Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Fri, 29 Jul 2016 07:22:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Company Profile: Dutch Safari Co. http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-dutch-safari-co/ http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-dutch-safari-co/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 07:22:30 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41569 Wind the clock back twenty years ago, to a time when searching for a used car was a much more tactile experience. Back then, one had to either waste the weekend driving around town, or drop a dollar on one of those car-for-sale magazines found at any local gas station. Since driving around pretty much limited your selections to local used car lots, most of us leaned towards the magazines to broaden our search. It wasn’t all bad though.

 

One latent benefit of thumbing through these magazines was the exposure to obscure vehicles that may have never appeared on your radar otherwise. Often times, rather exciting prospects would stand contrast to the soul-less Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics that provided the primary ballast for these magazines. In these days, searching for simple transportation often unearthed gems such as a 1969 Lincoln Continental, a custom 1970 Beetle with full Baja treatment, or even an uber rare Camel Trophy Discovery.

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These are very specific vehicles that appeal most to interesting people such as yourself, and not so much the average car buyer -to whom most online search engines cater to. So where does one turn to find that one special vehicle in the internet age? What if that vehicle you are seeking was never available in the United States? Enter Dutch Safari Co.

 

An automobile importer by definition, Dutch Safari also specializes in the restoration and customization services necessary to meet the unique needs of each client. There is something to be said for entrepreneurs passionate enough to partake in their own trade. Dutch Safari owes its roots to their personal quest to find that one special vehicle.

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Erica Plumlee, once dreamed of owning a two door, manual shift, diesel SUV for years before discovering her proclivity for finding exotic vehicles for her clients. In fact, this quest is how Dutch Safari got its start. The story of her Range Rover Classic serves as an example of the intricacies of importing an automobile into the United States and why having a concierge can be immensely beneficial when it come time to import your dream car.

 

It took some time, but she found exactly what she was searching for: a turbo-diesel 1978 Range Rover Classic in Warsaw, Poland. She initially contacted a highly skeptical owner by phone, to which she was received as an unlikely buyer -and who could blame the guy, she was calling from Texas afterall. Incidentally, she was in Warsaw six months later and, as fate would have it, the truck was still there.  

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She spent a month in Poland getting acquainted with her newfound love before braving the Autobahn (in a diesel Range Rover nonetheless) to arrive at port for one-way shipping to Texas. Once stateside, the little Range Rover was titled in Texas before moving to California, where grey market automobiles are not permitted (it’s details like these that Dutch Safari can help protect you from). After hiding out for six months in the Sunshine State, the green Range Rover made its way back to Texas where it now lives legally.

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There are many daunting intricacies that can keep you from enjoying a foreign automobile. Did you happen upon a mint Land Rover Defender with portal axles in the UK? forget it, modified vehicles are more likely to be rejected. Find a screaming deal on a Ferrari? You better hope it’s at least 25 years old. What about a low mileage, diesel Toyota Hilux? How will you know it’s mechanically sound without a test drive? Why face these challenges alone when there are reputable auto-concierges such as Dutch Safari to guide you along the way?

 

Are you ready to breathe life into your dreams to own an exotic? You can learn more about the process at Dutch Safari Co. You can also peruse their current inventory here, and a list of prospective imports here.

 

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For Sale: Lexy the GX470 http://expeditionportal.com/for-sale-lexy-the-gx470/ http://expeditionportal.com/for-sale-lexy-the-gx470/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:00:57 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41620 Imagine the place in nature or around the world you dream of experiencing with your family. Is it close to home for a weekend getaway fishing by a beautiful lake, a few hundred miles away in the off-road bliss of the Rocky Mountains, or perhaps somewhere in another country where you can experience its culture and beauty? We had all of these dreams, and our Lexus GX470, affectionately named Lexy, enabled us to accomplish each and every one of them. We built her to be able to handle any environment, weather, road, or trail condition because you never know what could happen when so far from civilization; which is exactly where we wanted to be.

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From climbing the steep rock face and boulders of Poughkeepsie Gulch in the crispy cool Rockies with ease, to quickly and comfortably covering the many miles of blown out and corrugated desert back roads in sweltering Baja Mexico, Lexy is far from just an average “trail rig”. She is a desert road bomber, a crawler, and a dream on the highway, the perfect trifecta of capability and comfort. We are telling you this because the time has come for Seth and I to follow other dreams, and for Lexy to help another family finds theirs. This unique GX470 has been published in several magazines, advertisements, and websites and is the only one currently like it. She is a vehicle you can trust to carry you and your family to the farthest reaches of the globe in comfort and safety.

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There was no expense spared on the build, and every detail was given thorough and thoughtful planning. Lexy has been meticulously maintained using only Lexus parts when available and detailed maintenance records have been kept. All maintenance is current making this a truly turn key vehicle ready to be driven or shipped anywhere in the world. As an added bonus Lexy comes with a two-day camping/training course on how to use all of her systems including my favorite: the hot water shower.

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2007 LEXUS GX470 SPORT

ENGINE: 4.7 L 2UZ-FE V8

TRANS: 5-speed A750F automatic

FEATURES: full-time 4wd, KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), center locking differential, leather interior, heated seats, heated mirrors, Navigation/Stereo system with Mark Levinson speakers, rear AC, power- seats/lumbar/mirrors/tilt steering column

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VEHICLE MODIFICATIONS

OVERLAND GEAR:

  • 23 Zero Bundaberg roof top tent with annex
  • Fox Wing awning
  • K-9 Roof rack with intergraded table
  • Synergy Manufacturing hot water shower heat exchanger with shower pump and sprayer
  • 20 Gallon fresh water tank (located in stock spare tire location) with RV 12v water pump and extendable metal hose with adjustable nozzle

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Adventure Driven Lexy ARB fridge-1 (Copy)Adventure Driven ICON front shocks-1 (Copy)

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  • ARB snorkel
  • Custom Goose Gear drawer system with fridge slide
  • ARB 63 quart 12v fridge
  • ARB 12V air compressor
  • Custom fold down cutting board and utensil holder (installed on rear gate)
  • Two Blue Sea power distribution blocks
  • P3 Solar 200 Watt solar panel with quick connector
  • P3 Solar inverter
  • SunForce 30 amp solar panel controller

lexy

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  • Custom front and rear bumpers with rear tire and jerry can carriers
  • 5 gallon jerry can
  • Cobra CB
  • Black Berry Blue Tooth module
  • Ultra Gauge
  • Extra dual USB ports installed throughout
  • Trash-A-Roo
  • IBS dual battery controller
  • Twin Die Hard Platinum batteries
  • Shovel mounted to jerry can holder
  • Front Runner spare tire step
  • Cell phone signal booster

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SUSPENSION:

The main capability upgrade on Lexy is an ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 7 Suspension System with an additional “S2” secondary shock upgrade. The front is comprised of billet aluminum upper control arms, 2.5” coilovers with ICON’s CDC (Compression Damping Control) Valve, and two-tube Omega Series bypass secondary shocks with compression and rebound adjust-ability. The rear factory air suspension has been replaced with ARB heavy-duty expedition springs, ICON upper and lower billet control arms, Omega Series bypass rear shocks and hydraulic bump stops, ICON adjustable pan hard bar. All of this combines to create a suspension setup that is well-suited for the rough terrain and high speeds, but also is comfortable enough for daily driver duty with the ability to adjust the shocks for the perfect ride in any scenario.

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TIRES AND WHEELS:

Falken Wildpeak 285/70-R17 AT tires, 17”x9” NV Matte Black Method Race Wheels

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DRIVE TRAIN:

ARB air lockers front and rear, Nitro 4:56 gears, Cross drilled and slotted brake rotors, Differential breathers, High output alternator

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  Adventure Driven Lexy engine bay-1-2 (Copy)

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ARMOR:

4 piece RCI skid plate kit, Metal Tech rock sliders, Custom rear water tank skid plate

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LIGHTING:

KC Lights 50” and 20” LED light bars, 2 KC Lights 4” bumper mounted cornering lights, 8 Cyclone LED rock lights (6 white and 2 red that come on when door is open), 4 LZR LED Cube area lights (mounted on roof rack), 3 LZR LED Cube reverse lights, 2 Cyclone LED interior cargo lights and 2 Cyclone under hood lights on switch.

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RECOVERY GEAR

Come Up 9500 lb winch (with synthetic rope and wireless winch controller), Factor 55 FlatLink and HitchLink, recovery bag (pulley, tree saver, snatch strap, D-shackles), Maxtrax recovery boards

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 Interior Photos

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Adventure Driven driver front door-1 (Copy)Adventure Driven dash winshield-1 (Copy)
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A couple of videos from our channel high lighting a few of the systems

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7RKGU4N0zU

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R34T24an3_Y

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Asking Price $78,500

For more information or to make an offer, contact Seth and Kande at adventuredriven@icloud.com

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Head to Head: National Parks vs. National Forests http://expeditionportal.com/head-to-head-national-parks-vs-national-forests/ http://expeditionportal.com/head-to-head-national-parks-vs-national-forests/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:21:34 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41278 The first time I went to Yellowstone National Park was in 1979 when I was just a wee lad. My nature-loving hippy father thought cross country skis would afford us the most unfettered view of the park’s many splendors, so our trip coincided with the dead of winter. I still haven’t fully thawed. He wanted unspoiled wilderness and that’s exactly what we got. Other than a few park employees and the occasional snow covered bison, we had the place to ourselves.

My second visit to the park was 37 years later––just last month. This time I arrived at the park gates at the ass end of a train of cars that stretched on for over two miles. After an hour in line, our frustrated procession crawling along inch by inch, we finally cleared the entrance. In retrospect I think we should have just turned around.

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As is the case for all of the major parks including Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, and so many others, Yellowstone is under siege. Every summer vast armadas of tour busses and family trucksters invade in mass to see our nation’s most revered natural treasures. Visitor centers are swarmed, parking areas clogged, and trails leading to various overlooks and attractions are packed with tourists walking heel to toe. Selfie sticks wave in the wind like stalks of wheat as people clamor to spend a fleeting moment in front of a view or sign before moving on to the nearest gift shop or snack stand.

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Over the course of three weeks, my wife and I visited half a dozen popular parks and the scene was much the same wherever we went. At the Grand Canyon, witless tourists tiptoed to the edge of the great precipice to pose for a photograph, undoubtedly fodder for the day’s Facebook post before cramming themselves back into their rental car for the drive back to Las Vegas. In Rocky Mountain National Park traffic was stopped for 15 minutes so someone could get an iPhone shot of a squirrel standing on the road’s edge. In Yellowstone, many of the geothermal pools and features were littered with trash, discarded hats, and even an umbrella. Old Faithful, the once majestic crown jewel of our first national park, is now reduced to a pitiful squirt flanked by 100 square acres of parking lots and curio shops filled with gaudy sweatshirts and shot glasses picturing the famed geyser.

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It’s clear to me that Americans, and indeed the world at large, love our national parks. I have to conclude that we are loving them to death. How many boardwalks and overlooks can we carve into these landscapes before they overwhelm the natural beauty they are intended to serve?

To be fair, there are corners of every park that remain untouched and well preserved. Tourists rarely amble into the abyss of the Grand Canyon, a place as unspoiled as any once below the rim. The backcountry of Yosemite and Yellowstone are equally pure if you have the ability to explore their remote corners on foot, and provided you can finagle a permit out of the system. If it’s nature you seek, however, I dare say the better experience is not to be had in our most hallowed parks, but in our many national forests.

 

National Forests

Flanking the vast majority of our parks are expansive collections of public lands, many of them as beautiful as any in North America. Better yet, many of those districts are immaculately preserved, uncrowded, and––free. Escaping the throngs of crowds in Yellowstone, we retreated to the stunningly beautiful Wind River Range. Instead of camping in the shadow of an RV in a congested campground, we plopped our tent beneath lonely peaks, the only company a passing family of ducks and a curious deer.

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Above: The hot spring and campground of Granite Creek in Wyoming’s Wind River Range make for a beautiful retreat. Below: Flaming Gorge in Utah and the painted hills of Southern Wyoming rival any view in the most lauded national parks.

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We often assume that our national parks contain our most interesting historical attractions, and it is true many of them do. But the quarry of the once active Yule Marble Company in Colorado is not sequestered within a national park. It’s neatly tucked into a small corner of national forest. A century ago the marble quarried high on the mountainsides of this picturesque valley was considered the finest in the world. The sprawling marble factory in the eponomously named town of Marble produced the stone used to construct some of our most cherished monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown. You can visit the ruins of that once bustling factory today––also for free. There is no gift shop, hot dog stand, or uniformed guide to give you a tour. But, just a short walk away there is a killer BBQ restaurant in the overgrown remains of the once busy town that you shouldn’t miss.

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There are things you can’t find in national parks, like interesting locals, 1950s era Land Rovers, or insanely good BBQ restaurants.

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The more we drove around from one national park to the next, the more we began to appreciate the national forests, BLM lands, and national monuments along the way. We couldn’t enter Arches National Park as it was simply too crowded, but the small detour to Fisher Towers proved worth the time. Although Teton National Park wasn’t nearly as congested as Yellowstone, the Gallatin National Forest nearby was all but vacant. Rocky Mountain National Park was a zoo of humanity, the summit of Trail Ridge Road an endless parade of rented RVs and busses. We found a better experience at the top of Independence Pass (pictured in the lead image above). It was as solitary and serene as I imagine it was a million years ago. From Utah to Montana, Wyoming to Colorado, it was the humble national forest that offered the most relaxing, diverse, and rewarding experiences.

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Within Yellowstone a single bison can stall traffic for hours. Only minutes outside the park, sprawling herds of hulking bison can be found grazing before picturesque backdrops. 

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As a passionate advocate for protected lands, I am forever grateful that a century ago we established our national park system and that we have continued to expand and defend it. I am glad I dedicated three weeks to visiting just a few of these amazing places and know I will again and again. I also have an ever deepening appreciation for the wild places that fall outside the national park designation. In a year meant to honor the parks, I find my attention turned to the millions of square miles not choked with tourists, cordoned off with fences and railings, or accessed only with the exchange of stiff entry fees.

 

Here’s to the unsung hero of our public lands – the national forests.

 

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BMW Mottorad Announces New Soft Luggage for the GS Lineup http://expeditionportal.com/bmw-mottorad-announces-new-soft-luggage-for-the-gs-lineup/ http://expeditionportal.com/bmw-mottorad-announces-new-soft-luggage-for-the-gs-lineup/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:01:27 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41779 Genuine adventure riders, not just those looking the part, know that hard-sided luggage is not always the best solution for rugged off-road riding. Anyone who has dropped their bike and had a hard pannier land on their leg knows this to be true. In an effort to better outfit their most adventuresome riders, BMW has just released a new line of soft luggage purpose-built for their complete line of GS bikes.

Designed to mount to existing BMW luggage mounts, their new Atacama Adventure Luggage system consists of side bags and a top-mount duffel. The system is compatible with the 2008 and newer F650, F700 and F800, with installed luggage mounts, as well as all 2004 and newer 1200cc GS and GSA models. The soft cases are available in asymmetric sizes to clear the exhaust offset and come in 25-liter and 35-liter sizes.

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Unlike most soft panniers which attach to the motorcycle via nylon straps, the Atacama bags have a hard mounting plate that permits an easy on/off and gives the bag additional structural support. Each bag comes with a waterproof liner, dual side pockets which accommodate fuel or water bottles, a Beaver Tail exterior flap to secure items best left outside the bag, and MOLLE attachment points for additional customization.

The duffel is particularly smart and not only includes a multitude of organizational features, includes backpack straps for an easy portage. With a dedicated tent pole sleeve, documents pouch, hydration pocket, Beaver Tail, and waterproof liner, the Atacama duffel is a well thought out storage solution that will appeal to many riders.

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Available only through BMW dealers, the two side cases retail for $860, but require the additional purchase of the luggage mount adapter plates which sell for $130 to $250 depending on the model of motorcycle. The Atacama duffel sells for $330. Competitively priced given the features, the Atacama system is likely to become a popular alternative for those with a tendency to venture far off the beaten path.

 

Stay tuned to Expedition Portal for a more complete field test in the months to come.   www.bmwgroupna.com

 

 

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Hitch Rack Shootout http://expeditionportal.com/hitch-rack-shootout/ http://expeditionportal.com/hitch-rack-shootout/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 20:58:17 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41087 For many of us, leaving home without at least one bicycle is inconceivable. As such, a bike rack is an essential accessory, but the debate rages as to which one is best for overland travel. Ask any manufacturer if their racks are suitable for off-road use and you will get an uneasy, “No.” You can couch that response under the auspices of CYA, which is understandable. Designed for off highway use or not, most bike racks will eventually find themselves bouncing down a rough road on route to a hidden trailhead or campsite.

Over the course of the last two years, I have tested several of the market’s leading hitch racks to uncover which hauler reigns supreme. In that time I have ferried all manner of bikes over rough roads and smooth spanning thousands of miles. I pushed all of them to the ragged edge, and beyond. A few struggled and some were flawless. Which rack is my top pick?

Thule T2 Pro $550

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The T2 has been in the Thule lineup for many years and is one of the most popular hitch racks on the road. Favored for its quick clamping mechanism that doesn’t contact the bike frame, it has been imitated many times over. After a lengthy run as the top rack preferred by many, and with the competition closing in, Thule redesigned the T2 with the newly released T2 Pro.

The new model addresses three main issues many of us found lacking with its predecessor. The Pro’s new wheel trays now accommodate plus and fat-size tires out of the box, whereas the T2 (still available) requires optional wheel trays to fit anything larger than a 2.8 tire. The Pro’s most impressive upgrade is the newly positioned lever used to tilt the rack up or down. No longer positioned at the main pivot, a place not easily reached, the new latch is at the outer aspect of the rack where it is not only more accessible and easier to use, but affords a solid grasp and reassuring control of the rack when raising or lowering. The other nice improvement is the locking quill-style hitch insert that eliminates the need for a locking hitch pin. A few twists of a knob securely tightens the rack in place preventing it from any side to side wobble. This tool-less system is a significant improvement for those of us who tend to remove our racks frequently.

I also noticed an update to the retractable cable lock system on each retention arm. Increased spring tension now helps the cable return within the arm with less fiddling. Those arms have been reshaped to fit around wider fork assemblies and the overall design of the rack has been redesigned with cleaner, softer lines.

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Upshots

Like the original, the T2 Pro is easy to load and unload. No rack is more convenient to raise or lower and the new trays work very well for all tire widths. Included in the box are lock cores for the two bike mounts and the locking hitch retention mechanism. The trays can be adjusted side to side to eliminate bike-to-bike interference, although it is still a common problem for this and many other racks.

Missteps

Time will tell how it holds up, but to improve the aesthetics of the T2 Pro, it has an abundance of plastic, much of it cosmetic cladding to cover the main pivot. The hitch tensioning knob, while very handy, is placed at a point where it could get damaged if impacted on a ledge or rock, although it does have a heavy metal guard protecting it. That is not a deal breaker, but a consideration when evaluating your departure angle in rough terrain.

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Conclusion

The new T2 Pro is a quantum leap forward for Thule. The Pro fetches a $150 premium over the T2, now called the Classic, and is in my opinion worth the up-charge. Part of me wishes Thule could have made the rack lighter (54 pounds), but it is a worthy successor to the T2. My final impression left me with the feeling that the T2 Pro is extremely solid, well made, and will last years of hard use. This was one of my favorite racks in the group.

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Kuat NV $550

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When it was launched just a few years ago, the Missouri based Kuat brand immediately won loyal fans with their handsome and refined racks. The anodized orange accents and soft edges of their NV rack caught my eye and prompted me to add one to my Jeep. With a design similar to the Thule T2, the rack does not contact the bike frame, accepts a wide range of wheel diameters and widths, and is easy to load and unload. The quill-style hitch retention system keeps the rack tight within the receiver and affords a tool-less installation, although it does require an additional pin with locking end-cap. A large lever allows the NV to be raised or lowered quickly with minimal effort.

The only rack I’ve ever tested to include a built-in repair stand, the NV is a great trailhead transporter. I often pop my bike on the repair stand to complete my pre-ride lube, air, and tweak. A built-in cable lock system keeps would-be thieves honest.

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Upshots

The repair rack is the standout feature but many people are drawn to the NV for its attractive design. These racks look fantastic hanging on a sporty SUV or wagon. Although it isn’t as easy to reach and use as the T2 Pro’s pivot release, the large lever on the NV holds securely and requires minimal force to actuate. The quill-insert in the hitch holds the rack snug, eliminating any unwanted side to side play.  The retention arms hold the bikes firmly in place, and the cable lock is beefy enough, I suspect it will give most passing crooks a reason to move on to easier prey. It is a very nice looking rack, which I think might be why most people, myself included, are drawn to it.

Missteps

After 10,000 miles of use, none of it on particularly rough terrain, my NV test rack has become prone to minor rattles, squeaks, and has developed some noticeable slop in the main pivot. None of that affects the performance. The ratcheting mechanism in one of the retention arms had to be replaced and there are some cosmetic issues developing, but again, nothing serious. I do want to put this in context. The Yakima also suffered a few minor issues as did the Thule. The last grouse with the NV is the inability to slide the bike trays side to side. Some pairs of bikes will have interference with each other which is hard to remedy with the NV.

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Conclusion

The Kuat NV is an ideal system for those users who want a sharp looking rack to compliment the sleek lines of their vehicle. The repair stand is a winner and helps justify the $550 asking price. Although my NV did suffer one minor warranty issue, the Kuat customer service team was exceptional and the fix was quickly implemented at no cost or inconvenience.

 

UPDATED NV: It is important to note that Kuat has recently updated the NV with the release of the NV 2.0. I am currently testing that rack and must say it is a significant improvement from tip to tail. It also gained an additional $80 and now fetches $630 making it one of the more expensive systems on the market. Read about that rack [HERE].


 Yakima HoldUp 2 $450

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The HoldUp is in many ways a hybrid of the Thule T2 and the Kuat NV. Nice looking and easy to use, it has a similar retention arm system and identical tilting features which place the rack in upright, level, and downward positions. Like the Thule, the HoldUp has retractable cable locks hidden in each support arm. Instead of a quill-style hitch insert, the HoldUp uses a threaded hitch pin to securely tighten the rack within the receiver.

Loading bikes is easy and the large front wheel trays accommodate all wheel sizes with some limitations, which I will address in the pros/cons. The support arms have been designed to clear wider fork blades and like the Thule, the bike trays can be adjusted side to side to eliminate any bike-to-bike interference, but again, the adjustment range seldom eliminates the problem. A feature unique to the HoldUp, the wheel trays can be folded inward when the rack is empty which reduces the size of the rack considerably. It makes for a nice, compact bundle.

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The tilt feature is not as useful as I’ had hoped as it doesn’t tilt far enough to clear most hatches.

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Upshots

One of the challenges with using this style of rack in rough terrain is the tendency for the front wheel to hop out of the wheel cradle. This plagued the T2 and Kuat NV on many of our test runs. The deep wheel supports of the Yakima never failed to hold the front wheel securely in place. The HoldUp is also slightly narrower than the other racks at only 64-inches wide. At $450 including locks, it is a good value and on par with Thule’s non-Pro T2 rack. The rack has a built-in bottle opener, so…yea.

Missteps

While the front wheel supports are deep, they are so wide that road bike wheels tend to feel loose in the cradle while fatbike tires simply will not fit. The rear wheel trays need additional straps to secure even plus-size tires, although that seems to be a common problem with all racks. The cable locks in each support arm are also quite short and rather thin. I don’t know if they would deter a would-be thief. My biggest complaint is with the release pin on the main pivot. It is difficult to reach and requires some fiddling to actuate. It has also pinched many fingers although now I’m getting a bit nit-picky.

My other hesitation with the HoldUp is with the somewhat uncertain build quality. With so many pivots and moving parts, the other HoldUp racks I inspected on friend’s vehicles felt a little knackered and developed a noticeable degree of slop and play at critical points. I don’t know how much rough usage they had endured, but there is a lot of complexity with the HoldUp, and that could be its weakness. The necessity to use a tool to tighten the threaded hitch pin is something I presume Yakima will address with the updated HoldUp, scheduled to arrive early next year.

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Conclusion

As racks get more expensive, the HoldUp’s MSRP makes it a good value, although it is similar in feature to Thule’s T2 Classic at the same price once you factor in the cost of the addition of bike mount locks. I think the Yakima is a nicer looking rack than most and the compact size is attractive. When not hauling bikes, and folded and stowed upright, it looks really slick. Although it isn’t the best solution for fatbike use, it is nonetheless a nice rack and I enjoyed using it. www.yakima.com

 


 1UP USA Single Super Duty Quick Rack $400 (Editor’s Choice)

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Not to say I don’t have friends, but I often ride alone, so a one-bike system is a desirable thing. After hearing many riders rave about 1UP racks I felt I had to try one––and I’m glad I did. In my humble opinion, this is the best rack I have used in years, although it does have a couple potential drawbacks that may give some would-be buyers pause.

Designed and made in the USA, the quality of the Quick Rack is nothing short of exceptional and superior to any other rack in this group––by far. Without so much as a single plastic component, the entire rack is made of machined aluminum with high-quality steel hardware. Unlike the other racks in this category, the Quick Rack uses dual wheel clamps to securely support both the front and rear wheels. A ratcheting mechanism on each arm assembly allows a bike to be mounted in as little as a few seconds. I wasn’t convinced the rack would hold my bike steady on bumpy roads, but I’ve been very pleased with its overall performance.

Like all of the racks tested, save for the Yakima, the Quick Rack employs a quill-style tension system to hold the rack tight within the hitch receiver. The lack of a hitch pin initially gave me some concerns, but seeing how snug the rack sits in the receiver, I’m convinced it isn’t going anywhere. To prevent theft, the quill mechanism is tightened with a proprietary, keyed allen wrench. The main pivot allows the rack to be locked in upright, level, and lowered positions with a fourth position I don’t often use which places the rack in an upright angle at about 45º.  My favorite attribute of the Quick Rack is the ability to fold it into a small bundle for easy transport inside my vehicle when not in use. For those with a need for a second bike mount, the rack can be expanded with an additional tray, two more if the total of three bikes are kept under 50 pounds. The two-bike version retails for $560 in raw aluminum and $630 in anodized black. When fitted for multiple bikes, the Quick Rack’s unique retention system all but eliminates bike-to-bike interference as each bike can be easily moved side to side without tools. That alone makes this my favorite hauler.

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Upshots

There is so much to love about the 1UP rack. I mostly appreciate how small and compact it is when not in use, and it holds my bike close to the back of my vehicle, not hanging three feet off the back like a trailer without wheels. The optional black finish looks fantastic and the ease of use has made me an instant fan. The more I use it, the more I appreciate the quality of materials and precision of construction. I also like how every part of the rack can be repaired or replaced if necessary.

Missteps

I concede the lack of any locking mechanisms securing the bikes or the rack to the vehicle may be a consideration for some people. My solution is the addition of a cable lock through the hitch assembly. Out of the box, the Quick Rack will only accept tires up to a 2.8 width, and that takes a little work to squeeze into the support arms. For fatbike use an optional spacer kit can be purchased for $34 which fits up to a 4.9 width tire. As an additional service, 1UP can build your rack with that kit pre-installed.

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Conclusion

If you can overlook the lack of any locking features and can pony up the extra funds, the Super Duty Quick Rack is worth owning. I don’t mind the extra cost because the quality of the product, its clever design, and ease of use more than justify the price. I can already tell this will be the last hitch rack I ever own. www.1upusa.com

 

The final verdict

I have no hesitation proclaiming the 1UP Quick Rack as my favorite. It isn’t perfect, no product is, but the quality speaks to me and I love how compact and clean it looks on my vehicle. The new T2 Pro promises to win over the next generation of Thule loyalists with its new tilting mechanism. Kuat will continue to appeal to vehicle owners searching for a system that looks less like an appliance and more like a refined accessory. The repair stand is also a compelling reason to buy the NV. Although aesthetics are subjective, I think the Yakima rack looks every bit as nice as the Kuat, and I like that it is more compact than the T2 Pro.

 

For now, the 1UP USA rack wins my vote for top spot.

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Testing gear is hard work, but someone has to do it.


 

The slow demise of quality control

Over the span of 25 years in the bike world, I have watched as rack prices climbed and quality waned. In fairness to the various manufactures, bringing these complex products to market must be a daunting challenge without driving prices into the stratosphere. Of the racks tested above, one arrived without any assembly hardware in the box, and another had a bolt hole drilled so off center, it had to be fussed with for 30 minutes before I could get it to cooperate.

As I assembled each rack, a couple of them had the build quality of a cheap department store BBQ grill. This is not to say they won’t last for years of use, or don’t warrant the purchase, but don’t expect any of these systems to have the refined quality of the bikes they will likely carry. To its credit, only the 1UP arrived without a manufacturing misstep. It also arrived fully assembled, ready to hit the trailhead. Take that for what it is, I guess.

 

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Overland Routes: The Mojave Road http://expeditionportal.com/overland-routes-the-mojave-road/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-routes-the-mojave-road/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:00:23 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=40298 The Mojave Road is one of the best known and most diverse overland routes in the United States. Like most western tracks, it was established by Native Americans and used as a footpath for travel long before Europeans arrived to map it. In 1776 the first documented crossing was completed by Francisco Garcés, a missionary on Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition to California. Over the coming centuries the road would transform into a supply route, making way for wagons, equipment, and rail lines heading to California.

Despite its similar history to other desert crossings, the Mojave Road is unique. Most classic routes were improved over the years or turned to pavement; the Mojave became lost in time when more efficient routes for railroads were discovered. Even today, very little maintenance or development has occurred, allowing drivers to not only enjoy the untouched desert, but do so on what is essentially the same road used over 150 years ago.

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General Information

The original route begins 10 miles south of Bullhead City on the Colorado River and spans 140 miles through the heart of the Mojave Desert to Camp Cady. Though largely unmaintained, the terrain is mild enough to be crossed by “soft-roaders” with an experienced driver. Topography of the area is brilliantly varied and includes mountain passes, desert valleys, large lakes, and even volcanic cones. The route begins in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, but the majority of the traditional road is encompassed by the Mojave National Preserve in California.

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Despite the dry nature of the region, flora can be stunning with the right seasonal conditions. Desert paintbrush, creosote bush, cholla, yucca, and prickly pear cacti thrive in the high desert, often blooming with vibrant pinks and yellows. The most notable plant along the route is the Joshua tree, which looks similar to the dreamed-up creations of Dr. Seuss. Their foliage resemble pom-poms rather than treetops, and the trunks—which turn and bend sporadically—are covered in a fur-like coating. Fauna includes the typical high-desert species, composed mostly of coyotes, rattlesnakes, bats, hawks, tortoises, wrens, and small mammals such as rats and mice. The particularly observant traveler may spot desert bighorn sheep.

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The Mojave Road has become popular in recent years thanks to its scenic views, moderate trail requirements, and proximity to three major population centers. In fact, due to the large groups flocking in from throughout the Southwest, it has started to become old hat for many overlanders, which is why we’re starting a little revival. We’ve taken the classic route and thrown in some of our favorite spots along the way. From swimming to sand dunes, there’s something for everyone along the Mojave Road.

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The Drive

We opted to begin our modified route upriver, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Mohave. The roads are broad and smooth leading into to this section, with long sand washes winding down to the water. The track shows just one cove, but many of them are secluded and provide a private beach any explorer will enjoy. The river waters run clear and cold year-round, so there is plenty of wandering to do via canoe or kayak on hot desert days. During our regrettably short stay, fish could be heard jumping every few minutes, so be sure to bring a rod and reel. Our evening ended with the sound of lapping waves on the shore and the touch of a cool lake breeze.

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If you’re able to tear yourself away from this picturesque beach, trek toward the Newberry Mountains, where tall canyon walls and craggy peaks loom overhead. The old pavement exit from this range can look fast and smooth but be warned, years of neglect have left jagged edges, crumbling shoulders, and tire-shredding potholes throughout.

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After running this gauntlet with your tires hopefully intact, there will be two routes leading to Fort Piute. We took the road less traveled, a slow and arduous track that desert shrubs and sand are beginning to reclaim. The alternate road follows the power line and consequently cuts a hefty amount of time off this section. The fort was once used to defend a vital water source along the road from Indian attacks. Its entry road is rocky, but the ruins at the top and the optional hike down to the creek make it well worth the drive.

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After admiring the fort, it’s time to climb the Piute range, an entertaining scramble with several off camber and cross axle situations. There won’t be any need to engage lockers, but the tipping sensation on cliff edges has been known to turn knuckles white a few times before reaching Lanfair Valley. At this point the first in a series of eclectic objects will begin to appear. These landmarks have become a staple for the road and include sites like the old bus, the penny can tree, the frog monument, the mailbox, and of course the Travelers’ Monument . Each provides its own flare and presents a fun opportunity for photography.

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While the majority of the Mojave Road is easy to moderate difficulty, the hill into Watson Wash can be the exception. Most drivers will really enjoy the obstacle, however an ill-chosen line or the wrong throttle inputs could easily spell disaster. A spotter is recommended for this portion of the trail.

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Government Holes is just beyond the hill and is a perfect spot to take a lunch break. The charming windmill pumps water from the parched desert floor into a large (and aging) tank, which has leaked enough to form a lush oasis around the well. To top it all off a tree stands proudly in the center, as if there for no reason but to shade weary travelers.

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At the risk of being labeled overland heretics, our group opted to deviate from a perfectly good dirt road onto pavement to share a personal favorite stop, Kelso Depot. Despite the disappointment that they no longer serve burgers and milkshakes, this little gem is a must-see spot along the route. Thick grass, towering palm trees, a perfectly restored building, and a beautiful overland route sign are sure to steal your heart. If nothing else, the running water and bathrooms should win points with the family, and the coloring books can distract the kids.

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The Mojave Desert has become known for many things, but rarely for its ominous volcanic cones or the corresponding lava flows that reach out like stony tentacles into the sands below. Hike up the cones, crawl down the lava tubes, or find the hidden mine where photo opportunities abound. Then it is off to Soda Lake, a 15-mile-long, 6-mile-wide dry lake bed, as flat as pavement and covered in a thick silt bottom; it’s the perfect birthplace for cataclysmic dust storms. If there is one place in the Mojave to be defined as epic above all others, it’s here. Be sure to stay to the trail and watch the speed in the center of the lake. Abrupt drops and rises in the lake bottom have been known to send less cautious vehicles airborne, returning to the earth in more pieces than they left.

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Another staff favorite added into this route is the abandoned rail station. This path can be tight but it is passable, even while hauling a large trailer. Bumping over the wooden rail ties, you’ll see impressive stone walls, foundations of ruins, and to the excitement of many a passenger, a sheer drop just inches off the side of the vehicle.

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The journey comes to an end with long sand washes and the road’s two river crossings. The firm bottoms and predictable depth make these simple to navigate, but be sure all drivers are familiar with proper fording techniques. On even the easiest crossing, too much speed or improper entry can quickly result in a hydrolocked motor.

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Access

West entrance: From Barstow, California, merge onto the I-15 N and continue for 23 miles. Take exit 206 for Yermo Rd. and follow for 3 miles. Turn right onto Alvord Mountain Rd. and you will reach the Mojave Road.

East entrance: From Searchlight, Nevada, head East on Cottonwood Cove Rd for 6.7 miles until you reach the fee station for Lake Mohave. Pay your fee and continue .1 miles, then turn right on Mead Davis Powerline Road, where your route begins.

 

Logistics

Distance off-pavement: 200 miles

Suggested time: 2-4 days

Longest distance without fuel: 214 miles

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Fuel Sources

Searchlight, Nevada 35°27’38.0″N, 114°55’06.0″W

Baker, California 35°16’08.9″N, 116°04’09.9″W

Yermo, California 34°55’09.9″N, 116°46’09.2″W

 

Difficulty

The Mojave Road is easy for a stock 4WD with only a few sections of moderate obstacles. We rate the entire route as moderate due to the remote nature without support and because of the hill at Watson Wash, which can erode to various degrees of difficulty.

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When to Go

The Mojave National Preserve is open year-round, however summer heat can be extreme and make even the shortest trip unpleasant. Winter can be equally harsh with temperatures dropping to 20°F in valleys, and below 0°F in the mountains. We recommend visiting in spring or fall when the temperatures are moderate. Be aware of spring monsoons which can flood washes and make the lake bed impassable. Park rangers should be contacted before travel for current conditions.

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Permits and Fees

No permits are currently required for crossing the Mojave National Preserve (MNP).

Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LMNRA) requires an entrance fee: $10 USD/vehicle, $5 USD/bicycle, 7-day pass, or $30 USD all access, 1-year. This may be purchased at a park entrance or by mail.

 

Fire permits are required in California for any open fire, including campfires, stoves, and barbeque grills. These can be acquired online (preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit/).

 

A fishing license is required for Lake Mohave and is available at most local bait shops and marinas.

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Suggested Campsites

 

Nellis Cove (LMNRA)

Accommodates 2-4 vehicles

Beach camp, fishing, swimming, secluded

35°24’14.6″N, 114°39’34.4″W

 

 

Roman Mine Camp

Accommodates large groups

Scenic views and old mines

35°17’42.4″N, 114°44’14.6″W

 

 

Fort Piute (MNP)

Accommodates 4-6 vehicles

Historic ruins, hiking, creek access, scenic views

35°06’53.5″N, 114°59’03.3″W

 

 

Mojave Bus Camp (MNP)

Accommodates 3-5 vehicles

Classic stop, cool photo opportunities

35°07’10.4″N, 115°06’54.5″W

 

 

Lone Tree (MNP)

Accommodates 3-5 vehicles

Shade, scenic views, sheltered from wind

35°09’17.6 “N, 115°20’15.0″W

 

 

Mojave Camp (MNP)

Accommodates large groups

Fire rings, rock climbing, shelter from wind

35°10’55.5″N, 115°36’49.9″W

 

 

Lake Bed Lookout

Accommodates 4-6 vehicles

Scenic view of Soda Lake, sand dunes, photography hot spot

35°07’08.9″N, 116°07’05.0″W

 

 

The Station

Accommodates 2-3 vehicles

Ruins, sheltered from wind

35°02’55.9″N, 116°18’05.4″W

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Contacts

Mojave National Preserve Visitor Information, nps.gov/moja/, 760-252-6174

Kelso Depot Visitor Center, 760-252-6100

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Visitor Information, nps.gov/lake/, 702-293-8990

Laughlin Police Department, 702-298-2223

Western Arizona Regional MC (Bullhead City), 928-763-2273

Barstow Police Department, 760-256-2211

Barstow Community Hospital, 760-256-1761

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Resources

Basic maps and brochures can be found for free at nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/maps.htm. Our detailed GPS track with points of interest is available through the Hema Explorer cloud here. We also recommend bringing the Mojave Road Guide by Dennis Casebier (ISBN: 978-0914224372). It contains the track for the original route and a complete history of the area.

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Notes

Overland Route descriptions are intended to be an overview of the trail rather than turn-by-turn instructions. We suggest you download the Hema Explorer app and Cloud GPS track, as well as source detailed paper maps as an analog backup. As with any remote travel, conditions can change dramatically. In summer, rains can subject desert dry washes to flash flooding and turn the dry lake bed into a quagmire. Do not attempt a crossing when wet. Always contact park rangers for current conditions and stay to the trail.

 

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Prometheus :: S.H.A.D.O. 28L Pack http://expeditionportal.com/prometheus-s-h-a-d-o-28l-pack/ http://expeditionportal.com/prometheus-s-h-a-d-o-28l-pack/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 20:16:35 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41555
Expedition Portal has been watching Prometheus Design Werx since its inception, their products designed for remote field work and hard use. Their attention to detail and high-quality materials extends to their first backpack, the S.H.A.D.O. (Suspension Haul Access Durable Organize). Here are the specifics on their newest offering, perfect for a ditch bag, day pack, adventure motorcycle pack, or daily carry. prometheusdesignwerx.com
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Overview
The PDW S.H.A.D.O. Pack 28L was designed from the ground up to accommodate some of the most practical use cases in a user’s daily carry, the S.H.A.D.O. Pack from PDW is unique in both its feature set and appearance. As an apex product, this pack effectively delivers a ruggedized, streamlined, best in class package designed to support its user in a multitude of environments and contexts both off and on the grid. The outer shell of the pack is constructed from proven 500D Cordura and lined internally with a Hi-visibility orange 70D nylon ripstop liner to allow for both easy visualization into the pack in any lighting condition and can serve as an emergency signaling option in emergency situations. The pack features an industry first, 2 fully zippered clamshell opening panels into the 2 primary compartments that allow for unobstructed access into the pack.

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The PDW S.H.A.D.O. Pack 28L was designed and built from the ground up in California, USA, with the objective of functioning as an extension of its user in their daily routine or adventures into the field. It represents a long running, core design ethos seen throughout other PDW products and incorporates classic design cues from alpine and backcountry traditions fused with modern capability and usability to deliver intelligent versatility to its user. From the spontaneous wilderness overnighter, an urban weekend of food trucking in a new city, exploring ancient ruins in a distant land, skinning up and carving down a hidden backcountry bowl, to confidently carrying your EDC essentials to and from work or the range. This day pack is as adventurous and versatile as you want to be.

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Details
Sitting upright at a height of 21″ and weighing just over a lean 2.5lbs in its base configuration, the pack is a combination of modern, proven, state-of-the-art materials and hardware to ensure a reliable and robust build without being hampered by excessive weight. Constructed with Invista Cordura® 500D, MILSPEC 3/4″ and 1″ webbing, elastic shock cord, #8YKK reverse coil zippers, closed cell foam, DriLex® and a 4″ x 7.25″ loop panel the S.H.A.D.O. Pack is able to support the users load out in a variety of harsh conditions and is designed to hold up in almost any field to street environment.

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Interior
The primary compartment of the pack features a top exterior zippered accessory pocket, an interior full length zippered mesh pocket, and a multi use padded laptop divider/bladder pocket with clip (padded pocket insulates bladder from a user’s body) to ensure total organization that can meet the changing needs of the user. The secondary full-size clamshell compartment can features a frame sheet pocket (K-Frame Sheet sold separately) and a ladder buckle mount for the optional PDW EDCO Panel™. This secondary clamshell compartment allows the user to store and organize their EDC items into a dedicated area and segregated from the main compartment. These two full zip clamshell compartments are unique in their approach in an effort to deliver a seamless and uncluttered experience while loading or accessing the interior of the pack.

 

Exterior
The refined exterior of the pack features several additional pockets and carry options such an integratable and removable optional Gear Trap™ beaver tail to quickly stow bulky items on the pack exterior. This beavertail style component includes a zipper pocket on the reverse that can provide quick access to many styles of tablets, maps, or notebook without entry into the main clamshell compartments of the pack. Dual, custom made 330D 90/10 nylon/elastane stretch fabric water bottle side pockets are designed to fit up to a standard 1L Nalgene bottle with additional admin organizer pockets underneath. Additional exterior details include center-line daisy loops, dual hydration ports, top and bottom carry/haul handles, cinching shock cord grid, a performance, wicking, padded back made of Dri-Lex® and a removable, adjustable 2” webbing belt with PALs overlay allow for further customization of the pack. An optional, integratable, fully padded, low profile, load bearing ToF (Trail or Fight) Belt™ is also available. The ToF Belt™ is a stand alone accessory, which is fully MOLLE compatible and can be used as a 1st Line or utility belt. MILSPEC elastic and Velcro One-Wrap strap keepers neaten up the appearance of the pack and ensures that the webbing cinch strap tails are policed and out of the way.

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Accessories
To allow the user full scalability PDW will offer several additional loadout-specific accessories such as the PDW Gear Trap™, the ToF (Trail or Fight) Belt™, K-Frame Sheet™, our array of MOLLE compatible pouches, hook & loop 6×6 Tiles™.

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Featured Vehicle: 31MM Defender 90 http://expeditionportal.com/featured-vehicle-31mm-defender-90/ http://expeditionportal.com/featured-vehicle-31mm-defender-90/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:00:52 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41407 The Land Rover Defender has always been an enchanting vehicle. Its adventurous heritage beckons us to wander, and even the most exorbitant prices and catastrophic break downs have not deterred enthusiasts from answering its call. But while a stock defender holds a certain respect for its rugged looks and capability, a tastefully modified one can make even the most die-hard Toyota fan long for the green oval. This sort of build is what 31MM specializes in, and their D-90 is one of our favorites.

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Dubbed AV One, this SUV is the first showcase vehicle the new business has created. Their goal is to “build the ultimate adventure vehicles for extreme sports athletes and explorers”, and their base is the Land Rover Defender. Each truck is a one-off project as unique as the needs of the person who orders it, and their features can range from mild to wild. From the engine and exhaust, to suspension and armor, this specific 90 has been upgraded and rebuilt to reliably take its owner into the back country for snow boarding, camping, and general trail use. We could waste a full day spewing about the upgrades, but instead we’ve decided to just give you the list of parts and let you drool over the photos like we did. Enjoy and be sure to check out the 31MM instagram page here for updates on their newest project, a brand new 2016 Defender.

ENGINE

• 2.5L TURBO DIESEL 5 CYLINDER ENGINE
• 220 BHP
• HYBRID PERFORMANCE TURBOCHARGER
• TURBO BOOST MODULE
• BESPOKE ECU REMAP
• PERFORMANCE INTERCOOLER
• PERFORMANCE AIR FILTER
• SAMCO SILICONE HOSES
• DECAT PIPE
• SILENCER REPLACEMENT PIPE
• STRAIGHT THROUGH SIDE EXIT EXHAUST

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EXTERIOR

• EXTENDED WHEEL ARCHES
• POWDER COATED SPARE WHEEL CARRIER
• NAS SPEC TOW BAR
• POWDER COATED LIGHT BAR
• HELLA SPOTLIGHTS
• POWDER COATED SNORKEL
• WINGTOP AIR INTAKES
• CLEAR LENSES WITH LED BULBS
• CLEAR HEADLIGHTS WITH 8000K HIDS
• WARN 9.5 WINCH
• SYNTHETIC WINCH ROPE
• BF GOODRICH MUD TERRAIN 35 X 12.5 INCH TYRES
• POWDER COATED MODULAR WHEELS

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 SUSPENSION

• OLD MAN EMU NITROCHARGER SPORT SHOCK ABSORBERS
• OLD MAN EMU PLUS 2INCH COIL SPRINGS
• OLD MAN EMU STEERING STABILISER
• RAISED FRONT SUSPENSION TURRETS
• FRONT SPRING RELOCATION CONES
• REAR SPRING RELOCATION CONES
• LIGHTWEIGHT CRANKED RADIUS ARMS
• CRANKED TRAILING ARMS
• PERFORMANCE POLYBUSH KIT
• STAINLESS STEEL HARDWARE

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INTERIOR

• SPARCO BUCKET SEATS
• SPARCO 4 POINT RACING HARNESS
• SPARCO SUEDE STEERING WHEEL
• SPARCO GEAR KNOBS
• SPARCO PEDALS
• SPARCO FIRE EXTINGUISHER
• ALUMINIUM CHEQUER PLATE FOOTWELLS
• OPTIMA DUAL BATTERIES
• SPLIT CHARGE SYSTEM
• BATTERY ISOLATOR CUT OFF SWITCH
• ANDERSON JACK PLUG
• BULKHEAD REMOVAL BAR

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AXLES

• FRONT ARB LOCKING DIFFERENTIAL
• REAR ARB LOCKING DIFFERENTIAL
• ONBOARD AIR COMPRESSOR
• FRONT GKN WIDE ANGLE PROPSHAFT
• REAR GKN WIDE ANGLE PROPSHAFT
• GOODRIDGE EXTENDED STAINLESS STEEL BRAKE LINES
• FRONT & REAR KAM HEAVY DUTY HALF SHAFTS
• KAM HEAVY DUTY CV JOINTS
• HEAVY DUTY STEERING ARMS

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PROTECTION

• HEAVY DUTY WINCH BUMPER
• HEAVY DUTY STEERING GUARD
• FRONT & REAR DIFFERENTIAL GUARDS
• ALUMINIUM TREE SLIDERS
• ZINC COATED ROCK SLIDERS
• CHEQUER PLATE WINGTOPS
• CHEQUER PLATE REAR CORNER PROTECTORS

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Left Hand Drive (LHD) or Right Hand Drive (RHD) http://expeditionportal.com/left-hand-drive-lhd-or-right-hand-drive-rhd/ http://expeditionportal.com/left-hand-drive-lhd-or-right-hand-drive-rhd/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 10:00:22 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41446 66% of the world drives on the right hand side of the road therefore 66% of the world’s drivers drive LHD vehicles. It stands to reason then that if you have a choice between LHD and RHD for long term international overlanding, LHD is the way to go. We have a RHD vehicle and it has been a huge pain in the butt, especially when overtaking. I have to rely on my family members to tell me when it is safe to overtake, the problem is that the wife is a nervous Nelly, my son has never driven on a paved road, and my little daughter has to make an effort to see over the dashboard. We have a system though. Here is the scenario…

The Alvord Desert, Oregon, 2015 (2)

We are stuck behind an overloaded eighteen wheeler truck on a winding single lane road and the sun is setting directly in front of us. I will move the vehicle towards the centre line and whoever is in the passenger seat will crane their necks to have a look at the road ahead. If there is oncoming traffic they must say NO, if the road is clear they must say CLEAR. They may not say GO because GO sounds just like NO in a noisy Land Rover. Before this system became a habit we had more than a few near misses when I understood NO to be GO and headed out into the oncoming traffic to overtake. My navigator must also tell me how many vehicles are visible in the oncoming lane. Often they will tell me, “There are two cars, a bus then a red truck, it might be clear after the truck”. They tell me the colour of the last vehicle so that I can easily identify it when it passes.

Keelan and Jessica, Rocky Mountain NP

The problem with this system is that I, as the driver, am almost always reliant on someone else to be wide awake and participating. If the family falls asleep on a long road I have to wait until the road conditions change enough that I am able to see the oncoming traffic and safely overtake.

The other drawback is that there are a few countries which do not allow RHD vehicles to cross their borders. This can be a massive problem when that country is en route to your destination and there is no way around it. In some cases special RHD permits may be obtained but often not. One solution is to have the RHD vehicle transported on a flat bed truck through the offending country but that is both expensive and obstructive as you will not be able to explore at your own pace. Also consider the following…

  • There are 34% of countries which drive on the left hand side (most of these are former British colonies) including Southern and East Africa, India, British Guyana, a few Asian countries and Australia. Driving on the left hand side is the correct side to drive on because that is where the Queen drives her Land Rover Defender.
  • There exist vehicles with interchangeable LHD RHD configurations such as the Mercedes Unimog and, with huge expense, your vehicle may be customised to do the same,
  • Bear in mind that the headlights of RHD and LHD vehicles differ as they are designed to shine on the road ahead and the shoulder while not blinding oncoming traffic. There are special lens stickers which may be applied to the headlight outers for exactly this reason but it is recommended to install LHD headlights on RHD vehicles given the probability of driving with the other 66%. While you are doing that install LED bulbs and a relay so as not to burn out the headlight switch (this applies specifically to Tdi and Td5 Defender drivers),
  • RHD in LHD countries (and vice versa) can present problems when stopping to pay at toll booths and when pulled over by the police. Corrupt police may insist that your vehicle is incorrectly configured and therefore illegal, a fine must be paid, a very, very big fine or the vehicle will be impounded. Do not fall for that. If you drove the vehicle into the country the policeman probably has no short, chubby leg to stand on.

 

This article is an excerpt from the upcoming book Travel the Planet Overland which can be pre-ordered by sending an email to a2aexpedition@gmail.com

Linden to Lethem Jungle road, British Guyana, 2014

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Trail Tested: 2016 Honda Africa Twin http://expeditionportal.com/trail-tested-2016-honda-africa-twin/ http://expeditionportal.com/trail-tested-2016-honda-africa-twin/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 07:20:15 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41233 The 1980s were defining for Honda. Stalwart models like the XR600R and the XRV750 Africa Twin won numerous Baja 1000 and Paris-Dakar Rally victories, ushering in over a decade of global powersports domination. Adventure motorcycles were gaining popularity, and Honda’s Transalp XL600V made a short appearance in the United States from 1989 to 1990. Life was good for Big Red, but its ADV glory would slowly fade over the next few decades—until the debut of the CRF1000L.

 

The adventure motorcycle community has been waiting for the new Africa Twin; early sketches and teasers have kept forums and blogs reeling with every new detail. Speculation achieved a frenetic pace when a muddied and incomplete prototype graced the stage at the 2014 EICMA show in Milan, Italy. It was clear that Honda was serious about constructing a true adventure machine, but details were veiled. Again, we waited. This changed when I swung a Sidi boot over the new CRF1000L in early May in Moab—a location that would prove to be the perfect testing grounds for the bike.

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On the Trail

I will share the good news right off the start—the Africa Twin rips on the dirt. For a 500-pound motorcycle, it rides far lighter and more effectively than its weight or classification would indicate. Most of this is owed to the narrow forward portion of the seat and appropriately sized wheels (21-inch front, 18-inch rear). The suspension is also surprisingly flexible and rewarding in this day of electronic adjustment and automatic load-leveling. After a short trail briefing from Baja 1000 motorcycle champion Johnny Campbell, I removed the rubber peg inserts and rolled the handlebar up to accommodate a more comfortable standing position. As I started the 998cc parallel twin, the motor settled into a smooth idle and a welcome rumble resonated from the exhaust. Throttle modulation was linear and predictable, allowing fine adjustments in concert with the clutch; this was an advantage on Moab’s ledges and slickrock.

 

Throughout the day, my assessment of the bike kept returning to the confidence it instills in the rider. It was simple to operate yet exceedingly capable; a rare trait in most large adventure motorcycles. Within minutes I was looking for bigger rocks and ledges, pushing the limits of traction and damping. For most of us that ride big bikes, sand is our nemesis—not so with the Africa Twin. It is without question the easiest of the large ADV machines to operate in the sand. I credit this to the combination of its modest weight and 21-inch front wheel. The bike’s geometry is another factor, as the same frame angles that make it stable on the highway also help on low-flotation surfaces.

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The suspension is compliant, nearly approaching soft, but the lighter damping is appropriate given the long stroke (230 mm front and 220 mm rear). Even under significant G-outs at speed, the fork never imparted a hard bottom, remaining stable and predictable. A curious complaint I have read with regard to its 98 horsepower is that it needs more power. This is laughable and reflects the critics’ limited experience in both dirt and international travel. Even the 162 horsepower of the KTM Super Adventure is electronically limited to (you guessed it) 100 horsepower in dirt modes—nearly the same as the CRF1000L. Power was more than adequate for every scenario we encountered, from gravel roads to slickrock ledges. Another pleasant surprise is the ability to shut off traction control and the rear ABS in the dirt. Don’t worry that the front ABS cannot be disengaged, it is well-tuned and I preferred it to remain on.

 

On the Road

The CRF1000L is exceedingly comfortable on long stretches of highway; the wide and supportive seat takes pressure off the sit bones while the windscreen all but eliminates buffeting. Although the windscreen is not adjustable, it works well, besting most of the competition.

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The motor provides more than enough power for two-up or fully loaded adventuring. At higher speeds the Africa Twin is smooth and stable, with none of the dreaded wobble or wander, and it pulls strong to well north of triple digits. The bike’s lack of cruise control will contribute to rider fatigue though. One could easily compare the CRF1000L to the larger displacement adventure bikes, but this motorcycle has exactly what we want in a global touring platform.

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Conclusion

The 2016 Africa Twin is certainly not perfect, but it does combine several exemplary traits. The first that stands out is Honda’s legacy of reliability and serviceability, something I have experienced from my first dirt bike (an XR250L) to our recent XR650L project. Honda has won dozens of Baja 1000 victories because their bikes don’t quit. As an adventure traveler, I view durability and capability as stalwart attributes, and am happy to give up gadgets and CAN bus wizardry for a machine that will start every time. I cannot overstate how competent the CRF1000L was in the dirt, defying several laws of physics as I tossed it over jumps, ledges, and boulders. What really impressed me though was the $12,999 price tag—that leaves a lot of money for fuel and visas. powersports.honda.com, 866-784-1870

 

Pros

Excellent fit, finish, and materials

Capable in all types of terrain

Class-leading in sand

Price

 

Cons

Limited range with 5-gallon tank

Gauges are nearly impossible to read while standing

Additional 23 pounds with dual-clutch transmission (DCT)

 

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Dual-Clutch Transmission

The Africa Twin is available in a DCT variant, which costs an additional $700 and adds 23 pounds to the GVW. This is the feature I have been asked about the most, so a sidebar and a healthy dose of candor are warranted. In use, the DCT is a marvel of engineering and allows fully automatic control of the transmission. The rider simply starts the bike and pushes the D-S toggle to engage first gear. Rolling onto the throttle, the system smoothly modulates the clutch and off you go; shifting happens automatically all the way through sixth gear. It works exceedingly well in technical terrain and will never stall, despite how slow you move. Additionally, computer control will no doubt extend the life of the clutch.

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Having stated its positive attributes, I still want to be able to shift my own gears and fully acknowledge the vanity and nostalgia of doing so. The CRF1000L manual transmission is a pleasure to operate and the clutch is light and precise to modulate. Call me a Luddite, but I have left my lights on more than once, returned to a dead battery, and had to bump start my bike; this is impossible to do with a DCT. The lack of manual control of the clutch also limits a few advanced actions and one naughty one. When stuck in deep sand, the technique of selecting second gear and grabbing a handful of throttle before dumping the clutch will often help. This typically launches the bike from its resting place in a similar fashion to a Harrier Jump Jet. I also use the clutch to initiate a loft over larger ledges and logs, which is much more difficult to do with a DCT. Oh, and there is that naughty bit too…everyone loves a second gear wheelie!

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General Grabber’s New X3 Tested http://expeditionportal.com/general-grabbers-new-x3-tested/ http://expeditionportal.com/general-grabbers-new-x3-tested/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 10:00:42 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41505 During the past 30 years the four-wheel drive community has become accustomed to the tire industry adding a tagline or specific designation to their offerings. In the sports car arena, a “V” rated tire will take you up to 149 mph, while a tire with a “Y” rating will remain structurally sound at speeds of 186 mph. But when we pull off the pavement we are more focused on trail performance, and tires usually assume an all-terrain (AT), or mud-terrain (MT) designation. When General Tire began developing the new Grabber, they took a slightly different approach. Their goal was to create a tire that would redefine the “X” in extreme performance and do so on three distinct terrains: mud, dirt, and rocks—X cubed you might say. I recently spent two days on the trail in the Appalachian Mountains in a Jeep JK Rubicon with the X3, running it through and over its favorite terra firma flavors.

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On the Trail

The first “X” we hit was mud. It wasn’t the Southern gumbo that will suck a boot off your foot, but there was enough to get a feel for the X3’s self-clearing properties. It has a fairly wide and deep void pattern, which did a good job of vacating debris when needed. The tread blocks roll off the shoulder and onto the sidewall, and feature variable alternating depths. This allows the sidewall to bite, or scoop mud from the side of a rut. I found the tire was able to not only keep the Jeep moving forward, but also clear the tread block upon reaching dry ground.

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Intertwined with the mud sections were areas of dry cross-axle ruts filled with regular old granulated dirt—the type of texture where micro keying plays its hand. The alternating scoops not only help in the mud, but their wraparound design provides excellent bite when climbing out of one rut and into another. Stone bumpers (ribs in the bottom of the tread void) are designed to quickly expel gravel and other debris from the void, thus reducing the grinding affect an embedded rock would have with each revolution of the tire. Molded into the leading edge of each tread lug is a “traction notch,” a wedge-shaped cutout designed to provide lateral grip on sidehill or cambered scenarios.

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With the Rubicon Trail in my backyard, and having learned much of my technical driving skills there, a tire’s ability to conform to the terrain and provide excellent dry-surface traction (or wet or snowy) holds a high priority in my book. It must also be able to survive the abuse caused by jagged, immovable edges repeatedly grinding against its sidewall. I am, of course, referring to low air pressure scenarios, which tire manufacturers rarely embrace. This is how tires work best in many terrains, and I was glad to see the General had our X3s at 15 psi.

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There is a feeling you get in that lower portion of your back you sit on when your tires are functioning properly in the rocks. They should feel grippy, as if you were dragging your hand across a glue strip (adhesion). When surmounting a boulder or vertical ledge, the tires should absorb the impact (like sticking your finger in a marshmallow) rather than transmitting it through the steering system to the steering wheel. The carcass should deform, allowing the tread lugs to wrap around the terrain (macro mechanical keying) and maximize the footprint. It should not feel like the obstacle is repelling your vehicle like a four-wheeled pogo stick. The sidewall tread should provide traction similar to primary contact surface, and be tough enough to hang the full weight of the vehicle without tearing or chunking. I can summarize in three words how the X3 performed on dry, Rubicon-style granite: They worked great!

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On the Road

Although the X3 is designed for the trail less traveled, its on-road manners are reasonably tame. The multi-pitch pattern of the tread blocks is specifically designed to minimize highway noise at speed. Siping is becoming commonplace in the off-pavement tire market, and the X3’s full-depth sipes should enhance wet-surface performance. We didn’t have a chance to give it a proper skidpan, wet pavement, or slalom course test; this will be left for a long-term review.

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As technology levels continue to increase, the off-road tire arena is heating up. To hit the mark, General spent 3 years developing the X3. They carefully analyzed more than a dozen tread designs, built and tested 1,000 prototypes, and logged more than 2 million miles before arriving at what they believe is a best-in-class offering. We’ll need to get a set mounted for a 20,000-mile road trip to do a proper evaluation (analyzing tread life, chip resistance, and midlife noise), but my initial impressions are positive. The X3 is expected to hit dealer showrooms in September and will be available in 29 sizes:16 LT metric and 13 flotation sizes ranging from 31 to 37 inches. All incorporate the company’s 3-ply Duragen construction and they will even offer 15-inch sizes for old-school dogs like me. General Tire did their homework and has put their best lug forward with the Grabber X3.

To view all their great products, visit generaltire.com.

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Continental TerrainContact A/T

Also to be released in September is Continental’s first all-terrain tire, the TerrainContact A/T. It targets the SUV and light truck markets, and drivers who want reasonable off-pavement traction while sacrificing little on the street. Its tread pattern is more aggressive than a M/S and voids are larger. The TerrainContact also features full-depth sipes and a patented +Silane rubber cocktail that should provide premium all-weather traction and extended tread life (60,000-mile limited tread life warranty). We didn’t get much time on the trail with the new all-terrain, but we did give it a workout on the pavement in Land Rovers and Ford F-250s, as well as emergency braking on a wet skidpad. We made multiple passes at highway speed (55 mph) with the TerrainContact and then with two competitive tires. My personal results were a 5-percent decrease in stopping distance with the TerrainContact. Continental’s new offering could be a good choice for overlanders with a full-size truck and camper, and those who rarely need an aggressive tire such as the Grabber X3.

For more information, visit continentaltire.com

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Jeep’s 75th Salute Concept http://expeditionportal.com/jeeps-75th-salute-concept/ http://expeditionportal.com/jeeps-75th-salute-concept/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 17:50:29 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=41462 As many of you will know from the onslaught of social media posts with Jeeps, Friday July 15th was the 75th anniversary of the day the Willys-Overland Motor Co. was awarded the U.S. government contract to build the first MB. A lot has changed since 1941, but the company’s ability to produce fun and capable vehicles has not. To honor the light reconnaissance vehicle that started it all, Jeep commissioned the Toledo Ohio plant to produce one very special concept based on the Wrangler Sport, and inspired by the Willy’s MB.

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The goal was to make it as close to the original as possible, so FCA approved a few additions that you can’t get on your standard JK (sadly). They used a special OD paint scheme on both the body and fenders, installed heavy-duty steel bumpers and wheels, non-directional tires, and even swapped to a unique interior that screams 1940s military grit. Of course to do things right they had to remove a few things as well. The doors and roof were easy, but they also removed the roll bar which drastically changed the look and gave it the final push back to its roots.

Unfortunately Jeep didn’t exactly go overboard with photos of this vehicle. In fact they hardly took any, which means if you want to see the cool details and unique aspects up close, you’ll just have to watch the video below.

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