Preparing Your 4×4 Backpack
WHEN MAN FIRST SET FOOT ON TERRA FIRMA, he was a camper (not by choice), living in the great outdoors. Ancient civilizations also existed in harmony alongside nature, with very little in terms of luxuries. Only recently has technology given us heat, air-conditioning, electricity, and all the other amenities of the 20th century.
With the plushness of present-day living, still we lust to get back to the great outdoors. Something about camping in the wilds and hunting or fishing for one’s dinner satisfies an ancient desire that dwells deep within us.
Most of us also remember our early excursions into the backcountry. Helping Dad set up the 50-pound canvas tent usually took up the better part of the afternoon and involved lots of colorful language. Hoping that the lantern didn’t explode and burn the tent down made the night go by faster.
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Those days are all part of the past. The technology that we try to escape by running to the woods has finally filtered down to the world of camping, giving us gear that is easier than ever to use. The popularity of the four-wheel-drive truck and sport/utility vehicle has also encouraged the camping world to make products for these vehicles.
The first task when venturing out into the boonies is finding shelter. In the old days, you had two options: the cab of your pickup or the bed, neither of which provided much in terms of comfort. Today, pickups and SUVs are top sellers, and most are used for recreational purposes. It’s no wonder that there is now a host of options available for the truck-based camper.
When deciding what type of shelter to use, the most important factor is how much nature you want to experience. For some of us, roughing it involves little more than a sleeping bag and a tent, while other a require a 40-foot RV. Camping out of the beck of your truck or SUV will never provide all the comforts of an RV, but it will keep you out of the elements. Let’s look at the options.
What to Do Before You Go
OK, all the gear is packed and you have triple-checked to make sure that nothing was forgotten. So what else should you do before you go? Well, does someone know where you are going to be? Does your spare tire hold air, and is it the right size? While questions like these seem basic, they are often overlooked in the hurry to get outdoors. Knowing the answers to questions like these will help to make your journey into the bush a pleasant one.
Before leaving the driveway or getting too far from help, all fluid levels should be checked. Also, make sure to pack spare fluids. Look over your vehicle carefully for anything that might be mechanically suspect. If something looks questionable, do not go!
Always inform someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Draw a detailed map to your campsite. If you should have any problems, this makes search-and-rescue efforts much easier.
Make sure that the spare on your vehicle is in good shape. Many new trucks and SUVs also use a crank system to lower the spare from underneath the vehicle. These systems need to be inspected to make sure they still operate and are not clogged with mud or rusted shut. If you have a lock on your spare, make sure to take the key.
Whenever possible, travel with another vehicle. Using the buddy system will definitely help if one vehicle becomes stuck or encounters mechanical problems.
What to Bring?
It may sound like a simple question, but we have seen lots of people come ill-prepared for the wilderness. Some of us have lost our connection to our outdoor ancestors and have simply forgotten how to prepare for an excursion in the wild. Most of us can get the basics like food and shelter taken care of, but what else should be taken? Mother Nature is highly unpredictable, so one should always be prepared for the worst. Relying on a vehicle to get you to desolation and back also means extra equipment.
Don’t always trust the weatherman. Freak storms do happen, and can lead to an early grave for the unprepared. Always pack some warm clothing and extra blankets just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
A GPS unit, such as this in-vehicle system from Alpine, should be considered mandatory equipment. Getting lost and losing one’s bearings in the middle of nowhere can be deadly. If you plan to stray far from camp on foot, a handheld unit would be a good idea.
Spare parts are always a must when traveling Into the backcountry. At the very least you should have a spare tire, hoses, and belts for your vehicle. The more spare parts the better, but don’t waste space by packing useless items, such as a spare glovebox. Offroad racers pack pit boxes (basically storage containers) with every spare part available and then throw these in the back of their vehicles.
One often-overlooked item is a well-equipped first-aid kit. It can literally be a lifesaver when something goes wrong far from help. People with medical conditions-such as allergies or asthma-should always bring plenty of medicine.
Recovery equipment is also a must. A shovel, a jack, and a tow strap should be considered the bare minimum. If you are straying far from civilization by yourself, consider adding a winch to your vehicle.
The Sportz Truck Tent is cool because it is designed for the bed of your truck. It also sets up easily and keeps you out of reach of earthbound critters and snakes. In a compact shortbed, it is a little cozy for two inhabitants.
Bed shells have been around for a long time and make a decent shelter. The only downside is that all the gear stored in the bed must be moved and put somewhere else in order to sleep in the bed.
Pop-up tent trailers are a good choice for owners of smaller vehicles, such as Jeeps, with little room for tents and such. A trailer that is designed to go off-road, such as this Back Country U.S.A. model, is a plus.
Sport/utility owners can also enjoy the great outdoors. Two common styles of best camping tents for these vehicles are the roof tent (cabin tent) and the cargo-bay extender. The roof tent makes it possible to store all your gear inside the vehicle while sleeping on the roof. The cargo-bay extender allows you to sleep in the back of your SUV with the tailgate down without being exposed to the elements.
If you absolutely must bring some of the luxuries of home with you, a camper is the way to go. The drawback to a camper is the extra weight up high, which makes a vehicle top-heavy and limits exploration.