Nuts & Bolts: Ultimate Adventure Prep

    Nuts & Bolts

    I’m in the process of building myself another 4x4 with the goal of maybe someday becoming one of the invited readers for Ultimate Adventure. I’ve read through the rules and regulations, which all seem pretty straightforward. I was wondering if there are any tips that make your rig more practical for an Ultimate Adventure. And how much does the UA cost?
    Simon F.

    We’re not able to tell you what it takes to get picked for an Ultimate Adventure—that’s a moving target year to year and completely depends on what the editors of the magazine are looking for each year. But your questions about prepping for the UA we can certainly answer.

    The actual requirements for Ultimate Adventure are pretty basic: 35-inch or larger tires, lockers, a winch, a rollcage, a parking brake, anchor points front and rear, registration, insurance, and a few other sundry items. That’s pretty much it. But in addition to the basics, there are several things that can help make your vehicle and your overall UA experience more enjoyable.

    First and foremost, know your vehicle. Drive it on the street and commute to work in it. Driving it is the only way you’re going to figure out that your seats suck when you’re in them for more than six hours, or that there’s a hole in the floor that blasts exhaust heat directly at the back of your calf at 65 mph. Things like cupholders, addressing that sharp corner of your ammo can center console that hits your funny bone, and charging ports are only going to reveal themselves if you spend plenty of time with your rig.

    You should avoid making any big changes to your rig right before the trip, if at all possible. There are countless examples of cronies and readers alike showing up with a brand new front suspension or an untested major drivetrain swap, only to be plagued with problems throughout the week. The days on the UA are long enough without having to perform major repairs or sort out the bugs of a new modification every night, too.

    Go four-wheeling a lot. The time spent on the street and on the trail will help ferret out problems that need to be addressed before the trip. This reveals weak points that could cause problems as well as enables you to hone your trail repair skills. This also gives you the opportunity to ensure that you are carrying all of the tools and spares you might need without going overboard. Avoid bringing your entire garage with you, as tools add weight and weight is hard on parts. Think hard about what you’ll potentially need and what you can live without. If there’s a special tool your rig needs, like an odd spindle nut socket, be sure you have it. For example, if you run an ignition module or a fuel pump that has been problematic in the past, make sure you have a spare. Focus on the spares you will need to get to the next town or the next parts store. Many guys carry a spare rear driveshaft because getting to the next town is a lot harder without one when you need it.

    Go camping, and try to get your camping gear as pared down and efficient as possible. You probably aren’t going to want to spend 30 minutes each night setting up a six-man tent when a tent cot takes less than a minute. Those little one-burner stoves that mount to the top of a propane bottle take up a lot less space than a multiburner camp stove, and take less time to set up, too. An LED headlamp is a good palm-sized substitute for that Coleman lantern. Twelve-volt fridges are expensive but life-changing on trips like the UA where you’re otherwise constantly having to worry about ice and soggy food. Dry bags are the hot ticket for keeping your extra clothes dry, and invest in a decent rain suit that breathes if the destination is likely to get rain.

    As for costs, there’s no charge to be a part of the UA, but you are responsible for all your own expenses. How much that ends up being really depends a lot on where you live in relation to the start and end of the trip. The UA takes place in a different region every year. If chosen, you will not know the location of the starting or ending points until about 60 days before you leave. Driving to a place a couple of hours from home obviously won’t cost much, but driving across the country is a different animal.

    If you want to start saving now, pick a spot about two-thirds of the way across the country from home and use that as your baseline. Figure out the average mileage of your vehicle, the average cost of fuel at the time, and the total miles to the start/end. Do the math. Aside from the cost, you’ll also be able to gauge the time it would take to get to the start and back from the finish. If you’re driving your rig to the starting point rather than trailering, be conservative and give yourself extra time. On the trip itself, it’s safe to budget 1,200 to 1,500 highway miles.

    There are traditionally four nights in a hotel during the week, but that’s not always the case, and you’re not required to stay in those hotels (you can camp somewhere nearby if you choose). Food, drink, and snacks can be as minimal or as elaborate as you wish, along with associated costs. There might also be entry fees to parks and other establishments to budget, but typically these fees will be spelled out well in advance. It’s also a really good idea to have at least a couple hundred dollars in cash for when the data lines are down at a gas stop or you end up needing to buy an engine off of Craigslist halfway through the trip—yes, both have happened more than once.

    Finally, without question the most beneficial thing you can bring on the Ultimate Adventure is a good attitude. In many ways the UA gives back what you help contribute. Only a couple of people know where the group is going. No one knows what’s around the next bend. Everyone is there because they love four-wheeling. Stay positive, help out when you can, do your part to keep the group moving, and have fun regardless of the circumstances. This more than anything else is the secret to the UA.