White Knuckle Off Road Hitch Step

Heavy Duty, 4×4 trail ready, White Knuckle Off Road hitch step

Another accessory for the road ahead. White Knuckle Off Road’s heavy-duty Hitch Step. While I’m capable of entering and exiting the Hallmark camper with nothing more than my Reunel step-bumper, and do so occasionally, it’s nice to have something to bridge the 40″ to the door’s threshold. Typically that’s one of two plastic folding steps, one that is a bit shorter but travels flat, or another that is bulkier but more stable. Wet, slippery, and messy boots, whether from snow or mud, add another dimension, and wind can move steps from their preferred positions (I use bungees). Multiple roadside stops during long road trips can make folding steps less convenient to deploy and store.

Beefy, 3/16″ thick tubing

The White Knuckle Off Road Hitch Step is not merely a step. It is constructed from 3/16″-thick, 2″ by 3″ rectangular tubing, and is “4×4 trail ready”, according to White Knuckle. Surely this is not merely a claim, as many aftermarket bumpers are made from 3/16″ steel plate, so this should be equally stout. Yes, adding a protrusion off the rear reduces the truck’s departure angle. However, convenient camper access is required much more frequently that maximum off-highway clearance.

I had to remove my Factor 55 HitchLink recovery point (it remains with the truck) to install the step. For some pulls a Factor 55 Shorty Strap or a soft shackle around the step should work. Powder coated black and delivered with a new receiver pin, the welds are beautiful. After test fitting and a few trips in and out of the camper, I added Jessup conformable grip tape (skateboard tape) to increase friction.

Looks great installed too

Jessup conformable grip tape is relatively easy to add to irregular surfaces

I carefully considered the positives and negatives of adding White Knuckle Off Road’s Hitch Step, but think I’m going to be happy with the addition. This weekend I spent hours loading the camper for an upcoming Canadian trip, and used the Hitch Step many times. Works for me.

Need a lift? Looks like a long way up from down here.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resource: White Knuckle Off Road Products

Superwinch, Expedition Grade, SEMA Show 2016

 

New EXP, Expedition Grade winches from Superwinch

Superwinch

Superwinch unveiled their new EXP Series “Expedition Grade” winches in 8-, 10-, and 12,000-pound ratings. They will be available in integrated and non-intergraded solenoid box versions, with either wire or synthetic rope. Features include: an operation status/temp light on the winch face, an auto clutch, LED lighting for the two auxiliary power ports, sockets, and drum/rope area, wired and wireless controls, and military-grade potted electronics. The attractive design is also more compact than the older Talon line. Superwinch has filed eight patent applications for the EXP Series, which are assembled in Portland, Oregon, from globally sourced parts. They are scheduled to hit retailer shelves by April 2017.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resource: 

Superwinch: Superwinch.com

Traction Tires from the 2016 SEMA Show

A few tires that got my attention at the 2016 SEMA Show.

Cooper Discoverer STT PRO in 40×13.50R17LT

Cooper STT PRO 40”

We really live in a super-sized America, maybe world? Tires that would have been almost monster truck worthy a few decades ago are now produced in highway-rated, easy to balance radial designs. Cooper introduced their fantastically rugged, yet tame on-road, Discoverer STT PRO in a new 40×13.50R17LT size.

Cooper has manufactured 40” tires for subsidiary and private label brands; however, this is the first to wear the flagship Cooper name. Two other big sizes were introduced, the 38×15.50R18 and 38×15.50R20. As sizable as these may sound, 35×12.50” tires can be fitted to Fourth Generation Ram Cummins Turbo Diesels with no lift,  stock wheels, and only minimal rubbing. coopertire.com

Mastercraft CXT, a new commercial traction design

Mastercraft Courser CXT

This past summer Cooper subsidiary Mastercraft introduced their latest commercial traction tire, the Courser CXT. The CXT features: variable full-depth siping, silica-rich compound for wet/winter traction (M+S rated), large scallops on the outer lugs and generous sidewall shoulder rubber. They are available in 29 sizes, each with a generous 18.5/32” tread depth. A friend and I have been logging miles on a set, accumulating wear data from two Ram/Cummins trucks. mastercrafttires.com 

Detailed look at the Mastercraft Courser CXT: Mastercraft CXT part one

Mickey Thompson’s new Deegan 38, 5-rib all-terrain design.

Mickey Thompson

Mickey Thompson introduced the Deegan 38 All-Terrain for wheels from 15” to 22”. Twenty-nine sizes are available now, with two more coming in April, and the final two sometime in the second quarter of 2017. Light-truck sizes come with a 55,000-mile tread-wear warranty, and P-metric sizes have a 60,000-mile tread-wear warranty. Mickey Thompson says the new design features a “silica-reinforced compound and special siping for great traction, superior cut and chip resistance, and excellent handling and braking in wet and off-road conditions. Tread element tie bars enhance stability and responsive handling on changing road conditions. Angled shoulder scallops and aggressive two-pitch SideBiter’s enhance traction.” mickeythompsontires.com

Ridge Grappler from Nitto Tire

Nitto Ridge Grappler

The newest LT design from Nitto looks like a winner. A hybrid all-terrain with traction lugs for the outer ribs and a slightly lower-void center, it looks like noise should be well controlled. The shoulder tread is beefy, and, as with all Nitto LT tires, there is a different design on each side; you choose. Several sizes are made for 17” to 22” wheels. nittotire.com

Toyo’s Open Country C/T mountain-snowflake rated

Toyo C/T

Manufactures are offering enthusiasts traction tires that are much quieter and less aggressive than mudders but with superior all-weather traction characteristics over a traditional all-terrain or all-season. Toyo eliminated all doubt about the target market by putting it right in the name; C/T stands for commercial traction. The Toyo Open Country C/T was originally only available in Canada, but it was released for sale in the USA in 2016. The C/T meets the mountain snowflake/Alpine severe winter spin-up test requirements. toyotires.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

 

Power Tank Worthington 6-pound propane bracket review

Bottle test fit before the roll bar clamps arrived.

Power Tank Stainless Steel Propane Bottle Mount

Having extra propane for our Hallmark Milner camper on long remote trips, or winter camping adventures that consume more fuel, has been a long-term goal. The question was how to mount another LPG bottle safely and securely. I’ve owned the tall, narrow Worthington aluminum 6-pound propane tank (#299494) for 10 years, which has been part of various camping setups, and was an obvious choice for extra Milner LPG. Six pounds is a small reserve, but some beats none.

Several months ago I visualized how a fire extinguisher mount could provide a solution, and did substantial preliminary research that convinced me a good match was available. Fitting the Worthington to an extinguisher bracket would be the first hurdle, and attaching it to my camper the second, and potentially more troublesome. Hose clamps to the roof ladder were planned if nothing better presented itself. I postponed buying the parts and making stuff work, but with a big, cold trip North in my immediate future, last month it became time to either create or buy something.

Power Tank’s small roll bar clamps will fit 1.5″ to 2″ diameters, using spacers for anything smaller than 2″.

Lucky Find

Additional Internet searches steered me to Power Tank, a company I was familiar with and known best for their portable CO2 on-board air systems. They also offer mounting brackets for many of their tanks, and I found one I thought would work well for the (299494) Worthington cylinder. A telephone call to explain my intended use and place an order was rewarded with a welcome surprise; Power Tank had just added a bracket made specifically for this 6-pound propane bottle to their catalog. It got better. The same roll bar clamps used to mount CO2 tank holders worked with the new propane bracket.

Excellent

Installation

After waiting for the backordered clamps arrive, it was time to get the parts fitted. My initial mock-up indicated mounting the bracket to the Hallmark Milner camper’s rear ladder would work as I’d envisioned. Power Tank’s small clamps are designed to work on 1.5″ to 2″ diameter tubing. Rubber spacers are provided for 1.5″ or 1.75″ bars, and the Hallmark’s ladder rails are approximately 1.5″ diameter. Needing spacers was a positive; the rubber mounting provides grip and protects the ladder finish. The clamps were tightened until a bulge appeared both above and below (tight). The bracket looks and feels very secure.

Using the larger rubber spacers, the clamps were tightened until a protective bugle appeared above and below the clamp lips.

With the bracket mounted the LPG tank was fitted. The padded band is just the right size when tightened, without excessive unused bolt thread. To slide my bottle past the middle welded seam, the nut must be removed and reattached after the slightly larger section of the tank has passed the clamp. The band above the seam makes it very unlikely the bottle will slip.

This Power Tank bracket and how it was mounted appear specifically made for this camper application. The Worthington tank is almost perfectly inline with the port side of the camper; just one inch of the base extends beyond the side of the camper.

Looks like this Power Tank bracket was made specifically for this application, it fits the space perfectly.

BOLT Locks

Theft happens. I’m a fan of prevention and helping keep people honest, which means locking my stuff when possible and practical. Over the past year I’ve become a huge fan of BOLT Locks one-key technology, using their locks whenever possible. One of their cable locks was used to secure the Worthington bottle to the top of the ladder. For more information about these fantastic locks read my article located here: RoadTraveler BOLT Locks review

BOLT Locks have earned my admiration over the past year, and I’ve added several to this ’14 Ram Cummins and Hallmark Milner camper. LOVE THEM!

Resource links:

BOLT Locks

Power Tank

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Canadian Arctic trip countdown

2014 Ram/Cummins, cold testing for a Canadian Arctic trip

Canadian Arctic adventure countdown…we are less than four weeks out! Does it look cold? It was, but it’s nicer when the sun is out and the wind isn’t blowing. This was during a recent cold camp and drive test in Northern Nevada. The VisionX 4.5″ Light Cannons, Factor55 UltraHook, Fairlead 1.5, and a HitchLink 2.0 secured by a BOLT receiver lock, all look good mounted on the aluminum Buckstop bumper, which protects a Talon 12.5k Superwinch. Hard to see under the truck is an AEV front differential cover that completes the beam front axle. Surely the lights will see regular use on our big trip to the North. Hopefully the other stuff is not needed often.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resources: 

AEV: AEV

BOLT: BOLT Locks

Buckstop Truckware: Buckstop

Factor55: Factor55

Hallmark Campers: HallmarkRV

Superwinch: Superwinch

VisionX: VisionX 

 

Amalgamated TDR-WDA diesel fuel additive

Amalgamated’s 2.5 gallon jug of TDR-WDA additive. Well worth the $97.

Got Diesel? Got cold temps? I’ve been using Amalgamated’s TDR-WDA additive for several months, and just bought another 2.5 gallon jug before heading to the Canadian Arctic in a few weeks. Prevention vs. repair and downtime is the goal.

Resource: amalgamatedinc.com, 260-489-2549 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

WAGAN Tech BRITE-NITE Dome USB Lantern

WAGAN Tech’s BRITE-NITE rechargeable LED lantern. 220 lumens on high.

This is WAGAN Tech’s BRITE-NITE LED Dome Lantern, the rechargeable USB version, which has high, low, and flashing modes. Just during the initial fondling and photos I was impressed with this bright, little light. It exudes quality, and can be employed in several ways using the powerful magnets (portable, wireless rock light?), or the built-in swiveling hooks. My intended initial primary use is as an interior cab light, to augment the one, only fair, centered OE dome light in my 2014 Ram Tradesman.

After more use, a detailed review is planned. My upcoming monthlong adventure to the Canadian Arctic should help it get a proper break-in.

WAGAN is new accessory company to me, discovered recently when I bought their SlimLine 1500 inverter to power an electric heater in my camper while underway. They make lots of cool stuff!

Resource: WAGAN.com, 800-231-5806

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

 

Power Tank Worthington 6-pound propane bracket

Power Tank’s BKT-2287 bracket for 6-pound aluminum Worthington bottle

NEW from Power Tank, I don’t think it’s even on their website yet! Power Tank part number BKT-2287, a stainless steel bracket for a Worthington aluminum 6-pound propane tank (#299494), and part of my endless Arctic trip prep. Surely I will use extra fuel keeping the camper thawed, and until now I’d not found a practical solution for carrying extra propane. Since 2007, after the purchase of my AT Overland Chaser trailer, I’ve used one of these Worthington bottles. Though not large, some extra propane beats none. Power Tank’s roll bar mounts are backordered, but once they arrive I’ll test my mounting location.

Resource: Power Tank, 209-366-2163

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Big tires, odometer error, and mpg

Did the truck really travel 8,888 miles?

Recently a friend emailed this miles-per-gallon question:

I’m scratching my head here on fuel and mileage numbers. If I do the math for gallons of fuel consumed (fuel filter life % gauge) and odo I get about 16 mpg.

But the Ram’s EVIC dash display says 11 MPG.

With 4.30:1 gears and 37-inch tires, I know ALL the numbers are inaccurate.

How do I figure this out?

My reply:

I’d be very surprised if you are able to routinely obtain 16 mpg with your Ram/Four Wheel Camper setup, unless you are driving 55 mph. I never trust dash displays. They are almost always overly optimistic, though in your case because of the tall, 37-inch tires, it may actually be a little pessimistic.  My built, 2006 4Runner mpg display is slightly low most of the time because the car travels further on taller tires than the ECM calculates.

The fuel filter life gauge is not a good source for mpg data, I think it’s really only useful for when to change the fuel filters. I’ve done similar calculations using the oil life percentage numbers (it probably uses the same ECM algorithm) after doing oil changes. The numbers literally do not add-up to the actual odometer distance traveled (neither indicated miles or the known and measured inaccuracy). To state the obvious, the only way to get accurate fuel economy readings is to have good numbers for the math; how many miles vs. how many gallons at fill-up.

I don’t think your gearing change matters. Most late-model vehicles calculate the speed from wheel sensors… as long as that’s the case on the new Ram (easy to test) then it is only the tire diameter that matters. I’ve tested many sets of 33, 34, and 35-inch tires on my 2014, but no 37s yet. My guess is that your odometer is about 8-10% slow, compared to the actual miles you are traveling.

My method of testing tire-induced odometer error is to compare actual miles traveled to odometer readings. California doesn’t use highway mile-markers most places anymore, but Nevada does. With two columns on paper, I reset my trip odometer at a mile-marker, and then log the indicated and mile-marker distances. Data gathered over more miles will be more helpful. For example, a 10-20 mile test can be better than nothing, but the initial error percentage will drop if you make a longer run, like 50-100 miles.

If you’re on a long trip you can use indicated GPS miles instead of mile-markers. Recently I compared GPS to mile-marker data over a 70-mile route, and was surprised that they were just slightly different.

Good luck.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, Nevada

Now for a little something on the actual “Loneliest Road in America”.

Heading home from the Overland Expo West event several years ago, after an unseasonably warm April in Amado, Arizona, I camped at Hickson Petroglyphs Recreation Area/Campground, in one of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. At 6,500 feet, there is always the possibility of snow, including during spring.

Eezi-Awn Series 3 1600 rooftop tent, atop a 2006 V8 Toyota 4Runner.

The Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, managed my the Bureau of Land management, lies at the north end of the Toquima Range, along U.S Route 50, about 24 miles east of Austin, Nevada. Several Native American petroglyphs can be viewed on a self-guided, half-mile walking tour.

There is so much history here. Get away from the big cities and see what the rest of Nevada has to offer.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hickison_Petroglyph_Recreation_Area

 

The Loneliest Road in America?

Nevada State Route 722

The section of U.S. Route 50 through the center of Nevada was called the “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986. It was not meant as a compliment, but it became a popular slogan for the highway. The road does cross the sparsely populated center of the state, but is likely not our loneliest paved byway. One challenger is Nevada Highway 722.

State Route 722, just 41 miles long, is part of the original US 50, and the previous Lincoln Highway. It crosses Carroll Summit, with a twisty approach from both sides, Carroll is 1,100-feet higher than New Pass Summit on the replacement roadway. There are no towns. While I was out there for a few hours exploring unpaved spurs and taking photographs, I did not see another vehicle, not one. The only other person encountered was atop Carroll Summit. He was on skis. We waved.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.