Finally an Outdoorsman Pickup Truck, designed by Outdoorsmen.

By Andy Lightbody

Without question, sportsmen today have a selection of back-country and off-road trucks and SUVs, that probably rate as the best offerings in automotive history. All you have to do is think back historically, and for early “off-roading pioneers,” most vehicles had their roots as military vehicles.

And while there’s truth in the old saying, “you’ve come a long way baby,” many vehicles that are supposedly designed for sportsmen, are anything but! Oh sure, they are plush, luxurious, have a cushy ride and  are as quiet as a mouse, but often times you have to shake your head and wonder…. Have these auto designers ever been in the wilds on an elk hunt? Have they ever negotiated the tough and rocky trails we use to get to our favorite high-country lake or secret Brook trout beaver ponds? Or have they ever pulled a trailer through miles of muddy back-roads to set up on a duck pond or goose field that is not for the faint-hearted?

Enter the Chrysler-made Ram Outdoorsman truck for 2011. A vehicle that takes features that are most valuable to hunters, fishermen, campers and boaters, and packages them into one tough truck. Conveniences, coupled to off-road capabilities and towing hardware designed for the great out doors.

At the recent Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) conference in La Porte, Indiana, the new Ram Outdoorsman was unveiled to all of the 100 plus outdoor writers and journalists that attended.

“We asked Ram Truck customers—boaters, campers, fishing enthusiasts and hunters—what features would they like to see in a truck,” said Fred Diaz, President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand of the Chrysler Corporation. “They answered ‘more capability, more room for my gear and ready to hit the trail. And make it affordable.’”

According to owner demographics, 47% hunt, 57% fresh water fish, 33% saltwater fish, 36% own power boats, and 37% tow camping trailers. Overall, they say that 62% of full-size pickup truck owners’ hunt, fish or camp.

Beginning with the basics, the Ram Outdoorsman is offered as a half-ton model (1500), ¾-ton (2500) and the 1-ton (3500) model. Cab choices include a regular, Quad Cab, Crew Cab and Mega Cab, all with a choice of two-wheel or four-wheel drive; and both a short and long wheelbase offering.

So what separates the Outdoorsman version from everyone is, is the long—and I do mean long list of features that the Ram incorporates into the truck that are built with the sportsmen in mind:

  • Forget the flimsy decorative fiberglass front bumper. This vehicle has scratch-resistant steel bumpers and two front tow hooks.
  • Tires and wheels are oversized… 17-inchers with standard “LT” tires. These are Light Truck tires designed for handling bigger loads and stronger sidewalls to resist punctures when traveling over sharp and rocky terrain, and with an on/off road tread pattern that grabs the dirt and yet is well mannered on the highways.
  • Skid plates are standard on all 4×4 models.
  • Rubberized cargo bed and sidewalls, with plenty of tie down points
  • Class IV receiver hitch, mount and wiring makes the truck ready to tow trailers, boats, snowmobiles, ATVs and other  trailers rated to the vehicle’s max.
  • Heavy duty cooling, including a mechanical-electrical fan and transmission cooler for hauling or towing heavy loads.
  • Limited –slip differential for improved off-road and towing use.

On the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman, the Chrysler engineers have come up with one of the most unique truck bed sidewall storage systems I’ve ever seen. Called the Mopar RamBox Holster, it is designed to fit within the Ram’s two lockable, lighted and sealed exterior storage bins. And for us outdoor folks, it really is a secure system that enables you to securely cradle two rifles or shotguns on each side. Hunting season is over and its time to go fishing? No problem, simply rotate the cradles 90 degrees, and the Holster now holds up to six fishing  rods on each side.

How cool and practical is that?

Inside the truck, all of the amenities found in luxury trucks and SUVs have also been included. For the long trips, the driver’ seat has 10-way power control, and there is even a dash-mounted 115 volt power outlet to charge batteries and electronic devices without having to buy and plug in a special DC car charger!

How about a remote starter system and built in security alarm, all incorporated into your key pad? Heading for the truck on a cold or hot morning, or after a day in the field, simply push the button before you get there…. And the air conditioning or heater that you’ve preset is up and working, before you get in the truck.

And in the ride and handling department, we had a chance to run the Outdoorsman on a short off-road course at the POMA conference. The truck handles extremely well, tight steering, plenty of power and a ride that was very smooth over some pretty big ruts and some deep and slimy mud holes.

I can’t wait to get the Outdoorsman out, both on and off the road for an extended test. And while I know the Chrysler folks  are mighty proud of the new vehicle and hope everyone rushes out to by one, I also hope that maybe, just maybe some of the other auto makers will take a look at  some of the many great features that have been built into the 2011 Ram Outdoorsman.

After all, as Elvis used to say… “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” And for the Ram Outdoorsman, they got it right, and others need to take note of how powerful the sportsman’s automotive marketplace really is!