Since we weren't out adventurin' this weekend, we decided this would be a fantastic time to finally make it down to Mule Expedition Outfitters (or Das Mule, as I always call it) and check out the store, buy some waaay overdue items, and probably some not-so-overdue items (if ya know what I mean).
After passing it and doubling back (if you're local and decide to check em out, which you should, they're located around the side from the Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In in Issaquah) we spotted their iconic 1979 Suzuki LJ81 and swung in. We had the shop all to ourselves, which was great because we had a tonnnn of questions (sorry, Dana!). The shop is a great space that's well-laid out with everything on display and able to be interacted with, which is a huge plus when purchasing gear, I hate ordering things online and not being able to mess with them first - you can't ever tell if the grip doesn't feel right, the mechanism is funky to deal with, the colors are off, etc, etc.
There were four things that we for sure wanted to look in to:
- An ARB fridge
- Their TJM roof top tents
- The NATO spec jerry cans
- And some replacement stove options - a MUST for Danielle
Dana was suuuper helpful with answering our barrage of questions, and even fired back with some things to think about and consider, which is always great! It really gets you thinking about needs versus wants, and what is truly practical versus what is "cool". I like to be as minimalistic as possible while still having some creature comforts and and eye for design, so I dug her input! Plus, she's actually used most, if not all, of the gear in the shop! Anyway, she is an awesome gal who's personality and passion really shine through in conversation.
First up was checking out the roof top tent. Danielle and I have been debating and brainstorming the ideal sleeping situation for quite some time now (which is a separate post in and of itself) and, have landed on the roof top tent as our perceived preferred method. Mule Exo currently only carries tents by TJM, an Australian company, and ARB. Despite the sweltering heat, Dana was gracious enough to give us a "demo" of the TJM Yulara tent they have on The Zook. It was great for Danielle and I to finally be able to handle one after only seeing pictures of them thus far. [More on our sleeping arrangement situation to come.]
After baking in the hot summer sun while staring at the RTT and taking a look at Big Blue, we went back in to the air conditioned shop and checked out the ARB Fridge/Freezers. We decided on an ARB because of their stellar reputation amongst overlanders and in general. Also, our good friends over at Overland the Americas, Ernesto & Taisa, have an ARB 50qt in their rig which we've been able to check out and ask questions about over a series of adventures. Now, though, the big questions was "what size?" Danielle, being a nutrition major and knowing that one of her main focuses of the trip was on the food side, was adamant that we wouldn't ever say, "Man, I wish we had a smaller fridge.". We were more likely to say something like, "Why didn't we just get the damn 82qt to begin with!". She had found a whale of a deal on eBay that advertised an 82qt for $899, paid for it, waited, and it never showed. It sucked, but eBay quickly refunded her money, so at least that wasn't a big ordeal. But anyway, I thought an 82qt was overkill. But we were unsure of whether a 50qt would do, or to go with the 63qt.
Our current cooler, just some box store Coleman special, is a 54qt, I believe, and that last's us about 3 days if we plan our meals out. So, one thing I had her consider is that it's usually 30-50% full of ice, bringing it's capacity down to ~24-27qts. That got the wheels turning enough to re-consider the 50qt. Dana entertained our entire conversation (read: rationalization) and got all Godfather on us with a deal we couldn't refuse: Mule Exo is planning on starting a rental program for ARB Fridge/Freezers, so she said she'd be willing to let us use the fridge for a weekend (after leaving my card info, of course) to see how we like it; if we decided to go with the 50qt, she'd just run my card; if not, she'd use it as the first rental! How bout that! Rad.
I knew we were gonna want some extra fuel on our trips. (We almost got into a shitty situation off of Donkey Creek Road while exploring the Lake Wynoochee area last weekend. Hooray for pre-planning!) And, I knew they had a sale on their jerry cans, sooo, why not?! Dana gave me some priceless advice on the size to get. About 5 gallons is the base standard for extra fuel. Also, she saw we didn't have a swing-away unit on the rear of Big Blue and asked if we were going to store it on top. I said yes, and she suggested getting two 10L cans rather than one 20L due to weight - lugging the full cans on and off the roof would be a huge chore. A 10L can is the equivalent to 2.64gal and weighs ~16.36lbs (gasoline is about 6.2 lb/gal) and would be MUCH easier to bring on and off the roof of Big Blue than a 20L can (5.28gal, ~32.73). PLUS, the 10L cans are 11" tall and would fit much better in the Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop basket whose sides are 6.5" high than the 20L cans which are 18" tall.
Lastly, we racked Dana's brain on a replacement stove for my Coleman grill stove combo which has been great over the years, but has seen better days (Thanks, Jen!). We needed something with better/more consistent heat output, could fit larger cookware, and was built tougher. Mule Exo had just the stoves for us, but I promised Danielle she could write about her grand purchase, so expect a write-up on that very soon!
We were suuuper stoked on the way back from Mule Expedition Outfitters. It was the only time, recently, where I've legitimately felt like a kid in a candy store. We're both truly thankful for Dana and Trakkar putting up with all our questions and taking the time. Hope you guys finally got some lunch! We'll be seeing you soon, my wish list started growing exponentially on the drive home. :)
A couple more quick pics of the shop:
- Store: www.dasmule.com
- Blog : dasmulecompany.wordpress.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Mule-Expedition-Outfitters/283043488393618
- Instagram: @mule_exo