If you’ve been to Costco or the mall — or, indeed, any big parking lot — you’ve noticed them: oversized 4x4s with enough off-road addenda to choke a moose. Rooftop tents, emergency jacks, and ancillary fuel cans pepper these rigs like acne on a teenager’s face.
It’s not all worthless junk, of course. I spent a couple of nights in the lungs of British Columbia last summer with a Jeep Wrangler fully kitted for overlanding, and found it to be a pleasant experience devoid of the usual tenting hazards. On-board cooking and sleeping facilities made for a couple of comfortable evenings.
Still, mounting all this gear onto your vehicle and taking off for the woods is one thing. Leaving it on after you’re finished the weekend adventure and simply going to the office is something else entirely. It’d be as if my father-in-law, who dearly enjoy salmon fishing, showed up to work in a pair of chest waders. Actually, come to think of it, he probably has.
According to the group that runs the SEMA show in Las Vegas, average truck horsepower has increased by 7 per cent over the last ten years, while fuel economy has jumped by 20 per cent, helping partially explain the rise of these machines. So, we’ve assembled a list of overlanding accessories that’ll have you prepared for a weekend away — but whether you keep them on your four-wheel drive rig 24/7 is entirely up to you.
Far and away, one of the most popular — and visible — pieces of overlanding kit is a rooftop tent. Providing an off-the-ground place to sleep, these are available in a variety of styles and sizes. Some of them fold out like a book, using a stout arrangement of poles and supports to hold up the portion of tent that extends out over the truck when deployed. Automakers themselves are getting in on the game, as Land Rover recently teamed up with Autohome to offer its own tent for the 2020 Defender 110. Price? Nearly $5,000 CAD.
Others will pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box, while a few open up into an A-frame type arrangement. It’s important to know that these two types will only give an amount of sleeping space equivalent to the roof size of your vehicle, so shop around carefully and make sure you’re buying one that’s big enough for your needs. Also, fair warning — these things are heavy and affect aerodynamics, scuppering any semblance of in-town fuel economy.
It is a universal truth that most of us find cooking at home to be an unbearable chore, but tossing some cool overlanding gear and the allure of the great outdoors into the mix seems to turn us all into an aspiring Jamie Oliver. Anything more than toast for breakfast in the apartment? Hell no. Gourmet bacon and eggs out of the back of your Jeep while on the trail? You betcha!
Lightweight camp stoves with twin burners are popular because they’re cheap(er). Just don’t forget they’ll require a (safely stored) fuel source. Miniature regulated systems, on the other hand, take up virtually no space in the cargo area and look super cool with their sideways burner storage and push-button ignitors. Don’t forget a cooler to keep your food on ice, either
Always seeking to not leave any money on the table, many automakers are getting into the 4×4 accessory game. This has given rise to factory-approved snorkels popping up from brands like Ford and Jeep. It’s worth noting that Toyota refers to its unit as a ‘desert air intake’, eschewing it from responsibility of owners thinking they can dunk their Taco in the drink without concern. Hilariously, they also recommend turning the intake head around backwards when driving into rain or snow.
As for the aftermarket, there are plenty of options for those who want the look, many of which designed specifically for particular makes and models. Be aware that installing one of these things will require cutting a canteloupe-sized hole in the fender of your pride and joy, through which the snorkel pipe will poke. And, given the amount of electronics on modern vehicles, its presence doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to wade through five feet of water.
Depending on how far into the backcountry your trek takes you, spare cans of fuel can be one of the most essential pieces of overland gear. How many litres you’ll need will depend on a variety of factors, including the length of your trip and how far the adventure will take you from civilization.
There are a variety of jerry cans from which to select, ranging from standard plastic things found at any automotive parts store to specialized metal units looking like something straight out of M*A*S*H. The latter are preferred by the form-over-function set, of course. Whatever you choose, make surely they’re well secured and safely stowed.
Besides making your rig look like it’s ready for the Rubicon trail, a winch can come in handy when you or one of your boneheaded buddies sinks their truck into an impenetrable quagmire. Before splashing out cash on a winch, though, it’s important to figure out how you’re going to mount the thing onto your truck or SUV.
Some vehicles permit a winch to be mounted directly on the front bumper, while others will require a winch carrier or an entirely new, heavy-duty bumper made of steel. As with the snorkels mentioned earlier, OEMs are learning there is money to be made here, with Ram and now Ford now offering an integrated winch on some of their burliest pickups.
Product diversification in the truck and SUV aftermarket is a great thing, as manufacturers and retailers alike focus a great deal of attention on the burgeoning segment of adventure-travel. With social distancing and other health-related considerations scuppering traditional getaways like hotels and resorts for the foreseeable future, there’s every reason to believe that self-reliant overland travel will continue to grow.
Just don’t bring the works of it to Costco, okay?
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