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December's Truck of the Month - David's Story
Off Road Tents' "Truck Of The Month" Special Guest Post
For some months now, we have come with the initiative of featuring a special guest post each month, where we feature serious off-roaders, true outdoor lovers, and overlanders.
If you want to be part of this feature, you can simply participate by adding your rig's picture in our Truck of the Month post in our Facebook Group. Every month we choose a person based on the votes (or "likes") they receive.
This way, we can create a better overlanding community, where you share and read refreshening stories, experiences and tips from other people just like you.
These stories are not sponsored by any means, we simply want to publish exciting journeys for other off-road lovers to read them and have access to them.
This month we are featuring David Zemla, a true off-road enthusiast, who shares with us some of his experiences and adventures throughout the years.
David Zemla's Story: Roof Top Tents, Big Trucks & The Occasional Midlife Crisis
Ever woken up one random morning, stared at the ceiling for a while and realized you dreaded everything about where you lived and worked? Not the ‘it’s Monday after a fun weekend’ type of angst, but the ‘I can’t do this another day without losing my mind’ sort of apprehension.
It’s happened to me twice now, call it a midlife crisis or just a really low tolerance for unhappiness each time has resulted in a significant life reboot and so far each has been for the better.
The latest began five years ago with a new job and a move from sunny, but painfully crowded Southern California to a tiny town in rural Wisconsin (I didn’t say I was good at this!).
My family is an equally adventurous lot and played along as we flew back and forth for the first year figuring it all out (buy a house, sell a house, sort out schools, etc). That left me with an unprecedented amount of alone time in a land filled with endless dirt roads, lakes and camping.
The midwest really appreciates their summers and does not bother with outdoor opportunities. Within a short time I had a spanky fresh Jeep JK, returned to tent camping after many years of RV life and had explored Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.
Sleeping on the ground or worse, in the Jeep, quickly grew old and RTT life called. I went with the basic exo cage and caught a Smittybilt Gen 1 on sale to top it off.
First run was the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail that meanders from Galena Illinois to Lake Superior in Wisconsin. I cheated a little by starting in SW Wisconsin and ran the series of connected dirt roads camping all the way to Superior. I was quickly in love with Roof Top Tent life!
Great air flow, no worries about setting up on uneven ground or unseen ant hills and a really decent mattress. Spent the next few summers doing the same across the midwest almost always with a MTB in tow. I have set up and teardown to a science and at the end of each season the tent would get pulled off and stowed in the basement.
Last year it became clear I needed a truck more than a Jeep (carrying motorcycles and towing the family’s custom VWs). The beloved JK was sent down the road and thanks to a random Facebook group (Fullsize Overlanders) I picked up a couple year old F250 gasser.
The regular cab 6.2 is sort of the bottom of the big truck totem pole (generally relegated to company or plow trucks), but the lowly status also makes them dirt cheap and that was the perfect ingredient for an adventure truck build.
With the extra cash I added a few inch lift and 37” rubber to give it the stance I liked. Initial testing proved it to be a fairly dirt worthy rig. I spent the winter sketching a rack system and planning a meetup with my sister at the Colorado Offroad Expo.
By spring I had fab’d up a rack from 1.75” mild steel tube and used the existing bed pockets to mount it. LED lights run the perimeter and are wired inside the tubing. The rack turned out to be very stout and formed the perfect platform for what my friend group had dubbed the “Trail Whale”.
A dual spare rack with integrated tool box, fills the front section of the bed and is also host to a floor jack, lawn chairs and various other tools. Laser cut landing plates for the 8’ ARB awning are welded to the passenger side of the rack as well as traction boards mounted on the left. An Amazon sourced roof rack was cut up and reshaped to fill the void in front of the tent as the finishing touch.
The Smittybilt RTT is now in its fifth season and sitting at 8’ 5” closed up. The ladder extension is a mandatory accessory and I’ve been asked endlessly if I’ve fallen out of it and how scary late-night pee breaks are.
So far, I’ve managed to avoid unanticipated exits, but the height does require jungle gym like climbing to set up and take down and a recent iced over morning made for more than a few sketchy moments.
This summer we’ve spent a week on a lake in Northern Wisconsin, run to the upper peninsula of Michigan for Keweenaw Overland Retreat, traveled endless dirt roads and most recently, 750 miles to Rendezvous in the Ozarks in Southern Arkansas (our plan B after Overland Expo was cancelled).
Other than the addition of a pad under the existing mattress the tent appears to be ready for another five seasons.
Favorite part is obviously the view and least favorite part is taking it off at the end of the season.
Follow my journey on social media!
Facebook: David Zemla