Review: Bivouac Camping Trailers M.O.A.B. Overland Trailer

Dec. 22, 2014 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT
The Fort’s track (width of tires) is almost exactly the same as a Jeep JK model, which makes towing it over uneven and soft ground much easier. Height-wise the Fort also matches the JK, if the Jeep has been lifted 4 inches and placed on 35-inch tires.

Have you ever thought about building your own camping trailer? How big does it need to be? What’s the optimum design? What equipment does it need to carry? Should the lug nuts match your Jeep? How much should it weigh, and how much weight should it carry? I’ve thought about this often.

So have Rick Russek and Ron Bernaud, owners of Bivouac Camping Trailers’s owners, and this is readily apparent when you examine their products. This excitement about adventure off-road trailers is exemplified in the M.O.A.B. trailer, which features a unique design that is both different and innovative. For the M.O.A.B., or Mother Of All Bivouacs, Rick and Ron wanted two things when they came up with the name: a cool, easily remembered moniker and a reference to Moab, Utah.

The M.O.A.B. Fort is an unusual utility trailer with an inside storage capacity of 19.7 cubic feet. It is equipped with a cargo rack with the strength to carry canoes, kayaks, or mountain bikes that also protects the rooftop tent (similar to a roll bar in a Jeep). The Fort is completely self-contained—with the exception of a toilet, though a Porta Potty can be added as an option for $159—and offers all the amenities of a larger travel trailer, in a smaller, lighter, more affordable package. The trailer is configured with the Tepui rooftop tent with an optional annex, which gives the occupants stand-up dressing capability, the Fort can accommodate up to five people comfortably. Although we didn’t set up the annex ($162)—it zips around the bottom of the tent platform, and it’s carried in the Fort’s storage compartment for easy and quick attached.

With the optional taller tires, 2-inch lift and greater ground clearance, the enhanced Fort will follow the enhanced Rubicon over any trail.

Testing the Fort’s comforts were one of my sons and one of my grandsons. My son is 6 feet 4 inches and about 250 pounds; my grandson, although he’s just 14, is about 5 feet 9 inches and somewhere around 140 pounds—both ends of the spectrum. Both reported they were very comfortable on the tent’s included 2-inch foam mattress, with plenty of room for personal effects and additional people (if more people needed shelter).

Ron Bernaud and an employee double-check the trailer and show us how to operate everything before we head out for the trail.

According to my son, all of the Fort’s amenities—including the galley—were well thought-out and located very conveniently. He did mention that the optional galley awning ($394) would be a great idea if you planned on camping where dew (like Pismo Beach) or rain (in the great Northwest) could be a problem. Likewise the annex, if you’d enjoy stand-up dressing and having a Porta Potty readily at hand (the ladder would actually be inside the annex, so late-night visits to the facilities wouldn’t be a problem), would be an excellent idea.

The M.O.A.B. Fort is 10 feet-6 inches long, 6 feet wide, and 4 feet-9 inches high. Its enclosed storage space totals 19.7 cubic feet, and the standard aluminum front box provides another 6.7 cubic feet of space. Depending on what options are included in the Fort’s package, it weighs 1,250 to 1,675 pounds. The trailer’s frame is black powder-coated tube steel, and the 3,500-pound torsion axle is de-rated down to 2,500 pounds for more flex and smoother riding off the highway. The Fort comes equipped with 15-inch aluminum wheels that are 9-1/2 inches wide encircled by 31-inch tires, which gives the trailer 16 inches of ground clearance; 33-inch tires are available with larger wheels for $455; a 2-inch body lift ($215) is required with the larger wheels and tires and you can upgrade the shock absorbers for another $215. If you want the trailer’s hubs to match the same lug pattern as your Jeep, it’ll cost you an additional $160. The Fort also comes with a 2-inch coupler and a 2-inch receiver at no additional charge, but if you want a lunar ring hitch, it’ll cost $35 (however you’ll need a pintle hook on the Jeep); while a Max Coupler articulating tow hitch will run you $250.

The trailer we tested costs about $13,000. It is a M.O.A.B. Fort package D, which retails for $10,995 and then includes the following options: rear awning, larger tires, BBQ grill, and electric tent lift, to name a few.

Bivouac Camping Trailers, LLC.
21628 N. Central Ave, Suite 6
Phoenix, AZ 85024
(602) 332-9714

Once in camp the first thing you must do to set up the Fort’s camping capability is to disconnect the securing straps over the Tepui tent cover.

A single heavy-duty zipper encircles the base of the tent the cover. Unzip it to remove the cover.

Make sure all of the tent’s components are free and not bound up somewhere.

Grab the adjustable ladder and lift the tent’s floor up and then drop it into position.

This Fort is equipped with the optional 12-volt tent lift system ($798), which has two rocker switches in the storage box for up and down operation. There is a door on each side of the storage box for access. Inside is the 18-gallon water tank and over 19 cubic feet of secure weather-proof storage.

Once the tent platform is high enough, extend the support legs, re-pin them, and lower the legs down onto the safety rails. The safety rails protect the tent in case a condition of upset occurs; much like your Jeep’s roll bar protects you.

The ladder also supports half the tent’s floor, so you need to adjust its height and angle.

Extending over the ladder is an included awning to keep dew and rain off the ladder, but there’s no floor in the awning. The optional annex connects to the tent’s platform with the same heavy-duty zipper that holds the cover down during travels.

A 2-inch coupler is on the test trailer, which should be good for nearly any road or trail—and it doesn’t rattle or thump. However, if you’d feel safer, a pintle hook-and-lunar ring or an articulating hitch are available as extra-cost options. Near the top of the image, the refillable 5-gallon liquid propane gas (LPG) container is mounted on the tongue.

When the LPG bottle’s valve is opened, a safety gauge will let you know if the LPG plumbing is secure—green means it’s good to go; red means there is a leak in the system (it also shows red when the valve is closed).

Inside the aluminum toolbox are the battery ($249), inverter, fuse box, and 120VAC connector and cord.

Behind the toolbox is an outside storage tray big enough for water containers or anything that doesn’t need to be inside.

Also behind the toolbox—on the passenger side—is what appears to be a 5-gallon Jerry gas can (left); however, the can is bottomless and hides the water heater (right). Next to the water heater is the quick connect for the shower wand.

The shower wand, which is carried in the toolbox, has a hook for the wand while you’re in camp.

Above the toolbox is a mount for shovel and ax – it’s out of the way but easy to grab and use.

The optional Lifetime 30x48-inch folding table ($79) is secured beneath the tent platform by metal brackets.

The 44x12-inch galley preparation table, which acts as protection for the galley hatch, swings out and locks into place with spring-loaded pins. The trays of expanded metal swing up and are supported by hinged arms.

If you opt for the optional Side Kick Grill ($149), it slides into brackets on swing-out tailgate and connects to the included LPG hose that’s already routed to the galley.

Above the galley are two Roto-Pack lock mounts ($44.95 each). This one holds a 2-gallon water container.

On the left side, the Roto-Pack mount carries a tool storage container ($59.95).

An automatic catch secures the galley during transit (43 inches long, 22 inches wide, 13 inches high), so simply press down and slide out the galley.

The galley contains a two-burner stovetop, a sink with hot water under pressure, and a gooseneck lamp.

The galley also contains a drawer that locks during travels.

In addition, the galley includes a 12VDC power outlet and a 120VAC outlet.

Not only does the M.O.A.B. Fort look awesome behind a Jeep, it also looks damn good behind an Avalanche.

History tells us that we either expand or petrify, so Bivouac Camping Trailers is developing a super teardrop, which should be available for a Valentine’s Day present. Nothin’ says lovin’ like a camper built for two! Newsletter
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