Road Trip

Talus Expedition Gear's CampPack Camper is an RV in a box

The Telus CampPack Camper was tested, and passed with flying colors.

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

For those who appreciate adventuring off the beaten path, a pickup truck can be a great mode of travel. Current models offer comfortable, roomy interiors combined with impressive off-road capability. But getting away for more than a day hike requires roughing it on the ground or scaling back the adventure by hauling an RV.

Talus Expedition Gear of Boise, Idaho, has devised an ingenious solution. This small outfitter takes RV amenities — such as electrical power, running water and sleeping off the ground — and incorporates them into — and above — the bed of a pickup truck.

Here's a quick overview of the CampPack Camper, a unique camping solution.

RV lite

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Adopting the concept that getting away from civilization doesn't mean leaving all creature comforts behind, Talus Expedition Gear created a modular RV-lite package that installs in the bed of a compact or full-size pickup. Unlike conventional truck campers, the Talus VenturePack Camper and CampPack Camper packages fit flush with the top of the pickup bed and allow the tailgate to be closed, preserving the truck's ability to venture off the beaten path unhindered.

Solid construction

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Each Talus camper features solid aluminum construction fastened with aircraft-grade rivets and TIG welding. Weighing around 500 pounds (700 pounds with tent), the Talus camper gets attached to the truck bed via tiedowns at the front and bolts in existing holes near the tailgate — on most trucks no alteration is necessary. The camper designs fit in both compact and full-size pickup trucks with short or long beds. Using all available space, larger trucks get more storage; however, the kitchen module remains primarily unchanged no matter the truck size.

The ultimate kitchen drawer

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus camper gives a whole new meaning to kitchen drawer — in this case the drawer is the kitchen. Sliding out (like a drawer) from the back of the truck, the kitchen unit features a refrigerator, propane stove, electrical connections, storage — even the kitchen sink. The drawer is easily unlatched and pulled into position for use.

Good old H2O

Telus CampPack Camper

The Talus contains a 16-gallon tank that provides water via a 1-gallon-per-minute electric pump. The camper unit also has a pressurized external hose connection — a great feature for cleaning muddy boots or filling a water jug. The higher-end VenturePack also includes a pump-style portable water filtration system that uses a silver-impregnated ceramic filter capable of filtering at 0.5 microns with better than 99.9% efficiency at 0.2 microns. This means water can be drawn from any source to further extend a camping trip. The pump easily stows in the main storage area.

Plugged in

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The basic CampPack Camper gets a 100aH battery that powers the water pump, a night-sky compliant light under the drawer, a standard 120-volt outlet, a 12-volt auto auxiliary power outlet and two USB ports. The up-level VenturePack upgrades with a larger 200aH battery and a 2,000-watt power inverter that can run power tools or kitchen accessories such as a coffeemaker or blender.

According to Talus, with careful use the larger battery can last up to a week while powering the refrigerator, light and water pump. Obviously, powering other items will diminish the time off grid.

With a 30-amp rapid battery charger built in, charging the Talus's battery is as easy as plugging an extension cord into an outlet. Even the larger battery recharges to full power in seven hours when plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet. For those who would rather not return to civilization for a charge, there is another solution — solar power.

Solar charger

Telus CampPack Camper

The Talus VenturePack comes with a portable solar panel — the Bugout Solar Charger sourced from Overland Solar. The 120-watt solar charger takes considerably longer to charge the battery to full power — about 20 hours. The charger can be set on the ground, on the hood of a truck or on the truck's roof, and left there for the duration of the camping trip, constantly keeping the battery charged. Given the solar panel's flexible construction and long cord, camp can be set up in the shade while the charger stays in direct sunlight. When not in use, the charger folds up for easy storage.

Tailgate as a kitchen

Telus CampPack Camper

Although cooking over an open fire seems like an iconic camping experience, it's often outlawed or dangerous, so it's easier and safer to cook dinner on a stove. The Talus has a propane stove with 5,900 BTU and 3,700 BTU burners. The unit has storage space for two standard one-pound propane bottles — an available universal propane adaptor hooks up to a larger propane tank. When not in use, the stove's cover can be closed to provide additional counter space.

Top rack system

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus Camper box features integrated rails that can be used to mount a rack for carrying equipment and accessories such as bicycles, kayaks or an additional storage box for extended adventures. But the best use for the rails is a rooftop tent, and Talus takes care of that as well.

Kitchen use

Telus CampPack Camper

When in use, the kitchen drawer only takes up a portion of the truck's tailgate, so the remaining horizontal surface provides a convenient workspace. Also handy are storage drawers at the end of the kitchen module — a great place for storing dry goods as well as utensils. Trucks with shorter beds get two drawers; trucks with longer trucks have space for four drawers.

Storage drawer

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Next to the kitchen drawer sits a longer one for gear storage. The all-weather space provides up to 17 cubic feet of real estate for clothes, food and other supplies. Dividers are available for easier organization. Whereas the kitchen module remains primarily the same size, the main drawer size depends on truck size — a short-bed compact pickup will get about 6 cubic feet, while space gets maximized in a full-size pickup with a larger bed.

Top track system

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus Camper box features integrated rails that can be used to mount a rack for carrying equipment and accessories such as bicycles, kayaks or an additional storage box for extended adventures. But the best use for the rails is a rooftop tent, and Talus takes care of that as well.

The tent

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Talus Expedition Gear partners with 23ZERO to offer a selection of tents that can be mounted on top of the camper box. Tents range in size from the 56-inch-wide Breezeway that can sleep two comfortably to the 87-inch Walkabout that has space for up to five. These 4-season tents have a 3-inch-thick foam cotton-top mattress with a waterproof base and a built-in rain fly. The 23ZERO tents also feature Light Suppression Technology — with all windows and door closed, practically no light infiltrates the tent, so there's no need to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Out of the way

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

With the Talus tent folded it takes up little space, and its low mounting position keeps it behind the cab of the truck, thus reducing wind resistance while driving. That being said, Talus does offer a high-mount configuration for the tent — for those who need additional storage beneath.

Easy setup and take down

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

One of the most desirable aspects of the Talus camper is its quick setup time. Unstrapping and unfolding the tent takes about five minutes, and kitchen setup takes about 30 seconds. This rapid setup is especially appealing after a long day of trekking overland. Everything packs up easily as well, meaning daily adventures begin more quickly. And heading off on an adventure may mean discovering a new location for camping that night. With the Talus, there's no need to go back for the gear — it's always in the truck.

How much does the Talus CampPack Camper cost?

The Talus CampPack Camper starts at $11,900, while the top-line VenturePack starts at $13,750. The 23ZERO tent options start at $1,369.

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All-new vehicle

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz splits worlds

It's not quite a truck or an SUV, but lands somewhere in the middle.

Hyundai

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is one of the most unique vehicles to be released in a long time. It's not quite a pickup truck, but it's not quite a crossover or SUV, either. Landing somewhere in between the two segments, the vehicle is shorter than any pickup currently on sale today. Don't let its size fool you, though. The Santa Cruz packs a load of standard features, compelling technology, and a useful bed into its funky shape.

The internet is full of people who'll tell you that small pickups are destined to fail, but let me be clear: There is no reason that small, unibody pickup trucks can't become the norm for most people that think they "need" a truck. They're more maneuverable, cheaper to fuel, and easier on the wallet to buy. I think that's a pretty good reason to at least give them a chance, and after a full day behind the wheel, it's obvious the Hyundai Santa Cruz has enough merit to stand on its own as a useful and even fun vehicle to live with on a daily basis. Hyundai invited us to Santa Cruz, California to drive the new vehicle and see what it's all about, so let's dive in and take a look.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Hyundai's signature LEDs add a futuristic touch to the Santa Cruz' grille.Hyundai


Competent Powertrains and Handling

The Santa Cruz comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Our test cars on the first drive event were equipped with the optional turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, which produces 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. The lesser engine comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the turbo powerplant gets an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. In its top configuration, the Santa Cruz can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The turbo engine and DCT pairing are a treat, and make the compact Santa Cruz feel lively and fun to drive. On California freeways, passing is effortless, and the transmission readily downshifts to provide more grunt on demand. As people in the Santa Cruz area know, the roads quickly shift from wide-open cruising to twisty mountain highways, and the Hyundai can make that transition with ease. Don't expect to keep pace with a dedicated sports car here, but the Santa Cruz' wide stance and capable suspension system keep the ride both comfortable and interesting.

From the driver's seat, it's easy to forget what you're driving. There's no indication of a pickup bed or anything resembling a pickup truck-like ride. That's thanks to the Santa Cruz' unibody design, which is the same one used in crossovers and in the Honda Ridgeline. Noise, however, is another story. While it's mostly controlled, freeway driving reveals weaknesses in the Hyundai's sound insulation. Rough pavement and grooved road surfaces send more sound into the cabin than expected, but it's far from severe.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz There's more than enough space here for most people, and configurable cargo options make it even more useful.Hyundai


Car-Like Comfort with Truck Utility

Cabin comfort and materials are another area where the Santa Cruz differentiates itself from traditional pickup trucks. Since the vehicle is based on the Tucson SUV, the layout inside is familiar and comfortable. The front seats are wide, deep, and nicely padded, and do a good job of holding the driver in place while flinging the Santa Cruz around mountain roads. Though I didn't have my kids' car seats on hand to test rear seat space, a visual inspection showed that there would be plenty of room for two kids without causing a tug-of-war with front-seat passengers for legroom.

The four-foot bed looks small on paper but is far more useful than you'd think in practice. Hyundai designed the space with under-bed storage, cargo D-ring tie-downs, side-bed storage compartments, and a sliding tonneau cover that is water-resistant. Owners can cut and insert wood pieces to create a sturdy shelf system with the bed's molded slot system, and Hyundai will offer several bed accessories, such as racks and cargo organizers.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The optional 10.25-inch screen lacks wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but looks great.Hyundai


Useful Tech and Safety Features

The top Limited trim with options gets a useful and configurable digital gauge cluster, along with a large 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. Hyundai's infotainment software is far from the most colorful or the fanciest on the market, but its straightforward operation makes it less distracting and much less frustrating to use when the vehicle is in motion.

Due to its limited time in existence, the Santa Cruz hasn't been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Standard safety features include lane keep assist, forward collision warnings with pedestrian detection, lane follow assist, and high beam assist. The SEL trim adds blind spot collision-avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, while a surround-view camera, blind spot camera, and highway driving assist system are available.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is an interesting vehicle, and not just because it's unlike anything else on sale right now (that will soon change with the Ford Maverick). It's interesting, because of its infectious attitude, unrelenting utility, and funky style that all work together in a surprisingly cohesive and entertaining way. If I were in the market for a truck, and I always am, the Santa Cruz would be hard to ignore.

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New SUV Review

2021 Ford Bronco review: Return of a legend

Several of the Bronco's body panels are removable.

Ford

Ford says its 2021 Bronco is 'Built Wild' like its wild-horse namesake and, as this iconic model returns to the U.S. market after a 25-year hiatus, it's ready to gallop to glory once again. Released from the Ford stables in 1965, the Bronco was America's first-ever "sport ute" and heralded as the first "4WD sports car" with both off-road capability and on-road competency; it was also dubbed the "G.O.A.T." (goes over any terrain). The all-new model is reincarnated as a modern-day midsize SUV with heritage-inspired styling; rugged engineering; and a collection of smart technologies for the backcountry and four-wheeling, as well as for a smoothish ride around town and on the highway. It marries the tough attributes of Ford's F-Series trucks with a fully-boxed steel-ladder frame and advanced 4WD systems to the performance spirit of the Mustang—and, once again, is nicknamed G.O.A.T! Larger than its stablemate, the Bronco Sport competes with vehicles like the Jeep Cherokee, while the Bronco is a direct competitor to the Jeep Wrangler. It goes on sale this summer starting at $29,995

Bronco Trims and Configurations


2021 Ford Bronco Two- and four-door versions of the Bronco are available.Ford


The new Bronco comes in 4WD only, and is available in a two-door version that seats four people or a four-door model with room for five, plus hard-top and soft-top options. There are two engine choices: A turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4 that offers up to 300 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque (best-in-class) is standard. It pairs with either a 10-speed auto or a 7-speed manual. The optional engine is a 2.7-liter V6 with a twin turbo that produces 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, which is also best-in-class. The V6 is available only with the ten-speed automatic transmission.

The manual transmission has six traditional gears, plus a "crawler gear" that has a best-in-class gear ratio of 94.75:1. There are seven Bronco models that include Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak and a limited First Edition that quickly sold out when order banks opened.

Bronco Features and Styling

The Bronco comes in a staggering number of exclusive color combinations that vary between models. The highly configurable off-roader is designed for both novice and hard-core 4WD experts, with easily removable roof panels, bumper sections and doors that can be stored in the trunk.

Though all-new, the latest Bronco takes its design cues from the proportions, square, boxy looks and flat sides of the original model. Large, open wheel wells are amplified by removeable bolt-on front and rear fenders, while the Bronco's fender flares sport quick-release fasteners to help with customization. Interior appointments vary by model but are designed to appeal to the heart and lifestyle of weekend warriors and 4WD adventurers with durable, with waterproof surfaces, an off-road performance app, and an available 12-inch LCD touchscreen paired with Ford's SYNC4 system touchscreen (an 8-inch is standard), among other communication and audio features. A 12-volt hook-up and USB power connections are at-the-ready to mount cameras, navigation units, phones or other devices.

Bronco First Drive Impressions


2021 Ford Bronco Several color combinations are available with various Bronco trims.Ford


We tried out 5 different models during our test drive that began in the urban environment of Austin, TX and took us to Ford's first Off Roadeo 4WD playground in Marble Falls. Our road-going drive was in a 2-door Outer Banks model with the manual transmission. On the plus side, the manual shifts smoothly, and we had the opportunity to use the crawler gear at a local boat launch. On a steep uphill over loose-surface terrain-we found it suitably impressive.

In general, there was good power, plenty of torque, and competent steering that carved the twisty roads with ease. The Bronco offers surprisingly smooth braking, although we'd like the brakes to be a bit "taller" for more aggressive stopping. Notable is the quietness of the cabin and comfort of the seats. Our only complaints were seatbelts that are not height-adjustable and a couple of ergonomics complaints for our 5'2" driver (although Ford is looking into making changes for both!).

We navigated our way through three off-road courses designed by 4WD experts that included rocky terrain, muddy motoring and dirt two-track with up and downhill climbs. We were impressed with Ford's Terrain Management System with G.O.A.T. (goes over any terrain) modes, which allow up to seven driver-selectable settings (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, plus Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl for off-roading). Two 4WD systems include a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case and an optional two-speed electromechanical transfer case with an auto mode for on-demand selection between 2H and 4H. A Dana 44 solid rear axle and Dana independent front differential unit are both available, as electronic locking differentials-provide more grunt. Bead-lock 17-inch wheels compliment aggressive off-road tires.

We also tested the Bronco's Trail Toolbox, which is a suite of off-road technologies that includes Trail Control (cruise control for low-speed trail driving), class-exclusive Trail Turn Assist (tightens off-road turning radiuses through torque vectoring), and Trail One-Pedal Drive (aids in acceleration/braking control for precise and confident low-speed rock crawling).

The Bronco's four-wheel-drive attributes include:

  • Up to 11.5-inches of ground clearance
  • 43.2-degree approach, 26.3-degree breakover and 37.0-degree departure angles
  • Best-in-class water fording of up to 33.5 inches (w/ optional 35-inch tires that are available on every series)
  • Steel underbody armor to protect vulnerable parts and an available front bash plate
  • Heavy-duty modular steel front bumper w/ an integrated accessory winch mount
  • Side rock rails
  • Standard front and rear tow hooks
  • Sway bar disconnect
  • A 360-degree camera system with class-exclusive off-road spotter views for additional visibility in technical off-road terrain
  • Trail sites (a styling cue from the first Broncos) on the front fenders that also serve as tie-downs with a 150-lb. capacity for securing longer items, such as canoes.

The Bronco moves with ease at both slow- and high-speeds as a result of its class-leading front and rear suspension travel with a high-performance off-road stability suspension system (HOSS). Up front is an independent front suspension set-up with a solid rear axle with long-travel coil springs; suspension systems vary by model-for instance, the Sasquatch off-road package (available on all models) and standard on Badlands is long-travel position-sensitive Bilstein dampers, with end-stop control valves that allow more articulation, reduce harshness and bring durability.


2021 Ford Bronco The Bronco can be ordered with either a hard or soft top.Ford


After years of buildup and speculation, the Ford Bronco had to be good, and for the most part it accomplishes that goal. The combination of technology and off-road prowess, combined with a mostly reasonable price tag, should be enough for the Ford to put up serious competition against the Jeep Wrangler and other off-road SUVs.

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