Year: 2017

Overland Expo West 2017

Friday, May 12 - Sunday, May 14

If you are planning to attend Overland Expo in Flagstaff next weekend, catch Nena at one of the following:

Friday, May 12:
11:00 - 11:50 am: Ram Trucks presentation at Ram Trucks display
7:30 PM Ladies Night at the Roundtable Pavilion, hosted by the ladies of Overland Expo.

Saturday, May 13:
11:00 - 11:50 am: How to Rebelle, presented by Nena Barlow and Emily Miller at the Roundtable Pavillion
Discussion on skills for the Rebelle Rally: navigation and driving, teamwork tips, keys to competing effectively, how to get over the helmet thing, and more.

Sunday, May 14:
1:00 - 2:50 pm: Rollover demo and recovery with the Nena Barlow and the Camel Trophy teams at the Recovery 2 area.
See Candy, the yellow 4Runner, do what she does!

Keep Your Guard Up!

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on

Something we see over and over again in the four-wheeling world are mishaps at the places one would least expect it. We get through a nasty obstacle, breathe a sigh of relief, and then get stuck on a small rock we didn’t even notice. Or we spend all day on a grueling 4×4 trail, get through without a scratch, then on the way home, slide off of the gravel road into tree. Or we just head out without much thought on a trail we have done dozens of times, don’t check the weather, and get stranded on the wrong side of a wash during a flash flood.

The common thread? We let our guard down after the perceived threat is past. The solution? Don’t take anything for granted—keep your guard up until everyone is safely home on the couch. The following are a few things to think about before, during, and after your trip to help keep everyone safe.

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Practical Off-Road Navigation Tips

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on

One of the keys to a successful backcountry trip is not just finding a cool place to go but also safely finding your way back out. Orientation is knowing where you are. Navigation is knowing where you are going. Route-finding is knowing how to get there. While not all of us are tech whizzes with every new navigation gadget, nor are we all masters of compass and map, I find having a few simple tools and skills can help you through even the most difficult route-finding scenarios.

I recommend everyone carry a compass with a base plate that can help you measure or plot coordinates on a map. A compass can be used to take a bearing on the map to someplace you want to go. Then, using that same heading, look that direction on the terrain and see what landmarks you may use to guide you in that direction. A compass can be used to take a heading to someplace that you can see off in the distance, and then plot that heading on the map to help you plan a route. If you need to be precise, check the declination adjustment for the area you are exploring before you leave for the backcountry.

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Mud Rules: When And How To Drive Through It

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on

Driving through mud is fun. However, I have learned that the moment of fun is usually accompanied by many not fun consequences. In some parts of the country, mud is the primary form of wheeling because, well, that is pretty much all there is. I choose to tiptoe through mud as much as possible these days for many reasons, but it is important to understand the methods and consequences of dealing with mud.

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Up Lion’s Back: One Last Climb On An Iconic Obstacle

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on

One of the most iconic off-road obstacles on the planet is the famous Lion’s Back in Moab. Located on private property, it has been closed to the public since it was sold in 2004. With special permission from the current owner, Jeep was able to coordinate one more run on this amazing piece of rock.

It started with a passing conversation between the property owner and Scott Brown of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles about how cool it would be to do something really special for the 50th Easter Jeep Safari and the 75th anniversary of Jeep. Out of the blue comes a call from Scott that all the legal paperwork had been done and to ask if I am available to guide the climb in just a couple of days (Thursday, March 24, 2016) for a sunrise photo shoot on Lion’s Back. Yes was the only answer. This was a big secret, as neither the property owner nor Jeep wanted to attract a crowd.

We met in the predawn hours of Thursday morning to prep the Jeeps and their drivers for the endeavor. I was to right-seat for Mark Allen, head of Jeep design, in a 75th Anniversary Edition Wrangler. Tyler Ruby, Jeep Wrangler brand manager, was to follow us in the Wrangler Red Rock Limited Edition. Jim Repp, vehicle development manager, would tail gun in the 75th Anniversary Grand Cherokee, with John Marshall (a friend and guide) as his right-seat. On cameras were Chris Collard, Jay Bernard, Brad Stanley, and a few other social media team members somewhere off in the bushes. After a quick driver briefing and a cue from the photographers that all was ready, we started our ascent in the twilight. We were all very excited, with a keen appreciation for the uniqueness of the circumstances.

Lion’s Back is one of those obstacles that looks much more intimidating than it is diffcult. In fact, if you have driven the gatekeeper ?n on Moab’s Hell’s Revenge, you have survived much narrower rock than Lion’s Back. If you have driven up Kenny’s climb on Moab’s Fins N’ Things, you have driven much steeper than Lion’s Back. However, Lion’s Back is tall. Very tall. Very, very tall. It’s about 350 feet tall.

All went smoothly as our Jeeps slowly crawled up the fin. I was excited to be there, but it didn’t give me an adrenalin rush— yet. The view from the top was breathtaking. We reached the turnaround spot, and I glanced down off the side—now the adrenalin was flowing! The emotional and physical impact of just how high in the air we were struck me. There are parts of your body that clench up and refuse to go anywhere near the edge. I stepped out of the Jeep to help Mark turn around. The physical reality is that the two-door could easily do a three-point turn on top, but the sphincter takes over and it becomes an 11-point turn to avoid looking down into that chasm of certain death.

We took in the sunrise view, posed for photos, congratulated each other, and then took a collective deep breath and started down. It always seems steeper on the descent than it does on the ascent, but we reached the bottom uneventfully. While we were all celebrating the first drive on Lion’s Back in 12 years, Tyler said something that really struck me as significant. “These are the first JKs to ever drive on this!” he remarked. And they are likely the only ones that ever will.

As I drove away from this momentous event, it occurred to me that Jeep is not just selling vehicles. From design to engineering to marketing, the key people at Jeep really do live and breathe the Jeep lifestyle of four-wheeling, outdoors, fun, family, and friends. They too want all the cool gadgets, to run the cool trails, and respect and preserve all of it for future generations to continue to enjoy.

Special thanks to Lionsback Resort, a full-service hotel and conference center soon to open, for allowing this all to happen.

New Jeep Build Shakedown Strategies

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on

We build at least a dozen Jeeps a year, mostly Jeep JK Rubicons. Most of our builds are mild to moderate, with a shortarm suspension lift, taller tires, and some extra skids plates and armor. All of the modifications have to fit and function perfectly together, or we don’t send it out. The last thing you want is to hear a grinding noise or feel your brake pedal go to the floor on your first trail run. Here are some things we check, how we check them, and how we make adjustments.

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My Favorite 4×4 Trails

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on

I am asked all the time which trail is my favorite. Usually, the trail I just did is my favorite trail ever. That’s how I feel after a fun day of wheeling and exploring.

Some might expect me to highlight trails in my own backyard of Sedona, Arizona, but I enjoy a varied diet. I like trails that offer a whole package: views, at least a little challenge, some historical point of interest or natural wonder, and far enough away from town to feel like an adventure, not just a trip to the gym. Here are some trails that consistently bring a smile to my face, in no particular order.

Sevenmile Rim, Moab, Utah

Many people are surprised at this lesser-known red rock trail. I love it because it has a little of everything and so many options that you will never run it the same way twice. There are rocky ledges, views, sandy flats, views, steep slickrock climbs, and yes, views. I regularly take stock Jeeps through here, but even the big rigs will find some fun options. With the stunning Monitor and Merrimac Buttes and the famous Wipeout Hill along the way, it will be the picture you use on your desktop.

Backway To Crown King, Arizona

This trail climbs from the desert floor around Lake Pleasant at 1,700 feet in elevation, tops out over the pine-covered Bradshaw Mountains at about 7,000 feet, and drops you into the historic mining town of Crown King. The tiny town of Crown King offers a couple of tasty restaurants, a historic saloon, lodging and camping options, and other interesting nearby trails. The main route of this trail up from Lake Pleasant is mostly easy 4WD with only a few non-optional high-clearance obstacles but offers some great play areas as well. Though popular and doable in a stock Jeep, it should not be taken lightly. It is remote, it is long, and like many Arizona trails, it can change in an instant and be flooded, snowed under, or on fire with very little notice. Bottom line: Be prepared, don’t go alone, and make good choices.

Alpine Loop, Ouray, Colorado

The high shelf trails are guaranteed to take your breath away, either from the stunning beauty of the high peaks or the fear of certain death should you venture off the edge of the trail. You can pick and choose which parts of the loop you would like to connect, but most trails will pass through the picturesque ghost town of Animas Forks. There are huge vistas on Engineer Pass, surreal rainbow-colored mountains in Corkscrew Gulch, incredible wildflowers along Cinnamon and California Pass, and waterfalls everywhere. Bring a rain jacket and squeeze your trip in between July and early September.

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Glamis, California

Sand dunes are intoxicating and addictive. The wind-rippled crests and lingering gold light will mesmerize you, even if you resist the urge to scream “yee ha!” as you throttle through a rainbow arc across the face of monster dune. Reading the sand and picking a line through a sea of dunes takes a lot of concentration and quick decision-making. It can be overwhelming with choice after choice in any direction, unlike most 4WD trails where you only have a little wiggle room along a narrow trail, but that is part of its unique fun!

The Rubicon, Georgetown, California

With beautiful rivers and lakes, blue skies, green trees, and endless Sierra granite, the Rubicon has been called the toughest trail in the world. What the Rubicon lacks in single pants-wetting obstacles, it makes up for in constant rocks. It will beat you with stamina. It will put beach-ball sized rocks in your path until your brain and body are weary, then it will change to off-camber ledges until you are not sure which way is level any more, then it will squeeze you between rock and tree after rock and tree. It is 20 miles of never-giving-you-a-break. And I love it. Whose bucket list is it not on?

Ask me next month what my favorite trails are and you may get a different answer. My best recommendation? Go find the ones that make your heart soar with joy.