When i hear a hunter or fisherman complain about the performance of his truck, I am reminded of the adage, ?Better to light a candle than curse the dark.? In other words, fix the problem. The following 10 products, gleaned from automotive shows I?ve attended in the past year, are designed to keep you from cursing the dark. Each will immediately improve the performance or otherwise add to the general utility of your pickup or SUV. Storage Gear freaks that we are, outdoorsmen always can use some extra storage space. A pair of products deliver just that. Hidden Hitch Basket Carriers fit into a standard receiver hitch and provide much needed extra space for such bulky items as coolers, oversize gear bags, camping equipment, and deer. Class II carriers are 4 feet long, 20 inches wide, and 6 inches high, and can handle as much as 350 pounds; Class III through V carriers are 5 feet long (other dimensions are identical) and have a 500-pound capacity. Price: $150; 800-632-3290; www.hiddenhitch.com.
Herman Sport Performance Trailer, by Let?s Go Aero, adds 86 cubic feet of fully enclosed storage space in a lightweight package (235 pounds). The Herman SPT?s shell is made of the same high-grade ABS plastic used in car bumpers, and it can withstand temperatures ranging from minus 50 to 170 degrees F. The aerodynamic shell rides on an independent two-wheel suspension and is stable at highway speeds. Maximum capacity is 700 pounds. Price: $1,795; 877-464-2376; www.letsgoaero.com. Suspension
Vehicles that tow heavy trailers or carry heavy loads often sag under the load. These nose-high trucks are unstable and handle poorly. Air Lift Super Duty air springs provide up to 5,000 pounds of leveling capacity to help the truck?s suspension maintain a level stance. Adjustments can be made from the truck cab for a smooth, stable ride. The Super Duty kit includes two-ply nylon reinforced bellows, inflation valves, air lines, brackets, and all the necessary mounting hardware. Price: $299.95; 800-248-0892; www.airliftcompany.com.
Another way to achieve enhanced ride control is to improve the performance of the shock absorbers. Rancho RS9000 adjustable shock absorbers feature precise ride control for comfort and handling on and off the road. With the addition of the Rancho Remote Control kit, the driver can adjust the compression/rebound damping force on the fly from inside the cab of the vehicle. Technical features include a fluid flow design that resists fade, a salt spray?resistant finish, and all-weather boot. Price: $80 per shock; 888-467-2624; www.gorancho.com.
The theory behind performance exhaust systems is simple. The faster the exhaust gases go out, the faster intake air can come in. It?s one of the most cost-effective ways to get more power without consuming more fuel. DynoMax Ultra Flo SS performance exhaust systems offer a straight-through design that maximizes air flow and power. The stainless-steel Ultra Flo SS is corrosion resistant, and tube design maximizes sound absorption while minimizing turbulence. Price: $129; 800-767-3966; www.DynoMax.com.
Engine air management also drives a product familiar to generations of hot-rodders?the supercharger. Basically, this is a high-performance air pump that force-feeds air into the engine on demand. For tow vehicles, this translates into more power for hill climbing and passing. Of special interest to outdoorsmen, Kenne Bell supercharger kits add horsepower and torque across the power curve, not just at maximum revs. The Twin Screw Supercharger kit?legal in all 50 states?also comes with the Optimodule, which lets you reprogram fuel, spark, and transmission parameters. Price: $3,850; 909-941-6646.
Moddern trucks leave the factory with an engine tuned for middle-of-the-road performance. That may be fine for commuting to work, but it won?t help you tow or tackle difficult offroad trails. Superchips enhances performance by reprogramming the existing vehicle computer so that it kicks out (legally) more horsepower and torque. Superchips offers both part-throttle and wide-open-throttle tuning for performance improvements across the power curve. They are custom-made for the specific computer code. Ford chips, $265; Ford turbo diesels and V-10s, $425; Chevy trucks up to 1995, $199; Chevy trucks, 1996 and newer, $419; 800-898-2447; www.superchips.com.
When I asked a walleye pro to name the most important performance product on his tow vehicle, he replied, ?Wiper blades.? Makes sense once you understand he tows a boat and trailer through 17 states in all types of weather. If you can?t see the road clearly, you?re an accident waiting to happen. The SmartBlade features a wear indicator that progressively turns from black to yellow, signaling diminished blade performance. In addition, SmartBlade?s combination of all-metal frames with a corrosion-protective finish and an advanced rubber formulation provides superior durability and consistent performance in extreme temperatures. Price: $7.99 to $19.99; 800-323-5440; www.smartblade.com.
Plug-in electrical accessories are hot, but here?s one that?s really cool. The advanced motor design of ARB?s portable freezer fridge refrigerates or freezes (to zero degrees F) a week?s worth of food for camp or keeps the trout you catch nice and cool until you?re ready to cook. Available in 31-, 41-, and 63-quart sizes, it draws only 3.7 amps (63-quart, 5.7 amps) and operates on both 12/24-volt and 120-volt systems. The high-pressure-formed polyurethane walls provide superior insulation. Price: $800; 888-427-2872; www.arb.com.au.
Got mud? Then get Winfield Consumer Products? Husky Liners. These liners, manufactured from a specially designed thermoplastic material that maintains its flexibility in cold or hot climates, keeps mud and other crud from ruining the carpet in your 4×4. The key to the Husky?s practicality is the 2-inch lip that contains grit and slush. The liners feature a nonskid surface and clean up easily with soapy water. Price: $89; 800-344-8759; www.huskyliners.com.