Brand Spotlight: Sportsmobile

The #vanlife is a trendy thing to do these days. People jump into this trend headfirst with everything from custom-built homebrews to professionally built adventure-ready rigs. One company that has been at the forefront of providing custom-built, adventure-ready platforms is Sportsmobile.

The company was founded in El Paso, Texas, and now has three different locations located around the United States. If you don’t know, they specialize in customizing vans to fit your travel needs.

Early years found the company customizing VW vans at the port of entry. Later the company was able to the same thing with Ford vans at assembly plants. Sportsmobile shipped their kits to each location where it was installed. Vans were then sent to dealership lots to be sold. A detailed history of what they worked on and what those vans looked like can be found here.

Fast forward to today, and the company deals with any manufacturer or customer with a van from Chevrolets up to the Mercedes Sprinter. The work they end up doing with newer model vans is absolutely amazing.

Photo From The Sportsmobile Website.
The Classic Sportsmobile. Photo From The Sportsmobile Website.

The amount of floor plans and options they offer is almost overwhelming. If something they have to offer doesn’t fit your needs, they will work with you to customize a vehicle to your specifications.

While campervans are primarily what Sportsmobile is known for, they do make vans for other applications. One is for people with disabilities who still want to get out and travel, which is just the tip of the iceberg. As stated, they have customized vans for just about every application.

If the #vanlife is something you are interested in, consider looking into a Sportsmobile built vehicle. The prices might scare some folks away, but you’re getting exactly what you want for the money you spend.

Brand Spotlight: Hi-Lift Jack Company

brand spotlight hi lift jack company

You’ve probably seen them around. Especially if you’ve been to an off-road park, an overlanding get together, or even on a show on YouTube. They seem to be everywhere. And despite imitators, competitors, and innovators trying to supplant them, they’re still the go-to jack. We’re talking about the workhorse jack of farmers, truckers, and off-roaders — the Hi-Lift jack. There are thousands of companies creating products for people who love being outdoors. The Brand Spotlight series focuses in on companies you may not be familiar with but should be and some of the products they sell.

For over 100 years, the Bloomfield Manufacturing Company has resided in Indiana as one of the oldest manufacturing companies in the state. The Hi-Lift Jack Company, and its sister company, the Kant-Slam Company, fall under the Bloomfield umbrella. The company was started by Philip John Harrah in 1895 and is still run and operated by a fifth generation Harrah currently.

While the company does offer other things than the hi-lift jack, it remains their most popular and stable selling item. Ranging in size from 36 inches up to a staggering 60 inches the hi-lift jack has become the go-to tool for trail repairs and self-recovery in the overlanding and off-road community.

brand spotlight hi lift jack company jacks
The many variations of the hi-lift jack offered by the Hi-Lift Jack Company.

The versatility of the hi-lift jack lies in its ability to perform a multitude of roles. It’s the ability to lift, pull, push, winch, and clamp that has given it a reputation that needs nothing beyond mentioning of its name (ITS Tactical has a great short series on using the hi-lift jack). With minor changes made through the years, the design of the jack itself has not changed much since its inception. Early motorists could even count on the Automatic Combination Tool (as it was known then) to be part of the vehicle compliment.

Overall the history of the Hi-Lift Jack Company is an easy one. They did not attempt to re-engineer or update the jack and bring it forward into modern times like other companies (cough “ARB” cough). Instead, they’ve made the same tool for the last 100 years with great success. You can probably expect them to continue for the next hundred years making the same great tool that can be found strapped to most overlanding rigs.

Brand Spotlight: Mountain Safety Research (MSR)

msr front page

There aren’t many stores that carry outdoor gear you can go into and not see a piece of MSR equipment on the shelf. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) has been around for quite some time making various types of gear in some way or another. From early homemade equipment to the current mass production of stoves, mess kits, tents, and climbing gear they’ve been a significant contributor to the outdoor retail world for years, their timeline reflects this.


Founded in 1969 by Larry Penberthy an avid mountain climber and engineer, MSR started out as a newsletter dedicated to mountain climbing safety. Mr. Penberthy saw the company as a way to make better, safer, and more reliable outdoor equipment for mountain climbers and others.

It wasn’t until 1973 that the company shifted to designing equipment with the release of Penberthy’s cold weather camp stove. After some more designs for ice axes, MSR continued developing gear for mountain climbers until 1981 when REI acquired them. MSR changed hands again in 2001 when they fell under the Cascade Designs umbrella with other notable outdoor brands Therm-a-rest, Platypus, and SealLine among others.

msr stoves
MSR offers many different types of stoves.

For the last 45 years, MSR has developed high-quality gear for campers, backpackers, and mountain climbers. You can find everything from small, lightweight camping stoves to cold weather tents to snowshoes these days. If you’re looking for high-quality gear and reasonable prices, MSR should be one of the first places you look.

Supporting Global Health

As well as helping the company by purchasing gear from them, you’re also funding their global health initiatives to bring water purification to countries in need and for disaster relief. MSR Global Health aims to utilize MSRs engineering and manufacturing know how to develop products that help those in developing in nations.

Recommended Gear

While MSR offers up a multitude of overlanding related gear, we’d recommend getting some of their cooking gear. We carry and have used two different smaller cook sets and can attest to their functionality and useability as quality camping gear.

msr flex cook set
The MSR Flex 4 Cook Set packs down easily.

The MSR Flex 4 Cook set has enough to feed four people while on the trail. Included are four deep plates, four insulated mugs, two aluminum pots, and strainer tops that all packs down into the larger pot and becomes easily stowable.