Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman

Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
Words by Mark Williams for, Photos by Mike Levine

At a time when the big truck makers are doing everything they can to separate themselves from the pack, only a few are making enough noise to get above the din.

For now, Ford is probably doing the best job with low-volume packages like the Raptor, King Ranch and FX2. But recently, Ram has made a strong push. Names like Longhorn, Ram Runner and Outdoorsman are getting a lot of truck enthusiasts talking. The latter, which we first saw at the 2010 State Fair of Texas, seems to be aimed right at us.

Ram said the Outdoorsman package would be designed meet the discriminating needs of boating, camping, hunting and fishing enthusiasts. We like to do all those things, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one.

This new package will be offered in all three light-duty and heavy-duty Ram flavors — 1500, 2500, and 3500. It replaces the TRX4 package going forward.

Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman

For those who may not know, other Ram trim levels include the ST, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, Sport (1500 only), Laramie (which includes the new Longhorn edition) and Power Wagon (2500 Hemi only). Other packages, such as the Tradesman and Adventurer packages, will be coming as well.

Outdoorsman models start at $28,625 (regular cab, including $975 destination). Our crew cab was priced at $41,785.

As soon as the 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman hit our driveway, we immediately started planning a trip to the closest U.S. national park from headquarters: Joshua Tree National Park, which covers more than 800,000 acres.

We packed our test truck with all the camping and cold-weather gear we could find. The park, which is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, is split between two extremes: the lower-elevation (below 3,000 feet) Colorado Desert on one side and the much cooler, higher-elevation (as high as 4,000 and 5,000 feet) Mojave Desert zone. Exploring as much of the park as possible means being prepared for anything, especially if we wanted to get some serious stargazing in as well.

The style and features of the truck are well done, as Ram made every effort to include every off-road, towing, and four-wheel-drive option available to the platform. Likewise, all Outdoorsman models get the biggest fuel tank available (32 gallons for the 1500 and 34 or 35 gallons on the Ram HDs, depending on the bed length); at least a class IV hitch with both four- and seven-pin plugs; a limited-slip differential; and the heavy-duty cooling package. Our 1500 Outdoorsman had Goodyear Wrangler AT/S 275/70R17 tires that filled the fat-lipped wheel wells quite well and helped give the package a more rugged stance.

Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman

All Outdoorsman packages get two-tone paint with a Mineral Gray lower color that starts in the bumpers then wraps around to the fender flares to the lower door valances. As you might expect with any rugged 4x4 package, all Outdoorsmans include front and transfer case skid plates for serious protection when exploring rougher backcountry terrain.

Although most national parks do not allow exploration off designated roads, Joshua Tree offers many miles of well-maintained dirt roads, giving visitors access to the more remote — and scenic — areas of the park. Our Outdoorsman provided adequate ground clearance and solid four-wheel-drive capability as we navigated through the Queen Valley, past Skull Rock and around Sheep Pass campground. Since our vehicle came equipped with the electronic 4x4 transfer case, shifting from rear-wheel drive to high-range four-wheel drive was an easy turn of the dial.

It’s worth noting that once the 4x4 high-range is engaged, the center differential in the transfer case is locked, so this mode should be engaged only on low-traction surfaces like gravel roads, snow-covered pavement or loose sand. Combined with the aggressive treads of the all-terrain tires and smooth ride from the rear-coil suspension, the Outdoorsman never came close to getting stuck or finding an obstacle it couldn’t overcome.

Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman

Because of the great weather during on our trip, our only drivetrain changes were from two-wheel drive to high-range four-wheel drive. (But given how the weather can change in an instant, we were glad to have the extra gearing if we needed it.) We especially liked the well-sorted steering ratio that gave the Ram package a smooth and predictable feel whether on loose dirt roads, tight parking lots or higher-speed highway cruising. The steering ratios are perfectly matched for this type of vehicle.

We also liked the Outdoorsman’s unique look, especially when compared with other late-model Rams on the road. The blacked-out grille, two-tone color scheme and the pronounced rear-quarter “Outdoorsman” stickers give the pickup a strong personality.

We really liked the RamBox option ($1,895, available only on 1500 Crew Cab models), which included several Mopar accessories specifically designed with this package in mind. These storage brackets install into each side of the RamBox’s lockable storage units and provide a secure slot for your favorite rifles, shotguns, fishing rods, tools or whatever else you might want to store. These specially fitted brackets — Ram wants us to call them “holsters” — conveniently cradle your valuables securely with heavy-duty rubber retention straps. These “holsters” cost $205 per side and seem to make sense only if you regularly need them. For us, we used the non-holstered storage bin to hold most of our camping gear because the only shooting allowed in Joshua Tree National Park was with cameras. Now, if Mopar made a nifty holster for all the lenses and camera bodies we typically use, that could be interesting.


During our fuel economy testing, there were no surprises. Our 1500's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 had cylinder-deactivating capability and gave us an average of 16.1 mpg to 18.1 mpg. The best mileage numbers were collected during no-traffic freeway runs, where we regularly got around 18 mpg as the engine cycled in and out of Eco mode. It seems strange that a tiny green light turning on and off on the information screen is supposed to catch your attention. It’s too bad Ram doesn’t make a bigger deal about this for the driver. The true potential here is how that information can change the way the driver drives. Ford does a better job here in both the F-150 and Super Dutys.

Beyond that minor grievance, we liked the rest of the Outdoorsman’s interior, with its premium cloth 40/20/40-split front bench seat, 10-way adjustable driver’s seat and plenty of rear storage with two floor-mounted cubbies, as well as two flat compartments under the rear seat. Also of note is the Ram’s steering wheel, which now offers both front and rear fingertip controls on a leather-wrapped wheel. But probably our favorite feature on Outdoorsman package is the dash-mounted 115-volt power outlet plug and inverter (as long as it does not need a three-prong plug). This was especially handy for recharging our flashlight and camera batteries.


Much of our road test through Joshua Tree was done at night, to get far away from any city lights and see as many stars as possible. And as odd as it might sound, the Outdoorsman has a few interesting exterior lighting options that came in handy. For setting up camping gear in the dark and navigating around the campground, the center high-mounted bed light and the individual lights inside the RamBox compartments were a huge help, especially when loading and unloading the vehicle. We also appreciated the lighting mounted underneath the towing mirrors that spread tons of light on either side of our Ram and underneath the tires. And finally, after popping the hood to check on a faulty sensor, an engine-compartment light turned on. Thankfully, we didn’t need to do any night repairs, but it’s nice to know we could have if we needed to.

After a few hours in the dark, watching the softening sunset glow die off in the west, we counted hundreds of stars in the night sky. Unfortunately, a half-moon watched over us most of the night, providing a surprising amount of light, but that didn’t seem to affect the number of stars we could see. In fact, with a relatively small amount of indirect LED lighting, we were able to capture numerous photos of the truck and stars in the sky.


It all seemed to make sense to us that we were out in the desert with a Ram Outdoorsman while looking into the night sky at one of the ultimate outdoorsmen of Greek mythology, Orion. The three stars that make up his belt were big and bright, looking almost as if we could grab it and toss it into one of the RamBox bins. In the end, we reused the bins for camping gear after breaking camp, with a pair of plugged-barrel rifles on the other side that Ram loaded for us for any photo purposes we might need. How thoughtful of them. Thankfully, none of the howling coyotes we heard through the night tried to attack.

We know some will say the Ram Outdoorsman is just a sticker package, without any real substantive assets you couldn’t order off a factory checklist. Maybe there is some truth to that, but there is enough distinction and individuality to the package that will please those who tow and use their light- or heavy-duty trucks for serious recreation. Sure, the Outdoorsman could use a little more ground clearance up front, possibly a bigger tire, maybe even a few unique interior styling details (how about an Outdoorsman compass holder or special nav screen saver?) but the attempt here, along with the Tradesman and Adventurer, has us thinking Ram has a pretty clear idea about where it needs to be (and should be) headed. For us, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for the Outdoorsman Power Wagon with the new high-output Cummins.



Great article, wish I could have been there, sounds like a great time.

What was the sensor problem?

Mike, the rambox is only available with the crew cab, not quadcab.


Are you Fred Diaz?

I love this truck, love the gun holster.

I like the lockable side storage compartments for stowing stuff. Dodge has come a long way with the ram. OK, let the bitching and moaning begin.....

I am surprised that RAM is the only maker not offering a locking diff? Titans, Tundras, F-150 and the GM twins with their G80 have it why not RAM? Come on Mr. Gilles you are going in the right direction.

For Mike: Can you send me an email - I would like to get your input on something.

now THIS is a real truck.

A locking diff is available on the power wagon, but I agree it should be a more widely available option. And the rambox should be available in all bed lengths for that matter.

What was the sticker price for the truck you tested?
Nice truck and great review!

Perhaps a leather option in this or the P Wagon would attract a few more lookers.

@Fred: Thanks for catching that typo - as you can tell, we had a crew cab. :-)

@ford850: $41,785 (not incl. $205 for the side holster).

@Chance: Ram Power Wagon has front and rear e-lockers. It would be nice to have a rear locker for the 1500.

This truck should have (assuming it had the limited slip option) a torque biasing diff similar to a detriot tru-trac.

Ram 1500 is a fantastic looking truck, more so in a solid color with 20s.

The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.


So What history does Dodge have to claim "The best there was"???

@ Mike Levine

I'm not exactly sure if i read this off this site or if it was on allpar, but i remember reading somewhere that the RamBox was supposed to be available full-line in the near future. Could you maybe do a little digging on that?

@ Bob

Excellent observation! What annoys me most about the new Ford SD is how their styling is recycled from everyone else with just enough change to ward off lawsuits. The bat-wing headlights on the SD look like they were stolen right off the front of a Dodge Nitro, and then the headlight and turn signal orientation was flipped. Anyone else notice that? Another thing that seems to be the latest trend is who can have the biggest fricken grille. I think if Ford lost the parentheses they'd have something. I don't mind the Silverado looks, but being the mopar guy that i am, I like the Dodge the best.

One more thing; i think the RamBox thing is really going to catch on in the upcoming years. GM already copied it with the Sierra All-Terrain, now all were waiting on is Ford(and with their 'not-to-be-outdone' attitude, will most definately include putting a storage bin in absolutely every cubic inch of cavitational space available)

No beef against anyone, thats all just my opinion.

I like the side storage boxes, but I can just see some punk prying them open with a crow bar and steeling whats inside not to mention causing body damage.

Beautiful Truck....

I can get 22.5 mpg driving easy,but the sound of the HEMI makes me put my foot into it most of the time !! I really love my 2011 Dodge RAM 1500 !!

"It’s worth noting that once the 4x4 high-range is engaged, the center differential in the transfer case is locked, so this mode should be engaged only on low-traction surfaces"

Does this mean the truck does not actually have a centre differential? In other words just a transfer case.

Looks like an interesting package, did the Ram boxes prove to be dust-proof (would want to be to store camera lenses in there!).

@Shop Cat
In your reference to the Ram Box, GM first came out with a similar feature, but is only on Avalanches. You mention the All-Terrain, but that is only on the HD All Terrain Concept, which the whole project doesn't show alot of hope of making it to production. It will just be an option package similar to 1500 all-terrain. The boxes may show up, but most highly doubt the expensive option to see light of day beyond concept.

Nice write up, but i fail to really see the significance of this truck. It is just a rename of the TRX4 package, which was created to compete with Z-71/FX4 packages. I guess I don't see why this truck got extensive testing on its own, but i think a value per package compairison of the Outdoorsman/Z-71/FX4/TRD(or rock crawler)/PRO-4X would be nice. I think they all aim at the same "outdoor" minded enthusiast with standard towing, skid plates, usually body colored grills etc. Ford/Dodge with inverters, Ford has the grounded 3-prong outlet. Dodge has the Ram Box, kinda neat, I've had avalanches and it's a really nice place for tow straps, tie downs etc and not need a truck box.

Just seems like a lot of press for a truck that really isn't that unique, but it is a new direction for Dodge, kidna of.

Very nice looking rig.I really think its the best truck on the market,best looks,best interior and the best ride by far !
My next truck will be a Dodge Ram when my lease is up on my Ford F-150 Platinum this summer.

Great article! Just one question though, what kind of weather necessitates "extra gearing"?

" (But given how the weather can change in an instant, we were glad to have the extra gearing if we needed it.) "

I have never experienced any kind of weather that prompted me to drop into low-range 4X4... What am I missing ?

That's a really nice truck! Kind of reminds me of the old Dodge Adventurer and Macho Power Wagon pickups.

@Chance: Sorry for not being more specific. Limited slip only offered now as part of tow package, but we have heard they are conisdering a rear locking diff. Fingers crossed.

@Outback: As we understand it, the center differential is a series of friction plates that lock when engaged in high-range yet will allow for a small amount of slip to prevent any catastrophic mechanical bindup when, for example, you are turning hard to the right or left. Technically, that mean the speeds of the two driveshafts have to be able to turn at different speeds in different circumstances so we can still comfortably call it a differential.

@Johanh: My fault for not being clear. I was thinking more about what bad weather can cause, like a washed out road or a slippery hillclimb or loose terrain. We'd agree most weather, by itself, usually just requires a good slower speed in First gear or maybe a quick flip into high range.

Am I the ony one who still thinks $41 grand is a lot for a pick-up? Sure this has a lot of doo-dads, but I fail to be impressed by the package's ability to offer key things at some value.
@OUtback ute- that is correct, and normal for pick-ups in America. Even the full-time units do not have a differential, but rather a computer controlled clutch pack.
@Ryan- a True-Trac would work awesome in conjunction with the traction control capability, but there aren't enough people in the general market who understand its advantages, so the few dollars it costs over a clutch-type diff keeps it from being included.
@Joe- Given opportunity, someone will break into ANY box, causing damage to it and loss of what's inside- the only real way to prevent that (other than never parking anywhere but your own, locked garage) is to leave everything unlocked and nothing of value inside.

Very nice truck. However, Ram needs to start sticking with a package name. For example, Chevrolet's Z71 name. That is very recognizable now.

Outdoorsman, Adventurer, Trx4, they keep changing. Pick a name and stick with it.

I don't get the Dodge enthusiasm, the skid plates cover only two things; the diffs. Why can't they put skid plates under something useful, like the engine and radiator, additional protection for the fuel tank or even something to guard fuel and transmission cooling lines. Hell they still use mechanical fans, they make themselves look like a joke.

I have a 2010 Ram 2500 TRX4 and love it. One of the things I like is that with the flares, blacked-out grille and two-tone color scheme, mine is really unique, at least in my neck of the city.

I really dig the Ram Boxes, thought I might want them until I realized how much cargo room I would loose. Guess its not that big of a deal if in your adventures you will be taking along a trailer where you could stow all your gear.

The Rambox is a good idea but $1,895 kills it for me. One can get a new canopy for that price. The only trucks I've seen with RamBoxes are Laramie edition trucks. I saw one on a job site but that was it. Most guys have "job boxes",across the top tool boxes, or utility decks for work. A tool box can be removed, or a boat rack or cargo rack can fit over top, usually along the top of the box rails, same goes for a canopy.
Does Ram or anyone have tonneau covers that would work with the RamBox?
This is a good looking truck but I'd have to agree with some other posters - just a rebadged TRX-4.
One has to give Ram credit for trying to stir things up with some changes in their lineup.

If you own a ford truck don't park next to a New Ram or New Chevy because it will make your ford look like dog doo doo. ford did invent the "man step" though. Now that is innovation.

@ Bob - how's the Astro van? looks are highly subjective. For example - most of us prefer women.

i to have to agree with Lou, all that extra money for what a little extra storage in a side compartment when aftermarket boxes are a lot cheaper
as far as looks go i like the new Fords and the new Chrysler looks but Gm well lets just say it is time for an overhaul on all there ugly trucks they have been the same for what going on well let see 100 years

"We know some will say the Ram Outdoorsman is just a sticker package, without any real substantive assets you couldn’t order off a factory checklist. Maybe there is some truth to that, but..."

That is the vibe I get from this package.

I addition to the price of the RamBox, I hear they can leak. Would you really want to put your camera equipment inside? Take it through a car wash and use a pressure washer on it. Then check for leaks. That would be an interesting test.

The loss in bed size is noticeable. First in the loss of width from the RamBox. You also lose a foot in length because there is no 6.5' bed in a crewcab for Ram. Ram needs a long bed crewcab. Also the interior room is a bit smaller compared to Ford, 3-4 inches in the rear and some up front.

If the idea is extra storage space for camping, this truck has some extra storage on the sides at a $2000.00 price but less storage and room overall.

From the Dodge forum:
"You may not want the ram box ,when you here what I notice.Was looking at the ram box ,at a dealership.When I lifted the lid of the ram box,I could hear water splashing around inside the lid.They brag that the ram box is water tite,but they let water get into the hollow part of the lid.My concern is in cold areas where that water would freeze and split the lid.The dealer said he just notice the problem that day,but had no fix."

1) extra storage on the sides but at $1895 price. Holsters $205 PER side.
2) crewcab short bed
3) smaller cargo box area
4) less interior room
5) no e-locker

1) crewcab long bed
2) no extra cargo on the sides, but has most cargo box volume
3) best bed extender - extends the bed for extra cargo space and flips away when not in use.
4) more interior room, more rear leg/storage room
5) load flat floor
6) offroad package with e-locker. not just a sticker package.

F-150 is the choice when it comes to storage, camping and off-roading.

As an actual outdoor enthusiast that often needs to drive 150+ miles just to get somewhere fun, I would appreciate a truck like this more with a Pentastar V6 instead of a 5.7L Hemi, since most of the time I am just cruising down the highway or back roads with cruise control on.

Lou, A truck cap won't work since it hangs over the sides and will keep you from opening the boxes (they raise up). They do make tonnue covers that fit the RAM Box. Dodge was a genius when they came up with the Ram box

This truck is purpose built for the person who hunts, fishes or boats.

@MoparMan - the RamBox limits the use of other accessories ie. boat/cargo rack or cap/canopy. That is another reason why I wouldn't buy a truck with this option.
One could get a cargo rack made that sits on the truck bed floor but that would eat up more bed space.
Some people might find the RamBox a viable option but I think for most "outdoorsmen" the option is too expesive and limits the overall efectiveness/versatility of the truck. A slide in camper would definately be out of the question. I know guys who like slide in campers so they can tow a decent sized boat.
A guy wanting to carry one or 2 dirt bikes might find it useful as you need an open box to clear the handle bars. Problem is the truck box is short so you'd have to leave the tailgate down. I doubt 2 gear bags would fit in them so again I find it hard to justify.

@ Moparman - I do all three activities(hunts, fishes or boats.) I still don't see the advantage. I have a galvinized steel tool box with armored lock cover that cost me under $200 dollars. I can remove it when I need more box space and I've used it in every truck I've ever owned. $200 dollars over 25 years is much more affordable than 2,000 or so for the life of one truck.

Fairness in Conversation, the aftermarket has worked with ram box and some now offer products that work with the rambox: Example Retrax makes a roll top cover that still works even with RB. A lot of $$$ to cover 4 sq feet LOL, but it is available.

A slide in camper would definately be out of the question. I know guys who like slide in campers so they can tow a decent sized boat.

You can say that again. Check out the warning letter for the Ram 1500. It states that this vehicle is NOT recommended for use with a slide-in camper. It is because of the coil spring suspension. Dodge chose the wrong springs. This shows how they serious they are not about using their half tons as a truck or for camping.

40 seconds in:

Ram box is kind of like the Avalanche's midgate. If you happened to haul 4x8 sheets of anything and it happened to be raining, and you didn't have a bunch of cr@p or baby seat on your rear seat... hey I can make this work and get 'em home dry. But for the rest of the time you owned it, never used or thought about. Good for a brochure and initial reviews but thats about it.

junk it is

@ David good find on the ford propaganda. What the ford man doesn't state is that the reason is center of gravity. Not weight carrying capability. That same peice of paper also has instructions for how to mount that camper. Not recommended and not able are two different things. Besides the Ram isn't a heavy hauler like some fords can be. A camper small enough to fit and light enough won't be that big anyway. I'm a tech at a dodge dealer and I have seen this paper by the way. There always some fine print that the competition leaves out. I know I'd never pay 2 grand for the box though. I don't get why the Ram box is so controversial. It's works for some people but not for others. No one who needs a canopy would buy it obviously.

@ David - my comments have nothing to do with the carrying capacity of the Ram. My comments point out how it limits the versatility of your truck.
The RamBox would be a better idea if it was a 1,000 dollars cheeper.
The Ford video ranks right up there with Howie Long.


"I don't get the Dodge enthusiasm, the skid plates cover only two things; the diffs. Why can't they put skid plates under something useful, like the engine and radiator, additional protection for the fuel tank or even something to guard fuel and transmission cooling lines. Hell they still use mechanical fans, they make themselves look like a joke."

The new Rams actually have both a clutch-fan and an electric fan on them. You should do some more research before spatting off. The enthusiasm is because these new Rams are head and shoulders above any previous Ram. Dodge is finally getting it right and making a truck that can contend, across the board, with Ford and GM.

@ Jordan - Dodge is finally getting it right .
It is nice to see yearly improvements in quality with Ram and Ford trucks.
Ram and Ford are head and shoulders above the competition in offering customers a great range of options.

JD Power did say the electronic complexities of new trucks are slowing down gains in quality and durability.

The Ford video points out that the warning letter that a slide-in camper is not recommended in a Ram. So you can't use a slide-in camper regardless of the RamBox. This is a fact and not like Howie Long. Thank you. This is supposed to be a purpose built camping truck but a camper is not recommended????

You can only get a short bed on a Chevy crewcab too. That's terrible. I would never buy a Ram, Chevy or GM with a short short bed.

@ David - that warning would apply to all of their 1/2 tons?
Since when are TV commercials reliable?
Like Jordan L said - the Ford commercial leaves out some of the fine print.
My SuperCrew is rated at 1540,
the Ram Crew cab at 1420.
That is not a big difference.
That would also mean a pretty small slide in camper.
The only real advantage with my truck would be 120 lb and a 6.5 box. ( You could argue that the "man step" is also an advantage - unless you are Bob or Howie Long. LOL)

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