Archives for posts with tag: review

If you’re interested in learning more about off-road suspensions, check out Jonathan Hanson’s excellent, in-depth article on Overland Tech & Travel (link below), check out the video above, or read the quick tutorial in this post. I’ve also included Jonathan’s recommendation on a 12-way adjustable shock that sounds like a great value. Read the rest of this entry »

2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude

On Tuesday Jeep generated a lot of buzz by announcing the release of its first entry into the small SUV market, the 2015 Jeep Renegade. Why the buzz? With the Renegade, Jeep claims it’s designed a gas-pump-and-city-parking-friendly vehicle with “best-in-class” trail capability. Is that such an impressive claim when the class is filled with Honda CR-Vs and Kia Sportages? Read on and decide for yourself.

A couple notes to start: in this article I’ll be focusing on the Trail Rated edition, since that will be the one with the off-road chops. Also, Jeep can really slather on the marketing speak, so I’ll cut through that as much as possible and explain the Renegade in plain English.

OK, on to the drive train! The Trail Rated Renegade comes with a low-range gearbox (20:1 crawl ratio) and and an available 9-speed automatic transmission, neither of which I’ve ever seen on a small SUV. It also features a rear axle that disconnects to save fuel when it’s not needed. When the terrain warrants it, however, the axle engages instantly, and the Renegade becomes a 4×4. If the little truck needs even more traction, the 4-wheel-drive system can send up to 100% of the engine’s torque to any one or more wheels, most likely by applying the brakes to wheel which has lost traction.

2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude

The Trail Rated edition is powered by a 2.4-liter gasoline engine, good for a 2,000-lb towing capacity. In other markets, where the diesel engine will be available, towing capacity jumps to 3,300 lbs. Unfortunately that not in the U.S.—sorry American drivers.

And what does Trail Rated mean exactly? It’s Jeep’s way of saying that they’ve paid attention to five key areas that make a vehicle trail worthy: traction, water fording, articulation, ground clearance, and maneuverability.

How does that play out in detail? Well, the Trail Rated Renegade has enhanced approach, breakover, and depature angles over the stock model, 19″ water fording ability, and front and rear tow hooks. Jeep has also included its Selec-Terrain system, which sets up the car’s 4-wheel-drive system for different types of terrain (Sand, Snow, Mud, Rocks, and an Auto mode). Hill-descent control is also included.

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

Underneath, the fully independent suspension allows the wheels to articulate just over 8 inches, and makes use of Koni’s frequency selective damping (FSD) system. This basically means that the front and rear struts have valves in them that remain closed when the suspension is articulating at low frequencies, like during cornering and braking. This provides more damping and keeps the suspension firmer for those situations. During high frequency articulation, like driving over bumpy roads, the valves open, providing less damping and therefore a softer suspension, and more ride comfort. Ground clearance on the Trail Rated version is 8.7 inches, a 1″ improvement over the stock model.

As nod to its open-air past, Jeep is also offering two versions of a dual-panel, removable roof. One version is manually removable, the other includes a power sunroof and tilt option. When removed, the panels stow in the rear cargo area. It remains to be seen how practical that will be, if the truck is loaded up for a trip.

What else? A slew of electronic gadgets and quite a nice looking interior are on offer.

Will in be a hit? The realities of city parking and fuel costs certainly can’t be ignored. Jeep doesn’t say what the expected mileage of the gasoline version will be but expects to get a staggering 52 mpg from the 2.4-liter diesel.

If you can fit all of your gear in it, the Renegade might just hit the sweet spot.

More photos after the jump.

2015 Jeep Renegade on Expedition Portal

2015 Jeep Renegade, Official Site

Read the rest of this entry »

Atlas of Remote Islands • WCXC

Here’s a book you may be interested in: Judith Schalansky’s beautifully designed Atlas of Remote Islands. It introduces to the reader 50 of the world’s most remote islands, and offers a 1-page story about each. Schalansky’s writing style is cool and removed, not as remote as the islands she describes, but close.

Still the stories can be fascinating. There is Howland Island, Amelia Earhart’s last destination in the South Pacific. There is Pitcairn Island, home to the mutineers of the HMS Bounty. And Taongi Atoll, where motorboat was found that had left Hawaii nine and a half years earlier with five men aboard. A single grave was found nearby.

While this might not be the best book to read to your kids before bed, it does offer a light shined on the far corners of the earth, so different from our own.

See the cover after the jump.

Amazon: Atlas of Remote Islands

Read the rest of this entry »


In case you’re in the market for something other than a compact camera, here’s a round-up of reviews from Expedition Portal and DPReview. We also met avid photographer and fellow adventurer, David Fowers, at our recent WCXC Meet & Greet—(David blogs at Get Out Explore). His opinion was this: if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, get an inexpensive camera body and invest in quality lenses, as that’s where you’re going to see the difference in the image. An inexpensive body would be something like Canon EOS Rebel. If you’re going to be out in extreme dust or moisture, go for the expensive camera body, as they have better seals and are made of metal, not plastic.

The Canon 70D, above, falls into the higher-end camp. It’s a sturdy, high-feature, DSLR camera that seems to be everyone’s favorite. It has an auto-focus sensor specially tuned for shooting video. It retails for about $1200 (body only).

Expedition Portal: Canon 70D
DPReview: Canon 70D


The Nikon D7100 is a higher-end DSLR rivaling the Canon 70D. It offers excellent build and image quality but is said to suffer a bit in the video department, both in terms of auto-focus and in the quality of the video. It retails for about $1,150.

DPReview: Nikon D7100


This is the recently announced, entry-level, Canon EOS 1200D (Rebel T5). It accepts Canon’s full-sized lenses. This one retails for the easy-on-the-wallet price of $549, including a 18–55mm lens.

DPReview: Canon EOS 1200D (EOS Rebel T5)


The Olympus OM-D EM-1, above, is considered a high-end, Micro Four Thirds camera. Micro Four Thirds cameras are slightly smaller than DSLRs because they lack a mirror and have smaller image sensors. They have their own lens system, though lenses from older cameras can be used with an adapter (at a slight loss of image quality). This camera retails for about $1250 (body only).

Expedition Portal: Olympus OM-D EM-1
DPReview: Olympus OM-D EM-1


This is the Sony Alpha 7R. People are excited about it because it has a full-frame image sensor like a professional DSLR yet it’s the size of a Micro Four Thirds camera, meaning it’s the smallest full-frame camera you can buy. (Not even the Canon 70D or the Nikon D7100 have full frame sensors—full-frame meaning the image sensor is the size of a 35-mm frame.) Like a Micro Four Thirds it’s smaller because it lacks a mirror. It can also accept nearly any lens ever made when used with the appropriate adapter. It retails for about $2,300 (body only).

DPReview: Sony Alpha 7R


The Nikon AW1 is a mirrorless camera that’s waterproof down to 49 feet. It uses Nikon’s compact Nikkor 1 lenses and retails for about $800, including a 11–27.5mm lens. ExPo calls this a “DSLR” but technically it’s not since it doesn’t have a mirror.

Expedition Portal: Nikon AW1
DPReview: Nikon AW1

Still didn’t find what you’re looking for? Here are some more resources.

Additional Links:
DPReview 2013 round-up
DPReview SLR Buying Guide

Pocket-lint: Best DSLR Cameras 2014


ComeUp has announced it’s entry into the US winch market. According to their site, they’ve been manufacturing winches for over 37 years and have been the private label supplier to high-quality winch brands in the US. The Icelandic modification shop, Arctic Trucks, uses them. They also got the thumbs up on Expedition Portal the other day. On a technical note, they feature a cone braking system, which locates the brake outside of the drum for more rapid heat dispersion.

The download is: quality winch without the brand name price. For example, a 9,000 lb., 4.6 hp Warn winch costs just over $1000. A 9,000 lb., 4.6 hp ComeUp winch will only set you back $675.95.

ComeUp’s Dv series (pictured) focuses on compact design and light weight. Their Seal series offers waterproof winches. Check out the links below to learn more.

ComeUp USA site

ComeUp DV Series

ComeUp Seal Series

ComeUp article on Expedition Portal



I’m in the market for new tires so Christophe Noel’s recent Expedition Portal review in praise of the Cooper Discoverer A/T3 caught my eye. After testing a set for over a year on their 70-series Land Cruiser, he pronounces it well-suited for both the road, trail, and snow. Just what I’m looking for in a capable, all-round overlanding tire.

I currently run the Yokohama Geolander A/T-S. My second set has lasted about 40,000 miles, same as the first set. I’ve been happy with them but I wonder if the Discoverer would be an improvement. This tire might also give the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO a run for its money.

Expo: Cooper Discoverer A/T3 article

Cooper Discoverer A/T3


Our friend Greg, at gadmachine, turned us on to the Front Runner Expander Chair. After a set of $10, discount store camp chairs, these came as a welcome replacement. These comfortable chairs sport side pockets, a drink holder, and fold down to about the size of a laptop. It’s a great value, I think, at $50.

See the first link for Greg’s full review.

Equipped: Front Runner Expander Chair | g a d m a c h i n e
Front Runner Expander Chair, Front Runner site

I really like this German review of the second generation Montero/Pajero. The Gen2 Montero (1991–1999) represents, for me, the sweet spot in the line-up: modern creature comforts, off-road capability, and relative simplicity. I drive one and really enjoy it.

The video does a great job showing all of truck’s features. The only downside is that it’s in German. Since I speak German though, I did learn a couple of things. For example, the Gen 2 Montero has a viscous coupling between in the axles in 4H (all-wheel drive) mode. That means that even though the center diff. isn’t engaged, power will still be transmitted to both axles should a wheel on one axle lose traction. Of course, the center diff. can be locked in 4HLc (4×4 mode). Another thing, the rear seat armrests are height adjustable. Who knew?

Also featured is footage of the short wheelbase Montero, which I don’t think was available in the U.S.

Wikipedia Montero/Pajero article


I recently added Four-by-four driving to my book collection. If you’re not already familiar with previous editions, they’re classics in 4×4 circles. The newly revised 3rd. edition was released this year.

The book starts by defining the basics 4×4 systems in plain, conversational language: differentials, the basic types of 4-wheel-drive systems, and then goes into detail describing the different systems used by 12 different manufacturers—including (in this edition) makers of “soft roaders,” i.e., Freelanders, Rav4s and the like. This is extremely handy for slicing through marketing jargon. What does Quadra Track or 4-matic really mean? This book tells you.

The book then goes into off-road driving techniques for various types of terrain, addresses recovery, advanced techniques, expedition basics, and finishes with how to load a truck.

It’s informative, well-photographed and well-illustrated. My only criticism is that sections of the book, and page numbers, are both numbered in a decimal format (i.e., 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 for chapter 1; 2.1, 2.2 for chapter 2 and so on) and Section 7.2 isn’t on page 7.2, for example, which can get confusing because the book frequently references other parts of the text. Was that Section 7.2 or page 7.2?

That said, it looks like quite a good “do it all” book, explaining both how our rigs work and how to use them. New copies are available solely through Desert Winds Publishing.

4×4 Driving from Desert Winds Publishing
Jonathan Hanson’s full review of the 2nd. edition, on Overland Tech & Travel


There’s a relatively inexpensive Unimog for sale in Flagstaff. It’s a 1972 U404.0. According to my research, the U404.0 was a gas-engined, civilian market model which benefited from a more modern cab, power steering and a larger M130 2.8-liter motor, compared to the M180 2.2-liter fitted in the 404.1 military versions.

The civilian 2.8-liter motor is actually a benefit as it has higher compression and can achieve decent roads speeds, but it’s still slow by modern standards. (Plan for a 50mph cruising speed.) The M180, military motor was set-up for low compression to run on poor quality fuel (60–70 octane) and is much less powerful.

The 404s have six forward speeds, two reverse, and shift-on-fly 4-wheel-drive. And, of course, they have the Unimog’s famous portal axles, locking differentials, and bullet-proof drive train.

This one is reported to have like new Continental tires, a fresh clutch and recent tune-up. I like the olive drab paint and red wheels. Loud and slow, perhaps—but amazing off-road.

It’s available for $10,000 o.b.o. Thanks for the tip, Richard!

Craigslist ad
A great overview of the Unimog 404 from Unimog Centre
Unimog 404 specs