October 24, 2019
By Wheels Afield Editors
Editor’s Note: This column is adapted from an article that first appeared in Wheels Afield, a publication devoted to overlanding adventure. Check newsstands for the Fall 2019 issue.
PROBLEM 1: NO ROOM IN THE BED
As an outdoorsman, you undoubtedly have lots of stuff: guns, rods, tents, sleeping bags, cook stoves, packs and more. It’s cool having a garage that looks like a mini Cabela’s until you try to load it into the truck to take it afield. Go the American route and instead of downsizing, just buy one more piece of gear to help organize and, most importantly, secure it.
DECKED storage solutions is a drop-in drawer bed system made from tough rotomolded polymers. Two main drawers slide for easy content access, and integrated D-Box storage containers keep smaller items together. Best of all, you can still use your pickup for its intended purpose: hauling. With a 2,000-pound capacity on top of the DECKED system, bringing your ATV as well as all your gear is as simple as loading it up and heading afield. decked.com
PROBLEM 2: FAT AND SWAYING
You know why your buddy drives a RAM 3500? Because he couldn’t find a 4500. Trucks just keep getting bigger and bigger—more power, higher towing capacities, larger payloads. And like your hoarder mother-in-law, we keep filling up the space. No matter how big a truck you buy, at some point you are probably going to overload it.
Help is near in the form of Hellwig Products. Since 1946, this family-owned business has been manufacturing suspension helper components. Between air suspension, helper springs, and sway bars, they make a product to help manage the load. Even the largest trucks sometimes need help; Hellwig Products recently announced front and rear sway bars for 2019 Super Duty Ford F-250 and F-350 models, a 1-5/16-inch solid front sway and 1 1/4-inch rear sway bar for four-wheel-drive trucks, and an even beefier Big Wig 1-5/16-inch rear sway bar for heavy towing applications. All steel parts carry a lifetime warranty and are made in the USA. hellwigproducts.com
PROBLEM 3: LOW TRACTION
Staying on tarred or even gravel roads is not always an option. Beach fishing is invariably going to involve sand driving, while winter will bring snow drifts that must be crossed to reach prime hunting spots. Everyone familiar with off-road driving knows that lowering tire pressure increases the size of the tire’s engagement contact pad with terra firma. Deflating tires is easy enough, but the problem arises when you return to the highway. Unless there is a gas station (with an air pump, which is about as rare as a pay phone these days) right at the junction of dirt and pavement, you are going to have drivability and tire wear issues.
The only real solution is to bring your own air. Lots of companies sell cheap portable air compressors, but leave those in the garage for filling up the kid’s soccer ball. For off-road use, you want serious kit. ARB of Australia has been manufacturing air compressors for serious users for decades. ARB is the compressor to have when oversized tires need inflation, repeatedly and quickly. Available in multiple onboard and portable options. arbusa.com
PROBLEM 4: DARK ROADS
Lighting is probably the first upgrade any overlander should make to a vehicle. Think about it. Trailering a boat on predawn fishing trips. Drives home from the farm after dark. Road-tripping all night to camp. And consider the majority of this driving is through rural areas, with no street lights, often in bad weather, with the ever-present danger of game jumping out of the ditch. Yes, good illumination is a necessity—luckily, this is an easy aftermarket fix. But know that not all lights are created equal.
There are dozens of manufacturers from which to choose, but what to select? It’s no secret we are big fans of Australian-based Lightforce. Amazing quality, rugged construction, and high-performance throughout. If LED is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be?), Lightforce’s Genesis and Venom round LEDs are ideal. The Venom packs a mighty punch in a small package. It boasts 75 watts of light through 21 LEDs, but the key is the quality of the light. At 930 yards, it is still producing one lux. Genesis, its bigger brother, delivers 140 watts of light from 37 LEDs and puts out an impressive one lux at 1,151 yards. lightforce.com
PROBLEM 5: ANIMAL COLLISION
Avoidance through good illumination is key to safe driving, but sometimes collisions cannot be avoided. This is where a second-tier solution is required: collision protection in the form of a heavy-duty bumper. For the most part, factory truck bumpers are about as tough as a Schlitz beer can. Hit one deer or elk and the cost of an upgraded heavy-duty bumper is paid for in spades—not to mention the safety of the vehicle’s occupants.
This is not a universal-fit product. For example, ARB offers a wide selection for many truck makes and models; AEV makes an über-tough bumper for RAM 1500 and 2500 models; and Addicted Desert Designs makes a great bumper for the Ford Raptor. When making your selection, choose robustness, innovative design, and well-thought-out details, such as winch and light mounts. arbusa.com; aev-conversions.com; addictivedesertdesigns.com
ONE MORE THING: DON’T MISS GAME
With huntingseason in full swing, it also means football season is again upon us. DISH Outdoors came up with a small, portable solution for those who still want to access the big game or hate to miss the latest episode of “North American Whitetail.”
The Tailgater Pro allows you to take HDTV along, whether you’re RVing, car camping, trucking or tailgating. You can mount the antenna easily on the roof of your RV or keep it mobile for all your hunting trip needs. It’s simple and easy to use and can hook up to two TVs at a time. The unit is lightweight, rugged and powered through a receiver.
Included in the package area DISH Tailgater pro antenna, 50 feet of coax cable with connectors pre-installed, a Wally receiver remote and user’s manual. You can have HD channels streamed to any location within minutes. dishoutdoors.com