MORV Explore Upgrades

MORV Explore Upgrades

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 When we purchased the Manley EXPLORE trailer last year, we intentionally kept it fairly stock. We wanted to get a feel for how the trailer would be used before doing any upgrades, since each use case is so different. Over the last few months we’ve pondered upgrade options (see the January 2014 issue), to decide how best to spend our time & money, hoping to modify the platform for our best long-term goals.

MORV Explore Upgrades Trailer Parked

Trailer Lining

The first thing that became apparently clear after putting a few thousand miles on the MORV last year was need for a better coating on the inside of the bed. Even when gear was properly stowed, items shifted, slid, and bounced around when on a tough trail. We needed a coating that would make it easier to secure loads while protecting the steel from further scratches.

MORV Explore Upgrades Rhino Lining 1

Rhino Linings of Colorado Springs came through in a big way with their HardLine protective coating. It’s super-tough and prevents scratches and some dings inside the trailer. It’s also easy to slide boxes around on the lining, but when strapped down everything stays safe & sound. Look for a detailed account of our experience with Rhino Linings on our website at

MORV Explore Upgrades Rhino Lining Detail

Living Quarters

One of the top priorities for our family of four was living/sleeping arrangements. The original CVT Mt. Hood tent was great for 3 of us, but it was very high off the ground and wasn’t quite big enough to sleep 4 comfortably. Insipired by the Manley BaseCamp setup and other ‘fold out’ trailers we’ve seen, the search was on for a more versatile tent option.

MORV Explore Upgrades FJ CVT

Luckily after several conversations with Bobby Culpepper from CVT, we helped spec out a new ‘family’ style trailer tent option that he was already working on. The new line of CVT Trailer Tents are meant to be a cost effective way for families to have a little extra space to spread out while maintaining the ability to completely get off the beaten path.

 MORV Explorer Upgrades


This new tent can be setup in minutes in a variety of configurations.  As a basic bed & changing room, the tent folds out in the same manner as other RTTs. The large bed accommodates up to four people, and the changing room is a perfect place to let the kids play, or to get out of the sun. From there, the awning can be zipped on, and 3 more walls can be added to create a very large living area perfect for extended stays. Since we literally just mounted this tent, check our website soon for additional photos, reviews, and configurations. So far we’re very excited to have the CVT-12 on the trailer.

MORV Explore Upgrades CVT Rear

MORV Explore Upgrades CVT Inside

Beyond sleeping & living arrangements, we’ve decided to add quite a few additional upgrades to the MORV. It was clear from the beginning that a tongue box would be a requirement going forward. The original plastic box we strapped to the tongue bounced too much and rubbed powder coating off, it also wasn’t very useful for holding heavier gear since it was held on with nylon straps.

Tongue Storage

We opted for the Tradesman aluminum box, which provides needed storage area for the ArkPak power station and various other trailer accessories. The box mounts securely to the trailer with 4 stainless steel bolts, and while the ArkPak takes up most storage area, we can still fit several straps, the articulating hitch, hardware, locks, chains, and wheel chocks. The lightweight box includes a lockable latch and seems very well built. While it’s not dustproof, it is fairly water resistant so moisture won’t be a concern. To be safe we’ll be storing most items in waterproof bags to keep things neat and tidy.

MORV Explore Upgrades Trailer Box 

Plenty of Power

In order to be prepared for extended stays in the backcountry, we decided to purchase an ArkPak power station and Optima Yellow Top deep cycle battery. The system can be recharged from the vehicle, 110v/220v, or via our 80W Go Power solar panel. While this system is still being configured, soon we’ll be using various LED lights for the tent, a portable HF Ham Radio setup, and of course the ArkPak will charge plenty of camera batteries. In initial testing, the ArkPak manages the battery very well while delivering plenty of power for all of our gadgets. Like most of our upgrades, check our website often for updates on how we’re using the ArkPak & solar panel.

MORV Explore Upgrades Ark Pak

MORV Explore Upgrades Ark Pak Installed

Fuel + Water for Extended Trips

For extended trips with the FJ Cruiser, we’ve been using standard jerry cans on the rear bumper for additional fuel storage. However since we have extra space on the trailer we thought a little more fuel, plus an additional water storage option would be a good modification. We sourced 2X RotoPax fuel and 2X RotoPax water bottles, along with their innovative mounting system directly from the company. Each bottle holds 2 gallons, so we’re able to carry an additional 4 gallons of both fuel and water on any trip. 

MORV Explore Upgrades Roto Pax

Keeping the trailer organized

Finding the right storage option for inside the trailer will always be a changing system. Our initial low-cost containers didn’t last long, and most were too tall to be truly useful for longer trips. Following the advices of a thread on Expedition Portal, we found Plano bins on that fit the bill perfectly. Combined with our existing camp kitchen, stove, and portable heater from Adventure Trailers, we have plenty of storage in the bed of the trailer while maintaining room on top for additional items. We also found these great tie-down straps called ???, which are a perfect way to secure uneven loads in the bed. By hooking the straps together with additional bungee cords, we can make a secure web that works in just about any configuration.

MORV Explore Upgrades Trailer Storage

To Do List

Of course our upgrades are not 100% complete. We have a few more projects to finish this summer, so our fully ‘overland ready’ MORV won’t be ready for a few months.


In addition to a mounting system four LED camplights, we’re going to run LED string lights into the tent, all on individual switches. A marine-grade switch panel will be mounted on the trailer to route power to our accessories.

MORV Explore Upgrades Tent Solar

Since the tongue box is larger than anticipated on the trailer, we’re still sourcing an appropriate mount for the 20# propane tank. This tank will provide gas for cooking, our campfire (for fire restricted areas), and portable heater.

While the Rotopax provides 4 gallons of water, we’ll most likely add an in-trailer tank with a pump on it for extended stays in the back country. 

Choices for how to upgrade your Off Road Trailer are many, and each individual modification will depend heavily on your situation. The fact that the MORV is such an inexpensive entry-level price means that more time and money can be spent on upgrades that fit your situation perfectly. So far our trailer is working out better than we thought, and at just over $10,000 total money invested, it’s actually been a great bargain.

MORV Explore Upgrades Trailer Rear


  All Photos!

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