Practical Overlanding Guide

Mon May 21, 2012 7:25 pm

The most common error to overlanding is trying to cover too much territory in too little time.
Dream about where you want to go, what route you will take, work out distances and time required and then double it. Overlanding is all about getting out there, I'm not talking radical 4X4 stuff, just off the beaten track where other vehicles are few and places experienced are not often heard of. I see no point in going to and through these kinds of places and having to make kilometres, deadlines and destinations without actually experiencing life out there. What's the point of saying " been there, done that, but where was it again"? It is so surprising what a hick joint in the middle of nowhere has to offer if we only take the time to experience it.
Some of the best overlanding trips I've done, (and there've been a few) have been the ones where I have a rough route and a definite destination planned, but I have made absolutely no bookings for accommodation along the way. It has been a case of leave home, head in the direction of ??? get to the destination more or less on ????day and I'll be back home around about ??? date. Not only have these types of trips been the most enjoyable, but they have been the most cost effective at the same time. Don't over plan.

Having said that, be prepared for what ever Africa will throw at you. Everyone knows that time is not an issue here, so leave time at home, but the only certainty out there is that a hard and fast plan will go wrong.
Make sure your vehicle is capable of taking on the unexpected. High ground clearance and a 4 wheel drive system with low range will definitely be required somewhere along the route. It simply has to be mechanically sound and in good shape, a skidonk can cost you your life. It should be well equipped for those unscheduled bush overnights and there's nothing wrong with being comfortable while you're about it. There are a million and one accessories out there, but so many are not necessities, so sift through the stuff, differentiating between wants & needs.

Beware of going off into the back of beyond on your own. It's not a nice to have for companionship, sometimes it's just stupid not to have 2 or 3 vehicles in a group. Be very careful who you choose to go with. Too often a good friendship is ruined by a bush trip where out of necessity you have to live in each other's boots. On trips like these you get to see the best and worst of your traveling companions, be darned sure you can live with the worst.

Don't take groceries or food to last you for your entire trip. Those busy often crowded little markets or roadside stalls have the best freshest stuff imaginable...ok maybe not meat, but the fruit & veggies are the best. Drink the local beers & cold drinks, but when it comes to water, be careful. An onboard watertank mounted in, under or on your vehicle is essential, as is extra fuel. Pack a ton of patience, in Africa, a courteous smile and a friendly greeting means a lot more than an inflated ego and big mouth. Expect and make provisions for delays, they will happen. If you venture into other countries, always remember you are not in your own, obey every law, be an ambassador for your country, make people want to have you and be considerate of others, their country and especially their flora & fauna.

Don't overload your vehicle. A rough, sandy, muddy, rocky track is definitely not the most stable driving surface and an overloaded vehicle could easily end up with its 4 wheels in the air - not fun in the middle of nowhere! Out of necessity you will be carrying a lot more than if you were going to the beach for the day, but plan the load distribution, always taking the vehicle's centre of gravity into account and making sure your vehicles suspension is up to it. And boy, do tyres take a pounding, make sure they're good.

In my book, a reliable GPS or good road maps are a "don't leave home without it" item. African roads or tracks often just dwindle into nothing and a deviation will be necessary. Try to look like you know where you are and where you're going. It's much more comforting to yourself and the rest of the group.

Later, let's take a look at equipment...see you sometime, somewhere

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Mon May 21, 2012 7:30 pm

Many evenings have been spent discussing bits of equipment around camp fires, so I'm going to share some info picked up at these indabas and through my own personal experiences. None of this is about choice of vehicles.
For the purpose of the exercise, let's assume you have this 4x4 which is stock standard from the factory, no equipment as yet and you've bought it because you want to break out and travel those little known tracks and routes on the way to many awesome destinations around our country or continent. I am assuming you will eventually venture out onto roads & tracks that will be of the non highway variety, where all kinds of conditions will be thrown at you. By the time this article is finished we will have discussed the equipment that will get you out there and back. The rest of the fancy add-ons can come later. Most of us work to a fairly controlled budget so I'm talking about the essentials, not the nice to haves.
I would certainly start out with a decent portable air compressor and an accurate reliable tyre pressure gauge. many of your trips will see you traveling on hard rocky roads that lead somewhere into thick sand or, depending on the season, mud and tyres will need to be pressured down for the sand and to a lesser extent mud and then pressured up when you hit the hard stuff again. You have the choice of wiring the compressor into the vehicle electrickery system or using the cigarette lighter for power. There are quite a few makes and models out there and prices differ substantially. Anything from R800 to R2500.

Next up for me would be a high lift jack. This is a very versatile piece of equipment. Obviously it replace those useless factory jacks which normally don't allow for the massive wheel travel found on good 4x4's, but also to get you unstuck in various ways. You need to make sure you have the required jacking points installed on the vehicle though. I've seen them used in different ways as recovery equipment, here are a few. Jack up the stuck wheels and pack rocks or branches under the wheels. If you have dug yourself in nicely, jack up the offending front or back and push the vehicle sideways so the jack toppels over and the wheels are out of the ruts you have dug. It can be used as a manual hand operated winch and will move you at a meter at a time, often that's all that's needed. Oh ja, it's also good for breaking beads on a tyre when you need to replace one that has been destroyed. I've seen some guys fry eggs on the base plate as well. Beware, in use by an inexperienced person, they can be very dangerous. They are also a very bulky and heavy piece of equipment so best carried in purposely built brackets on the outside of the vehicle. Because of the problem with centres of gravity, the best place is low down on the vehicle.
Ok now you have most of the stuff you need to keep traction, obviously there are things like power winches etc , but they are not essential in my book.

Sooner or later you are going to purchase some electrical things to make your life easier out there. These will have a 12 volt power requirement which means they will run off your car battery. This in itself creates a problem pushing a laden 4x4 with a flat battery in sand is just not going to happen and hopefully you are in the kind of places where there are very few people. The solution is to have a dual battery system installed. This means you have 2 batteries joined together by a solenoid. When you start your vehicle the 'main' battery is obviously used and the solenoid directs all of the charging to the main battery until it is nicely charged. The solenoid then opens up for the charging current to flow to the second or auxiliary battery to charge it up. All of your electrical gadgets run off the auxiliary battery which reduces the chances of getting stuck out there with a car that won't start. At the time of installation of this system, select the number and position of various plug points to run your gadgets. These plug points come in the form of a Hella Plug which doesn't rattle loos on bad roads and give a much better connection.

Now that you have your vehicle all wired and charged up you can and find a 12 volt fridge/freezer. They come in varying sizes but I wouldn't go smaller that a 40 litre, but at the same time they take up a lot of space which is normally at a premium. Clever use of the fridge will see you you with a good supply of fresh veggies, butter, milk, fresh meat and most importantly a few chilled beers or wine. Don't mess around with the cheapies, in my opinion the best make is the Engel, with National Luna a very close second.
Keeping on the subject of elecktrickery, you will be taking a lot of pics, downloading them onto a laptop and keeping in touch via your cell phone or satellite phone. Unfortunately all these things need to be charged via 220 volts. Install a nice compact power inverter, you will need a minimum of 800 watts. This can be wired into the system or use one of those new Hella plugs you installed. It must run off the auxiliary battery and you can even plug in the odd light if you so wish. Tell SO it's not for the hair dryer thingy though. Remember all these items will drain your auxiliary battery sooner or later so you need to keep driving to charge it up. I have a nice big 105 amp hour deep cycle battery and my fridge will drain it in about 2 1/2 days depending on outside temperatures.

One of the most frustrating things in the bush can be not being able to find the required piece of equipment, luggage, tool or food item because the packing system is untidy or illogical. So let's discuss packing systems. Until you have sorted out the things you are going to be taking and using on your various trips from the not needed junk, I wouldn't go to the expense of purpose maid drawers in the beginning, just stick to the old ammo box routine. These are made of heavy duty plastic, are reasonably water & dust proof and keep your things from rolling around and breaking. Divide your stuff into uses groups. eg. kitchen stuff (plates, knives forks utensils etc), dry & tinned grocery goods, tools & vehicle spares & camping equipment. The clips that hold the lid on can be purchased in various colours so you can easily distinguish what is inside the particular ammo box without having to open each one. Included in packing space you will need to carry extra fuel and water. Supplies of the above are not always reliable in Africa so you have the choice, carry extra fuel in 20 litre jerry cans in purpose made jerry can brackets or have an auxiliary tank built under the vehicle. the former is obviously the cheapest option. You have the same choice when it comes to water except that you can buy plastic water tanks that you can strap down on the roof rack or in the back of the vehicle. Work on being able to travel 1800 to 2000 kilometres on the fuel in your tank and extra storage and about 10 litres per person per day for water.
Coming up we'll discuss accommodation

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Mon May 21, 2012 7:31 pm

Overlanding is all about being self sufficient. Naturally you will plan your trip to spend the odd night in a lodge or hotel, but a lot of your nights will be spent camping. here are my thoughts on the various options, but on this subject you really have to draw your own conclusion.
The three main forms of accommodation are: 1) Roof top tent. 2) Ground Tent. 3) Offroad caravan or trailer.
Roof Top Tent
There are quite a few manufacturers for RTT's. For example Howling Moon, Echo, Eezi-Awn, Hannibal, Frontrunner amongst a few others. The RTT needs to be fixed to a roofrack on top of your vehicle or trailer. Most of these tents have a canvas sleeve which fits over the top when folded away to keep dust, moisture out and damage from low branches whilst traveling. The base board is hinged in the middle so all that's needed to set the the thing up is to remove the sleeve/cover and open the base board. In so doing the various poles and canvas supports hinge and the tent opens up. You then have to clip in fly sheet supports and in some cases insert locking pins, extend the ladder and you're done. Your foam mattress stays in the tent, so that unfolds when opening the base board and in most cases your sleeping bags and pillows also get folded up with the tent. It's really as simple as that. The ladder acts as the support for the folded out half of the base and you can purchase a 'shower skirt' which hangs from the base to the ground at an extra cost. This then at least allows you to dress or undress standing up. Packing up is the reverse of the above and takes a little longer to fold the tent away properly and to squash everything down enough to get the sleeve back on. Sounds great doesn't it? Well it is, but here are some of the draw backs.
The normal 2 man tent is 1.2 meters X 1.4. If you're a tall person be prepared to sleep with your feet hanging in space. It can be a tight fit for 2 people used to sprawling out.
If you don't buy the 'shower skirt' dressing in the small space will teach you how to move like a caterpillar.
Entrance and exit is up and down a ladder, if you're not as agile as you used to be this can be a problem. Trips to the loo at night become a real mission and care has to be taken not to break an arm or a leg on your first night of the trip on your way up to bed.
A restless partner will cause the vehicle to rock underneath you which could keep you awake at night.
Every time you want to move your vehicle to go on a game drive for example you have to pack the tent up. If you're staying in a place like Kruger, be sure to leave chairs and tables in your site or you may come back from a game drive to find someone else has moved into your campsite.
On the plus side we have ease of setup, it really is easy and takes about 5 minutes. If you're driving to a new spot each day, this is a biiiiiiig plus.
Being high up on top of your 4X4 you're out of the way of those dangerous night critters that enjoy eating meat.
Who cares if the ground is rocky or like concrete.
Your 'bedroom' goes wherever your vehicle can get you.
Depending on your trip there is definitely a place for RTT's but they're not cheap, expect to pay anything fro R6000 to R10,000 or more.

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Mon May 21, 2012 7:34 pm

Ground tents
All you have to do is pick up an Outdoor warehouse brochure to see the huge array of available ground tents, it boggles the mind. Always remember that on an overland trip you are on the move quite a bit so ease of setting up and breaking down is of paramount importance. Some tents come with aluminium or steel pipes for the frame, I personally dislike them as you need an engineers degree and a manual on how they all fit together and they take up a lot of space and weight in your vehicle. For me a bow tent is the way to go, the poles have a elastic rip cord inside them and they can only go way one way. There is a new type of tent on the market called an Oz tent which as I understand it springs into place something like those windshield sun protector thingys, I have never looked at one, but for ease of setting up it would be well worth looking at them.
Other things to look out for... don't forget you'll be sleeping on the ground, within reach of those animals. Ensure whatever tent you end up with has a built in ground sheet which wraps around up the sides for about 10 cm. Zips should all be sturdy and there should be insect screening over all openings, including doors. Ventilation is important so get one with windows opposite each other. The material used varies hugely, make sure yours is made of a good tough material, but remember this will add to the weight of the tent as well as packed size so go with some reason here, and finally the tent should be tall enough for you to stand up in. There nothing worse than trying to get dressed rolling around on your back or belly.
Ok, now why choose a ground tent over a Roof Tent? Personally I prefer a ground tent for a few simple reasons:
If you buy the right tent, they pack up fairly small and are relatively light so I save packing space and weight in or on the vehicle
You will more than likely end up with 3 X as much room as an RTT
I can sleep on a good air mattress or stretcher inside the tent
I can stand up and walk around inside the thing with my kit bag of clothes in the tent with me.
If I am staying in one place for a few days I set it up once and don't have to pack it away to go on a game drive.
I don't have to climb a ladder to go to bed and those toilet visits in the dead of night are much less of a problem.
It doesn't take that long to set up a ground tent, I can get mine up in about 10 minutes

I have joked about the safety angle of sleeping on the ground with wild animals wandering around, but seriously, in my experience this has never been a problem, sometimes a little more nerve racking, but never a problem. I once camped in the middle of a game path in the Okavango (not too clever, but because of the flooding, no where else to go)where in the middle of the night a big herd of ellies game trundling down the path. I lay there watching them baring down on my little tent (their rumblings woke me up). At one point I was staring at the ankles of a big cow as she ate seed pods from the tree over the tent. There was really only one way for them to go and that was over or through the tent, but every one of them gently passed around me on both sides, treading ever so carefully between the storm ropes. The next morning, their tracks told the story.
On another occasion in CKGR a pride of lion with about 5 cubs came to visit the camp. The cubs had a ball with chairs and a kettle that had been left outside. They walked around and played around the tent for about 3 hours, some of the cubs and adults coming up to the open but screened windows and sniffing inside. Not once did they touch the tent, trip over ropes or anything, and although I had to change my underpants a few times there was never a moment that they showed any inclination to get at me. By dawn they just wandered off back onto the plains.
Obviously you can never become careless out there like leaving doors unzipped and really dumb stuff like that, but I cannot recall having heard a story of any adult being dragged out of their tent and eaten. There was once a case in Moremi where a Hyena dragged a little girl out of her tent, but the door was open to my knowledge and we all know how predators behave around young kids.

So when it comes to your sleeping quarters, you have to make the choice you will be comfortable with.

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:27 am

Planning your trip.

Planning your trip is so much fun. It builds the excitement and you start dreaming of those places and things you have always wanted to experience, let your imagination run. Start off with the time you have in hand. Remember the object of overlanding is to get out there and see those wonderful places that are not that easy to get to and therefore it takes longer to get out there and back. We all know you can easily drive from Johannesburg to Durban in 5 or 6 hours, now imagine doing the journey in a heavily loaded 4x4 using only the little dirt tracks and farm roads between the two cities. It is going to take you a lot longer. Lets assume you have 14 days off from work, then plan a trip that would normally take you 10 days, the extra 4 days are to cover delays at border posts ( in some countries these border posts can cost you 4 or 5 hours) delays due to washed out roads, rough, bumpy sections where you can't exceed 25 k's per hour, stops for site seeing or game viewing, stops to make up a sandwich or boil the kettle for a coffee etc and then you might just find your own piece of heaven that warrants an extra day or two.

OK, now you know where you can go in the time you have at hand. Read and research what would be the highlights for you along the route, climb on the internet, use sites like 4x4 community forum, travel bloggs and magazines, there's a mine of info out there from people who have done the trip before. Pick out the things that really turn your crank and put them on your itinerary. Get a good map of the area or areas and look at routes that encompass your chosen points of interest. On an extended overlanding trip, you will be predominantly camping, but it is always nice to have a night-over at the odd lodge to add a bit of luxury to your trip now and again. SO will definitely appreciate it. Don't make the common mistake of thinking you can cover big milages in a day, this will lead to rushing, frustration and bad moods which will ultimately end up being taken out on the kids or SO. Plan on getting to your day's destination by 15:00 at the latest. Do not, and I repeat, do not travel at night. This is the biggest no-no in overlanding.

Now you need to work out refueling points,but remember that pumps in small villages in Africa often have very erratic fuel supplies, so build in big safety margins and rather top up your tanks whenever you can, to always be on the safe side. Whilst on the topic of fuel, don't fill your jerry cans at home, rather travel with them empty until you cross borders and fill them only when you will be needing them because of distances. Two or four jerry cans on your roof rack weighs a lot and adds to vehicle instability and most countries will charge you a fee for transporting extra fuel across the border. When you are using jerry cans for fuel, dump the fuel into the main tank as soon as possible to get rid of that extra weight, don't wait until your main tank is almost empty. A jerry can carries 20 litres, so decant it at your various stops along the way.

OK, so you have your route planned with fuel stops and you have researched and booked your accommodation and camp sites, now you start preparing a list of the equipment and stuff you will need along the way, always pack lite and leave the gadgets at home. Part of your packing plan will include food, so now is the time to work out a rough daily menu. Remember that tinned food is heavy. It is a common mistake to purchase your entire grocery list at home, rather buy along the way, you'll never beat the prices, quality and freshness of the stuff sold at those little roadside stalls. Remember, you are enjoying what their country has to offer, so support them.

Always carry a comprehensive first aid kit, which should also include a few needles and syringes which you could give to a doctor to give the necessary jab, at least you will then be sure it is 100% safe, remember you are hopefully in the sticks, far away from too much civilization.

If you are crossing borders, research requirements and laws pertaining to what is required in those countries in or on your vehicles. For example, in Mozambique, you must carry 2 safety triangles, 2 reflective vests. If towing a trailer, caravan or boat, you must display the yellow triangle on blue background sticker on the vehicle and trailer, third party insurance for both vehicle and trailer etc. You will need your registration papers and if the vehicle is financed, a letter from the bank giving permission to take it across the border. Most countries have different requirements so make sure you have it all under control, imagine arriving at a border post and being turned back. The Automobile Association is a good source for this info, but African countries are known to change the rules at the drop of a hat, so make sure your info is up to date.

Lastly, get your vehicle checked over and serviced, you can avoid a lot of irritating vehicle problems which could spoil or even terminate your eagerly awaited holiday.........relax and enjoy.

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:29 pm

What happens when you plan your trip and then it gets cancelled? :twisted: :twisted: ^0^

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:05 pm

I would guess : back to the drawing board - start planning the next one.... -O -O

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:00 pm

Flutterby wrote:What happens when you plan your trip and then it gets cancelled? :twisted: :twisted: ^0^

Plan and plan again... O**

It's like succeeding,...if at first you don't succeed, suck and suck again! =O:

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:42 pm

Hey, but you 'okes are cruel hey!! He types his fingers
into mere stumps and then,..
Flutterby wrote:and then it gets cancelled?

Amoli wrote:start planning the next one....

Sprocky wrote:if at first you don't succeed, suck and suck again!

Oh what a cruel world!!,.. Sell the Landy and buy a hangglider!!!!

Re: Practical Overlanding Guide

Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:32 pm

If we don't give him hard time who will? ^0^