While we are waiting for our next trip before really using our new CVT Summit Series awning I would like to share a quick glimpse of what’s to come….
Like always the CVT summit series awning comes with all the hardware and tools to install it onto your vehicle.. On the Overland F150 we opted some new prototype awning brackets made by Leither Design. Full review to come……
We were lucky enough to receive an invite from Overlanding USA for their next trip to film episode 4. At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it because the rig was still with Mercenary Offroad having the custom front bumper made but as luck would have it he finished the bumper a couple of days before we needed to leave. With only days to prep for the trip we went into full prep mode going through all our gear to make sure we had everything. On this trip my lovely wife would be joining us for her first overland trip without any kids! Anyone with young kids will know how awesome and rare this is haha. I was excited to show her the overland lifestyle.
Our original plan was to leave on Friday evening after work and meet up with the Overlanding USA crew just outside of Joshua Tree but with the concert at Coachella that same day we decided to just leave early sat morning and avoid the possible 5hour drive in traffic. With the truck packed and ready to go we enjoyed another night of sleep in our own bed and set the alarm for 0500.
0500 came very quickly and we headed out to the rig to wait for Danny from Xterra performance who would be caravanning with us. The best part about waking up so early is watching the sun rise as it crests over the hill.
We made excellent time and before we knew it we were at the coordinates for Friday night’s camp site.
After some brief introductions, we headed out to Joshua Tree to find our first adventure. This was our first time visiting Joshua Tree but it will definitely not be our last. Austin (our lead navigator for this trip) decided to forgo his original choice to hike up Ryan Mountain because of the difficulty rating with kids and decided to take us to Baker Dam instead. The hike through baker dam is very easy and will lead you to the first POI which is the actual dam. It’s been many years since the dam actually held water but it was originally built by cowboys to water their cattle in the early 1900s. Continuing on this loop trail will lead to a small cavern with some pictographs right before the split back to the parking lot.
After some much needed lunch we packed up our rigs and headed out of Joshua Tree in route to the trail we would be taking up to Big Bear. Once at the trailhead everyone aired down and did a last minute once over on their rigs before heading up the mountain. For the most part I would rate this trail a beginner trail that anyone in a stock 4wd can do. There are a couple of sections that could get tight in some fullsize rigs but overall not difficult. This trail took us from around Joshua Tree to Big Bear in about 20 miles. Once on pavement we made one final bathroom stop before heading up to the second trail that would lead us to the super secret camping spot.
We arrived to the secret camping spot code named “The Chimney” with just enough light left in the day to set up camp. The sunset was amazing and made for a perfect end to our day. With the sun almost completely down everyone got into warmer clothes and started dinner. After some light conversations around our lantern camp fire(camp fires still restricted in SoCal) we headed off to bed.Now we were expecting mid to low 30’s but it ended up getting in the teens sometime in the night.I had prepared for this by bringing my portable heater but since my truck was not sitting perfectly level the heater would not allow me to light it because of the anti tip safety feature built into it.I don’t mind the cold too much but my wife hates the cold.It was by far the coldest night she has ever had.
We were both very excited when we started to see the sun hit the tent warming up the air enough so that we couldn’t see our breath anymore.We laid there for about an hour warming up and trying to get the courage to get ourselves up and get dressed.By 0700 I was up and making some coffee to warm myself up.From everyone’s expression I could tell that we weren’t the only ones that were cold all night.After breakfast, everyone started to pack up and get ready for the final trail that would take us back to the road.This smaller trail was more challenging than the previous day’s trail even though it was smaller. we had some steep loose hills to climb and one very rocky decent that required a spotter.With the help of my buddy Danny I was able to get the Overland F150 down with ease with only one scrape on my passenger side lower arm.After everyone was down safely we continued down the rest of the trail which was mostly a dirt road.20 min later and we were back on pavement airing up our tires and conversing about the great trip we had just had.Everyone else was heading back into town to hangout for lunch but my wife and I had to get home to our kids.We said our goodbyes, shook hands and took some final pictures before we departed from the rest of the group.The whole way down the mountain we just kept reliving the awesome views and places we had visited and wondered when we would be able to go again.In the end we traveled (blank) miles and created lasting memories that my wife and I will always remember.
Big thanks to the Overlanding USA crew for the invite and for helping make my wife’s first Overland experience a good one. Until next time…….
My Friday morning started out how most of my trips start – a little nervous and excited at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it’s somewhere new or somewhere I have visited many times. After going through my gear for the 100th time I started to throweverything into the truck. Always wondering if I’m forgetting something. I tend to over pack but have been getting a lot betterat slimming things down. It doesn’t help that the Overland F150 can handle pretty much anything I put in the bed so weight is never really an issue.
On this particular trip my oldest daughter, Jasmine chose to come with me. I’m not sure if she really wanted to spend a weekend with her super cool dad or she just wanted a day off of school haha. At about 0700 I had all the gear loaded in the truck so I went into the house to go wake her up. To my surprise she was already up and ready to go. At around 0900 we headed up to one of our local Starbucks to energize our morning but to alsomeet up with my buddy Kevin (red Jeep) who would be caravanning with us up to Monache Meadows. Once everyone had their drinks in hand we sync’d up our CB radios and headed out.
Fortunately for us there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we started making pretty good time. The Monache Meadows trial head is approx. 3.5-4 hours away from us here in Ventura County. One of the things I love the most about going on trips is the drive to our destination. The drive to Monache is a beautiful one. One of my favorites is passing through Red Rock which you can camp at if you so desire.
2 hours into the drive you will reach one of the last gas stations located in Pearsonville just before heading up. You will want to fill up and grab any snacks. Fair warning: during the summer days it gets very hot. When we stopped it was a blistering 115 degrees. We stopped to wait for Kevin’s friend Jake and his son that would be joining us to Monache Meadows. It is always fun to see the type of overland vehicles you find at a gas station in the middle of nowhere… We saw a few with RTT and one jeep with an Ursa Minor top that was heading to the bishop/ mammoth area. After Jake arrived we fueled up and headed up the mountain.
The road headed up to Monache Meadows from Hwy 395 is very steep for a good 35 minutes. After the initial steep ascend it flattens out to some beautiful valleys with cabins and trees….From the looks of the clouds and the wet road it had probably just rained which allowed us to drop down our windows and enjoy the cool 75 degree air. By the time we reached the Black Bear Ranger station it was a nice 65 degrees… We always stop by the ranger station before we head inland to not only get our Fire pass (which you need for propane stoves) but to also introduce ourselves and let them know where we are headed. With no cell reception it is always good for the local rangers to know who is where in case of an emergency.
After about another 25 min drive up the mountain you will reach the turnoff that leads you to the Monache Meadows entrance. The trail is fairly easy with only a few sections actually requiring 4wd. We were lucky to get there right after the rain storm that rolled through which kept the dust down and allowed us to have our windows open. Now if you own a fullsize rig like myself the trails can get pretty tight not to mention some of the low hanging branches from the trees. luckily I did not add any new stripping on the side of my rig but did end up rubbing some branches with my RTT. After the initial “offroad” section going down you will reach a small bridge that will take you to some open valleys. Slow down and enjoy the views…
The trail will take about 1.5 hours before you reach the Monache Meadows camp grounds. Once you reach the camp grounds continue down and go across the Kern River. We were lucky enough to get the campsite all the way at the end, a mere 15ft away from the Kern river. After all 3 vehicles were situated in their parking spots for the weekend we started to set up camp. With the help of my daughter I was able to set up our CVT MT Rainer Summit Series tent in a flash. This was going to be her first time in the new tent. Nothing left to do but to grab a beer and relax but before I did I made sure to send my wife a text letting her know we were ok with our new Delorme In Reach (review on this to follow). The rest of the evening was uneventful so after some dinner and some chatting around our lantern campfire we headed up to bed.
Not sure what it is about camping but it I generally never sleep in. I was up at 0600 just in time to see the sun starting to peek through the horizon. As I laced up my boots the cool crisp air reminded me to grab my flannel. After I made my coffee I strolled around down to the river with my chair and just sat and listened to the running water, birds chirping and the wind through the trees. It is very hard to put into words what this actually sounds and feels like but its breathtaking. A short while later everyone started to get up and get breakfast ready. Well everyone but my daughter that probably could have slept until noon.
With everyone’s belly’s full from breakfast we decided to go on a small hike down the river to see how many more campers there where. To our surprise other than 2 more campers at the other end of the camp sites we had the place to ourselves. We hung around our camp the rest of the morning all the way through lunch. After Jasmines nap we went on a longer hike up the mountain to do some slight bouldering. I’m not one for heights but the views were amazing.
Unlike Friday, the temperature was a nice 75 degrees with mostly sunny skies. The few clouds we did have made for great pictures. We were out for a good hour and half before we decided to go back to camp.
It was my turn to cook dinner so I busted out the Tembo Tusk Skottle to grill up some Carne Asada tacos. My kitchen setup has changed a lot throughout the many years we have been camping. I have found the Skottle to be one of the best overall cooking/ storage setups around. After everyone was fed the grown ups indulged in some adult beverages while hanging around our lantern fire. Being that this was going to be our last night we stayed up longer than we normally do but in the end we prob were still in bed before midnight.
Our last morning…..
Its always sad to wake up on the last day. I was up pretty early as usual going through my normal routine. After everyone was up and fed we started packing up. We broke camp in record time and was ready to head back to civilization by 0900. The ride back to the main road was very dusty unlike the day we came in. For the most part it was pretty easy with only a couple of spots that required 4wd because of some loose dirt/rock on a steep incline. Once we arrived to the main entrance we parked all three vehicles for our traditional Picture.
In the end it was 3 days, 2 nights and a total of 560 miles round trip. Fun times was had by all who attended. For me…. Camping trips are always about making memories with my kids than the actual trip. The highlight of the weekend for me was hiking with my oldest daughter Jasmine. Spending alone time uninterrupted by electronics or the day to day grind will always live in my heart……
There comes a time in your overland adventures where you find that you need some kind of portable power to run things like fridges. Like most things, there are many ways to achieve this. One easy way is by just buying an inverter and use your vehicle battery. Now this is definitely the easiest and cheapest way but when you start running things like a ARB Fridge you will soon find out that 1 battery alone wont be enough. We can go on and on about what is the ideal setup which could include a dual battery setup with solar (prob the best way to go and most expensive) but for me I knew I wanted something a little different. Enter the Arkpak!
The Arkpak is a portable power solution that has 2 12v plugs, 1 USB plug and 1 household outlet. They come in 2 different versions that house either a 150w inverter or a 300w. The Arkpak battery is charged via the included 110 outlet (what I recommend) or via a 12v car outlet. One of the best features about the Arkpak is that it is portable and not hard mounted on the vehicle. Because of the height of my truck I wanted to be able to pull the fridge out of the vehicle and onto the floor so that my kids have an easier access to it which made the Arkpak Ideal.
We bought our Arkpak a little over 2 years ago. It was the day before we were leaving for our trip to Desert Rendezvous 2014 to be exact. I had heard great things about the product and was excited to test it out over the weekend in the desert. Unfortunately since we got it the evening before our trip I didn’t have a whole lot of choices of where to go get a battery for it. The only thing open was an autozone where I picked up a marine deep cycle battery and immediately installed it when I got home and plugged it in to make sure it had a full charge.
Our first trip out using it was not a great one but it was not the Arkpaks fault. I plugged in our 50l fridge and it was doing great all day Friday and into Saturday. But on Saturday evening I plugged in about 50ft of string lights to the Arkpak and it caused it to drain the battery very fast. By Sunday morning I was getting a low battery warning light. Lesson learned.
The following trips went a lot smoother. After using it the last 2 years I can say that it will keep my ARB fridge running for 4 days straight on a full charge on a crappy autozone battery. If you’re looking for portable power solution that is not hard mounted to your vehicle than the Arkpak is def something you want to consider.
For full specs please follow the link. Feel free to post up any questions in the comments.
I was given the opportunity to demo the Rush MOAB 10 from 5.11 Tactical a while back. If you have never heard of 5.11 Tactical they are a manufacturer which creates superior products that enhance the safety, accuracy, speed and performance of law enforcement, military and firefighting professionals.
The MOAB 10 is a small Sling style pack that can be used for both right and left handed users via the hidden straps on the back of the pack. Being a sling pack it allows you to access the admin and main compartment by grabbing and swinging over the pack to the front.
Overview of the outside of the pack:
The MOAB 10 pack is covered with MOLLE webbing on the front of the pack along with both sides and the shoulder pad. You also have a Velcro name plate on top along with a 3×3 inch Velcro moral plate in the middle (where I have attached a flag patch). Directly behind the admin pocket you will find the hidden pistol compartment. If you do not have a CCW permit to conceal carry a firearm it’s a great place to store a writing pad or a small tablet. This hidden compartment is 6” wide by 11” deep.
Like mentioned above on both sides of the MOAB 10 you will find even more webbing which allow you to add even more accessories. As you can tell from the pictures, I added a H2O carrier to one side of the MOAB 10 and my Fenix flash light holster to the other. Now if there is one thing that I feel this pack is missing is a water bottle section on the sides like the Rush Delivery messenger bag has. This would eliminate the need to purchase a separate H2O carrier. Towards the top of both sides you will also find compression straps that allow you to snug down all your belongings so they are not moving around while on the go. On the top of the bag you will find a hefty grab handle. This may not seem like a big deal but on some of my previous packs the grab handles have just been thin straps that feel very flimsy when loaded. Right behind the strap you will find the felt lined sunglasses compartment. I don’t generally put my sunglasses away so I found it to be a great place to put my Leatherman multi tool in.
On the back you will find a hydration pocket (1.5ltr) with a pass through port towards the top that allows you to route the hose up and over to the shoulder strap. The back of the pack is also very well padded with integrated ventilation channels & non slip pads. One of the great features of this pack is that it is ambidextrous, which means it will work for both right and left handed people. But if you are like me, eventually I get tired of having a sling pack on one of my shoulders when it’s loaded. What I have found useful is when I do get tired I switch it over to the left handed strap and continue to use it on my other shoulder.
Now lets talk about the strap. I have several packs that in concept are very nice. But when it comes down to it they are not comfortable to wear. The shoulder strap on the MOAB 10 is very nicely padded which is great for all day carry not to mention its covered in MOLLE webbing. Another great feature is that it has a small coms pocket with pass through whole for a mic/ earbuds. Now I don’t carry a coms but I do like to listen to music. I found this very nice to put either my IPod or Blackberry. Like I have been mentioning, this pack works for both right and left handed users. Towards the bottom of the pack you will find a hidden sleeve where the left handed strap is tucked away. Simply pull it out, unclip the right handed section, clip in the left handed strap and put away the right handed section into the hidden sleeve. The last section on the outside of the pack is the bottom retention straps. This is a great place to put a rolled up jacket or sweater.
Moving onto the first pocket which is the Admin pocket, this pocket can be opened from both left and right side via 2 zippers for both right and left handed users. Once in you will find a variety of pockets. You will find 2 large pockets that are used for M16 magazines on the front compartment. I don’t generally carry around my AR15 so there is no need for me to carry around my magazines so I keep a few odd pieces in there like my glasses case, eye drops ect. The main pockets have room for pens, business cards and other knick knacks. You also have a zipper section where I keep loose change and other things I don’t want moving around in the pocket. On both sides you will also find key fob holders.
Just like the admin pocket the main compartment can be opened from both left and right side via the 2 zippers. Once opened you will find a nice open sleeve compartment where you can slide in your laptop where it can be snug down with a compression bungee cord. On the other side of the main compartment you will find a zippered compartment that runs the whole length of the pack that can be opened on either side to make it easily accessible for both left and right handed users. One nice feature I liked is in front of the zipper pocket is 2 mesh compartments that open via 4 Velcro tabs. One side allowed me to put my paracord in it and in the other I have my trauma pack.
The 5.11 MOAB 10 is a very well built versatile sling backpack. I have used this pack for over 2 years now and im very impressed with the overall design and workmanship. The MOAB 10 feels very much at home in harsh conditions like hiking or camping as well as taking it to my kids soccer game or on the go. At under 100 dollars its a great buy as well.
A little over 2 years ago I decided that I wanted to put some drawers in the bed of my truck to store my gear. I knew I wanted something watertight and I also wanted to still be able to load the back of the truck if need be. After doing a lot of research on what was available and what I wanted I came to the realization that I only had a couple of options. I could go with something like weather guards bed drawers or I could go with this brand new product from a company called Decked.
Since you are ready this post about Decked drawers obviously I choose Decked, but before I made the purchase I made sure to talk to them on what I wanted and what I expected. I was re assured that the Decked drawers would fit my needs. The Decked drawers are completely watertight, can withstand a 2000 pound payload and is exclusively made in the USA.
A few days after I made the purchase the large box on a pallet arrived at my house. I was able to convince a couple of friends of mine to come over and help me assemble it. After going over the instructions and laying out the parts we got to work. The drawers are assembled in two half’s. Once both half’s are assembled they are moved into the truck and bolted together. The neat thing about these drawers is that you use the factory tow hook locations to tie it down so there is no need to drill into your bed. Total install took us about an hour.
At this point in my trucks build I still had a camper shell and was using the Decked drawers as a sleeping platform. After a night in the high sierras in the low 40’s I decided to add a 1/2″ heavy floor mat (like used in gyms) for insulation and a 3″ foam mattress for comfort. This setup was used for about a year until I decided to upgrade to a RTT and get rid of the camper shell. With the camper shell gone it was time to see how watertight the system was going to be.
After running the system for over 2 years I do have some complaints. My first gripe is that the drawers do not fully extend open. I would say they only open about 75% which makes the last foot very hard to get too. The second gripe is that the dividers that you get do not work very well off road. In my experience they would wiggle out of place and if you had loose items in the different sections it would become one big jumbled mess (though I have heard this has been fixed in the newer generations). Until very recently my drawers were not very organized and I had considered getting rid of them.
This all changed when I saw Decked post about some new Drawer boxes they were developing and would soon be offering. I waited it out and I am very happy that I did. The new Decked D boxes are amazing. The construction and finish is second to none. I was lucky enough to have partner up with Decked on reviewing their new Decked D boxes and after organizing all my gear in the 4 boxes I can now say that I once again love my Decked drawers. The gear stays put and it is now completely organized. My only issue is that all 4 of the boxes look the same so I need to find a way to neatly Mark them so i know what is in what.
If you own a Full size Truck and need a way to store all your gear then the Decked system is a must especially when its paired with their D boxes. You can find more specific details about them here: Decked Drawers
When I think of Overlanding I essentially think of being “off the grid” with generally very little to no cell phone reception. I have tried several different ways to accomplish being able to have our digital maps handy for our trips.
I first started off with an android tablet with built in GPS mounted to a custom bracket I made that mounted to my dash. At first this seemed to work pretty well but the further I got out to the middle of nowhere the spottier the internal GPS got. After doing some research i came
to the conclusion that I needed an external Bluetooth GPS. I settled on the Dual XGPS 150A. The Dual GPS works on not only Android devises but also on Apple products. Once I did the initial install my spotty GPS was non existent.
My next issue was with my custom mount… now it worked great with very little vibration but with how high it was mounted I would get a lot of glare and was nearly impossible to see during the day so I bit the bullet and order a whole setup from Ram Mount. The install was super simple with the main bracket being mounted under my passenger seat via the 2 front bolts. Once it was all together I added a X grip on the side of the tablet mount for my phone… This setup worked very well but it did have 2 downsides…. Because of how the arms were positioned it would shake a lot on dirt roads making it difficult to read. The next issue is the amount of space it took up. When i was using it I did not have access to my cup holder on my center console and if I pushed it all the way forward to access the cup holders I then didn’t have access to most of the buttons on my dash. After running this setup for about a year I knew I had to make a change…
I learned about this small company that specialized in phone/ gps bundles that were mounted via magnet through a friend. After emailing them I realized that their corporate warehouse was only a few miles away from my house so I made an appointment to stop by. I was very impressed with all the products and when I found out it was all made in the USA I was sold. We came up with a plan and started outfitting my rig with all Mob Armor products…
Mob X tablet mount:
For my tablet setup I went with the Mob X mount. Generally this is mounted to your windshield with the provided plate with suction cups but i knew I wanted mine mounted on my dash. We cut out a simple metal plate and mounted it to my dash. During this same time I upgraded to an Ipad Air 2 with a otter box case. The Ipad with the case fits Perfectly between the adjustable arms. I know some of you are wondering if the
magnet holds the weight of the iPad during off road use. The answer is yes! The magnet is so strong that if you try and take it directly off without sliding it off the plate it will start pulling my dash off.
For my phone setup I initially went with their mob mount switch which is great for off road use but I have made the switch to their new MobNetic system. They make 2 different versions. The MobNetic and MobNetic Pro. The main difference is the MobNetic is hard mounted to the vehicle and the Pro version can be taken off. I went with the Pro option so that i could move it from vehicle to vehicle. The Mobnetic uses rare earth magnets that are guaranteed not to mess up your phone. Both come with a very thin metal disk that you mount to either the back of your phone or like in my case the inside of my phone case.
Mob Armor makes a enclosure for the Dual GPS receiver but not the version I had so I upgraded to the GPS Sky Pro. The only difference is the Skypro allows you to connect up to 5 Bluetooth devices vs the 1 with my original Dual Receiver. I used some VHT tape to hard mount the enclosure to the top of my Dash.
Now with all these devices es how do you keep everything charged? Enter the Mob Armor USB Hub…. it has 4 USB ports with 2 of them being 2.4amp. I routed 3 wires behind my dash for a seamless look. One wire to my Ipad, another to where my phone mounts and the last to power the Dual SkyPro Receiver.
Overall out of all my setups I have used I like the Mob Armor setup the best. Not only are the products made in the USA but they are local to me and I like to support local businesses