Tents and sleeping
For ultimate comfort, ease, security, and coolness, we have Eezi-Awn T-top roof tent mounted on our roof rack to sleep in on the long road south. Originally we bought a cheap Chinese-made Primetech roof tent but after our shake-down trip in September decided it wasn’t up to the riggers of an extended overland camping trip so we upgraded to the T-top. While driving the roof tent is all folded up, but when we come to camp, we simply take off the cover, extend the ladder and unfold it, and our accommodation for the night is ready, complete with a pre-made bed! This is excellent for covert free camping as it’s easy to put up and quick to pack away for a speedy get-away in the morning. The roof tent opens over the back of Rodders, so when erected it forms a sheltered place to cook and unpack the boot should it be raining.
So far we are extremely happy with the Eezi-awn roof tent. The lounge provides privacy and has been invaluable on our trip through Europe to get us through those long, cold winter nights, however it is quite bulky, so we will see how much we use it in the warmer countries.
We have supplemented the mattress in the roof-tent with a foam mattress, and have sheets and a duvet which is a luxury! We have a Macpac sleeping bag each which have kept us warm through Europe, and will be useful on overnight trips away from the roof-tent. Everything except our rather extravagantly large pillows fit in the tent when it is folded up, so when we erect the tent each night the bed is already made.
It takes us about 2-3 minutes to erect the tent (not including putting in the poles for the windows) and about 5-6 minutes to fold away, the trickiest bit being putting the cover on. The downstairs room takes another ten minutes or so to put on, and you can put on the panels independently so sometimes we only put up one on the side of the prevailing wind.
We have a lightweight 2-man Macpac Olympos tramping tent we can use on treks. This will also be useful if we need to get an early start for a morning game drive and want to leave the tent up.
We bought two sturdy camping chairs from Touring Gear. They are quite bulky and heavy, but are very well made and comfortable, we are confident they will last the distance.
We have two very small tripod stools in case we have visitors or hangers-on. When the parentals come visit I guess we will have to show a bit of filial piety and give up the comfy chairs and perch ourselves on the tiny stools – its almost a work-out just to keep upright! To their credit they are very compact and we fire them up in the monster box on the roof to keep them out of the way.
A last minute purchase was a second-hand large aluminium table. The top sections are removable aluminium slats that come apart from the legs so it is reasonably compact, although definitely larger than we need for just the two of us. It’s a bit of a faff to put together and so far we have only used it a few times as we cook on the tail gate of Rodders and tend to eat our dinner on our laps. This is definitely one item that we could survive without, but it might come into its own once we start using proper campsites rather than free-camping.
In a moment of ebay momentary lapse of reason, I originally bought an extremely crappy Royal gas twin-burner cooker with built-in windshield, which proved very ineffective at cooking, boiling or practically even warming anything the flames were so small. Stir-frying was definitely out of the question. Brett expressed his displeasure many times! We thought maybe the type of gas was to blame so we did some timed experiments in the back yard to compare CampingGaz (butane) and propane – the results were inconclusive, but it did take 5 minutes to boil 1L water which we felt was unacceptable. We also compared short hose (750mm) vs long hose (5000mm) and again there was negligible difference in the time it took to boil water.
Brett pulled apart the cooker to see what the problem was and it appeared to have a very small orifice for the gas controlling the gas flow –we pulled that bit off and did some further experiments in the lounge but the flames were very yellow and smokey.
Brett eventually took it upon himself to rectify the situation, and sneakily bought a Foker industrial cast iron twin burner online from Hamilton Gas Products, each element with a power output of 2.5kW. Further experiments proved the Foker to be vastly superior, so now we can stir-fry with confidence!
From the same supplier we bought a brass quick-release connector to break the long low-pressure hose into two connecting sections. Originally we planned to store two gas cylinders upright on the roof, leaving the regulator attached so when it came to cook all we needed to do was connect the ends together without removing the gas bottle from the roof. Unfortunately our plans for two gas bottle holders fell through and we were unable to store them on the roof, so they now live inside the vehicle. One is in the boot where we leave the regulator attached and simply connect our cooker to it for cooking.
The industrial gas cooker does not have any wind shield so Brett bought a large sheet of 0.7mm aluminium online, expecting it to be malleable enough to fold up. It wasn’t malleable at all! However this wasn’t a bad thing, it just meant we had to cut it up into the correct shape. We left London in rather a hurry and this unfortunately was one job that did not get completed. It was very annoying carting around a large sheet of aluminium we couldn’t use (and of course all the while having no shield for our cooker). Once we got to Turkey we kept our eyes peeled for a steel fabrication workshop, and before long had spied one. Brett, with a few tricks he learned from many a game of pictionary, soon communicated to the tradesman that he would like our sheet cut up into five specific shapes, giving us the ingredients for a great windshield. Using a roll of aluminium tape, we assembled the parts to create our excellent, sturdy windshield that folds up flat making it easy to store.
I spent some time early on researching which gas to use, which regulators, and what fuel would be available on the way. At low temperatures butane is a liquid which makes it unsuitable to use in a European winter, so we went with propane gas. We decided it would be easier to stock up with gas before we left rather than have to find refills en route, so bought two 6kg calor gas bottles from ebay which should hopefully last us about 6 months. If you are sneaky you can go to the dump and pick up calor gas bottles for free (I think any size will do) and then swap them at the Calor depot for full ones. If you have lots of cash, or can find them on ebay, the fibreglass gas bottles might be a better choice as they are much lighter. Our 6kg gas bottles weigh about 12kg each when full so if stored on the roof would really add to the weight.
The 6kg bottles cost £20 each to fill up, which is a complete rip-off when LPG is 76p/L at the pump. One option is to buy an adaptor that attaches to the gas bottle so you can fill it yourself at the petrol station. The nozzles cost about £27 on ebay, and it wouldn’t take long at all to break even. You would have to be careful not to overfill the gas bottles, so make sure you get your calculations right! We didn’t get around to getting an adaptor, so once we run out of gas, we will probably have to buy a new gas bottle and regulator on the road somewhere.
For trekking and as a back-up, we have an MSR multi-fuel dragon fly stove. It runs best on white spirits, but can also use other fuels such as petrol or diesel. We also have a very small Colman stove with a few LPG gas canisters. This will come in handy on lightweight overnight trips such as climbing Jebel Rum in Jordan.
Food and cooking
We have three wolf boxes for food and one for kitchen equipment, which is probably a bit overkill! We are going to try and cutback by eating some food, and use the space for something else. One box is full of carbs – flour, rice, pasta, couscous, noodles, lentils, dahl, baking ingredients etc. A second is full of tins, sauces, spices, herbs, chutneys, back-up vegemite etc. The third box is our lunch box, where we store tea, crackers, spreads, muesli, milk powder, chutney, a small chopping board, spoons and a knife, and some fruit and veges if there is room!
Our kitchen equipment is in a fourth box. We have an Ortlieb set of three non-stick pots with lids that double as frypans, the pots all fit inside one another so it is very compact. This cookset is excellent and definitely provides enough pots to cope with pretty much all culinary delights! Inside the smallest pot we have four plastic bowls (it’s great having four – two for dinner and two for desert!), and we put the spondulicks (pot grips) and other small things inside the bowls. In the bottom of the box we have a foldable stainless steel grill to cook on a fire. It’s fairly flimsey but does seem to take the weight of the camp oven should we want to use it on the fire.
At the Landrover Max show we picked up an excellent cutlery organiser from the APB tent. It is made of canvas and has slots for all your cutlery – we have every sort of utensil you could possibly want in there – it’s brilliant! We even brought our good 6 inch kitchen knife which is a luxury! The only thing we didn’t bring is a garlic crusher… too heavy – we have to save weight somewhere… We tie the cutlery organiser to the front of the ladder so it is easy to select the exact utensil we need when preparing our tasty meals. It folds up and slots in along one side of the wolf box. We also have four plastic plates, four plastic cups and one mug (we keep two mugs up the front with us for tea and soup on the road), as well as other odds and sods such as tea towels, cleaning gear, some herbs and spices, olive oil, garlic and a large chopping board.
Up front we have a snack box, a great place to store the little treats we buy along the way, as well as bread and the spreads du jour. A 1L thermos has come in very handy to store any leftover hot water from the Kelly Kettle. It’s good for a morning brew or a lunch time cuppa or soup. We keep our cups and a small supply of tea bags in the glove box, along with a fantastic sharp orange serrated knife with a plastic sheath, great for cutting up bread.
We brought along a heavy duty cast iron camp oven to use on the fire, but actually it has come in very useful to cook meals on the gas cooker as well. So far we have made four excellent pies, baked banana in their skins, a mousaka and a curry, and we use it to fry things to keep the cast iron in good condition.
For washing the dishes we usually just use the biggest pot. When we left London we threw in a pink square tub that we inherited years ago from my sister when she left the UK. Although a bit bulky, this has proved handy for doing the dishes in if we’re staying in a place for a few days, and is also good for washing clothes and ourselves!
For washing clothes on the road we also have a 44L drybag, which we can put the clothes, water and washing powder in at the start of the day, strap it to the roof rack, and it will wash our clothes as Rodders bumps along while driving. We haven’t tried it yet so will report back once tested. We’ve got a cheapo solar shower for washing ourselves. We can lie it on the roof and have a shower on the side of the truck – hasn’t been used yet as it has been too cold!
We looked into various options for carrying and treating water. When we went to Namibia a few years ago the truck we rented had an in-built water tank and it was very handy. However we really didn’t have the space for a water tank, nor the money to install it. There are pros and cons to in-built water tanks – on the one hand if you mount it under the car or where the backseats are it keeps the weight nice and low and evenly distributed, and a tap is much easier to use than heavy jerry cans of water. The cons are it can be hard to fill them up depending on where the tap is, in terms of water quality all your eggs are in one basket, so if you fill up with dodgy water then your whole tank is contaminated, and finally the tank can be difficult to clean, so sometimes grows bugs and algae. We looked into fancy in-line water filters as well, but again they were pricey and, well, complicated! In the end we opted for a very simple solution – we have two heavy duty plastic water containers that take 25L each. A friend of Brett’s dad, Ken Mann gave them to us – he used to run overland trips in big ex-army trucks from London to Nairobi back in the 70’s and 80’s and still had these kicking around in the attic. Thanks Ken! They are really useful! We bought a tough 20L rubber army water bladder from Touring Gear as a back up – when empty it stores flat, unlike the plastic water containers which are pretty bulky!!
For drinking water we bought a Lifesaver jerrycan from Lakeland Bushcraft. It has a very fine ceramic cartridge that can filter down to 20 microns – this means it can filter out all particulate matter, bacteria, protozoa and even viruses! We will do a review on it at some stage so watch this space.
For boiling water we have a 1.7L stainless steel Kelly Kettle that Mark from Lakeland Bushcraft supplied. This is an invaluable piece of equipment as it boils water using fuel found en route (twigs, leaves, dung etc) rather than using up our precious fuel. It’s also a very quick way to boil water, and best of all, it’s fun setting stuff on fire! Check out our review of the Kelly Kettle for more information.
One of the main focuses of this trip was to go to some of the more remote parts of the world and going adventuring! With this in mind we have our rock climbing and tramping (hiking) gear – packs, MSR, sleeping bags, thermorests, tramping boots, tramping tent etc, as well as snorkels and fins.
We have a number of different lighting systems to keep us bright and cheerful. Brett has wired in a fancy LED lighting system in Rodders which is described in the vehicle prep section. We bought a portable fluorescent strip light from the APB stall at Landrover Max show. Originally it had alligator clips but Brett rewired it with a 12V plug and we connect it into the DIN sockets in the boot. We secure it onto the top end of the ladder under the roof tent for cooking and eating, and then at night we take it up into the tent – it is the shizzle and I hope it lasts the distance!!
For trekking, climbing, trips away from the truck, and every day camping, we have two Ay Up lights with head torch mounts. These lights are specifically designed for mountainbiking at night so are super bright and practically indestructible, made from anodised steel. They are perfect for our trip as the batteries are rechargeable and are supplied with a car charging kit. They are not cheap, so probably not worth getting unless you are a biker or adventurer and need very powerful lights. They are really brilliant – we take them climbing and trekking in case we get benighted and have to abseil off or walk out in the dark..
In addition to the above, we’ve got a small, very powerful LED torch we keep in the cubby box between the seats, and we keep two small LED head torches in the first aid kit and in Brett’s tool bag.
We have opted for the iphone/ipod and tape adapter combo for our music – a very low tech option, especially since Brett has had the tape adapter since Uni days – we hope it lasts!!
We also have our ukuleles to strum away the evenings and torture people with our singing. If you’re in London and want to try out the ukulele, we can highly reccommend the Balham Ukulele Society – we’ve had some fantastic nights there and Matt who leads the whole thing is a real crack up and a top bloke, as well as a great musician and brilliant teacher – check it out!!