Exploring off-road is popular. Outback explorers travel the globe in search of adventure. Vehicles are modified to make them better long-range tourers, more comfortable campers, and more competent 4x4s. Land Rovers and Toyotas have always been popular. Jeeps, especially JK Wrangler Unlimiteds, are joining the fray. Many other vehicles are built into successful outback tourers internationally.
These outback vehicles are built for exploring and long-range travel, not for boulder bashing and rock crawling. Because of this, and their owners’ propensity to carry everything, including the kitchen sink, smaller vehicles’ load-carrying capabilities are taxed. Land Rovers, Toyotas, and JK Unlimiteds (and, Nissan Patrols, etc., etc.) are sometimes overloaded to dangerous levels, making the vehicles no fun to drive, and ultimately, unsafe.
As backcountry explorers don’t need to rock crawl, why aren’t full-size pickups used more often? Pickups can carry lots of equipment, in most cases more than the average explorer has ever dreamed of packing (okay, maybe they’ve dreamed of packing that much equipment…). The running gear is built for heavy-duty use, and really, full-size pickups aren’t that much larger than most other vehicles used for overlanding today.
Our Ford Raptor was capable of fast off-road exploring. It was comfortable and had plenty of room to carry equipment. The SuperCab Raptor didn’t have much load capacity, though, as it was a ½-ton pickup built for speed, not utility. The Raptor was w-i-d-e, too–almost as wide as a dually, front and rear. This made exploring two-track trails difficult. The Raptor worked well doing what it was designed to do. We liked it and would like to get another someday.
So, what’s the best pickup for those who want to use their truck as a truck, with good load capacity, the ability to tow heavy trailers, and work well off-road? Does a full-size pickup exist that meets these criteria?
It does and it’s called the Ram Power Wagon, the unsung hero of backcountry trucks.
The Power Wagon is based on the tough Ram 2500 ¾-ton platform with beefy ¾-ton axles, running gear, and a VVT Hemi V-8 with 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. For the backcountry explorer, the Power Wagon comes equipped better than any other vehicle on the market today—even better than the Wrangler Rubicon. In addition to its ¾-ton toughness, the Power Wagon comes with a 31-gallon fuel tank, Warn 12,000-pound winch, Tru-Lok electronic front and rear locking differentials (the rear Tru-Lok is a limited slip when unlocked), 4.56 gears (2014 models come with 4.10 gears), forged aluminum wheels, 285/70R17LT BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, Bilstein gas monotube shock absorbers, a 1.5-inch higher ride height than other 2500 Ram 4x4s, and fender flares. All of this equipment is included in the factory bumper-to-bumper warranty.
In the upper trim levels, the Power Wagon comes with a complete sticker package and black rocker panels. We like the Tradesman or ST trim level as it’s basic, but is equipped with everything any backcountry explorer would need or want. On the Tradesman, the Power Wagon sticker is limited to the tailgate.
Ram doesn’t promote the Power Wagon, so it continues to play second fiddle to the Ford Raptor in the marketplace. They’re two different trucks, designed for different purposes and probably shouldn’t be compared to each other. The Power Wagon can’t move as fast as the Raptor off-road, and the Raptor can’t four-wheel with, nor does it have the load capabilities, of the Power Wagon.
The 2013 Ram 2500 Tradesman Power Wagon is the choice for those who plan to purchase, then immediately use their trucks in the backcountry with no preparation time needed. As already mentioned, no other vehicle comes equipped as well from the factory. Weeks of build time and lots of money will be saved by purchasing an already-built truck. While we have one, we’ll report on how the Power Wagon works on the roads, trails, and as a backcountry explorer.
Power Wagon: Hail the unsung off-road explorer!