Tents and Shelter for overland travel

Tents and Shelters:

Potentially one of the biggest spends after your vehicle will be your choice of tent.  It is well worth taking some time on this subject to carefully consider the two main options.   The choices are pretty straight forward, Ground Tent or Roof Tent.  The latter are often the first choice when you start planning but do not overlook the other option too soon.  I have travelled with both roof and ground tents, and both have their positives as well as some negatives.

Roof Tents:

Like their ground standing cousins Roof Tents come in various shapes and sizes but the basic concept is that the unit is mounted on the roof of your motor.  It is possible to put them across the pick-up bed of some types of vehicle or indeed mount them on trailers, in fact some manufacturers now offer specific models for this purpose.

Roof tents will allow for a comfortable night’s sleep almost anywhere and you can pitch the tent virtually anywhere that you can park the vehicle.  (Great if you are on hard-standing or rock hard ground).  All you need to do is make sure the vehicle is parked level and the tent will open up level allowing a flat sleeping base.  This can prove very comfortable and offers a feeling of security ‘away from creepy crawlies and safe from prowling wildlife’.  In real terms an inquisitive monkey or marauding big cat is very able to get on the roof of your motor (with consummate ease) as an afternoon driving around the local safari park would show you.  Sleeping in a roof tent will however lift you away from nefarious individuals who may be about at night and it can be a wonderful experience waking in the morning and lowering the zips to see the sunrise.

Touring Gear sell Eezi Awn roof tents and we can offer a choice of models suitable for various applications.  In our opinion Eezi Awn are about the best and you will see this reflected in the fact that most serious Overlander’s, and companies involved in the supply of this kit are fitting or specifying Eezi Awn product.  Take a look around at the other manufacturers and see what they have to offer and then take a look at the Eezi Awn range.

Eezi Awn roof tents offer a combination of solid build quality, finishing, features and overland pedigree.

The best-selling size of tent in either the Series 3 or the T-Top is the 1.4mt wide model.  These are the perfect width for nearly every vehicle and allow enough room for two people to sleep side by side in comfort. Don’t forget when you are looking at the tent that you are unlikely to have taken your sleeping bags with you so allow for this, some clothing, a pillow each, maybe a little room to roll over, you will soon use up the space.

Larger models can be fitted on to roofs but bear in mind the weight loading you are putting up there.  Most roof tents weigh in easily over 45kgs, often more than that for the better ones, add to that the roof rack (or roof bars) and you begin to see why suspension modifications are required.

Roof tents are best suited for constant travel, their fitment to the vehicle means that once setup you are unable to move your camp for the night without a load of packing up, hard luck if the shop is two miles away and you need something.

Ground Tents:

Often overlooked by overlander’s but some very serious travellers have used them.  Ground Tents are often roomier and lighter, even a big tent is likely to be at least half the weight of a decent roof tent.  They offer a smaller pack size, more room for the weight, sometimes standing room (I am getting older and appreciate this!) and potentially an easier setup (if you don’t want to be climbing around on the roof of your motor) and the ability to drive away from the camp if need be.

What you should be looking for here are well built, simple designs with a minimum (as in none at all ideally) of moving plastic and light alloy parts.  Good quality Canvas / Rip-stop material with steel poles, heavy duty zips, mossie screens and fitted groundsheets are the order of the day.  You are after a touring tent that is designed to be put up and down frequently and will withstand the rigours of overlanding.

These criteria will rule out many of the ‘Puts up in 30 seconds’ type of tent.  Some of these are OK and in some cases I have sold them in the past, for euro camping or a short 2 week dessert tag along they may survive, but I can assure you that dust and sand get everywhere very quickly when you jump onto the African continent (or any desert environment) and this stuff is a real enemy to complex moving parts.

Don’t get talked into buying a tent designed to weigh nothing but will go up Everest in a back pack either.  The belief that paying a fortune for this type of tent will stand you in good stead for a desert adventure is wrong. Often this type of tent, superb though it may be is designed with wholly different parameters and in fact may only be designed to survive one rigorous mountain trip.  It simply will not last long on an overland journey.  If you are vehicle based you have room to play around with the weight and packing a little. Equally Roof Tents and Safari style tents are not suited to winter highland camping.

We would recommend simple pole systems, steel is better than alloy (it bends rather than breaks). Heavy duty zips (YKK are good) double stitching on the seams.  Reinforcing material where the poles fit (wearing point). Waterproof breathable fabric, (Cotton canvas / Rip-stop).  Sewn in ‘bathtub’ style ground-sheets.  (Helps keep out undesirables – sand, water and creepy crawlies) Mossie netting over the doors and windows.

Look at the tent from the point of view of ease of putting it up, ideally you need to be able to do this in about 5 – 10 minutes, with practice it may be quicker.  You will need to be able to peg the thing down as well so look at the pegging points to ensure they are fitted strongly to the tent and are a sensible size to be able to get a larger peg through.

All tents should have some ventilation, it should be towards the top and may be no more complex than being able to open the top flap of the window slightly to allow hot air out, some will have dedicated vents and again these need to be at or near the top.  Hot air will rise and if cannot escape the tent will become extremely oppressive in warmer climes.

Vehicle Awnings:

These will come in various guises, either designed to fit the roof rack, the tent or free standing.  Again all of these have their merits but the free standing awning or tarp offers the most versatility.  This can be tied of to the vehicle in any position, very handy if you need to rig shelter to work under the bonnet for example.  A decent sized tarp (example. 4.0mt x 4.0mt), a couple of adjustable poles, some lines and bungees will offer a huge array of shelter options.

Most touring tent manufacturers now offer extensions or awnings for their tents, from basic porches for weather protection to an extended living area all depends on your requirements but as always the KISS* principal applies.  They need to be adaptable to your situation and being able to adjust the position to suit the changing sun or wind is of some benefit.

Lastly are the vehicle mounted options.  Some of these are a triumph of design and marketing over common sense.  A particular side awning came onto the market a few years ago and had a lovely wrap around design that covered one side and the rear of the vehicle.  This looks great until it is up in windy conditions, then the loading on the hinge is immense and this led to a number of breakages and in one case I understand it then became a free standing awning once it had been recovered from the dunes!  I believe the design was re-engineered but most of these awnings are designed to offer shade more than full weather protection and will need to be put away quickly if things get windy.

This applies to all roll out and attached vehicle awnings in some degree, the Eezi Awn and Fiamma type can also very quickly flip back over a vehicle when the wind gets excessive.  Campmor make a very good side awning that actually stows off the vehicle.  You can obtain additional slides for it and have the option of mounting it around the vehicle to suit your needs and prevailing conditions.

Some of this may sound negative, used sensibly most awnings will work fine but as with the tent advice, the stronger the construction + the less moving parts = the longer it will last.

*KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

 

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Camp cooking options for Overlander’s

If you are planning an overland trip and expect to dine out every night then perhaps you do not need to read further!!  However for most folk this is not an option and self-catering is the way forward and for this you will need a range of kit (camping stove, fire grill, cooking pots, kettles etc) suitable to the task. I would like to try and convince you that you need at least one of everything Touring Gear sells but this is unfortunately (for us) not the case.  However, we offer an extensive range of outdoor camp kitchen equipment, campfire grills, cooking pots and other cooking gear all suitable for overlander’s and camping alike.

One of the primary choices will be your camping stove and whether this will burn liquid fuel (Petrol) or LPG (Gas). Another option is the use of solid fuel such as wood or charcoal. This requires a little more time and planning but is ultimately cheaper and not an option you should discount too quickly for an extended overland journey. The maintenance on a campfire grill is minimal; finding spares for an exotic multi-fuel stove in Timbuktu may present some issues!

I like cooking over open fires but for stoves I personally favour Coleman Petrol (Dual Fuel) stoves.  My experience has always been good and though they are occasionally prone to dodgy fuel, generally they will always light and burn – no matter the temperature or the altitude.  The same cannot always be said of all LPG stoves which suffer with height and low temperatures.  However they do have some benefits (cleanliness, familiarity and the ability to plumb the system into your motor) so are worth looking at.

Petrol Stoves and multi-fuel stoves:

There are a number of models available – the most commonly available (and probably suitable) is the Coleman twin burner 424-700 model.  This is the green suitcase type stove that has been around for years and years and has barely needed to change design in all that time.  Of very similar pedigree is the Coleman Sportster II stove.  These are little gems and I have no hesitation in recommending these. In fact would say that two Sportster’s would almost be a better purchase than having one of the twin burner models.  You will have the same amount of cooking ability with the benefit of taking up half the space.  Used imaginatively with a small campfire grill to allow larger cooking pots or a griddle to be used they are a better and more flexible option.

Other manufacturers also make multi-fuel stoves, Primus make some excellent units but there are others such as MSR and Optimus. The more off the beaten track your journey is expected to take, having a small unit that burns virtually any liquid fuel is well worthwhile.

LPG stoves:

You have a huge choice of these stoves on the market now. It seems that everybody makes them but the reality of this is that they are very often the same unit, badged or painted up in a different colour.  Some of the most commonly used are made by Camping Gaz.  The popularity of the Lagon as a no nonsense budget unit has faded slightly over the last couple of years with the advent of newer models but the appeal of this stove is its simplicity, surface cooking area and relative low profile.  They have now been succeeded by the BaseCamp model, a no nonsense unit with s lightly smaller footprint than the Lagon.

LPG stoves will allow an amount of ‘building in’ the most common option for overlanders being the drop-down shelf on the rear door.  Most stoves are low pressure systems that will run from a small Camping Gaz or Calor Gas type cylinder.  Bear in mind when you are looking at the gas option that you will need to have the bottle refilled at some point. Throughout most of Europe a simple exchange process is easily achieved – not so in Africa and I would suggest a Calor cylinder or similar type because of the ease of connection.  Also realise that most countries use a different connection system than that in the UK so it will be worth obtaining a continental adaptor preferably here, or the first opportunity when over the water.

Low pressure gas systems (like the Lagon) allow a fair amount of flexibility in the hose lengths and ease of connections (a simple push fit or quick release coupling) however these stoves are not great performers when the altitude increases.  You can obtain high pressure gas stoves and our favourite recently has been the Atle made by Primus.  Make sure you get the model with the Camping Gaz regulator; some were supplied to fit the Primus refillable cylinders which are very hard to locate in the UK.

These high pressure systems offer much improved performance over the low pressure types but they are much less forgiving when you are setting them up.  Often the hose length is critical, enforcing the need for a special regulator and the connections will need to be professionally crimped.

Most camping stoves are intended to be used outdoors in areas with plenty of ventilation. If you intend to use a gas stove in your vehicle ensure you buy one that has a flame failure cut-out.  All caravan /motor home stoves should have this device and it prevents gas escaping should the burner go out.

Diesel Camping Stove:

Don’t waste too long looking for these.  Some of the expedition type multi-fuel stoves will burn diesel, but there is not a large camping stove in existence that will use this fuel safely and successfully for overlanding purposes.  There are some very expensive stoves made for the marine market that run on diesel and are built into 40’ cabin cruisers!  (Very expensive)  There is also an old WW2 German army portable stove that ran on Diesel which has some admirers.  These are like rocking horse doodah to find and pretty ancient now anyway. (Buyer beware)

Open Fire Cooking: The Campfire

This is how it all began and is often overlooked as a means of preparing meals and boiling water but it needn’t be too difficult.  You do not need a raging campfire suitable to attract aircraft every night.  You could very easily work from a small compact BBQ or campfire grill. Often the same size (or smaller) than a twin camping stove and used in conjunction with a Ghillie Kettle (often quicker than boiling water on camping stoves) you have all you need. This method of course is for outdoor use only and best suited to the evening meal when you can carry it over into the evening and freshen it for breakfast if you want to.

Not all camping cookware is suitable for using over this heat source and it may take some time to perfect the process.  Cast iron or steel cookware is best rather than aluminium cookware but this can also be used with care on a grill, over embers.   Lighting campfires is also frowned upon in the majority of European campsites though some folk are now more tolerant to careful users.  Campfires are great things, they offer the means to cook, to keep warm and to stare happily into after you have eaten your dinner.  And the best bit is that the fuel is (99.9% of the time) free and compatible with your fire place anywhere in the world!

 Camping Cookware:

The choice is enormous and the temptation to raid your kitchen may be tempting. It will come down to a couple of factors. What type of stove you will cook on and how compact the items need to be to fit in the vehicle.  If you are heading away for week or so and cooking on a camping stove (as long as you can fit the camping equipment into the vehicle) it really doesn’t matter.

Longer trips and the need for more neat and secure packing mean that compact or nesting cooking pots would be the best way forward.  Whether you have aluminium or stainless steel cooking gear is entirely your choice.  Aluminium offers a weight advantage over stainless but the stainless is more forgiving if you want to cook on a campfire.  If you think you will at some point want to use your cooking pots and kettles on a campfire make sure you have all steel or fireproof handles.  It is worth getting hold of some decent leather gloves from an industrial supplier for this purpose.  I speak from experience of burnt fingers!!

Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, Fry pans and griddles make perfect cooking gear for campfire use.  They are heavy, but mastering the use of the Dutch oven/campfire setup will open up a world of camping and outdoor cooking that is hard to beat. A couple of small Dutch ovens will allow a range of food to be baked, roasted, stewed and boiled.

It is also now possible to obtain Cast aluminium Dutch Ovens with a hard anodised finish. These versions will weigh less than the cast iron equivalent and are easier to care for.

Please contact Touring Gear if you have any queries about the options above.

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Storage Solutions for Camping and Off Road Equipment:

Safely storing all your kit in and on the vehicle is very important.  You need to think about safety, security and organisation.

Whatever your choice of transport the safe stowage of kit and other goods is essential for your own safety and the safe keeping of the item you are moving.  A suitably racked, packed and lashed overland vehicle that is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident is more likely to protect the occupants and equipment if the worst case scenario happens.

Imagine what happens in an emergency stop or worse a roll over in the vehicle.  You may well be strapped in but if your load is not secured in the back of the vehicle it will be rearranging itself in an uncontrolled manner whilst you are completely tied up with other matters. That innocuous can of beans and jar of coffee, or worse a good quality Maglite, left on the shelf at the back becomes a lethal flying object when it continues to travel at 40mph and the rest of the vehicle isn’t!  Likewise essential spares and repairs kit or your laptop / digital camera will become FUBAR* very quickly when getting battered around in the back.

With all your gear stacked, packed and strapped away it is also a lot harder to see and grab by any passing Oik after some five finger discount.  This can happen almost anywhere unfortunately, even when you would normally assume it to be safe.  Having all your gear neatly stowed makes finding everything so much easier.  A well organised vehicle will have all the boxes stacked where they are needed and distributed for weight as well as labelled so you don’t have to get them out to open them up all the time.  There really is no need to move that servicing kit out of way every time you need a brew.

Packing all this kit away in boxes and securing / strapping all these boxes down is the answer.  You may wish to invest in a purpose made steel drawer system and racking, I think these are OK in some circumstances but they add quite a lot weight and often there is a compromise on space to allow for hinges and drawer runners to work.  The cost of this is also a major factor to be taken into account; a pull out drawer system for a Defender can easily start at £500.00 and get more expensive as it gets bigger and more complex.  It has to be said that this type of built in steel drawer unit is ideal for any number of professional applications, especially users such as vets and engineers who require a greater degree of privacy and security.

However for Overlanding one of the most common and best value means of achieving a ‘racked and packed’ vehicle is the use of plywood and plastic storage boxes.  It’s possible to self-build these into your own vehicle with some basic tools, a little DIY knowledge and a sensible approach.  The basic construction needs to be solid enough to take any weight you expect it to carry (Maybe a fridge?) and mounted securely in the vehicle so it does not move.  If you are able to tackle this then start looking at boxes right away.   

I have read recently in a book where the author extolled the virtues of using old banana boxes for this purpose!!  I read it a couple of times to be certain I hadn’t misunderstood. Frankly these are not going to last very long at all once they have been battered about and put down on damp ground. Save this idea for storing bits in your loft at home, it works for me.

Touring Gear offer a number of different storage solutions including industrial quality plastic boxes, plastic kegs and aluminium boxes.  Our range is based upon commercial boxes rather than the high street/DIY type you will most commonly find.  The simple reason is that these are made to a more exacting standard and designed for high volume rough handling and the rigours of transport in the logistics industry. 

Personally I prefer and recommend boxes with lids, it sounds simple but this offers more security, protection of contents and privacy.  Most plastic boxes are not waterproof; in fact many boxes are sold that claim to be waterproof simply are not.  Some (Plastic boxes) may well be watertight which means that putting them on a damp surface isn’t too much of an issue and they can be used as a washing bowl if needed. 

For boxes to be waterproof they must have a relevant IP rating and to achieve this they will need to be constructed in a certain manner with seals, valves and latches designed to offer this level of protection.  That is not to say that they are not water resistant and if they have an internal seal they will offer rudimentary protection which may be adequate given that in the vehicle the issue is about keeping out the dust more than keeping out the water.  (Unless of course the river crossing has gone wrong)

It is not essential for boxes that are going to be carried in the vehicle and used for storage of parts, equipment, tinned goods etc. to be waterproof. For perishable goods and other stuff you wish to keep dry and clean having a seal around the lid is important.

Touring Gear stock a range of quality plastic boxes most commonly based on Euro sizing 60cm x 40cm and 40cm x 30cm.  We also offer Zarges boxes, again based on Euro sizes.  We stock a range of square and round (Curtec) watertight kegs.  Ideal for storage, they also make for a good overlander washing machine for your laundry.

*Broken – No longer fully functional…..

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Ghillie Kettles

Ghillie kettles, in fact any volcano type kettle inspires debate amongst overlanders as to whether the space taken up is really best used for a device that really only essentially does one thing, boils water.  I will try and answer this as we go through. Two of my customers (both friends) are at opposite ends of this debate with one never leaving home without his and the other thinking that they are really just a toy and not worth the space.

Ghillie kettles are a device which boils water from heat generated by a small fire, lit in the fire pit at the base and filled through the air hole in the pit or through the top of the kettle itself.  They are really very simple and have been around for years.  Ghillie kettles are usually made from aluminium (The cardboard ones proved unsuccessful) and available in various sizes up to a capacity of 1.5lts.  Late 2011 saw the introduction of Hard Anodised coating applied to the range of kettles taking away some concerns over the aluminium issues.

There are currently 3 models in the Ghillie Kettle range, Adventurer, Explorer and Maverick, these are available in bare aluminium or Hard Anodised coated finishes.  In the box you get the kettle, the fire pit and a carry bag, everything you need to boil water.  You can then add various accessories to this to make the kit more useful for your own needs and I will cover these later.

Fishermen, workmen, campers and outdoorsmen have for years found this means of boiling water to be very reliable, quick and easy.  All you need is combustible fuel to burn in the base and this can be anything from twigs and leaves to pine cones, lolly sticks, bits of broken pallet etc. Generally rummaging around locally will produce enough material. To get the fire going, I recommend a fire lighter, either a piece of a traditional fire lighter (like a Zip) or a Coghlans waterproof fire stick. With either of these you will not need a whole one unless your material is completely wet.

You will very quickly realise the benefit of taking a small supply of dry material, fire lighter’s and matches with you. I keep a small Tupperware type box with lighting kit and enough dried material in it for several boils.  This just makes life easier and this kit easily stores in the supplied Ghillie Kettle carry sack. You can easily pick up twigs and sticks almost anywhere.  I walk a dog everyday through the woods so never run out, take it home and if necessary dry it out inside (House, garage, greenhouse or shed) for a few days before breaking it up and packing it. This ensures an instant supply and I replenish as and when.

The main use for your kettle is boiling water. The unique feature of the Ghillie Kettle over the other brands out there is that the Ghillie has a ‘whistle’ cap rather than a cork bung.  There is nothing tricky about using it either, simply fill the kettle with as much water as you require or to about 3 -4 cm from the lip of the spout and place it onto the lit fire pit.  Generally speaking a full 1.5lt kettle will boil in around 3.5 to 5 minutes depending on how good your fire is.  If you have filled the kettle right to the spout, when it boils the water will bubble out and run down the kettle and put out the fire!

The fact that the fire is now working in a very enclosed but well ventilated area you will quickly see why the term ‘Volcano kettle’ was coined.  It is not uncommon (though not wholly necessary either!) to see flames leaping out of the top.  The key is to have a good initial burn when the kettle is placed on the pit, if you keep feeding the fire to maintain rocket proportions when it comes to lifting the kettle off the fire pit you will notice that the flames remove all the hair on your fingers and if you are not careful some layers of skin as well.

To pour the kettle you hold the handle and tilt the base using the chain that attaches the whistle.

To get more from your Ghillie Kettle there are various accessories available for it. Firstly (and I think) most useful is a wire Base Stand that will hold the kettle on three points and slightly off the ground.  This does two things; it will add stability and helps prevent scorching to the ground underneath caused by the fire pit. 

Next up is the Pot Support that sits on top of the kettle over the chimney and allows you to rest a cooking pot to cook food. This for me is the least useful bit of kit. To work well it needs to go on the kettle once the flame is going up the chimney, don’t underestimate this heat, it’s pretty intense once the fire pit is going strong but it always seems like a balancing act to far and is often in the way. (In my experience)

The Cook Kit is available in two sizes, the larger being suitable for the Explorer and Adventurer and the smaller for the compact Maverick kettle.  These cook kits comprise of a larger pot and a lid/fry pan/plate.  They also include a small grill, in two parts that will sit directly over the fire base enabling this to be used as a stove and finally a gripping handle device so you can move the pots around.  These pots are ideal for heating soup, beans, stews etc. I suggest a wooden or plastic spoon over a metal one that may damage the coating on the pans.

So going back to the original posed question about how useful a Ghillie kettle could be for overlanding lets recap.

  •  No moving parts to break – Requires no spares.
  •  Weighs very little – Every KG counts.
  • Absolute minimal fuel cost – A big saving.
  • Minimal fuel supply issues – No worries sourcing gas or liquid fuels.
  • Easy setup and use – Great for a quick brew.

Why would you not have one?

We have some additional info available on our YouTube channel, thanks for your time.

Mark

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Overlanding

Much is written by many on this subject, in some cases these are well informed and objective pieces based on first-hand experience.  Unfortunately there is a growing amount of information out there written by folk who have not set foot beyond Dover, but under the patronage of a magazine or similar employer these occasional well-meaning but often misinformed souls will try and impart useful information that is sometimes incorrect and in others downright unhelpful.

It will be of great benefit to find, read and listen to as much on the subject of overland travel as possible while you are in the planning stages.  Absorb as much as you can, filter out the bulls**t, then adapt the bits you need to your situation.  The truth is there are many ways to achieve the end result and any number of end results may actually work just as well.

Overlanding is really no more difficult than any other undertaking and is all about planning and preparation to ensure a successful trip. Your vehicle and equipment choice are personal and have to meet certain criteria to succeed, but they are not what the trip is about.

Overlanding is about the journey you are making and your experience of the world as you pass through it, not who has the biggest winch.

Your dilemma over which vehicle to buy is probably no different to those folk who first ventured overland hundreds of years ago, should they take donkeys or horses, maybe elephants would be best, but what about camels, should you walk or ride them, how much food do you take?  These questions are just as relevant today in a modern environment applied to motorbikes, 4×4’s , motorhomes or whatever your chosen vehicle .

Time and again over the centuries well planned, organised, lightweight travelers have often succeeded where heavy, cumbersome, overburdened expeditions have failed.   Nowadays there is so much information available about almost every continent that there should be very little excuse for leaving with far too much or being wholly under prepared.

No matter how much reading and talking you do beforehand you will almost certainly get some of the preparation wrong, but this is part of the process (and occasionally the fun) because you are learning to adapt and hopefully all the things that have gone wrong are sorted out on the shakedown trip before you venture across the water.

Touring Gear does not sell vehicles so I will leave this hugely divisive topic well alone.  What I will say is that I drive Land Rover Defenders and have found them to be all that I want and very capable with all that I have asked of it. Equally I know folk who drive Toyotas, Merc G-Wagens and a whole host of other vehicles and very few people I have spoken will change what they have.  Whatever your choice you will need to be able to figure out the basics of it mechanically and be confident that if it breaks down near Timbuktu either you, or the local mechanic will be able to fix it for you.  They may not have all the latest computer diagnostic kit in some far flung destinations so this is worth bearing in mind.

A basic well prepared vehicle for over landing would likely have a number of the following refinements.

  • Improved suspension and under body protection.
  • Suitable Tyres for the likely terrain.
  • Suitable recovery points and basic recovery kit (Tow rope, shackles etc).
  • Air Compressor & Tyre Repair kit.
  • Two spare wheels.
  • Hi lift jack & compact bottle jack.
  • Raised Air Intake / breathers / wading plugs.
  • Battery Split Charge and management system.
  • Improved Interior lighting.
  • Additional 12volt sockets around the vehicle.
  • Exterior work lamp or lead lamp to run from the extra sockets.
  • Fridge.
  • Bulkhead load guard and suitable tie downs to ensure safe stowage of kit.
  • Steel lock box or safe fitted into vehicle.
  • Means to carry additional fuel safely.
  • Means to carry water safely.
  • Window security / privacy cover

These are not listed in any particular order and your destination may dictate the preference.  You may not need all this kit or you may be looking at this and wondering where the winch and HD bumper have gone, or the full roll cage or the roof rack or the lighting bar or the bush bar.  Are they really necessary though?

I personally had an internal roll over bar (Safety Devices) fitted to my Defender (fortunately to date it has not been tested) but it afforded the option of being able to act as part of the load restraint for the cargo area.  The reason I leave the winch off the vehicle is that they are heavy, expensive (the good ones) and will require additional mods to actually fit it on the vehicle safely.  And if you get stuck in sand for example what will you connect it too?  Far better to have some sensible recovery points front and back and drive accordingly.

Adjusting tyre pressures and altering the driving style really does make a difference on poor terrain.

I have seen a land rover down bogged down in Saharan sand and about 6 people wanted to get their winches out to help tow the guy out. While they were figuring out who would fix to who, realising that the cable wasn’t long enough, trying to reposition another vehicle to set up a snatch block…. etc. etc.  In the meantime two local gentlemen arrived and demonstrated with the minimum of fuss that by lowering the tyre pressures and digging the sand away from the wheels that the vehicle could be driven out.  It actually took longer to put away all the winch kit then it did to recover the vehicle.

If you are planning to travel with a roof tent then you will need either roof bars or a roof rack.  Personally I have favoured roof bars under the tent because I have little use for the rack when the tent is not up there,  I then have a short roof rack sitting just in front of the tent which is adequate for the few odds and ends I need up on the roof.  The whole issue of having stuff up on the roof is open to question but the reality is that if more than two of you are traveling in the motor it is highly likely that you will need the extra load carrying ability.

Mike and Beccy, good friends of mine who are very experienced travelers have modified their 110 so that all kit is carried in the vehicle and they can then sleep in the vehicle as well, it takes a while to get to this point but it can be done.  You will actually realise that lots of those ‘essentials’ actually are not and that folk in Africa have food that is edible and you can wash those dirty clothes more often rather than carrying 3 weeks supply!  You will also be surprised at how quickly you can set up and break camp in the morning.

Not put of yet, that’s good; the above is food for thought but by no means comprehensive.  I can recommend several good books on the subject, in no particular order of choice.

There are several other sources of information.  A reputable driver training establishment such as True Grip Off Road in Kent will be able to offer sound advice on Vehicle Preparation as well as practical training in your own vehicle.

Specialist preparation companies such as Footloose 4×4, APB Trading, Foley Specialist Vehicles (and there are others as well) can build vehicles or modify your own to suit your needs as well as supplying specialised kit and advice.

Royal Geographical Society can offer all sorts of useful information as well as running a couple of Forums each year specifically for Overlanding (Keep your eye on my show dates page for this information).

Popping along to one of the 4×4 shows over the summer months will turn up many of these companies and the wealth of diverse kit that is out there.  Stop and think though, when being assured that the latest thingy-gadget with a gizmo extra is a must have for Overlander’s and it just happens to be on offer at this particular retailer should flag up some warnings.

The best source of information is from Overlander’s themselves, either directly chatting to them or tapping into the various forums that are all over the Internet.

The 4×4 magazines also run articles based on first-hand experience which can be interesting though occasionally the nitty gritty detail is edited out.  Less helpful are some of the magazine’s so called ‘Overlanding Editions’ where they have used a (possibly otherwise talented) journalist to compile a feature.  This may sell some copy but the advice in the middle of desert that recommended the cheap compressor (because they got a freebie that worked in the driveway) has not done you many favours!

This covers some basics for you, get as much advice as you can and remember….  You only get what you pay for and K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) are two things you need to bear in mind at all stages.

Take a look at Touring Gear and see our solutions for camping and overlanding kit.

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