Hindsight = 20/20...what did you wish you had left behind? What did you need?

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
The title says it all...we started a similar discussion on our Facebook page and it was recommended by Lost World Expedition and ADVODNA that we continue the discussion here. Hopefully this thread helps those who are getting ready to hit the road for a while, or at least serves as a reminder the next time we head out overprepared and overloaded.


This thread was started by an Austin Vince quote that I had found in my 2011 Overland Expo notes:

'If you left with nothing, and bought what you needed as you went, you would finish with a definitive kit.' - Austin Vince, of Mondo Enduro


Sound advice indeed. After hearing it again it made me think about all of the unnecessary junk that we thought we'd need on our PanAm adventures, but we sadly ended up throwing away bits in our wake. It's funny, during the planning phase we spent 2/3 of our time playing the 'what if' game and worrying about what could go wrong and end up packing a bunch of unnecessary crap as a result. Just a matter of days after we left home, we got rid of a ridiculous amount of stuff when we reached my brother's house in Washington state. Since then, about every month or two we get rid of even more (more advice from veterans at Overland Expo). We still have unnecessary gear to purge, but it's all in the name of progress.

Vehicle size can be a large factor of course, along with the decision to sleep inside or near your vehicle, but space is a large premium that Shannon and I pay while sleeping inside the vehicle. For us, it's best to think like a backpacker but of course where there is space we will find more gear that we can't bear to live without.

So what do the overland veterans say?

What did you pack that was completely unnecessary?


What did you need instead?


What did you end up throwing or giving away while on the road?



Please try to provide reasoning for why you changed your mind about an item being necessary then unnecessary (and vice versa), along with what you discovered was easy-to-find or completely unavailable along the Pan-Am.

UPDATE: Landcruising Adventure made a great post about Stupidest Things Overlanders Brought On Their Journey. It also mentions some of their favorite items, along with what they should have brought, interviewing several of their campground neighbors in Peru.

If you read all this thread (and Landcruising Adventure's post), you will notice one common theme: all experienced overland travelers have completely different opinions and they often contradict each other. Eventually you will figure out what works best for you and "your mileage may vary".
 
Last edited:

1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
everything must serve more than one use....that has helped me a ton

The only thing I have ever wanted more of is:
water (we are in the desert to gotta take it all with us
food (2 growing boys eat a bunch)
beverages (and I don't even drink beer)

Now granted that list can actually be a none issue if you are traveling from small town to small town and not spending much time in remote areas.

The only time we goof is when we hit unexpected things like bugs (need some spray & netting that got left at home), or foul weather. But really if it came down to it you can buy pretty much anything you need along the way.

Somewhere I saw a quote...
Lay out all your clothes and all your cash...take 1/2 the clothes and twice the cash :)
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Here's our ridiculously long list...

Health: we originally packed TONS of 1st-aid gear for 'what-if?' situations since we're both medical professionals, but then I realized that 90% of it was impractical when it would be just the two of us and we had a mobile ICU. If anything serious were to happen one of us, we would have to haul butt to the hospital...besides how could we use a bag-valve-mask or intubate while driving at the same time? Shannon brought 100 lbs of probiotics, vitamins, and supplements to take daily and keep us healthy, IN THEIR ORIGINAL PACKAGING because we were worried about border crossings. We rationed a small supply for when we're under the weather into baggies and got rid of the rest.

Clothes: Some of our clothes fit when we left, but we've since then dropped a few pounds. I even started with clothes that were slightly too big thinking that I would get them altered at some point. Stupid...I really wish we could have waited to buy our our serious winter clothes, or stored them with family while we were in Central America. Sure, we found some great deals on merino wool underwear/socks and thick down coats before we left, but it feels really stupid lugging this stuff around in our vehicle while traveling in such a hot/humid climate. It would have been a waste of money to get rid of the cold-weather gear, even if we didn't need it until we reached South America.

Cold weather sleeping bags: When we left Texas it was late January and we drove up to Washington. We bought a cheap double sleeping bag because our nice 15 degree sleeping bags were in dry-bags on the roof. We figured when we would get to the Andes we could double up the bags for protection around 0 degrees. The double bag was ridiculously bulky and we swapped it out with a lightweight fleece blanket at my brother's house. The fleece blanket is much easier to stow in our sleeping area when not in use and perfect for the colder highlands in Central America...

Spare parts we threw out: We had brand new spare Toyota water pump which I bought because I found a screaming deal on the classifieds. I ended up giving it away because our water pump was just replaced when we had our head-gasket redone and I wasn't there to dig out the water pump from the depths of the 4Runner's storage. Spare tie rods, ball joints and a pitman arm from when I rebuilt the steering, the parts were still reusable but why bother if the ones installed are new...this was taking up a ton of space so I gave them to a junkyard. A CV boot repair kit, I ditched the boots, kept the grease and decided duct tape will take care of the rest in that situation. Old brake shoes and pads (around 25% life left) from when I replaced the brakes, I decided it wasn't worth the space and even if one corner went to hell I could limp to a parts shop using the other 3 functioning brakes. Spare bushings, distributor cap, dist. rotor, plug wires, spark plugs, etc that I replaced beforehand. I'm sure there's more that we've ditched along the way. We originally had a backup for EVERYTHING I deemed important, which was simply overkill.

The only spare parts we're carrying now: a new TPS sensor (another new Toyota OEM part I found in classifieds for a deal, it's small and expensive to find and we ended up using it in Ecuador), alternator brush assembly (tiny, but most common culprit to replace when a 22RE alternator fails), starter contacts (common culprit when 22RE starter fails), master cylinder rebuild kit with seals and piston (compact and helpful as long as I can find a machinist to bore the old cylinder), axle seals, and fan clutch fluid (just a couple of 90mL capsules). The parts we held on to are compact and lightweight, so we figured why not keep them for now...

Misc. Items: We originally packed a SteriPen AND an MSR water filter, but it's a little silly for this trip considering 99% of the time you just buy purified water for cheap at any corner store. We got rid of the MSR water filter before we left the states, because it was bulky. You can filter water with a coffee filter or even a clean sock if necessary. The SteriPen is tiny and takes care of the majority of bad stuff in water sources.

I also felt stupid carrying around a surfboard that I've used less than five times, along with the wetsuit I used once. The combo was less than $75 USD but it's been a hassle, especially considering that Shannon's not a big fan of the beach and we both hate the humidity that comes with the Central American coastline. Eventually I gave the board away to a good friend in Guatemala, and the wetsuit to travelers in Costa Rica.

In the midst of our big gear cleanse while we were in Washington, we somehow left behind our small daypack which was a big mistake. Our only option for six months was a small laptop bag which quickly became uncomfortable, terrible on my back, and it screamed "I'm carrying an expensive laptop". WHen our family came to Guatemala for our wedding, we had them bring us this 25L backpack, which is overkill with security features but it's an awesome daypack. It's difficult to tamper with, comfortable to carry all day, super-tough, perfectly sized, padded for laptops, and it looks like any other backpack.

Things that are useful, but difficult to find down here:

*As much 100% DEET as physically possible. I get eaten alive by mosquitos and it's difficult to find anything over 30%, which isn't enough for Central America. Pump Spray 100% DEET with 2.5 fl.oz. Refill.

*USB flash drive larger than 4GB. We have a couple cheapo flash drives that won't even fit 1GB and it's frustrating as hell because almost everything is more than a gig. These are available down south but ridiculously expensive. We have one LaCie usb key which is super slick and easy to carry on your keychain.

*USB wi-fi extender. Home On The Highway recommended this so we picked up one in San Diego. I feel it's worth mentioning for folks who haven't left yet. These things are worth their weight in gold! Wireless Long Range Extender

*An external antennae for the wi-fi extender, with a 8' cord to suction cup to the exterior window of the vehicle. When we're comfortable in our vehicle at night or in the morning, it's almost impossible to get nearby wi-fi signals, especially with tinted windows. Another luxury to have, but considering the space it takes up we consider it worthwhile.

*A 5 gallon water jug. We had someone bring one down to us when family came down for our wedding, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time. All of our drinking water comes from the 5 gallon 'Culligan' style jugs called garrafóns. This is how all the locals get water and it's very convenient, but we were using multiple water bladders for our water supply which was honestly a pain over several months time. If you can plan space in your vehicle for one of these water cans, you'll be set: Scepter 20L/5GAL water can. You can find them cheaper thru LCI's website. It's easy to fill up with a garrafón and easy to pour out with the 3-in-1 cap. For even more convenience, add a water spigot to the bottom half and not have to undo it's tiedown to pour it out.

*We could really use a lightweight, rigid storage box for our items stored on the roof (cold weather gear, sleeping bags, etc). We tried really hard to keep gear off of our roof but with our tiny vehicle and our layout, it became unavoidable and these are the items we don't need while in Central America. Everything is inside of dry-bags right now, which sadly will only last about 6 months up there if you're lucky. UV-light and branches have wreaked havoc on the bags and we're looking for an alternative. These in 'medium' are perfect: Aluminum Medical Transport Chest. Unfortunately they're too expensive to ship down here and the one we found in Guatemala City, they wanted $160 dollars!

*Condoms, Tampons & Contraceptives: I realize this is "Too-Much-Information" but I REALLY wish someone would have warned me before we left. Let's just say you can easily find the generic stuff that you'd find in a men's rest-room dispenser, but they're not exactly one-size-fits-all down here. For birth control, we brought a year's supply because we didn't want to rely on finding a sketchy alternative once we run out. Shannon has noticed a difference when using the "equivalent" birth control meds in the past, so we decided to go this route. It's important to note that she's found it very difficult to find tampons down here, although pads are everywhere. Luckily we brought a big supply, but you may want to consider a menstrual cup. We've been told by several people that it has "changed my life"...although I couldn't sell Shannon on the idea before we left.

Good to know, before you go:

About a month ago we heard a horror story from EarthCircuit about their laptop being stolen in Panama City. Afterwords they did some research on how to help others out in this situation and they came up with some tips on this blog post. We downloaded the Prey software that they recommend and it's great free insurance to have, in case (heaven forbid) your smartphone or laptop is stolen. We've tested the software and it appears to work great...read the recovery stories on their website.
 
Last edited:

Bip Bip

Observer
Skip the fridge - big investment that gobbles storage space in the truck and makes you electrically dependent; thus running the engine or finding a way to plug in. Costs nothing to stop by the shop every couple of days for food and gives you a reason to mingle with the locals. You can throw away tonnes of spoiled food before you match the price of an engel fridge....

Invest in the biggest awning you can find. Cheaper to buy ARB or other brand then to fabricate something from plastic tarp and extendable painting poles. ARB Comes with a mosquito net too, for example. Nice to have.

Take a mosquito net and cut it to the shape of the front doors of the truck. Slam the door on the net and you can sleep inside peacefully.

Take a roll of foil covered bubblewrap (water heater tank insulation) and cut to the size of the window of your truck. Keeps out prying eyes, lets you sleep under the streetlight for security without disturbing the sleep and insulates during the sunny days.

A wifi extender is a good idea but it is in the 'good vs bad' category. Internet is important but should not redirect the focus of the trip.

Ultimately I am reconsidering the way I chose a vehicle. Choosing a vehicle and then planning and doing the upgrades and add-ons kept me nicely occupied during the dreary days of work before the grand depart, but in the end it was a waste of time and money (only valuable in terms of my entertainment). I should have picked up a $2000 vehicle, filled the tank and put it in drive. This way I can 'Shoot the horse' (and replace with another) when mechanical problems and mechanical worries redirect the focus of the trip. I am currently too invested in my ride to let it go peacefully. Every day becomes stress waiting for the 'next' thing to go wrong.

You see, every day I see people without 4WD, in beat up rustbuckets with way less maintenance problems and old retired Europeans in tiny 2WD campers arriving at the very same 'secret hideout' as me...frustrating to nullify my 'big-***' 4x4 and all its upgrades. The moral of the story is JUST GO and forget trying to fabricate the 'perfect overlander machine'. These exist only in our dreams and in Europe as North American car companies do not even have a basic concept in this market. A controlling communist plot if ever I saw one!

other ideas on gear check this:
http://bipbipamericas.blogspot.com/2012/09/gear.html
 
Last edited:

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
I forgot about the fridge! We completely agree. We had a 14qt Engel and even though it was tiny we decided it wasn't worth the space that it gobbled up. Ultimately we left it behind with my brother. Do we miss it? Not really. As Bip Bip said you can usually pick up what you need at the local tienda.

We're very close to investing in an ARB awning. We bought a Bus Depot Awning (made for a VW microbus) which is falling apart and a pain to set up... we hate setting it up and we've found several times that we've wasted money at a cafe or restaurant just because it's too hot and we want to hang out somewhere cool and under cover from rain. If we had an easy to deploy awning this wouldn't be a problem.

Great list on your site by the way Bip Bip! The combo lock, parachute chord, Petzl headlamp (we have the same awesome model), wet wipes, hand pump for 20L garrafon bottles, the light socket adapter...all great mentions that we use. By the way, you should definitely try the Open Source Maps for your Garmin they'll be much more helpful than the Garmin maps. Sometimes just being able to plug in coordinates and head in the general direction is helpful.
 
Last edited:

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Our friends Danni and Cesar were able to source an ARB awning in Guat City...
see #7 on their list for the contact: http://capitolsouthbound.com/2012/07/09/overlanding-gear-the-11-things-we-love-and-use-everyday/
Thanks for the info. We've got contact info for at least two different folks in Guate City that can get us an awning, including their source. We haven't called yet because we're trying to sort out an electrical short first...

By the way, Happy "One Year On The Road" Anniversary!
 
Last edited:

Wiley

Adventurer
Everything. As a wanna be surfer Im too busy travelling areas away from beach to justify carrying boards 24-7 just rent crappy ones no worries of theft either. I third or fourth the fridge, it holds my water as I eat out 3 times a day maybe I'll use it in south am, central food is good and available. Most fruits or veggies i buy dont need a fridge Only hOlding onto hi lift for south, where I've been in mx people will come by eventually, even in baja I'm tempted to toss it due to weight. I have an unused steripen and water filter as well Way too much car repair crap. I could do with 25 percent of what I brought and still give stuff away.
 
Last edited:

coydogsf

Adventurer
-1 on the fridge naysayers (which is to say +1 on bringing a small fridge)...

We loved our fridge (Engel 17), and couldn't have lived without it. We'd pull down a long dirt road to a beach around lunch time and put together *feasts* out of the leftovers from dinner the night before. Yes, we ate out a lot, but we also ate "in" a lot, cooking from what we bought in the narrrow, tarp-covered aisles of the mercado's. An Optima Yellow Top deep cycle battery would run the fridge for two days, four to five with a 26 watt solar panel allowing us to bring stock up on cheese, milk, meat (raw or cooked) for jaunts into the jungle or unknown territory. One hint is to test out tupperware with multiple sizes that will stack and fit to keep things fresh and organized.

Of course, others might eat out more, cook less elaborate meals, or not have the space (we slept in the RTT) and find that the cost of the fridge, battery and solar not worth it. Just not us!



Dave
 

AFSOC

Explorer
Ultimately I am reconsidering the way I chose a vehicle. Choosing a vehicle and then planning and doing the upgrades and add-ons kept me nicely occupied during the dreary days of work before the grand depart, but in the end it was a waste of time and money (only valuable in terms of my entertainment). I should have picked up a $2000 vehicle, filled the tank and put it in drive. This way I can 'Shoot the horse' (and replace with another) when mechanical problems and mechanical worries redirect the focus of the trip. I am currently too invested in my ride to let it go peacefully. Every day becomes stress waiting for the 'next' thing to go wrong.

You see, every day I see people without 4WD, in beat up rustbuckets with way less maintenance problems and old retired Europeans in tiny 2WD campers arriving at the very same 'secret hideout' as me... the moral of the story is JUST GO and forget trying to fabricate the 'perfect overlander machine'. These exist only in our dreams and in Europe as North American car companies do not even have a basic concept in this market.
Very insightful post. The wisdom of your words can really only come from the experience of being on the road. Thanks for posting your perspective.

Sadly, too many of us are "too invested in our rides" to borrow a brilliant phrase. Many of us are in our driveways building a solution that's looking for a problem. If we had the means, courage or desire to embark on extended travel, we might come to know a very different truth about what we need to travel.

Insights from experienced travelers like you, Ruined Adventures and coydogsf are exactly what we need around here for the segment interested in extended international travel. It's a refreshing change from the postings designed to sell "overland" gear, the posts to show off the latest gear purchase, postings defending gear purchases or the denigrating posts because someone didn't buy the right label gear.

There is nothing wrong with admitting an initial theory on equipment didn't hold true while on the road. Travel is the proof phase to prove or disprove our preparation theories. Some things work as planned, some things don't. Some things are not or cannot be anticipated, it doesn't mean we planned poorly or are any less well thought out.

We should all leverage off your wisdom gained over the miles/kms. Thanks for taking the time to post.
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Of course, others might eat out more, cook less elaborate meals, or not have the space (we slept in the RTT) and find that the cost of the fridge, battery and solar not worth it. Just not us!
I think we fall into the category of "less elaborate meals"...it's important to point out that all of the fridge naysayers here sleep inside their vehicles, so comfortable space is a premium, not worth jeopardizing for cold food/drinks. Most of the pro-fridge travelers seem to be sleeping in a RTT or hotels. I wish I would have made this distinction earlier on in the planning phase.
It's a refreshing change from the postings designed to sell "overland" gear, the posts to show off the latest gear purchase, postings defending gear purchases or the denigrating posts because someone didn't buy the right label gear.
No comment :sombrero: Great post AFSOC. Unfortunately there's a lot of that in certain forums.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
...I really wish we could have waited to buy our our serious winter clothes. Sure, we found some great deals on merino wool underwear/socks and thick down coats before we left, but it feels really stupid lugging this stuff around in our vehicle while traveling Central America. At this point it would be a waste of money to get rid of the cold-weather gear even if we won't need it for a few months.

Cold weather sleeping bags: When we left Texas it was late January and we drove up to Washington. We bought a cheap double sleeping bag because our nice 15 degree sleeping bags were in dry-bags on the roof. We figured when we get to the Andes we could double up the bags for protection around 0 degrees. The double bag was ridiculously bulky and we swapped it out with a lightweight fleece blanket at my brother's house. The fleece blanket is much easier to stow in our sleeping area when not in use and perfect for the colder highlands in Central America...
Central America ain't South America. The Andes are cooler than a penguin's dreams and you will spend a LOT of time above 10,000 feet. Living in Guayaquil at the time, we froze our knees (and other things) off on a trip to Bolivia. We had icicles forming inside the truck at night. (And, years later, a five gallon water bottle freezing solid inside a tent.) Mix in a bit of altitude sickness and you have the formula for some stress. Bottom line, we are deep believers in thermal under ware, hats, gloves, and decent jackets. It can be nice in warm in the sun, but when it sets ... One reason that we are now converted to "live inside" as opposed to "live beside." (Note the snow on the roof rack.)



As with all advice, YMMV! Congrats again on the wedding and have a great trip.
 

UK4X4

Expedition Leader
truck spares- I think you have to think practically what you need- how long you can survive without said part- and where your heading.

Ie if your on the pan-am and don't intend going much off route - trying to complete your trip in three months

will be diferent to the guy spending 3 years and travelling in many remote locations

Its also down to your abilities-experience and bank savings !

ie I would'nt take a Disco without the cam position sensor - its a 30buck part but your going nowhere without it !

Toyo wise - I think almost all cities in latin america have a dealer or parts store- 1 -2 days to get parts from the main city

I would not be so worried about parts in an LC or tacoma- fuses gaffa tape some wire and a metric tool kit would do it.

Every road has traffic- and people in the remote areas tend to stop and want to help- in the cities your on your own but only a tow truck away.



Fridge- yep love mine- but again it depends on your trip- if you are racing on main roads - probably not a need

if your heading for remoter areas and want to stay a week - a fridge is a must

me I love ice ,cold drinks and good food....


Cloth's - as diplostrat mentioned there's a lot of high altitude locations where good insulated clothing is required- but hit the coast and its flip flops and shorts
pack accordingly.

Include some overalls in your kit and a pastic sheet- for those roadside repairs - almost always in the rain and muddy conditions !

everyday items including clothing can be bought on route- you want something special or of a good make - expect to pay double to triple the US

Just because it says North face - does not mean its ever been been developed or sold by that company !- fakes are rife when an orginal jackets costs 500USD
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Great points.

Diplostrat, I completely agree and we brought all that stuff because I cry like a baby if I don't have thermal underwear and wool socks. It just feels dumb carrying it all while we're in Central America. It could have been nice if we would've waited until we got to Colombia to pick up those items, since we wouldn't really need any of it until then. Once or twice I've needed my down jacket in the highlands, but haven't put on my gloves, hat, or thermals since the Pacific NW in February.
UPDATE: indeed, we froze our butts off in parts of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. We were thankful for our 0º sleeping bags and down jackets, as we were sleeping without heaters and there were icicles formed inside the vehicle. I still think it was a waste of space to carry our bulky cold-weather gear thru all of Central America, just to use at this point. The transition between Central America and South America is a great opportunity to take a break, store the vehicle, and visit family back home. This can also be a great time to pick up your cold weather gear and bring back with you when you hit the Andes.

UK4X4, so true about the Toyota parts. Right now I'm in a town with few mechanics and even fewer places to buy parts. I pulled my alternator today because of a fried voltage regulator and brought it to an electromechanico two blocks away from where we're camped. He promptly tore it down, cleaned some contacts and checked it out with his ghetto test light. Told me he was going to replace my rotor, voltage reg. and brushes...of course he had every part I needed in his tiny one-room workshop, and he told me he'd be done in 3 hours.
 
Last edited:
Top