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.

GCI Slim-Fold Cook Station Review

In 2015, sometime before we kicked off Michigan Overland as more than just an idea I surveyed the gear I had. One thing that was missing was a good table to cook off of. I did my research and looked at several different variations of tables at varying prices. What I ended up with was the GCI Slim-Fold Cook Station that I managed to snag on sale and with a discount at REI.

Cooking up some tasty burgers at camp.

Eventually I concluded that, while cool, I did not want a table that required a lot of assembly. Something that folded up. Had a low profile. And would pack easily into the back of my Suburban.

The cook station itself unfolds with ease and has four fold-out plastic side tables. The main middle section is made of aluminum, unfolds up, and locks into place. I can say that I have not had any issues with the main section or the side sections folding back down once they are up and locked. There is also a lower section that folds out by itself and can be used for storage.

The GCI Cook Station almost completely unfolded.

Folded up it only takes up about 4 inches of space. It’s till pretty tall folded up at just under 35 inches. It fits in the back of my Suburban behind the third row with no problem, but something smaller might have issues. I will say that despite its weight at 20 pounds it does not feel overly cumbersome. The counter section will hold up to 48 pounds and each side shelf will hold up to 30lbs.

Packed up and ready to be deployed or stowed.

There is really only a few small drawbacks I’ve had with this table. Adding a stove makes cooking easy at a manageable and comfortable height.

However, cutting on the side shelves is a different story. You end up hunched over in an uncomfortable position whatever you are cutting up. Along with that, the shelves feel flimsy when cutting on them. To the point where it almost feels like you are going to slip or the shelf itself is going to collapse.

Overall this has been a solid table and cook station. It packs up easily and is small enough to be out of the way in and out of the vehicle. For the price, either bought on Amazon or directly from GCI, I would recommend this to anyone in the market for a folding cook-station.

Purchase Links: GCI | Amazon

DIY Fishing Rod Storage for $30

One cool thing about overland camping is the many other activities that can be done in conjunction with it — hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking. The list is endless. And while there isn’t anything much better than camping next to a stream or lake, there isn’t anything much worse than watching fish swim back and forth and not having your fishing pole with you.

When packing for an overland trip, bringing a rod and reel, isn’t as high on the list of importance as other things. Poles are long, fragile, and hard to store easily, especially if they aren’t two piece rods. When pre-packing for an upcoming trip, I was trying to figure out how to fit a couple of rods into my Jeep Unlimited, without breaking them or having them be in the way. My favorite rods don’t break down, so I had to opt for my back up rods, which are two pieces and easier to transport. I decided to try and make a rod holder than instead of being inside the vehicle, was outside. To have a way they would be safe, and I could have them at easy reach without lots of unpacking.

I decided to start with some 3″ PVC pipe. I bought a solid end cap for one end and a threaded/screw type cap for the other end. I also picked up some PVC cement. I was only able to buy the pipe long enough in a 10′ stick, so there is enough left over to make a couple of these depending on how long you want to make yours. Total cost was about $30.

I measured my longest rod (broken down to two pieces) to get an idea of how long I wanted it to go. I can also store marshmallow cookers and my fire poker in it as well, so keep in mind for extra space, if you would like to use it for other things. It also doesn’t have to go on a roof rack. It could easily be adapted to a trailer, or even inside your rig!

I had some aluminum clamps I got off eBay for fairly cheap, sitting around, which worked perfectly for this. Drill a couple of holes in the PVC to bolt them to it. I used some 3/8″ bolts with washers. IMPORTANT!!! Remember to bolt these on before cementing the ends (like I did) which makes it very hard to tighten them up.

I scuffed the outer surface, then coated the entire thing in spray on bed liner. We will see how well it holds before having to recoat it.

 

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.

JKU Rear Power Install

When I bought my 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, I cheaped out and bought a “sport” instead of a more lavish model. I planned on customizing it anyways, but one thing I wish I had, was a rear power source.

My roof top tent has 12 volts, USB powered lights in it. We also like to charge our phones while we sleep. The tent comes with a power cord to plug into a cigarette lighter, which is a great feature, but being that I only have one dc outlet in the front, the cord hanging in the doorway is sort of in the way. Since I have a tailgate table, and most “in and out” while camping, is done in the rear, I decided a rear mounted dc adapter would be an excellent addition. Easy access to plug-in a power inverter, or charge a phone. It also gives much-needed power to rear seat occupants.

Instead of just a simple cigarette lighter outlet, I decided to go a step further, and add a couple of USB plugs, and a voltage meter as well. I also wired in a simple toggle switch so I could shut it all off easily.

I started by ordering a set of outlets off eBay. I was able to find one that included a cigarette lighter, 2 USB ports, and the voltmeter, as well as a faceplate for them. Once these arrived. I was able to get some measurements and order a “project box” off eBay as well.

I started by drilling holes in the box where everything would go. I then test fit the outlets, volunteer and switch to make sure everything fit. It was very tight, but it fit perfectly. The lock rings for the outlets just barely cleared the inside walls of the box.

I then disassembled the box so I could shoot a few coats of spray bed liner on it. After it was dry (2 days later because I forgot), I reassembled everything again and wired them all up. This was pretty simple. Ground from each one pulled together — power from switch to each port. I ran a coated two wire cable from under the hood, all the way to the back. This is a simple fused positive and ground.

Before I closed the box up, I ran two screws inside of it, to secure it to the rear plastic in the Jeep.

The total project cost was under $50, and it makes a great addition to the Jeep!