For those who’ve been into vehicles at any level within the final 5 to 10 years, it’s doubtless that you just’ve been uncovered to “overlanding.” That is the off-road phenomenon that prizes longevity, reliability and luxury for lengthy distance over the power to do loopy rock crawling, and so on. Seen a Nineties Land Cruiser with a fridge and a roof tent and desperately need each it and the life-style it guarantees? You’ve been overlanded-ed-ed-ed.
Like most of you, I think, I obtained sucked into this world of underpowered and overpriced SUVs with many tons of of kilos of drugs making them slower and dearer. How may I not? They’re rad, and as somebody who’s accomplished a bunch of the form of climbing obstacles and articulating suspensions off-roading, the overlanding factor appears extra nice. For this reason when the parents doing PR for gear manufacturers Decked, Roofnest and Leitner Designs reached out to see if I’d wish to spend per week with a kitted-out Ford Ranger, I basically misplaced my thoughts and mentioned sure earlier than I knew what I’d do with it.
The week I’d have it will span Labor Day weekend. For those who’ve by no means tried to camp someplace throughout that weekend, it’s mainly not possible. All over the place with devoted tenting spots is completely rammed and since I’m a potato, I didn’t e book stuff far sufficient upfront. The answer to this, I discovered, is one thing that a couple of parks in Southern California have referred to as dispersed tenting. Primarily, you pay to get into the park after which so long as you’re no more than 20-30 toes off the path, you’ll be able to camp wherever you need without cost.
My answer, then, was to go south of LA to Anza Borrego State Park, one of many largest parks in California. Fortunately, this place, which is often a furnace in late August, early September, was 80 levels, post-hurricane, and it was supposedly dry sufficient that this desert tenting journey wouldn’t flip right into a muddin’ extravaganza. I coerced my spouse into coming with me and waited for this Ford Ranger to get dropped off.
After all crucial a part of any overlanding dialog goes to be concerning the gear. Fortunately, this 2022 Ranger XLT FX4 has loads of gear that’s value speaking about. Whereas the parents who loaned me the truck symbolize Dekced, Leitner and Roofnest, all of which had merchandise affixed to the truck, I’m going to start out with the extra mechanical bits of the construct. First, now we have a giant, gnarly ARB bull bar with a winch and spotlights. Under that there’s a full complement of aluminum skid plates which have been fitted to assist “journalist-proof” the truck. This was clever.
The truck additionally had smaller metal wheels with chunky however slim Firestone off-road tires and an Outdated Man Emu suspension. If you realize overlanding, you would possibly suppose that is sounding like an particularly Australian-style construct, and also you’d be proper. Additional defending the physique was a set of rock-sliders. The mattress of the truck was occupied by a pair of Decked pull-out drawers, which rule, in addition to a significantly overbuilt and durable Leitner Designs roof rack and rack-mounted side-opening bins, in addition to a water jug that can be utilized for a bathe. On the highest of that rack is a Roofnest Condor Overland 2 roof tent and a 270-degree batwing-style Roofnest awning. There may be additionally a rack over the cab of the truck.
Inside, issues are principally Ranger except for the CB radio — essentially the most highly effective unit allowed with no license — and a lighting management panel. The management panel is rad as a result of the button for entrance spotlights seems just like the cartoon model of Milo from the Descendents, and Milo guidelines. He went to school.
As you would possibly suspect, having all this gear (as superior as it’s) modifications the driving dynamics of a truck, despite the fact that it is a comparatively delicate construct with out issues like a diesel engine, a number of alternators, fridges, and so on. Nonetheless, this mild-mannered EcoBoost ranger returned a borderline-shocking 12 mpg on the freeway and only for comparability, my 2003 Ford F-250 longbed, two-wheel drive pickup with a V10 fuel engine and handbook transmission did 17mpg unladen. Additionally, wind is terrifying when you will have a delicate suspension and that a lot weight up excessive.
Nonetheless, this truck wasn’t constructed for the freeway, it was constructed for open expanses and rugged trails. So, borderline terrifying freeway manners apart, my evaluation is concentrated on the off-road driving expertise, and, extra importantly, the tenting expertise. I’ll say that this isn’t a truck you’d need to day by day drive, nevertheless it’s not the worst factor I’ve tried to stay with for per week.
After a nearly-three-hour freeway slog from Pasadena to Anza Borrego, we turned off the paved highway on the Sin Nombre path. This path entrance is on the southern finish of the park and our plan was to drive in, camp after which drive out of a extra northerly entrance within the morning. As soon as we hit the dust, the sacrifices that the Ranger made on-road have been instantly made good. The noisy and squirmy tires grew to become comfortable and grippy. The delicate suspension stopped being too delicate and have become excellent to absorb rocks and ruts and even washboard. The Ranger totally got here into its personal.
For those who’ve by no means spent a lot time within the low deserts of Southern California, I like to recommend it. There’s a sort of alien magnificence on show that guarantees hazard and dehydrated demise must you not respect it. Sin Nombre canyon path confirmed us lovely eroded sandstone and streambeds, not too long ago smoothed by the hurricane that blasted Southern California’s deserts. Regardless of the vacation weekend, we have been the one individuals on the market that we may see.
At one level, throughout our gradual trek alongside a streambed, we got here throughout a Mazda CX-30 that was buried to the tops of its wheel wells within the sand. We stopped to verify for individuals and after we discovered no person, we stored going. This was a reasonably stark reminder of what may occur if you don’t respect the atmosphere. We trucked on by way of extra slot canyons and dry riverbeds till we reached an open space with an indication that learn “Satan’s Drop-Off.” Being a pure Slayer fanatic, I felt obligated to test it out.
After round 10 minutes of driving, post-turn-off, we got here to a bluff that ignored an enormous desert valley and determined that, since this was technically off the path, we’d camp. The sense of isolation and wonder on supply right here is one thing I take into consideration now, months later, regularly.
Now we got here to crucial a part of overlanding: the tenting. Discovering a comparatively flat piece of floor to park on was fairly simple and from there it was only a matter of establishing the tent and awning in addition to our kitchen stuff and our firepit which is identical enclosed metallic firepit that we use on our again porch. Floor fires aren’t allowed in Anza Borrego, however that’s a reasonably small ask, all issues thought of.
Organising the rooftop tent was each simpler and barely extra complicated than I anticipated. The oldsters who loaned me the truck naturally despatched over documentation and even tutorial movies on how one can set each the tent and awning up and I each learn and watched them, however I didn’t save them to my cellphone. This meant that I had some trial and error, although nothing that I wouldn’t have properly in hand on a second outing with this rig.
Unlatching the tent and folding it out proved tremendous simple, as did deploying the ladder, although I might have been extra snug with it being a scosche extra vertical, on condition that I’m a mega-human. Nonetheless, nothing collapsed or killed me and as soon as deployed with home windows open, the tent proved to be an totally attractive place to absorb the view. This was aided by a very nice reminiscence foam mattress pad that did a wonderful job of softening the plywood base of the tent.
As soon as deployed, I tossed some sleeping baggage, pillows and a flashlight within the tent. Storing every thing else within the truck proved tremendous simple because of the additional storage from the Leitner containers. These guys have been tightly sealed, so I didn’t fear about climate or mud getting in, and tremendous sturdy so I additionally wasn’t apprehensive about tweakers breaking in whereas I ended for Jack In The Field within the desert. The one bummer with these and the Decked drawers, was the veritable galaxy of bizarre, tiny keys that got here on the keychain with this truck. If I had my druthers, I’d see about keying all of them the identical, or at the least by group, so I wasn’t fiddling round on a regular basis. Small gripe, although.
Just like the tent, deploying the awning would have been a breeze had I managed to avoid wasting the directions like an affordable grownup. Nonetheless, after some cautious examination by my spouse (who’s significantly better at placing issues collectively than I’m) we figured it out and had every thing expanded and staked out. Our complete set-up time, together with screwing round with out directions, was round half-hour. Halving that might be simple with a bit of apply.
As soon as the tent and awning have been arrange, we put out our firepit and our locally-sourced (to maintain pests out) firewood, lit that child off after which arrange our newly-acquired camp range which we obtained from Huge 5 for like 30 bucks plus two cans of butane, and made some actually pleasant pita grilled cheese sandwiches. We additionally lit a bug candle, loved watching some bats wreak havoc on the native insect inhabitants, and drank totally an excessive amount of beer from our cooler.
Wanting some guys who appear to be they ran the 909 space code Submit Malone and 4Chan fan golf equipment exhibiting up in some underglow-clad desert-destroying full-sized pickups and lighting off fireworks, our night time tenting was wonderful. Till I went to mattress after which needed to expertise the truck swaying with the wind. If it was my rig, I’d discover some technique to help the truck when parked to forestall this. Or, fake it’s a ship.
Within the morning, minor hangover apart, taking every thing down was nearly as simple as establishing. The massive problem right here was getting all of the delicate components of the tent to suit into the exhausting shell with out protruding. We tried like 4 occasions to make it work and ultimately gave up and simply shoved every thing in. Was it safe? Yep. Was it the precise approach to do that? Nope.
Regardless of that, and a questionably low gasoline tank, the drive out of Anza Borrego was fairly uneventful. I solely needed to have interaction four-wheel drive on the Ranger as soon as after which it was simply four-wheel excessive. That’s extra a testomony to the Ranger’s setup and the simple path than to my driving capability, nevertheless it completely pegged my confidence meter, which is at all times good.
As soon as we obtained cell service we seemed up the closest fuel station, which was 17 miles within the fallacious path, proper subsequent to the Mexican border. We crammed up and set off again dwelling. The fuel mileage was as dangerous because it was on the best way down, however the truck seemed markedly cooler with desert mud throughout it.
So, having been mildly obessed with overlanding for years, did this journey whet my whistle or did it simply fan the flames? Properly, bear in mind in Terminator 2 when Sarah Connor has the dream of clinging to the fence as a skeleton throughout a nuclear blast? Yeah. I spend plenty of time taking a look at used SUVs like that on Market, a lot to my spouse’s (and my finances’s) chagrin.
It’s such an superior feeling to have the ability to be miles off the highway, in the course of nowhere, and simply have a couple of minutes between you and a fully-equipped campsite. I completely get the enchantment, and whereas I don’t know that I’d need to begin with one thing as new and good as this Ranger, one thing like a Land Rover LR3 with a couple of goodies sounds mighty good to me. Now, I simply should persuade my spouse…