Show notes for Episode #156
Wes Siler on Travel, Hunting, and the Case for the Ford Ranger
Scott Brady interviews Wes Siler on his lessons learned hunting, backpacking, and overlanding around the globe. Wes has built a reputation for hard-hitting and deep-dive editorial about important topics that affect all strata of outdoor enthusiasts. Wes also shares his lessons building a long travel 200 series Land Cruiser and Ford Ranger.
Outside Magazine columnist and adventure travel writer Wes Siler teaches a new generation of enthusiasts how to lead more exciting lives outdoors. Wes has contributed to magazines like Wired, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Outdoor Life, GQ, Road&Track, and Playboy, websites like Jalopnik and Gizmodo, and founded the motorcycle site Hell For Leather and outdoors site IndefinitelyWild. Wes has hosted web shows funded by YouTube and Outside, presented television commercials for brands like Toyota and Aprilia, and appears as a subject matter expert on channels like CNN, CBS, ABC, and Fox News. His testicles are the subject of Glenn Beck’s most recent book.
Wes lives in the mountains of southwest Montana with his wife, Virginia, and their three rescue dogs.
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
Scott Brady: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I’m your host, Scott Brady, and I am here in beautiful Bozeman, Montana, with a very interesting individual, Wes Siler. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Wes Siler: Yeah. A, you’re very flattering and B, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you.
Scott Brady: I know it has been.
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Scott Brady: I know. And it’s been fun to be back in Montana a lot more recently. And we were talking about just a few minutes ago, but what do you think is this, this draw to Montana right now?
Wes Siler: Yeah, I mean, so obviously, you know, pandemic trends have accelerated moves to rural areas, but outside of that, I think the thing that attracts people to Montana is that there’s real danger here. And whether that’s winter weather, whether that’s an avalanche, whether that’s a grizzly bear, whether it’s just the extremely low population density, the amount of trouble you can get in as a result without access to help. You know, this is a place that attracts self reliant people. Who want the ability to go out there and test themselves and do so without a whole lot of oversight. And that attracts a broad swath of people from all spectrums of society.
Scott Brady: So what’s interesting to me is how you got from, if you, if I [00:02:00] remember you grew up in South Carolina, was that correct?
Wes Siler: I’m from Georgia, Georgia. I was born in Georgia. My family’s in North Carolina. Grew up mostly in England. My dad worked for the department of defense. And then I’ve lived in London and New York, Los Angeles, not here as an adult.
Scott Brady: So, so talk to me about that process that goes from growing up in the Southeast of this country to where you decide, I want to move to Bozeman and you want to have the adventurous life that you do now. What was the. What was the impetus for you becoming the West Siler that we know today?
Wes Siler: Right. So I should point out first that I had nothing to do with moving to Bozeman. This is entirely the result of my lovely wife, Virginia, who is about five feet that way right now. We, we met Los Angeles, I think on our first date, she said, you know, I’m not gonna live in Los Angeles forever. And I was like my kind of girl. And you know, we got serious and we were thinking about a lifestyle upgrade. And, you know, I didn’t grow up in this country. I’ve lived here since 2006. So. [00:03:00] I wasn’t fully familiar with everything and the places that I had had a lot of fun outdoors where I had existing friend groups and things like that, you know, that felt right. It was the PNW was, you know, Bend, Oregon, Ashland, Oregon, Seattle. That felt exciting for me, but Virginia was always kind of like, that’s not quite enough. I never really understood that because I’d never been here. I’d never been to Montana. This to me was a, was a blank space on a map that I was pretty, pretty convinced was, was South Dakota. You know? And so as we were shopping for houses elsewhere in the country, she orchestrated a little vacation here, got me drunk at dinner one night. We were walking back to the hotel and she’s like, why don’t we just move here to Bozeman? And I was like, you know, really, there’s, there’s one street, you know, you could do this. And she was like, yeah. And so four months in, two or four months later, we had bought a house, moved up here.
Scott Brady: Well, and you guys were right before the onslaught, literally, of people moving to Montana.
Wes Siler: Oh my God. I mean, yeah, our timing was very good. You know, it was, it was expensive back [00:04:00] then, honestly. And, you know, it was a challenge. And once the pandemic hit, I mean, it’s just, it’s just been insane. And my heart goes out to people that want to move here now because it’s just, there’s, there’s no inventory for houses whatsoever. The rental market is predatory, you can’t buy a house. For our money, you know, it’s, it’s nice to be here now. It’s, as you saw, very crowded downtown with tourists. But you know, we’re also talking like, we tend to concentrate our, our views of things into very small areas. And we can say, oh my God, Bozeman’s blown up. And it’s crazy and you know, you drive 10 minutes in any direction and it’s empty and there’s nobody around as far as you can see. So it’s still really special area.
Scott Brady: Well, I was, I was camped about. 45 minutes away. And there wasn’t, I didn’t hear another vehicle. I didn’t see another vehicle. I was perched up on top of this, this promontory overlooking the Valley and it was gorgeous, man. Just gorgeous.
Wes Siler: I hunt bears right where you camped.
Scott Brady: Oh, nice. Well, Hey, that’s a great segue because I’m [00:05:00] really interested to understand what you have learned in the hunting space that you have brought with you to travel and to overlanding.
Wes Siler: That’s an interesting question. I should start with, you know, I’m honestly kind of a neophyte hunter. I came in hunting as an adult. I’ve had some good mentors, obviously through work, I can have experiences and tutelage and access to, to, you know, products and gear that people couldn’t and that’s helped speed me along. But at the same time, I am not. I’m not Steve Rinella. I’m just somebody who goes out. I really enjoy seeing animals. I’ve always loved animals Really fascinated with them and that’s really sort of spun into into hunting. Hunting is You know seeking out for me is for seeking out the most challenging possible experiences outdoors. And you know, trying to make things as challenging and difficult as possible and getting close to animals and, you know, gnarly as possible environments. [00:06:00] And I really enjoy that. And there’s definitely a parallel to how I travel because the most interesting places in the world are all, you know, obviously the most difficult to reach, that are the most dangerous that are, you know, places that other people shy away from. And whenever I travel, I also try to take my, my love of the natural world into that and to try to see the animals that are there to try to see the scenery and the places and learn about the plants and animals that exist in those unique environment.
Scott Brady: And it’s so interesting when we travel to the developing world, a lot of times there’s very little animals left there. I mean, there may, they may have some, some reserved areas, but it isn’t until you really get North America as an example of good wildlife management. But when I crossed Russia, I didn’t see a single wild animal.
Wes Siler: No, and you, and you won’t 12, 000 miles. No, you won’t in many places, 12, 000 cars. Yeah. It’s crazy. America is so unique that we’ve is exceptionally wonderful and successful wildlife management program. We take [00:07:00] for granted, you know, we drive everywhere in America. You see deer. Yeah, you drive out West, you see elk, we see bears when you go camping, you know, all that stuff that is not exist in the rest of the world, nor does access to it. Anybody can go hunting in America of any income level. It’s accessible to everybody. And in fact, it’s still a way that, you know, millions of low income families put healthy protein on their, on their tables every year. That doesn’t exist in Mexico. That doesn’t exist in Europe. You know, in Europe hunting is only accessible to the very rich. It takes place all in private land. It’s mostly, you know, pinned or released animals are cultivated, raised animals. You know, we are so lucky to have this and I feel like we take it for granted.
Scott Brady: You know, one of the things that I’m interested in is you’ve had such a variety of outdoor experience all around the world and, and you traveling with a vehicle up to this, up to recent years has been just a tool to get the job done. And now you’re enjoying more of the recreating with, with vehicles. What, what do you think overlanding is doing right? And what do you think [00:08:00] it’s doing wrong?
Wes Siler: That’s a good question. The overall trend of empowering people to get more from their vehicles and get more from the general experience of the outdoors is very good. I was talking this weekend with my friend Connor who lives around the corner and you know, Connor is a successful, well educated person who drives a stock 4Runner. And it’s his first 4Runner but 4×4. He’s never really driven off road before and he has no idea How much is out there? So I’m always encouraging him to go a little further with his car. I’m like, Hey man, you should get suspension. You need recovery equipment. You should grab max traction or that kind of thing. And he’s always like, why? And then we invariably go on a camping or hunting trip together. And he’s like. I did not know this was here and you’re like, there’s so much of this, it’s just everywhere. And so when people don’t get to take advantage of it, and so overlanding as a, as a trend or a movement or activity is really positive and that’s helping people get more from their vehicles and understand that there’s so much [00:09:00] stuff out there to do. You know, at its worst it’s just another fetish, like, you know, bolting big giant wings, the back of front wheel drive cars was in the early two thousands. You know, you and I and other stakeholders in this world and the other people that are influenced in this world really need to come together and, and, and find ways to make it so it’s not a big wing where it’s actually empowering and, you know, helpful and, Really cool thing.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Quality, functional, safe, safe, safety is a lot of, a lot of people are overloading their vehicles. You and I’ve talked about that a lot.
Wes Siler: I had a really good phone call with REI recently. REI is, delving deeper into the overland space. They mostly see it as crossovers and that kind of thing. You know what, what you and I would probably traditionally describe as car camping. It’s not long distance international travel, but as people going outdoors and sort of equipping their vehicles to [00:10:00] be, Better. And I was like, well, hey, you know, if you guys are gonna reach this giant audience that you have captive already, you know, the most important thing you can do is deliver a safety message. And part of that’s navigation. Part of that’s preparedness. And part of that is, you know, responsible use of the trails and the vehicles. And so we see that in payloads. You know, and so driving around town, you’re here in Bozeman, Montana, you know, driving past my front window sometime in the next 30 seconds will be a Subaru Outback that is so far beyond payload that it’s, it’s, it’s comical. And you know, that person invariably at some point is going to think that they have a legit off road vehicle, get it up a dirt road or get it in the snow, get it stuck and have no idea what to do from that point. And just outside of town here, I mean, you could spend 20 minutes driving and be, you know, 15 miles deep in the grizzly bear territory. Without water or without bear spray, without any effective tools, have your outback, you know, your overlaid outback high centered, have no straps, [00:11:00] have no max track, had no shovel on board. And what do you do? And so at its worst, overlanding is not just a fad. It’s also putting people’s lives at risk.
Scott Brady: So people have to have good tools and get good messages around that.
Wes Siler: And hopefully, hopefully training, and hopefully just growing their experiences over time. You know, not everybody’s going to have access to our financial capabilities, seek out professional training, but hopefully they can find responsible resources YouTube, things like that. They can learn what they need over time, upgrade things over time and not just think that, Hey, my Outback is you know, a super effective vehicle and then just immediately go get it stuck the first time they use it.
Scott Brady: And you’ve done a good job through outside and indefinitely wild in your own, your own efforts of communicating that message. Do you think that we, what are the other opportunities as an industry that we can take advantage of to help improve that?
Wes Siler: Yeah. So, you know, I would love to see the, vehicle manufacturers get on board, you know, they’re spending [00:12:00] millions of dollars, conquesting buyers into a level of all firm capability. That’s never existed before that those buyers never had before. And then they’re not at the same time. And you know, you’re starting with a purchase message. And a lifestyle message and then not intercepting with a safety message. And so not to pick on Subaru too much because all the OEs are guilty of this, but just because it’s in my mind. So we just talked about it, but the new Outback Wilderness, new Forrester Wilderness are great examples of what we’re talking about here.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Increased capability.
Wes Siler: So a little bit, you know, not a whole lot of increased capability, but a whole lot of image. So people are going to try to use them in more significant ways. And then they have this suggestion. Of like recovery points, for example. So they’ve covered their tow hook eyelets in little bronze, you know, covers. And so, at no point in the buying process are you intercepted with a message that, Hey, what lies behind that bronze cover is not a real recovery point. You cannot pull a car out of mud using [00:13:00] that, you will die. It’s just a, Hey, this is a super sick off road Subaru, bro. And so you’d be forgiven to go off road and say Death Valley, for instance. Get your car stuck, not have a whole lot of experience outdoors, not have a whole lot of appropriate safety messages. Try to walk out for help and die as two people did last year.
Scott Brady: And it happens all the time.
Wes Siler: It happens all the time. We just all, everybody in the industry saw the pictures last week of the guy in the super duty. He tried to recover off a toe ball. He killed himself right in front of his two little toddlers in the backseat and car seats. And that’s super sad. And that, that didn’t have to happen.
Scott Brady: Well, that’s a really important message that you’re sharing that we need to be thinking about not only Does our truck work and does it look cool right all those things that are totally normal human behavior, right? But how do we do that safely and how do we make sure that the people that are with us? Are being safe as well.
Wes Siler: So right I mean in it all of that. It’s messaging and it’s training. And you know, again, the obese have the biggest budgets in the world of any [00:14:00] advertiser, and it’d be so refreshing to see them tackle some of these issues alongside selling cars. I think their consumers will be happier. I think they’ll be feel more empowered. They get more out of the car for more little to the brand. If they had these empower messages of how to use the vehicle safely and capably.
Scott Brady: And one of the things that I’ve also noticed in the time that I’ve been following your career is that you’ve done, you’ve done a lot of backpacking, you’ve done a lot of back country activities, and it seems that you’ve been able to maintain most of that ethos in your vehicle projects as well. So, you know, as a backpacker, every ounce counts. And if I look at your. Ranger that we drove in today, everything is very intentional. So first of the first question is why a Ranger?
Wes Siler: That’s a good question. My question back to you is why doesn’t everybody drive a Ranger? And part of that’s the issue. The overall issue we’re talking about here is that there’s not a lot of good information coming out of the industry. That’s consumer facing. So you look at you and I, we, we have very small [00:15:00] channels as successful as we are in the, in the grand scheme of things, overland journal outside, whatever else I do is, is relatively small in comparison to the megaphone held by equipment manufacturers, the car companies, the big car magazines, the buff books, TV shows, all that kind of thing. You know, those are the guys that reach, you know, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people. And you know, we’re reaching people that are already engaged or already prepared to accept a safety message. You know, that kind of thing, have some experience. The Ranger depending on how you option it, as a 1,600 pounds to 2,100 pound payload, two door, two wheel drive on LTs, at 2,100 pounds. That is. It’s 200 pounds more than the highest payload you can possibly get out of any spec of the new Tundra. Which is a, a class up. That’s up there with full size trucks. And so my four door four by four is 1600 pounds. And that means, you know, because I use it to take my wife and I camping and our dogs, you know, two of us weigh 300 pounds. My dogs weigh 300 pounds. I can throw on [00:16:00] 300 pounds of protective gear, you know, and still have, you know, that’s 900. So I’ve still got 700 pounds to work with for a go from there for a go fast for everything else, you know, for beers, for steaks, you know, all that kind of stuff. And everything on the ranger is built up to that weight rating. So it’s, it’s, you know, payload isn’t just this, this weird term that’s out there in the universe. It’s every bolt, it’s every nut, it’s the size of the brakes, it’s the capacity of the cooling system. It’s, you know, The transmissions, you know, ability withstand stress. It’s everything. It’s payload. If we come up with any way to define the work truck and perform the way to express that as payload.
Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. And the counter to that is usually that there’s some suffering with ride quality, but I haven’t found that to be the case with the ranger. The ranger has maintained pretty good ride quality.
Wes Siler: I’ve got a 5,000 complete old man, Nemo BP 51 system on mine, which is extraordinarily good. [00:17:00]
Scott Brady: Even stock. It’s pretty good.
Wes Siler: Even stock it’s not bad. You know, that’s, it’s one of the, it’s one of the beef I have with mainstream car magazines. Again, like my background used to, I was the first, first ever road test editor, Jalopnik I’ve written for all the buff books, all I ever want it from. You know, all teenage Wes ever wanted was to be a road test editor at car magazine. You know, I did it. I did it the highest level. I left that world behind. So I still have some beef with that world and the information that comes out is poor. So like they go test drive a Ranger or Tacoma or, you know, anything. And either mostly driving on a launch because nobody, no car journalist that I know actually goes camping. It’s super frustrating. They’re driving it solo or maybe the camera person on board with no weight in the bed. And you don’t buy a pickup truck to drive solo with no weight in the bed. You know, you might buy a Jeep to do that, you might buy a Maverick to do that, you might buy a Subaru Crosstrek to do that, but you buy a pickup truck because you can’t carry, right? And so people complaining about ride quality when there’s nothing in the bed is just such a non [00:18:00] real world use case ever. These people are just so out. They just have no idea how consumers actually use vehicles. And so yeah, the stock range of rides is fine. You know, there’s some camping here in the back for your dogs in it, you know, it’s designed to carry weight.
Scott Brady: That’s right. Yeah. That’s what we have, tons of sandbag. These like heavy duty canvas sandbags and we load up and we know exactly how much each one way they’re the same. Right. And we just load them up in the back so we can get a sense for that.
Wes Siler: Yeah. I mean, I would love to see that at a mainstream car magazine where they had a consistent test methodology, test everything, you know, in a really transparent and equal way.
That was also based on real world use. Yeah.
Scott Brady: No, that’s excellent. And then I’ve noticed on your ranger that you’ve got, you’ve been very intentional about how you’ve built it because this is actually your second ranger.
Wes Siler: Yes.
Scott Brady: So talk to me about what you did for modifications to this truck.
Wes Siler: So the first ranger, I got one of the first when the ranger came to America. Actually, I should back up a second. Let me tell you a story. So a few years ago, [00:19:00] Matt Glass, Fred Williams, Chris, not Cortez, other Chris, Collard, and I all drove across the Simpson desert together. Right. We took eight total vehicles. We had a bunch of Australians with us too. That’s a story from the other time.
Scott Brady: Is that the flooding? When the flooding happened?
Wes Siler: Yeah, yeah. When that huge flooding happened. It was, it was.
Scott Brady: You guys were running out of toilet paper?
Wes Siler: Oh, we ran out of everything. It was, it was horrible. It was a very challenging trip. I actually got washed down river in a GQ patrol for a couple hundred yards. I thought I was going to die, but you know.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it sounds perfect.
Wes Siler: But you know, we took eight vehicles. Every single one of them broke several dozen times. No exaggeration. The FJ40, we had to tow out with a Defender. For like 3000 miles, you know, this was a big trip. And the one vehicle in the entire trip that never, a bolt never came loose, never even got close to being stuck.nJust never had an issue. The guy who ran ARB was driving it. He just sat there and like set the air conditioning while we like fixed cars on the side of the road and made fun of us, was the ranger. And I was like, you know, when those come to [00:20:00] America, I’m buying one of those. And I called my friend Mike who runs forward communications, and told him that, and he was like, Well, a it’s coming and be you’re not buying it And so he sent me one of the first ones off the production line and it was great You know, my wife and I took it to our wedding in Baja, sir And back we modified it extensively for that trip, but we modified it in a way that was you know Right at the very beginning of its production run. There were very few parts available we just had to go with what was what was out there. So like you know, icon had a suspension system for it, but they had no rear springs. So it’s sagged, you know, didn’t have a front bumper that I was crash tested that I was happy with, you know, stuff like that compromises the first ever go fast camper made for the ranger. It was two inches too tall and probably cost me five miles per gallon, you know, kind of thing. You know, and so when it was time for that car back to Ford, So, you know, I looked at the whole car market and like there’s nothing else that’s small enough to be useful off road that has this [00:21:00] high of a payload. You know, I want independent front suspension because I do thousands of miles of on road driving for every couple hundred miles I get off road. You know, I want a good road manners. I wanted a fuel efficiency. I wanted a, you know, a pickup I can use for day to day just as off road. So the Jeep wasn’t considered, it was a very good product of all you’re doing is off road, but it is not a great on road vehicle. So I bought a second one and I learned from the experiences that I’d learned from the first one the compromises that I made and I resolved to do it, right And I got this one really, right.
Scott Brady: It’s nice.
Wes Siler: Yeah, it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever driven. I’m super happy with it and so You know again, I chose this car because of my experience in Australia. So I tried to like apply the program of Australian vehicle modification to it and you know readers if you’re not aware Australia actually regulates its [00:22:00] 4×4 industry through a series of rules called Australian design rules. It’s tire size, suspension lift, all this kind of stuff to make sure people’s vehicles are safe and reliable and functional as they travel the outback. Right? And so I tried to use as many as many Australian parts as possible. And where I wasn’t able to use those, I used American parts. So again, full old man Nemo BB 51 suspension system. I don’t think BB 51 gets the reputation it deserves in this country. Um, it’s actually a consumer product, consumer, fully focused, consumer ready product, product that’s sold on shelves. And when a lot of Americans think about suspension, they go and get some like incredibly elaborate custom setup, or they just buy something from some guy who’s like, well, your vehicle weighs how much? Okay. Here’s your Springs. You know, whereas in conscious what I mean by consumer level products, I mean, engineers from ARB have done thousands of miles, not just on the suspension itself, but on every possible application. So if they certify her for the, for the Ranger, that means somebody’s actually driven around the Outback and I’ll show you a couple of times. You know changing, you know [00:23:00] valve rates and you know shim stacks and things like that to make sure it’s dialed.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and these are internal bypass shock in which most which most are not.
Wes Siler: Quadruple internal bypass shocks that are adjustable for both Compression and rebound damping which most are not most At a relatively affordable price point because they’re mass manufactured and with long service intervals and they stand up to weather. The BP 51, I have my wife’s Land cruiser, has been through three winters now, and it looks like it’s brand new. And you can not say the same thing if it was Kings or fox or something like that. So ultimately.
Scott Brady: And they don’t have the corrosion testing.
Wes Siler: No, they don’t. And BP 51, you know, O M E A R B actually does this. They provide, you know, they, they stu they dunk it in salt water. They run it past government tests. They make sure it’s not gonna roll over in a lane change maneuver. You know, all that stuff that you actually really want as a consumer. That’s really important. They do. And there’s not really another brand that does.
Scott Brady: Especially not from that perspective. What I’ve noticed is that these are premium performance shock absorbers that are designed for daily drivers. So they don’t.
Wes Siler: Quadruple internal [00:24:00] bypass, remote reservoir shocks that work just as well driving around downtown Bozeman.
Scott Brady: And they don’t rattle. They don’t make a bunch of noise.
Wes Siler: They don’t squeak.
Scott Brady: Yeah, exactly. So that’s, that’s the reason why I run them.
Wes Siler: Yeah. And they, and they spec it out for the weight of the vehicle too. So it’s not like you go and do, you know, custom shop and you’re like, Hey, you know, my vehicle weighs whatever. You know, it’s like. OME has sitting on dealer shelves, you know, like light duty, medium duty and heavy duty setups. And you just look at the way of the springs and you choose what’s appropriate for you.
Scott Brady: Yeah. And so you can see it on your truck. It works great.
Wes Siler: It works great. And so in addition to that, just continuing to talk about ARB, I have an ARB front bumper. Front bumpers are another great example of how Australia does products at a level that we just don’t. ARB crash tests Rangers with ARB bumpers in full on crash tests with slow motion cameras to comply with government regulations in Australia. You know, you compare that to like any of the popular bumpers here, and it’s just like some meth heads in Idaho like welding some metal hoops together. You know, it might be enough to shed a deer. But it’s not enough to guarantee that your [00:25:00] airbag is going to fire at the exact right moment in a real crash, which ARB is guaranteeing. And like, that’s important. Like we need to build safe vehicles.
Scott Brady: That’s why we did that test years ago, Chris Collard ran it and we actually, you know, had a light, a light measuring, it’s a huge dome, you know, where they actually gather all the light and yeah, they did not always line up with the manufacturer’s specification.
Wes Siler: Right, you know, and we can talk about this for hours. Obsessed with lights, but you know, it’s just, you know, again, like buying products from a country that regulates how things are made Yeah. And make sure those things are effective and safe and, and, you know, high quality and useful is, is so much more, so much more important than buying them from so much more effective for your use than buying them from a place that doesn’t regulate stuff.
And it’s, it’s frustrating. Yeah.
Scott Brady: No, that can be, yeah.
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Scott Brady: So what did you do for, self recovery? You have a winch on the truck?
Wes Siler: Yeah, I’ve got a Warn. Wouldn’t run anything but Warn. You know, they make everything right here in America. I think they have a Chinese line now, but, you know, it’s still, sort of, I do American safety stuff. And, cover by the same warranties. I think it’s a 10, 000 pounds. Synthetic line. I use it once a year, usually for some idiot who is unprepared on a dirt road.
Scott Brady: Yeah, you’re recovering somebody else. Yeah. With their blocking your way home. You gotta help them out.
Wes Siler: Yeah, I can’t get off until I winch. I gotta help them. One of the comical uses of the winch was I was driving down, um, by the campus here in Bozeman and a food truck was high centered at a curb and I was, I was totally, I was totally prepared just to drive past and [00:27:00] not deal with it. And then I saw a cop, pop his trunk and pull out a ratchet strap and I was like, Oh God, I can’t drive past this. I can’t drive past this. So, you know, and again, like just the majority of American consumers don’t understand vehicle recovery and it, it actually kills people and using, using real products is super important.
Scott Brady: Like we just talked about a couple of weeks ago, putting a toe strap around a toe ball. You know, it’s enough to kill somebody.
Wes Siler: It is. And it’s sad. And it happens so fast and it turns of everyday thing that you and I do without thinking now. Because we’ve done it so often into something that actually kills dads and like, that sucks. And all it takes is just an effective safety message where like, I, I wish that it was just regulated in some way where like, it doesn’t matter how stupid you are, you can’t buy the wrong product. And it’s a shame. It’s not that way.
Scott Brady: Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. Make that part important part of messaging. So then in the back, you’ve got a go fast.
Wes Siler: Yes, I’ve got a go fast camper. Which I love.
Scott Brady: It’s [00:28:00] impressive. I mean, looking at the one on your truck to see that it is, it’s not just an evolution from gen one to gen two. It’s definitely a revolutionary product.
Wes Siler: It’s insane. I mean, so I took scott by the factory today. Full disclosure, I work with the guys that go fast now. So, you know, take all this to the grain of salt. I wouldn’t, if anybody who knows me has read my stuff for the last 20 years, I would never speak, not speak the truth, but you know, I, I shouldn’t say that I, you know, I do work with those guys now. So it is a level of product that does not exist elsewhere. All of the hardware on it is, is machined from build aluminum, by robots, which is really impressive.
Scott Brady: Yeah. We watched that today. That was really impressive.
Wes Siler: And so that can take all the different. Sort of force vectors, and then push those force vectors through the aluminum extrusions, in ways that aluminum extrusions can handle. Aluminum extrusions are very good at handling straight forces, not bending forces. [00:29:00] We’ve got a topper coming out in the next couple weeks that, you know, we just, we just threw 4, 000 pounds of weight on the top of, and it was fine. We could, we could sell that product to the consumer tomorrow. They would never know we had 4, we had thrown 4, 000 pounds of weight on the top and that exceed it. And that was size for a Tacoma.
Scott Brady: It’s so like for it to come.
Wes Siler: Yeah. I mean, it would, if we had actually before that, the camper sit on the ground during that because we actually put on a Tacoma, it would have been the frame, you know, it’s just a, there’s a level of quality and insightful design and, you know, just Intelligent product there that just it’s just not evident anywhere else. And it’s also appropriate for the way that I enjoy the outdoors because I go outdoors to be outdoors. You know, I enjoy ultralight backpacking. You know, if I camp on a beach, I want to feel the fog in the morning, you know, kind of thing. And it’s, it’s that level of product, which I really enjoy. It’s not, [00:30:00] I, I’d like your scout camper. I understand it’s appeal. There’s times when I feel like I could use one, but I won’t be outdoors. You know, I want to camp. I’m going to cook under my awning while it’s, while it’s pouring rain and a thunderstorm. You know, I want to climb inside during high winds and, you know, feel the wind a little bit, feel like I’m outdoors. And the GFC gives me enough to be very comfortable. You know, my wife and I had my, had our honeymoon in one with all three dogs, and had a great time. And, but it’s still at level of product where I feel like I’m outdoors. I feel like I’m camping and I don’t really like trailers and RVs and campers cause You know, like.
Scott Brady: If you’re not living out of it, you don’t really need to do it.
Wes Siler: I already have a really nice house.
Scott Brady: If I wasn’t spending two months out of it. Yeah. But I agree. I agree. And I think, I think that the, the overall execution of that truck is really effective. And then, you know, it’s not very often we get to talk about people’s wives vehicles, but [00:31:00] her truck is sweet. Tell me about the 200.
Wes Siler: I should back up a little bit here. Sorry to back up all the time, but, you know, I was a car journalist for a long time. I did it the highest level. I’ve been very successful in career. You know, I can, I can within a reason, not quite Matt Scott levels of ridiculousness, but I can, I can own any car that I want. The best car, the best vehicle that I’ve ever driven for my uses is the custom Toyota Land Cruiser that my wife drives. The second best vehicle that I’ve ever driven. Is my ranger and I feel really privileged to be able to say that. Like I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t train those two vehicles for anything. I wouldn’t trade them for a Ferrari. I wouldn’t trade them for a G wagon. And so what I did, my wife’s land cruiser, you know, again, we live here in Montana. Weather can change really fast. Hubris, no effective weather forecasts. You just never know what you’re going to get. So I wanted to make sure she felt super empowered to go outdoors without me with her friends. I feel like she was safe and that she could push the limits a little bit and go places she hadn’t seen before. [00:32:00] And I wanted to know she was safe. And I built her the best Land Cruiser. So, you know, we took advantage of the products that are out there for that very, you know, that global, well supported platform. And we didn’t build it past the point of reasonable. a lot of people do. There’s nothing on the roof. There’s no roof rack. There’s no 500 pound tent, right? What we did, was I long traveled it with OE parts off a second gen Tundra. It creates a plus 1.5 situation, every side and a little over 12 inches of total will travel up front. So that’s as much as like a brand new like Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or, you know, for Bronco Sasquatch level of like articulation from something that fits in the stock fenders and the stock wheels on 33s.
Scott Brady: And did you retain the KDSS?
Wes Siler: Oh yeah, KDSS is what makes the 200 Series Land Cruiser and the 200 Series Land Cruiser and it’s really frustrating.
Scott Brady: So that’s interesting that it can be retained with those longer travel.
Wes Siler: Yeah, [00:33:00] it bolts right up. All we had to change was the lower control arms, upper control arms, CVs and tie rod ends. And so everything just bolts right up to the KDSS. And it’s, it’s incredible because, you know, we can drive it somewhere. It’s Montana. There’s three cops. All three have written me speeding tickets. They know me.
Scott Brady: And there was a, there was a period of time where Montana did not have a speed limit, which I think is amazing.
Wes Siler: The speeding tickets here are like 20 bucks. So it’s, you know, it’s, yeah, they’re like, Hey man, you’re going pretty fast. You’re like, I know if you checked, if you checked out my truck, they’re like, dude, it’s sweet. You know, that like, that’s the interaction, right? So I drive everywhere at a hundred miles an hour and, you know, her truck can corner totally flat. On pavement 100 miles an hour, like a Bentley. Yeah. And then the second you go on a dirt road and your KDSS works, it’s a hydraulic system. And it just sort of automatically, you know, if there’s any, if both axles are being pushed in the same direction. The sway bars are connected and the second the axles move differently, the sway bars are disconnected. And so you drive down a dirt road and you can [00:34:00] imagine you hit a pothole and the rear axle falls into it. And the rear axle falls into it without a sway bar disconnected. There’s no, there’s no time for an actuator or anything like that happening when it’s disconnected. It just doesn’t have a sway bar. And so you drive down like a rough dirt road like we drive down every single day. You know, with all the extra travel, you know, from the long travel situation, there’s roads here that we take at like 85 miles an hour in her Land Cruiser That like locals drive down at like 25 miles an hour like complaining. You know, it’s just it’s ridiculous Virginia like goes on a camping trip with our friends and people are like creeping along the four low and she just like Steamrolls through like 55 miles an hour with like her, her arm, you know, her axles just doing this and she has no idea that it’s happening. Right. She’s just going, why is everybody complaining? This is not hard. You know, and like, you know, she’s just retaining traction everywhere because her wheels are just in contact with the ground, no matter what she hits. You know, and this, that vehicle is just, just extraordinarily good. [00:35:00] It manages traction really well, you know, the full time it’s got Torsen center diff. So it’s always running an all wheel drive. We took it out for a video shoot where I was trying to demonstrate its four x four capabilities for, for outside. And, you know, video shoots are complicated, you know, dynamic things. I’m shouting at my cameraman. We’re trying to figure out sound, you know, we’re redoing obstacles and obstacles and obstacles. I realized like halfway through the day, I’d never put it in four wheel drive.
Scott Brady: So he was driving around and all over.
Wes Siler: I was driving on all wheel drive and it was fine. You could see the wheels spinning up a little bit, but it made through every obstacle. Except Torsen just puts the power where it’s needed.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that’s impressive.
Wes Siler: You know, and there’s just, there’s just a level of speck on that truck. That will probably never be recreated again.
Scott Brady: It’s not likely. Although electric can achieve a lot of it, but not with that same level of around the world capability.
Wes Siler: We’re not seeing articulation from the electric trucks yet.
Scott Brady: No, not yet.
Wes Siler: But you know that form factor frees up a lot of things. Never say never, but we haven’t seen it yet. Yeah, we’re not seeing traction handled to the same degree as like, you know, a [00:36:00] triple lock situation. We’re not seeing, you know, tires in a place where they’re happy. Yeah. You know, the Rivian is on, you know, street tires.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Like a basically, yeah. Cause they have to get the range.
Wes Siler: The street tires and the Hummer’s on mud’s terrains. But you know, again, that’s a six figure truck that is, yeah, is sort of ridiculous.
Scott Brady: So you’re on your land cruiser, you have front and rear lockers in that.
Wes Siler: Rear locker.
Scott Brady: Rear locker? Yeah. And then you’ve got, what size tire?
Wes Siler: It’s a 33. It’s a 275 70 18. Which again, I didn’t have to re gear it. With that new 8 speed they put in it. It’s got an ARB front compressor. So you gotta take off on the grill so you can, you know, air up and down our tires super easy.
Scott Brady: Perfect. That’s amazing.
Wes Siler: So we have that. We have, we have, a rear, we have a front bumper, ARB front bumper. Again, safest bumper in the world. sliders from Slee, which [00:37:00] are just super strong ARB rear bumper without a swing out, which I mostly just did for. Yeah, because it’s an expensive vehicle and I don’t like the idea of people running into it.
Scott Brady: It makes them pay attention.
Wes Siler: Exactly. People have hit it. I went through a car wash with a car last year and some dude in a brand new Explorer confused like park neutral drive and rammed me in car wash. I didn’t understand what had happened. I was sitting there in the car wash and all the car wash shut off and I didn’t feel anything and like all the guys were laughing and they were like, come on, come on, drive out and I drove out and they were like Yeah, that guy’s car is broken. It’s a dude, it’s a dude, an explorer had like ran to the back of me, like torn off his front bumper, like scooched up his hood. There was like a Nick, like, you know, like a, you know, like a, like half an inch wide in the steel bumper that like I touched up with nail polish. You know, the level of capability and reassurance that car provides just our everyday life, whether it’s just driving around how in the Bozeman like at the car wash [00:38:00] or just unexpected snowstorm or it’s off road and a river is a little higher than you thought it was. There’s a little more mud. You thought there was be that car will handle. It’ll handle it for everybody. It’s Zeon 12 s in the front. Yeah. you know, it’s just, there’s nothing it can’t do.
Scott Brady: Well, and if you wanted to drive it down to Panama tomorrow,
Wes Siler: Oh, we just, we would just put the dogs inside and go.
Scott Brady: Exactly. Pack some bags and off you go.
Wes Siler: One of my favorite things I should not ever, never fail to manage cause it’s literally my favorite thing on the whole truck beyond the suspension, is a long range merida fuel tank. And so it’s 12 and a half extra gallons, which at 12 miles per gallon is useful. And it hides up in the frame void. It’s formed up into the voids of the frame above the spare. So you can retain the spare on the stock location, not lose any height that the spare does not hang any lower. You just get 12 and a half extra gallons on board. And so my wife, you know, weighs a hundred pounds. Her fussing with a jerry can is just [00:39:00] going to be a nightmare and I’m going to hear about it. Right. And so instead of having a jerry can, she has two and a half jerry cans. And all she does is push a button. And they come right into the main tank and we get 50, we get 50% more range.
Scott Brady: Yeah. That’s awesome. So you, with your broad spectrum of outdoor, you know, experiences and skill and research and editorial, what do you consider to be like these, the, the fundamental skills of outdoormanship that, that you would talk to people about? What do you, what do people need to be thinking about when they go outdoors?
Wes Siler: Oh, man. You know, I think people focus a lot on really silly stuff. Like I, I have friends that want to be more outdoorsy and they go and attend like a Knowles class. They try to learn everything, you know, honestly, just a sense of adventure. But the ability to effectively evaluate risks and to make smart decisions. And yeah, just go out there and do it. Like, yeah, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of [00:40:00] skill or knowledge or things like that. You’ll learn it. We all learned it, made a lot of mistakes.
Scott Brady: Maybe starting with manageable risk.
Wes Siler: Yeah. Start, start, start with stuff you know you can do. Just go car camping.
Scott Brady: Gain the experience and then you know.
Wes Siler: If it’s cold and like your sleeping bag doesn’t work, get a better sleeping bag. Yeah. You know, read a couple of online stuff on expedition portal about like recovery gear. Make sure you pack the right stuff, watch a couple of YouTube videos on how to use it. And there you go. Like, you know, first day is first day. You put a bandaid on it. It’s about the extent of what you do. You know, try to cut yourself the knife while you’re cooking food, you know?
Scott Brady: And that, that happens more often.
Wes Siler: Yeah, it’s amazing. It does happen. You know, the, the big thing is just like, try, try to be a good citizen, dispose of your poop properly. Don’t litter, you know, things like that. Like. You’ll be fine if you make a mistake, you’re going to learn from it, and you’ll be more fine next time because you made a mistake.
Scott Brady: Yeah, Wes, I think that that’s one of the biggest struggles that our industry has now is the number of people that are out overlanding, [00:41:00] the amount of trash. I don’t think overlanders leave trash, they don’t leave much, but they definitely leave a lot of human waste behind.
Wes Siler: As a dog owner, the amount of human poop that is out there, it’s not hard to poop appropriately. Like carry a shovel, dig a hole, that hole should be 6 to 8 inches. Put poop in it and pee in it. Nothing else. Throw your toilet paper in a trash bag and carry it out. There you go. You pooped outdoors. Congratulations. Why is that hard?
Scott Brady: You know, and if you have the capability like I do in the scout, you know, just I have a composting toilet in there. Then you don’t even have to leave anything in the outdoors.
Wes Siler: Great. Yeah. I’m going to get one of those new Japanese toilets that seals everything in like a heat sealed wag bag for you. And like, I don’t need to do that again. Like I don’t camp where other people camp. I go way further than other people. I just feel that I’ve encountered so much human poop that I want to take my situation at least to the next level. So I’m setting a good example.
Scott Brady: That’s why I’m doing it. I just want to minimize that, that that’s even happening. But if you look at Moab [00:42:00] last year, I mean they, they shut down camping because they had 3. 2 million people and it was literally. The human waste. It was too much.
Wes Siler: It’s awful. And like, it’s not that hard to do a poop. Yeah, you know, it’s not that hard. You know what? Plan ahead. If you’re gonna go out for a weekend, poop on Friday before you take off, you probably won’t need to poop again until Sunday when you’re back at McDonald’s.
Scott Brady: Or at least think about, at least think about the people that are going to come to that campsite after you, you know, pick up after yourself. Don’t leave poop everywhere.
Wes Siler: Plan to visit the campsite again. Would you want to come back to that campsite if somebody had diarrhea all over it? And that happens.
Scott Brady: It totally does. So one of the things that we do like to ask is, is all this experience that you’ve had being automotive journalists, traveling around the world, you know, building vehicles, backpacking, hunting. How, how has all of those experiences changed you as a person? What are the things about you that you realize that that experience has really shifted in your mindset?
Wes Siler: To answer your question about, you know, what, what, what this has given [00:43:00] me, it’s just, I just want to help people. I want other people to, to, you know, I want people to listen to this and feel like they are more empowered to go outdoors. I want people to read my stuff and feel like they’re more empowered to go outdoors and just. Just be full of love and care about other people and do everything. If all of us should do everything we can to help each other, then we all win.
Scott Brady: Yeah. It gets easier. It gets easier for everybody.
Wes Siler: All the work that I’ve done to help other people that have less than I have, all the work that I’ve ever done to stand up for what’s right, all the politics I’ve ever done, everything has made me richer, not poor. And I don’t understand why everybody just doesn’t do it. It’s been an overwhelming victory for me and it will be an overwhelming victory for anybody else who puts themselves out there in the same way.
Scott Brady: Well, that’s inspirational, man. Thanks for the work that you’re doing with that. That’s really amazing. You know, another question that I like to ask, which is usually a selfish one is, the books that have made a difference in your life. The books that you’re like, man, that was a, read.
Wes Siler: So back in Georgia, I had this incredible opportunity, [00:44:00] to be mentored. I was very little kid at the time by this guy named Mark Warren. Mark Warren is a member of the Cherokee tribe. Prolific outdoor educator. So he has a series of survival books that are available on Amazon. You know, I lived with this guy for a summer. Learned how to swim white water from him, learn how to catch snakes from him, learn how to build a shelter from him. You can learn all of that from this, and learn how to eat native plants from him. All, all of that same stuff is available in books, Mark Warner on Amazon. And he’s also written a really incredible trilogy about the history of Wyatt Earp, where he collaborated with the Earp family. And has written probably the first true history, as much as they understand it to be true about this larger than life, you know, Wild West figure. So he’s incredible. And then the other guy that I really love is, Robert Young Pelton.
Scott Brady: Yeah, he’s amazing.
Wes Siler: Have you met Pelton?
Scott Brady: Oh, a bunch of times. Yeah. Fantastic dude. He’s the real deal.
Wes Siler: Yeah, Pelton’s my hero. Yeah. I sent him an email like 10 [00:45:00] years ago. I was like, Hey man, can I buy you a drink sometime? He wrote right back. He’s like, sure. So we went out for drinks. He made sure that I paid. Yeah.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Fair enough.
Wes Siler: We got hammered. We became friends. Then we go, we go on camping trips together. He’s a great dude. And he’s just super interesting. He’s one of those guys. The world’s just never been scary to him. He’ll visit a war zone. He’ll go anywhere. And he’s just like, Hey man, I’m Robert. And people are like, that’s cool. You want to be friends? That’s a great way to be.
Scott Brady: The story of him going into Iraq, just as the war is. Kind of at its peak, he buys one of Saddam Hussein’s Rolls Royces for like 2, 000 in cash and he drives it across the country. It’s an unbelievable story.
Wes Siler: He’s ridiculous. So yeah, we went on a camping trip.
Scott Brady: Didn’t he write the world’s most dangerous places?
Wes Siler: Something like that. That’s what he’s famous for. He had a TV series in the 90s that was on like CBS or something. We went camping in, [00:46:00] into Borrego. With the latest Gen 4 Raptor when it first came out. And so they got super upset that Wiley here was off leash. And you know, Robert’s like 7 feet tall. And so he’s like screaming in my face, I don’t know how to navigate it. And so Robert just comes over and he’s like, Hey man! The guy like looks over Robert. He’s like, Oh no.
Scott Brady: Oh, you’re not a small guy either. Yeah. No, he, he is an amazing character. So yeah, anybody that’s listening to check out Robert Young Pelton’s work is really awesome. So last question, somebody’s brand new to overlanding couple pieces of advice that you’d give them.
Wes Siler: Just go out there and have fun, man. Like, you know, like I said, like Subscribe to Ronnie Dahl on, on YouTube.
Scott Brady: He’s a character.
Wes Siler: He’s a character. He’s really good advice. Yeah. Watch some of his recovery advice. Grab a snap strap, two, two shackles, two three quarter inch Crosby shackles. Make sure your car’s recovery points. [00:47:00] Set a max tracks and that’s about it. Make sure you air down. Make sure you poop in a hole. And just go have a trip. You know, just go, just go do it. And you know, try not to be super irresponsible. You know, try to, try to scale your experiences over time. Experience will teach you how to scale. You just, you have to get out there. I see so many people that just don’t appreciate just, just how much is there. Like how much, people that live here in Bozeman have no idea how accessible and crazy beautiful most of this state is. And you can’t get to any of it without a 4×4. You know, people, people want to like, you know, be all pure, pure about backpacking and shit like that. And I do all that stuff. I do all the human powered stuff. And you can’t get to any of it that’s worth a damn without a four by four.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Or at least not, not without a whole bunch of effort.
Wes Siler: A whole lot of days, a whole lot of days of walking. I’m not toting a kayak for 15 miles up into those mountains right there, but I could drive there in about 10 minutes.
Scott Brady: I know. Isn’t that amazing? It is amazing. Well, Wes, you’re, [00:48:00] the work that you do for outside and your own outlets. Has always been inspirational to me. I think the quality of the editorial that you produce is exceptional. You’ve always put the reader first, and that’s something that we always try to celebrate within our organization. How do people find out more about you and the work that you do?
Wes Siler: Just Google my name, Wes Seiler. Mostly write for outside magazine. I have a couple other projects, you know, you’ll, you’ll find me. You’ve, you’ve probably read my stuff already. You, you don’t even realize that it’s, you know, I’m very fortunate to be able to say that.
Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. Awesome.
Wes Siler: And that’s very flattering. Thank you. Yeah.
Scott Brady: You’re welcome, Wes. Thanks so much for being on the podcast and we’ll talk to you all next time.