The second phase of the build consisted of adding components that would enhance the truck's overall ability to traverse off-road obstacles and incorporate camping and outdoor gear such as roof top tents and bike racks.
For the additional ground clearance, I turned to Southern Off-Road in Alpharetta, GA, a shop known as the authority in the South for any and all off-road upgrades. To put it in perspective, their one location installs up to 70 lifts per week on trucks and Jeeps. For the lift, we went with a six-inch suspension lift from Pro Comp. Pro Comp has been producing high-quality lift kits for 25 years and is a household name in the industry. For the tires, a set of 35-inch Toyo Open Country tires were added which provide both on and off-road capability.
We also decided to ditch the factory chrome steps for a set of gloss black N-FAB wheel-to-wheel step bars. These steps cleaned up the truck’s appearance as they sit high and tight against the body and also added additional room under the body of the truck. The steps are also weight-tested at over 450 pounds so there's no way I'll ever have a problem with support.
With this new setup, we obtained considerably more ground clearance and a larger overall footprint resulting in a rig that can confidently navigate the Georgia backwoods. Does that mean this truck is ready for hardcore trail riding or mudding? Absolutely not and that was never the goal. However, it can certainly go anywhere worthy of setting up camp.
For the camping and utility component of the build, it took quite a bit of research. For our needs, it seemed all signs pointed towards the addition of a camper shell - which I wanted to avoid at all costs. Not that there's anything wrong with bed caps, they're just a much bigger commitment both financially and aesthetically. I also considered having a bed cage constructed but that idea seemed to be more hassle than it was worth. Thankfully, around the time of the SEMA 2016 show, Undercover introduced their Ridgelander Cover which certainly piqued my interest. The Ridgelander cover features a built-in perimeter track system that allows for various accessories to be added.
The RidgeLander will work with most T-slot accessories from Rhino Rack and Yakima which truly opens the possibilities up for of what you can haul. The cover also comes with four Quick Mount Legs and two Vortex Bars. This system frees up the bed and hitch which is essential to truck owners.
The primary motivation for the bed-top storage capability was to give the truck the ability to add a roof top tent. For the tent, there are plenty of reputable companies and more seem to be popping up on a monthly basis. After considerable research and a few phone conversations, I settled on Cascadia Vehicle Tents, better know as CVT. A family-owned company, CVT is based out of Oregon and everyone involved is truly passionate about what they do. Robert (Bobby) Culpepper of CVT was especially helpful in getting me caught up on their product. I settled on the three-person Mt. Rainier tent for the project.
Upon receiving the tent via truck freight, we were very impressed with the overall construction and quality. Initial setup on the Ridgelander cover is fairly simple. You’ll need two people but you could probably do it by yourself in a pinch. Due to the ideal amount of clearance the Vortex bars give you above the Ridgelander cover, installation of the CVT was a breeze. However, I can certainly see installing it on other types of setups with less clearance a challenge.
The CVT Mt. Rainer is a massive apparatus. Even on the back of a full sized truck, it takes up most of the real estate. The whole setup is safe and secure and looks pretty badass all bundled up.
Deploying the tent is easy, too. Take the black protective cover off and you’re set up in minutes. For a video of this process, check out this video.
With the Phase Two complete, it's possible to take the vehicle to the mountains and still have the hitch and bed free for gear while having plenty of room for a tent or other accessories on top. On the flip side, it’s just as easy to take off the bars, shine up the tires and head out to the local brewery for the evening. Valets love this truck.
PHASE TWO SPECS
Vehicle: 2015 GMC Sierra All-Terrain 4x4
Suspension: Pro Comp six-inch Stage One Suspension Lift
Tires: Toyo Open Country 35X12.50R20LT M/T
Wheels: 20x10 Hostile Sprocket, -19 Offset
Steps: N-FAB Wheel-to-Wheel Nerf Steps
Lighting: Morimoto HID headlights and LED fog lights from Monster Customs
Storage: Undercover Ridgelander Tonneau Cover
Camping: CVT Mt. Rainer tent