How often have you considered quitting your job, hopping in your truck and heading for the hills? If you said daily, then you are not alone. But before you tell the boss to kiss your bumper goodbye, you may want to round up a few simple supplies to make living in the outback that much easier.
We recently spent a weekend away from one of America's urban armpits while escaping up to the outback, and if we hadn't needed to turn this story in we probably would have stayed out there for good. In fact, with a bit of quality pre-planning, a small cache of greenbacks, and a properly outfitted 4x4, you could easily hand in your resignation and cancel the lease on your roach-infested apartment for the good life of living in your truck.
Our first upgrade for living in our truck was a DCU shell from A.R.E. The DCU tops can be ordered with many options, and we thought long and hard about what we wanted. The driver side has storage boxes where they won't block visibility and still keep us stocked with tools and camping gear. The tailgate latch was chosen over ambulance doors so we would have cover for cooking should it rain (it did). The passenger side has a sliding window with a screen for fresh-air sleeping without flying critter disturbances, and the aluminum topper is outfitted with fossliner inside for insulation and color-matched red paint outside for a uniform look. Finally, a ladder rack up top gives a place for a canoe, surfboard, or kayak should we ever head for the coast.
When it's time to hit the hay, we opted for the Truck-Bedz inflatable air mattress. Unlike most mattresses, the Truck-Bedz are made to fit in the bed around the wheelwells. We chose the Expedition style that is made of sturdy nylon coated with urethane so we are not as concerned about punctures or sleeping on clammy vinyl. The air pump uses an extra long cord so it reached from the cigarette lighter of our extra cab longbed to the tailgate. On top of our bed is the Coleman Big Basin 0-degree sleeping bag. This bag is warm like a conventional mummy bag with a hood, but offers tons of extra foot room so that you don't feel suffocated within it. The bottom is also lined with fleece to keep your piggies from freezing off. Note the Coleman headlamp; very useful when setting up camp, or wrenching on broken 4x4s after dark.
By dawn it was breakfast time. Nothing makes you hungry like sleeping in your truck listening to the rain patter on the roof and wondering how muddy the drive up the trail will be. We found that Coleman offers a full line of camping gear known as Dual Fuels that run off either camping fuel or unleaded gasoline, so we chose both a Dual Fuel lantern and a two-burner camping stove. Nothing beats a real lantern for family meals in the bush, and when you add a griddle to the two-burner stove, breakfast is better than at a Waffle House.
Speaking of breakfast, try out this little homebrew recipe. Fry some bacon on the grill and then let it sit under some paper towels and a sweatshirt to keep warm while you pour instant pancake batter (the just-add-water type) onto a hot griddle. Then simply roll the bacon up in the pancake and dip in syrup. Follow with some camp coffee and you'll be ready for a morning nap in no time. It may not be healthy, but at least you'll die happy.
When it comes to coolers there are many options, but we went with this 54-quart Coleman Steel Belted cooler for the simple reason that we are hard on equipment. The stainless steel construction and the burly steel handles help when dragging a beverage-packed box out of the truck. If we are going on extremely long trips we'll also bring a high-dollar electric fridge/freezer like those made by Coleman, ARB, or Engel to keep ice packs and frozen foods frosty, and then use the steel-belted version as the main drink storage. Our only complaints were the lack of a built-in bottle opener and the fully locking latch of yesteryear's steel Coleman coolers; we're sure legal liability is to blame.
We recently found an old NATO-style fuel can at a surplus yard and brought it along for an extra 5 gallons of unleaded for the big-block, but unfortunately these tanks are hard to find and often outdated and rusty. However, we lucked out and found a brand-new matching water can from High Country Performance 4x4. This tank is lined especially for water, and was perfect for cleaning dishes and cold camp showers. If you're wondering about other bathroom situations, check out the "Trail Office" story (Aug. '06).
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High Country Performance 4x4