Between all the world’s unsettling news, don’t you sometimes just want to hop in your vehicle and go to a deserted coast or venture deep into the mountains to get away from society? Frankly, here in the US, with hurricanes in the east and recent wildfires in the west, having a fully stocked escape vehicle seems a pretty good idea.
You could drop $1.7 million for an EarthRoamer HD, but best of luck fitting that behemoth in your garage. We’ve devised something a bit more practical in the form of an overland-style Jeep truck that can be easily loaded with gear, allowing for weeks of self-sufficient exploration.
And our curated list of equipment ensures that you’ll get everything from a good night’s sleep with a rooftop tent, to the ability to keep food cold and perfectly cooked, and, of course, suggestions for plenty of safety equipment. We even included a few creature comforts to make it all more civilized.
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon ($57,000, as tested). Jeep’s new pickup truck is massively tough, and it really can go everywhere. Our model received a $14,000 overhaul from the Mopar division, outfitting the tough truck with the kind of extra parts that made it even more practical and durable, on road and off. Those upgrades include a two-inch suspension lift with Fox shocks (the better to drive over boulders or small walls); an extra storage compartment; and larger, more wear-resistant wheels and tires. One of our favorite additions were the off-road LED lights mounted on the grille and sides, which turned dirt roads bright as day even during the darkest nights.
Give Me Shelter
The Rubicon becomes its own boutique hotel when employed with Thule’s Teupi Ruggedized Autana 3 rooftop tent ($2,750). This is one of the toughest and best insulated rooftop tents on the market, and it works brilliantly on the Rubicon. Install Thule’s Xsportster Pro elevated rack ($800) into the truck bed, and it serves as the platform upon which the floor of the tent sits. The tent is suspended over the back of the truck like a treehouse. (This means you can also continue to use the bed to store the rest of your gear.) The structure is super sturdy and keeps you off the ground. We slept comfortably, even in chilly weather.
Keeping It Cool
There’s nothing like steak in the outdoors (or well-prepared tofu for vegetarian adventurers). But you need a system for keeping food reliably chilled. We even recommend doubling up methods. Start with a cooler from Yeti, specifically the V Series Hard Cooler ($800) with kitchen-grade stainless steel, cast aluminum hinges and vacuum seals for long-lasting cold. Ice lasts for up to a week. If you’re looking for an alternative-energy option, also consider Dometic’s CFX 35W electric cooler ($900) which you can plug into the vehicle’s 9-volt unit, or pair to the brand’s PLB40 battery cell ($850) for ultimate portability. The electric cooler uses surprisingly little power; and you can even keep ice cream in there. The dual methods mean you can have fresh food for weeks.
There’s nothing like an open flame for those steaks. Carry a firepit with you in the form of Snow Peak’s Takibi Fire and Grill ($319). Takibi means “bonfire” in Japanese, and this genius device is stainless steel, folds flat into a canvas carrying case and allows you to make a portable fire for grilling, cooking or heat. For those times when you’re not keen to burn wood or charcoal, the Japanese company’s Baja Burner is an isobutane stove ideal for all types of pots and cooking styles, including the Campfire Cookset ($119) by Primus, which nestle into one another like Russian dolls for slim storage.
Meanwhile, water will always be a major concern, and you won’t be able to carry enough with you to last for weeks. Instead, purify river and stream water with the Rapid Pure Trail Blazer Gravity Purifier ($99), which eliminates almost all viruses, sediment and parasites, and will clean more than a gallon of water per minute.
The thing with being self-sufficient is that you need to store all that gear. The South African company Front Runner specializes in overlanding storage options, and offers the Extreme Roof Rack ($1,695), a Gladiator-specific rack that still allows you to take off the convertible top panels. That means you can put the brand’s tough Wolf Pack crates ($40) up there, or Yeti’s LoadOut GoBox ($249), which is essentially indestructible. For your clothes and items you’ll want to take in and out of the truck, we really like the Simms Dry Creek Waterproof Duffel ($250). We tested it out on a canoe trip, and it kept all our gear totally dry.
To the Rescue
When you’re out on your own, things can go wrong, from getting hurt to getting stuck. The Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman 400 ($125) has literally everything a layperson could need to fix superficial wounds, and it is cleverly organized so you easily find what’s needed in a jiffy. And even the Rubicon is capable of getting stuck or flatting a tire. In that case, Hi-Lift’s X-TREME Jack ($110) is the hardcore off-roader’s go-to jack, and is available with a bracket that attaches to the side of the truck bed. The company also offers the Handle-All ($140), a clever tool that uses a telescoping handle that attaches to a full-size axe, shovel and sledge hammer. You can use it to clear obstacles on the road or trail. Lastly, if you encounter a small fire, the Element E50 ($80) is an ultra-compact fire extinguisher that gives a 50-second shot of fire retardant, more than four times longer than a regular five-pound bottle.
Tools for the Job
If things fall apart (and don’t they always?), having the 216-piece Craftsman Versastack Mechanics Tool Kit ($210) is your best bet for putting things right. The kit is full of sockets and wrenches geared for automotive fixes. And you should always have a knife on you. SOG’s Aegis AT ($85) is a perfect carry-all for everything from cutting rope to slicing artisanal cheese.
Sometimes you may want to run down to the river or to town without taking the truck. For that, go to this lightweight mountain e-bike from Specialized. The new Levo SL ($7,500) has a carbon frame, go-anywhere tires and an internal 240-watt electrical motor that doubles your power to the pedals and lasts for multiple hours. Easily attach it to the bed of the truck with the quick and removable Thule Insta-Gater Pro system ($249).
You’ll need to recharge your cell phones and laptops for extended periods. For that, turn to both solar power and a very serious lithium-ion battery pack. In this case, you can’t beat Goal Zero. The company’s Yeti 1500X ($1,999) is a brand-new battery pack with a 2000-watt AC inverter that’s capable of running a full-size fridge for up to 25 hours. It can be ideally mated to the Nomad 100 Solar Panel ($399), a foldable, weatherproof panel expressly designed for base camps.
On the Radio
Your cell phone often won’t work in the backwoods or during an emergency. To keep in contact with your crew, consider going with an old-school, two-way radio system. Midland Radio’s base unit, the MXT275 ($150), stays in the truck, and is available with an extended range antenna, allowing for up to a ten-mile range even in areas with obstructions like buildings or trees. It works with the hand-held T290 units ($90) for people away from the vehicle.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to sit in front of that fire comfortably. The Helinox Sunset chair ($195) is a stylish camp chair that folds up to next to nothing. Even better, throw the Featherlight Down Blanket from Rumpl ($399) over your legs, which weighs only a pound and packs down into a tiny bag. And, frankly, one of our favorite things in this entire collection of necessities is the waterproof JBL Boombox 2 ($500), a call-back to the 1980s-style boombox. This one, however, works via Bluetooth, has a 24-hour playtime and produces quality sound that can shake the woods. Sometimes, when you’re far away from society, you’ll feel the need for an outdoor dance party.