Field Dispatch, Spring 2014

From the Editor | Chris Collard

Spring is perhaps my favorite time of year. By now I’ve usually had my share of snowy overland treks and shedding layers of winter gear before crawling into my sleeping bag; my thoughts shift towards slipping on my Tevas and shorts, and heading for America’s Outback or the warm and inviting climes of Baja, Mexico. By spring we’ve also planned most of the upcoming gear reviews and adventure stories we’ll be featuring and this always inspires me to pull out the maps to start planning my next trip.

I’m excited about the upcoming Spring issue. Jimmy Chin, an award-winning photographer, a regular contributor to National Geographic and Outside, and the only guy I know of to ski from the summit of Mount Everest (and live), is contributing to Overland Journal for the first time. He’s long been one of my favorite photographers. This month Jimmy is sharing with us his epic overland trek and climbing expedition in the Ennedi Desert in Chad, Africa. I’d never heard of the Ennedi, but I’ve since found myself daydreaming about, well, how to get there.

Next up is one of the overland community’s emerging explorers, Ros Woodham, who penned In Search of the Northern Lights and Spring Tracks in the Pyrenees. In this issue she takes us on a trek through Morocco in her Land Rover Santana.

Finally, Dr. Jon S. Solberg, our Overland Medicine guru, and New Mexico Backroad’s Jake Quinones, lead us on a million-dollar treasure hunt north of Santa Fe in search of Forrest Fenn’s buried booty. It’s a great read, and fodder for any adventurer of the Southwest. Will they be cashing in their fortunes and retiring soon? You’ll need to read Southwest Treasure Hunt to find out.

If you’re a rider and have been contemplating a new full-sized adventure bike, I suggest you wait until you read our multi-month test of six of the newest offerings in the genre from BMW, KTM, Triumph, and Yamaha. Our findings may surprise you.

Circling around back to maps and planning for summer treks in the backcountry, this issue’s Classic Kit chronicles the history of maps and the founding fathers of the art of cartography. After all, if there were no maps, where would we be?

Cheers,

Chris

 

Topping Out in the Ennedi

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“I ended up in the Ennedi Desert the same way I’ve ended up in a lot of very strange places and situations around the world—with a call from friend and big wall climber Mark Synnott asking me if I wanted join him on his next expedition. Despite my better judgment, I’ve always said yes.” – Jimmy Chin

This issue of Overland Journal has been made more dramatic than ever thanks to the contributions of award-winning adventure photographer Jimmy Chin. His photo essay from a recent climbing trip to the Ennedi Desert in the Northeast corner of Chad, Africa, is a one of the more visually striking features we have ever printed. Not the typical overland adventure, it is a gripping view into the life of expeditionary climbers doing what they love to do most.

 

Adventure Motorcycle Shootout

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“While many “adventure” riders want a touring bike that looks adventurous, I believe true backcountry performance is one of the most important attributes.” – Scott Brady

In what can only be described as the most extensive evaluation of the year’s best adventure motorcycles, Scott Brady teamed up with Rawhyde Adventures in the backcountry of California to see which motorcycle reigns supreme. In the mix were industry leading offerings from BMW, KTM, Triumph, and Yamaha. The selection included the newly released KTM 1190 Adventure R as well as the most popular bike of the previous year, the BMW R1200GS. Over the course of four days, Scott and a team of testers put these bikes through their paces, and at times over the ragged edge. The end result revealed interesting insight with some models failing their reputations and others earning unexpected accolades. If you have a new adventure motorcycle in your near future, this is a must-read.

 

The Simple Things

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He seemed impressed with our bartering skills and invited us to share a freshly baked Berber pizza: flatbread stuffed with meat, herbs, and onion. It was delicious. However, when I spotted something resembling an eyeball I politely declined a second slice.” – Ros Woodham

Transporting us to the warm sands and craggy outcrops of Morocco, adventurer Ros Woodham recounts her travels in a 1984 Series III Land Rover. Her descriptions of the edge of the Sahara and the experiences she enjoyed make for a captivating read. From the port town of Melilla to the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, accounts of Berbers and oil leaks make this a classic overland story and one not to be missed.

 

Best of Breed: Portable Power Packs

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“Like little electronic jerry cans, power packs have become an integral part of our travels. Over the course of the past year, we tested dozens of power packs in real world scenarios selecting these six as the Best in Breed.” – Christophe Noel

Every issue we evaluate a different category of equipment we feel is relevant to the overland traveler. As more of us venture into the world equipped with a bevy of electronic devices, our need to keep those products charged becomes more challenging. Over the course of the last year, we tested the best power packs on the market. Several failed to make the cut, but the six featured in this month’s review have proven to be the Best of Breed. Which power pack is best for your laptop and which can power an entire campsite? We walk you through the options.

 

Field Tested: James Baroud Evasion Evolution RTT

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Twenty years is a long time to develop, test, and refine a product line, but that’s how long James Baroud has spent creating what many believe are the finest hard shell rooftop tents in the world. A native of France and an avid overlander, he believed many of the rooftop tents on the market were simply inadequate. They were either too delicate to endure the rigors of true overland travel, or lacked the features and appointments he felt all overlanders deserved. The culmination of his experience on the road, and the manifestation of his advanced vision, his Evasion Evolution rooftop tent is nothing short of exceptional.

Constructed of fiberglass fortified polyester with a high gloss finish, the Evasion Evolution’s shell is masterfully sculpted for optimal aerodynamics and exhibits none of the flex and instability that plagues many hard shell tents. At 122 pounds its lighter than many tents although it does require a sizable footprint at 78 by 55 inches. If there is one unassailable attribute of the Evasion Evolution it is the speed and ease of setup. With one hand and the time it takes to release the four latches, the internal hydraulic struts spring into action raising the top half of the tent as if by magic. To complete the setup, the ladder is affixed to either side of the tent base via two robust and secure connectors. As tent setup goes, it doesn’t get any easier.

The walls of the tent are made of acrylic-coated polyester which is 100% waterproof, UV resistant, and in keeping with the James Baroud ethos, extremely durable. The forward wall of the tent features a small triangular vent, but the three additional walls include full size doors backed with large mesh panels. With the mesh fully exposed, the ventilation is quite impressive and floods the interior with natural light. Although the ladder can only be employed on the two sides, the door at the rear of the tent serves as a perfect pass-through for shuttling items back and forth from the vehicle’s cargo area. Additional internal features include an LED light and a generously sized storage net on the ceiling for incidentals. To further improve air flow, a small solar powered fan expels just enough air to mitigate condensation and can be reversed to draw air into the tent for increased cooling. The plush open-cell foam mattress is covered in a polyester micro-fiber cover and makes for a comfortable night’s slumber.

Like all rooftop tents, returning the tent to its stowed position did take some practice, but once mastered, took no more than ten leisurely minutes with nominal effort. Finesse not force is the name of the game when collapsing the tent and presented no unusual challenges for a solo traveler. The Evasion Evolution is in a league of its own with its advanced design and supreme materials. $2699 www.jamesbaroudusa.com

 

Field Tested: Helle Eggen 

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In an age of 3D printing and automated production, it’s easy to forget the halcyon days of manufacturing when quality goods came to life only through the dedicated efforts of master craftsmen. Helle knives is one of the last remaining holdouts determined to not let the legacy of tradecraft slip through their skilled hands. Founded by brothers Steiner and Sigmund Helle in 1932, their knives are still produced in a small facility in Holmedal, Norway, much as they have been for more than seven decades.

A Helle knife is first and foremost a thing of utility designed for rigorous use in unforgiving environments. Revered by hunters, fisherman, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, these are not ornamental knifes but rather practical tools carefully balanced and shaped to behave like an extension of one’s own hand. The Eggen is one of their more all-purpose knives with a drop-point blade and generously sized handle for maximum control. The curly birch handle has a small finger guard and the grain of the wood is beautiful in a way only nature can be. The blade is constructed of Helle’s unique triple laminated steel for optimal sharpness; the alloy steel core flanked by corrosion resistant stainless steel polished to a high sheen. No knife is complete without a way to carry it, and the handmade leather sheath is a work of art in itself. Uncomplicated and made with precision, it is a perfect compliment to the Eggen.

The Helle manufacturing process is steeped in tradition with each knife undergoing 45 different manual operations before completion. The result is a knife of heirloom quality, destined to be passed down from one generation to the next.  $118 www.helle.no

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