Going by the way of smooth, paved asphalt and piloting a modern, road-legal car, it’ll take you just under seven hours to get from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada. Your luxurious, climate-controlled cocoon of leather and carpet can effortlessly glide over the ribbon of road connecting those cities regardless of the searing sun, triple-digit temperatures and gusts of wind carrying buckets of desert dust. It’s almost too easy. But try to get from one of the casino-laden cities to the other without using any roads at all, as fast as you possibly can, while fighting off dehydration, silt beds waiting to swallow wheels, blind turns preceding cliffs and suspension arm-hungry boulders… that’s a different story. Coincidently, The Best in The Desert Vegas to Reno, which at 540 miles is the longest off-road race in the US, puts on just such show. I attempted to finish it in a relatively stock Polaris RZR Turbo S.
By “stock,” I mean the only things added to the RZR were to make it race-safe and compliant — an extensive, reinforced roll cage, race seats and safety belts, removable-steering wheel, race fuel cell, radio, safety lights and fire extinguisher system. Other than what the regulations deemed necessary, everything on the Turbo S was factory-spec — there were no mechanical upgrades. Meaning the suspension, engine, transmission, ECU and basic chassis rolled up to the starting line the same as they were on the showroom floor. My co-pilot and I, on the other hand, were in need of necessary optional extras. Fireproof suits, gloves and driving shoes and a ventilated race helmet were baselines; on top of that, we needed a way to communicate to the pits and, as we found out 50 miles into the 580-mile race, food and water, just in case we got stuck out in the desert. This is the gear we brought along to attempt America’s toughest off-road endurance race.