Camping with your 4WD,SUV, or Van has never been more popular around the world, and because of this trend, an entire industry has arisen around the activity and with this a wide range of vehicles, accessories and customisation services available for those planning extended trips in distant lands. Over the next couple of issues, we are going to have a series of articles where we catch up with enthusiasts who are part of this growing global industry to see what makes them tick. We are delighted to start our IN FOCUS series in sunny California where we recently caught up with Chris, Curt and the team from GTFO.
‘‘Most of us grew up in an era when—and in places where—there was a greater importance placed on being outdoors when you can, so this is now a part of who we all are. Spending time outside is humbling and centering, which is why it’s our mission to help people experience it’’.
Do you wild camp?
If I’m getting this straight, here in the US, “wild camping” is called “dispersed camping,” which refers to camping at sites away from developed campsites OR “boondocking,” which refers specifically to dispersed camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. All of us here at GTFO camp this way almost exclusively. It’s the advantage to having a 4×4, being able to take that extra step beyond the crowds—plus having access to all the gear that makes it possible. We also have access to an enormous amount of BLM land in California (approximately 15 million acres, or 15% of total), which is federally owned, and open to the public for a variety of uses, but not really “managed,” so there are no services, etc.
What’s so cool about camping?
Camping is one of the best ways to really appreciate the wonder of the natural world.
What type of vehicle(s) do you drive?
We have all types of personalities here at GTFO—Our daily drivers are a 1997 Land Rover Discovery, a 1988 Toyota XtraCab pickup, a 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK, and a 2020 Toyota Tacoma. Supposed our next hire will have to drive a G-Wagen, or a Land Cruiser…
Can you tell us a little bit about camping in California?
We almost have it too good. From our front door, within 2-3 hours we can be in the middle of the desert, middle of the mountains, or on a secluded beach somewhere. The possibilities for exploration are endless, and there’s no time of the year that isn’t the perfect season for camping somewhere.
With reference to rules, regulations and laws,the biggest issues we face here are fire restrictions. There have been times recently where you couldn’t even use a gas stove in the forest and mountains. It is a very narrow window of time each year when traditional wood bonfires are allowed, and even then there are still risks, so a lot of us are switching to propane-powered firepits. Beyond that, the only other rule that is pretty standard is that you cannot stay in one spot for more than 14 days. Other rules and regulations vary depending on where you’re at—obviously the more populated developed campgrounds have a number of rules, where there are generally no rules at all when boondocking.
Any recommended trips or locations?
If we closed the doors right now, Jaff would head up Highway 395 into the Sierra Nevada mountains, Curt would head to a super-secret spot on the Colorado River (or the beach in Baja, Mexico), Chris would head to the Mojave National Preserve, and Scotty would head in the woods outside Big Bear, California.
Any tips for people considering camping in California?
Just come here and do it. Pick a spot, and make it happen. There’s a lot of variables, and places to choose from, but it is almost impossible to have a bad time camping in California.
Do you see many roof tents,swags,overland vehicles in California?
Rooftop tents, awnings, and overland rigs, yes. Swags, not yet (but we are trying to change that!) This scene has exploded in Southern California in the past two years. I don’t think any of us go anywhere these days without seeing multiple decked-out rigs on the road every day.
What’s your favorite type of camping and why?
We are all over the board here, as well. One hardshell RTT, one soft RTT, one swag, and Curt sleeps on a mattress on the floor of his Darche Retreat Annex under the Eclipse 270-degree awning. Of course, they all have pros and cons, so we all just go with what works best for us individually.
What’s your favorite Camp Cooking Food or meal?
Most of us here stick with simple stuff, like dried fruits, ramen, and packaged stuff, and sometimes get crazy cooking some meats over the fire (or on our Tembo Tusk Skottle). But we are all hoping to get a bit more adventurous, and have some content about camp cooking in the works with the chef from one of our favorite local restaurants.
Tell us a little about GTF Overland ?
GTFOverland is a shop that really strives to expose as many people to this world as possible. It’s been part of our mission statement since Curt first wrote it years ago, that a single mom piling all her home bedding in the trunk over her sedan and taking her kids camping at a crowded campground is equally exciting to us as the most epic far-flung overland trip in a sick rig. It may seem counterintuitive coming from a shop trying to sell all the latest gear, but you don’t need the latest and greatest to just go out and do it.
What do you like about the DARCHE Gear?
When you see the Darche line as a whole, their history and longevity really shines through—there is a consistent story throughout all the products. These are high-quality items that have been tested and proven, and will last through some shit. This is especially so, considering that Australia has more extreme conditions, and nastier critters than we do!
Well that’s our first IN FOCUS chat with the guys in the US, stay tuned for the next couple of issues as we make our way around the world catching up with with some more like minded folk..