The REESE’S Pieces of JK Onboard Air!

As I’m sure you know, REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups are made from two completely different, unrelated products, each great on its own, but absolutely fantastic when combined.  “Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together.”  In similar fashion, thanks to countless hours of product research, I’ve created the Reese’s Pieces of JK onboard air, by combining two awesome, but completely unrelated products, each great on its own, but that work unbelievably well together.


The Springtail Solutions M-PAC JK Side Rack and the Extreme Outback Products High Output 12 Volt Compressor are two BEST OF BREED products that work so well together it’s like they were made for one another!




Onboard air is the Holy Grail of self sufficiency, because it provides capability you can’t otherwise pack, or manufacture on the trail.  Whether it’s simply airing up tires, activating lockers, powering air tools, blowing off dust, or turning a regular water tank into a pressurized sink, onboard air is a high priority for any wheeling rig, and an absolute necessity for any true expedition / overland rig.

I’ll follow this up with detailed reviews on each product, but I chose the ExtremeAire High Output 12 Volt Compressor after literally years of research, and based on some very good personal recommendations.  For the ~$430 price point nothing else on the market comes close to being as heavy-duty, rugged, reliable, and user-serviceable.  Nor do any of the competitive options in that price range provide the same level of pure air output.  In short you get a fan cooled, 3/4 horsepower, 100% duty cycle motor that flows 1.5 cfm @100 psi (continuous 150 psi, 200 psi max) from a company completely focused on vehicle mounted air compressor solutions.  Simply put, all the numbers mean the ExtremeAire 12V High Output compressor can quickly air up the biggest off-road tires, fill the highest-pressure RV tires, or run air tools, WITHOUT having to stop. 

Why Haven’t You Heard of Extreme Outback Products / ExtremeAire Compressors Before? 

Though focused solely solutions for mobile based compressor needs, these relatively small, recreational, off-road compressors are just a tiny part of their overall business.  The fact is, Extreme Outback Products is primarily focus on providing OEM badged compressors for large scale heavy equipment, industrial machinery and military vehicles.  Think CAT, Volvo Construction, John Deere Construction, the U.S. Military, and the Australian Military, just to name a few.

How Was I Going to Fit That Relatively Big, Heavy Compressor In The JK?


Ok, the Extreme Outback Products High Output 12 Volt Compressor was an easy decision.  The hard part was figuring out where and how to mount it in the JKUR.  There is no way this monster will fit in the engine compartment.  I wouldn’t mount it there anyway; heat kills these things.  Likewise, I didn’t want it under the rig, because then the compressor itself, critical electrical wiring, and the primary air line would be subject to the elements, and susceptible to trail damage.  Strategically, I wanted my ExtremeAire mounted safely and securely, somewhere inside my JKUR, but without taking up too much of the already limited cargo space.  A tall order indeed… 

The Springtail Solutions M-PAC JK Side Rack

Like many Jeepers, I’m into a lot of outdoor activities, and I’m a Boy Scout Leader, so I believe in being prepared. 🙂  This means I generally keep all kinds of things in my Jeep: extra fluids, tools, stuff to get unstuck, bug spray, bug out gear, and a First Aid Kit.  Now, anyone with a Wrangler knows how hard it is to keep lots of “everyday” stuff neatly organized and accessible in the back of your Jeep, and leave room for other, trip specific gear.  Since I’m always on the lookout for better solutions and new ideas, I actually discovered Springtail Solutions a few years ago, while researching vehicle based, rip-away first aid pouches.

Poking around their site led me to the M-PAC JK Side Racks.  Since the Outback Adventure Products tailgate table was already in my plans, the M-PAC JK Side Rack seemed like the perfect solution for mounting MOLLE gear, and the 6.9 x 13 x 3.5″ top cubby looked like it made excellent use of otherwise completely wasted space.  Even know I’d never seen any of their products in person, I wanted to give this great looking product, form this little known company a try.  Thanks to a very generous gift form my in-laws, who I’m sure had some help from my beautiful wife, a JK driver side rack found its way into my hands…

The Chocolate Falls into the Peanut Butter, and Greatness Results!

One day, as I laid out a bunch of upgrades for a previous post, I got an idea.  As it often happens with one of those thousand-plus-piece jigsaw puzzles, two seemingly unrelated pieces looked like they might actually fit together after all.  A few quick measurements and a test fit later, and it was clear the ExtremeAire High-Output Compressor fits so well into the Springtail M-PAC JK rack,  it was like they were made for each other!



The fit was so good I knew whatever challenges remained would be easily resolved with a little creativity, and a few power tools.  In reality, aside from drilling some mounting holes in the bottom of the cubby, and calling Extreme Outback to ensure my plans wouldn’t void the compressor’s warranty, it only took a few pieces of PVC to get everything perfect.

Constructed of thick, 11 gauge steel and held together with stainless hardware, including Nylock nuts, the Springtail Solutions M-PAC Side Rack is seriously heavy-duty, and it mounts very securely to the JK, so it has no problem keeping the Extreme Outback Compressor safely and securely in place.  Obviously, mounting the compressor securely is paramount to ensure it neither walks off, nor becomes a health hazard while out on the trails.


After getting the compressor hard mounted to the M-PAC, and the M-PAC bolted in the JK, the rest of the install was very straight forward.  I followed Extreme Outback Product’s Tips and Instructions to the letter.  The recommended, resettable 50 amp circuit breaker and 100 amp relay are hooked up as directed and securely mounted in in the engine bay.  Almost 50 feet of red and black, heavy, 4 AWG battery cable (that I cut, terminated and shrink-wrapped myself), runs from from the battery, through the firewall, alongside the factory JK harness down the driver’s side of the tub, and back to the compressor.



Honestly, the install looks factory, and the compressor is very easily controlled by a “Passenger Eject” Contura V rocker switch, from OTRATTW, that lives in a lower Daystar panel.  (While not at all loud, it sure makes unsuspecting passengers jump every time I hit the switch – which my kids get a kick out of…)



Hit me up if you’re interested in this fantastic setup for your JK!  I’ll be happy to walk you through the process and if there enough interest I’ll work on putting together a complete, packaged solution.  Aside from completely fabricating your own mounting structure, you’re not going to find a better solution that installs so easily and works so well!


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2016

Categories: Jeep, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Marks A Few Special 50th Anniversaries

Well, we’re somehow already one full month into 2016, and while I’m not entirely sure how the last 31 days went by so quickly, I do know it was a blast, and I hope your 20-16 is off to a great start as well!

So, I start dreading taxes, generally trying to buckle down a bit more, and throwing some things on the calendar, I realized that some of the major off road events I’d like to attend in 2016 are not just major events, but major milestones!


2016 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.  Great people.  Amazing vehicles.  Vendor Showcases.  Huge Giveaways.  A full week of spending time in the great outdoors on trails for all levels, and some of the best, most breathtaking scenery this great country has to offer.  If you got that Jeep and Off-Road thing, EJS is definitely a Bucket List trip!  I’ve been told by those who know, your first time probably won’t be your last.  Find out more at the Red Rock 4-Wheelers site.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.21.28 AM

Image courtesy of Red Rock 4-Wheelers

2016 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Venerable Ford Bronco, arguably one of the coolest, and best 4x4s ever made.  Stock V8 power, stout solid axles, great suspension design, tons of aftermarket support, sized just right for the trails, and a cult-like following!  While they are getting harder to find, there’s no denying they are a great platform for the perfect 4×4.  I know my buddies at the Mid-Atlantic Early Broncos Club have a bunch of great events planned, including this year’s MEB RoundUp.  Find out more on the MEB site.  If you like Broncos, you gotta check this out.


Here’s a 1966 style Ford Bronco in stock, uncut form. It doesn’t look like much by today’s standards, but it turned the SUV World on it’s lid when introduced to compete against the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout.



…and here’s a modernized Bronco. Thanks to 50 years of support and innovation, the Early, or Classic Ford Bronco, can be turned into extremely reliable, unstoppable machines, capable of taking you from coast to coast, while conquering the toughest trails, and looking great doing it!


Finally, 2016 also marks my Parents’ 50th Anniversary!

Congratulations, and Thank you!  So Much!  For everything!!  I know that trail hasn’t always been easy, but it’s a major milestone not many hit anymore.  Your family is extremely proud of you for it, and you should be proud of yourselves.  I’m especially grateful for all of the love and support you’ve always given me, in everything I’ve done, which certainly includes the encouragement, patience, countless hours, a few minor injuries, and the general ups-and-downs that come with the things I’ve always loved, and have luckily been able to enjoy throughout my life.  Things like Uncle John’s mini-bike, a Honda ATC-70, and then Kawasaki 185 3-wheeler, a Quadracer 250, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and more than a few 4x4s.  As I think back through life, some of my best, and happiest times have been out in the dirt or in the woods, enjoying motorsports with you, as well as other family and friends!  Here’s to another 50 Years!


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2016


Categories: Bronco, Events, Jeep | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fog Pocket Kit is not just the Brightest, but the Best of the Best!!


A box of sunshine.


Ya gotta admit those are some bad ass lookin’ lights!


Friends, family, and long time readers know I have a thing for lights…flashlights, weapons lights, key chain lights, headlamps, lanterns, and yes, of course, vehicle lights.  It’s a good idea to always have a good source of light with you, and when it comes to your vehicle, it’s actually a safety issue.  Better lighting can make you a better night-time driver, and helps others see you better.  Obviously, if you’re doing any kind of off-road travel, wheeling, or racing after dark, then super bright, high-quality aftermarket lighting is an ABSOLUTE MUST!!

The moment I knew…

All that said, I wasn’t even looking for lights the first time I saw the baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fog Pocket Kit.  I was still deciding between AEV and Metalcloak for my suspension system, but the moment I saw my buddy Rin’s white JKUR at the OK 4WD & Auto Metalcloak event, I knew I needed these lights.  Nothing else would do!

baja designs Squadron-R ProIt wasn’t even dark.  The sun was still shining.  Yet, these little, tiny lights in the front bumper were burning my eyes out!!  I was like, Holy S…., WHAT are those??!!  They were white hot.

baja designs Squadron-R Pro

…and they looked just as cool off.  In fact, to my eyes, the baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fogs look better than any other fog, or driving light design I’d ever seen – and as you can see from the pictures below, I’ve pretty much seen ’em all.


OK 4wd & Auto’s Vision X Display


OK 4wd & Auto’s Rigid Industries Display


OK 4wd & Auto’s baja designs and J.W. Speaker Display


Ok 4wd & Auto’s baja designs display. Don’t be misled by the comparatively small display. These are the brightest, top-of-the-line LEDs.


OK 4wd & Auto has a lot of high end lights on display. baja designs are the only ones you’ll see locked up tight, in a cage.

Family, friends and readers know I always try to buy the best I can afford.  “Russ, when was the last time I overdid anything?”  Seriously, I’d rather do it right, and do it once.  I’ve learned the hard way that you eventually spend more money in the long run replacing cheaper stuff, than if you went high-quality to start. Not to mention the hours wasted removing components that fail, installing replacements, or constantly having to make fixes.  Then there’s the frustration of spending good, hard earned money on a piece of equipment, investing time to complete a high-quality, factory-like install, only to have whatever-it-is NOT work when you need it to?!!  It’s the worst!  

Like many of you, my Jeep is the real deal.  I’m not just building for looks.  I’m building a daily driver, family truckster, overland explorer, surf fishing, hunting rig, trail rig, pull people out of the snowbanks in winter rig, and sometimes rock crawler.  Given that my Jeep JK has to function safely, reliably and successfully in so many different roles, combined with just how busy life is, I just don’t have time to play games with inferior products, especially when it comes to something as important as lighting.  I need good stuff that’s just gonna work, which is why I chose the baja designs Squadron Pro’s.


Now, even though I loved the looks and light output of the baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fogs from day one, I still did my research.  I read online reviews, I spoke with owners, and I checked the broad selection at OK Auto & 4WD, where they not only stock all the top names, but have them setup in impressive, interactive displays.


Bright Spots: more than just a pretty face.  

I found that the baja designs Squadron-R Pro fog pocket kit for the JK was not only the brightest, but the best on the market.  That shouldnt be a surprise once you realize baja designs products are purpose built for the off-road World’s main stages, like the baja 1000, and the theater of military conflict.  Yes, baja designs military infrared (IR) LED lights and Infrared (IR) HID lights provide high powered covert IR light source, enhancing night vision capabilities for vehicle lighting, hunting and security applications for our men and women in uniform. 


baja designs uses all top of the line components, and assembles their products with quality construction, serviceability and modularity in mind. 

  • 4 Cree XM-L2 LEDs with Hard Coated Polycarbonate Lenses, that can be changed.  baja designs offers accessory lenses that allow you to change the pattern of your Squadron series lights from driving, to spot, to wide cornering or to a combo of driving and cornering.  You can also change the color from clear / white to yellow.

Squadron Series Amber Driving Combo Lens

  • Hard Anodized & Powder Coated Cast Aluminum Housing with cooling fins.


  • Billet Machined Aluminum Bezel, that can be changed.


  • Stainless Steel Hardware & Bracket material.


  • Exceeds MIL-STD810G (Mil-Spec Testing).


  • Built-In Overvoltage Protection.


  • IP69K (Waterproof, Submersible to 9ft).


  • IK10 Compliant (Mechanical Impact Testing).


  • Lifetime Warranty.


  • Owner / User Serviceability – replaceable bezels, lenses and optics.


  • The included high-quality wiring harness with Weatherpack connectors and thick, quality wire loom.



Squadron Series Amber Rock Guard


Squadron Series Rock Guard


While this review focuses on the JK specific Squadron Pro Fog Pocket light kit, baja designs has solutions for all of your lighting needs, with products that cover the broad spectrum of different light patterns outlined below:


Diagram courtesy of baja designs


Diagram courtesy of baja designs

Speaking of the lighting spectrum, no review of high performance LED lights would be complete without a note about the Kelvin Color Temperature Scale.  While I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Kelvin Temperature Scale, I have done enough flashlight, vehicle light and photography research to to agree with baja designs that daylight is generally considered in the 5,000K temperature range.


Chart courtesy of baja designs


According to baja designs, Human eyes have evolved to see best at noon on a sunny day which translates to a color temperature of 5000 Kelvin.   A color temperature of 5000K greatly reduces driver fatigue and increases terrain recognition.  BD exclusively uses 5000K LEDs to ensure the safest and highest performing driving experience.”  So, there’s actually a whole lotta truth in the “joke” I make at the end of the review, about having the sun shining in front of me everywhere I go.


Here are some pics of my Squadron Pro’s in action.


J.W. Speaker Evolution I Series, low beam.  These are night and day above the stock headlights, but appear dim compared to the baja designs Squadron Pro’s.


Same spot, with just the baja designs Squadron Pro’s in the JK Fog Pocket Kit. No other lights on in this pic.


Spots that could have been a little brighter: In the name of Continuous Quality Improvement.

I’m admittedly nitpicking, but in the name of providing an objective review, and as someone always striving to make things better – personally and professionally, with everything I do – here are a few minor things I think can be improved:

  • I had to drill out the mounting bracket hole slightly so the provided bolt that attaches the light to the bracket would fit.  Not uncommon with aftermarket parts, and maybe I got a fluke, but stuff like this should be caught before these things go out the door.
  • Not plug-and-play, but clearly intended to work with the factory hi-beam switch.  The bd Squadron Pro JK Fog Pocket Kit does not simply plug into the factory Jeep JK factory wiring harness, and I do not recommend simply splicing a factory style connector onto these lights.  Personally, I don’t see this as a negative, because unless you modify the factory wiring (not recommended on a CAN bus system) the factory fogs switch off when the hi-beams turn on – and there are definitely times you may want them both on.  Also, while the amp draw on LED lights is comparatively low, you can be sure, without a whole bunch of extra research, that the bd provided wiring harness is adequately matched to their lights, whereas I’d have to do my research before plugging them into the factory harness, and well, why take u necessary chances?  However, for the novice looking for a super easy install, this might be a consideration. 
  • Unnecessarily complex directions.  While the baja designs instructions were great overall, especially the pictures, I had a really hard time following the section covering the hi-beam disconnect, and/or use of  the optional harness for a user provided LED switch, and I’ve seen my share of highly technical, extremely complex documentation.  It’s just overly complex.
  • No switch included.  The kit should include a simple on/off/on switch that works with the wiring harness provided and the factory hi-beam circuit.  It’s nice to have your forward facing driving / fog / spot lights tied to your hi-beams so they conveniently be turned on and off, with the hi-beams.  This keeps you from fumbling with a bunch of individual switches in oncoming traffic, and or for those overzealous, obnoxious folks who just don’t realize you’re running high-end LED headlights, and instead think your hi-beams are already on.  One or two quick flashes of your hi-beams and I get it, my lights are bright.  Get nutty and I’ll show you some lights!!  haha.  To start, I simply used the harness provided, minus the hi-beam override wire, and connected my Squadron Pro’s to an OTRATTW labeled Contra V switch in my Daystar Switch Panel.  At some point I will actually go back and tie them into the hi-beams.
  • The kit is just too specific to the factory JK bumper and fog like placement, and that’s too limiting.  The self-tapping mounting screws only work with the factory tupperware.  The connectors for the Squadron Pro’s are too close together for anything but the factory bumper.  You can pretty much guarantee anyone ponying up for these bad boyz isn’t running the stock plastics.  Many popular aftermarket Jeep JK bumpers spread the lights out further, which means some electrical work to make the harness useable.




The story behind baja designs: It’s the quintessential American Dream, a true Cinderella Story. 

baja designs was started by Owner/Lead engineer Alan Roach and Product Development Engineer Stephen “Tex” Mitchell, who are avid baja 1000 motorcycle racers.  They got their start adapting Dual Sport lighting to motocross bikes, and then fine tuning those lights for the needs of night-time, off-road racing.  What they learned from improving OEM Dual Sport lighting led to the development of the World’s first motorcycle specific, race inspired HID.  baja designs lights have since won every professional and amateur motorcycle and ATV Baja 1000 class for over 15 years.  Somewhere along the line, and based on their incredible success, these guys became known asThe Scientists of Lighting,and it wasn’t long before they were asked by fellow racers to adapt their lights for the buggy and truck classes of the baja 1000.  BD was the first company to develop a forward projecting LED light bar, introduced and raced in the 2005 Baja 1000.  From that first LED light bar evolved into an entire line of the highest performing and race winning LED lights on the market.  And the rest is history… 

Today baja designs makes a full line of top-of-the-line HID, LED and Infrared (IR) lighting products for adventure bike, agriculture, ATV / UTV, automotive, industrial, marine, military, motorcycle and of course, off-road racing use.  Best of breed, purpose products created out of need, by enthusiasts, from a company dedicated to being BOLDER, BRIGHTER, and BETTER, for fellow racers and enthusiasts.  Yeah, baja designs is a company I’m proud to support!

I encourage you spend some time on the baja designs website, because they really clearly take this “Scientists of Lighting” title very seriously.  Check out the “Science of Lighting” sub-menus to really immerse yourself in their products and related technology.  They are not just pushing product, but truly looking to educate people.


Overall: A Total Win!

I’ve been running these lights since July, and I  couldn’t be happier.  I used them to help me navigate the trails and backroads of Vermont at the 2015 Killington Jeep Jamboree, where I received literally hundreds of compliments and fielded many questions about them.  I use them to navigate the sands of Island Beach State Park when I’m surf fishing, and I constantly use them around town.  They simply continue to just amaze me every time I flip them on.  They are ASTONISHINGLY bright, and as said earlier, they even look great when they’re off.


It’s really, and quite scientifically, like always having the sun shining right in front of me, no what what time it is…


We Jeep owners bolt a lot of stuff onto our rigs, it’s one of the fun, cool things that’s part of owning a Jeep.  Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than an accessory that improves on-road and off-road safety, looks amazing on and off and performs incredibly, from an American company with a successful history of winning the baja 1000!  So, put the baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fog Pocket kit at the top of your list.  If the Pro kit, which retails for $524.95 is overdoing it a bit for you, then check out the Squadron Sport-R Fog Pocket Kit, which retails for $324.95 and gives you 1,800 Lumens per light.

…and speaking of lists, the baja designs Squadron-R Pro or Sport JK Fog Pocket Kit is sure to brighten any Jeep fan’s Christmas morning… pun intended!


Sincere thanks to baja designs for working with The Off Road Reference on this review.


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Bronco, Jeep, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bronco Fame and Fortune!



A couple weeks ago, I got a great surprise when my long-time friend, and fellow wheeler, Mike D, texted to ask if I knew I was in Bronco Driver magazine, issue 65.  Then he sent me a picture, and brought me the rag to boot!  Sure enough, I’m in three different pictures.








 I gotta tell ya, I’m honored and stoked to make the magazine! (and I’m sure my buddy Randy is too!)  So, that’s the fame!

Ok, then, what’s the fortune?  No, it’s not what I’ve invested in the rig, though that’s not an entirely bad guess.  The fortune is being lucky enough to have one of these great, classic vehicles and to be able to get it out there on the trails with such great folks.

I mean, these days, as we approach the Ford Bronco’s 50th Anniversary there’s probably one Early Bronco, in any shape, for every four-thousand Jeep Wranglers on the road.  That right there – the rarity – makes it cool, to say nothing of their timeless look, and fantastic wheeling abilities.

Anyway, in case you missed it, here’s my coverage of last year’s 2014 MEB Bronco RoundUp.  If you’re into Ford Broncos and live just about anywhere on the East Coast, or Tennessee, California or Oklahoma for that matter, the annual MEB RoundUp is a MUST ATTEND event!!


Likewise, if you’re into Ford Broncos, and live anywhere in World, Bronco Driver Magazine is a MUST READ.  You’ll find reader’s rides, great products, feature rigs, event coverage and technical tips, tricks and ‘How-to’s’ in every issue.  In short, it’s full of value-added info you’re sure to need if you drive or spin wrenches on one of these old steeds.  It’s a great magazine, put on for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts, that celebrates our passion for the Ford Bronco.


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Bronco, Events, News | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

July was a blur – Bad News / Good News

I can’t believe it’s already July 31st!  I haven’t stopped running around with crazy, busy, but awesome, weekends since the middle of May!  The bad news is that July’s been a slow month for writing. The good news is that’s because I’ve been wheeling and wrenching – and have some great Product Reviews and Trip Reports to share in the coming weeks and months.


Look for a Product Review of the baja designs Squadron Pro JK Fog Pocket Kit.


In a word, these lights are AWESOME!  AMAZING!  RIDICULOUS! UNBELIEVABLE! Not only do these look cool when they are off, they are so bright and the color temperature is so spot-on, it’s like putting the power of the Sun on the front of your Jeep! 


Look for a Trip Report on the 2015 Killington, Vermont Jeep Jamboree.


Jeep Jamboree is the epitome of the Jeep experience.  Great people. The Great Out of Doors. Awesome trails with both breathtaking scenery, and the right level of obstacles for everyone. Hundreds of cool Jeeps. Good, honest fun, and a lifetime of memories for the whole family.  This is what Jeepin’, and the Jeep Lifestyle is all about.  If you got that “Jeep Thing“, you need to check out a Jeep Jamboree USA trip!


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Events, Jeep, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment



Old Glory

This weekend, as you gather with friends and family, shop sales, possibly hit the trails, and hopefully enjoy fireworks, I ask that you take a conscious moment to reflect on, marvel at, and thank God (whatever God that is) that if you are lucky enough to live in the United States of America, we enjoy so many freedoms, some of which don’t exist anywhere else in the World.

Now, I know everyone doesn’t always agree on the issues, the salient points, nor the outcomes, but similar to the way we are united in “Jeep & Off-Road,” let’s put those differences aside and unite as Americans, if only for this weekend, realizing that Freedom is what makes our Country such a great place to live.  Some of our key freedoms include:

  1. Freedom of Speech
  2. The Right to Bear Arms
  3. Freedom of Religion
  4. The Right to Equal Justice
  5. The Right to Own Private Property
  6. Freedom to travel anywhere within our nation
  7. Freedom to work at any job for which one can qualify
  8. Freedom to marry and raise a family
  9. The Freedom to Vote


Not as explicitly, but somewhere in there is the the freedom to purchase our choice of vehicle, modify it to our liking, and then hit the road, or the trails.  That means land management, or more specifically, access to “public[??!?]” lands is obviously a major priority for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities.  It’s certainly a top concern for those of us who enjoy activities involving motorized vehicles.  While it’s unfortunately a constant battle with the very opinionated, but factually ill-informed, and while there is much more work to be done to “legally gain access to public land” (that’s an oxymoron, no?)  in the Mid-Atlantic region, great strides have been made. There are many people and organizations to thank for what we do have – organizations like Tread Lightly and SEMA.


Finally, as you contemplate our freedoms, please take a moment to thank God that there have been, and continue to be, very brave men and women who stand up and fight for those freedoms, regardless of whether they fight for freedom in the streets of Everytown USA, in courtrooms, in the Legislative Branch of Government or on the battlefield. After all, Freedom isn’t free.

Let Freedom Reign, and God Bless America!


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Events, News | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Outback Adventures Awesome Trailgater – The Kitchen Counter For Your Jeep!


Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures


How many times while camping, hunting, fishing, out on the trail, or just in the parking lot of the big game have you wanted a relatively large, sanitary, out of the way surface to prep food, cook a meal or rest your cold one, when the ground, fender flares, hood and cargo area just won’t do?

What if you could put the kitchen counter in your Jeep?


That’s exactly where the Outback Adventures Trailgater comes in.


While designed and marketed towards meal prep and eating on your outback adventures, the Trailgater is obviously useful for so much more.  It’s a workbench, bait prep, fish or small game cleaning station, or just an extra space when you need to put something down.  Spend any time on the trail, or otherwise in the great out of doors with your Jeep, and you already know this is a truly, phenomenal, value-added idea.  Don’t think you need one of these, and you just haven’t spent enough time Jeepin…

The main component of the Outback Adventures Trailgater include a 14 gauge (0.075″) food-grade Stainless Steel counter, a 0.120″ Aluminum Backsplash, both CAD designed, laser cut, CNC bent, and de-burred, and your choice of a fancy Bamboo, or Sanalite (HPDE) stow-able cutting board.  The Trailgater can hold up to 45lbs, which should be more than adequate for anything you’d realistically want a fold down tailgate table to hold.

What do those fancy specs really mean to you?


Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures

The Outback Adventures Trailgater is an extremely well thought-out, extremely well constructed piece of equipment!  Doug, the owner of Outback Adventures and inventor of the Trailgater, obviously invested significant time and energy into the product.  I’m sure there were more than a few iterations of the design before it evolved into something with which he was finally happy.  After having a couple conversation and trading a few emails with Doug, I can tell you that he is very proud of his product, rightly so, and genuinely wants us, as his customers, to be completely happy with the Trailgater.

There are some competitive options, and I researched them all, thanks in large part to some really good comparison threads on the net, but I liked the Outback Adventures Tailgater best.


So, what sold me on the Outback Adventures Trailgater?

As a general philosophy, I’d rather spend once than constantly replace cheap alternatives, so I believe in buying the best products you can afford.  The following highlights make the Outback Adventures Trailgater the best product of it’s kind, for me:

  • With a 13″ x 25″ main table, plus a 10″ x 14″ cutting board, you get Best in Class usable space, or roughly 465 square inches.  


  • To my eye, and compared to everything else I’ve seen, the Trailgater just has an aesthetically pleasing, high-class look.  The heavy-gauge, food grade stainless steel and the aluminum back-splash are a perfect balance of form and function. Food prep, including direct contact with the Trailgater, and the necessary clean-up afterwards, to ensure your tailgate table doesn’t become a Petri dish of bacteria, wasn’t an afterthoughtMaintaining as santiary an environment as you can on the trail, and the health and well-being of his customers, are clearly important to Doug.  The backsplah is another really nice touch, and something skipped by many competitors. Not only does it complete the look, but it protects the finish on the inside of your factory tailgate.

Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures

  • You can see the meticulous attention to detail everywhere.  Every surface of the product has been professionally finished, smoothed or rounded in a thoughtful manner, giving the product an exceptional fit and finish. There are no unfinished sides, nor sharp corners or edges for the kids to hurt themselves on.  Even the hinges, and quick release pins are high quality.


    Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures


Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures


  • The no drill, yet very strong installation, that works seamlessly with the factory subwoofer and sub-floor cubby found in 07 – 14 JK’s.

Image courtesy of Doug from Outback Adventures

  • The space saving design protrudes only two inches into the cargo area when folded up and stowed.


  • I like that there are NO MOLLE attachments on the product. Why?  It’s gonna suck the first time you spill your suds, clam bait juice, fish guts, or whatever else you put on the table, and it runs all over, and into your survival, recovery, first aid, or whatever other gear you have attached to the underside of the table!  Honestly Officer, that beer stench is from a beer I spilled months ago. I just can’t get the smell out of my MOLLE gear. lol  (Besides, I found a better solution for MOLLE attachment points.)


  • Finally, my friend Rin, THE JK expert at OK4WD, who has the option to run anything he wants in his JK, runs the Outback Adventures Trailgater.  That should tell ya something.  Why?  On top of everything else, the Trailgater DOESN’T RATTLE!


I’m hard pressed to find any criticism of the Trailgater. Initially, the price may seem high, relative to some competitive options, but its actually very fair when you consider the overall build quality, design and just how much heavy, food grade stainless steel and aluminum make up the Trailgater. (Go price aluminum and 304 SS at your local big box home improvement store.)  If forced to find something, about the best I can do is recommend some pulls for the quick release pins. The springs are strong, and the driver’s side pull is at a bit of an awkward angle because of how the tailgate is shaped. That’s easily, and inexpensively fixed a number of ways, from cheap carabineers to zipper pulls.  I’m just making some paracord lanyards.  My other suggestion might be some type of “stop” to prevent you from moving the cutting board too far in or out. Honestly though, it’s not a problem if you pay attention to what you’re doing, and I’m guessing an official fix from Doug would add cost, while making it harder to remove the cutting board for cleaning.  Therefore, the value-add from such a “stop” is probably not worth the cost.

 In Short

The Outback Adventures Trailgater is the Best of its Kind!  If you’re gonna do any sort of food prep on your tailgate table, or if there’s any chance your tailgate table might come into direct contact with food, bait, or the harvest from your latest hunting trip, then the upgrade to food grade stainless steel for sanitary purposes is a no-brainer!


Here are some shots of the Tailgater in use from a recent camping trip.


Thanks to the Trailgater and the AEV Rear Bumper carrier, my JK has pretty much everything – INCLUDING the Kitchen Sink, and the Kitchen Counter!!


My Outback Adventures Tailgater holding my monstrous CampChef Everest. It’s a big stove.

So, How Do You Get One?

I got mine directly from Doug at Outback Adventures, He’s a great guy to deal with, who clearly has a passion for the Jeep lifestyle, and is proud of his product.  I can tell he’s concerned with customer satisfaction. Hell, even the box it came and way it was packed were first rate – think Apple retail packaging.  You can call Rin over at OK4WD if you’re in the North Jersey, PA, NY area.

Special Thanks to Doug from Outback Adventures for working with us directly on this review for The Off Road Reference!


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Jeep | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mud, Thou Art A Deceiving Mistress!!

She’s always tempting. She’s usually loads of fun, and can get pretty wild! And you gotta admit, she looks pretty easy.

Mud is usually one of the first things new wheelers want to dive into.  Why?

Most figure a romp through the mud is relatively harmless.  How bad could it be?  It certainly seems less risky to sheetmetal panels and drivetrain parts than rock crawling, or than weaving your way through extremely narrow trails lined with body panel crunchers and Mother Nature’s pin-stripers.

…and that’s probably true, for the most part…

However, here are a few important things to keep in mind before you dive into that innocuous looking mud.  Realize, we’re talking about real, marsh quality, soupy, gooey, stinky, bottomless mud.


  • Real mud is always worse than it looks.  Try to find the bottom with a stick before you drive through.  Can you find hard-pack, or is it one of those bottomless, quick-mud pits that could swallow a cow?  Use your own body weight to test drier looking parts of the pit.  Is that just a layer of crust on top that won’t hold any weight?  When you go for it in your rig, test the edges, and tip-toe in slowly before going for the gusto right down the middle of the gnarliest looking line.  You can bog down and get stuck a lot quicker than you realize, and I don’t care who ya are, you’re not pushing, or pulling a 4,500-plus pound vehicle out of the mud by hand!

It really didn’t look that bad…but look how caked those tires are, and how deep that passenger front sank, and that’s just on the edge of the pit!


  • Hemingway’s Iceberg Principle – there’s often more than what you see on the surface.   So it is with water crossings and mud.  You can’t see those stumps and boulders just below the surface, ready to grab, and possibly destroy, your sensitive undercarriage parts. Watch out for what lies beneath!


  • Wheel speed is key. Thick mud can quickly turn even the most aggressive mud terrains into mud-slicks.  Wheel speed is the only thing that’s gonna throw that mud off your treads so your tires can grab.  Just realize you’re not going to stop on a dime in the mud, so watch those immovable obstacles that usually line the pit.  It’s a tricky balancing act!  When your treads load up with mud, remember the phrases “More skinny pedal!” and “When in doubt, throttle out!”



The Venerable BFG KM2 MUD Terrain…


…turned into Mud Slicks!

  • Don’t fight the mud.  Chances are good you’re not the first person to find this mud pit, and say, “Hey, that sure looks like fun!”  Maybe you can’t see them, or tell which way they go, but there are likely ruts, possibly deep ruts, through your mud pit.  You gotta follow those ruts the way people park by feel in Hoboken.  As long as you’re still moving, just keep going.  Drive by feel, don’t fight it.  Let those ruts lead you to solid ground.  Even if it’s not exactly where you wanted to end up, it beats being stuck!

Hey, I didn’t mean to fall into 3 different ruts, and slog through the pit sideways.  I was moving, so I didn’t fight it…and it worked!


  • Strap On a Pair!  At some point, you’re gonna get stuck in the mud.  It’s almost a certainty.  It’s gonna happen.  It makes for great stories, good rousing and can be just part of the fun – as long as you get out OK.  So, make like a good Boy Scout and be prepared.  Have SOLID MOUNTED TOW POINTS, and ALWAYS have a PROPERLY RATED TOW STRAP MADE FOR OFF-ROADING, with NO METAL ENDS, and PROPERLY RATED D-Rings!!  Have you priced getting rescued by an off-road capable wrecker who “un-stuck” you from the beach, or the back woods??  IF you can even find one, you’re still gonna be stuck for hours, and pay a fortune!  

Get yourself a traditional strap, like this one from ProComp, or something newer like a BubbaRope, and the associated equipment.  The right recovery gear is just cheap insurance!  It makes you that much more self-reliant, it’ll more than pay for itself the first time you use it!  



Hook one end of  your recovery strap to your vehicle before you dive into the pit.  Throw the other end in your cargo area.  Just trust me on this one.  You’ll see why the first time you get stuck. 


  • NEVER go wheeling alone.  NEVER go mudding alone.  ’nuff said?!!


  • Clean up is a bitch!  A romp through good, fun mud is gonna be a battle!  You’re gonna spin tires, and sling mud.  It’s gonna get EVERYWHERE – on the roof, between the skid-plates and whatever they’re protecting, inside your vehicle – all kinds of places you’ve never even thought of washing before.  All that cleanup is not just for looks either.  Caked on mud can unbalance tires, or otherwise negatively affect the handling of your ride thanks to unwanted weight clinging to spinning driveline parts.  Certain types of mud can also be caustic, so best to get it off parts that can corrode.  Count on washing your rig at least three times, and generally spending more time than ever before cleaning it up.


Now, go sling some mud and try not to get stuck!  It’s a wheeler’s right of passage!  Have fun with it.



Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Jeep, Wheeling Education | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accessories You Want!

We’ve gotten our hands on some Great, Top of Line Jeep JK & 4×4 Accessories over the past few months.   Ya know, the stuff to make your Jeep JK or other 4×4 much safer, much more functional and much cooler!

Sincere thanks to the Manufacturers and Vendors who have contributed to the project to-date!  It’s certainly a pleasure to work with great people in the industry.

So, with the weather warming up, look for upcoming detailed product reviews, and install write-ups, on each of these.





So, what are your plans?  What’s on your upgrade List?  Let us know.


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Bronco, Jeep | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MOPAR Underground’s 2015 Jeep Concept Vehicles For EJS Revealed!


The Jeep Chief Classic Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Brandon Turkus / AOL via autoblog

Easter Jeep Safari (EJS)certainly high on every Jeep & off-road enthusiast’s bucket list – is a 10 day event, put on by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers, that takes place in Moab, Utah.  2015 marks the 49th Annual EJS, and it all commences on Saturday, March 28th.

In all positive aspects, EJS is basically to Jeepin’ what Sturgis and Daytona are to the Harley Davidson scene.  Literally thousands upon thousands of enthusiasts, vendors and manufacturers descend on a small town in Utah, essentially taking it over, and bringing the local economy much needed and much welcomed tourism dollars, while allowing enthusiasts to enjoy some of the best, most picturesque, and most challenging four-wheeling this Great Country has to offer!

Well, it’s become a yearly tradition for MOPAR Underground – a sort of secret, skunkworks, A-Team type of group, who’s existence I can neither confirm nor deny – to unveil a number of awesome new Jeep Concept Vehicles at EJS.   While the official event is still a bit over one week away, some pictures and coverage has already been leaked.  2015 will not disappoint!!  While these are only concepts, design cues, features and even prototype parts may very well make their way soon, to a dealer near you.

Here, courtesy of some fellow media coverage, are pics of my favorite concepts, and links to great articles from Fox News and the autoblog.

I’ll have one of each please… 


The Jeep Staff Car.  Picture courtesy of Fox News




The Jeep Red Rock Responder.  Picture courtesy of Fox News



Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015

Categories: Bronco, Events, Jeep, News | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment