With 2021 coming to a close in a matter of weeks, it’s time to unveil our inaugural “best of” list.
Below I’ve outlined ten products that I see as being some of the most innovative in the overlanding and off-roading space. As you’ll see, the products range from big to small, inexpensive to quite pricey.
But this list isn’t about size or price – it’s about recognizing products (and the companies that have developed them) that make overlanding and off-roading simpler, easier, more comfortable and functional, and so forth.
So, if you’re looking for a list of products that can totally change the way you approach your outdoor adventures, you’re found it. Let’s have a look at our best of 2021!
One of the most innovative, useful, and functional products that I’ve used over the last year is The Schenk, by J.A. Schenk Company.
The idea with this product is simple – there’s a steel ground rod, a stabilizer foot, and a cooking ring that form the base of this versatile cooking station. It comes with a grill to put on the cooking ring for cooking steak, fish, burgers, or other meats. Remove the grill grate and sit a cast-iron pot with your favorite chili or stew on the cooking ring to cook over the fire. You can also hang items like a kettle to brew some campfire coffee in the morning.
If you’re camping in an area with a fire ring, you can purchase an optional fire ring attachment (shown above) to attach The Schenk directly to the fire ring. This gives you two different ways to set up The Schenk to start cooking up some meals.
So, obviously, one of the claims to fame for The Schenk is its versatility. It truly can be your one-stop shop for cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner over the campfire.
Of course, to do so, The Schenk needs to be durable, and that it is. The ground rod is made of 302 food-grade stainless steel, the grill is made of 316 food-grade stainless steel, and the cooking ring, foot stabilizer, and keys are all made of steel as well.
The setup time is minimal as well – just what you want for an overlanding accessory. I often use the fire ring attachment, so it really is a simple matter of connecting the attachment to the fire ring, installing the ground rod, and sliding the cooking ring down the rod to the desired height. You just can’t get any easier than that!
Speaking of easy, The Schenk is easy to transport because it comes in a beautiful Wannigan box. Just slide the box in the back of the car or truck and you’re all set!
If you love to cook, this is a fantastic accessory to have on your adventures. And if you don’t particularly enjoy cooking, The Schenk will make the process quick, simple, and painless.
When you think about innovative products, you think of items that changed their industry for the better. The Schenk certainly fits the bill – overlanding cooking is now much easier!
ALP 1000-Watt Propane Generator
Second on our list of the best of 2021 is the ALP 1000-Watt Propane Generator.
Now, I know that 1000 watts isn’t going to be enough for some folks, but it’s plenty of power for my needs. I can charge all my devices, run the lights and fridge in my trailer, and even use it at home as an emergency backup for appliances like the refrigerator if the power goes out.
Helping matters is that this is a small, portable generator that makes it easy to take anywhere. It weighs less than 30 pounds and measures 18-1/4”L x 10-1/4”W x 14”H, so it’s easy to pop this little guy in the bed of my truck and take it with me on my adventures.
Something else that I really appreciate about this generator is that it burns much more cleanly than gas. I don’t have to worry about carbon buildup in the generator like I would with a gas generator, and on top of that, I don’t have to worry about spilling gas everywhere or smelling gas fumes.
This generator is compatible with various sizes of propane tanks as well, so if I just need a few hours of power, a one-pound tank will do the trick. But if I need long-lasting power, a 20-pound tank offers 60 hours of runtime. And if I need more power, I can pigtail two of these generators together.
The ALP 1000-Watt Propane Generator is also whisper quiet – less than 52 dB – so it isn’t something that overwhelms your senses at camp. In fact, you can stand next to this thing as it’s running and easily carry on a conversation.
So, this propane generator is portable, offers plenty of power, is clean, and offers quiet operation. What more could you ask for?!
Turtleback Trailers Adventure Series Trailer
I’ve had my Turtleback Expedition Series trailer for well over a year now, and I absolutely love it. It’s the perfect off-road trailer for my needs.
But this year, Turtleback expanded their lineup to include the all-new Adventure Series trailer, which offers the same rugged off-road capabilities while offering room for five or more people to sleep.
So, what you get is a trailer with a 2×3 galvanized steel chassis, front and rear receiver hitches, aluminum trailer skins, and an air ride suspension and 265/75/16 all-terrain wheels and tires. There’s a 2,000-pound tongue jack, a break away trailer activation switch, and a 7-pin trailer plug and holder as well.
Additionally, there’s three feet of modular storage up front, a Partner Steel two-burner stove, a Deep Well sink with a tempered glass top, a guzzle water system, an LED lighting system, and an 11-pound pancake propane tank. Riding on top is a king-sized trailer top tent.
In other words, this sucker is loaded for bear for an extended overlanding trip with a big group.
It’s hard for some companies to innovate, but that isn’t an issue with Turtleback. After all, there’s a reason why they’re a leader in the off-road trailer space. This new Adventure Series Concept proves it!
KC Hilites Pro6 Gravity LED Light Bar
KC Hilites have been around a good, long while. Over the years, they’ve established themselves as a leader in lighting for overlanding, off-roading, and other pursuits.
When I was outfitting my Jeep, there was no question that I’d install KC lights. I have four different lights all over my Jeep, but the most impressive is certainly the Pro6 Gravity LED light bar on my roof.
Each light in the eight-light array is a Cree XPL HD LED. These lights put out 18,400 lumens – each. That’s a lot of light! Just what you want on those dark nights of trail riding!
Each light has a 5000K color temperature, so it’s a clean, crisp light. The beam distance is an impressive 1,637 meters, so you can see way down the trail.
All of this is packaged on a light bar that’s about 6 inches tall, 3.33 inches deep, and about 51.5 inches wide. It looks killer on my Jeep – I like the look a lot. What I also like is that I can add different lenses depending on what I need the light bar to do – driving lights, spots, or wide-40 beams.
This light bar is easy to install, too, so it’s not only highly effective at casting light on the road ahead, but you can install it yourself if you have any amount of mechanical knowledge.
Having enough light to ride trails in your rig is essential for your safety and the safety of others. With the Pro6 Gravity LED light bar, you’ll certainly have the bases covered for lighting!
Planar Heaters 2kw Portable Heater
One of the great things about overlanding is that it can be done just about anywhere, just about any time of year – provided, of course, that you have the right setup.
I enjoy fall and winter camping because it allows me to get out and enjoy a totally different side of nature (and with far fewer crowds). But living in Southern California as I do, I’m used to warm temperatures, not freezing all night in my rooftop tent.
So, I picked up a 2kw portable diesel heater from Planar Heaters to heat my tent and keep the fall and winter chill at bay.
I did a lot of research on heaters before I went with this bad boy. I wanted something reliable, something that was efficient, and something that was portable. This diesel heater ticks all those boxes – and more.
For starters, the heater is encased in a crushproof and weather-resistant shell. This is important because the unit sits outside the tent, so it needs to be durable and resistant to the elements. I also appreciate how easy it is to move around given that it has a nice, big handle on top for moving it from one spot to the next.
As I said, the unit sits outside the tent and the warm, dry air is moved into the tent via a duct system. This helps protect against carbon monoxide poisoning (though the heater does come with a carbon monoxide detector for added safety).
Something else that’s innovative about this product is that it’s so simple to use and can be used in all sorts of environments. Just fill it up with diesel (or kerosene), connect it to a 12-volt power source, and enjoy warm, dry heat for about eight hours on roughly a half a gallon of fuel. There’s also no need to get up and adjust the heater in the middle of the night because it comes with a handy wired remote. Heck, you can even use it at altitudes over 8,000 feet.
While I like roughing it and getting off-grid, I certainly don’t mind having some creature comforts. Heat is one of those comforts I definitely like to have. For my money, you won’t find a better heating option than this!
TrueVan Vision X
One of the linchpins of having a good overlanding experience is having a vehicle that allows you to take extended trips and be off grid. The TrueVan Vision X does just that.
But don’t think that you’ll be roughing it in one of these bad boys…
Based on the Mercedes Sprinter Van, the Vision X has all the luxuries you could hope for while you’re overlanding.
For example, it has a home automation system that allows you to monitor things like fresh water levels, set up local WiFi, and dim the lights.
When it’s time to rest, you can do so on a near queen-sized bed that, with the flared popouts on either side of the van, gives a person that’s 6’5″ tall room to stretch out.
The Vision X also has a bathroom with a ceramic blackwater toilet, a hybrid expandable shower, and a door that extends outward to create a private room that’s separate from the front of the van.
Speaking of the front, the driver and passenger seats swivel 180-degrees to give you seating options when you aren’t driving. There’s a fully-adjustable maple-top lagun table behind the driver’s seat that you can use as a dining area without having to put away the bed. Alternatively, this table can be used as office space.
Of course, in the back is a full garage and office space with a four-foot table and a fold-up bench. Let’s not forget the kitchen area in the middle of the van that features a fridge, a microwave, an induction stove, and loads of storage.
The entire rig is insulated so when you run the diesel heater, the heat stays inside, or when you run one of three air conditioning units the cool air will stay inside.
Honestly, I could go on and on about the Vision X – there are simply that many innovative features in it. It is simply one of the most impressive camper vans I’ve seen in a while, and I think you’ll be impressed with it too. That’s why it’s on this year’s best of 2021 list!
Camp Chef Pro60X
After taking delivery of my new Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 grill, I was so impressed that I wanted to get something small and portable to take with me on my overlanding adventures. I found just what I needed in the Camp Chef Pro60X.
For starters, the unit comes with built-in leg levelers, which allows you to get a perfectly level cooking surface. This is critically important when you’re overlanding because you can’t always find a level spot for your cooking station. Now, you don’t have to worry about it!
Something else that I really appreciate about the Pro60X is that there are a ton of accessories you can use with it. In fact, I can use the same 14-inch accessories that I use on my Woodwind WiFi 24’s Side Sear on the Pro60X. So, for example, I can bring the 14-inch pizza oven with me and use it on the Pro60X in camp. Homemade pizza while overlanding?? You bet!
The Pro60X is propane powered and has dual 30,000 BTU burners with matchless ignition, so you can cook all sorts of food in no time. There’s even two side shelves for storage that fold down when they aren’t needed.
In other words, this grill is the perfect companion for overlanders that love to cook (like me!). It gives you the space you need to prep and cook and do so with accurate heat control on a 14 x 32-inch cooking surface. And with ultimate portability and the flexibility to mix and match accessories, you can customize the Pro60X to your specific needs no matter where you want to cook. Talk about innovative!
Cascadia 4×4 Hood Mounted Solar Panel
Many of you might be familiar with Cascadia 4×4 because they are well-known for their winch accessories.
But Cascadia 4×4 ventured into the solar panel space, and boy, did they hit it out of the park.
The panel is made of 8-layer laminate, yet is just 3mm thick, so it sits low on the hood of my truck. The laminate material is both lightweight and extremely durable, with weatherproofness added to the mix to give you a highly reliable product.
I ordered my panel with a plug-and-play MPPT solar charge controller, which makes it extremely easy to use as a backup power system for charging my truck’s starter battery.
Not only is this device easy to use, but the install was also very simple and straightforward. It took me about 90 minutes to install it, which includes the time it took me to thoroughly clean the hood before attaching the panel.
I think the result looks awesome, too. In fact, if you didn’t know it was an aftermarket component, you would probably think it was a factory option straight from Jeep!
When you go overlanding, you take all sorts of redundant items – two tow ropes, extra food and water, and extra clothing, for example. Well, having a redundant power source is also important, and that’s precisely what I get with this 30-watt panel.
Now, this thing isn’t going to run the lights in my Turtleback trailer, but what it will do is give my Jeep’s starter battery enough juice to turn over. No more worries about dead batteries for me!
MC Ranch Overland Original Fire Reflector
What caught my eye about the MC Ranch Overland Original Fire Reflector is that it pulls double-duty.
Well, actually, it has several duties…
First, this handy device reflects heat back from the fire, helping to create a warm and cozy environment for fireside chats, even on cool fall evenings like we have right now.
Second, the Original Fire Reflector also reflects light, so you can illuminate camp simply from the light from the fire. This allows you to save the batteries in your lanterns or headlamp and rely instead on the ambiance of the natural light from the fire.
A third benefit of this product is that it helps you create a safer cooking area. The Original Fire Reflector helps control wind and air flow, which enables you to build a better fire – and a more long-lasting fire – for cooking meals. Better still, it works as a shield from flying embers so you can approach the fire to tend to your food with less worry of an ember contacting your skin or clothing.
Aside from all the utility that this innovative product provides, it’s beautifully made. In fact, it’s made from CNC machined aluminum and is hand-finished and assembled. The reflector folds flat for easy storage, too, so it’s convenient to slip into a storage compartment in your trailer or in the bed of the truck for your overlanding adventures.
67 Designs Series 55 Rail System Rear Seat Pack
I have a 2020 Jeep Gladiator that I’ve absolutely enjoyed both on-road and off-road. It’s what I use to tow my Turtleback Expedition Trailer for my overlanding trips as well.
I have my Jeep tricked out with a lot of accessories, and one that often gets overlooked – but that is both incredibly functional and innovative – is the 67 Designs Series 55 Rail System Rear Seat Pack.
What this little guy does is provide a mount for a phone or tablet that allows passengers in the rear seat to watch movies without looking down at their device.
With my son riding in the backseat, this device is the perfect option for helping keep him entertained without straining his neck to look down toward the screen. So, this is a small device, and a simple one at that, but it can literally help prevent injuries to my kid!
The rail system is super easy to install – it takes about five to ten minutes. The pack comes with a Series 55 rail, a mounting pack, and a nano arm for mounting a device. With all the bits and pieces you need, this is an innovative overlanding and off-road item that packs a mighty punch.