Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman

Road Test Review: 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
Words by Mark Williams for PickupTrucks.com, 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 PickupTrucks.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Comments

@Lou-
Max Tow package will add 300-400 lbs of payload to a F-150 or comparable Silverado. Some supercabs go up to 600 lbs more payload with Max Tow.

I know all Ram 1500 crewcab half tons (and I'm pretty sure most all the rest) and all 2500 Power Wagon models are not recommended for use with a slide-in camper.

Depends on the size camper you want. Do yourself a favor and find a camper you like first, then pick the truck you need to carry it. I have a camper that weighs around 1500 lbs. There are campers for half ton trucks (not Ram though) and there are campers that are heavy for a 1 ton dually. Just depends on what you're looking for.


Who the hell uses slide in campers nowadays anyway??? Moot point IMO.

F150 with hd payload qualify for camper use. Ram 1500 does not qualify for camper use.


I have this truck love it...2010 model trx4 in Canada...Ram boxes very usefull....But leak very badly when going throu a touchless car wash..They need better seal..only complaint..O and my previous truck 2006 dakota trx4 had way more skidd plates where it matterd

@Jordan,
From the website of one of the many truck camper dealers:

"The convenience of slide in truck campers cannot be over stated. The ability to go anywhere your truck can go, park anywhere your truck can park, load and unload your camper in minutes with optional electric jacks, are just a few of the advantages of owning a slide in truck camper. Oh... did we mention you can also tow your toys."

The sound very useful to me.


@ford850

And exactly how many slide-in campers do you see cruising down the highway? Not many. Sorry. The market for a smoother riding truck with more interior/cab space is much larger than the market buying truck for their slide-in campers. So, who cares if they lose that minuscule percentage of the market? They'll make it up with those who want a better riding truck.

@ChevyMan - you are right that a guys should decide on what they plan on using their truck for and buy accordingly. I don't see many 1/2 tons with slide in campers. The point of one of these campers or many p/u accessories is for versatility. The RamBox is an expensive option that kills some versatility. I'd rather have a smoother riding 1/2 ton than 3/4 ton capacity. Obviously - I'd buy a 3/4 or 1 ton if I needed the cargo capacity. That is the conclusion Ram made with the Ram 1/2 ton.
I think Ram is trying to move foreward and separate their new trucks from the old with new identities. Good for Ram. If Ram wants to make a true "outdoorsman" 1/2 ton it should be a 1/2 ton version of the PowerWagon.

The Outdoorsman has some nice features for a person that does some camping and mild-exploring.

An off road enthusiast would know, if they do their homework, that a Ram 2500 Power Wagon (rear AND front electronic lockers, electronically disconnecting anti-sway bar, 12,000 lb. Warn winch, and skid plating) Ford F-Series 4X4 FX4 (electronic rear locker), or Sierra/Silverado 4X4 Z71 (mechanical rear locker) are better equipped to go further and deeper into the rough stuff.

Stupid moot point is right.

How many people drive around with truck caps nowadays???? Hardly anyone! Welcome to 2011 Lou!

The RamBox would catch on like wildfire with hunters and fishermen but since they don't do any advertising nobody knows about the RamBox and they really can't compete against all the rebates from Ford. So case closed.

@Dodge Tech - I like canopies or truck caps for the winter time. What is the point of a p/u box if it is full of snow. I've shovelled enough snow in my life.
I'd say 25% of the trucks I see have canopies or tonneau covers.
My biggest problem with the RamBox is price.
Next on the list is loss of versatility of pickup box or back of truck.
I can buy a canopy or tonneau cover for less.
I can also get a boat rack or dry box with a canopy for the same price as the RamBox with gun holsters.
I can leave those items in the backyard when I need to load up the back of my truck with bulky items.
I can't say the same for the RamBox.

$1,895 for RamBox and $205 per side - I find it highly unlikely
this option will "catch on like wildfire with hunters and fishermen".

Ram needs to drop the price of the RamBox (by half maybe) so that more people are inclined to order/buy it. I would hate to see the option disappear, just as the Quadrasteer option did with the Sierra/Silverado, because there is not enough demand.

Every time I see a G.M.C. Sierra Denali, or other G.M. trucks, with the Quadrasteer I salivate. I wish, and so does my wife, that our Quad Cab Dodge Ram had 4-wheel steering. It would make parking, and trail riding, so much easier.

Ram, please lower the price of the RamBox.

@ Buy American - great example. Any idea, regardless how good it is - is useless if most people don't like the price.

Im a Silverado guy but damn the new Ram is one good looking truck...

Clean tough truck with functionality, and an all around clean look! Great article, I have owned a few Dodge trucks and I love them!

I just bought a 2012 1500 quad outdoorsman with the 6'5" box.

Every time I get into the truck I love it even more.

In the City it is quiet and smooth yet powerful. Off road it is very capable.

I still can't believe the gas millage I am getting!

My truck does have the locking Diff and good skid protection.

The list of complaints is very short.

The very best thing was the price. It did total over 40,000 on the sticker but I got the dealer to slash the price down to $33,100. For that kind of a deal I could not walk away.

All three make great trucks. Even the Toyota is good.
The Dodge is Awesome!

This 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman looks very elegant and the back part is very spacious. If you go on camping, you can use those space to put different important things. I'd love this to be my next car.

Some people are misled into thinking that having tonneau covers are not practical. Well, it boost performance and extend gas mileage. I don't think it's not practical. Thanks for posting!

I bought a 2012 Quad 6'4" box outdoorsman with the Hemi.

My list of complaints is very short. I don't like the low front bumper for one.

Overall I love the truck. I have taken it off-road through mud and snow. I have climbed right over some pretty big obstacles and bottomed the vehicle out. It is a tough and capable off-roading machine.

In the city it is quiet and very smooth. A fine driving truck.
It does just about everything and I would recommend this model to anyone.



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