Elise Bent – Ladies Offroad Challenge Featured Entry
"Elise Bent, Bozeman, MT – Elise is a passionate explorer with an insatiable curiosity. She is a freelancer and helps her husband with his business, Bomber Products. She recently co-founded ‘Big Sky Overland Rally’ in Montana, and is registered to compete in the 2018 ‘Rebelle Rally’! She is still fairly new to offroad driving but has many years as a co-driver, where she did spotting, navigation, and helped in recovery efforts. Her garage experience consists of doing work on several of her personal vehicles and assisting with accessory installations and wiring of Bomber Products. She is looking forward doing a full frame-off restoration on a BJ40 Land Cruiser, DIY, beginning early 2019!"
Tell us about yourself:
I am a passionate explorer with an insatiable curiosity. I grew up in a family of outdoor sports enthusiasts who nurtured in me a thirst for learning and adventure. I am a freelancer specializing in geospatial applications, web development and also help my husband Josh with his business, Bomber Products. Recently, I Co-Founded Big Sky Overland Rally, the first overlanding event of its kind in Montana. When I’m not ripping around the continent in an overland vehicle, I can be found hiking, skiing and kayaking in the Montana wilderness.
How long have you been offroading?
I have been offroading occasionally for about 3 years, and have gotten really into it this past year. I was really intimidated at first and focused more on being a co-driver, getting good at navigation, helping with recovery and the camping setup. Now, I do all of it and love it! I’m getting more involved in vehicle upgrades and repair too.
How did you get into offroading?
I have always been really into outdoor adventures and car camping only, not the kind where you stay at a regular old campground! I grew up hiking, skiing, camping and backpacking.
When I got my first car in college I started doing a lot of road trips. When I met my now husband Josh, he had an old Jeep Cherokee and we started taking that on road trips and camping trips. We would find more remote dispersed camping to save a bit of money and enjoy some great views and solitude. We were on to something with this trip model, we started going further and further down these dirt roads, finding better and better secret spots and gradually upgrading vehicles to our current fleet. We also discovered the dirt version of the classic scenic drive and started doing trips like Alpine Loop and White Rim Trail. At first, I let Josh do most of the driving but after a while I really got into doing a lot of the driving too.
Tell us about your vehicle:
I have a 2012 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road. It looks different in every photo because, as the Bomber Products truck, it gets to model and test various camping configurations. Currently, it boasts Alu-Cab Khaya Camper only the 2nd one in the US. One of the best parts is the National Luna dual zone 12V refrigerator (because, ice cream and margaritas!) In addition to the camping setup, The Bomber Products truck sports an OME Nitrocharger Heavy suspension, ARB front bumper, CBI rear bumper, WARN Xeon winch, ARB air compressor, ARB snorkel, a dual battery system and a number of other smaller accessories.
I also have a Lexus LX450 that is being built up, so far it has an OME Nitrocharger suspension, new wheels and an ARB bumper. The next step to get that one out on the trails is a rear diff locker, a winch and some sliders!
What has been your favorite offroad experience?
That’s a tough one! Probably Alpine Loop, because it’s a whole package experience. It’s a really beautiful trail with many amazing stopping points. Mountains for days, mining history, some really fun lines to film and photograph, and a really nice length to spend a few days on, especially if you throw in a hike on one of the trails off the passes. There are some “shortcuts” and detours that are extra challenging as well, like the drop into Ouray. The first time we went we took this detour and accidentally crashed FJ Summit! We had a great time and ran into some people we knew, so it was a very happy accident.
What was your most exciting offroad achievement?
The first time I did Fins and Things in Moab was when I realized, "Hey, I can do this!" As in, really do this. I did a lot better than I thought, and completed most of the trail easily despite this particular Jeep rental being about as basic as it gets with no lockers and no airing down allowed (yeah it was very bumpy in there). It made me really excited about challenging myself even more (but with my own vehicle this time). I’ll be back to finish it with a lower tire pressure of course. When I drive in my area I don’t get the same sense of the gains I am making, it was really nice to test my new skills on something different than snow and Montana dirt.
What excites you about offroading?
A lot of it stems from the spirit of adventure and discovery. It’s incredibly rewarding to go find new places based on it looking cool on the Topo Map, putting in the hard work of driving on roads that weed out more and more people because of difficulty, and arriving somewhere really amazing, that we’d never seen before, even in photos. The other part is, how the puzzle of getting through a challenging road or obstacle that really absorbs you into the moment. That problem-solving process is one that I love, and being successful is really empowering.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of offroading?
One of the toughest things is making judgment calls, especially when taking into account other team members. When do you turn around before you get yourself into trouble? When do you push yourself and go for it? When do you skip something because it’s well past your skill level or vehicles capability or that of someone in your group? Just like with many outdoor activities risk management is a really important thing to be able to do, but it’s not easy because you never really know for sure.
Which aspect of offroading do you think is the most fun?
Other than taking a ton of awesome photos and video, it’s the process of puzzling out a trail, and the sense of really being an explorer out there. You can really get away and be in a completely different mindset when you are on the trail. My favorite style of offroading looks very similar to my style of hiking – the fun is both in the journey and the destination(s). There’s nothing better than turning that last corner to an incredible place and feeling like a badass for getting there.
What does prepping for an adventure look like in your world?
First, you need good food! When I say good food though, we don’t mess around: Cajun Chicken Alfredo from scratch, tacos with freshly fried tortillas—heck, one time we had crème brulée for dessert by the fire. I think we eat way better on the road than we do at home!
Second, a good map. Planning an itinerary consists mainly of picking out some area or point of interest and figuring out which roads are around there. We use a combination of paper maps and the internet. The rest is all pretty routine – load up all the recovery gear, the camping gear and the dog, download the audiobooks and go!
What is on your offroading bucket list?
Tell us about who you go offroading with:
My husband and I more often than not go off by ourselves, but sometimes we go in a small group of close friends. We are also newly part of a local Land Cruiser club in Bozeman and look forward to doing some trail rides with them this summer. Additionally, I have gotten connected with some awesome ladies in the area and I'm planning some trail rides for us too!
What is a piece of advice you have been given that you instill in your offroading adventures?
I have been given lots of advice but it all really boils down to “just do it- take the leap" That’s something that I try to apply to all aspects of my life. I have started to try as many new things as I can, some just for the sake of the experience, and I think that has helped me break through my fear of failing, not being good enough, etc. I have gotten better at the learning process by putting myself out there and learning new things even if I am very bad at them. That has made me a better driver because I can handle making mistakes, being coached, and trying again and again. While trying something challenging is still very intimidating, I can bravely “just go for it"!
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I was just in France buying diesel left-hand drive vehicles to import to the US. This trip we got 2 triple locked 80 series Land Cruisers. We have some plans to go back and travel around Europe for some more Land Cruisers, as well as some Land Rover Defenders. I am the Co-Founder of Big Sky Overland Rally taking place for the first time in Bozeman, MT this summer. I'm really excited about this challenge, it’s just an amazing opportunity to step up my game on the trails, in the garage, and in my business ventures.
Click here to see all the 2018 Ladies Offroad Challenge Entries.