Minimal drain splash
  • Good ice retention

Cons

  • Leaked in tip-over test

 

valueaward

 Engel DeepBlue 35  $245


Engel, the undisputed granddaddy of the electric fridge/ freezer arena, jumped into the cooler market a few years back. One thing I liked about Engel’s advertising pitch is that they only claim it will hold ice for 8 to 10 days, rather than the misleading “up to 20 days” assertion made by others. This unit, which also has a rotomolded construction, has a full length integrated hinge and I-beam inserts in the lid for maximum weight bearing and durability. It is also one of the few coolers in the review that claims to be dry ice compatible (we did not test this). Dimensionally it is similar to conventional cooler designs: rounded corners and slightly wider and longer at the top. The interior walls are quite vertical, and the floor is sloped to allow for full drainage. The flush-mount latches are marine-grade quality and utilize stainless steel backing plates. I appreciated its dedicated tie-down points molded into the body as well as dual padlock tabs. Molded handholds at each end, along with wide, plastic-sleeved rope handles offer a comfortable carry.

In field testing the DeepBlue 35 ran in the middle of the pack with regard to melt rates and interior temperatures. Leakage during the tip-over test was very light and among the best—a credit to its latching system and food-grade lid seal—and it took no issue with being dropped on its side from 3 feet. Thermal imaging revealed even insulating properties; the exception being areas of the lid where the I-beam supports clearly allowed for heat transfer—a price paid for the additional weight bearing properties. A plus on the Engel scoreboard is the variety of available accessories ranging from hanging baskets to vertical dividers. My only gripe with this cooler was the drain, which is diificult to remove without splashing water down and around the bottom. The DeepBlue 35 carries the IGBC Grizzly Bear certification and weighs 23 pounds. Made in Thailand. Three-year warranty.

Engelcoolers.com, 888-272-9838

Pros

  • Dual lock tabs and tie-down eyelets
  • Wide rope handles
  • I-beam supported lid
  • Cost

Cons

  • Thermal loss at I-beam points
  • Messy drain

 

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Grizzly 40  $340


Grizzly Coolers, another recent arrival in the rotomolded premium cooler sector, has become popular with the hook and bullet crowd. Their 40-quart model is similar to the Engel in shape and design, yet varies in a number of features. The latching system utilizes their BearClaw polyurethane T-handles (mounted to the lid rather than the base) that pull down and hook on molded tabs in the body. I like this feature, as it removes the mechanical aspect of a two-part latch. Corners are cut at 45-degree angles and the general shape has a slight taper toward the bottom. Molded handholds are notched at each end to accommodate a secondary rope handle. A full-length hinge is integrated into the body and secured with stainless steel hardware. I also like the 2-inch tie-down eyelets above the handle on each end, as well as padlock eyelets at the front corners. Ergonomically, this cooler works well.

During fied use I found the  2-inch drain port, which Grizzly boasts as “quick draining,” to be all of that and more. Though it is large enough to drain a swimming pool, the over-sized molded threads are a bit difficult to break loose. It also created a fair amount of splash during removal (between the open and closed positions). The floor is flat, but has a center channel to allow for complete removal of contents. Interior temperatures were on par with other units, but melt rates came in slightly on the high side—equal to that of the Igloo Sportsman 40 and Pelican Elite 35. Infrared imaging showed even distribution of insulation and few cool spots. Tipping on its side resulted in moderate leakage and it survived the drop test without issue. This cooler also carries the IGBC Bear Resistant certification. Made in USA. Limited lifetime warranty. 

Grizzlycoolers.com, 800-553-0050

Pros

  • Recessed latches
  • Drain Channel
  • Pool-sized drain port
  • Tie-down eyelets and lock tabs
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Messy drain
  • Cost

 

15Fall_Coolers - Igloo Sportsman 40 -  002

Igloo Sportsman 40  $260


Igloo followed conventional wisdom when designing the Sportsman 40, yet added a few twists of its own. The most evident is the deviation from molded carrying holds to more traditional injectionmolded plastic handles. They are well constructed, and when in the closed position are fully recessed into the body—a nice feature when packing next to other gear. Another unique aspect is a detent on the lid hinge that locks it in the open position. The rotomolded body has a single lock eyelet in the front, the lid features tie-down slots at each end, and nonskid rubber feet keep the unit from sliding around. One-piece rubberized T-Grip latches, fitted to the lid with corrosion-resistant aluminum rods, are fully recessed at the top, though the T-Grip handle does protrude slightly when closed. If you are a fisherman, the integrated scale on the lid might come in handy.

Field testing resulted in melt rates on the higher end of the scale (but just slightly), and interior temperatures ran in the middle of the pack. Like the Grizzly 40, the Sportsman 40 has an oversized drain port (1.75 inch). Though it would vacate contents in a matter of seconds, removal was another wet and wild adventure. The tip-over test resulted in moderate leakage and it survived being dropped from 3 feet with flying colors. Thermal imaging revealed solid insulation throughout the body, save significant loss at their large drain port. Interestingly, the lid displayed slightly higher thermal transfer than other units in the review. Made in USA. One-year warranty.

Igloocoolers.com, 800-364-5566

Pros

  • Rubberized T-Grip latches
  • Large drain port with tether
  • Lock eyelet and tie-down grooves
  • Lid locks in open position

Cons

  • Messy drain
  • Thermal loss at lid

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Pelican Elite 35  $270


Pelican has been the go-to brand for high-quality waterproof cases for decades, and their entry into the rotomolded cooler sector was highly anticipated. Their Elite 35-quart model breaks from the traditional format in many ways. The most noticeable are its conventional latches and handles, and rather square stance. Latches are an injection molded, two-piece design with one-touch release mechanisms and stainless steel hardware. They function well, though they do protrude considerably from the overall footprint, as does the lock eyelet. Large swing-out plastic handles are attached to molded handholds on each end, and raised corners on the lid allow for ratcheting the unit down from the front or side. Nonskid rubber feet at each corner keep the Elite 35 from sliding around. Unfortunately, one was knocked out of its socket while pulling the cooler from my truck (an easy fix). Though this cooler is built like a tank, it is significantly heavier than the other units in the review (32 pounds). Additionally, the outboard hinge system, handles, latches, and lock tab increase overall dimensions without increasing interior volume. Unthreading the recessed drain spout resulted in no splash or dribble, and was the most efficient in the group, though I do have some concern about the durability of the plastic tether. Melt rates ranged a bit on the higher side, but interior temperatures were lower than average. Leakage when tipped on its side was moderate, and I think I heard it laugh when I dropped it off the tailgate. Infrared imaging showed thermal loss at the unit’s vertical depressions under the latches, as well as in areas of the lid. Made in USA. Lifetime warranty. 

Pelican.com, 800-473-5422

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Excellent drain system
  • Lockable
  • Multiple tie-down points
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Weight
  • Protruding tabs and latches
  • Rubber foot became dislodged

 

Editor choice

Yeti Tundra 45  $350


Yeti is no newcomer to the premium cooler genre, and they have spent the last decade perfecting rotomolded design and function—so much so that the products from other manufacturers may appear remarkably similar. The old adage, imitation is the best form of flattery, may hold true. The Tundra 45 follows family tradition with a clean, uncluttered form and radius corners throughout. It utilizes trucker-style rubber latches that hook into ball sockets on the body for a firm seal. Molded lock eyelets are found at the front corners and wide grooves on all sides allow for secure lashing. It has handholds molded into the body, as well as military-grade rope hoops with rubber grips. All hardware is stainless steel. As with the other premium coolers in this review, the hinge is molded into the body and lid, which has a freezer-grade seal. When it comes to accessories, Yeti offers an extensive lineup ranging from sliding feet and bear-proof locks, to a drain hose connector and hanging food baskets. 

Yeti attributes the Tundra’s thermal properties to its injected permafrost insulation, which proved itself during the field testing. Throughout the six-day trial the Tundra displayed consistently lower melt rates than the rest of the entrants, and held ice an additional 18 hours over the next best contender. Interior temperatures also landed among the lowest in the group. The drop test inflicted no damage and there was only light leakage when turned on its side. Infrared imaging showed even distribution of thermal transfer and minimal cool spots. The vortex drain system did splash and dribble a bit, but it was less than all but the Pelican Elite and Canyon Outfitter. The one gripe I have is that the “45” designation is misleading, as true volume is only 35 quarts. However, if I had to pick a cooler to take for the long haul, and price was not a factor, Yeti’s Tundra 45 would be the one. Made in the USA and the Philippines. IGBC Bear Resistant certified. Five-year warranty.

Yeticoolers.com, 512-394-938

Pros

  • Excellent ice retention
  • Comfortable ergonomics
  • Solid construction
  • Numerous accessories

Cons

  • Cost
  • Drain dribble
  • Lacks drain channel
  • Size designation misleading

 

Conclusions


To be fair, I will be the first to admit that each of these coolers would have performed better if I had adhered to the cardinal rules of keeping them out of direct sunlight and never introducing warm items to the ice. As for draining versus not draining the water, that may be fodder for a future test.

Regarding construction and durability, all premium units in this review are rotomolded, have full-length hinges, aluminum or stainless steel hardware, and freezer or food-grade seals. Though a latch, handle, or drain plug may need replacing at some time, in my opinion each of these coolers will withstand years of strenuous use. The Coleman Xtreme Wheeled 50 and Igloo MaxCold are much lighter duty, and care needs to be taken to preserve the life of hinges and latches.

Notwithstanding price, ergonomics and physical form should play a major factor in selecting the ice chest that is right for you. The Canyon Outfitter 35 and Igloo Sportsman 40 have nearly vertical lines and no protruding edges. The Yeti Tundra 45, Engel DeepBlue 35, and Grizzly 40 assume a more traditional tapered build, while Pelican’s Elite 35, with its boxy shape and robust padlock tab, latches, and handles outboard of the body, is in a class of its own.
After using the simple, pressure-fit plug on my old Coleman for the past 30 years, I found large drain ports to be the Achilles heel of most units in this review. All but the Pelican, Coleman, and Igloo MaxCold splashed and/or dribbled fair amounts of water during draining. The Yeti and Engel were slightly better, the Grizzly in the middle, and the Igloo Sportsman was a true gusher.

The tip-over exercise resulted in all coolers losing a bit of water, and performing this with the latches in the up position versus down (less hydraulic pressure against the latches) reduced loss significantly. All rotomolded units survived the drop test with minimal hemorrhaging and without damage. I should have avoided subjecting the standard Coleman and Igloo MaxCold to these tests, as the tip-over exercise sent a tsunami of water down my shorts, and the drop zone resulted in their lids blowing completely off the hinges.

With regard to thermal properties and internal temperatures, I found that the slightest deviation in sensor location had a significant effect on the reading. For example, the difference between positioning the probe at the bottom of the plastic bin versus an inch above the water line could be as much as 4°F. Placing it on the bottom of the lid resulted in an 8- to 10-degree increase. All maintained food-safe levels until day four. The Engel, Igloo Sportsman, Canyon, and Pelican gave up the fight on day five. The lone survivor on day six was the Yeti, which yielded to the elements that morning.

When the dust settled (or the ice melted), the Engel DeepBlue 35, with its IGBC certification, solid build, performance near the top of the pack, and $245 price tag edged out the Canyon Outfitter 35 to go home with the Value Award. The Yeti Tundra 45, which outranked all takers in nearly every subjective and objective evaluation, save the $350 sticker shock, receives my nod for Editor’s Choice.

 

Standard Coolers


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I found the Coleman Xtreme 50 and Igloo MaxCold 50 to be a good value, and perfectly capable of keeping you flush with coldies for an extended weekend trip. Though they are light weight and comes with a lower price tag than the rotomolded coolers, the tradoff will ultimately be shorter life span of ice, higher possibility of damage or lost content if dropped of tipped over, and the likelihood that you will at some time need to replace the hinges and or the drain cap. However, bearing in mind that they are about one third of the cost of a premium unit, we consider them to be a good value.

 

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Overland Journal. 

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The Last Land Rover Defenderhttp://expeditionportal.com/the-last-land-rover-defender/ http://expeditionportal.com/the-last-land-rover-defender/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:41:57 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35759 It’s been a day 68 years in the coming – a day lamented by some, cheered by others, a day when the last Land Rover Defender, arguably the ultimate off-the-peg expedition truck, rolled off the production line. That day was Friday 29th January 2016, and at 9:15am UK time, the 2,016,933rd and final Defender, horn blaring and lights flashing, rolled onto the tarmac to a hall full of cheers, and not a few tears too.

 

The road to this milestone of a day has been long – since 1947 when Maurice Wilkes, inspired by the Willys jeep he had on his farm, sketched the design for a post-war workhorse truck in the sands of Red Wharf Bay on the island of Anglesey in Wales. The formula was simple – strong ladder-frame chassis, simple yet torquey engine, huge suspension flex, lightweight bodywork, and simplicity of maintenance. It was a winner, and has survived essentially unchanged until now, apart from simple updates for new engines and suspensions. In the intervening seven decades over two million of the iconic vehicles have been built; they have explored, soldiered, rescued, surveyed, policed and done the school run – and pretty much everything in between. In doing so they have given rise to Range Rovers and Discoveries, and in their turn have arguably created the whole sector of ‘luxury SUVs’. I was lucky enough to get an invite to that final send-off, and packed for the emotional trip home to Britain from Arabia, where I live at the moment, with mixed feelings.

anticipation rumbling towards completion

The Lode Lane factory in Solihull, Birmingham, where Land Rovers and Defenders have been built since Day One, was buzzing. It’s a world away now from the old wartime factory which had been camouflaged to guard against attacks by Nazi bombers, though bits of the old building are still there, and it’s home to not only Defender, but also Range Rover and several other models which wear the famous green oval. It’s worth noting at this point that one cannot apply the name ‘Defender’ to all of the 2-million-plus boxy utility models that have rolled out of this place since 1948. The name was only applied in 1990 to clear up a mishmash of nomenclatures and designations based on the ‘series’ of manufacture and the wheelbase in inches – so you might, pre-1990, have a Series One 80, or a Series Three 109, and so on. After that, it was always Defender, with a wheelbase length – generally 90, 110 or 130.

The last few Defenders rolled off the line that Friday to much fuss and photography. All 4-cylinder diesel models, one of the final wagons was a Keswick Green short-wheelbase (the ‘90’ in Roverspeak) destined for Roger Crathorne, employee of the company for five decades and known as ‘Mister Land Rover.’ The penultimate truck was the Heritage-grill Autobiography 90 destined for Land Rover’s Engineering Director, Nick Rogers. The very last one of all however, a soft-top 90 also in Keswick Green, was bound for Jaguar Land Rover themselves (incidentally this naming of the company doesn’t make Jaguars into Land Rovers, nor vice versa!). That truck, known as ‘Huey 2’, carries the license plate H166 HUE, and today sits teamed up with a much older brother, the Series One whose license number is HUE 166, known to all and sundry as ‘Huey’. That original Huey is the oldest surviving Land Rover and often sits proudly in the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Like bookends commemorating the beginning and end of Defender, the two trucks will now often be seen together at events.

def 3

Of course, the event was full of two questions – why and what’s coming next. Much has been said about why. The official reason is that the existing model could not pass the upcoming new round of European emissions legislation. This is true – but there are other reasons, amongst them ergonomics and economics as well as Euro-nomics. Defender took 56 man-hours to build, much of the truck was still hand-assembled. Range Rovers roll off the lines far faster. The ‘competition’ from other marques was faster and more comfortable, if not in some ways as capable. The existing floorplan and body shell (after all, basically a 70 year old set of ideas) couldn’t cope with what the market demanded – airbags for one thing. Which leads onto what’s next? Well, the good news is that there will be a next. Defender II, at the moment officially known as Project 663, is at a pretty advanced stage of development. In his address on that fateful Friday, Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, gave a rollout date as “by the end of the decade,” and this ties in with Land Rover’s 70th birthday in 2018. There’s little doubt that it will be available in various wheelbases and with different bodywork types for different jobs – but there’s also little doubt that it will be more luxurious, bigger and far more complicated than the outgoing model. The adventure DNA of the original will, I am assured, survive, especially in versions breathed on by the wizards of SVO – Special Vehicle Operations, the plant on Oxford Road near Coventry where bespoke Land Rovers are created – but it remains to be seen how much of this will permeate the whole range, a decision that is still being debated. SVO tell me there is much adventure on the horizon, and friends in the rest of the company tell me ‘trust us’ – and they know how much of a dyed-in-the-wool Defender traditionalist and Luddite wilderness traveller I am.

def 4

Certainly the mood at Lode Lane on that Friday was not sombre and sad – it was celebratory. The company itself says they have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to. Part of the party atmosphere was from the workers – Land Rover manufacturing sites around the UK had a ‘Bring your Defender to work’ scheme that day, and Jaguar Land Rover employees with the cherished wagons turned up in their hundreds – racers, overlanders, museum restorations, military trucks, you name it. The cheers when ‘Huey 2’ rumbled off the line gave vent to that optimism and hope for the years ahead – Jaguar Land Rover is the biggest car manufacturer in the UK today, and healthy growth continues. 2015 was a record year for Defender sales, with many fleet customers buying in bulk, so they have enough vehicles to last several years to come. There was certainly little feeling amongst buyers that Defender has had its day – much more a case of, get it while you still can.

bring your defender to work

That, however, doesn’t tell us much about the expedition and overland side of the vehicles’ future. Certainly for many overlanding and expeditioneer drivers (me definitely included), past and present, Defender is the top of the tree and will be a very tough act to follow. All we, the drivers and potential drivers, can do is wait, hope and watch. The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

 

 

Sam Watson, a trusted and valued friend of the Overland Journal and Expedition Portal fold, knows a thing or two about Land Rovers, and in particular the legendary Defender. You can read about his latest Defender in the latest issue of Overland Journal, slated to hit newsstands in February, 2016.

 

 

chebbi 3

Gebel Qatrani 1$1030609

P1030498 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA what else can life offer, the Sahara

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Switzerland to Mongolia in a D110 and Pradohttp://expeditionportal.com/switzerland-to-mongolia-in-a-defender-110-and-prado/ http://expeditionportal.com/switzerland-to-mongolia-in-a-defender-110-and-prado/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 10:00:34 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35451 I love my job. Each day I get to see an amazing adventure that someone has undertaken, a new beautiful country a traveler has visited, or an exotic destination that I have never heard of, and it all inspires me to wander. Although nearly every photo and video is exciting, I occasionally stumble upon one that is so wonderful it strikes a particular cord and leaves me with nothing but a burning desire to travel. Watching Milo’s video for the first time did just that. His journey spans from the beautiful mountains of Switzerland, across breath-taking plains to Mongolia, and through the lives of some amazing people along the way. Below are a few photographs from his journey, as well as the video that inspired this post. I hope you enjoy and share it as much as I have.

– Chris Cordes

 

To see more of Milo’s great work, check out his website here.

Robin Gilli’s equally stunning photography can be seen here.

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Off-Road Auto News: The Rumor Rounduphttp://expeditionportal.com/off-road-auto-news-the-rumor-roundup/ http://expeditionportal.com/off-road-auto-news-the-rumor-roundup/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 07:56:41 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35398 The last few years have been some of the more interesting in terms of automotive news relevant to the overland traveler. Concepts have been teased, production models axed from production, and the legendary Land Rover Defender was ceremoniously laid to rest just last week. Some say these are sad times with the average 4×4 succumbing to the urbanization of the world. Articulation and brawn are now less important than how easily a truck can be parallel parked, or how many screaming kids fit in the back. Before you despair, there are interesting developments on the horizon, some confirmed, many still fodder for the rumor mill.

2017 Jeep Wrangler

jeep wrangler

Wouldn’t it be great if the new JL looked like this? (Image credit: FCA)

 

The biggest news as of late centers around the forthcoming “JL” Wrangler. As its birth date nears, details are slowly emerging and it seems highly unlikely this truck will make it to production with many secrets left to keep. Before I proceed, I should disclose that I have no inside information to share. Despite my devious attempts to extract information out of Chrysler’s design team, even with copious drinks and cheeky repartee, they are a tight-lipped team of pros. Sifting through the innuendo and speculation, here is what we collectively know about the new Jeep.

Given the significance of the Wrangler to the brand’s DNA, the one thing confirmed to me in person by the likes of Mark Allen, Jeep’s head designer, is that the new Wrangler will not be much of a departure from the current model. This is to say, the Jeep thing people experience driving the new Wrangler will echo the thrill of driving any other model in the series, even the CJs of old. They can’t afford to foul a proven recipe. So, what does that mean?

The new JL will retain a body-on-frame construction. It will continue to roll on a chassis configuration that looks decidedly like the current format with minor alterations to the suspension geometry. Spy photos have suggested at least one trim level will include Dana axles. Dana recently invested in greater production capabilities, which seems to corroborate the notion that Jeep will be a primary customer in the years to come. It also appears that the previously rumored all-aluminum construction of the body may not be realized, but we should expect some components like the hood or doors to be made of the lightweight metal. Everyone knows that FCA needs to put the Wrangler on a diet, and strategic use of aluminum is the solution du jour. As an example, what Ford and Jaguar have done with aluminum is astounding.

Most Jeep enthusiasts are eager to get confirmation on the available power plants to come with the new JL. We have no reason to suspect there won’t be a diesel offered, but which one and how much of a premium it will add to the purchase price is still unconfirmed. A 4-cylinder diesel is likely, beyond that, the details are sparse. It also seems reasonable that a smaller displacement 6-cylinder petrol engine will find its way into the Wrangler as a means of improving fuel efficiency. Other than that, all we know is the new model will be slightly smaller, lighter, and have a non-folding windshield with a little rake for optimal aerodynamics.

We also know that when it arrives, all current Wrangler enthusiasts will hate it until about 2020, when they all miraculously decide it’s the best Jeep ever. Such is the way of the Wrangler.

2017 Jeep JL Pickup and Safari

2005 Jeep(R) Gladiator Concept Vehicle

The Gladiator concept from several years ago still resonates with Jeep enthusiasts. (Image credit: FCA)

 

This isn’t so much rumor, but a bit of news confirmed directly by Fiat-Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, and Jeep’s top guy, Mike Manley. Both went on record as saying the new JL format will include a pickup variant. They mutually agreed that a pickup has always been part of the Jeep narrative and those trucks were always wildly popular. The design team has clearly had a fascination with pickups as evidenced with the Gladiator and J-12 concepts. Adding to that, we all know how lust-worthy an AEV Brute is. There’s no better proof of concept than that beautiful machine. I’m not a truck guy, but I get goosebumps thinking about a 2018 JL pickup with a slide in camper perched on its back.

 

As for the Safari pictured above, that truck has been the talk of the town. Everyone who sees it in person instantly says, “I’d buy that.” With its raised roofline, barn door, increased cargo space, and super exotic appearance, it is a thing of beauty. Since it was built on the current platform, a production Safari would certainly look different from this concept, but I think Jeep’s design team sees the potential. There have been hints at a JL model made available without the removable roof that has defined Jeep since day one. To make the Safari viable, Jeep will have to address the payload capacity, which as it is now, is a deal breaker for many would-be buyers.

2016 Nissan Xterra

2015-Nissan-Xterra-C2

 

(Image credit: Nissan)

 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. We all saw it coming, and this is not so much a rumor as it is well-known news. The once popular Xterra that sold in the tens of thousands ended its run as one of the worst selling SUVs on the market. As such, Nissan has pulled the plug on this award-winning truck with 2015 its swan song and curtain call. The penultimate model, sold as a 2016, is little more than left over inventory. Those trucks are still excellent vehicles offered at a reasonable value. The performance of the Xterra has made it a much-loved platform even if the fuel economy has not been ideal. Get ’em while their available.

Ford Ranger and Everest

everest ford

 

(Image credit: Ford Motor Co.)

 

The scuttlebutt on the Ranger has been quiet since November, but it appears nothing has changed since then. In this case, no news is good news, as we could expect to see the mid-size truck begin production in Ford’s Wayne, Michigan factory as soon as this year. Ancillary talk  indicates that Ford could also bring their Everest SUV here, a truck I think would appeal to the off-road enthusiast. Designed in Australia to offer more off-highway performance than currently afforded by the now-neutered Explorer, the Everest would be a sound competitor for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It has similar dimensions, off-road aptitude, and the styling is almost a dead ringer for Jeep’s flagship SUV.

ford ranger

Although Ford has been coy in response to speculation about the Everest in America, some experts have made a few savvy suppositions. The Everest and Ranger share the same capable platform. The Wayne, Michigan plant can currently produce 285,000 vehicles annually. That far exceeds the number of Rangers Ford could ever dream of selling. Toyota’s Tacoma only achieves about 200,000 units a year. This suggests that the Everest could account for the other portion of Ford’s Michigan-made trucks.

I think these are two vehicles to watch, and it sounds highly likely both could arrive on American dealer lots with diesel engines. Yes, please.

2018 Land Rover Defender

defender concept

No, this is not the new Defender. Thankfully. (Image credit: Land Rover)

 

This brings me to the news from Solihull. On Friday, Land Rover celebrated one of the most auspicious days of the last 67 years and ended production of the Defender. Just typing the words casts a heavy pall. Sad as that day was, the promise of a new Defender has kept the internet swirling with speculation. During my recent trip to the Range Rover media launch in December, I had an opportunity to spend several hours with Land Rover’s leading design team. They told me everything about the new Defender––without divulging a single, substantive detail. It was maddening.

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The last Defender headed for the end of the line.

 

The only thing I could extrapolate from their veiled descriptions of the new Defender is the overall approach to its design mission. Like the Wrangler, they are acutely aware they can’t afford to make the Defender anything other than what it has been for nearly 70 years. It has to be the most capable vehicle in the Land Rover lineup. It must be instantly identifiable as a Defender. Utility will still factor heavily in its ethos, and it will not disappoint those who want the Defender experience.

That said, Land Rover has made a killing servicing the luxury SUV market. Those drivers we derisively label as “mall crawlers” are buying Land Rovers as fast as they can. Does Land Rover care about the overlander? Maybe not as much as we think they should, but why would they when they can’t make enough $200,000 Range Rover’s to meet demand? So, the new Defender will not only appeal to the rugged overland enthusiast, it will be a wanted commodity for the driver with a pressed shirt, polished shoes, and an itch for something with more caché than the new Jeep JL.

After sitting through a presentation with one of Jaguar’s engineers and seeing first hand what Jag/Rover is doing with aluminum, I would bet the new Defender will be fully clad in al-u-minium, as they say in Old Blighty. Land Rover’s new diesels are also incredible pieces of engineering so I would expect diesel to supplant petrol as the most prolific power plant for the new line.

Aside from that, we know the new Defender will be available in five body styles. Our Overland International team has been told it will accommodate 35-inch tires. There will likely be locking differentials, a low range is confirmed, but we should also expect many of the electronic driving aids fitted to the entire Land Rover lineup. This may disgruntle the off-road purists, but no one can dismiss the effectiveness of those features. They work and allow those with undeveloped driving acumen to use Land Rovers of all iterations to their fullest potential. The last element as yet confirmed is the availability of the new Defender in the US, which is likely, and finally the purchase price. Most experts position the entry point in the $55,000 to $60,000 range, possibly higher.

 

These are interesting times. We will continue to keep our ear to the ground as new developments unfold. And one more thing, Ford is releasing a new Bronco. We have to keep some rumors alive, right?

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We Pay Tribute to the Land Rover Defender on Its Final Day of Productionhttp://expeditionportal.com/we-pay-tribute-to-the-land-rover-defender-on-its-final-day-of-production/ http://expeditionportal.com/we-pay-tribute-to-the-land-rover-defender-on-its-final-day-of-production/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 14:04:50 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35471 Today, after nearly 70 years, the legendary Defender will finally end production. There are few moments within the automotive timeline to weigh so heavy as this one. Perhaps the only other day to rivaled its significance was in 1948 when the first Land Rover Series I rolled off the line and into the annals of history.

It would be an epic undertaking to chronicle all that has been achieved by the iconic 4×4 from Solihull. It has served as a farm tool, work truck, ambulance, and everyday carriage. It has conquered the jungles of Asia, the sands of the Sahara, and virtually every other remote place on Earth. Militaries have relied on the Defender to deliver them down range, and more importantly, home again. The boxy outlines of the Land Rover Series in all of its iterations has portaged explorers, dignitaries, and royalty. From the Queen of England to Mic Jagger, it has been a loyal conveyance. It has been steadfast, faithful, and uniquely, unmistakably, proudly––British.

Because the first Land Rovers were so formidable and trusted by dauntless adventurers the world over, many people in the distant corners of the globe had never seen a vehicle until a Series from Solihull rambled into their villages. Few machines, vehicle or otherwise, have contributed so much to our sense of adventure as the vehicle many simply refer to as––a Land Rover.

It was a good run, and although it seems like this is the end, the sun will never set on the Land Rover. The millions of trucks to wear the green oval will continue to trundle along undeterred for decades to come.

 

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Kingsley Holgate has traveled all of Africa in his Defender, doing humanitarian works along the way.

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Kingsley Holgate is synonymous with Land Rover and rugged exploration.

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The Queen of England has long been associated with Land Rovers.

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The Royal Jordanian Military on parade.

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As legendary as the Land Rover brand, Winston Churchill poses next to a Series I.

 

 

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Mic Jagger knows how to travel in style.

 

 


 

 

 

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Eezi-Awn K-9 Expedition Roof Rackhttp://expeditionportal.com/eezi-awn-k-9-expedition-roof-rack/ http://expeditionportal.com/eezi-awn-k-9-expedition-roof-rack/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 10:00:43 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=34819 For decades, only a few items have lent themselves useful in enhancing a true overland vehicle—one of them being the roof rack. Vintage pictures fill the Internet with Land Cruisers and Defenders loaded to the sky with tents, fuel, and everything else imaginable. Roof racks set the stage for form and function long ago, and remain a constant need in the overlanding world. Trucks have changed though, becoming lighter, faster, more aerodynamic, and quiet. To keep up with these advancements Eezi-awn developed the K9 roof rack. It’s an expedition-quality rack designed to play in the modern world.

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Strength

A roof rack system is only as strong as its weakest part. Eezi-awn took this to heart when designing the K9’s platform. Choosing to fully weld all of the joints results in an incredibly robust product,  and also eliminates the chance for bolts to loosen. Mating it to an array of vehicle-specific mounting hardware allows for a proper balance of loads. These solid and straightforward parts will take a thrashing while carrying more than you would ever conceivably want in a roof load.

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Noise

Auto manufacturers spend millions working on aerodynamics and noise control. It would be a shame to throw all that away with a generic roof rack solution. The K9  is designed to reduce noise: at 1⅜ inches thick, it is one of the thinnest racks available, and all of the platform surfaces use rounded edges, with the slats running from front to back. This gives wind very little to catch on, keeping everything smooth and quiet. An included front spoiler helps to regulate airflow and keep buffeting at bay.

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Versatility

Being a strong, quiet, and good-looking rack won’t do you any good if it’s impractical to use. Luckily, Eezi-awn got the memo and pulled out all the stops when it came to functionality. All of the slats have multiple channels built into them to allow the mounting of hex head bolts. This is also the case with the crossbars and side rails. You can mount a nearly infinite amount of things to the top and bottom of the rack, while still being able to properly lash down a load. There are a number of attachments to match the rack for tables, jacks, and shovels, as well as Eezi-awn’s highly regarded tents and awnings. The K9 system is not just a proprietary set of solutions to keep the consumer on the hook; both Yakima and Thule cross bars and accessories are compatible to help keep you from buying parts that you may already have.

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Value

Most will scoff when I tell you that a roof rack for a little over $1,400 is a value. I have paid the price both ways though and assure you that it is. For my Jeep Cherokee, four Yakima or Thule cross rails and an appropriate-sized basket runs over $1,100. Three hundred dollars is a much smaller margin when you are light-years ahead in versatility and strength. Throw in the cost of replacement mounts when the composites break down from UV rays and miles of washboard roads and now you are on an even playing field, financially speaking.

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Eventually you may sell your truck and want to try and keep as many hard-earned goods as you can. Eezi-awn only has four different platforms, so with a simple swap of mounting hardware your new ride will be set—without having to purchase a whole new system. The K9 rack is an investment that will pay out over time. The initial price tag may sting at first glance, but after comparing it to à la carte systems the advantages are clear.

 

K9 roof-racks and other great Eezi-Awn Products are available through Equipt Expedition Outfitters.

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Shot Show: The Best Adventure Gearhttp://expeditionportal.com/shot-show-the-best-adventure-gear/ http://expeditionportal.com/shot-show-the-best-adventure-gear/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 02:33:32 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35425 Each year, all that is tacticool descends on Las Vegas and the SHOT Show. While 90% of the products are specific to the firearm and military/LEO community, there are certainly products fit for the adventurer. Here are the highlights.

Magpul:
I have used Magpul gear for years and have been continually impressed by both the quality and innovation. As a pleasant surprise, Magpul released a line of soft goods that are a perfect fit to the overland traveler. In particular, their new Daka pouches and complete line of travel garments. The shirts and pants are both stylish and understated, while still being thoroughly functional in the field.

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LightForce:

The lighting gurus from Australia have released several new products, including a series of small rack and rock lights, perfect for illuminating camp or the dark side alleys of Kabul. lightforceusa.com 

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Pelican: 

Coolers are all the rage and this molded unit from Pelican has some serious insulation (at the expense of interior volume). This new 30L has several inches of insulation on each side and integrated handles and cup holders. pelican.com

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Salomon:
I am a huge fan of Salomon shoes for remote exploration, my last pair surviving a few circumnavigations of the globe. The shoes below represent the newest versions of my trusted footwear and have made the short list for my 2016 Christmas list. The low top is a Speedcross 3 and the winter boot is a Tundra Mid, good to -40. Salomon Forces (link) 

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Coast Lights:

Coast has expanded into the outdoor market with high quality lights and knives at low price points. Perfect for Every Day Carry is their combo knife and 100 lumen flashlight. Their headlamps offer impressive output and red light capability. Coastportland.com

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5.11 Tactical:
With an expansive line of hard cases, 5.11 has introduced a cost-competitive option for protecting your gear. 511Tactical.com
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The most impressive booth at the show was the SilencerCo display. It won several industry awards and reinforced the reason to #fightthenoise. One of the few Adventure Motorcycles at the show, this Kawasaki achieved Tacticool. . .

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Truck Vault:

Useful for both firearm storage and support equipment, the Truck Vaults are serious drawer systems complete with HD slides and push code locks. truckvault.com              IMG_1607
Arcteryx:
Serious adventure requires the right gear, and few will argue that Arcteryx makes some of the highest quality technical garments in the industry. Their Leaf Alpha line is a perfect fit to remote vehicle-based adventures. Arcteryx Leaf

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Poler had a roof tent on the new Diesel Nissan HD. Kitanica makes wicked looking jackets that would be entirely at home on a KTM, including full elbow and back protection. Kitanica Jackets

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DPX Gear Knives:  
There were dozens of knife makers at SHOT, but few are as legitimate as the blades from Robert Young Pelton. Robert is a consummate adventurer and overlander, his last overland trip involving a Bentley across Iran- enough said. DPX Gear

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]]> http://expeditionportal.com/shot-show-the-best-adventure-gear/feed/ 0 Mercedes solves the equation with G500²http://expeditionportal.com/mercedes-solves-the-equation-with-g500%c2%b2/ http://expeditionportal.com/mercedes-solves-the-equation-with-g500%c2%b2/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 10:13:35 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35290 Today’s four-wheel drive market can be an emotional roller coaster for avid overlanders. Each auto-show brings nail-biting anticipation of whether a curtain will drop off a beautiful new vehicle, or if instead we will be greeted with the shock of a ruined concept, or the disappointing re-badge of a four-wheel drive classic. Unfortunately  many times it is the latter, but every now and again a manufacturer doesn’t just get it right, but knocks it straight out of the park, across the street, and through the windshields of the jerks designing cars like the Aztec. This year that heroic manufacturer is Mercedes.

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The Merc monster you see above was unveiled last year at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show as a concept, without a promise of production or sale. The big surprise is that thanks to popular demand,  Mercedes has decided to take the plunge and produce the thing. This is really good news for the four-wheel drive industry, and exceptional news for the affluent overlander; which you’ll need to be if you hope to clear the $255,000 price tag through your bank account.

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So what the heck is it? We’re sure that by now you’ve heard of the Mercedes G 63 AMG 6X6. It’s an absolutely inspiring vehicle to the inner child in all of us, but one that lacks a degree of… practicality. The G500 4×4² is the more responsible sibling to the 6×6, with all the raw capability, and less of the ostentation. We said less, not none. 

It all starts with a set of portal axles mated to the brand new G500 production body. This change alone grants the “stock” G an impressive 450mm (17.8″) of ground clearance, and 1000mm (39.4″) of fording depth.

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Underneath the hood lies the Mercedes Bi-Turbo V8 motor, cranking out 422 horsepower with the two turbos mounted in an inside the V configuration. Such an engine deserves a potent exhaust, and the G delivers with twin side pipes producing “soft mumbling in neutral through sonorous humming in the partial-load range to emphatic booming when accelerating under full load.”  

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So it’s got some power, but what good is that without a way to send it to the ground? To darn near guarantee the squared can maintain forward progress, a permanent all-wheel drive system was selected, along with a proper low-range, a tri-fecta of lockers, and lord willing the 37″ mud terrain tires and beadlock wheels shown on the concept truck.

As expected, these Uber G owners won’t be roughing it when exploring the back country, far from it in fact. The new truck features a damper adjustment derived from rally sport that uses two spring struts running in parallel per wheel, with one spring strut working conventionally with set damper characteristics. Mercedes claims that this setup can provide considerable kingpin inclination between the settings SPORT and COMFORT, and that adjustments take a record-breakingly low 15 milliseconds. This means drivers can expect a surprisingly agile handling experience on pavement, while still receiving a soft and smooth ride over rocks and ruts. (Whether this is thanks to the suspension, or the G pulverizing the ground beneath it, we’re not entirely sure.)

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At a width of nearly seven feet, and a height of almost seven and a half, the 4×4² is still by no means a small vehicle. It clearly retains the commanding presence of the 6×6, but does achieve a greater maneuverability through its reduction in length.

Mercedes hasn’t released official approach, departure, or breakover angles, so we won’t sit around pulling numbers out of thin air and throwing them at you like a bunch of stock brokers. What we will do however, is drop in a few more images for you to drool over, as well as a seriously awesome, though somewhat corny, video by Mercedes. The action is great, but the cougar is a little much.

For more information, check out the Mercedes website here.

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Adventure Photographer: Ten Tips for Better Travel Imageshttp://expeditionportal.com/adventure-photographer-ten-tips-for-better-travel-images/ http://expeditionportal.com/adventure-photographer-ten-tips-for-better-travel-images/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 07:36:06 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35231 As overlanders we embark on our journeys for a number of compelling reasons. For many of us, the visual experience is what inspires us to hit the road in the first place. My passion for imagery has motivated me to take a studious approach to my travel photography and solicit the best advice I can from those with far more experience than I possess. Below are just a few of those tips, many proffered by the likes of Mark Edward Harris, Bruce Dorn, Sinuhe Xavier, and Adrian Marcoux, some of the best shooters ever to look through layers of glass.

 

(Lead image: Owen Gaddis stops to shoot into the depths of the Khumbu Valley on his trek in Nepal.)

Don’t shoot from six

I have heard Sinuhe give this advice many times. It refers roughly to the height of an average man holding a camera to his face. Perspective is everything, so getting high above, or well below eyeball level can give an otherwise ordinary image a unique angle. Kneel down, stand in a hole if you have to, or hold your camera over your head. That may be all it takes to lend an image fresh perspective.

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I placed my camera on a tripod 20 feet below the edge of the road to get a unique view and to remove the ugly road surface from an otherwise beautiful mountainside.

Tell the story with images big and small

Bruce Dorn once edified me on the importance of telling a travel story with images of varied scale. This includes the use of wide sweeping landscapes, medium-range shots with intricate detail, candid portraits, and even macro shots illustrating the most minuscule scenes. When you view your surroundings this is how you digest those visuals. You look out at a mountain range as it stretches out across the horizon. You then study the details of the forest, and then inspect the subtle nuance of a pine cone. Those shots create a composite of images that depict an entire experience.

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Mountain scenes of varied scale create a full story and deliver a sense of realism to the experience that a catalog of big landscapes alone could not achieve. Shots big and small are all components to a singular experience or place.

Tell the story with focus

We do it with our eyes every day, but often fail to do it with a lens and camera. When we look at things we often make subconscious efforts to focus our eyes on specific attributes of a given scene. The things we see in the background lend contrast and provide a setting for the focus of our attention. Doing the same with a camera accentuates details and drives the viewer’s eye to the subject you hope to highlight.

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By reducing depth of field, the eye is drawn to the detail of one element of the image.

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A slow shutter speed blurred the focus of a rotating prayer wheel giving it a sense of motion.

See the light from every angle

Light is the medium in which photographers create their art. Knowing how to best use light is a life’s work for any shooter, but new photographers tend to under utilize natural light to better their images. Side and back light can be harnessed to produce images with etherial effects. Back light can lend an image dimension and drama. It is a difficult thing to master, but bending light to your creative whim will improve your images over any other skill.

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Strong backlight with ample ambient light made this a great image. Without the contrast in light from one side of this face to the other, the image would lose much of its drama.

Any shot is better than no shot

On a recent trekking trip I was just plodding along with my camera banging annoyingly against my chest with every step. Just as I contemplated putting it in my backpack, a beautiful yak stepped out from the cover of a clutch of rodedendrun trees and practically posed for an image, albeit for just a few fleeting seconds. Having a camera at the ready was the difference between a great shot and a fun memory. I now keep a point and shoot, or even my mobile phone, always at the ready. Many of the best shots are chance opportunities. You can’t exploit those moments if you’re not ready for them.

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Patience

I had waited years to get the shot. Not the most original image, but I wanted my own picture of the waterfall at Skogar in Iceland. When I finally got there, the scene was perfect save for the three dozen bobble-headed tourists standing in front of it. So, to get the shot I wanted––I waited. I will admit, I waited for a very, very long time, but it was worth it. When the last tourist lumbered out of my frame, after probably a 45 minute wait, I had but to press the shutter once to get my image. If you want it, you’ll wait for it.

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If you’ve been here, you know it’s almost always swarming with tourists.

Portraits – the buy in and the long reach

Faces and places are almost universally interlinked. An image of a Buddhist monk most likely places that scene in Asia. A tiny Quichua dancer in a market square can be quickly linked to the Andes of Ecuador or Peru. Portaits are an essential part of any travel story. How you go about getting them can be intimidating. There are those who elect to capture these moments with gigantic lenses from the social safety of 150 feet. Others, like Mark Edward Harris, employ an amiable disposition to get right into the action. He’s able to do so because he has mastered the buy-in and can make even the most reticent participant a willing subject.

If you do snap a pic of a person on the street, you need to pay them something in exchange for having a hulking piece of glass shoved in their face. Pay them some attention, or at the very least––pay them due respect. If you must, pay them a few coins, or a kind gesture. Make them part of the fun of the interaction, not just fodder for a photo.

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(left) Mark Edward Harris, one of the best travel photographers in the world, has the ability to bring the action to his lens. He gets some of his best images with an infectious smile and a congenial personality. (right) There are times when a long reach is ideal to preserve the unspoiled and candid nature of a shot.

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To get the portrait of this motorcyclists in Ecuador, I had to pay him––but only a compliment. He was so proud of his bike he couldn’t wait to pose with it. When I shot this image of the young kids, I was dressed in full motorcycle gear and looked like a monster. By dancing and looking like a harmless goof, I got them to not only smile, but realize I wasn’t going to abduct them and take them to my spaceship.

Bracket and bracket some more

If you’re not sure how to best capture the moment, try everything. Try a few stops over, maybe a couple under, change your depth of field, recompose the scene and try again. You won’t mind sifting through 50 seemingly random attempts when you get that one shot that nailed it. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and grab the perfect capture with one shot. Many times, the spray and pray method, although not very skillful, gets the job done.

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There was precious little light when I took this and getting the exposure I wanted took several attempts.

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I had only seconds to get this shot from a helicopter as we flew towards Mount Everest and Lhotse. With the camera lens stuck outside a tiny air vent I couldn’t view my composition. I had to manually bracket for what I hoped was the best exposure. It wasn’t a random range of settings, but let’s just say it was a wide range of parameters to ensure one shot would be a winner. There will never be a chance to replicate this image so racking off several dozen attempts was necessary.

Put the subject within the scene

This is another gem from Sinuhe, and one that has benefited me more than I can remember. Photographs run the risk of representing themselves as very two-dimensional, so finding ways to add depth to an image is often what makes a good shot a great one. This is as much about telling the story through focus as it is about image composition, perspective, and all of the other free tools available to the photographer.

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Make a shot list and check it regularly

After a month in Iceland, a land of millions of sheep, I returned with 4,000 images and not a single shot of one of those wooly buggers. Not a big thing, but had I made a shot list of the iconic images of the island, a sheep might have made the list and ended up on my camera. I did have a to-do list of shots that included a puffin. And I got it. I also wanted a shot of the famous Icelandic horses, which I snagged. A shot list is critical to avoiding that dreaded feeling that you made it there and back without the image you hoped you’d get.

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(above) I’m always amazed by what a simple wildlife image can do to vaunt the diversity of a catalog of travel shots. (below) On a recent trip to Colorado, we visited several ghost towns and abandoned dwellings. My shot list included reminders to capture scenes that displayed the antiquity of the structures.

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Bonus Tips

 

Back it up or be bummed

You bought all the new gear, paid out the nose for the trip of a lifetime, and because you’re awesome, you took 5,000 perfect photographs. Then, you lost your camera, a camel ate your SD cards, and you have nothing to prove you ever left home save for a gaping hole in your soul and burnt vacation days. Back up your images, and as often as you can.

 

Hold’er steady

I don’t know how many images I’ve ruined due to slow shutter speeds or a shaky hand. Image stabilization features can only do so much. If you have a chance to, brace your camera against something or bust out that tripod you should have with you. It isn’t feasible with every shot, but there are times when mounting your camera to your sticks is the best way to ensure a precise shot with maximum sharpness. It also forces you to commit to the shot and opens up your creative parameters.

 

Shoot from the hip

When I’m in certain crowds, sometimes the best shots come when no one is looking. Walking around with a giant tube of glass stuck to your face makes you look a little conspicuous. Sometimes my best shots come from a point and shoot or compact DSLR held at waist level. This guy probably would have recoiled had I poked my long lens into his personal bubble.

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A good travel shot is rewarding in ways that defy description. They are moments in time, marked in pixels. To the shooter, they hold profound significance and can transport a traveler back to that time and place. A good capture will never fully encapsulate the experience of being there, but they also help our brains stay connected to those experiences that shaped us through our travels. Just by viewing these shots above, I’m able to remember the sounds, smells, and nuances of the scene, the things that an image sensor can’t record.

 

 

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Evolution of an Iconhttp://expeditionportal.com/evolution-of-an-icon/ http://expeditionportal.com/evolution-of-an-icon/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 10:00:38 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=35011 It’s got too many doors. It’s not a real Land Cruiser.”

“Automatic transmission? Power windows? Yeah not a Cruiser.”

“Leather interior and auto climate control do not belong in a Land Cruiser.”

“Heated seats, navigation, too many cylinders and IFS! Really? I’m done with Toyota.

We can’t get real Cruisers in the US.”

“Way too many electronics. Way too expensive. It’s not even a Land Cruiser anymore.”

I’m not going to call Cruiser owners Luddites. Far from it.  Few hesitate to add aftermarket goodies to their rigs and innovation was once a trademark of the community.  For a long time we didn’t have the support here in the US that other brands did.  Australia and South Africa were a long way away in the pre/early internet days so most solutions were home brewed or urban legend. Adoption of a new platform, however, has always been met with cynicism and reticence.  For a group so loyal, we Cruiserheads are reluctant to trust Toyota with any changes they make to our beloved Land Cruiser.  I’ve not been an early adopter but with each evolution of the US Land Cruiser I’ve come to realize Toyota respects and honors the heritage and legacy of the venerable marque. 8 months ago I purchased a 2013 200 Series Land Cruiser. 36k miles later, and in the interest of science, I have done my best to prove its worthiness.

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Let’s get this out of the way right now. I’m a bigot. I’m not just a Toyota bigot but I’m a Land Cruiser bigot. I loved my 97 Tacoma but the entire time I owned it I kept thinking ‘it’s just not a Cruiser.’ If you’re comfortable reading Land Cruiser opinions from an admitted fanboy then let’s proceed. I purchased my first Land Cruiser in 1997. It was 10 years old with 118k miles on the clock. Blue FJ60.  I’d driven other 4x4s, both foreign and domestic, but something about the Land Cruiser appealed to me. I was stoked to have my first and named her Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.  She ran on HUGE 32×10.50 Goodyear directional MTs and I added a full length Con-ferr porthole roof rack. I was young, naïve, and fit, so I still thought it was cool and functional to carry my spare tire up there.  Front and rear bumpers were Smitty Built and I threw some lights up front. Other than that she was bone stock. Hand crank windows, mechanical levers. She was very basic.  3 years and 110k miles later I sold her because I needed better fuel economy for my daily commute. Twice she made the trip from Utah to Alaska. Adventures to Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, Pacific Northwest and dozens of trips throughout the deserts of Utah with only a replaced starter as a repair taught me that the Land Cruiser reputation for reliability was indeed well earned.

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In 1998 I added a 1966 FJ40 to my resume.  A complete pile of rust, but reliable and emissions exempt, Althea was the perfect second vehicle for a broke college student.  Over the next 10 years she underwent many modifications including all new sheet metal. She evolved into a rock crawler where I learned that non-syncro’d 3sp transmissions and drum brakes may still work after 30 years but are not ideal on the trails of Moab and California. Upgrades were made but she remained a Land Cruiser in spirit.  It was during the early years of 40 ownership that I first read Who Needs a Road? and I would shudder to think about driving my beloved FJ40 around the world.  However, a seed was planted.  About this same time I ran into a couple from Argentina on the Alaska Highway.  The seed was now fertilized. I kept Althea until 2006 when life changes dictated she move on to a new home.

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After selling my FJ60 I drove a Subaru Outback for a bit then upgraded that to a Tacoma. Both saw thousands of dirt miles and took me to some amazing places including two more trips to Alaska and my first trip up the Dalton Highway. I still had my 40 but felt like I needed to get back into a Land Cruiser for my longer adventures.  The Taco and Outback were great but they were not Land Cruisers.  In April 2004 I purchased my dream truck. A 1997 40th Anniversary 80 series in Antique Pearl Sage Metallic paint. 101k miles and already lifted with an ARB bar, winch and factory lockers.  I was late to the 80 series game but had spent enough time with friends in their trucks to have seen the reliability and performance worthy of the name.   I didn’t tell many people at the time but I knew Ruby Claire would be the truck to take me down the Pan-American Highway. That seed was now a flowering dream.  I wasn’t sure how soon it would happen but it was on the agenda.  In the meantime she reliably took me down 68k miles of back roads, dirt tracks and washboard highways of the western US, Baja and yes, yet another trip to Alaska. This time in the winter of 06.  I slowly added things I thought I would need while living out of my car. Roof rack, Eezi-Awn RTT, ARB fridge, electronics, 4.88s and some other goodies.  I also had to take care of some of the niggly items that caused a blemish on the Land Cruiser legacy. Namely the notorious PHH, inner axle seals and EGR issues. I was lucky to avoid the head gasket failure but 97s also have a better track record there.

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Many would find folly (and quite a few told me to my face) in leaving on a solo trip down the Pan-American with 168k miles on the drivetrain of any vehicle. I did so without hesitation. I sold my FJ40 and all my belongings and hit the road. The 80 drivetrain was a proven commodity.  Parts would be available in most countries if the situation required. Along my 35k mile route I drove to an elevation of 17,800ft, crossed dozens of rivers, explore remote jungle two track, nearly rolled down a volcano in Panama, and did some serious 4 wheeling with the local Land Cruiser club in Bogota, Colombia. When I was out of cash I shipped Ruby home to Utah.  I added another 46k miles to the odometer over the next two years and sold her in 2011 after picking up a 2003 100 series. Sadly right after selling her the radiator failed on the new owner. What had been a near perfect truck did not live on forever. Only 247k miles on the odometer at the time.

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Scott Brady has called the 100 series the Best Used Overland Vehicle you can buy.  In my firsthand experience I agree with him. Super reliable, great availability and easily modified make for an ideal platform.  V8, IFS, navigation, computers.  Not a Land Cruiser.  Suuuure. Multiple Baja trips, thousands of miles of dirt roads, brutal rock crawling and not one hint of unreliability out of my lovely Wynonna.  Picked her up with 72k. Sold 4 years later with 168k. During this time I was working from home so it’s safe to say 80% of those miles were spent exploring the deserts of the American Southwest. I’d had the good fortune of riding, or sharing, a trail with Paul May from Equipt Expedition Outfitters and his superb 100 series many times and knew what to expect from my 100. I was able to get the newer 5-spd tranny and updated dash. Simple Old Man Emu lift and other requisite mods made for a very nice truck.  There was nothing about my 100 series I would change. Torsion bars and all.  The US 100 Series sales volume hovered in the 10-15k per year and used prices are normally reasonable so the popularity of the platform comes as no shock.

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So why the 200?  I even recently told a friend that given the option to buy a brand new 4 Runner or a used 100 I’d buy the 100 series. Lowest mile version I could afford for that same money.  At a minimum that would be an 8 year old truck. The used market for 100 series was somewhat crazy last spring. Trucks going for a lot more than I thought they were worth.  All the Luddites and nay-sayers had caught on to how great it is. I thought I’d test the waters and ended up selling my 100 and the hunt for the 200 was on.  That doesn’t fully answer the question though. Why the 200?

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I’ve been desert racing since 2010.  Canguro Racing originally raced a VW powered Class 5.  However, we were all Land Cruiser owners. As much as we loved racing Class 5 we wanted to race a Toyota.  When Joe Bacal listed his race proven Geiser Bros built LX570 for sale we had to jump on it.  Our first adventure in the new truck was the 640 mile Vegas to Reno race in August of 2014.  I co-drove off the starting line then drove the second leg.  I realize everyone on Expedition Portal spends a lot of time on dirt roads and are confident in their driving skill. That’s how I felt too before I started racing. Desert Racing is a different animal than exploring the White Rim or the Mojave Road. It is brutally tough on the vehicles and the conditions are far more difficult during a race as the fastest vehicles destroy the course ahead of you.  Our race class is Stock Full.  Yes all electronics have been removed but drivetrain and suspension links are all stock.  I distinctly remember one point during that first race. We’d just come out of nasty, twisty, section of rock and silt and turned onto major access road. We’d been battling for about 2 hours, passed about 30 vehicles (we started in the very back as we chose not to race in class our first race) and finally had a chance to relax a little. It was mid-90s out, we were climbing about a 6% grade and pushing a 110mph.  I glanced at the scan gauge and our water temp was 193 degrees.  I was shocked how little the motor was bothered by race conditions.  Add in a 1300 mile Baja 1000, all the miles Joe had put on the truck and I was convinced the drivetrain was bulletproof. Leakdown tests and bearing inspections confirmed it. We converted the LX sheet metal to a Land Cruiser and made her our own. Our race truck sees more abuse in one Baja 1000 than my own rig will see in its lifetime and I drive my own stuff pretty aggressively. So when I threw my 100 on eBay to see what would happen I was sure a 200 would be the replacement. (There is one huge overlap from overlanding to desert racing and that is endurance. Many times while exploring dirt roads or seeking out that perfect, remote campsite the hours behind the wheel add up.  For a lot of people 8-16 hours behind the wheel seems like a nightmare. Pretty much every one I know that spends time on ExPo looks forward to a day like that.)

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The only downside I’ve found to the 200 so far is the used market.  Because the sales volume is so low, about 2500 per year, there are not many for sale and the prices have remained high.  Fortunately the LX570 sells very well so there are options. I found my 200, Amie, at a Toyota dealer in Brooklyn, NY.  She was certified pre-owned with 14k miles and priced better than those in areas that have wider roads and places to park. I cashed in some Skymiles and took the Friday morning redeye to JFK. Deal done I hit the road, using mostly 2 lanes, with some desert and Interstate thrown in I found myself in Newport Beach, CA late Sunday night. Not an ounce of fatigue and I was in love with the 200.  After getting her back to SLC I threw on an Old Man Emu lift and some BFG KO2s. 8 months and 36k miles later and I look forward to driving her every day.  I still work from home so those 36k miles have been good ones. A month and 9k miles in Alaska. Escaping a flash flood in Escalante. Backcountry miles in Utah, Colorado, California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and of course Baja have all added to the tally.  I’ve done a lot of exploring in Land Cruisers over the last 18 years.  I’ve lived out of my truck for months on end and pushed myself to the most remote corners of the Utah deserts.  I used to swear by a solid axle and a mechanical locker.  I still use paper maps but have absolute confidence in the absolutely modern Land Cruiser. I was on a trail near Moab last fall and came to a pretty decent obstacle.  I thought I’d give ‘Crawl Control’ a shot and see how well it works.  The 30 foot climb was mix of loose sand, dirt, and rock ledges. Without question my 200 climbed it better than my ARB locked 100 and factory locked 80 would have done.  It didn’t even slip a tire. I used to say lockers were like cheating when it came to rock crawling.  Crawl Control in the 200 series is cheating. It can do it better than I can.  Is it as fun? Probably not but the fact that Toyota engineered it to do so validates my point earlier. They understand how these trucks will be used.  For a guy who does a lot of solo overlanding I can’t tell you how much I love the ‘gimmicky’ cameras. The flash flood that trapped me in Escalante required some very technical wheeling to get out.   Without a spotter I used the cameras to escape scratch and incident free.

Value is a funny thing. It means different things to different people. The sticker on my 1997 80 series was $53k.  I still love the 80 platform and think it is an amazing truck. Mine took me through 17 countries and 150k miles without issue but I think the first owner overpaid for it. I’m glad they did so I could pick it up 7 years later for significantly less.  My 100 series was $64k new.  Is it the best used overland value out there? Yes. Was it originally worth $64k? Probably. Again thankful to the original buyer.  Here is what I keep coming back to when it comes to the 200 series. I think the truck is worth more than the $80k price tag.  The materials and build quality are that of a luxury car and the soul is all Land Cruiser. It is the clear evolution of the US available Land Cruiser.  Reliability, durability and performance have all been improved.  It can handle all the abuse you want to throw at it then run air conditioning through your seat on the way home.  I’m on pace to hit 50k in my first year of ownership.  I keep thinking one day I’ll find that one thing that I can point to and say ‘yep, not a Land Cruiser.’ I’m guessing it will happen somewhere around 400k miles.  For this long time owner the 200 is the best Land Cruiser yet.  Now if they could just make it look like an FJ60…

 

Check out more of Dave’s adventures on his website washboardhighway.com or his instagram slcdmc here.

 

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