Feeling the need to explore. So off I went to Naches, WA to check out some of the smaller offshoot dirt tracks. Leaving in mid-afternoon I eventually arrived at FS-70 and continued up the pass. Once on the dirt track I took several of the first few offshoot trails that I came upon. Most went off a little ways only to terminate at small campgrounds. Back onto FS-70 and heading towards Government Meadows, I rounded a corner which brought me within 100 feet of a pair of good sized Elk standing right in the track, looking at me with their ears perked up.
I sat and watched them for a few minutes before they began to trot down the road and out of sight.
Continuing on FS-70 and taking a turn onto NF-7080 I came to my favorite part of Naches, a overlook with a steep drop that has expansive views of the valley below.
The Pacific Crest Trail runs through this immediate area. It would be a fantastic adventure to spend a week hiking this extensive trail. Something to add to my bucket list.
Connecting back up with NF-70 where it becomes pavement again, I stopped to inflate my tires with the newest addition to my trail tools: a Craftsman 12v air compressor.
Now, Craftsman tools have a decent enough reputation as being solid and dependable. So, after reading up on this little compressor‘s duty cycle, CFM and other specs I decided to pick this item up. I figured it could handle the 31’ BFG AT’s, albeit with some cool down time.
Not so much. As a matter of fact, within 2 minutes of connecting this compressor up it blew out my dashboard 12v lighter connection. Not a good sign. Using another connection I began again to try to inflate my first tire and after a few eons had passed, (about 13 minutes), the first tire was up to 40psi. But damn, that compressor was hot. I gave it some time to cool down before another attempt.
When I began airing up my tires it was the beginning of dusk in the mountains. After one tire being filled and giving the compressor some cool down time it was now rapidly becoming a very dark, quiet forest road. Cutting to the chase, the compressor visibly struggled on the second tire and totally died on the third before I could raise the psi much above 25.
So, there I was, deep in the mountains without any way of airing up. My only choice was to air down the two tires so that they all had an equal pressure and hope to find a gas station open with a working compressor. Making my way back to 410 and heading west up to Chinook Pass there isn’t any services to be had. And as it turns out the little gas station in Greenwater, the other side of Chinook Pass, didn’t have a compressor. It wasn’t until I reached Enumclaw, 55 miles later, did I get the opportunity to air up. Less than ideal to run at half the prescribed tire pressure. My gas mileage took a big hit but the BFG AT’s seem to have held up well enough.
Lesson learned: Buy a quality air compressor for trail use. There really is no way to skimp on this. As my experience demonstrates, at the least opportune time you will find yourself on the side of the trail, far from home or civilization, without a way to rectify the situation.
The question remains then of which 12v air compressor will suffice for airing up bigger tires with a high degree of confidence and reliability. Asking around, all the familiar names will come up: ARB, TJM, Extreme Outback, Viair, Warn, Sun Performance. All make quality compressors built for heavy duty use. Some even can run air tools. All come with a premium price.
I found an excellent article on Expedition Portal that did a torture test on these brands, which I highly recommend reviewing. For my needs, I believe the Viair will be the right choice.