5 Most Useful Vehicle Camping Mods for Overlanding in New England
Having the right gear with you can mean the difference between a successful overlanding expedition and a weekend that is more frustrating than fun. Different parts of the country call for their own specific focus when it comes to outfitting your rig, and what works in one area might not be as helpful in another as terrain, weather conditions, and topography change.
With that in mind, these 5 vehicle camping mods will be a big help when it's time to trek out into the New England wilderness.
Rock Terrain Tires / All Terrain Tires
Although New England offers a variety of terrain to enjoy while overlanding, it's easy to find yourself moving across a rocky trail, particularly if you are visiting one of the many parks that surround the region's several smaller mountain ranges. Driving through older rocky sections can present challenges that a standard all-season or even all-terrain tire might not be able to handle, which means selecting a rock-ready tire such as the Ridge Grappler or the Recon Grappler A/T becomes important.
Of course, if you avoid more extreme trails you'll do just fine with a standard all-terrain offering, even on a mild crossover build. The Nitto Nomad Grappler is a strong choice for an all-around tire that will see your CUV through the challenges that New England can through your way, all without compromising daily comfort during the week—a not inconsiderable bonus for anyone whose overlanding rig doubles as their commuter.
Accessible Spare Tire
Whenever you see the words "rock" and "tire" in the same sentence, you know that you need to have a solid spare strategy in place. Simply put, nothing presents more of a threat to your tire's sidewall than a sharp outcropping or a razor-edge stone that's been kicked up at the edge of the trail. Unlike a puncture along the tread area, all it takes it a single cut and you'll be unable to repair that particular tire, requiring you to swap in a spare.
A number of sport-utility vehicles and pickups place their spare tires in one of two places: underneath the chassis at the rear, or buried under the cargo floor at the back. Neither of these locations are ideal. If your rig is loaded up with gear, you're going to have a hard time unloading everything (not to mention keeping it dry and clean) before you can even get a look at your spare tire inside the cabin. It's even worse if you're stuck at an awkward angle with a flat and have limited space to get under your truck and release the spare (which may even be touching the ground or buried in mud in worst-case scenarios).
Having an accessible spare is an absolute must for dealing with overlanding situations where tire damage is on the menu—which, to be honest, covers almost every overlanding expedition. If you're feeling limber, and don't mind lifting and carrying a heavy spare tire down from on high, a roof top spare is not a bad choice. If you can mount a carrier on the tailgate, however, your shoulders (and sense of balance) will thank you later.
Unlike some of the more open overlanding areas in America, the New England region features near-continuous tree cover as roads and trails snake through extensive forest. What this means in a practical sense is that daylight can be at a premium when traveling under branches and leaves—and moonlight and starlight might be even harder to come by.
The latter can pose a challenge when setting up your campsite for the night, especially if you pushed for extra miles during the day and are having to deal with dusky conditions. It's here that a robust lighting setup for your rig will pay serious dividends. While forward-facing off-road lights are great when you're in motion, having a 360-degree external lighting system for your overland vehicle will make your life a lot easier during near-night setups. Strategically-positioned LEDs that cover the sides and rear of your vehicle, particularly in areas where you will be loading and/or cooking, can go a long way towards dialing down the stress at the end of a challenging day of driving.
LEDs don't consume all that much power, but you should still be conscious of how much juice you have available to run all of your illumination and other accessories at your campsite.
For many overlanders, the best solution is a dual-battery setup, essentially doubling the reserves of 12-volt power available. It's important to consider how you'll keep this additional battery charged: while shorter trips might not require it be kept on a dedicated charging loop, looking in to whether you can simply boost the size of your alternator or whether a dedicated alternator is required to charge multiple extra batteries are good next steps for extended voyages.
Air Lift Suspension
If you're piling in extra batteries, chances are your rig is also loaded up with a fair amount of travel gear. In New England's terrain, ground clearance is at a premium, which means a suspension system that's sagging under the weight of equipment and passengers might make it difficult for you to get where you want to go.
A good compromise for overlanders who want to preserve the factory handling and comfort of their SUV or truck, but who need to ensure enough clearance to tackle the trails, is to consider an air lift setup. Since most cargo weight is going to be located at the rear, a set of air springs that can push up against sag make a solid investment. They will level you out when loaded, but can be aired down to prevent a harsh ride when cruising empty. Although an on-board air compressor is useful not just for suspension adjustments but also airing up tires at the end of the trail, you can still get by (and save space) by using a portable air compressor to set your ride height before you leave home.