With the whole camping with your 4WD craze taking America by storm in recent years, there are more and more people venturing off in their fully kitted out 4WD’s in search of remote areas to explore and camp in. One of the popular US States that has plenty to offer the 4WD adventurist is California. Located on the western seaboard of the US, California is the third largest state in the US covering an area of 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2).
The Pacific Ocean borders the western part of the state, Oregon the north, Arizona and Nevada the east, and Mexico the south. The state’s varied topography covers the Pacific Ocean on the west coast to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the east, and redwood forests in the north to the Mojave Desert in the south giving plenty of variety in the type of terrain to be explored.
With a diverse climate ranging from a wet temperate rainforest in the north, hot, arid desert in the interior, snowy alpine in the mountains, and the warm Mediterranean in the rest of the state, the type of gear and how your vehicle is kitted out really depends on where you are going.
It is also interesting to note that approximately 45 percent of the state’s total surface area is covered by forests and California’s diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska.
We recently caught up with Frank Cassidy from Funki Adventures in California who we are delighted to announce has recently joined the TURAS team and will be our US contributor in future issues of the magazine. Frank heads up Funki Adventures which is an Overland 4×4 off-road adventure provider based in San Diego. In recent years they have seen a growth in the number of people from both the US and Europe who are looking to explore all that California has to offer…..
Frank said that ‘‘Moving to California from Ireland really provided a strong appreciation for the massive amount of open, accessible and explorable space available in the Western States’’. The closest I ever got to Overlanding as an irresponsible teen was following tractor tracks across private land in my Mitsubishi Pajero, quickly learning that street tyres cannot take you where tractors can.
In complete contrast, about an hour and a half drive from San Diego is 164,000 square miles (425,000 square kilometers) of Anza Borrego State Park where you are allowed to pretty much drive anywhere and can camp (for free) on any trail (provided you get a campfire permit, so you are less likely to burn down California … wildfires are a bit of a flashpoint over here).
I’ve spent 10 years trekking into the deserts, exploring the mountains and showing my kids what life outside an iPad looks like. Over time, friends frequently asked for suggestions on where to go and if they could borrow some of my camping equipment to make their weekend adventures more comfortable. This is where the idea for Funki Adventures was born, i.e. provide an all-inclusive package that helps pretty much anyone find the hidden spots of California and the surrounding states, without having any previous knowledge or owning so much as a sleeping bag.
Frank told us that they provide epic self-drive trips and adventures…..‘’We get you ‘off the beaten path’, in luxury, throughout California and neighboring states, by renting you a self-drive 4WD Jeep off-road camper. Each Jeep has a Roof Top Tent for Overlanding luxury. Whether you want to experience the desert, drive forest trails in the mountains or surf in the Pacific Ocean – we’ve got a tailored trip for you.The Jeeps are simply a tool (but a great tool) to help us ensure our adventurers experience their trip in comfort and in safety.
Funki Adventures goal is to send people to locations and trails they simply wouldn’t find on a regular roadtrip, so they offer custom designed trip plans which factor in time available and adventurer preference for what they want to see and do. Frank highlighted that traditional campervans (or cars) simply cannot access the best canyons, off-road trails and mountain tracks that a properly equipped Overland Jeep can comfortably handle. One major bonus is camping in the wilderness with nobody else around equals peace and quiet! No nearby parties, no generators, no massive RVs… Though for those who crave sociability, Funki Adventures can also add in some traditional camp-grounds to the trip plan. And now that California is starting to open up after lock down from Covid-19, things are starting to get back to normal.
For those of you who may be interested in dipping your toes into doing some 4WD exploring in California , it is interesting to note that compared to Europe, California is sparsely populated. For example, the entire population of California is 38.8 million. That’s the same population found in the southern half of England. Bear in mind that California is 70,000 square miles (180,000 square kilometers) larger than all of England. Now consider the nearby states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah are even less densely populated and you have a massive, open playground with endless trails, routes and options for any Overlander/4WD explorer.
Frank told us that they take full advantage of this open, expansive part of the world with trips starting in San Diego heading from the coast to inland features like the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and Yosemite to name a few. Other trips incorporate the incredibly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway drive north through Big Sur and up to San Francisco. One of the favorite adventurer itineraries is to take a few days camping wild in the desert, followed by a day (or two) trying a different kind of wild in Las Vegas … variety seems to resonate with the adventurous persona! Funki Adventures do their best to keep adventurers off the beaten path, i.e. away from Freeways and spend as much time on the backroads, the trails and the tracks as possible. They understand that the journey, not the destination, is key.
Vehicles and Gear
Frank told us that he thinks the Jeep Wrangler is America’s version of the Land Rover Defender,it’s tough, good off road and easy to maintain. For those reasons, the Funki Adventures fleet are all Jeep Wranglers and are equiped with hardshell iKamper Roof Top Tents. They chose the iKamper Skycamp as it’s not only comfortable, but also easy to operate as they have those adventurers in mind who may never have been on an adventure before’’ …
With ease in mind, each Jeep is equipped with a camp kitchen including the powerful Jetboil Basecamp, tables and chairs.
A cooler is included with the option to upgrade to a fridge or add in a Flexopower Lithium 444 for those who want additional power for laptops and other electronics or lighting. Other extras like solar showers and hammocks are available for those who really take glamping to heart!
As safety is critical, every adventurer will be equipped with a Spot X 2-way satellite messenger, providing the reassurance of an S.O.S. feature where rescuers will find you, no matter how far into the wilderness you’ve ventured. Additionally, each Wrangler has traction boards, a vehicle battery jump-starter, a mini air compressor and a fire extinguisher.
All up this all sounds amazing,the ease of just being able to fly into San Diego and pick up one of the Funki Adventure fully kitted out Jeeps and steer towards the many destinations on offer sure does sound appealing. We certainly would love to make the trip over to the US and explore one of the Funki Adventures customised routes. Stay tuned for some more updates from Funki Adventures in future issues of the TURAS Camping & 4WD Magazine..
For more information on Funki Adventure click here.