For January's Build Of The Month, we chose to showcase homegrown excellence. Matt Hardinge, DECKED's Community Marketing Manager and our resident upland bird expert, has a work vehicle and hunting rig that is worthy of admiration. His '22 Ram Power Wagon has been upgraded and outfitted to roll with the best of 'em, so take a look at this build that exclusively features made-in-USA mods.
What were your goals when building the vehicle?
The theme, so to speak, is "Made in America." I tried to use as many products that were made in the US as I could. After COVID we all realized that the vast majority of overlanding products came from China, many companies were out of stock for a year, some even two. It made me really appreciate that DECKED was in stock, ready to go throughout COVID, all while paying their workers a living wage. This really made me appreciate products that are made in the US, so along with DECKED, I went with AEV Conversions and GFC USA as the main pieces of the puzzle. 'Merica baby!
Do you use your vehicle for work, play, or both?
It's my daily driver but it has been purpose-built to be my live-aboard hunting rig.
What kinds of fun stuff do you get up to with your vehicle?
I'm not an "overlander" but I regularly take the truck offroad into the backcountry on hunting trips for days at a time. This is why I went with the PowerWagon over a diesel, I really wanted the lockers and sway bar disconnect to help ensure that I'm never stranded in the middle of nowhere. Plus that Hemi sounds sooo nice, especially when coupled with the Magnaflow exhaust!
I have a week's worth of food, recovery gear, onboard power, a Dometic fridge with an icemaker, and an air compressor so it's ready for just about anything you throw at it. When it's not hunting season it becomes a work vehicle on the farm as well as a grocery getter.
What are some notable modifications?
One of my favorite mods is a simple one, it's an ARB compressor mounted under the hood. The days of looking for a gas station with a working air compressor are over, now I can air down and up without any worries. It also works great for blowing dust off of my camera gear.
I also recently added the GFC platform camper, another made-in-America piece of goodness. I keep my sleeping bag and pillow in there 24/7 and I can deploy the tent in seconds, which is especially helpful when I need to pull over for a quick nap on long drives.
What’s your approach to cargo management?
I like to have everything ready to go at a moment's notice but also the ability to have a modular system to be able to switch between activities without taking up precious time. Having my gear secure and protected from the elements is also top priority for me.
Another thing I have which is often overlooked is "dog storage." I use Gunner Kennels to contain my dogs while on hunting trips. They are crash tested and having them makes me feel better knowing that they will be safer in the event of a rollover.
Has DECKED changed the way you use your vehicle?
Absolutely, the truck is ready to go all the time! All my hunting gear is ready as well as a week's worth of food, camp kitchen equipment and recovery gear, so I never have to think about packing before a trip. I grab my clothes and I'm off. Having the Piecekeepers in there keeps my firearms safe and secure.
How has DECKED improved your adventures?
The DECKED Drawer System gives me more time in the field doing stuff I love. Without it that time would otherwise be spent organizing gear, cleaning off dust, drying off water. It also gives me the peace of mind knowing that everything is locked away in the drawers, behind a locked tailgate, always secure even at the sketchiest of roadside motels.
List of aftermarket parts/modifications
AEV Conversions - 3" Dualsport XP Suspension
AEV Conversions - 17" Katla Wheels
AEV Conversions - Front bumper
AEV Conversions - Rear bumper
AEV Conversions - Differential guards
AEV Conversions - Snorkel
AEV Conversions - Mud flaps
Lightforce - HTX2 hybrid driving light
NH Overland - Molle Panels
BajaDesigns - Squadron Pros
Magnaflow - Pro Series Catback exhaust
DECKED - Drawer System
General Tire - 37" Grabber
GoFast Campers - Platform Camper
Dometic - CFX 55IM
Factor 55 - Flatlink
ARB - Dual air compressor
Switchpros - SP9100 Switch panel
CJC Offroad - Switchpros mount