Tag: off-roading

Five Thailand Adventures that will Challenge Your Strength, Courage and Sanity

Thailand boasts its fair share of dense jungles, beautiful sun-baked beaches and of course, one of the most vibrant cities in the world—Bangkok. But it is also home to some hair-raising adventures that will not only test your courage, but also your strength (and yeah, balls!) With a little help from Travel Freak, Atlas Obscura, and yours truly who is currently traveling in South East Asia, these are the top five tests-of-will that qualify as official newstyletrends badass adventures.

1. Free-form climbing in Tonsai/Railay

A climber hangs from the jagged cliffs at Tonsai.

You not only require tough feet for this activity, you also need nerves of steel. Free-form climbing a sheer cliff means no ropes, no climbing gear, no anchor points, no harnesses, no parachutes. Assuming you make it 100 or even 200 feet up onto a stone ledge, the only way you’re getting back down is to jump off into the deep blue sea below. Now isn’t that fun? Since you can’t expect to get to the cliffs on your own, professional guides will deliver you to the rocks in their wooden boats. With the use of rope ladders, you can go from boat to rock face in mere moments. But once you’ve begun your precarious climb, you are entirely on your own. So don’t slip or it could be a painful landing on the sea’s surface. Think of it as a belly flop on steroids.

2. Freediving

Koh Tao, a diver’s paradise.

Travelfreak.net describes freediving as a form of underwater meditation. I describe it as a combination craziness meets adrenaline junky. But Thailand, especially Koh Tao, has become a hot spot as of late for divers who prefer not to utilize oxygen tanks. Did you know that an expert freediver can last 20 or more minutes on one single inhaled breath of air? But the average beginner can expect to last two minutes while they dive 20-plus meters down to some spectacular underwater sites, such as shipwrecks, stunning coral reefs, and aquatic life including sharks, colorful fish, and all sorts of strange plant growth. So how is it possible to manage to spend so much time underwater without taking a breath? You learn to relax and not give in to the temptation to suck in a breath (you’ll die).

3. Off-Roading by Motorbike

Looking out across one of the beautiful lakes along the Mae Hong Son Loop.

Anyone who spends an extended amount of time in Bangkok’s congested, exhaust and smog-filled concrete jungle, might find it hard to imagine that just a few miles to the north exists some of the most unspoiled jungle and fresh air countryside in South East Asia. The jungle is also a breeding ground for dangerous animals. These include poisonous snakes like cobras, venomous giant centipedes, and caterpillars (I ain’t making this up), scorpions, spiders, ants, mosquito swarms, monkeys, elephants, you name it. If it bites, stings, claws or mauls, it’s alive and thriving in the Thai jungle. Which is precisely why some adventurers love to risk their lives by off-roading over narrowly carved trails and through its many rivers and streams. The three most popular routes are as follows:

The Golden Triangle—Following the Mekong River between Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, the 390 miles of winding mountain road feature caves, temples, elephant camps, hot springs, and more.

Sukhothai Loop –The 620 trek begins at Chiang Mai and ends at the Sukhothai Dam Reservoir.  Its thick forests are a challenge for even the most experienced motorcyclist. But the views along this route are said to be some of the most spectacular in Northern Thailand.

Mae Hong Son Loop – Located along the Myanmar border, this lush mountain route offers significant challenges like steep, slick, winding roads. It also covers the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, which is 8,500-plus feet above sea level. You’ll also encounter several small villages including Mae Hong Son and Pai.

4. Rappelling Waterfalls in Chiang Mai

One of Chiang Mai’s beautiful waterfalls.

You’ve got to be a really inventive adventurer to come up with a crazy idea like rappelling down a sheer cliff hundreds of feet high that also sports a raging waterfall. Situated in the center of the Thai jungle, the Chiang Mai multi-tier waterfall is insanely powerful and only the bravest, most conditioned explorers should attempt rappelling it. How does it work? You start at the bottom and climb through the powerful downpour until you get to the top. And once you’re up there, you rappel back down. Just don’t tell your mother.

5. Climb an Abandoned the 49-story “Ghost Tower” of Bangkok.

When construction began on Bangkok’s Sathorn Unique skyscraper back in the mid-1990s, the Thailand economy was booming. According to Atlas Obscura, developers were focusing on creating a new world of residential and commercial skyscrapers that would be the envy of the modern world. Then came the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and along with it, an economy that crashed and burned. Construction on the Sathorn Unique was abandoned leaving a shell that today has become a 49-story, apocalyptic ghost tower. Adventuring men and women also enjoy the thrill of sneaking beyond its perimeter security fence not only to explore the tower but to climb it all the way to the top. Not an easy task. It’s a man-made mountain, after all. Plus, it’s not only dark and eerie, it’s said to be haunted with strange shadows reflecting off the concrete walls. I wouldn’t want to be stuck inside the building when the sun goes down. Explorers also want to watch out for gaping holes in the floor. Your next step is liable to be your last.

Top 5 Most Dangerous Jeep Trails in the USA

What self-respecting Jeep owners don’t dream of tackling the many great outdoor trails the US has to offer? I’m not talking namby pamby Sunday country drives or flat fields of grain. I’m talking the mud-covered trails of the Northwest, the dank swamp bayou country south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the boulder strewn mountains of the Rockies, and the arid desert country of the Southwest. These trails not only take technical skill and courage as a Jeep operator, but they take Jeeps that are modified with only the best tires, support and alignment systems, and all the necessary add-ons like snorkels, winches, lift-kits, zip-ties, Geri cans for extra gas, and so much more. Oh, and do not forget the first aid kit just in case you flip your Jeep.

Source: Instagram (@rubiclunk)

It’s no secret that some of the most popular off roading trails the US has to offer are also some of the most dangerous, with accidents and even deaths occurring with relative frequency. If the trails are so popular and familiar, why do Jeep operators still find them so challenging? Because they are ever changing. On any given hour, a dry roadbed can become a river of deep mud after a deluge of rain. Simple as that. Like they say, you can’t fight Mother Nature. But if you’re a Jeep junkie, you can attempt to tame it. 

So where can you find some of the most dangerous trails in the US? According to Extreme Terrain, these are the top 5.

1. Moab Rim Trail

Go west young man (and woman). While Utah is a four-wheeler’s paradise with its natural rock arches, canyons, mesas and even the Colorado River which some Jeep operators love to ford (don’t forget that snorkel), the main attraction is also one of its most dangerous trails. The eight-mile Moab Rim Trail. It’s an extreme climb for the first mile over bedrock that’s been cut over time into ledges and steps. As you come to the 85-degree top, your Jeep will begin to slip and slide on sand and slick rock, and you might get the gut-wrenching sensation that you’re about to flip over.

Moab Rim Trail
Source: Instagram (@im4est)

2. The Rubicon Trail

Set in the High Sierras not far from Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon Trail is described as a “relentless journey” of Jeep versus huge granite boulders, hair-raising ledges, and muddy water crossings (don’t get stuck ‘cause there’s no way out). For the sake of safety and preventing severe damage to the underside of your ride, this is slow going Jeep adventure. It might take you twenty minutes just to make it over a couple of boulders. But the payout is worth it. The views are said to be spectacular. You can also make camp pretty much anywhere.

Rubicon Trail
Source: Instagram (@boiseidahojeepclub)

3. Fordyce Creek Trail

Located not far from the Rubicon Trail is the Fordyce Creek Trail. Said by some Jeep aficionados to be more challenging than the Rubicon, this trail ride requires some significant technical driving skills. Six river crossings highlight the expedition, and unless you have 35” tires, there’s a real good chance you’re gonna be floating while you’re driving. Extreme Terrain also states that when the waters are high in the spring season, not even 44” tires will do the trick. Since this is boulder country, you need rocker guards and the best skid plates money can buy. Five specific runs on the trail are referred to as “winch hills” by the most experienced Jeepsters. They are impossible to navigate without tow hooks and straps.

Fordyce Creek Trail
Source: Instagram (@lisamarie_adams)

4. The Lake Como Trail

What on earth could be more fun for Jeep junkies than the “worst road in Colorado?” The first bit is an easy climb of 9,000 ft (that’s a joke). By the time you reach nose bleed territory at 11,400 ft, the bad road turns into impossible road with extremely angled, slick slabs, and a base of loose rocks. The only way to make it all the way to the lake on the opposite end of the trail, is to drive a major-league modified Jeep that sports a shorter 4-wheel drive wheel base.

Lake Como Trail
Source: 100 Summits

5. Wood Pecker Mine Trail

A list of the US’s most dangerous trails would be remiss without an inclusion from Arizona. Situated near Florence Junction, Phoenix, is a relatively short, 5.8 mile Jeep lover’s obstacle course called Wood Pecker Mine. While it starts out on fairly tame terms with a boulder strewn creek bed, you soon come to a V-notch. You can pass though the notch so long as you have a short wheel base, but it’s possible you’ll suffer a few scrapes on your sides and doors (if you’ve removed them, watch out for your arms). Should you get through that obstacle okay, you dry off by climbing a mega-steep bank. If you’re lucky enough not to flip front-fender-over-rear-fender style, you’ll be pleased to know that you have now arrived at “the highway to hell.” This little bit of a road is characterized by its extreme climbs and descents, kind of like a plane that’s about to crash.

Woodpecker Mine Trail
Source: YouTube (Xploremore)

Enjoy the ride folks!

The Ten Most Underrated Off-Road Jeep Accessories

When it comes to outfitting my 2012 Oscar Mike edition Jeep Wrangler, I’m an accessories fanatic. When I hit the sheets at night, I don’t dream of sheep, or unicorns, or cuddly puppies. I dream about an Injen deep water snorkel install, or a brand new set of Barricade rivet style flare fenders, or a Garvin Expedition roof rack. I see me behind the wheel of the Jeep, traversing some mud-covered backwoods trail with brand new 40” Mickey Thompson Baja MTZP3 mud terrain tires (mudders) that cost me more than the monthly mortgage. I see a state-of-the-art Magellan eXplorist TRX7 off-road GPS navigation system mounted above the dash and even a Condition Zero center console pistol mount for my Colt .45 Model 1911. I dream about a new soft top and RedRock grille inserts and expensive wheel kits to replace the standard ones I currently use.

But then, these are the glory accessories. The expensive, not-necessarily-required-for-the-four-wheeling-off-road-Jeep-experience gadgets. At the same time, these are useful tools that provide a specific degree of utility, but they are also the tools that look good, feel good, and admittedly, lighten your bank account. They are the accoutrements that turn heads while pulling into the mega-mart parking lot, and that become the envy of your off-road meetup group.

But what about the unsung heroes of the Jeep accessory world? The stuff that isn’t necessarily glamorous when installed and/or stored in your Jeep, but that you absolutely must have if you’re going to venture out into the wild? Recently, the editors at touristdigest.com asked me to come up with the ten most underrated off-road Jeep accessories out there on the market today. Sure I have my own strong opinions on the matter, but in the interest of comprehensiveness, I approached as many Jeep enthusiasts I could muster up and posed the question, “What accessories can you absolutely not survive without?” I also consulted with publications as varied as Popular Mechanics and Outsideonline.com. In the end, this is the final list I came up with.

  1. Shovel. That’s right, your basic shovel. I prefer the military variety that folds in on itself and that you can carry on your rear tire tool mount. Trust me, you play in the mud, you’re gonna eventually have to dig yourself and your Jeep out of it.
  2. The winch. The addition of this accessory is debatable due to its cost, its weight (hard on the gas mileage), and its relative danger in the hands of the inexperienced off-roadster (watch out for cut off digits), but let’s face it, you will get stuck. Get a winch.
  3. Tire changing kit. Most Jeeps come with these tools as a standard accessories, including a wheel lug wrench and a spare tire jack handle. But for my money, I would invest in a roadside emergency repair kit that includes a booster cable, carbon steel cross wrench, emergency lamp with strobe function, insulation tape, and more.
  4. Duct tape. What more need be said?
    Don’t let a whiny friend ruin a trip… With enough duct tape, there’s no problem that can’t be solved!
  5. Automatic tire deflator. Negotiating sand and/or rock means deflating your tires from the street savvy 30 psi to 15 psi or less. An automatic tire deflator screws onto the valve stem and removes as much or as little air as you want. Easy peasy.
  6. Heavy Duty Direct Drive Tire Inflator. It only makes sense that if your tires are deflated for off-road action, they’re going to require inflation when you finally get back to on-road reality. A small, portable compressor can be powered by your Jeep battery or another 12 volt source.
  7. Cable hoist or come along. Take it from one who knoweth, keep one of these in your onboard tool box. While 4-wheeling in the rugged hills surrounding Chianti in beautiful, central Italy, my buddy and I buried his Jeep in mud. He didn’t have a winch handy, but he did have the less romantic version of the winch on hand—the come along. It took some time and manpower, but we freed the Jeep and soon were enjoying some red wine and roast pork sandwiches in a nearby village.
  8. First aid kit. The one sponsored by Jeep actually attaches to your roll bar. It contains everything from Ibuprofen, to Band-Aids, to the equipment you’ll need to suture a laceration, including medical scissors, stitching material, and surgical tape. Don’t leave home without it.
  9. Zip ties. Yup, you read it right. Zip ties. In fact, zip ties are so popular, I should chuck this writing thing and start a zip tie factory. The 10” variety are the most useful. They can be used for everything from holding engine components together, especially hoses, to hanging packs and bags from the roll bar. I currently use zip ties to consolidate my unplugged electrical wires and conduits after removing the hardtop.
  10. Repurposed ammo boxes. Mine used to hold .50 caliber rounds including tracers. But now they hold all sorts of small tools and accessories like screwdrivers, wrenches, electrical tape, flashlights, batteries, and more. They’re rough and ready, hold a ton of stuff, and they look cool as hell. Use a bicycle lock to secure them to the Jeep interior when the top is off.

Okay, this list is not exhaustive by any means. Other popular non-glam accessories include pliers, mallets, fire extinguisher, basic tool kit, socket wrench set, walkie-talkies, flashlights, freeze dried food pouches, spare batteries, fire making equipment, and additional Geri cans for extra water and fuel. Listen, when it comes to outfitting your Jeep with underrated accessories that are purely utilitarian in nature and that might even save your life one day, there is no right or wrong choice. There is only careful planning.