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A brief tutorial on hill-descent control

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Truck and SUV manufacturers are incorporating more and more technological gadgets into their vehicles with the goal of enhancing off-highway performance and safety. One that is becoming nearly universal is hill-descent control. I was dubious of the system at first, but after driving several vehicles equipped with it, I have to say it does a better job than I can…

Farewell to an overlanding dog

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If you’ve done much exploring around the backroads and four-wheel-drive trails of Arizona in the last few years, odds are you’ll remember at some point noticing a silver Jeep Wrangler being led by a black lab mix with a white chest patch, either trotting along at a good pace on a dirt road or scrambling up a 4+ obstacle. This…

The Land Rover conundrum – solved.

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They’re not unreliable. They’re simply co-dependent.
I arrived at this conclusion in a single flash of realization after driving Land Rovers many thousands of miles in East Africa, and putting in equal time in Land Cruisers on many of the same routes. Unlike the passionately monogamous fans of either vehicle, I love them both and see their individual strengths and…

Vintage pocket compass

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I admit to a bit of an obsession with always being aware of cardinal directions—even in the briefest and most inconsequential of circumstances, such as while transiting between gates in a strange airport. I have a good sense of direction and can remain oriented through multiple turns in unfamiliar terrain (such as, for example, during a recent densely overcast day…

Embracing the wheel

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Filming Samburu blacksmiths in northern Kenya.For years and years I refused to use rolling luggage for airline travel. My personal creed went something like, If I can’t carry it, I’m carrying too much. I made month-long-plus trips for magazine assignments carrying nothing but a medium Filson duffel, a rucksack, and a Lowepro Omni Pro Extreme camera case inside a…

New from Bogert Manufacturing

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I suspect Richard Bogert is one of those people who keeps a notepad and pen on the nightstand, so he can jot down inspirations that pop into his head at 3:00 a.m. I can’t see any other way he could come up with the volume of ideas he does—for the Bogert Aviation arm of his business, the military equipment, odds…

Pronghorn makes the leap

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To say I “consulted” on the Pronghorn Overland Gear Modular Front End System (MFES) for the Jeep Wrangler JK would be a bit of an overstatement. What actually transpired was, they brought a prototype bumper to our place and mounted it on a Wrangler, we took it out in the desert, and I used the Warn 8274 winch on my…

Tire pressure

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The 109 figure on the right is the tire’s load index, used with the load range to calculate proper pressure.
A reader, Christian, sent in this comment to my recent post The physics of tires and lifts:
I have a related question that might warrant its own post. Is there a formula for finding your optimum tire pressure? Sounds simple…

The physics of tires and lifts

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 The JATAC with Four Wheel Camper mounted; LT235/85 R16 BFG All-Terrain tires, Boss air bags on stock rear springs, Icon shocks at all four corners.
At the Overland Expo this May, Roseann gave a walkaround of the JATAC to a crowd of about 40 attendees, and throughout the weekend we were frequently approached by individuals and couples who’d seen it…

Firepower: how to make stovetop pizza and créme brûlée in camp

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by Roseann Hanson (co-director, Overland Expo; camp cook; and pyro)
In camp, one achieves happiness through superior firepower. And the best source of firepower, hands-down, is the Snow Peak GigaPower 2Way Torch.
I first saw this little 5.5-inch wonder put to use on a beach in Mexico. In preparation for our customary evening campfire gathering, a couple of guys had…

Friction . . .

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Have you ever tried to slide a cardboard box full of books or other weighty contents across a floor? Did you notice that the box was difficult to get moving, but that once sliding it became easier to push?
If so, you’ve experienced the difference between static and kinetic friction.
While it might seem counterintuitive, friction between two surfaces is…

The blue vinyl table is dead!

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A few years ago on a long road trip, Roseann and I opted for convenience over our usual preference for solitude, and stopped for the night in a developed campground: picnic tables, barbecues, flat sites, perfectly symmetrical pine trees—actually quite nice as such places go. That evening an enormous motorhome inched carefully into a nearby slot. The driver emerged just…

The blue table is dead!

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A few years ago on a long road trip, Roseann and I opted for convenience over our usual preference for solitude, and stopped for the night in a developed campground: picnic tables, barbecues, flat sites, perfectly symmetrical pine trees—actually quite nice as such places go. That evening an enormous motorhome inched carefully into a nearby slot. The driver emerged just…

Accessible wonders

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Many years ago, while on an assignment for Outside magazine, I was graced with the incomparable experience of viewing Victoria Falls for the first time by walking up to the edge of the drop on Livingstone Island, right in the middle of the mile-wide cascade, after arriving by canoe, just as David Livingstone had almost exactly 150 years before.…

A versatile storage box: the Wolf Pack

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A pair of Wolf Packs holds tools for a Defender 110 in Tanzania.I have yet to meet the perfect overlanding cargo box. Pelican cases are nearly perfect when contents absolutely, positively must be kept dry and dust-free, thus they are the box of choice for, say, photo and video equipment. But Pelican cases are quite heavy for their volume, and…

The ins and outs of airing down

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Airing down in Egypt
My early four-wheel-drive experience was strictly trial and error, heavy on the error. A friend owned a beat-up mid-60s FJ40 shod with skinny Armstrong True Tracs and equipped with a Ramsey winch wrapped with a rusty steel cable. We took that thing everywhere, including trails around southern Arizona that I’d later learn were rated 4+…

The analog iPhone

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Ready for the bio-apocalypse: a steel-framed handgun and the amazing Pocket Ref
In the speculative-fiction novel Directive 51, author John Barnes postulates an alarmingly plausible near-future in which all plastics, synthetic rubbers, and oil-based fuels have been destroyed by maliciously created self-replicating nanobots and bioengineered microorganisms. All modern communication, transportation, and just about everything else is brought to a halt,…

A proper camp breakfast

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GSI Pinnacle griddle on the Snow Peak large Pack and Carry Fireplace with bridge attachment.
Hickory-smoked bacon sizzles on a griddle. The fat pools, spreads, and infuses eggs scambling in butter nearby.
Did your salivary glands just twitch? Of course they did. Any vegans reading this—you had the same reaction. Oh, you might suppress it, pretend it didn’t happen, but…

The Audience Phenomenon

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I was chatting with someone after one of my tool kit demonstrations at the 2013 Overland Expo, and he asked if I ever experienced the “audience phenomenon.” After he explained I laughed and said I certainly did—but not the same way most home mechanics do. 
If you work on your own vehicles, you’re probably familiar with the cosmic rule that…

A compressor for the Boss air bags

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The bottom switch adds air to both bags simultaneously. The two buttons above bleed air individually to level side to side.
The Boss air bags I installed to level the JATAC (see HERE) have been working perfectly so far. We recently drove into Mexico’s Sierra Madre to retrieve some trail cameras we had set up to survey mammal populations…

A Hi-Lift jack mount for the JATAC

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The Hi-Lift jack is a useful tool, but it’s also a pain to carry securely on a vehicle, especially if you want to keep it reasonably accessible. I’ve seen many mounts that achieved one but not the other—and too often, safety loses out to convenience. Sadly I had neither a camera nor a cell phone with me a few years…

An update for the Safe Jack

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If you’ve read THIS entry, you know I was impressed by the Safe Jack stabilizer for the Hi-Lift Jack. In many scenarios it vastly increases the utility and safety of the Hi-Lift, and the base plate on its own makes a fine replacement for the old orange plastic ORB base in soft sand or mud.
I’ve been using the tool…

Kaufmann Mercantile

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My first encounter with Kaufmann Mercantile was nearly my last. 
A friend sent me a link to a page on their site that featured a slingshot. Cool—except this slingshot was made from the natural fork of a buckthorn tree branch, its air of Tom Sawyer Americana yours for $21.
What?
No one buys a treefork slingshot, I spluttered. A treefork…

The one-case tool kit, part 4

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(Please read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here)
I’ve finally wrapped up my project to assemble a comprehensive one-case field tool kit—and I’m really glad I restricted myself to a Pelican 1550.
It’s absolutely axiomatic when assembling a tool kit that it will expand to fit the available space, and it would have been effortless to…

Three days on El Camino del Diablo

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Few places on earth have experienced such a completely circular human history as the desert traversed by southern Arizona’s El Camino del Diablo. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries its harsh plains and jagged mountains comprised a gauntlet for missionaries, explorers, and seekers of gold traveling northwest from Caborca to the first sure water at the Colorado River. In…

Easy trip assistance app

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by Roseann Hanson
How many times have you been reading a magazine or book, and come across some place you want to jot down to remember to visit, such as a landmark, a restaurant, a museum, or a trail?
In the past I either scribbled these onto a nearby post-it note or in a file on my computer. Inevitably these…

BGAN review turns into a real-life test

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When we took the OCENS BGAN satellite communications kit to a remote beach in Mexico where we planned to celebrate the New Year with friends, we expected to have fun testing it by checking email and news, and maybe making a few phone calls to friends to evaluate the ease of use and reception.
As it turned out, the unit…

Transform your Hi-Lift jack

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It isn’t very often I test a product that defies criticism even when subjected to the harshest analysis. But I’ve just been using a brand new accessory for the Hi-Lift jack, and I find myself at a loss to write anything that would approach even the level of nitpicking.
Anyone who has used a Hi-Lift jack knows it will do…

The King of Luggage

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How many of us have gazed enviously at photos of Edwardian-era travelers as their steamer trunks and leather suitcases were hauled off the ship in Mombasa by befezzed stevedores groaning under the load? No excess baggage fees for them. Do you suppose Teddy Roosevelt was told sternly, “Sir, we’ll have to charge you extra for that second suitcase. And the…

THAT coffee . . .

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I can claim with unimpeachable documentation to have been a fan of good coffee since before Starbucks made it out of Seattle: On our first Christmas together in 1984, as penurious college students, Roseann’s gift to me was a tin of Langford Brothers Jamaica Blue Mountain beans. It was exquisite stuff, and the tin still serves as my pen holder.…