Jeep TJ Rubicon. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
Penticton, British Columbia – The Jeep Jamboree is a clever, hands-on marketing exercise designed as a way to further promote the Jeep brand to Canadian consumers. The unique program allows Jeep owners and their friends and families to explore the handling limits of their Jeep vehicles while enjoying some of the most beautiful surroundings in Canada. With the help of Jeep’s parent company Daimler-Chrysler, an automotive marketing company called AVP Automotive Marketing and Communications Inc. created a travelling road show that trumpets the Jeep name across five provinces over the course of seven weekends. I attended the event during its only stop in British Columbia, held at the scenic Apex Mountain Ski Resort just outside Penticton, in the sunny Okanagan Valley.
The Jeep Jamboree experience begins with a stop at tech inspection, where your trusty steed is given a quick once over by AVP staff to ensure that it will be up to the challenges it will face and is equipped with the necessary equipment. If all is fine, you and your crew can proceed through the painless registration process and sign up for trails.
Everyone taking part in the event must register, not only the drivers, as the Jeep Jamboree experience encompasses much more than just wheel time. All participants receive an information letter, itinerary, meal voucher for seven Jamboree meals, t-shirt, key fob and a window sticker to hang proudly on their Jeep.
Jamboree participation also includes ‘Jeep 101’ instruction, access to a wide variety of trails, professional trail guides and admission to the Saturday night awards ceremony.
It is important to note that you are allowed to have multiple drivers registered for a vehicle but the rules of the road still apply, meaning you must possess and provide a valid driver’s license upon registration.
Once registered all participants enjoy a hearty breakfast prior to the morning driver’s meeting where they will be introduced to the event staff, the trail guides (a group composed of members of Jeep clubs that are familiar with the local trails and terrain). Everyone brushes up on the rules of the trail, the sign language of spotting, and the concept of a convoy. You will also be reminded of the event rules, two of which could be considered deal breakers.
The first stresses that participants must stay on the designated trails as most of these are on private land and the ‘tread lightly’ mantra is followed to sustain the natural surroundings. The second warns that alcohol consumption is not tolerated, as Jeep Jamborees are family events and we are operating motor vehicles. If you break the rules, you will be packing up early for the trip home.
Once you hit the trails your day is split into two parts, separated by a trail-side lunch break that may find you sunning on a mountain top or kicking back on a log by a mountain stream. At the end of a long day of exploration and smiles, participants head back to base camp for dinner and an evening of Jeep events designed to entertain young and old alike.
We all know that most Jeeps see limited off-road use since many consumers buy these vehicles to convey a free-wheeling’ lifestyle rather than to actually explore the backwoods. This is where attending a Jeep Jamboree event can prove invaluable, as it allows the novice off-roader to test the waters with a safety net of experienced trail guides and Jeep enthusiasts close at hand.
Jeep 101 is a half-day program that starts with a short classroom briefing where Jeep Jamboree staff introduce neophyte ‘Jeepers’ to some of the basic terminology and techniques used in off-roading. Within the hour, you find yourself putting your new knowledge to the test on an elaborate obstacle course situated near base camp.
Jeep 101. Click image to enlarge
The Jeep 101 training course features a series of man-made obstacles designed to teach the driver how to tackle the various obstacles that they may encounter out on the Jeep Jamboree trails. These include such elements as steep climbs over loose soil, tight radius turns, off-camber dips and ruts, and navigating over logs and boulders.
The course is not mandatory, but I will admit that I soon appreciated what I learned once I was out on the trails later that afternoon. A handy booklet is provided as a reference guide to take along so that you can refresh your memory prior to tackling the obstacles for real.
The trail groups are limited to about 15 vehicles and are arranged in a convoy fashion so that no one gets lost or left behind. A designated trail guide takes the lead position and Jeeps follow behind at intervals of about two car lengths. Trail guides slot in at mid-pack as well and at the rear to assist participants (winches come in handy) and keep the train moving safely along.
Each Jeep is outfitted with a CB radio so everyone is immediately informed of stops, points-of-interest, safety concerns and direction of travel, not to mention being entertained by the constant chatter and bad jokes of everyone in the group. Everyone keeps their lights on as this makes it easy to keep tabs on each other.
All that is required to make your Jeep vehicle Jamboree worthy is the addition of some inexpensive safety equipment to help protect the undercarriage from potential damage. Jeeps taking part in the program need to be equipped with skid-plates covering the transfer case and gas tank, front tow hooks (affixed with grade 8 bolts), seatbelts, a full-size spare, and of course, be in sound mechanical condition. Any Jeep vehicle from the early Willys models to the latest offerings on the showroom floor are permitted on the trails as long as the vehicle passes tech inspection.
I unfortunately, do not own a Jeep, but Daimler-Chrysler was kind enough to provide me with a pair of its latest offerings so that I could experience the Jeep Jamboree. Over the course of the weekend I had the chance to drive the 2005 Jeep Liberty Sport as well as the Jeep Rubicon Unlimited, and both handled the terrain and obstacles with aplomb, though each offered a very different experience behind the wheel.
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There was no doubt that the YJ and TJ models (Wrangler in the U.S.) were the vehicles of choice for the majority of the participants. I saw everything from bone-stock units on all-season tires, to gleaming show-trucks.
The Liberty and Grand Cherokee were sparsely represented, but the handful in attendance did survive unscathed, albeit a little muddy, and usually with the helpful assist of a trusty winch. Owners of these vehicles are hindered by lower ground clearance and the longer wheelbase, but there are a number of trails perfectly suited to these models as well.
Jeep Liberty. Click image to enlarge
Off-road trails are rated on a scale of 1-10, but most of the Jamboree trails are rated at the lower end of the scale (below 5) which means that stock vehicles will probably make it through unscathed. Trails rated 5 and above are best reserved for Jeep vehicles that have been modified with specialized equipment such as suspension lifts, over-sized tires and lockers. There is something for everybody, so both novice and expert Jeepers will enjoy their time on the trails.
Like many of my fellow Jeepers, I learned a lot during my weekend of off-road exploring and came away with a new respect for the durability and prowess of Jeep products.
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I must admit that I haven’t stopped telling people about the Jeep Jamboree experience since I got home. There are so few family-friendly events these days, not to mention ones that cater to the automotive enthusiast, that the Jeep Jamboree and the people behind it should be commended for what they have achieved.
Interestingly, the events are so successful that some participants attend every year, as they seek the camaraderie that comes with sharing common experiences.
For more information about the Jeep Jamboree you can check it out at: www.jeepjamboreecanada.com.