Variations on a theme. Mikey and Kate win coolest bike award.

Variations on a theme. Sprinter wins coolest bike award.

There is no perfect adventure vehicle. If there was, it would run on solar and starlight, brew its own beer, roast its own beans, give you a full-body massage at the end of a hard day, and pay you to drive it. If there was, we’d all be driving the same thing and have nothing to debate or argue about.

If there isn’t one that rises above all others, however, there are many that come close, either off the rack or customized by an aftermarket service or painstakingly by you yourself. But – and here’s the key – what are your priorities? How gnarly are the conditions it must handle? Do you need 4WD, locking diffs, and high ground clearance or will all wheel drive do? Are you willing to sacrifice reliability for comfort? And how comfortable does it have to be for driving, living, and sleeping? How much gear will you haul? Are you going to sleep in it or on it? Will you drive it outside the States and Canada, where parts might be tougher to find? Is it going to be your daily driver or can you afford a second, specialized vehicle?

Personally, I’ve been down the road with just about every permutation of adventure rig except the pickup truck and Unimog. I’ve had a Jeep CJ5, motorcycle, two Subi wagons, a small SUV, and a large SUV. Then, five years ago, I took my savings and poured it into a 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro, the four wheel drive camper van that’s as close as I’ve found to “ultimate.” It will go almost anywhere, is incredibly comfortable, sleeps four, and gets better gas mileage than an SUV. However, do you mind if I share with you the pictures I have of it riding on various flatbeds? Reliability isn’t the VW van’s strong suit. Low cost isn’t either.

But it’s what I have. And in the real world, of course, that’s what matters.

So, on to the poll. A few provisos. First, we can’t possibly list all the models (and years), so we’ve tried to settle on the major ones. If you want to debate the merits of, say, the Land Cruiser 100 vs 80 series, do it in the comments. Second, some of you are already getting ready to write “mountain bike” or “pair of boots” or “horse” as the ultimate. Sorry, sport, wrong poll. Finally, for those of you who don’t get enough of adventure driving, be sure to check out AJ’s Overlandia column.

Pick up to three.

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This week, one poll participant will receive a pair of Smith Optics Audible sunglasses with ChromaPop lenses, retailing for $279. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) – all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, March 16, at midnight PST.

Congratulations to Patrick Branham, who wins the Smiths this week!


Photo by Steve Casimiro

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