NENA KNOWS JEEPS
6. Who carries the yucky stuff out is up to the group dynamics, but on our commercial trips, it’s the tail gunner’s Jeep with the external trash sack or roof rack. Remember that trail ethics require that we take nothing and leave nothing—haul out all of your trash. 7.
A rooftop tent, like this Ursa Minor, provides quick setup and takedown, as well as good insulation and security. But you do have to be nimble enough to get up and down a ladder, especially for those 3 a.m. bathroom calls. Photo by Dan Grec, who is currently traveling through Africa in this JK. To check out his adventure, go to theroadchoseme.com. 8. A ground tent, chair, and some sticks to cook over the campfire are good enough for a simple family trip. We don’t always have a campfire. If we aren’t in fire restrictions and it’s chilly, then it’s nice, but it makes everything smell like smoke. Check camping rules for the areas you intend to visit before your trip. Don’t assume dispersed camping, campfires, or vehicles are allowed everywhere. 9. Ground tents have the flexibility of being able to move to that perfect flat spot or great view, and they are relatively cheap to buy or replace. However, they aren’t as sturdy or convenient as rooftop tents. 10.
It’s easy to find your Jeep packed to the roof. Pack as light as you can. Be mindful of carrying too much extra stuff, packaging, or things that really aren’t necessary for your survival out there. Pack the heavy stuff as close to the bottom and center of the Jeep so you minimize sway while driving. 11. This is one of my favorite campsites on the planet. Undisclosed location. It’s great to have water nearby—less weight to carry in. 12. Dune camping has its challenges, but it’s magical to wake up in those sweeping waves of sand.
Newsflash: Eating leads to pooping.
And it’s really bad to just “leave” it around. As more and more people have headed to the outdoors in past decades, human waste has become a serious issue in many of our recreation areas. Nowadays, if there aren’t facilities available, you must pack everything out. Otherwise “it” simply builds up and ruins the area, and this is beginning to happen in places like Moab and the Rubicon. We have found that the easiest solution for self-reliant camping is a one-per-use toilet bag, like the Biffy Bag, and a portable folding toilet seat. We also add a pop-up tent specific for “doing business” in privacy, complete with wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and air freshener
(lip gloss optional). The rule is that everyone is responsible for properly storing their own bags while on the trail and then discarding them properly once off the trail. Sometimes, we designate an exterior trash bag on the tail gunner’s Jeep specifically for “doodie duty.”
Then there is sleeping. What I use the most are ground tents. Though a rooftop tent costs a lot more, it is really nice to pull into camp and have your entire sleeping situation set up in a hot minute, rather than fighting with tent poles, unrolling bags, and inflating air mattresses. Breaking camp is even sweeter. It is also a safer feeling to be up off of the ground, unless the thought of managing a ladder at 3 a.m. when you have to get up to pee worries you. A rooftop tent also adds about 150 pounds above your center of gravity, so that must be considered in light of the severity of your wheeling and the stoutness of your suspension. For sleeping bags, the number-one piece of advice I have is this: Buy a bag that is rated for at least 20 degrees F below the forecast lows of your coldest planned destinations. What most people don’t realize is that although there is a standard for sleeping bag temperature ratings, it’s a competitive industry, and not all brands adhere strictly to the standard. It’s better to have a heavier bag you can zip open if you get warm than to be huddled up shivering in a lighter bag.
Finally, don’t forget a plain old tarp—at least some sort of heavy-duty, waterproof material that measures about 10x15 feet in size. That big tarp will come in handy for anything from catching fluids when working on a broken rig, to a rain shelter over the camp kitchen, to an extra layer under your tent to keep it dry and warmer.