The more capable you make a vehicle for the trail, the fewer creature comforts it typically has. This is no secret. That is what makes our Ultimate Adventure so unique; you have to drive the same rig down the freeway that you stuff through some of the hardest trails in the country. We like to think that we are tough, but we aren’t sadists. Guys like Keith Bailey, Sam Gillis, and Trent McGee have been driving buggies on the Ultimate Adventure for years now, and they never seem to be caught unprepared for whatever situation we encounter. This year we took a look at all of the vehicles and asked the participants what items they used most on the trip. Here are tips and tricks that you can apply to your own rig, whether you join us on a future UA or just use your rig for wheeling and camping near home.
Fred Williams gives credit for these cupholders to the guys at Mopar Underground, who had tip cups bolted down in their FC concept at Moab. The cups are bolted to the tranny tunnel of the Jeep and provide convenient storage, but the locate does mean that they get hot on the trail.
Most participants this year were running electric fridge-freezers instead of traditional coolers that require ice. Stephen Watson took this a step further by putting reflective insulation on his fridge to help it run more efficiently, and replaced the standard cable for a 12-volt outlet with a Weatherpack connector that cannot rattle loose on the trail.
Since you don’t have to drain water from a fridge-freezer or add bags of ice, it can be mounted more solidly. Verne Simons uses turnbuckles from the hardware store to locate his fridge. He even flopped his Willys on its side to show just how robust the mounting system is. Thanks, Verne.
Wayne Lambert has a sliding rear window on his K10. He positioned his ice chest directly behind the window where he and his co-driver could easily access the contents without getting out of the vehicle.
Visibility isn’t always the best when you are driving a vehicle loaded to the roof with camping gear and supplies. Add to that the fact that side mirrors often get knocked off on the trail and you have the makings of some scary lane changes. Simons added these convex mirrors to the wing windows on his Willys, where they cannot get knocked off.
Flashlights and multitools are two of the items we use most often on the trail. Williams keeps them easily accessible by zip-tying the cases for these items to his rollcage. He also bungees the controller for his Warn winch in the same location, where it is easy to reach but out of the way.
There is nothing worse that rummaging through your rig looking for something in the middle of the night when you are dirty and tired and just want to set up camp and get to sleep. Baja Designs makes these cool little LED dome lights that spread a wide light pattern without blinding you.
Lonnie McCurry frenched these Rigid flood lights into the front bumper on the Skyjacker JK. They are protected from damage and do a great job of lighting up the front tires and the trails. Another set of LEDs is placed in each wheelwell for even more light.
Keith Bailey has a Hemi engine stuffed under the hood of his Bruiser buggy. To help keep the engine cool under any conditions (including 127-degree weather!), he rigged up an air scoop on his stinger to help route cool air into the engine.
These little Rotopax fuel cans hardly take up any space and hold a gallon of fuel each. Keith Bailey could run a bigger fuel cell, but most of the time he is giving the fuel to someone else, not using it for his own rig.
This was the first year on the Ultimate Adventure for the guys from Rugged Radios, but they handled the trip like pros. Mike Ruzicka said that adding this racy fuel filler to their TJ allowed them to get another 5 gallons of fuel in the cell before the pump clicked off. That is like carrying a jerrycan inside your fuel cell!
The Ultimate Adventure is also a great place to test new ideas and products. Lonnie McCurry was testing a new JK suspension system with Fox coilover shocks and a secondary remote-reservoir shock on his 7,000-pound JK. If they can take that sort of beating McCurry knows he doesn’t have to worry about warranty complaints.
We saw some extreme temperatures this year on the UA, but not all of them were hot. When the sun drops and you are in the mountains at 7,000-foot elevation with zero humidity, it gets cold. Particularly if you are driving at freeway speeds in an open buggy. Trent McGee kept warm with his Aqua-Hot heater.
Getting in and out of a tube buggy with door bars is never fun. Sam Gillis made entry and egress a little easier by adding grip tape to the lower rear links on his buggy. Even with wet or muddy boots he doesn’t have to worry about slipping now.
We love dry bags. They keep dust off our camping gear and are easy to lash down just about anywhere. When we get home we just take them to the car wash with our rig to clean them off, and they are ready for the next adventure.
PRP built these little bags to match the bucket seats in the UA Summer Camp Jeep. They make a great location to store sunscreen, wet wipes, headlamps, tire deflators, and all of the other little items you use regularly on the trail.
Wayne Lambert knows what’s up. He doesn’t want to have to dig through a bunch of identical bins when he gets to camp in order to find his special blanket. To save time he labels each tote with the contents and stacks them with the heaviest on the bottom and the lightest on top.
Not everyone on the UA had the luxury of Rugged Radios’ intercom system. Those with a traditional microphone found that it could be hard to hear the radio at speed in an open vehicle. A small speaker mounted on the windshield frame helped to hear what the group was talking about.
Bench seats are getting pretty rare, but if you have one you know that storage space is at a premium. Lambert bought this generic center console from the parts store and used it for his phone, water, sunglasses, and everything else that he wanted to keep close at hand.
Gillis doesn’t have a glovebox in his buggy, so he keeps items on the roof in this weblike bungee system. Sunscreen, gloves, and a radio are all out of the way but easy to access when necessary.
Spare drivelines are a wise idea on the Ultimate Adventure, particularly for longer-wheelbase vehicles. Lambert strapped down his spare driveshaft with a simple muffler clamp that is inexpensive, secure, and easy to remove.
Watson uses hose clamps around the caps on the U-joints in his spare driveline to keep them from falling off. You can also use electrical tape, but the hose clamps can come in handy for other purposes as well.
Clifton Slay has photos of his kids taped to his dash. He says that looking at the photos helps remind him to drive his Jeep sanely, which keeps the wrenching to a minimum for a week on the trail. Slay drove his LJ Wrangler all the way from Colorado to California and back for UA.
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