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?




Topping Out in the Ennedi


“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


“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


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


“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


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


Field Tested: Helle Eggen 


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

Field Dispatch, Gear Guide 2014

Overland Journal: Gear Guide 2014 Preview

The Expeditions 7 team traverses Europe and Asia. From Nordkapp to Magadan, their first circumnavigation of the globe is complete.

58-59Chris Collard joins the Land Rover Silk Trail Expedition and explores the back streets of Delhi, India.

A lone woman on a motorcycle, Lois Pryce discovers the real treasures of Iran––its people.


From the laboratory to the open road, the Overland Journal team compiles an exhaustive test of shocks. The shock that came out on top may surprise you.


Field Tested: The 2013 Ural Gear Up

ural_gearupThe history of motorcycles is invariably interesting, and the story of the Ural motorcycle is no different. In the early years of WWII, Russian strategists, knowing a Nazi attack was imminent, decided mobility would be of critical importance in keeping German tanks, storm troopers, and special forces held at bay. They needed a motorcycle, and the best example anyone could think of happened to be German. After covertly acquiring five BMW R71 motorcycles, and carefully reverse engineering them, the Russians had their own motorcycle, the M-72. Fearing their Moscow-based manufacturing facility was within easy reach of the Nazi Blitzkrieg, they moved the motorcycle factory eastward to the shoulders of the Ural Mountains which also happened to be a rich resource of building materials. The Ural motorcycle, as if extracted from the local mountains themselves, was born. Nearly 10,000 Urals were built during the war years alone making it one of the most ubiquitous motorcycles of the time.

More than seven decades later, that same motorcycle is available with the most recognized iteration of the Ural lugging around a boxy sidecar. Early in the year, Overland Journal was fortunate enough to add a 2013 Ural Gear Up to our test fleet and suffice it to say, it has become one of our favorite long-term projects. The Gear Up has a rugged, no nonsense design built with materials which still represent the war years when things were made to endure the rigors of combat. Defying its size, it is light, nimble, sturdy, and undaunted much like a WWII era Russian T-34 tank. It also goes nearly anywhere you point it, and with authority.

ural_dustWhat makes the Ural Gear Up so capable is its second driving wheel on the sidecar. That wheel gives the motorcycle a veracious appetite for traction allowing it to claw its way over rocks, ruts, sand, and mud. This is not to say it’s always a graceful machine. With little suspension travel, the Gear Up does on occasion get airborne, a scene not too unlike watching a hippopotamus jump rope.

The Ural of today may harken to the original machines stolen from Bavaria and hammered together in a dark factory on the edge of Siberia, but they are updated motorcycles built to modern standards. The Brembo brakes are paired to Sachs suspension components, and the engine is constructed with premium materials. For 2014, the Gear Up benefits from even more refinements, while still paying homage to the brawny legacy of those first machines.


Landcruising Adventures and their Favorite Piece of Kit, a Vintage Coleman Stove

coleman_winchThis being our annual Gear Guide issue of Overland Journal, we thought we would not just feature new gear, but ask some of our friends currently on the road what piece of gear they value most. Few travelers are more versed in the inner workings of good gear than Karin-Marijke and Coen of Landcruising Adventure. On the road since 2003, they’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. When asked about their favorite piece of kit, the answer came quickly––their vintage Coleman camp stove.

coleman_leadMany travelers spend hundreds of dollars on shiny new bits of kit, but their stove was cheaply acquired in an army surplus store more than nine years ago. Coen was determined to find a system that would allow them the ability to move the stove in and out of the vehicle as needed, and most importantly, would run on a simple fuel source readily available anywhere in the world––gasoline. This is technically well outside the design perimeters of the Coleman 425F stove, but that didn’t dissuade Coen from finding a way to make it work. As it turns out, the key to burning gasoline in the classic Coleman two-burner is to give it lots of love and care. Careful and regular cleaning is the key to the stove’s reliability as well as other unusual tricks like adding a drop of injector cleaner to the tank. These are things only learned on the road, or in our case, by reading through their extensive website.

star-trails-north-chile1Their Coleman stove can be used inside or outside their Land Cruiser for maximum convenience, with Coen’s favorite cooking station being the flat space above the winch on the front bumper. Paired to their oven accessory, their 425F even bakes fresh bread. That might be the best use of gasoline ever. In an age of shiny stainless stoves, many priced well out of reach of the average overlander, it is nice to see such common sense prevail in the form of a simple secondhand stove.


Filson’s New AEV Brute Double Cab Jeep

filsonaevbruteFor more than a century, Filson has been providing discerning outdoor enthusiasts with high quality products, handcrafted to exacting standards using only the best materials available. American Expedition Vehicles, although a much younger business endeavor, is unrivaled in their ability to create off-road vehicles in unique and attractive configurations. Their much lauded Jeep Brute Double Cab is such a vehicle and is now available with the full Filson treatment.

Built to conquer challenging terrain, the AEV Brute is expedition-ready with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine, 3 inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2 tires, Warn winch, 3.5 inch Dualsport SC suspension system, and the full assortment of AEV upgrades from a vented hood to their iconic wheels. The custom paint, Horween leather seats, and limited edition badges evoke the legacy of the Filson brand, and the included Filson luggage means this truck simply needs a driver and a destination. As special editions go, the Filson AEV Double Cab Brute is without peer.


Overland Journal: Field Dispatch, Winter 2013

Overland Journal, Winter 2013 Prevew

36-37Frozen In Time: An Italian team of 12 attempt a winter crossing from Asia to North America, via the Bering Strait.

74-75To See the Elephant, Part II: Chris Collard and posse continue their 2,000-mile trek west along trails forged by American emigrants.

94-95La Croisière Jaune: In 1931 a group of french explorers set out to be the first to cross the Himalayas by automobile. Asa Bjorklund narrates this fascinating story, illustrated with stunning archive photography.


Cape Town To Goodwood in a Vintage Biplane


In 1928, Mary Heath became the first person to fly solo from South Africa to the UK. This was an incredible accomplishment from a woman already know for a list of firsts. The first woman to obtain a commercial pilot’s license, she was also a record breaking Olympic athlete and all around go-getter. She was, and still is, an inspiration; certainly for modern day adventurer Tracy Curtis-Taylor.

Flying in an open-cockpit Boeing Stearman biplane, Tracy will attempt to recreate Mary Heath’s flight from Cape Town, South Africa, to Goodwood, UK. Her flight, scheduled to commence in November, will face a number of challenges. Flying at a top speed of only 95 mph, the Stearman has a short range of just 450 miles and an operating ceiling of just 10,000 feet. The ground based logistics combined with those in the air make this a daunting journey.

From all of us at Overland Journal, we wish Tracy nothing but clear skies and tailwinds.

flight_map        flight_pilot


 An Interview with Forks author, Allan Karl 


All of us at Overland Journal love a good travel epic and Allan Karl may have provided us with one of our favorite stories of the year. Crushed by the challenges of the daily grind, Allan loaded up his motorcycle and embarked on a three year, 62,000 mile expedition around the globe. His adventure is chronicled in his first book, Forks, taking readers on his journey with a stunning collecting of photographs, travel anecdotes, and recipes from the road. Part travel journal, part cookbook, Forks was funded by an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign in only nine days. I had a chance to chat with Allan to find out more about his trip and walked away from the exchange feeling inspired to take my own life-changing quest.

What was the inspiration for this trip? What made this something you had to do?  I found that working for the company I had co-founded was no longer fulfilling or challenging, and my marriage was failing. As an entrepreneur, I immediately started another company, but soon realized that there was more for me to do. My dream had always been to travel the world and my passions were always photography, writing, and motorcycling. I realized that these life changes were simply opportunities that allowed me to follow my dream and pursue my passions.

Someone gave me Neil Peart’s book, Ghost Rider, and after reading it I thought wow, I can ride my motorcycle from Alaska to Central America. I’d always traveled to Mexico, but beyond––it hadn’t occurred to me. So my original plan was to travel to Panama. I soon kept expanding that until I realized that there was no reason not to shoot for the world.

Before embarking on this journey did you have any reservations which you had to overcome, and how did you work past those hesitations? To be honest, I had no reservations at all. I think that after reading Peart’s book, then Ted Simon’s book, and looking back on the times that I’d taken trips to faraway places where I had actually rented motorbikes or off-road vehicles, I had this awakening that with a little more time, I could just bring my own motorcycle.

The only hesitation I had initially was traveling through Colombia. I planned to ship my bike from Panama to Ecuador as to avoid the danger. When I got to Panama and looked to Colombia, I realized that I didn’t sell nearly everything I owned to simply choose the safe route. No, I knew I had to confront my fears, face danger, and take chances. That’s the only way to realize all the possibilities. So in Panama I changed my plan, and decided to go to Colombia. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during my journey.

Is there a place you’d like to return to?  I must go back to Ethiopia, Syria and Lebanon. These were some of my favorite places with the history, the people, and the culture. I wasn’t able to get into Iran due to visa issues, so I’m determined to get a visa and ride my motorcycle through Iran. British nationals can do this, Aussies and Germans can do this, most anyone else. But as Americans, only authorized tour operators can bring American’s into Iran. I can’t do that. I want to go alone.

You clearly have a deep appreciation for food. Can you remember your favorite meal from your trip?  So many. I think one really sticks out. I was in Uganda staying in a tent camp of sorts on the high banks of the Nile River. They cooked me a goat curry with bananas and other vegetables that was so flavorful and with the warmed flatbread, like Chapati, it was just right after a long day’s ride.

In Kenya, near the Somali border, in a town without electricity and not even on any map or GPS, I had another goat dish, boiled in spices and herbs with tiny potatoes and again, Chapati bread. Maybe I was just famished, but it was in a thatched-roof house, sitting on the dirt floor, and eating only with my hands. I’ll never forget that meal.

The dish that inspired my book is the Moqueca fish stew brewed in coconut milk and spiced with a unique Dende palm oil.  I had this dish several times in Bahia, and if it were not for me insisting on getting that recipe, my book FORKS might have never been made.


As a solo traveler you had to find a way to quickly relate to strangers. What was your best icebreaker?  I’m amazed at how easy it is to connect with people – humanity. Two things that are fail free: First, smile and look into the strangers eyes with warmth and openness. Also important, learn at least one sentence in the local tongue.

The language can be tough. Cause if you spurt out a few words, be prepared for the stranger to unleash a barrage of fast talking and in such a dialect you’ll never understand. But the fact you try to communicate proves your eager to learn and embrace their culture and their language. Learn.

To learn more about Allan’s journey and to order your own copy of Forks, visit his Kickstarter page.


 J & R Guram, Crafting Campaign Furniture with Legacy 



Only the most romantic overlanders appreciate the use of genuine campaign furniture where it was intended to be used––outside. Oft relegated as decorative pieces for home offices and living rooms, today’s campaign furniture seldom sees the glow of a campfire.  Renounced as ostentatious luxuries, most overlanders rely on metal and nylon furnishings, and that make sense. Does a campsite really need a rosewood night stand or a teak writing desk? Probably not, but that’s not to say there aren’t more useful campaign furnishings a modern overlander could employ in camp. Fortunately, campaign furniture is not lost to the ages. There are still traditional craftsmen making these timeless pieces. J & R Guram of India represent one of the most celebrated manufacturers of campaign furniture and their catalog is a beautiful journey through the pages of overlanding history.

Jeet a Raj Guram were raised in colonial cantonments all over India where the outdoors was a way of life and having been exposed to campaign furniture in their early years, the business of manufacturing what they knew, possessed, and remembered came naturally. Their comprehensive inventory includes a vast array of chairs, tables, cots and even writing desks. Using only the best wood, leather, and metal, J & R Guram’s furniture harkens to an era nearly forgotten by time. It’s easy to imagine the likes of Hemingway or Stanley in repose in one of their Roorkie Chairs, or Kipling scribing letters at his namesake table.

At a time when heirloom craftsmanship is increasingly hard to find, knowing J & R Guram are still in the marketplace is encouraging. People do appreciate the history of overlanding, even if they don’t take their campaign furniture outside.



 Wolverine Whitepine 1000 Mile Boot


If you happen by the Overland Journal office, you might notice all of us have an affinity for high quality boots and shoes. We don’t sit still for long, so keeping our feet happy is important to us. In our never ending quest for the best, we discovered Wolverine’s beautiful series, the 1000 Mile Collection. In particular, the Whitepine caught our attention.

Seldom do form and function blend so well. Inspired by designs from the early 1900s, the Whitepine is a boot with a storied legacy and a classic appeal. Founder G.A. Krause created Wolverine more than 125 years ago with boots of unparalleled quality, much like that of the Whitepine. His early productions from 1914 were made with shell horsehide and were said to be so tough they could last 1000 miles. Their secret tanning process created a boot that was “soft as buckskin, but wears like iron.” These same attributes now adorn the Whitepine. The Goodyear Welt, leather-stacked heal, waxed duck canvas panels, and rich leather toe also make this one of the more attractive boots we’ve ever seen. For the overlander, these features offer more than just a pleasing aesthetic, they offer the promise of years of loyal service. Easily resoled, ruggedly built, the Whitepine’s work boot heritage makes it an ideal option for adventure travel. Hand crafted in the United States, all of the 1000 Mile boots and shoes are proof that American craftsmanship is alive and well. It also confirms that great designs are timeless.