LAUNCH CODE: 106
Jeep Gladiator + Switchback X1
In 2016, I rode my bicycle across America with an organization called Bike & Build. I hadn't spent much time outside of the East Coast, but seeing the vastness of the country on a bicycle flipped a switch in me. From the steep hills and hollers of Appalachia, to the hot and windy plains, to the Mars-like terrain in Utah and Nevada along Route 50, to the granite and pines of the High Sierra…there's just SO much to see. I've got a thirst for the outdoors that hasn't been quenched since that trip and I've really oriented my life around it.
Our team (Washoe County HASTY) does a lot. Back country and mountain rescue, technical rope and mine rescue, swift water, dive, and even helicopter hoist! People on the team have one or more specialties that they are certified in. Our scope is broad and we often partner with a lot of other agencies for calls.
The calls are always interesting. Our county is HUGE and very diverse in terrain. We have 10,000 foot alpine peaks, Lake Tahoe and the Basin, and thousands of square miles of high desert within our jurisdiction. Sometimes it's going out for injured or hypothermic hikers in the middle of a snowstorm, other times it's searching for overdue or lost hunters up in the desert. We also get called out for water rescues and recoveries all over Northern Nevada. It keeps things exciting, to say the least!
It's a huge time commitment on top of a family and a day job. But to me, it's a way to get out and do things I love, explore, and help people in the community in a direct and tangible way with a kick-a** group of teammates. I got into this because it's the confluence of a lot of things I really enjoy.
To me the Gladiator is the most capable 4x4 out there. Solid axles, front+rear lockers, able to clear 35's from the factory…the list goes on. It does come at a cost (MPG isn't great and the front axle is definitely less smooth on the road), but knowing that I can go anywhere is a huge sense of security. Plus I get to have a Jeep AND a truck which is rad.
Having the X1 has been huge - it allows me to keep all my gear locked, dry, and staged for when I need it. The camper is also cavernous. I've had 4-5 teammates piled in the cab with ALL of their gear in the back heading up the trail, with plenty of room to spare. Plus there have been times where we're a few hours from home and it's late at night -- it's great to be able to pop the top anywhere and catch a few Z's since the schedule is inherently unpredictable.
My usual load-out in the back is 1 or 2 totes of gear (depending on the season), my back country pack, my rope rescue gear + helmets hung on the camper, a set of knock-off MaxxTraxx mounted against the cab side, and two camp chairs (because you never know when you're gonna need to tailgate). I keep the rest of my recovery gear locked in the cab under the rear seat.
The biggest learning has been personal: check the ego. The mountains will kill you if you aren't prepared and a lot of what we respond to is a lack of preparedness or folks getting in over their head. SAR has been a great learning experience for me -- it's helpful to see situations where things went wrong and think about what I may have done differently (or the same).
The side doors. These are bar-none, the best in the industry on any camper or cap. They are MASSIVE, are air-and water-tight, and the single key + single-handed opening is great when I've got gear or groceries in hand. I also like being able to access all of my SAR gear quickly instead of pulling everything out and making the staging area look like a yard sale.
All of the mounting options. I feel like I haven't even cracked the surface into really customizing my interior set up. My next big project is to determine if I want to build out the back. There are tons of cool ideas from full living spaces to 80/20 cabinets to simple wooden drawers, but really like how I can have my whole truck-bed empty in ~3 minutes (which is a big pro of a truck-camper). I'll probably start with some simple LED lights and go from there.
My Leatherman Wave. It isn't a sexy and trendy ~overlanding gadget~, but when I'm out in the woods or on a SAR call that thing is always on me. It's saved my ass more times than I can count, from picking up a scalding hot pots off the campfire to retightening the V1 clamps on my camper about 100 miles from the nearest paved road. Get one, it will pay for itself in spades.
These groups are overwhelmingly volunteer-run and often times get very little funding from local or state government. There is a TON of gear and training required, so donations always help. Plus if you're interested in getting involved, teams are always looking for new members.
Big thanks to Dan Sundaram for participating in the article. Say hey to him in the Community Hub here.
All Photos © Daniel Sundaram
Meet Karim Bouhdary, Google UX Designer during the week, fly-fishing adventurer on the weekends.
LAUNCH CODE : 073
Toyota Tacoma + Switchback X1
San Diego, CA
How'd you get started in the outdoors?
After a severe leg injury in high school, I lost a few opportunities including the ability to visit colleges. After a couple "virtual" Google Map tours of Boulder, CO I was sold on the mountain lifestyle. I was always inspired by Warren Miller ski movies as a child and living in the mountains was always a dream. Boulder was the catalyst for my outdoor recreation, over the past decade I've slowly picked up on all the different activities the mountains have to offer.
You were new to truck camping before getting your X1. What was your thought process when you began building it out? What problems were you trying to solve?
Before truck camping I was into casual car camping trips and backpacking. I always had a desire to get out farther for longer. I had spent time building out cabinets, water, and power systems for a small Jeep Cherokee but ended up stumbling upon a larger goal.... How can I fit all the amenities of an RV into a 5ft truck bed?
What advice do you have for someone just starting out building out their adventure rig?
Research Online: Whatever you're trying to accomplish someone has done it, you just gotta find the information.
Be Modular: You may think you need a sink, heater, and fridge but when you’re building out the camper make sure things can be switched out and changed for your needs
Connect with the Community: People with trucks and campers are usually pretty darn cool. Reach out and connect with community who are always willing to share build ideas, camp spots, and so much more.
Top 3 favorite things about your current setup?
RedArc Power Management: RedArc is slowly becoming the “Toyota” of the off-road community. They make electronic system simple yet so damn reliable.
Super Pacific Modularity: The camper alone makes it so easy to quickly mock up and add solutions for your needs. Between the standard t-slots, wire chases, exterior wiring slots, molle panels, etc…
Favorite detail about your X1?
The looks. Always getting compliments on how well designed the camper is. There’s almost not straight lines and the balance of hardware utility and beauty is unmatched.
You recently got into fly fishing. What drew you to the sport?
The X1 really enabled two main things for me: Being able to get out farther and stay out longer. I mean if you think about it camp now takes 5 minutes to setup instead of an hour. That saves me so much time to enjoy the places we travel to for quick weekends. Fly fishing was a next step, now that I have so much time at camp I started to study the water and research different techniques. Now I’m hooked and happy to help anyone in the community learn since it can be intimidating at first.
Favorite road trip guilty pleasure?
Chick-Fil-A is a permanent “add a stop” on our google maps every time we travel. We’re always bummed when we head home on Sundays.
Want to see more of Alex’s build & adventures?
Or hit him up with questions in the SP Community Hub
All Photos © Alex K. Bouhdary
Meet X1 owner Matt Swartz, an avid paragliding pilot, outdoor adventure seeker, and photographer. After traveling full time with his AirStream trailer pulled by a Ram 2500, he and his wife Amanda ( and dog Royal) now reside in Boulder, CO full-time. A lifetime love of the outdoors instilled by his grandparents has driven him to explore remote destinations around North and South America, in search of the best paragliding destinations. Oh, and he loves gummy snakes.
My maternal Grandfather, who was a PhD Ecologist, was a big part where my love of the outdoors came from. While my parents got me outdoors hiking and fishing, my Grandfather would build shelters out of natural materials, teach me how to make cordage out of tree bark, (gently) catch wild animals, and photograph birds of prey from a blind he set up on a mountain adjacent to his house. Through hands-on education, he showed me how amazing and important the natural world is.
Way back, when we first lived on the road full-time, we were traveling in a 1964 RV. Living out of a coach was convenient, for many reasons. But at the same time, it was limited in terms of capability. We'd often find ourselves debating if we should take it down that Forest Service road, or if we'd be able to get out of our campsite after significant rainfall. I was also terrified of having a big heavy vehicle like that loaded up on snowy/icy roads without 4WD.
For our next vehicle, we considered doing a camper van build, but thought better, knowing how much time you can pour into a project like that. And an SUV never really felt like it would work either, given payload/towing limitations and the fact that we still wanted to travel full-time. Ultimately, we switched to a truck and travel trailer combo because we felt like it would be a much better fit for our lifestyle. We'd have to travel a bit slower, but we'd have WAY more comfort and storage space. And once we'd gotten the trailer setup at a campsite, we could take the truck wherever we wanted to go (ultimate capability). This was where adding the Switchback to the truck was also very compelling - it would provide a fast and light setup for weekend escapes from the trailer. Ultimately, since moving to Boulder, Colorado, and taking on more of a weekend warrior approach to adventuring, the truck and Switchback is a much more nimble and easy rig to take out for 2-4 days at a time. No more hitching up, no more towing, it all just feels so much easier.
The trip that sticks out most in my mind was when I hiked the first 800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2014. I had just gotten divorced and laid off, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go do something a little more intense that would require my full commitment and which didn't have a specific end date. I remember getting dropped off at the Mexican border in April, taking a few photos with my Dad at the monument, then walking north into the desert. What I found on the trail was an incredible and diverse community of people from all walks of life who had all come there for different reasons.
There one part of the trip that stands out most in terms of sheer beauty was the Eastern Sierras (John Muir Trail section), but there were many incredible moments: hiking through southern California wind farms in the middle of the night (to avoid the heat), almost stepping on huge rattlesnakes in the mountains high above Los Angeles, visiting the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Morongo casino, and summiting Mount Whitney at sunrise all rank high on that list.
Right now I've got my sights set on a paragliding hike-and-fly trip in Europe (most-likely France or Switzerland). The idea would be to carry an ultralight camping/bivy kit along with my paraglider, flying from one launch to another, and camping or staying at huts along the route. This style of flying is referred to as vol-biv, and Europe is one of the best places to do this style of flying, mostly this is because the sport is embraced there and you can reliably launch/land just about anywhere that you want (weather permitting).
Oh man, where to begin! I really appreciate that the team at Super Pacific designed the X1 with customization in mind. Everything from the integrated wire chases to the threaded inserts, to the pre-drilled holes at the cab-end of the camper make it easy to build it out exactly how you want.
Personally, I've found the integrated lashing/tie-down tabs in the four corners of the X1 to be extremely useful, and I often utilize them to secure our full-size spare, paragliding gear, and cargo boxes in the bed of the truck so that they don't slide around while we're driving through bumpy terrain.
Definitely Haribo gummy candy. Lately I've been a huge fan of the twin snakes, but the coke bottles and old fashioned gummy bears will do the trick too.
One non-profit that I think is really worth supporting is Big City Mountaineers. They focus on bringing under-served communities into the outdoors and facilitate transformative experiences.
Follow Matt’s adventures:
Expedition Portal: expeditionportal.com/author/matt-swartz/
Photos by Matt Swartz