2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration





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  1. #1
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    Default 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    I am planning an extended (1, 2, 3, or 4 year) overland journey across and through Southern Africa – and probably further north.

    I am single and 64 years old (or about, I think). Currently living in Johannesburg.

    I am a photographer and videographer by profession. Photography and videography will form a major part of my explorations.

    I will hopefully very shortly be buying my ideal vehicle for this extended expedition. (Within my budget and specific requirements).

    I have adequate experience in short solo (and self-sufficient) exploration trips of Southern Africa in my current vehicle. Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe. However, what I am now planning is obviously in an advanced league with much higher risks…and hopefully, greater rewards!

    As my planning develops and the various steep learning paths unfold, I will be calling on forum members’ expertise, advice and knowledgeable experience in planning “the journey before the journey” while preparing my new vehicle.

    In anticipation, I thank you all for your input, knowledge and invaluable advice that I know will be generously offered.

    CHOSEN VEHICLE: 79 Series Land Cruiser 1Hz 4.2-liter diesel engines. (Hopefully new – or alternatively, with low kms)

    First Question for the Forum: Single cab or Dual cab?


    1. I will be installing a tow bar with a double wheel carrier. (I understand that there might be some chassis strength issues to consider between the two models).

    2. I won’t be dragging anything behind me.

    3. I will be mounting a Bushtec canopy over the load bay with a RTT.

    4. Fuel Range is obviously a significant priority. Jerry Cans on the roof to be avoided if I can.

    5. Expensive photographic equipment must to be secured/protected as best as possible.

    6. If a Dual Cab – the rear seats will be removed and a base installed for securing camera equipment in hardened cases.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Your future trip seems to be one to look out for! I have a 4.2d single cab land cruiser to which i fitted a 168 liter auxilary tank. Thus 248 liter in total. It might not be enough for you to travel some long trips between filling stations, but it certainly helps to carry less jerry cans or even a big tank on the back of the bakkie.
    All the best with the vehicle mods and the trip in future

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    I want to do the same (except for the solo part, gf included) , but alas I have to work for now. You are actually addressing a lot of questions which I too would love to have answered, especially the about how and where the camera gear gets stored and maneuverability of the gear.

    Meano also can also make a single into and extended cab if I am correct. Might be the best of both? But the pros will tell us shortly.
    Our Travel and Photography blog- https://twotracks.co.za

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  7. #4
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassfisher View Post
    Your future trip seems to be one to look out for! I have a 4.2d single cab land cruiser to which i fitted a 168 liter auxilary tank. Thus 248 liter in total. It might not be enough for you to travel some long trips between filling stations, but it certainly helps to carry less jerry cans or even a big tank on the back of the bakkie.
    All the best with the vehicle mods and the trip in future
    Thanks. What sort of range do you get with your tank?

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    It sounds awesome.

    I would recommend Dual cab, simply for those days you have to sit and wait at a border post or any such occasion because though you could... one rarely pitches the roof top tent just to sit and wait where in a dual cab you could recline the seat and rest. One also never knows what situation you might be in that would require you to sleep inside the vehicle.

    Keep the vehicle as standard as possible. I drive on 35" tires and lost a tire in December in Botswana and the biggest size I could find anywhere was a 32" tire. All other tires are standard hilux and Cruiser tire sizes 265/65/R16. My recommendation would also be to keep the original spare in place underneath the fuel tank (a flat spare is better than a punctured fuel tank especially if you have 2 spare wheels) and one spare inside the load bin near the cab for weight distribution.

    Weight and weight distribution is crucial to an overlanding vehicle. Weight is the biggest killer of overlanding vehicles and puts enormous strain on axles (that is why there are so many stories of normally aspirated donkey diesel cruisers that break sideshafts) My last trip to Botswana made this very clear to me since every bakkie get stuck on the salt pans except my Station wagon, before the trip I weighed my vehicle and there was only a 100kg difference between my front and back axles on a total weight of 3 tons. Upon reviewing the videos of the pans it was clear that all the vehicles that got stuck because the rear tires just started sinking in first, because they were unevenly loaded. Overlading a bakkie is very easy.

    Since you are only a single person in a double cab, I believe you can fit everything inside, not ontop. It is my OPINION that if you have to put anything on top for one person that you are taking to much with. You will easily fit: 80L water, 50L Fuel, 1 Spare tire and all your kitchen, fridge etc inside without having to put anything except the nights fire wood on top. The perfect setup would be to slightly lower the top of the canopy so that the roof tent will not protrude on the top and thus lowering wind resistance and improved fuel consumption. I would avoid the tire carrier on the back because now you will have to open 3 different thing only to get to something in the back of the canopy

    Hope my 2 cents is worth something.

    I cant wait to start reading the trip reports and photos, Might there also be a youtube video or two?

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by smcs View Post
    Thanks. What sort of range do you get with your tank?
    It really depends on laden or not, but in general I get around 1500km on it. Sometimes ip to 1700km, but that is only once in a while.

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Hi Sean, hopefully you will receive plenty of constructive guidance. There are many forum members who have done prolonged African journeys. Sift through the advice as not all of it will suit your plans, personality and requirements.

    ANSWER TO FIRST QUESTION. Definately double cab rather than single. I think removing the rear seats for storage is a good idea, particularly as a photographer. Instant access to your cameras whilst on the road will bring great gratification. Build in sliding drawers for your cameras and lenses, that you can reach from the front seat. The ex-rear seat area of the vehicle can be modified for those items you will need rapid access to whilst on the road.

    We did a 10 month trip through East Africa but unfortunately my blog is no longer operational. However the contents of the blog can be accessed on this forum at http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315. That should provide some food for thought!

    I would advise that you proceed as far north in Africa as time and inclination permit. In my opinion it would be a great pity, with the time available, to confine yourself to Southern Africa.

    I agree with keeping the vehicle as standard as possible. It seems a pity to choose the pack-horse vehicle of choice for Africa and then render it too complex for African conditions and logistics.

    I look forward to follow this thread as it hopefully developes further.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Tijmen van der Steenhoven View Post
    It sounds awesome.

    I would recommend Dual cab, simply for those days you have to sit and wait at a border post or any such occasion because though you could... one rarely pitches the roof top tent just to sit and wait where in a dual cab you could recline the seat and rest. One also never knows what situation you might be in that would require you to sleep inside the vehicle.

    Keep the vehicle as standard as possible. I drive on 35" tires and lost a tire in December in Botswana and the biggest size I could find anywhere was a 32" tire. All other tires are standard hilux and Cruiser tire sizes 265/65/R16. My recommendation would also be to keep the original spare in place underneath the fuel tank (a flat spare is better than a punctured fuel tank especially if you have 2 spare wheels) and one spare inside the load bin near the cab for weight distribution.

    Weight and weight distribution is crucial to an overlanding vehicle. Weight is the biggest killer of overlanding vehicles and puts enormous strain on axles (that is why there are so many stories of normally aspirated donkey diesel cruisers that break sideshafts) My last trip to Botswana made this very clear to me since every bakkie get stuck on the salt pans except my Station wagon, before the trip I weighed my vehicle and there was only a 100kg difference between my front and back axles on a total weight of 3 tons. Upon reviewing the videos of the pans it was clear that all the vehicles that got stuck because the rear tires just started sinking in first, because they were unevenly loaded. Overlading a bakkie is very easy.

    Since you are only a single person in a double cab, I believe you can fit everything inside, not ontop. It is my OPINION that if you have to put anything on top for one person that you are taking to much with. You will easily fit: 80L water, 50L Fuel, 1 Spare tire and all your kitchen, fridge etc inside without having to put anything except the nights fire wood on top. The perfect setup would be to slightly lower the top of the canopy so that the roof tent will not protrude on the top and thus lowering wind resistance and improved fuel consumption. I would avoid the tire carrier on the back because now you will have to open 3 different thing only to get to something in the back of the canopy

    Hope my 2 cents is worth something.

    I cant wait to start reading the trip reports and photos, Might there also be a youtube video or two?
    I agree with the tire size. Keep it as standard as possible, that is probably the reason that you are thinking of the 79 cruiser, because you can find spares for it at most places in africa. If you go with a big tank like I did, there is no space for a spare tyre underneath. I travelled couple of southern african countries ( with my bakkie and I did some hectic 4x4 tracks with rocks etc and I had no issues with the tank thus far (touch wood).

    Weight distribution is NB. My bakkie weighs 2.8 tons with a full tank fuel, so for me it is easy to load to to 3.5 tons or even a bit more etc for a trip. Just spread the weight.

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  16. #9
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Hi Sean, hopefully you will receive plenty of constructive guidance. There are many forum members who have done prolonged African journeys. Sift through the advice as not all of it will suit your plans, personality and requirements.

    ANSWER TO FIRST QUESTION. Definately double cab rather than single. I think removing the rear seats for storage is a good idea, particularly as a photographer. Instant access to your cameras whilst on the road will bring great gratification. Build in sliding drawers for your cameras and lenses, that you can reach from the front seat. The ex-rear seat area of the vehicle can be modified for those items you will need rapid access to whilst on the road.

    We did a 10 month trip through East Africa but unfortunately my blog is no longer operational. However the contents of the blog can be accessed on this forum at http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315. That should provide some food for thought!

    I would advise that you proceed as far north in Africa as time and inclination permit. In my opinion it would be a great pity, with the time available, to confine yourself to Southern Africa.

    I agree with keeping the vehicle as standard as possible. It seems a pity to choose the pack-horse vehicle of choice for Africa and then render it too complex for African conditions and logistics.

    I look forward to follow this thread as it hopefully developes further.
    Thank you Stan, I have read your posts over the past several years with great interest and appreciation. I have also learned the "sifting" process you suggest. Interestingly enough, it does not take too long to learn! One quickly learns who the "masters" are. I look forward to your advice as I pose so many further questions. Once again, and in anticipation - thank you!

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Hi Sean, definitely double cab so that you have quick and secure access to photo and video gear. Also, all the advice about keeping the vehicle as bog standard as possible is good - standard bakkie tyre sizes, and keep the suspension standard as well. Maybe have a look at how Bushlore have equipped their Land Cruisers that they rent out - they also sell them second hand, fully equipped at a pretty good price. Their Cruiser with an AluCab pop-up tent is pretty useful for a solo traveler.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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    Default 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Hi Sean,
    We are by no means overlanders. The longest trip we’ve done was six months, but we stayed on farms and in parks board cottages. So, no advice for you there.

    But we are keen photographers too. Perhaps our photography setup might give you a few ideas.

    We have a double drawer system that sits between the two front seats and extends right to the back of the cabin of the bakkie (Nissan Navara).
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The bottom drawer is long enough to take an 800mm lens with camera and hood attached. It pulls out all the way to the dashboard. So its very easy to pick up the camera for shooting from inside the vehicle.

    Tripods and monopods are stored in 110mm drain pipes at the back of the cabin on the driver’s side.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    There is a shelf between the pipes and the driver’s seat. This is a very useful area for changing lenses or putting the laptop when downloading our images at night. We don’t remove the cameras for this, but simply connect the USB cable to the cameras in their drawers.

    One advantage of doing it like this is that we can leave the laptop plugged in while it is downloading and calculating previews - which means we have a fully charged laptop by the time we sit down to look at the day’s yield. (You can just make out the transformers in the top left of the image.)

    The box on top of the shelf was initially meant for our coffee flasks, but the first time I swapped a lens, the spare lens went straight into the box. We now store our most used secondary lenses here permanently.

    We keep other lenses and peripherals in Storm boxes in the space below the shelf (behind the driver’s seat) - although sometimes they have to make way for fly fishing gear.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The small drawer in the image obscures the space, but you should get the idea. If it weren’t for the fact that we occasionally have to use this space for other gear, I would think seriously about putting in permanent drawers for the camera kit.

    One last point: over time we have increasingly spread our gear around the cabin, and now store very little in boxes. I may be wrong, but from a safety point of view I think it is easier for somebody to run off with your gear if it is nicely paced away in a box. (I once lost two laptops, a 500mm prime lens, a 300mm prime lens and a camera body this way. All were packed into a single box!).

    When we go into town we throw a table cloth over the drawers and pull it over the rest of the gear to keep wandering eyes away.
    Last edited by George19; 2019/01/30 at 10:28 PM.

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Oh. I forgot to say. Have a great time!

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  24. #13
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Hi Sean, hopefully you will receive plenty of constructive guidance. There are many forum members who have done prolonged African journeys. Sift through the advice as not all of it will suit your plans, personality and requirements.

    ANSWER TO FIRST QUESTION. Definately double cab rather than single. I think removing the rear seats for storage is a good idea, particularly as a photographer. Instant access to your cameras whilst on the road will bring great gratification. Build in sliding drawers for your cameras and lenses, that you can reach from the front seat. The ex-rear seat area of the vehicle can be modified for those items you will need rapid access to whilst on the road.

    We did a 10 month trip through East Africa but unfortunately my blog is no longer operational. However the contents of the blog can be accessed on this forum at http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315. That should provide some food for thought!

    I would advise that you proceed as far north in Africa as time and inclination permit. In my opinion it would be a great pity, with the time available, to confine yourself to Southern Africa.

    I agree with keeping the vehicle as standard as possible. It seems a pity to choose the pack-horse vehicle of choice for Africa and then render it too complex for African conditions and logistics.

    I look forward to follow this thread as it hopefully developes further.
    Thanks Stan. Good advice as expected.
    1. Further north is certainly something to be considered as I gain experience.
    2. Yes, vehicle "mechanics" to be kept bog standard for the reason you provide.

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  26. #14
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by George19 View Post

    One last point: over time we have increasingly spread our gear around the cabin, and now store very little in boxes. I may be wrong, but from a safety point of view I think it is easier for somebody to run off with your gear if it is nicely paced away in a box. (I once lost two laptops, a 500mm prime lens, a 300mm prime lens and a camera body this way. All were packed into a single box!).

    When we go into town we throw a table cloth over the drawers and pull it over the rest of the gear to keep wandering eyes away.
    Very nice setup. I may have to rethink the camera boxes plan. Your loss was a big one!

  27. #15
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassfisher View Post
    I agree with the tire size. Keep it as standard as possible, that is probably the reason that you are thinking of the 79 cruiser, because you can find spares for it at most places in africa. If you go with a big tank like I did, there is no space for a spare tyre underneath. I travelled couple of southern african countries ( with my bakkie and I did some hectic 4x4 tracks with rocks etc and I had no issues with the tank thus far (touch wood).

    Weight distribution is NB. My bakkie weighs 2.8 tons with a full tank fuel, so for me it is easy to load to to 3.5 tons or even a bit more etc for a trip. Just spread the weight.
    Interesting. I did not know that a spare could be mounted under the chassis. The question now is: Double wheel carrier AND extended fuel tank. Or, one wheel carrier and no extend fuel tank.

    Tyre size will remain standard.

  28. #16
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Tijmen van der Steenhoven View Post
    It sounds awesome.

    I would recommend Dual cab, simply for those days you have to sit and wait at a border post or any such occasion because though you could... one rarely pitches the roof top tent just to sit and wait where in a dual cab you could recline the seat and rest. One also never knows what situation you might be in that would require you to sleep inside the vehicle.

    Keep the vehicle as standard as possible. I drive on 35" tires and lost a tire in December in Botswana and the biggest size I could find anywhere was a 32" tire. All other tires are standard hilux and Cruiser tire sizes 265/65/R16. My recommendation would also be to keep the original spare in place underneath the fuel tank (a flat spare is better than a punctured fuel tank especially if you have 2 spare wheels) and one spare inside the load bin near the cab for weight distribution.

    Weight and weight distribution is crucial to an overlanding vehicle. Weight is the biggest killer of overlanding vehicles and puts enormous strain on axles (that is why there are so many stories of normally aspirated donkey diesel cruisers that break sideshafts) My last trip to Botswana made this very clear to me since every bakkie get stuck on the salt pans except my Station wagon, before the trip I weighed my vehicle and there was only a 100kg difference between my front and back axles on a total weight of 3 tons. Upon reviewing the videos of the pans it was clear that all the vehicles that got stuck because the rear tires just started sinking in first, because they were unevenly loaded. Overlading a bakkie is very easy.

    Since you are only a single person in a double cab, I believe you can fit everything inside, not ontop. It is my OPINION that if you have to put anything on top for one person that you are taking to much with. You will easily fit: 80L water, 50L Fuel, 1 Spare tire and all your kitchen, fridge etc inside without having to put anything except the nights fire wood on top. The perfect setup would be to slightly lower the top of the canopy so that the roof tent will not protrude on the top and thus lowering wind resistance and improved fuel consumption. I would avoid the tire carrier on the back because now you will have to open 3 different thing only to get to something in the back of the canopy

    Hope my 2 cents is worth something.

    I cant wait to start reading the trip reports and photos, Might there also be a youtube video or two?
    Yes, weight and weight distribution is critical.
    Agree, tyre size to remain standard. Mechanically, everything else to remain standard with the exception of heavier springs and shocks.
    The wheel carrier is not really a problem once you are used to the opening schlep. Have one on my Navara. Two spares is unfortunately non-negotiable.
    Yes, there will be You Tube videos and a dedicated web site.

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by smcs View Post
    Mechanically, everything else to remain standard with the exception of heavier springs and shocks.
    Be careful - don't fit any suspension components that you can't replace in the village marketplace somewhere in rural Tanzania, or Rwanda, or Uganda. There's a reason vehicle manufacturers fit suspension that is matched to the carrying capacity of their vehicles - exceed that weight and you are asking for trouble. The mantra of every overlander (to be repeated over and over again!) is "weight is the enemy, weight is the enemy, weight is the enemy...."
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    I am very interested in your story along the way - !!
    DGO Fiddler

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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Agree with Tony Weaver.

    Suspension modifications were what gave us the most headaches of all. Most modifications include a bit of a suspension lif and there lies the problem. When our Old Man Emu front shocks went (on 2 occasions), although we could just fit standard Toyota shock absorbers, the slight lift of the standard full OME mod (including coil springs) made their travel too much and they did not last on the long tough roads. If you change the shocks ensure there is no lift and that standard Toyota shocks can be fitted as replacements. North of our borders you will not easily find aftermarket shock replacements and that includes Nairobi.

    Standard Toyota suspension components are pretty tough and provide you don't overload and add too many heavier modifications, they would serve you best. If you want a mod because of rear sag, add air suspension bags to the rear. The Firestone or Gremeltek ones are good. These level a loaded vehicle (always worst in the rear) and if they break you are back where you started with the original suspension, no problem in continuing onwards. It is easy enough to carry a spare air bag as these are which usually goes.

    A long range fuel tank is definately worth considering, up to about 180L. This is far better than carrying jerry cans. Look for a range of about 800-1000km. The fuel situation in Africa has improved a lot but there are ocassional long stretches or empty filling stations. Fill up as soon as tank reaches half.

    Two spare tyres and that modification will give you great peace of mind if you are going to tackle the most isolated routes. Otherwise travel as light as you can and take full advantage of the fact that you, (barring a stroke of luck), will be traveling one up only.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  35. #20
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    Default Re: 2 year solo 4x4 africa exploration

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Agree with Tony Weaver.

    Suspension modifications were what gave us the most headaches of all. Most modifications include a bit of a suspension lif and there lies the problem. When our Old Man Emu front shocks went (on 2 occasions), although we could just fit standard Toyota shock absorbers, the slight lift of the standard full OME mod (including coil springs) made their travel too much and they did not last on the long tough roads. If you change the shocks ensure there is no lift and that standard Toyota shocks can be fitted as replacements. North of our borders you will not easily find aftermarket shock replacements and that includes Nairobi.

    Standard Toyota suspension components are pretty tough and provide you don't overload and add too many heavier modifications, they would serve you best. If you want a mod because of rear sag, add air suspension bags to the rear. The Firestone or Gremeltek ones are good. These level a loaded vehicle (always worst in the rear) and if they break you are back where you started with the original suspension, no problem in continuing onwards. It is easy enough to carry a spare air bag as these are which usually goes.

    A long range fuel tank is definately worth considering, up to about 180L. This is far better than carrying jerry cans. Look for a range of about 800-1000km. The fuel situation in Africa has improved a lot but there are ocassional long stretches or empty filling stations. Fill up as soon as tank reaches half.

    Two spare tyres and that modification will give you great peace of mind if you are going to tackle the most isolated routes. Otherwise travel as light as you can and take full advantage of the fact that you, (barring a stroke of luck), will be traveling one up only.
    Thanks Stan and Tony.

    You both seem to be providing similar advice regarding weight and suspension. I am concerned about weight!

    I will be adding the following heavy items:
    1. drawer system - essential in my experience.
    2. RTT.
    3. Two additional batteries - far forward in the canopy.
    4. Water Tank (+-60l).
    5. Extra fuel tank (total 180l).
    5. Tools, recovery equipment and spares. (possibly wheel bearings and shocks)
    6. Double Wheel carrier.
    7. Bull Bar with winch.

    That all adds up! I may then require heavier springs and shocks?

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