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Something that everybody thinks or even talks about prior to setting off on a trip, whether for the weekend or a trip of a lifetime. Good research and the test of time will provide you with a system that not only works for you but is efficient and foolproof. Remember, what works for others will not necessarily work for you. Quality kit is vital in certain areas. When equipment is used daily, in harsh environments and stored in the back of a vehicle travelling on unsealed roads, time will soon let you know what will survive and what needs replacing.
Having an inventory or list of everything in the vehicle is more useful than it first seems. Probably overkill for a weekend in Wales, but the list may prove invaluable when crossing borders anywhere in the world.
Below is an inventory of what we carried on our 1st trip to Morocco. This list will be tweaked/modified for future trips. Please feel free to use it.
Fuel & Water
The two most important factors that need to be considered above all else. Fuel and water will limit the amount of time you spend away in isolation. The further you go, the more you need. Simple. Design your packing layout around these items. Place extra jerry cans and water towards the bulkhead or centre of the vehicle, between the axles and/or low down. Keep a small 5-10L container of water within reach of the rear door. Ultimately, your vehicles payload capacity will limit the amount you carry and therefore the distance you can achieve between fuelling points.
For Morocco we carried 2 extra fuel cans (total 90L) and 2 x 20L plastic water jerry cans. In practice we only ever had 20L of water at a time, the other 20L can remained redundant for the entire trip.
For the Alps we had the aux. fuel tank so no longer needed any jerry cans. We also only took 10L of water.
The plus points of this water system over in-built water tanks are a) water is more manageable in separate containers, b) if they become contaminated for any reason they can be discarded whilst the good stuff is saved, c) empty cans can be strapped to the roof rack etc to save space. A combination of the 2 would be an even better compromise if financially viable.
The majority of our equipment is stored in heavy-duty plastic boxes obtained from Plastor (here). These come in a range of sizes so you can fill the space in your load bed most effectively. These are just as good, if not better than the “Wolff” boxes seen at most overland equipment suppliers but are significantly cheaper. We have also numbered the boxes with sticky (Car Reg Plate) numbers so you don’t have to open every box to find what you need. The system works very well.
We also use aluminium Zarges boxes (600 x 400 x 300mm). We have used one for clothing which has proved a good alternative to a bag. The box is dust/waterproof, strong enough to sit/stand/eat on and will not allow clothes to get squashed.
The grey Plastor boxes will be stored under the Mantec load shelf around the Engel fridge and do not require lashing down. Smaller light boxes will be stored behind the load guards (on the wheel boxes) whilst the Zarges clothes box, chairs, table and light items will be lashed to the shelf. My trusty Nikon D70s will be stored in a Peli 1400 crush/water/dustproof case along with 2 lenses, batteries and CF cards.
Coats and other outerwear will be stored on the upper parcel shelf which is bolted in up against the dog guard.
Sleeping bags and pillows will be stored within the Maggiolina RTT.
This subject is very much personal preference and something that you will adapt for each and every trip depending on locally available foods, prices etc. Some people just take a stove to heat pre-prepared meals, others quite literally take the kitchen sink! This is where we come in, as we do (almost)
take everything. This is mainly due to enjoying cooking and creating meals whilst away. It also gives you something to do at the end of a long day’s driving if (like me) you cannot sit and relax. I’m sure you know which category you fall into all ready.
There is a lot of debate about fuel types, what works best, what fuel is available where etc, etc. For me, to keep things simple I have opted for the Coleman Duel Fuel kit. We generally carry both the Sportster (single) and the double burner stoves with us. The single is great for almost all applications whilst the double comes into its own when cooking up a storm! Petrol is available (almost) everywhere so keeping it
going is not a problem. We also carry a tin of Coleman’s “White Fuel” in case of emergency.
Along with the stove the basic stuff we carry are kettle, 4 plates, 2 stainless steel bowls, 2 mugs and 2 sets of cutlery. MSR nested cooking pots work well along with a cast iron frying pan and we also carry a cast iron “Dutch Oven”. A recent addition to our kit is the Kelly kettle. These things can burn almost anything so are great in environments that provide natural fuel: this saves on petrol, is fun to use and saves having to pull everything out of boxes. Other odd things will find their way into your cooking box along the way too. Each to their own.
Probably the most vital thing to get right before you set off anywhere. This might be why its a subject of big debate, the ongoing threads of roof tent (RTT) vs. Ground Tents are testament to this. That’s even if you decide to stay in your own shelter, you may prefer a B&B. Tipi’s, hammocks, bivi bags, tarps and the floor are also all viable options!
Our own personal choice has been the RTT, the main reason being its ease of deployment, comfort and the fact that all our kit is up out of the way. We tried a traditional folding style model first (Safari-Equip) but it was impossible to keep dry here in the UK and did not do well in wind either. When the opportunity came to purchase an Autohome Maggiolina (Hard shell) we took it and have no regrets. Its solid, puts up with hammering wind and rain with ease. There is no noise inside or condensation on the roof. It’s one of the best pieces of kit we own.
In the RTT we have a down comforter over the mattress and a pair of Mountain Equipment Down sleeping bags. These are excellent bags which we have used to -9 degrees C. In the summer we have a shortened duvet. We have recently discovered that keeping the mattress covered in storage was not the best idea – it became mouldy underneath and the mattress degraded. We have luckily found a replacement although it is for an Autohome Airtop, which has cut-outs for the gas struts. No drama though, this means we have solved the problem of where to put shoes!
Good quality lighting is needed around camp to help make things easier after the sun sets. There will be places and times of year where you won’t need to consider this but for the majority of us who go out year-round, some form of lighting will be needed.
First port of call are our Petzl headtorches. These are invaluable for use everywhere. From bedtime reading, to walking about or cooking the evening meal these things are great. If going walkabout or collecting firewood etc, we also have a 2D cell 3w LED Maglite.
For general camp lighting we have a Coleman single mantle lantern which uses the same fuel as the stoves. This keeps everything simple. When we don’t plan to be somewhere very long we generally use an ARB 12v LED lantern. This puts out a good spread of light with little power consumption, folds away small, has an in -line switch and a 5m long lead. The plug adaptor, however, is a cheap one and will need to be replaced. I was a little disappointed with this coming from ARB.
For Morocco we only carried Iodine and odour tablets for treating water. Lisa managed to get mildly ill but the cause of this is still unknown. On further reading of the subject, parasites can hide in silt particles staying untouched from Iodine and other chemical treatments… We needed a better solution.
We are now proud owners of a General Ecology First Need Water Purifier. This is a portable water system that will combat Cysts, Bacteria and even Viruses. It works as a manual pump or can be gravity fed. Hopefully this will get some use whilst away. Due to its compact size we are also able to throw it in a back pack for days in the hills. In use, rather than use a Sigg or Nalgene bottle we have opted to use an MSR Dromedary bag. This is a tough little 4L water carrier (they do other sizes too) that can fold down small when not in use, excellent away from the vehicle and suitable for transporting potable water from the source back to camp.
The Overland Journal recently gave this its “Editors Choice” award in an extensive filter/purifier test (Fall 2009). That’s good enough for me. http://www.purewateronline.co.uk/images/stories/pdfs/Overland_Journal_Fall09_Filter_Tests.pdf
This was used extensively during the 5 weeks Simon and I spent in West Africa. We got a bit tired of going through 6-9 plastic bottles per day as recycling it not available in West Africa. We decided to filter out what water we found from general tap supplies. It was hard work, but worth it.