The Gear: A Rare Beast
How Black Rhino builds some of the toughest off-road wheels in the wild.
Aerospace-grade aluminum. Monoblock construction. Even the vocabulary around Black Rhino sounds tough, true to the California-based company’s rep for making alloy wheels exceptionally suited to off-roading and overlanding. (They also look super cool, so there’s that.)
The process behind Black Rhino’s burliest forged products illuminates some of the factory-floor secrets of durability, strength, and precision: The company’s Flow Form Technology manufacturing process applies intense heat and pressure to the wheel’s 6061-T6 aluminum while it’s spinning at high speed. The process alters the alloy’s microstructure, resulting in a product that’s both strong and incredibly lightweight, making it ideal for use off-road.
Forged vs. Cast
To make a cast wheel, molten aluminum is injected into a mold, and the wheel takes shape as it cools. The method is quick, so cast wheels tend to be less expensive, but they’re heavier and less durable, making them best suited for street vehicles and light-duty trucks.
By contrast, a forged wheel starts as a single piece of metal and is shaped by heat and pressure. The process is more time-consuming, driving up the cost, but the wheels are lighter, stronger, and more corrosion-resistant, boosting fuel economy and performance. No surprise that off-roaders love them.
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Adventure to the HILT
Best known for its MODE camper vans—Ford Transits and Mercedes Sprinters, made over into objects of desire—Alabama’s Storyteller Overland took a different tack last fall with the launch of its GXV HILT adventure truck. This bodacious riff on a RAM 550 chassis is designed as a go-anywhere boondocking beast, with 1,325-watt solar panels and a muscular look that reminds us of a cool pair of desert boots.
Ignik’s Blanket Statement
Better known for refillable propane canisters and high-efficiency fire pits, Seattle-based Ignik delved into battery-powered sleep systems last year, and its new Topside heated blanket is, er, very cool. The heating element, inside a recycled polyester shell, sips power from a 12-volt vehicle port or portable power station, and the blanket rolls up small. Plus, ten temp settings? An auto-shutoff? This is the snuggling of the future. MSRP $199.95.
Competition for Starlink?
For fast, reliable internet on the road, Elon Musk’s Starlink has long been the only game in town. But with the first Project Kuiper satellites coming online this year, there’s a new bazillionaire in orbit. Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the new service promises coverage similar to its rival’s, with download speeds of up to 400 Mbps. An official launch date—and final pricing—remain TBD, but expect the service to go live in the second half of 2024.
That’s the percentage of surveyed campers who told Kampgrounds of America they “definitely” planned a camping trip this winter. When KOA, known in the outdoors industry for its methodical consumer research, asked the same question in 2022, only 17 percent committed to winter camping.