View Full Version : Expedition Vehicle. Priority on modifications
10-12-2005, 03:18 AM
I wrote this list a few months ago on "mud", and thought it would be fun to discuss here. I know many of you are in the process of building an expedition vehicle, and this might be helpful for planning.
So, post up your top ten and after a few weeks, I will tabulate the results and form an "official" Expedition Portal list.
1. Start with a great vehicle, like a Land Cruiser Wagon, Trooper, Series I Discovery, etc.
2. Install HD tires, like the MTR or BFG AT/MT rated at D or higher. Trend towards a narrower section width but tall height, which allows good clearance, less lift and better efficiency (like a 265/75, 235/85 or 255/85)
3. Organization and loading: This is VERY critical. Heavy loads down low and light loads up top. Avoid a roof rack if at all possible, unless lightly loaded or for a roof tent. Build a load system for all of your major equipment needs. Have a well organized kitchen, accessible recovery gear, etc. You will be living out of the vehicle, so it is critical that it be organized and safe. This is WAY more important than big tires and a lift IMO.
4. Passenger comfort: Have a comfortable place to drive, good seats, well organized cockpit, a place for the cameras, sunglasses, hats, bug repellent, etc. Have a comfortable and easy to set-up sleeping system. It should only take 10-15 minutes from parking the car to having a comfortable and dry bed. A fridge is a must IMHO.
5. Navigation and Communication: Know where you are and where you are going with a redundant system. Know how to use a map and compass, and have an exit plan. Be able to communicate with your travel partners clearly, and over great distances (2m is my preference).
6. REALLY GOOD SUSPENSION. Don't skimp here. It needs to ride comfortably and reliably all day long, for weeks on end with loads at or above GVW.
7. Quality support systems: Air compressors, dual batteries, recovery systems (winch, etc.) are all critical, and should be well thought out, designed and easily serviced. If you can't repair the systems on your vehicle, (unsupported) expedition travel is probably not a good choice.
8. Technical trail modifications: These are usually the first thing addressed, but really are not that important on an expedition as you will most likely be traveling "roads". I tend to search out very rough tracks in Mexico with deep water crossing and heavy erosion so lockers and snorkels are appropriate, but still not required.
9. TEST, TEST, TEST: Never bolt mods on your truck the night before a trek. Test all systems thoroughly.
10. This is last on this list, but probably as important as number one: The trek is not about the vehicle, but about the experience and adventure. Visiting a distant place that a fraction of the population will even see in books. The vehicle and all of these modifications can be a distraction to the real intent of the expedition. Don't be afraid to stop the vehicle and talk with the locals, be friendly and generous, especially when traveling in other countries. I always bring several 24 packs of Coke, as it is the ultimate "ice breaker".
10-12-2005, 03:52 AM
1. Not sure if this is considered a mod, but possibly adding an offroad trailer with a fold-out tent.
2. Either onboard air or some sort of CO2 tank set up.
3. Maybe a hot water heater for showers.
4. Hi output altenator and onboard welding capabilities.
I'll add more to the list as i think of them.
10-12-2005, 04:07 AM
I agree with the list Scott posted. Here's my list:
You have to start with a dependable and capable vehicle as you base to build up on.
You have to cover your rear! I think that vehicle protection has to be added to the list, by that I mean sliders, rock gaurds, and skidplates. Even the most experienced prerunner drive may miss that one large rock in the middle of the trail just over a hill and rip the oil pan off. I think this is one that is easily over looked and is a very important part of any vehicle that is going to leave the paved road.
Bumpers (TMJ, ARB, Bull bars, custom...)
You must have vehicle recovery and repair equipment. Tools and spare parts are a must when going solo into remote locations. We have all had that on breakdown where we wish we came more prepaired. Along these line comes the Hi-Lift, and posibility of a winch to aid in situation where the vehicle is not broken, but stuck. Basic recovery items should be included, along with recovery points. (See tool and spare part lists below)
Tools should include:
Pliers: needle nose, channel locks
Hammer (ball-peen, large and small)
Wrench set (Metric & standard)
Socket Set (Metric & standard)
Spark Plug Socket
Tire repair kit
Electrical & duct tape (or extreme tape)
Jumper cables/battery booster
Vehicle service manual
Extra hose clamps
Extra bolts & nuts
Various sized hardened washers
Electrical wire splice
JB Weld (quick)
fluid clean up kit (Oil absorbent pads)
Tie Rod (Ends)
Axle & Driveshaft U-Joints
Spare Tire (full size)
Tire plug/repair kit
Tire valve core
Spare ignition & door key
Front mount winch & control (rear or multi-mount optional)
Snatch block pulley
Chain 10-20 feet, grade 70, 5/16 minimum
Recovery strap(s) (30K rating, NO stitched on hooks)
Gloves (welding gloves for winch cable handling)
Winch cable weight
Safety Equipment is also a must. In some case it equates to fabricating up your own storage solutions to acomadate the equipment.
First aid kit (first aid, CPR, additional medical training)
Fire extinguisher with gauge
Flashlight (consider 2 incase of bulb/battery failure)
Food and water
Flares (handle with extreme care)
Pet first aid items
Comunication and navigational equipment are a must. One can not depend on cell phone is remote locations, and GPS navigation is a nice luxury but not required, thanks to maps and compasses.
Cell Phone (car charger)
CB (car charger if portable)
Amateur radio .... include ARRL repeater directory
FRS (for group outings)
Global Positioning System
Spare fluids are must. From water to gas. We need our fluids as much as our vehicles do.
Octane boost (get rid of the Mexican gas ills)
Water (drinking and potable)
Lighter fluid/ propane (reseaing a bead)
Life style mods, such as a shower system, tent and kitchen needs
Water heating system for showers
Tents (trailer, above vheicle, ect...)
Camper modifacions for Pick Up trucks
Refrigerators and cooling systems for perishables
Stoves, and sink modifications
Vehicle suspension or lift modifactions. All this stuff is going weigh down your expedition vehicle and lower the angles of approach and departure, ect. This also includes tire selection. This part is all going to based upon the specific needs of the vehicles owner.
Electrical System modifications. With many expedition vehicles there is an increase in load on the electrical system and the system will have to be modified to meet the user/owners needs or electrical draw.
Dual battery systems
High out put alternators
Owner specific mods/luxury Mods. Many owners will modify their rigs to their own needs, theese range from camera systems for self spotting to personal entertainment systems. Below are some examples that I can think of:
Camera self spotting systems
DVD players (keep the kids quiet)
shelving systems for storage of goodies
Camera recording devices (under carriage, front view, driver, ect...)
Ok I got to get back to work now, but my list goes on and on. Next up I would continue on personal items such as sunscreen, bug repelent, ect. And remember what goes in must come out, and this means garbage bags and picking up after other peoples messes.
EDIT: After rereading the original post... I went a bit off tangent here! BUt it is a good list of what to include in preperation for an outing.
10-12-2005, 06:43 AM
Sorry about that original post I went WAY off tangent... I just edited my post to correct that!
The BN Guy
10-12-2005, 01:09 PM
Those are quite extensive lists!
What about adding some 2x6's or 2x12's for Hi-Lift base or a little bottle jack for under the axle?
Also lint from the clothes dryer at home. That stuff makes great fire starter!
10-12-2005, 02:30 PM
Nicely done Wil! Great detail.
10-12-2005, 02:49 PM
Not a bad list Scott (we have discussed this in the past...), but I think I would tentatively make a couple of changes. First, I would put building the ability to navigate via compass and map up at the top of the list. You never know what will happen, so you need to be able to get yourself back out, unassisted. I would also add either another item on the list, or a disclaimer assuming you already reached this decision: What, specifically, you want your vehicle to accomplish.
This decision will greatly affect what vehicle you start with, and how you proceed to modify (or not modify) it. A good example: me. I travel alone, with my dog, and minimal provisions (no fancy 3 bedroom/2 bath tent, no shower, etc.). So I drive a jeep that has been *slightly* modified. This works for me because I rarely spend more than a few days at a time in the wilderness. But this won't work for, say, Chris (bajataco). Can you imagine having 2 people live out of my jeep for 4 months at a time down in Baja? lol....just wouldn't work.
I'll give my "top 10" some thought now that I am looking at a new project...I'll be approaching this one a little different than I did my last....this could be a interesting thread!
10-12-2005, 03:44 PM
I agree with GT. Does your vehicle need to support 1 person, a couple or family of 4 or more? This makes a big difference of where your priorties lie in building & equiping your vehicle.
10-12-2005, 05:20 PM
Unless there is some sort of scientific or knowledge-gathering mission as the agenda (or a tour operation), whereby the transport of specific gear is required, I think an expedition vehicle is really just a personal preference for one's mode of travel. Someone who is traveling mostly just for the pleasure of it, with the desire for an adventure, can pick any mode of transportation that suits them. Their own two feet, a bicycle, a horse, hired/donated transportation in various forms, motorcycle, airplane, sailboat, kayak, etc, etc.
If you choose to build an expedition vehicle for any particular reason, what you choose (or end up with) and how you build it can result in a multitude of options and decisions that I think are very difficult to assemble into a "one size fits all" top ten list. It's kind of like having a top-ten list for a place to live. Everyone is going to have their own goals, wishes, wants, and needs.
Soooo... having said all of that, I think that most of the folks on this forum seem to have a common denominator of "4WD", "rough road capability", and "camping provisions". I think the duration/intent of the trips seems to vary quite a bit - from 2-day outings to something less than a month. And a few may be planning, or have been on multi-month trips, or maybe even years. So I will take a crack at a top-ten list based on the trends cited above, assuming the owner has already chosen a reliable vehicle that they want to use and will be taking it on trails rated from 1 to 3.0 on the Scotty Scale (http://www.expeditionswest.com/resources/expedition_handbook/trail_rating.htm). The owner must place a high importance on evaluating the GVWR and budget for the vehicle prior to commencing a plan for development.
1. A roof rack that will maximize the space on top of the vehicle for which you can carry and mount a vast array of gear, equipment and supplies.
... ok, just kidding. I had to do that just for Scott :p
Seriously though - I think #1 would be provisions for self-supported vehicle and occupant survival. This means the appropriate spare parts, tools, recovery gear and recovery points on the vehicle, mechanical knowledge, etc. and also food/water/shelter/equipment and knowledge/preparedness to allow you to stay put until found, or walk out if you know the way.
2. Good tires (i.e. probably not from the factory) and at least some kind of traction device - a positively locking differential in the rear would be my minimum preference, and 4wd capability. These three things will allow you to go beyond the typical stopping/turn-around points for most passenger cars and stock trucks, allowing you more confidence in traveling seldom used tracks and trails in remote locations.
3. A good storage system. Depending on the person and budget, this can be super simple or elaborate, but all cargo/supplies/equipment should be tight and well secured. Vibrations will destroy things or otherwise make a mess. Anything inside the occupant cabin will be potentially dangerous in the event of a serious accident if it is not secured well. I always evaluate any particular item by imagining how it would feel if someone threw it at my head from close range. If I think it would hurt pretty bad, then I secure it - LOL
4. A good working suspension system. It is not absolutely required to travel, but will greatly enhance your reliability, capability, safety, and comfort. It becomes more mandatory and moves up on this list if your expedition gear becomes so heavy that the existing (stock) suspension is overtaxed and sagging badly.
5. Fuel capacity. I decided to put this one right in the middle of the list, because a vehicle can go on some very worthwhile, remote trips with the factory mileage range. However, a good deal of remote trips do indeed require additional range and this becomes the limiting factor. It also influences the amount of confidence a person may have in the decision-making process once out in the field. It is much easier to decide to take an adventurous side-excursion or try out a loop route when you know that your ability to make it back out isn't jeapordized by not enough fuel. Having confidence in the amount of fuel can really make a big difference in what you see and do between fuel stations.
6. Creature comforts. Every person has their own tolerance levels for "roughing it" so this depends greatly on that, and the available budget. Sleeping right on the ground with a bedroll and eating GORP and canned food or sleeping in a hi-tech bag on a thick matress after a gourmet meal and a bottle of wine... it all works. You decide how far you want to go with it. Personally, my fridge/freeze is one of my absolute FAVORITE additions to my own vehicle, and I will never have another trippin' rig without one. (Try it, you'll love it.) Other things might be nice seats, various lamps/lighting, elec. accessories, stoves, chairs, showers, fans etc., etc.
7. Communications. This one might be debated on where to put it in the list, and will really vary, again, depending on the person/trip. Obviously an emergency situation comes to mind, and it is always great to be able to contact help. But truly, when you think about it, most all of our communications devices have their limitations, and therefore it comes down to a personal decision. Not all that long ago, EPIRBs, sat-phones and cell phones were unheard of for the average traveler. Even now, people regularly go out on trips without a sat-phone or ERIRB. 2-meter, various amateur bands, and CB radios can have limited use and range. If you are not with a group, they may not even be used much if at all. I will say that when traveling with a group, 2-meter VHF radio is absolutely fantastic. The use of repeaters in the U.S. and other locations also enhances their chance of making a big difference in an emergency situation.
8. Supplemental trail capability. This adds a lot to what the vehicle can do, and the individual owner may opt to move this up higher on the list if the places they want to go require it. You know the stuff - lockers, gearing, armor, winch, snorkel, power performance, aux. lighting, etc.
Hmmm... I'm not sure what to add for #9 and #10. Maybe I was too general with #6 and #8.
10-12-2005, 05:52 PM
1. Select a vehicle based on your needs and desired results
you have to have the vehicle in order to modify it....so this one is pretty obvious
2. Address any service or reliability issues
again, a no brainer.
3. Basic recovery gear.
tow strap, attachement points at both ends of vehicle, first aid kit, etc. This includes all the "basics" that you should carry with you, and does not include things like a electric winch
4. Sheetmetal and drivetrain/chassis protection (skid plates, etc)
protect the expensive parts. This will allow you to enjoy the trips more because you are not so worried about damaging your vehicle
5. Sleeping/storage solutions
You gotta store your junk safely, and sleeping is nice sometimes too. Accessability is important for those meals on the run. Plus it will help keep the wife happy, thus allowing you to go on more trips
Gotta talk with others sometime, right?, plus it is nice to be able to reach out and get help from afar. 2 meter is really nice when the group gets spread out, and a Sat. phone is invaluable for calling for help when out of cell phone service range (arranging tow trucks, getting medical help, etc)
7. Creature comforts
fridge, seats, shower, lighting for sleeping area, heating, etc. I put this down here because it really doesn't increase your vehicles ability to take you places, with the possible exception of a fridge---which will allow you to get farther from civilization for longer periods due to the lack of a need for ice
8. "advanced" recovery/safety gear
large heavy items such as an electric winch, snatch blocks, sand anchors, etc., things that are nice to have but not needed often (which is why these are listed down here instead of with the basic recovery gear higher up in the list
9. Suspension and drivetrain modifications (gearing, suspension, tire selection, etc)
[/i]I put this last because you need your rig fully loaded in order to determine the proper spring rates and shock valving. If you are not using custom made parts, (IE-you are using a bolt on kit), you could move this up the list if it helps you accomplish your goals...but in the case of custom valved shocks and custom springs....it is cheaper to do it right the first time than to do it wrong once and then do it right the second time[/i]
10-12-2005, 06:39 PM
1. A roof rack that will maximize the space on top of the vehicle for which you can carry and mount a vast array of gear, equipment and supplies.
... ok, just kidding. I had to do that just for Scott :p
Yeah, I wish I had pictures of that guy at NVTR with the tall lift and 4,000lbs of fuel and supplies on his roof rack. :Wow1:
10-12-2005, 10:17 PM
Well guys, here's my list of modifications. This goes on the assumption that you have a rugged, 4x4 to start with (ie, Toyota, Land Rover, Nissan Patrol, etc)
1. Attitude - Your vehicle is the lifeblood of the expedition. You need to take care of your vehicle, from routine inspections, maintenence etc. If it breaks down, you're up the proverbial estuary without means of locomotion. I refer to it as mechanical sympathy, but I think that I stole that term from Tom Sheppard (Vehicle Dependent Expeditions is a GREAT book by the way). Moreover, driving with caution and evaluate whether the route, obstacle, etc is really worth the risk. Is there an alternate route, is there a safer route, is going that way absoluteley necessary.
I know a lot of people treat four wheeling as though it were some display of machismo. I'd rather be "less of a man" and not have to worry about how to weld a steering bracked back on my vehicle because I did something stupid.
2. Front and rear Recovery Points - Not having proper ones is dangerous to you, but also to whoever is unlucky enough to help get you unstuck. There's no good outcome when a d-ring comes toward you at 100 mph.
3. Suspension - Expedition driving usually outweighs the design parameters for most factory 4x4et ups. Upgrading your suspension will keep you from driving a lowrider, increase comfort, and usually give a little extra ride height. In my book, suspensions for overland driving should be selected primarily with regards to intended use and weight loads, not max articulation, etc (see point #1)
4. Tires - Most factory tire set ups suck. Heavy duty tires with appropriate load ranges are ideal. Tread type depends on where your going. Mud terrains are essential for the jungle in the wet season, but about the worst choice out there if you're crossing the Sahara.
5. Vehicle security - Theres no way to make a vehicle completely impregnable. In loss prevention, I believe they call it hardening the target. In other words make your vehicle as difficult to break in as possible, so the dishonest out there will move on to the next vehicle (assuming there is a next vehicle where you are) ;-)
If you don't think this is important, try crossing a border without a passport or proof of ownership of your vehicle. Some int'l travel requires a carnet, and in many countries, if your carnet is stolen, you're pretty well screwed. Tuffy Boxes or similar lockable storage compartments are ideal. Hidden compartments are nice as well, just make sure that you're upfront about them at border checkpoints (that new Volkswagen commercial comes to mind where the guy takes a VW across the border in Mexico).
6. Front end protection - I put a heavy duty front bumper high up on the list. Many places outside of the US are almost completely open range, I've had enough close calls with animals to say that this is a good mod to have, especially if you have to drive after dark.
7. First Aid Kit - At least the basics like band aids, tylenol, etc are important. I also keep in my kit Immodium AD, a prescreption for a heavy duty catch-all antibiotic (important if someone gets sick enough that hydration is an issue), and a set of sterile suture instruments and equipment... If you have to go to the hospital, many developing world countries don't use sterile instruments. It would suck to get a case of heptitis, HIV, or something else as a lasting souvineir of your trip.
--- I would consider everything above this point to be essentials, below it to be strong recommendations---
8. Good storage solutions - From storage drawers to effective organization and compartmentalization really make the difference in the enjoyability of a trip. There's no one catch all set up good for everyone, but at the very least make sure the heavy stuff is securely tied down in case you get in an accident. Personally, I use roller drawers for my tools and camping gear that I use regularly, then spares, first aid kits, recovery gear, etc are compartmentalized in waterproof cases and color coded for easy identification (much easier in a crisis to have someone find the first aid kit by saying "get the orange case" than "get the case that's about XX inches by XX inches..."). I'm also going to cheat and put an onboard fridge in this section, since it "stores" your food.
9. Navigation tools - Can be as simple as a local map and a compass to as elaborate as a GPS tied into a laptop with basemaps. The important thing is that you know where you're going and how to get there. I know some people that swear by map and compass and hate GPS... Me, I'm a fan of making technology work for you. Just make sure you know basic orienteering skills and how to read maps.
10. Water and Fuel - Depends on your trip, but you need to have enough of both to get to where you're going with a comfortable margin of safety. For some vehicles and destinations, this means an extended range tank, for others just a jerry can will suffice.
In case you can't tell, I'm a bit of pesimist... I always pack and plan for the worst and hope that it doesn't happen. But that's my top ten.
Camera gear - I'm a bit of an armchair photographer, and to me shooting pics is half the fun of being there. I'd say buy the best equipment that you can afford. The jump in quality to a digital SLR from a point and shoot is pretty phenomenal... if you know how to use it. If you're going somewhere with wildlife, buy the biggest telephoto that you can afford... but that's a topic for another section of the forum.
my 2 cents, and a little more.
10-13-2005, 01:40 PM
I agree with Pangaea's philosophy, it's like that old Alphaville song "..hoping for the best, but expecting the worse...".
I spent the better part of 15 years on expeditions in South America and it took me a *long* time to even get comfortable with the US notion of recreational rock-crawling. Even today, having lived here for 11+ years and doing quite a bit of four wheeling, I still don't feel 100% comfortable with the idea of rock crawling for the sake of it, rather than as a necessary obstacle on the way to a great remote destination.
But back to planning. One tip I'd like to offer is that of the expedition notebook. I was introduced to this concept from an early age by one of my dad's friends, who used to guide a lot of expeditions in the northern Amazon and Llano hinterlands of Venezuela during the 60s, 70's and 80's. This notebook, refined throughout hundreds of trips, was a combination expedition log, parts/equipment list and recipe book, but above all, it was an invaluable tool for expedition planning. Each entry listed the number of people on the trip, the number of vehicles, the amount of gear (including coolers and the amount of block ice), the length of the trip, the list of parts, a list of the food items, a menu. We would meet several times before a trip (average time for these trips was 6-7 days), to discuss everyone's role, the level of preparation of each vehicle, the list of parts for *each* truck and the list of parts that we'd take in common.
*After* the trip, we'd get together to discuss what went well, what didn't, what parts we used, what we didn't, what food was consumed, what wasn't, and we'd take suggestions on what to improve. All of this information went into the expedition notebook, to refine the planning for the next trip.
After so many trips, we had it down to a science, we could accurately estimate the amount of food, ice and consumables needed for a trip; we began to anticipate what parts would be needed, what we could pair down to the bare minimum, what every vehicle needed to carry. Out of the expedition notebook came improved vehicle maintenance checklists, improved packing, better cargo distribution, and better menus. In fact, Tom Sheppard's magnificent book is actually based on his own expedition notebooks.
Another planning tip for everyone is to make detailed lists of what is carried in each truck, and what is in what container carried in each truck. Use a tiny font so you can pack a lot of information on it, then print them out double-sided and laminate them. Make enough copies to carry two of these in each vehicle, they're great for finding parts/gears in the dark without unpacking entire trucks, especially on long trips.
10-13-2005, 03:08 PM
Fantastic advice. I am also fond of going through each vehicle at the start of a trip. I have each driver tell the group where their fire extinguisher is, first aid kit, shovel, jack, winch controller, spare key, etc. And any special medical concerns.
Because I have found when the going gets tough, you need to be efficient. Like a truck stuck in a river, etc. Everyone needs to know where things are.
And I am usually the one carrying the big med. bag, but if no one else knows where its at, and I am the one needing the medical attention (which is likely)
10-13-2005, 03:32 PM
... and I am the one needing the medical attention (which is likely)
I agree - excellent advice.
10-16-2005, 09:13 PM
On the topic of preparation, one disturbing problem I've seen among US 4-wheelers are folks that go on on trips without suitably prepared co-pilots (spouses especially). While the co-pilot need not be a rabid fellow wheeler, they should at least be comfortable driving the vehicle, understanding its handling characteristics and even be able to handle some tough extractions. This includes not only the vehicle itself, but the ancillaries (hi-lift jack, winch, etc...). If you fall and break your ankle during a trip that's short of qualified pilots, the return to civilization is going to be a lot more lengthy/difficult if whoever has to take over your rig is not comfortably using it. It could even be dangerous, as a modified rig has a lot of quirks offroad that people need to be aware of.
I was on a trip a few years ago where one driver proudly proclaimed that his wife, who was his copilot, couldn't even drive a manual transmission. Since the other three vehicles were driven solo, I told him, only half-jokingly, that if he fell and was incapacitated, we'd have to strip his rig and abandon it....
It's wise to introduce your copilots to your rig, let them get comfortable with it, know it's capabilities and limitations, and feel reasonably sure that if something were to happen, they could take over for the remainder of the trip. A few day trips or shorter wheeling trips closer to home are advisable. The latter are perfect for trying out equipment, too, I've seen too many folks go on long expeditions without having had a chance to try out the stuff that they're going to depend on.
10-16-2005, 09:52 PM
On the topic of preparation, one disturbing problem I've seen among US 4-wheelers are folks that go on on trips without suitably prepared co-pilots (spouses especially).
Wise feedback Henry. And that process takes some time. I actually enjoy spending time in the passenger seat, and frequently have my co-pilot (who ever that may be) drive my truck. It gives me a break to enjoy the scenery, and gives them a chance to learn my vehicle.
My wife, Stephanie is an excellent driver, at speed or rock crawling. She drove large sections of the Rubicon Trail...
10-16-2005, 10:21 PM
Henry, I am guilty on all counts. Not due to ignorance as much as just willing to accept the risk. I have taught my wife to drive my truck and think she could do so in an emergency, but she avoids any practice whatsoever, so the success or failure of any given attempt would remain a toss-up depending on the scenario. Like someone who chooses to go on any solo journey, you accept the rewards and risks of such a decision. I wouldn't hesitate to go anywhere alone, and a lot of people are comfortable doing so. However, I am not disagreeing that a companion who can handle the vehicle/trip as yourself doubles your chances of success amidst potential failure.
As far as testing out new modifications during a trip, I don't think it's all that bad depending on the modification. After all, field testing is the best testing. If the new equipment in question is essential to the vehicle running, then I would tend to agree that it best not to expiriment on a long trek with no assistance.
10-17-2005, 05:20 AM
Okay, I'm going to be the unpopular one here. . .
After many hours driving around in various places, I would say my top 10 priorities are:
1. Packing system (always number one on vehicle!)
2. Sleeping facilities
3. Camping equipment (includes cooking, washing, hygine etc)
4. Navigation systems
5. Tool and spares
6. Security systems
7. Water and fuel capacity
8. Vehicle ancillaries (including tires, suspension mods etc)
9. Medical systems (first aid kit etc.)
10. Packing system (always always always)
And here is my rationalization:
Anything you cannot get to easily on a long trip you will not use. I don't care if it is a spare part, a pot, insect repellant, etc. If it is not easy to get to, you will not use it until it is too late. For this reason, the single most important (and overlooked IMHO) modification is a packing system. Honestly, a stock TLC, Taco, Disco, Defender, Trooper, Patrol, etc could cross Africa if driven properly, but without a good packing system, the items you use for day to day life become a chore to get to. And let's face it, an 'expedition' (as presented here) is just living out of a car in variably unknown conditions for an extended period of time. Everything on my list is time based. You use a packing system all the time. From where you put your sunglasses, to where you put your matches, you use it every day and most of the time. And so, every 'expedition' vehicle will be unique, because everyone has different priorities and needs, so their packing system will vary. And you have to understand, packing systems to me includes everything you put on the vehicle. From where your conpressor is, to where your water is to where your clothes are, that is all part of 'packing' the vehicle (taking it away from stock) for your 'expedition'. Because of this, the packing system will take more planning and customizing than anything else on your vehicle.
Sleeping facilities will be used from 1/3 to 1/2 of the time. They have to be well planned out for how you use them and easy to set up and take down. I think a roof tent is perfect in this regard, but have had other overlanders laugh at the 3 minutes it takes for me to set up the tent. But that is 3 minutes I am willing to take, and so my solution is good for me, but not good for others. Your solution has to be good for you, or you will be frustrated.
Camping equipment includes cooking equipment, stuff for washing up afterwards, fire making, lights, etc. Again, you will use this stuff day in and day out. If it is not convienient after a hard day of driving, you will not use it. Once you do have it in hand, it should be easy to use and familiar to you. Sometimes the best stuff is that which is familiar to you, not the latest gizmo out of the store. Also, fuel choice for your camp stove should be something you can readily get wherever you plan to go. Some use LPG, I use gasoline, others use kerosene.
Navigation systems will be used everyday unless the area is familiar to you. They require a lot less planning and thought than a packing system, but are still very important. Take what you are used to, or learn what you plan to take.
Tools and spares. This comes from me driving a Land Rover, and maybe you Toyota guys will not need to think so much about it. Bottom line is you should know your vehicle inside and out. Anything that fails you should be able to diagnose whether you can fix it or not. You should be able to fix all common (and some less common) things that go wrong with the vehicle you chose to run with. Things that can be replaced on route like brake pads you should replace on route. Things that could go at any time like altenators, water pumps, belts, hoses, you should have a plan for--at least knowing how old and likely those pieces are to fail on your vehicle.
Security systems are a high priority in certain cases, and less so in others. If you are going into the 3rd world and places you have never been before, security should be a big factor. Given that your vehicle is your life-line on a VDE, then you should protect it and any equipment on it. This includes window protection, shades or curtains, keeping things out of sight, locking items on the outside down, a security/immobilizing system etc. Your security system should be tailored on how you operate, and you should know how to bypass any immobilizer in the event it fails in the immobilized condition.
Fuel and water capacity is important because it will limit your time away from re-supply. This is not something you will worry about every day, but on legs that are far from re-supply you should/will worry about them. And then there is the inevitable condition where the fuel and/or water you expected is not there. Then you should have a backup. Tom Sheppard suggests 25% backup on fuel. That is probably a bit much for most people under most conditions, but if you plan on crossing the sahara as Tom did, then use it! You cannot plan for every eventuality, but you can always have a reserve and a backup. Reserve could be the extra jerry can. Backup could be the 7 quarts of oil combined with the lamp oil and the stove gasoline which, mixed, will get a diesel running for a goodly distance.
Vehicle mods should only be undertaken for an expedition if you know how they work and are comfortable fixing them if they fail. Unfortunately, people who make aftermarket accessories for vehicles tend to test them less and/or under specific conditions that may or may not be what your vehicle will see. Suspensions that have been developed for off-road racing are very good at that, but may not be good for expedition vehicles which are heavily loaded and seeing less instantaneous-extreme but more time-additive-extreme conditions. All wiring should be done very carefully and connections should be soldered and well insulated. Know when cheap is acceptable and also when expensive is desirable.
Medical systems are very important, but they rate at the bottom of the list because they do not require that much thought. You have to take the training and get the gear, but I certainly didn't put as much thought into my medical pack as I did my packing system or my suspension for that matter. And of all things I spent time using on the trip, the medical pack was happily pretty low on the list.
As I said, everything is time based. The things you deal with most on a daily basis should be top priority for planning and design. My truck has a winch on it, but only because superwinch gave me a free one. I wouldn't pay to put one on my next expedition truck. Same with lockers, but then I do drive a truck with very good articulation. Same with a snorkel. I have no problem fording water, but I don't plan on doing the Camel Trophy either. And I have no problem washing out my K&N at camp, so the cleaner air argument doesn't really sell me on one. I have to say that I am sold on limb risers. They do work very well in the jungle and also give a convenient place to hang things to dry like dish towels.
Everyone is different, and every expedition is different. The best thing you can start with is knowledge. Know yourself, know where you are going and plan accordingly.
03-10-2006, 05:59 AM
03-10-2006, 06:24 PM
:lurk: ooooh, aaaah :clapsmile
03-10-2006, 07:12 PM
Tools and spares. This comes from me driving a Land Rover, and maybe you Toyota guys will not need to think so much about it.
Funny stuff. Not always true, but funny.
Great post! Very informative. I have been giving more and more thought to my storage and packing situation.
03-29-2006, 09:41 AM
I'm printing this thread for future reference. Great info!!
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