Tech Tuesday: Keep It Light
The past couple of times I have been out wheeling I keep running into the same few questions from friends and strangers out on trail, mainly pertaining to weight and some of the choices I’ve made on my vehicle to lose weight. So I decided it would be a good topic for discussion this week and maybe it will help inspire or educate people on the easy ways to shave a few pounds off their rig.
Anyway you try and spin it, a two (or four) seater vehicle with large mud tires, parts, fluids, food, water and tools is going to be a very heavy item. Many vehicles you see out on trail these days are 4200-4500lbs+ depending on the number of doors and how many occupants are in it. I myself have a two door JK wrangler that has the rear seats permanently removed along with majority of the interior, notably my Jeep is not a street driven vehicle so it is not the best example of what to do in most people’s case. But it is a very simple concept. If you have a 4500lbs four door jeep, three to five people riding in it; tools, fluids, parts, food, water and a spare tire it is undoubtedly going to weigh at least 5100lbs. Now consider the amount of power the motor (in this case it would be a 3.8 or 3.6 litre V6) puts out and how much resistance a set of 35”+ tall tires can create and its basically a miracle it can get to the trail, let alone up and over a hard obstacle. The point I am trying to make here is that with a little time and thought, you can very easily shave some decent weight or even just rethink where your weight is focused which may really help you out.
Every other new body Jeep I see on trail these days has a spare tire hanging off the back bumper and although this is the most obviously (and sometimes the only good place) to keep your large, possibly muddy or dirty tire, it is the worst place possible if you are trying to convince your rig to climb up or over an aggressive obstacle. For those who aren’t stuffing a ton of gear and five people in the vehicle, consider moving the spare inside behind the rear seats or ultimately behind the front seats if it is possible. Of course you still need to figure out a way to secure it with straps or brackets in case of an accident or rollover. Even just this single change to your set up can be greatly reducing the amount of rear end weight and helping to focus the weight more on the front axle and wheels. The more of the vehicle’s weight is pushed forward, the more likely your rig is to want to climb up things. Even considering what bumpers you are going to buy and put on your vehicle can make a huge difference.A light weight minimalistic bumper with a winch with a synthetic line installed can be a few hundred pounds lighter than a large bumper and a winch with a steel cable. In my case I actually don’t run a spare tire in the vehicle at all and I have chosen to not run a rear bumper, I tend to run trails close enough to my trailer that if something happened I could walk back or drive it very carefully with a flat back to my trailer. This has truly allowed me to keep the rear end of my rig as light as possible and has made a noticeable difference in climbing ability and control. I also rarely go out alone which is key if you are packing and building your rig in a minimalistic fashion.
If you move your spare and want to continue to try and reap the benefits of less/more well thought-out weight then check what you’re taking with you on your outings. I could not believe the amount of useless or duplicated tools my toolbox accumulated in a matter of months of wheeling. Take everything out of your vehicle, take inventory of what you have and try and figure out what you really need. Then remove whatever is simply dead weight or what you could make do without. For example, when I first cleaned out my tool box I discovered that I had been wheeling with six or seven crescent wrenches in my rig and I simply don’t need that many, one or two will almost always do the trick. Simple things that you may not even think of like this can lead to some seriously substantial weight shavings and the less you are carrying with you, the easier it is to consolidate and the more efficiently you can pack.
For some people this is not an option, with the off roading style they do they may need huge amounts of tools and gear, but for those who are experimenting with a new vehicle or trying to squeeze the most out of perhaps a lesser built rig, weight can be the enemy. So give your rig and gear a once over and see what you may be able to remove/adjust to help make it get further through the trails.