Gear Chronicles: New SOUNDBOKS Echoes in the Oregon Backcountry

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My first introduction to SOUNDBOKS came in July, 2016 at the first-ever Gambler 500 in Oregon. My buddy Joel, our official party ambassador, bought a SOUNDBOKS for the roof of our Gambler rig, a twice-totaled first-gen Nissan Xterra (nicknamed the WreXterra). Joel selected the SOUNDBOKS expressly because of its auditory power, so he could blast tunes wherever we drove.

It was such a success that first year, we’ve had a SOUNDBOKS strapped to the roof of our Gambler car every year since. We gleefully force strangers to listen to Rage Against the Machine wherever we Gamble.

Although I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with SOUNDBOKS, when I had the opportunity to take the “New SOUNDBOKS” on my most recent overland journey, I was a bit skeptical. Would the loudest Bluetooth speaker in the world, which is roughly the size of a modest suitcase, be an ideal overlanding accessory? Only time, and a couple hundred miles on the trail, would tell.

For this trip, I was driving the all-new Land Rover Defender 110. But that’s a story for another time. My friend Josh joined on the journey in his 1986 Defender 110. And my buddy Rob followed in my Gladiator as backup.

Since it was my responsibility, the SOUNDBOKS found a spot in the back of the Defender next to our fridge and atop our Plano box pantry.  I wasn’t going to strap it to the roof. This time, the SOUNDBOKS got a seat inside the rig. The SOUNDBOKS wedged nicely next to the fridge with room left for my clothing-filled duffle bags.

The Crew

I’ve known Rob for 30 years. But I’ve only known Josh for six months. Nevertheless, I wonder if I have a better grasp on who Josh is than Rob.

Three decades into our friendship, Rob is still a bit of an enigma to me. We were childhood best friends, and thick as thieves, from five to 15 years old. We were consummate troublemakers growing up. At around age eight, Rob’s dad described us as a gang of two — with the most negative implications.

Rob and I parted ways when I went to a different high school. From there, we drifted apart. Rob and I only spoke a handful of times over the last two decades, reconnecting roughly every 36 months to go mountain biking together, a sport we both glommed onto in middle school. During our 20-year hiatus, Rob became a geologist and an engineer. Eventually he gave up both professions. He currently works as a construction contractor in Corvallis, Oregon.


Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Although we were childhood best friends, we are pretty different people now. Rob is incredibly frugal. I’m not. He’s quiet. I’m not. Rob is very caught up in masculinity and toughness; he’s always making comments about speed, strength, capability, etc. Though I lift weights perhaps more often than he does, I couldn’t care less about my — or others’ — physical acumen. He’s also afraid of wolves, which I still can’t wrap my head around. But we’ll get to that later.

I’ve known Rob most of my life, but I still can’t get a good read on the guy. At the same time, I am just getting to know Josh. Yet I feel like I’ve almost figured him out.

Josh is the kind of overlander you hope to meet. He has a really cool rig, the aforementioned Defender 110. He’s very well traveled. He has an impressive and carefully curated collection of outdoor gear. What’s more, Josh is very well connected in the outdoor and overlanding industries. But you’d never know by talking with him.

Josh is incredibly down to earth and, almost annoyingly, cheery. Nothing seems to get under his skin. As a man who was raised by two people who both constantly sweated the small stuff, Josh’s perennial positivity borders on irritating for me. That’s because I am envious of his easy-going nature. I wish I were capable of letting small things fall by the wayside.

That was my crew for this trip — an enigmatic lifelong friend and an upbeat stranger.


Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

As we weaved our way through the Deschutes National Forest dirt roads, Josh and I chatted over the radio. Rob mostly remained silent. Eventually, we found a spot suitable for camp just before sundown atop a bluff that overlooked a scenic sagebrush-dotted valley. We parked the trucks back amongst the trees to ensure wind protection. And we built our fire by the ledge of the bluff.

Blasting at Camp

At our first campsite, I pulled out the SOUNDBOKS from the back of the Defender for the first time and lugged the 50 yards or so to our campfire.

I felt a bit sheepish, as I powered it up for the first time. I wasn’t quite sure what reception a speaker capable of 126 decibels would receive at an overland campsite, even amongst friends. In order to invite the fewest number of grimaces or eye rolls from the guys, I cued up the latest AC/DC album — music I assumed both Rob and Josh would approve of — and slowly cranked the volume knob to 11 (yes, really, the SOUNDBOKS goes to 11).

I knew no other humans were within earshot of our campfire concert. Still, I was almost embarrassed how loud it got. One of my greatest fears in life is being an annoyance or inconvenience to anyone. So, unable to stomach the thought of keeping the volume topped out, I turned it down to around four out of 11.

AC/DC rumbled in the background and we tucked into our dinner of pasta and sausage. We sat quietly, wrapped around the fire, as the sunlight dimmed and the stars began to appear.

In the distance, we heard coyotes howl.


Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Conversation turned from our personal encounters with coyotes to bears to cougars to Sasquatch and eventually to wolves.

“I don’t know about wolves, man,” Rob muttered. “Forget those things, man.”

Rob acknowledged that brown and grizzly bears were deadlier to people than wolves — there have been no documented wolf attacks on humans. But since large bears are not as widespread across North America as wolves, Rob finds wolves more fearsome. What’s more, packs of wolves require a higher caloric intake at a higher frequency than large bears.

According to Rob, wolves also begin eating their prey before they’re dead.

“They’re like velociraptors, man,” he proclaimed.

Rob feared being eaten alive by wolves on, say, a backpacking trip. Because of this fear, Rob advocated for the killing of wolves.

“But they don’t attack people,” I argued.

“They could.”

“There have been no documented cases of a wolf attacking a human,” I said, getting more heated.

“Doesn’t matter. Forget wolves.”

“Are you afraid of space aliens?” I asked.

“No.”


Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

“Why not? They’ve killed as many people as wolves have. Yet you’re not afraid of space aliens. That doesn’t make sense,” I shot back.

“Anyone who brings aliens into an argument is conceding their point.”

“I’m not. I am just testing the boundaries of your logic. You fear imaginary man-killing wolves. But you don’t equally fear alien abduction?”

“Alright, alright,” Josh said, as he sauntered back toward the fire, wisely cutting off an argument that was going nowhere fast.

Rob and I were quiet. I returned my attention to AC/DC, as it rolled out of SOUNDBOKS.

The New SOUNDBOKS

No matter how you feel about lugging the world’s loudest Bluetooth speaker around with you on an overlanding journey, one must admit it’s an impressive machine.

It’s more than just loud. It’s a pretty smart unit. Though it was designed for outdoor parties, it’s overland tough. It’s rated to IPF65. That means it is resistant to elements such as rain, sand, and the occasional beer spill — all things I subjected it to on our trip. The brand brags the SOUNDBOKS can withstand temperatures from 14 to + 104 degrees Fahrenheit.


Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

Photo: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

As I said in the intro, this wasn’t my first experience with SOUNDBOKS. However, this is the New SOUNDBOKS, which includes a few new features. Notably, the new SOUNDBOKS includes Pro Panel has two ‘XLR/6.35mm Jack’ combo inputs (CH1 & CH2), a single 3.5mm AUX input, and one 3.5mm auxiliary output. So, you can play music from just about anything.

Furthermore, you can wirelessly pair up to five New SOUNDBOKS together, should you need to. The battery, which removes easily for charging and stows safely inside the unit, lasts for 40 hours on mid-range volume and on maximum volume for five hours.

All the Elements

The morning after our ‘wolves versus aliens’ fight (free movie idea), we awoke to 19 degrees and a couple inches of snow. Despite Josh’s warnings, I’d left the SOUNDBOKS out overnight.

“Let’s see what it can take. This is overlanding, dude,” I said with a chuckle as I climbed into my rooftop tent the night before. Honestly, I might not have left it out, if I had known we were expecting snow. But here we were.

Nevertheless, I found the SOUNDBOKS icy and snow-covered in the morning. I brushed the snow off it and hit the power button. To my delight, it immediately came to life.

Keen to set a calmer tone than the AC/DC that was the background to a heated argument the night before, I put on Sturgill Simpson’s new bluegrass album and made some coffee.

Over the next three days, I subjected the SOUNDBOKS to hundreds of miles of rough roads, sand, more snow, and an honest to goodness beer spill mishap. It never skipped a beat. I was incredibly impressed.

I will say that, no matter which pre-programmed EQ you choose through the dedicated smartphone app, electronic dance music sounds best on the SOUNDBOKS at full volume. Rock ‘n’ roll, country — more analogue, less digital music — don’t sound as clean at 11 than more digitized music genres do. But, at mid-range, the SOUNDBOKS is more than capable of filling the backcountry with the sounds of Sturgill Simpson’s sonorous vocals.

For that reason, and its undeniable all-weather and all-terrain hardiness, I appreciate it.


Header image: Nick Jaynes | Overland Expo

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Photo by Brett Willhelm

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