The Gear Box: Roof Racks and Accessories

A roof rack or safari rack or cargo rack or whatever you choose to call it can be a useful addition to your rig. While it’s not entirely recommended to overload the roof with a bunch of stuff, roof racks still can serve a purpose. There are plenty of companies that make roof racks and accessories to go with them. From basic tool mounts up to being able to carry more elaborate things like a table.

If you’re in the market for a rack system and accessories, keep in mind that most companies sell their accessories to fit their systems. Most accessory pieces are not going to be compatible with other systems, and some are specific to certain types of racks. Below will highlight some companies and accessories to consider without diving into detail on a particular brand.

Gear You Deserve is a rundown of gear you might be interested in relating to a specific topic. The series highlights gear that runs from small to large, cheap to expensive, basic to advanced, and leaves it up to you to decide what a good fit for you is.

Cargo Bars

Most roof racks are made to mount on standard cargo bars on the roof. These bars are the load-bearing pieces you want to have on your roof. Companies like Yakima and Thule are the more prominent name brands that started strictly selling cargo bars and accessories. Both have since branched into offering cargo racks. Yakima especially with their upcoming LockNLoad series being released later this year.

The Rack/Basket

Not all racks are designed and created equally. While the basic shape and function are the same, you have to decide what you want. Do you spend the money on something high-end or go with a cheaper version? Do you want sides or no sides? If you want sides, how high do you want them? The questions go on and on.

Gear Mounts

One benefit to having a rack on the roof is that you can move items from inside your rig to outside. Things like shovels, axes, and hi-lift jacks can be mounted on the sides of a rack. Other items like water or fuel cans can be mounted on top of the rack. Most rack manufacturers will have a minimum of some mounts for specific gear like axes, shovels, and jacks. Some companies offer more specific options for certain types of gear like a fuel canister for a grill or stove.

Storage Options

Some of the companies mentioned offering their storage solutions. Front Runner and Leitner Designs both offer their storage solutions for their respective systems. Front Runner has their Wolf Pack storage cubes and rack mounts that work seamlessly with their racks. Leitner Designs has a unique solution in the form of their Gear Pods, which mount to their Active Cargo System. While these are great options, you can always go with something like a Pelican case filled with gear mounted to the rack.

Adventure Gear Mounts

Companies like Yakima and Thule got their start supplying adventurers with cargo bars and mounts for bikes and kayaks. Most of the companies that make their rack systems offer mounts for varying types of adventure gear. Front Runner is probably at the forefront again with the number of accessories they offer. From bike and kayak racks to precision rifle mounts that allow you to shoot off your roof. If you take part in anything else outside of overlanding it’s worth looking into.

Truck Bed Mounts

If you have a truck, it is possible to mount a rack on the roof of the cab. Mounting over the bed requires the use of a bed rack system. These offer a way to mount cargo bars and a rack up and over the bed. The downside here is you lose the ability to put anything tall in the bed without removing the bed rack. Bed racks tend to come in different sizes and utility. Some are low to the bed to keep gear below the roofline and others stick out above the roof. Companies like Leitner Designs, Front Runner Outfitters, and our friends at New Holland Overland offer varying takes on bed racks.

The Gear Box: The Coffee Edition

Coffee is one of those things that can mean the difference between a good morning and a bad morning at camp. Just because you’re out on the road doesn’t mean you should sacrifice sound quality, homemade coffee for a packet of instant coffee. There are plenty of options when it comes to selecting how to brew your favorite coffee in the morning.

Gear You Deserve is a quarterly rundown of specific gear you might be interested in. The series highlights gear that runs from small to large, cheap to expensive, and basic to advance. We leave it up to you to decide what a good fit for your needs is.

The Oxx Coffeeboxx

We’ve highlighted this piece of gear before early on when we were just getting started. It’s worth mentioning again because of the appeal it may have. Oxx offers a ruggedized coffee maker they’ve dubbed the Coffeeboxx ($230). What sets this coffee maker apart from others, other than its need for power, is the ability to use standard K-cups like you would at home. The biggest downside to going this route is its cost at just under $300. Granted, is it a ruggedly built coffee maker designed to withstand abuse.

Coleman Drip Coffee Pots

Coleman makes a couple of different drip style coffee pots. The Grill-Top Coffee Maker ($40) sits nicely on your camp stove, and the QuikPot ($110) is a propane powered machine. Both provide that simple set up for anyone who has a drip coffee maker at home. Their ease of use means you don’t need to have any available power source.

A Percolator

Percolator’s, before the invention of the drip coffee maker, were and still are a popular method for making coffee at camp. Percolators work by heating the water in the pot and cycling it through the grounds in the top basket via the tube in the center. The water runs through the coffee, providing a usually aromatic scent when brewing but often a weaker cup of coffee.

Several companies still make good percolators, including Stanley, Coleman, and Cabela’s. We have a percolator from Cabela’s and can attest to its quality. It’s what we used early on to make coffee, before converting over to a French press, which we’ll take about later on.

French Press

Coffee is inherently not hard to make. It just depends on how strong you want it and your preferred taste. Using a French press is probably as easy as using a drip coffee maker in terms of setting it and forgetting it for a few minutes. We currently carry a Stanley Mountain Vacuum System which has an integrated thermos and press all in one neat package.

GSI offers a few options for self-contained travel mug style presses. Snow Peak has its stainless steel version ($56). And Jetboil provides a lid that can be used on their cooking system to create that perfect cup of coffee.

Single Serving

Pour over coffee is an easy method to gravitate towards when camping because of its ease and the small footprint pour over systems have. The Primula single cup ($7) is a K-cup style filter that sits over a mug with grounds in it. You pour your water over it and let it steep for a bit. The GSI Java Drip ($10) is the filter and sits on top of your mug of choice. Snow Peak also offers a folding drip ($30) that would work nicely for a single serving.

The AeroPress is an interesting piece of coffee technology that offers a rapid cup of joe. Add your grinds and steep the coffee to your preferred strength. You then press down on the plunger over your coffee mug. The end product, according to the manufacturer, is an espresso-like output. It’s a great coffee maker for some lightweight trips or if you are short on space.

The Gear Box: Portable Fire Pits

Fire is important. You’re going to use it to cook or gather everyone around for some beverages. While digging out a fire pit is an option, some companies are offering transportable and versatile fire pits. In this installment of Gear You Deserve we are going to look at some fire pits that are easily transportable and can move with you.

Gear You Deserve is a rundown of gear you might be interested in relating to a specific topic. The series highlights equipment that runs from small to large, cheap to expensive, basic to advanced, and leaves it up to you to decide what a good fit for you is.

The Solo Stove and Pop Up Pit.
The Solo Stove and Pop Up Pit.

Solo Stove

Solo Stove as the name implies makes stoves. However, they also offer different sizes of fire pits. The Ranger ($269), the Bonfire ($349), and the upcoming Yukon ($649) all offer varying sizes for building a well burning and low smoke fire. These portable fire pits weight no more than 45 lbs on the high end and can be easily transported in a rig or trailer.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

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Pop Up Pit

If you are short on space for the round Solo Stove, the Pop Up Pit ($99) might be what you need. This portable fire pit folds up into a nice package no larger than a camp chair for easy storage. When it’s opened it up, it offers a 24” x 24” area to build a fire. The lightweight design keeps your fires off the ground by 15” and directs the heat outwards as opposed to on the ground.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

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The Little Red Campfire and Stahl Campfire.
The Little Red Campfire and Stahl Campfire.

Little Red Campfire

The Little Red Campfire ($160) is the first gas option we have on this list. It uses a regular LP gas cylinder to provide heat from its 11” tray and can be adjusted. Once you’re done, you can pop the lid back on, secure the latches, and stow it away until you hit camp again. It can also be used for cooking if the cooktop is also purchased.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

Stahl Camper

The Stahl Camper ($499), like the Solo Stove, is on the higher end of the cost spectrum. It’s ability to pack down flat, and its light weight will probably appeal to some people. The four-piece construction offers a 20” x 20” V-shaped area to get your fire going in.

Purchase Link: Official Website

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The Camp Chef Sequoia, UCO Flatpack, and Snow Peak Pack & Carry.
The Camp Chef Sequoia, UCO Flatpack, and Snow Peak Pack & Carry.

Camp Chef Sequoia Fire Pit

You probably recognize the Camp Chef name. They make a good number of cooking-related pieces of equipment. They also have the second gas option fire pit on this list. The Sequoia Fire Pit ($119) has a 14” diameter bowl and pumps out 55,000 BTUs per hour. It also comes with lava rocks, a carrying case, and two roasting sticks for whatever you might want to roast.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

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Uco Flatpack Grill and Fire Pit

The UCO Flatpack ($49) serves both as a fire pit and a grill. The lightest of all the options here, the Flatpack comes in a 3 lbs and packs down no larger than 1.5”. It’s not going to keep a lot of people warm, but if you are short on space and want dual functionality, this is a good option.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

Follow Them: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Snow Peak Pack & Carry

The Snow Peak Pack & Carry ($149) is the second lightest fire pit at just under 8 lbs and packs down to under 3”. The downside is the price for such a small option. However, the Pack & Carry offers some additional add ons that quickly turn the fire pit into a grill.

Purchase Link: Official Website | Amazon

Follow Them: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Camp Chef Camp Oven Review

Imagine you’ve been on the trail for hours, searching for the perfect spot to camp. Finally, you find it, the best campsite you have ever seen! There is just one thing that could make it better, cinnamon rolls! This is something we’ve been able to do, ever since we got a Camp Chef Camp Oven two years ago. With the addition of the Camp Oven to our overlanding arsenal, the on-trail menu has expanded tremendously.

camp chef camp over inside
The inside of the Camp Chef Camp Over.

Fuel and Power

The oven is fueled by propane, either with a 1LB or a larger tank, when combined with an available hose. Using a 1LB tank has its limitations, only letting the oven get up to 350F for 7 hours. While using a larger tank will allow it to reach 400F. No matter what tank size you use, the oven will still produce 3,000BTUs/hr and the two brass range burners will do 7,500BTUs/hr.

traditional stove burners
The top has traditional burners for cooking on.

Accessories

bulk tank hose adapter allows you to extend cooking time with a larger propane tank. The deluxe oven carry bag provides a weather resistant cover, with padding to keep things safe. The mountain series steel griddle and outdoor oven pizza stone give you alternate cooking surfaces. These last two turn the range into a flat steel griddle perfect for eggs and give the oven a flat surface great for bread and pizza.

Personal Thoughts

After owning this oven for as long as I have, I feel like I can share my honest thoughts on the product. First off, I haven’t been nice to it. Saying that it has held up surprisingly well. The only casualties were two of the rubber feet breaking off. It was nice to find that Camp Chef does offer replacement parts on anything you could break. You can find a parts catalog here.

Something I wish we had purchased was the Deluxe Oven Carry Bag. As of now, I let it bounce around in the bed of my truck, and it would be nice to have some protection for the oven glass. I did buy the Bulk Tank Hose Adapter, and I don’t think we could live without it. It’s been great not having to worry about how many 1LB tanks I should bring along. Especially on a week-long trek on the back roads of the Upper Peninsula. With one 20LB tank, we made two meals a day and heated water for coffee and tea for nine days!

One thing we’ve noticed that’s kind of annoying is that the oven seems to take forever to heat up. Depending on the weather, you may be waiting an hour or so for the oven to heat to temperature. This is more prominent when you are trying to use a burner and the oven, at the same time. What I’ve also noticed is the thermometer is slightly off, and it can be a little inconvenient being unable to set the oven to a specific temperature. You may need to cook your food slightly longer in the oven to make up for inconsistent temps. But in the end, it is camping, and I usually don’t plan on making anything that needs to be in the oven for more than 30 minutes.

All in all, I do enjoy using the Camp Chef Camp Oven over a traditional camp stove. The ability to make things like garlic bread, pizza rolls, or even cookies on a cold night, makes our on-trail home feel more like a real home.

The Gear Box: Tools and Storage

tools

Having the right tools for the job is a saying that can be heard across all walks of life. Adventuring outdoors in a four-wheel drive vehicle means having problems. In this Gear You Deserve we offer up some suggestions for where to start with tools and storage.

The Tools

One of the easiest ways to make sure you have what you need is to buy a premade mechanics tool set. This will likely give you more than you need. Some tools can even be left behind to save space and weight (if necessary). What could be made from it is a basic tool kit that fits to your vehicle and the known problems your rig may present to you.

Craftsman 311 and 413 Piece Tool Sets

Craftsman offers a number of different types of tool kits. Something similar to the 311 and 413 kits offer enough tools to get you going on the trail. Each comes with different ratchet sizes, more than enough sockets, and several different sized combo wrenches.

tools
The Craftsman 413 piece mechanics toolkit is a good start.

Electrical Kit and Special Tools

In addition to the standard tools you will probably want to include an electrical kit. This kit should include everything you need to troubleshoot and repair electrical issues. Include a multi-meter, wire strippers/crimpers, extra fuses, wire in various gauges, and connectors.

Another area to research into is whether your vehicle needs any special tools. Especially if common issues require special tools. These should also be included as part of the overall kit.

Storage Options

While the options for tool kits are plentiful, storage options might not be so readily apparent outside. At the basic level a simple toolbox or tool bag can be used, with tools thrown in with no regard for any organization (gasp!). If you don’t need to carry a huge kit and get by with the basics then a simple tool roll will keep things neatly in place.

Blue Ridge Overland Gear Tool Bag

Blue Ridge Overland Gear offers a wide variety of bags and gear for the overlander. One of these options is their tool bag that comes as a set of six small pouches and one large carrying case to keep your tools nice and organized. The larger case comes with Molle webbing and velcro on the outside so a tool identifying patch can be put on the outside and the bag can be mounted.

blue ride tool case
Blue Ridge is known for their overlanding related bags and cases, tools are no different.

Pelican 1550 Hard Case

The Pelican 1550 hard case can be used for any number of applications and tools are no different. While inserts can be added to keep things manageable, the case by itself offers superior protection for your tools beyond what a normal toolbox can offer. Pelican offers the waterproof case in 6 different colors and 5 different configurations that include foam padding, padded dividers, TrekPak dividers, no foam, and a design your own application.

pelican hard case
Pelican makes hard cases meant to protect just about anything, including tools.

Atlas 46 Yorktown Tool Roll

The last storage option is a standard tool roll made by Atlas, a company that has been making products for law enforcement, the military, and more for the last 40 years. The Yorktown tool roll is a combination of zippered pouches on one side and tool slots on the other. The whole setup rolls up into a soft carrying case that can be easily stashed in your rig.

tool roll
The Atlas 46 Yorktown tool roll is a good alternative to a hard case.

This is a basic rundown of what you might consider when building a tool kit and deciding how to store it.