The gear on an overlanding trip can be just as important as the vehicles.
Trucks.com took three midsize pickup trucks and filled them to the brim with outdoor equipment. We then took the vehicles – a Ford Ranger FX4, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon – to the Mojave Road, a 140-mile trail across forests and mountains in the California desert. The route is challenging. Temperatures topped 110 degrees.
But the gear made the tough conditions palatable. Lightweight tents provided elevated sleeping in a compact package. Durable coolers survived hours of jostling in the pickup beds without trouble. And an upscale smoker brought delicious delicacies to the barren environment.
Here are the items that brought a taste of civilization to the desert.
Yakima Skyrise Rooftop Medium Tent ($1,499)
Racks and accessories manufacturer Yakima is aggressively marketing its products via partnerships with automakers such as Toyota and Ford. The company’s affordable, lightweight rooftop tent set up easily on top of the Ranger bed. Each night the cover zipped off and the Skyrise platform flipped over, immediately popping the tent up without the need for cumbersome poles. Take down is just as simple – the Skyrise flips back up and fits snug inside its cover. It allowed the team to hit the road early and energized.
Napier Sportz Truck Tent 57 Series ($269.99)
An alternative to cheaply made ground tents and expensive rooftop tents, the Napier Truck Tent fits inside the pickup bed to provide an easy off-ground night of sleep. During the day the Truck Tent packed into its carrying case and took up little room in the bed. At camp it used the truck itself as partial wind protection. Straps loop through the lowered tailgate and around the wheelwells to secure it in place. Poles are involved. However the innovative approach and strong material at a good price point makes a strong case in a competitive market.
Orca 58 Qt Coolers ($339.99)
Coolers quickly became some of the most important items on the trip. With temperatures regularly into triple digits, cool drinks and perishable foods were critical. Orca provided two massive 58-quart coolers.. The coolers preserved ice well over long periods in the sun. The Trucks.com team shaded them under the Yakima tent and attempted to open them as rarely as possible. Still, by the second day the ice dwindled and some meat began to thaw. Orca coolers provide huge carrying capacity and look great. However the cost and weight of the coolers should be noted against its competition. And the heat of the Mojave posed a challenge that the Orcas struggled to meet.
Magellan TRX7 CS GPS Guide ($391.99)
This portable touchscreen mounts to the windshield and plugs into USB ports to keep charged on the trails. It also provides a massive number of pre-loaded trails for off-the-grid guidance when picking the right route gets tricky. Magellan had a number of recommended routes for the Mojave Road, curated both by staff and by users who share their own favorite paths. There is a learning curve to the TRX7. Its menu is cumbersome and directions can be vague in the wilderness. But when the path veered off in three directions, with unforgiving wilderness all around and no signs in sight, the TRX7 proved its worth.
At first it seemed like overkill to bring an upscale grill to the middle of the desert. However after a long day on the road, the Traeger cooked meals to an unexpected level that weary drivers welcomed whole-heartedly. A box attached to the side heats up flavored pellets that inject the grill with billowing smoke, becoming ingrained in the meat as it cooks. Steaks and burgers burst with a mesquite taste whether slow-cooked or grilled in a rush. The Traeger must plug into a power source. That can be hard to find off the grid. But make the effort and the Tailgater does not disappoint.
Power is scarce in the Mojave. Luckily the Yeti 1000 power station provided all the necessary juice and more. This unit take half a day to charge to full capacity. But that was more than enough to carry us through the next three days. During the trip the Yeti 1000 and its 1500-watt inverter easily kept any number of cameras, GoPros and laptops charged. It also powered the Traeger grill for more than an hour at a time on consecutive nights. The Yeti 1000 is compact and easy to carry or store. And it could have handled much more. The trip ended with over 70 percent battery to spare.
Snow Peak Titanium French Press ($55.95)
The titanium cookware from outdoor brand Snow Peak came in handy. Without much space to spare in the trucks the lightweight and compact mugs, plates and silverware fit perfectly. The most prized member of the group, though, was the French press. Set it directly on the fire to make fresh coffee for groggy campers. The French press quickly made two cups. Clean up and proper care are easy to ensure a long life of adventure with cookware that can withstand the Mojave test and ask for more.