(Editor's Note: This is part one of a three-part series documenting the travels and adventures of Four Wheeler Technical Editor Sean P. Holman and Senior Editor Ken Brubaker as they 'wheeled a bone-stock '06 Hummer H3 on a five-day adventure on obscure trails in Arizona.)
We received scores of letters and e-mails after last year's California-to-Illinois H2our De Force, and they were unanimous. Despite this, management agreed to let us hit the trail again on another Holman/Brubaker adventure.
The first thing we did was devise a new strategy and set new goals. First and foremost, we wanted lots more trail time and far less highway driving (H2our's 3,698 miles was ridiculous). We also wanted a more relaxed itinerary so we could be more impulsive in our explorations. With these criteria in mind, we chose to explore one state, Arizona, instead of nine. We also renamed our adventure to reflect its core ingredients. Well most of them anyway-Trails,Tents, Slacking, & Sleeping Late would've sounded a bit weird.
Our method of conveyance for the Inaugural Trails & Tents Tour was our bone-stock long-term '06 Hummer H3. With its outstanding approach, departure, and ramp-over angles as well as its electric rear locker, we knew the H3 would be more than capable of meeting our needs. And it looks cool.
We learned a lot on H2our De Force, and one of the lessons revolved around packing light. We thought we had it figured out last time around, but we just brought too much stuff. This time, a smaller vehicle meant that we had to be more selective when it came to gear, so we analyzed each item for usefulness and size before it got the green light to be loaded into the H3's cargo area. We had an outstanding experience with every Coleman component we brought along last year, so naturally we contacted them again, and they recommended a killer collection of functional gear for this year's trip. After seeing some interesting Black & Decker press releases cross our desk, we gave those folks a shout too, and they provided some cool items. Following is a tally of gear we brought along on the 1st Annual Trails & Tents Tour.
This thing is just too cool. It's the Black & Decker Electromate 400, and it combines an air compressor, AC/DC portable power supply, 450-amp jump starter, and ultra-bright LED work light into one cordless package. It includes a pair of heavy-duty 12-volt jumper cables and an inflator hose with nozzle set for the air compressor. On the front panel it offers a pair of 120-volt outlets connected to a fan-cooled inverter, and a pair of 12-volt DC power plugs so you can either power or charge 12-volt items. The unit has an exclusive built-in 120-volt charger so you can charge it simply by connecting a common extension cord, and it has an LED status light so you can get instant information regarding the unit's battery condition. Further, the Electromate 400 also has vehicle alternator voltage check capability as well as a keyless on/off power safety switch and reverse hook-up warning alarm. We dig the way so many useful items are integrated into a handy, easy-to-transport package.
Similar, yet vastly different, these two rechargeable lights from Black & Decker allowed us to place light wherever we needed it. On the left is the Bright Bar, and the name is truth in advertising. This powerful 26 LED light is modeled after an old-fashioned trouble light, but with a high-tech twist. It can be used either plugged in or via its NI-MH rechargeable battery. High and low settings allow you to select output, and on the low setting, the running time is up to 7 hours. The Bright Bar has a handy 360-degree swivel hook on top so you can hang it from stuff, and it has a flat base so it can stand on its own. Not only does it light up a work area quite well, we found that this thing is so powerful, and the beam so wide, it also works great as an area light when walking at night. On the right is the utterly insane 3-million-candlepower quartz halogen-beam Rechargeable Spotlight. This unit is like the sun with a handle. This rugged light has twin-focused quartz halogen lights, high and low settings, and two bright, low-power LED work lights for use in close quarters. It has a built-in 120-volt AC charger, so it can be charged with a standard extension cord, and it offers a 12-volt outlet that powers and recharges electronics. Like the Bright Bar, it too can be used either corded or cordless. We found this powerful light to be indispensable when strong, aim-able light is needed. It includes a 12-volt DC power charging/adapter.
We're Cookin' Now
We'll eat potted meat, but we'd rather not. With that said, we needed a reliable cook stove that would let us show off our culinary talents around camp. Unfortunately, we knew that space was at a premium in the back of our H3. Fortunately, Coleman offers this new Fold 'n Go Propane InstaStart Stove. This trick stove has pushbutton ignition for easy matchless lighting, twin 10,000Btu burners, and it operates on one small 16.4-ounce propane cylinder. When unfolded we found that it will accept two large pans. When folded, it takes up a miniscule amount of space.
If our electronics were powered by little nuclear reactors that only needed a new fuel rod every 10 years, we'd have it made. Unfortunately, our electronics require a fair amount of attention. For this reason we toted along Black & Decker's Maxx SST 200-watt power inverter. This neat little inverter converts 12-volt DC power to 115-volt AC power up to 1.74 amps. It can be connected to either a vehicle's 12-volt power port or directly to the battery. There are two 115-volt AC receptacles and one 12-volt DC plug. We connected ours to the H3's power port and used it to charge and power our laptop computers as well as to recharge camera batteries.
Our Tour took place in early December, and even in Arizona, the nights were a tad chilly. To keep the inside of our tents toasty we utilized Coleman's outstanding ProCat PerfecTemp catalytic heaters. These compact, flameless 3,000Btu heaters are powered by a common 16.4-ounce propane cylinder that can last up to seven hours. The ProCat features a strong battery-powered fan to circulate the heat. The batteries can power the fan up to 20 hours, or the unit can be operated without batteries and the fan. We loved so many things about these heaters including their ease of use and wide, stable base.
It gets dark early in December, but we didn't have a dark camp thanks to a pair of very cool Coleman lanterns. On the left is the Pinnacle Perfectflow Instastart Lantern. This powerful lantern is powered by a common 16.4-ounce propane cylinder that provides up to 5 hours of light. The Pinnacle's features include adjustable brightness, framerails and built-in stabilizers that help reduce globe rattle and breakage; a metal bail handle for hanging and carrying; and an Insta-Clip mantle for easy mantle installation. One of the neatest things about the Pinnacle is that it features a Pack-Away Storage design that allows the lantern to be stored inside itself. You gotta love that. On the right is the Retro Personal-Size Lantern. This little unit is Coleman's brightest personal-sized lantern. It has a 7-watt spiral-tube fluorescent lamp and a three-position switch. Four D-cell alkaline batteries power the lantern for up to 15 hours on high and 30 hours on low. We used both of these lanterns quite a bit around camp and found them indispensable.
Brubaker's Mega Tent
Coleman's new 14x12 Evanston tent with patent-pending Hinge Door technology could be the coolest tent ever. Yes, you read that right. It features an honest-to-goodness framed swing-open door that eliminates the all-too-familiar zipping associated with tents. Quite simply, a set of poles similar to shock-corded tent poles slip into the perimeter of the door creating a frame. The result is a door that can be opened or closed with a simple push or pull. Velcro holds the door closed when it's not zipped, or the door can be zipped like a standard tent door. If you prefer, the door can also be used like a standard tent door without the frame. The Evanston also offers a variety of other features including an 80-inch center height, adjustable ventilation, WeatherTec System (guaranteed to keep you dry), a privacy vent window, interior gear pocket, and rainfly.
When Holman decided to crash, he did so in this Coleman Sundome 9x7 tent. We're big Sundome fans because they're super easy to set up and they're very durable. Coleman offers them in a variety of sizes. This tent features a 59-inch center height, mesh vent for increased ventilation, and shock-corded poles for easy and quick setup. It also includes a heavy-duty welcome mat, privacy windows, rainfly, and Cool-Air port. Oh, and the Sundome is guaranteed by Coleman to keep you dry. The Sundome is truly one of the legendary tents on the market today.
Beds, Bags, And Beyond
We didn't think Coleman could improve on its outstanding air mattresses-that is, until we stretched out on the Raised Quickbed twin airbeds (on left). These airbeds offer the same killer comfort as a standard Quickbed, only they're much taller. Like a standard Quickbed they feature the Comfortsmart coil system that contours to your body. They also feature a Wrap 'n Roll integrated storage system for ease of storage. With cold weather on the agenda we also procured a pair of Coleman Big Game -5 F. sleeping bags (center). These super-king-size bags (40x84) are designed to keep the user warm and cozy way past "we should've got a motel room." The features include cover material made from 10-ounce cotton canvas, 6 pounds of Hollofil808 insulation, a cotton flannel liner, ThermoLock (reduces heat loss through zipper), ZipPlow (plows fabric away from zipper to prevent snags), Roll Control (locks bag in place for easier rolling), and Fiberlock (prevents insulation from shifting, increasing durability). Knowing that Brubaker's body temperature is about 20 degrees higher than Holman's, Coleman also sent a Diamondback 40-degree bag (lower right). This bag has 3 pounds of Hollofil808 insulation, a Diamond ripstop polyester cover, Dri-Weave fabric liner as well as many of the Comfortsmart features of most Coleman sleeping bags. Finally, they also included a Quickpump 4D battery inflator (upper right) so we could easily and quickly inflate our Raised Quickbed twin airbeds.
Oops, they did it again. Log on to blogs.fourwheeler.com and read the daily blogs from Holman and Brubaker. You can read the gory details about the trip as it happened, and there are even more photos from the trip.
As the boys head into Arizona Nothingness, will wild javelinas pillage their humble camp? Will they get shadowed on a desolate trail by a mysterious rancher in a Super Duty? Will they run the H3 out of fuel because of a surprise Wilderness Area that wasn't on the map? Will they blow a tire on a trail, in the cold, as it's getting dark? We answer these questions (and probably create more) in Part 2 of the Trails & Tents Tour in next month's issue.