Apr 07 – Moab, UT (solo dry run Hell’s Revenge)

I woke up when the sun came up, loving the moonroof on this roof top tent. 35 degrees, but no wind so wasn’t bat. It’s going up to 65 today. After five days of driving, and two days to goof around, I had a well earned breakfast at the Moab Diner.

Stopped at GearHead Outdoors Store to get a 10L Specter water container (left the 20L behind since I’ll be with a group every day and camping at KOA nightly), a blanket (since my sleeping bag is way too warm) , and a laundry bag (because I forgot). My new favorite Moab store, they have free unlimited filtered water.

I decided to give Hell’s Revenge a go, wince I was getting bored. I love how Relive now offers 3D videos! The last mile or so is more eroded than last year, so I had to get out a bunch of times to minimize scraping.

Airing down from 35 to 15.
That’s a damned cliff!
That is a wall. no bypasses, wasn’t as hard as it looked.
The real Mickeys Bath Tub.

Apr 06 – CO…err…KS to UT

Today was supposed to be the final leg of the trip from PA to UT. #shakesfistatmothernature

Made up for lost time. 610 miles, 14.8 mpg. Got to camp just before 1900. It took 1 min to set up the roof top tent. #pffffff Yeah right. Stole that from every iKamper video on YouTube. More like 5 min when you consider the wiring I need to set up.

  • The Dometic hard wire kit that I was afraid to have permanently mounted in the tent, well, I wish it was permanently mounted in the tent.
  • The strip light plugs into an accessory port, and mister genius is regretting swapping out both accessory ports for PD/QC (USBC/USBA) ports on the hard wire kit.
  • Who would have thought I’d need an extension cord. Yea, to power my laptop, from the inverter to the laptop. A 15’ is perfect.

All three cables need to run into the roof top tent through a 1/2” opening in the rear passenger window, making sure the wires droop to prevent water from going into the Jeep if it rains. The roof top tent extends out over the rear passenger door, but ya never know. Torrential storms and all. #tongueincheek

Next mod is Main Line Overland hard wiring things into the tent. iKamper warranty be damned. I mean the iKamper base is rated to hold 900 pounds. So how would a little 2” hole hurt? These guys build, modify, and support the most incredible overland vehicles. Can’t wait to have that done, so I’ll be ready for my August vacation.

Apr 05 – KS to CO

Well today was a wash. Got a little over 200 miles in before Kansas’ infamous high winds derailed the rest of today’s trip. After seeing a truck nearly overturn, I decided to pull into the local Pilot and wait for the winds to die down.

I remember a few trucks got rag-dolled last year. Not interested in seeing that again. The roof top tent increases risk in this kind of weather. Not taking chances. Tomorrow I’ll need to make up for lost time.

Apr 04 – MO to KS

I plan my long trips with the longest days at the beginning, and the shortest days at the end. The first and second days were 500 miles each. Then I crossed a time zone.

Today is the third day on the road. I drove 419 miles at an average of 16.8mpg. Mostly flat roads once I got to Kansas. There was a stretch of 10 miles of controlled burns. Happy to confirm my Jeep’s closed vents worked perfectly.

Lots of trickers along I-70, and they were all on their CBs. The reception was good but it was hard to tell what the heck they were talking about. A lot of chatter about bears and pigs. Whatever.

Apr 02 – PA to WV

500 miles in 10 hours. Lots of breaks. I stuck to the speed limit. 15.8 MPG, not bad with the roof top tent.

This KOA is right by the highway. I sleep like a rock, but those dummies racing their obnoxiously loud jalopies are annoying.

I finally installed the outdoor carpet in the RTT. The 3.5” self inflating mattress pad beats the heck out of the 2” stock foam mattress.

Apr 01 – Packing the Jeep

This year’s trip will be roughly 2,200 miles from PA to UT. I’ll be staying at KOA every night, to help compensate for the ridiculous price of gas. 🙂

Packing is a huge PITA, but I’m getting better at it every year. I made sure I had real overlanding boxes so I could secure, seal, and label my stuff. Two Front Runner Wolf Pack containers, two Front Runner Cub Pack containers, and two Expedition 134 containers for the bigger stuff.

I forgot to order Front Runner Stratchits, so I had to run to Home Depot to get a few cheap rachet straps to hold things until I find a store that has them in stock. Stratchits are so much better, since they’re slightly elastic, they don’t come loose when you’re offroad. I’m passing several overlanding shops that sell them, so I should have them by the time I get to Moab.

Both RotopaX 2 Gallon fuel containers and my 5LB propane tank are full and secured to the back wheel. Secured by a bicycle lock. The fridge is packed with sanwiches, drinks, and fruit. The 5 gallon water container is full of clean water.

I took a few minutes to install the Mopar Xtreme Fender Flare Extensions, so I don’t get pulled over for my tires sticking too far out. I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to install the 24″ adhesive outdoor carpet tiles inside the tent. I really want to leave the 2″ foam mats behind, this way I can store my Mountain Summit Gear 3.5″ R6 rated self inflating mattress pad, and my Big Agnes expanding sleeping bag, inside the iKamper when I’m moving.

Tires are inflated to the recommended 36psi, thanks to my ARB CKMTA12 dual compressor (mounted under the passenger seat), and my MOREFlate quad hose kit. I think I’m all set. I’m ready to sleep, gotta get up at 0600 and be on the road by 0700.

Main Line Overland LiFePO4 FTW

With roughly three weeks left before I head out to Easter Jeep Safari 2022, I was able to decide on the off-grid power kit. Starting with the battery, I decided on a 100ah LiFePO4 (Lithium-Iron Phosphate). After researching battery companies, it came down to Battle Born, Dakota, or Renogy.

I want this to last as many years as possible, and I want the best support. I decided on Renogy. Their 100ah battery is rated at 4,000 cycles, so the battery can be discharged that many times and still hold an 80% charge. The built in battery management system cuts off charging at 0C, and cuts off power output at -20C. Even if I don’t go out when its that cold, its good to know the battery is protected.

Renogy’s 100ah LiFePO4 smart battery isn’t cheap, even at Renogy’s Amazon store. I had to remind myself that its the heart of the off-grid kit, so I put it in my Amazon cart. An hour later someone sent me a message that the exact battery just got listed on Facebook Marketplace at half the retail price. I showed up with a battery load tester, tried to keep my composure when it measured exactly 14.6V. Half price for a battery that has 100% of it’s life left. 🙂

When I got home I looked for two major components that would be needed. A Renogy 30A Dual-Input DC-to-DC MPPT On-Board Battery Charger, and a Renogy 1000W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter with Power Saving Mode. I decided to source the components through the shop, since the price is pretty consistent no matter where you shopped for them.

High level goal is to have the LiFePO4 battery charged by the Jeep battery when it’s running. When the Jeep isn’t running, and a solar panel is connected, the solar panel will charge the LiFePO4 battery. My favorite part, when the LiFePO4 is at or near 100%, it’ll send power back to the Jeep battery. Pretty nifty.

I always go to Main Line Overland for these kinds of things. They’re able to get any components you need, their techs are extremely knowledgeable, experienced on some of the most extreme overland builds, and most importantly, they do some of the cleanest work. Very highly recommended by my buddies, and now I know why.

I visited them on a Friday and we spent a few minutes going over the plan. The Jeep was ready around lunch time on Wednesday. When I picked it up, I got a very thorough walkthrough, lots of answers to lots of questions, great advice, man what an experience. The icing on the cake was how beautifully they tucked the MPPT/Charger, Bluetooth monitor, and fuse box in the small cubby hole.

I requested a schematic, since I was going on a 5-6 thousand mile trip, and wanted to be prepared if there were any problems. I got a very detailed hand drawn schematic with color coded wiring, fuse information, etc. Coming the graphic arts, I’m impressed. I should frame it, after I take a picture of it and upload it to Apple Books for reference when I’m on the road. I’m so happy that I’ve got more power, smarter power than before.

Parts list:

For my solar panel, I decided to go with a folding, waterproof, and very duarable Bugout 130 Solar Charger. It’s 22×68″ open, and comes with a 20′ Anderson SB50 cable, and a Anderson SB5 to SAE adapter cable that I won’t be using. The solar panel will be deployed on those days that I’m not moving around. Since the 100ah LiFePO4 battery is charged by the vehicle when it is running.

Its a good thing I had the shop provide an Anderson SB50 by the rear right door, so I have a place to plug in the solar panel. Luckily right near it, in another cubby hole, is a Dometic hard wire kit that I’ll be running into the iKamper tent, so I can power my devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, etc.).

iKamper Skycamp Mini Dry Run

I had a short to-do list today. First, I stopped at Main Line Overland where they were holding on to some parts that I accidentally left behind when I had them install the iKamper Skycamp Mini. Then I headed to Valley Forge National State Park for a dry run on opening and closing the tent, and to take some pictures.

I love that park. The Rangers are very friendly to overlanders and RVs. They also never had a problem when I came by to test equipment and take pictures. Nobody seemed to flinch when they saw me opening and closing the iKamper Mini. Its not like I was going to spend the night.

So it took under a minute to open the tent. I may have cheated, since I didn’t open the side windows. Closing it took a little over a minute, since I had to do a bit of tucking in on the sides. Here are some pictures of the tent fully open.

The 2″ memory foam mattress that comes with the iKamper Mini is actually pretty comfortable. Though my plan is to remove the mattress and stick a layer of outdoor carpet on the floor of the tent. This is to prevent any condensation, though I don’t plan to go out if the temperature dips below 40F.

Once the floor of the tent is lined with outdoor carpet, I’ll be using my 3.5″ Mountain Summit Gear self inflating mattress pad, my Big Agness Torchlight 40 sleeping bag, and my really comfy pillow. That’s the combination I’ve used over the past five or six years. I confirmed it’ll all squish nicely into the tent when I close it.

I decided not to get a 270 awning right now. I don’t need it for Easter Jeep Safari. Instead, I bought iKamper’s Mini awning that’ll provide enough protection at base camp. I might add a rear facing awning so I can cook in the tailgate area when it rains.

More to come on my next project, a 100ah LiFePO4 off-grid/overlanding power kit that’ll replace my current 40ah kit. The kit will include lots of power management, so it’ll know when to charge from the solar panel (when not moving), when to charge from the vehicle battery (when moving), and when to send power back to the vehicle battery.

Two blog posts over a long weekend. Boy I’m pooped.

Lighting Up The Moab Trails

How long should it take to mount auxillery lights that came off of your old Jeep, to your new Jeep? It depends on the weather. It finally warmed up enough to get this done. 🙂 So I finally mounted my Baja Designs Squadron Sport Spot and Cornerning lights.

They’ve been sitting in my garage since I rmeoved them from my previous Jeep, so dusting them off was the first step, as well as spraying some electrical contact cleaner onto the wire connections. It was more work than I expected.

I mounted the lights onto the steel front bumper. This time I needed to mount them on my winch/grille guard (2″ tube). I didn’t want to spend $40 each for four Baja Design mounts, so I ended up buying some cheap aluminum mounts for $50 on Amazon for. I’m happy with the result.

Second, on my previous Jeep I used an sPOD device to manage all my under the hood switched wiring, I had to dig around under the hood to find the Rubicon’s AUX switch wiring bundle. Once I found it, it was a piece of cake. Ground wires went to a bolt that Jeep recommends for grounding lights (IOW not to the negative battery post).

The AUX wiring bundle includes four wires. The AUX 1/2 switches use 12 AWG wiring, and are rated at 40A. The AUX 3/4 switches use 16 AWG wiring, and are rated at 15A. The spot and cornering lights are 2A each, so I connected the spots to AUX 3, and the cornering to AUX 4. I can combine them later if I run out of AUX switches.

AUX Switch Wiring

Switched
    AUX 1 (F93 - 40A) Brown/pink stripe
    AUX 2 (F92 - 40A) Green/pink stripe
    AUX 3 (F103 - 15A) Pink/orange stripe
    AUX 4 (F108 - 15A) Blue/pink stripe
        ,------------+------------,
        | Aux 1 (40) | Aux 3 (15) |
        +------------+------------+
        | Aux 2 (40) | Aux 4 (15) |
        `------------+------------'
Unswitched
    Direct Battery (F72 - 10A) Red/white stripe
    Ignition (F50 - 10A) Orange/pink stripe

I’m a stickler for clean wiring, so I made sure the cables were cut with just enough slack. Then I used solder seal connectors to connect the wire ends, with heat shrink sleeves to make the connection even stronger. Then, to show how serious I am about protecting wiring, I covered the wiring with heat shrinkable braded sheathing.

Did I go overboard? Danged right I did. Heck, I even labled the cables so future me knows which cables go to which lights. Nothing is worse than not knowing where cables are coming from or going to. I prefer to do things right and not cut corners. Not sure a shop would go to such lengths, but I always try to.

Once the lights were mounted, and the wiring done, and the switches tested one last time, I drove a couple miles to the nearest Walmart. They’ve got light walls at the back of the store, perfect for testing. I parked perpendicular to the largest wall, about 50 feet away.

I aimed the spot lights so the center is level to the head lights. The cornering lights are almost impossible to aim, so I used the fins on the lights to get it as level as possible. Once I’m on the trail, none of this will matter, but I sleep better knowing I did my best.

I’m not quite done yet with lights. I need two waterproof LED strip lights. One for inside the iKamper Skycamper Mini roof top tent (RTT), and for under the awning. Luckily those are cheap at REI.

Easter Jeep Safari 2022

Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) runs from April 9th through the 17th. Nine days of exciting trails and more! Early registration opened up today for members (non members have to wait another week). I logged in and picked from their (very complete) list of trail rides. I’ve been to Moab a few times, so I already have four of the Jeep Badges of Honor (BOH) for the area.

Most of the rides take half a day or less, though they do offer a three day ride. I passed on that one, since I want to get all the remaining BOHs. Pritchet Canyon is rated 9 of 10 so it’s off the list (no interest in gigantic tires and lift!). I can do the trails that are rated up to 7 of 10 (8 is sketchy). I wanted to do Elephant Hill, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are enforcing new restrictions, making it difficult to do. That’s OK, I’ve been there on my Harley.

This year I’m adding to the list:

The EJS registration web site was slow in the beginning, but after some of the earliest members finished registering it sped up I was able to pick my rides. They’re all rated 5/7 of 10.

There’s a shorter to-do list, heading to the EJS trip.

  • Cut a platorm to mount the fridge mount and my PLB40 battery to, so they’re secure, and have breathing room (not interested in drilling through my Goose Gear stealth platform!).
  • Mount my 50W solar panel to my iKamper lid (to charge a second battery).
  • Build a LiFePO4 battery box kit that the solar panel will charge (to power my non-fridge stuff).
  • Create a small power distribution box for the tent, so I can have light, and charge my iPhone (etc.).
  • Run some LED light strips and a dimmer along the roof of the RTT.
  • Mount my Baja Design lights to the winch/grille protector bar in front (using AUX switches under the hood).
  • Resist the urge to buy a 270 awning since its not needed for EJS…maybe for the Fall trip or 2023.

More to come once I start chopping away at the to-do list.

The Wait Is Over

After braving 20 degree temperatures and enduring pucker moments drilling into my hard top, I’m happy to finally have my roof top tent set up for camping…err…overlanding.

Installing the Rhino-Rack Backbone was no walk in the park. They provide incredible documentation and videos, but it’s definitely a 4-6 hour job for one person. Drilling the first hole was one of the scariest experiences I ever had. The rest of the holes weren’t a big deal.

Once I finished with the base, next came the crossbars. I chose Vortex since they’re plenty strong and have a flat profile. For legs, I went with the quick release RLT600 kit. This way I can remove the tent without having to unbolt stuff. They have locks on them, so the tent won’t grow legs. Everything sits a bit higher, but the convenience is worth it.

When I was assembling the crossbars, I ended up with some strips that had millimeter markings on them. I had no idea what they were for. The shop told me they can be cut to cover the bottom slot while giving you a way to position the legs if you ever disassemble the kit.

What I found out on the way home was the bottom of the bars have an open groove, where those strips needed to be installed. So the rails whistled all the way home, even though I was only going 35mph. I’ll put some black duct tape over the slots for now. I’d have to take everything apart to slide those strips in. Maybe I’ll get around to installing them in the Summer.

EDIT: I found the instructions for those six strips on page 7 of the RLT600 guide

Great. Now I have the rack and crossbars installed. Main Line Overland has been patiently holding onto my tent for the past few days, while I get the rack installed. I gave them a call to let them know I’d be by in a bit pick up the tent. It was a really great experience. I highly recommend that shop, real professionals who’s priority is doing things right.

I gasped when they pulled the Jeep up to the front of the shop. It turned out exactly how I expected. The tent was small enough to mount on the two front crossbars, to take advantage of roll bar support. The shape is pretty aerodynamic, compared to many of the other roof top tents on the market. It isn’t a wedge, which is IMO a ridiculous waste of space.

I’ve had my eye on iKamper ever since their Kickstarter project. They were shooting for $100,000, but got well over $2,000,000. Why? Because an engineer decided the market was saturated with horribly designed roof top tents and this guy designed a better tent. Now most roof top tent companies sell an iKamper knockoff.

I’ll post some pictures of the opened tent when it warms up a bit.

Preparing for Easter Jeep Safari 2022

I’ve been wanting to go to Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) for a few years now. I decided this is the year. 9 days of endless Moab trails, camping, and festivities. To be ready for the trip, I need a solid roof top tent (RTT) and roof rack solution. Choosing between the many options was tough.

Roof Rack

I had two basic design choices. I can go with an exoskeleton style roof rack. Very strong but looks terribly goofy on a daily driver. Alternatively I can buy a solution that requires drilling through your hardtop roof to attach to your roll bars for support.

I decided on the Rhino-Rack Backbone with Vortex crossbar kit. If it’s good enough for my favorite overlanding vloggers, it’s good enough for me. The kit should arrive on Jan 6th. You can bet I’ll be cringing between now and then.

Trail Recon is one of the best vloggers, please like and subscribe:

Roof Top Tent

For the RTT, the first decision is whether to get a hardtop or a soft top. This was a pretty easy choice. Hardtops are quick to set up and take down, typically <60 seconds. Versus the 10 minutes (or more) it takes to set up and take down a soft top. No contest, I went with a hardtop.

Next came the shape and design choice. I’m not a fan of wedge type RTTs. I think they look cool, but I feel that the waste of space is a deal breaker. I’m not very tall, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered to me. I just know I wouldn’t have been happy with the design. I love the design of the iKamper Skycamp Mini and the Roofnest Condor.

They’re similar, though given the history of the design, I couldn’t buy what I consider to be a blatant knockoff. iKamper has a reputation for quality and support. They earned my money. Its waiting at Main Line Overland until I get the rack installed.

Installation

The iKamper 2.0 mounting bracket is one of the reasons I picked crossbars instead of a platform. Once the roof rack is installed, the RTT can be installed and removed quickly and easily. If I went with a platform, I’d have to use their crappy iKamper 1.0 mounting brackets. I’d have to drill through the platform, and installation and removal would be PITA.

Once I’ve installed the rack, I will swing by Main Line Overland to get it attached to the crossbars. I plan to do that on a Friday, so I can head out for a couple days to test and tighten down whatever might shake loose. #loctiteFTW

Now I wait.

The Rhino-Rack kit is due in on Jan 6. I’ll install it the following weekend, provided it doesn’t rain or snow, and that the temp is reasonable. Once the rack is installed, I’ll head to Main Line Overland to get the RTT installed.

From what some buddies told me, I’d do well to get the iKamper awning. If only so I can stay dry if I need to get out in the middle of the night, when mother nature calls. 🙂 Stay tuned for my upcoming install blog.